February 26, 2011

Visiting the Home of the Aztecs

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am undertaking several major governmental paperwork items this spring, seriously, a large enough pile to constitute a part-time job for a few months.  This past week I finally came to grips with the fact that I'd have to go down to Mexico City (DF) to complete two of the requirements for two separate goals- a Constancia de No Antecedentes Penales Federales (Federal Criminal Record or lack thereof) at the Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Federal, and apply for the baby's U.S. Social Security number at the U.S. Embassy.  While I'm not going to repeat the entire, lengthy, process of finding the contact information, the requirements to fulfill my requirements, and the number of hours it took me to prepare a short folder of precious documents to ensure a successful outing, you'll have to trust me that there are many good reasons individuals hire lawyers to take care of these projects for them.

But of course since I am so D-I-Y, I've always done my Mexican visa applications myself every year and now I figured I was ready for the big leagues- naturalization and all of the baby & Margo's international papers as well.  And so although I knew this DF trip was coming up, I was putting it off since it's kind of a hassle, costly, and time-consuming.  I wasn't even sure I myself had to go, was hoping the SS# could be done in the mail and that Margo could stand in line for me for the record.  But on Monday came the moment when I found out none of this was possible and that it couldn't be put off any longer, or I'd have to wait until next year (why this one had to be done in person when her Consular Report of Birth Abroad and Passport were issued by mail, I'll never know).  So I was a little nervous about going- as much as I feel that I am safe where I live, the stories you hear & the prospect of having a young baby on her first big trip in tow probably added to my sleepless state the morning before we left.  However, after a philosophical epiphany at 5 am that let me snooze for another couple hours, and a successful bus boarding the bus and taxi ride later, we were snug in our posada at the Casa Gonzalez in Colonia Centro, only two blocks from the Embassy where we'd go and be herded like cattle the next morning @ 7:30 am.

But before then, we were received by the welcome wagon in the form of our friend & her dog, who took us for tacos and assured us that I was probably so overly nervous about how things would go the next day that everything would probably turn out fine.  I hate to jinx myself so I nodded but kept worrying that we'd be missing some document, but deep down hoped she was right.  Luckily, the cool thing that was immediately apparent was that our traveling baby was digging the new sights.  Although I was delighted at the Cupcakery in the Zona Rosa, I was surprised to shell out for the most expensive frozen treats ever (even more than Coldstone!) at some average fro yo spot & Baskin Robbins.  Alas, commercialism in its full glory.  A full night's of sleep for her was another great sign although two 4 am starts in a row left me a bit tired the next day.

Again, I won't tell the entire tale here, but suffice it to say after a long noisy night, 2 bus rides, 1 mellow and 1 harrowing taxi ride later,  and several kilometers of walking around, several deep breaths, sighs, and rolled eyes at the Embassy, a few streaks of good luck and brotherly kindness on behalf of our fellow line standers, and a couple of saintly Capitalinos named Damian and his mom Laura who fed us, watched the baby, and brought Margo food & a folding chair while in the 6-hr wait at the SSPF, the DF mission was accomplished.   Afterwards, we saw a few new neighborhoods & several new sights in the Roma and Condesa (particularly cute was the dog park & organic cafe near Parque Mexico). The nervousness wasn't for naught because there was a close call with the paperwork, but it all worked out.   In fact, things we going so well even with the baby that even Margo, a self-proclaimed DF hater, agreed to go see Chapultepec Park the next morning before we left.  At 36, he'd never seen it before.

And so the next morning after breakfast we shunned the radio taxis and boarded the Metrobus down Reforma to Chapultepec, where we leisurely walked up the hill to the castle after convincing them to let us go through the guards' station with the backpack, that it was an indispensable diaper bag (it was!), but dissed the Castle on principle because of $5 tickets in a public place. A quick loop around the lake and the baby began to signal that she was about ready for the trip to end.  Yet we were ambitious.  After checking out of the hotel and lunching, again in the dang overpriced Zona Rosa, we headed for the Insurgentes Metro Station.  Arriving and with 20 cent tickets in hand (rad!) Margo announced that the baby had pooped.  So we plopped ourselves in pleno estacion where I proceeded to change & nurse her for the long ride ahead.  We got psyched and dove in.  8 stops later, we were all sweaty and happy to board the Primera Plus to Queretaro.  Two crappy movies & lots of baby entertainment & a taxi later, we were back home sweet home.

That night, I confessed to Margo that even after our trip I wasn't sure I deserved Mexican citizenship since I didn't technically stand in that line- we'd hastily scratched out a carta de poder letter to let him do it so I could go back & watch the baby at our friends' house.  "I won't make a good citizen," I said.  "Who is?"  he replied,  I laughed.  Overall, the best things to come out of this trip were a greater willingness on Margo's part to explore the big city although he affirmed he'd never live there, and an amazing reaction from the baby- total adaptability and grace under pressure.  Many firsts for her- big trip, bus ride, shower, sleeping in a strange bed, metro ride, and she couldn't have been better- lots of smiles and only cried once!  I am once again in awe of the true mettle of the true natives. 

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