I have been in Monterrey for a week now. 2 other employees from CJ and I are here for a few weeks to help out. Visiting the city is a complete revelation for me. All I had heard before coming was that it is considered more dangerous than Juarez and State Dept employees are not allowed to leave the city. The city is impressive with beautiful large building, nice roads and plants. The neighborhood I am staying in is apparently the wealthiest one in Latin America. I can believe it with the Lamborghini and Porsche shops down the street.
The US consulate is definitely showing its age but the employees are very welcoming and appreciative that we came. Our objective is reduce the backlog of interviews and allow the consulate employees a bit of time to work on their own projects. There is a lot more work to do but it is in some ways easier- visa interviews are quicker and a lot more black and white.
The consulate employees are very active- in the week I have been here I did 5 activities with them. One day was watching Pariah, a powerful movie about a lesbian black teenager growing up in a dysfunctional home. Another night was an Asian-American Heritage gathering featuring art by Mexicans about the Asian American relationship, good Korean food, and a famous Japanese American ballerina performing.
Yesterday we had the annual softball game between the consulate and the Ciudad de los Ninos (City of Children). It is a very successful school which gives education to low income students and their families. Last year the school spent months preparing for the event and stacked the team. This year it was a lot more laid back with children taking our positions after a few innings.
One thing I haven't quite gotten over here is that there is water. In the 2 and a half months I have lived in CJ I have not seen rain. In the week I have been here it has rained three times. Today 4 of us received permission to go out of the safe area and go a park called La Estanzuela. It is part of the run up to a green race the consulate is helping to sponsor. We did a walk in the park with guides and a naturalist from the university. Afterwards we did yoga in the middle of the park with a instructor who has traveled all over the world studying yoga.