Christine's Travel Journal
Thursday, April 29, 2004
This was my journal on 28 April
Well on Thursday 22nd after Anita and Dena flew back to USA, Christine and Naomi left the secure and luxurious surroundings of the Monterrey Residence for a bus ride across country to San Miguel de Allende, ten hours mostly on narrow dual carriageway which was an endless stream of huge trucks. Trade is alive and well in the States of Mexico!
My mistake was, as always wanting to be at the front looking out, however as there were blinds all around, I had to watch the driver.. it seems his challenge was to do as many things as he could with his hands while chugging along at 90, inches from the next truck he was overtaking. His favourite was to wrestle with the box of CDs, hold one up, try to read label, meanwhile hanging on to four with the other hand. There was always a wad of something in his mouth, maybe tobacco....
Believe me I watched over him with care and shore 'nuff no catastrophe came to pass :).
You would have been proud of us as on arrival we dropped our bags, had a shower and stepped straight into a marathon of sightseeing, shopping, lunches and dinners! Tough work but we kept at it.
The town is very popular with Americans so house prices are enormous. Houses can be enormous too. Thick concrete, lovely sundown colours, masses of potted colour - geraniums, etc. I also saw NZ flax in pots. Domes everywhere on every scale from miniature to enormous make a delightful skyline.
Hot for a lot of walking on rough cobbled streets. Not unbearable heat but enough to make you want to shower after each outing. Mostly friendly although our hotel had a problem with staff morale and everyone there looked miserable. Huge grounds which I appreciated, air a bit fresher and no traffic noise.
Last evening after a night on a bus again N and I still managed to attend a piano concert, some of my favourite Beethoven, nice to hear it live. N introduced me to a few she knew, people from other embassies, also Americans.
Today they are moving furniture for a reception tomorrow for Texas University people here on a sales drive. We are going to see a museum or two and keep clear of the action.
The house is 65 big steps long and I hadn't included the last room. The main reception area is 23 big steps long and 13 wide. My bedroom ceiling goes on upwards so I can't see the roof! Wonderful space. Most of all, wonderful company.
This was my journal on 22 April.......
We have been four dazzling flowers with one magnificent squire. Monterrey has come to a stop!
Like all the best moments in life it has ended far too soon. Dena and Anita are on their way to the airport and will be back to family and weekend activities by night time.
Next phase is that I get Naomi to myself for three days.. she has organised us to spend the weekend at her favourite colonial village St Miguel de Allende. It is an overnight bus ride so we leave about 9.30pm.
Only those who have spent half a lifetime apart from closest family can appreciate how much the last five days have meant to all of us. I have had a quick brushup in American humour and wish some of that light touch would rub off on me... I have also enjoyed John's tremendous range and depth of knowledge about world affairs current and past.
Naomi and John are regarded most warmly by the staff at the Consulate-General as well as by the business and government community of the region. As a team they will be a very hard act to follow.
It is a busy office, in fact the dept that issues entry visas to US is the busiest in the world. (you should see the long, long, anxious but patient queue each morning). As well as Visa dept there is a Commercial section which encourages trade opportunities both ways, a dept looking after Americans abroad, security and policing (of course) and the diplomatic side. An encouraging number of very bright and charming youthful women are in charge of these Sections.
Naomi puts on enormous affairs and receptions at the Residence. They have had two US Presidential visits in two years, one world summit and one continental summit. A procession of US dignitaries incl Clinton twice lately.
Mexico is evidently an important neighbour of US...and Monterrey is well-placed to enjoy the fruits of increasing trade. At 4 million and rising fast, it appears to be a relatively happy place to live, however air pollution is a very visible problem to be faced by the authorities. The surrounding mountains are stunning: when one can see them!
April 29 my last day with Naomi. She is busy with not only tonight's reception for Texas Universities but next week's one, which has been sprung unexpectedly, for professional womens' basketball teams from USA.
Nothing is straightforward for them as there are a myriad of agencies with whom they have to deal. It is no easy ride being the Consul-General, the duties are, as they say, 24/7 and very much involve their home being on call as well as themselves.
However it is very evident that they have made a huge success during their tour here, both within the Consulate and with the wider Monterrey community, and will be much missed when they leave in July.
Naomi will miss Mexico too after eight years in the country, and altogether about 23 years out of her native USA. She has taken the art, architecture and music of Hispanic America to her heart and carries with her a great deal of knowledge, sympathy and understanding of those cultures on to their next posting, which incidentally is still unknown to them at this late stage..
My hope for them is something most of us take for granted in our own lives, something they yearn for: a home of their own with a lawn to mow. Handy to work and study, somewhere with clean air and trees. A community of neighbours who help each other.
Yes life has been challenging, eventful, sometimes wonderful, in the diplomatic service. Both John and Naomi have fulfilled their talents and still have more to give. I hope that they soon will get that desired 'settledness' as well as continuing challenges in their work.