Hello there, Tijuana! You taste good.

The plane did not fall, and this time I was not surprised. For years, I had struggled with a growing fear of flying, which was obviously ironic because traveling feels like part of my life’s purpose. But I was not afraid to fly this time. I was actually enjoying myself! You could see the Popocatépetl (Mexico City’s active volcano) from my window seat. I am so grateful to my therapist, who has helped me discover the mechanics of my fear, and taught me how to control my negative thoughts. I also attribute my in-flight serenity to the book Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith. This pilot graciously explains how flying works, the intricacies of how a plane is made to sustain a remarkable amount of turbulence and punishment, and the psychology of nervous flyers. I also recently went through a very stressful process to try and relocate to Portland, Oregon in a matter of days. The event filled me with so much stress for something that did not even happen. I truly realized that there is absolutely no point compromising your peace of mind for the future. The future is always unknown, and I have come to terms with that. So now, when I fly, I choose not to dwell on all the things that could happen. Anything could happen, and anything could not.

I arrived in Tijuana safely, and 10 minutes later Bradley was landing as well. My sister, Leny, and her husband, Alex, welcomed us into their beautiful home. It had actually been 6 years since I had seen them, so this trip was important. After a long nap, we sat in their balcony to watch the sunset while Alex grilled some chicken and veggies. I held my rosé with one hand, and pet Marley with the other. Marley is their dog. They adopted him a few years ago. Marley was in pretty bad shape when they got him, but they had decided to adopt the worst looking dog that was probably not going to be adopted, and instead be put down. I thought that was a great way to go into a shelter looking for a furry friend. Marley loves to jump from lap to lap, and steal your blanket.

We spent a few evenings and mornings in that balcony, drinking wine, protein shakes, or coffee while watching the ocean. The public beaches in Tijuana were still closed at that point, so our options were limited. I would not have had it any other way because my sister and I had never really just hung out like that before. I have three siblings and I am the youngest by a lot. So by the time I was in elementary school, they were all close to high school graduation. That age gap and a complicated family history meant that we did not really have a typical childhood, but then again, I don’t know very many people that have a “typical” childhood…whatever that means.

The next day, Alex took Bradley and I to a place called Titos Mariscos. This is where Bradley and I quickly realized we had come to Baja California to eat! I don’t think I have ever had seafood that was this fresh and abundant, ever in my life. They are generous with their octopus, and the prices are unbelievably low. I was starving, so I quickly said yes to the appetizer platter full of fried fish, fried octopus, fried shrimp, and potatoes. This was followed by a tostada de ceviche. I adore ceviche, and it is something my dad used to make when I was little. This meal was off the charts, and it would only get better with the rest of the trip!

After lunch we stopped by the border gate that separates California from Baja. We could actually see the San Diego downtown from my sister’s balcony. But getting up close to the gate brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings. I reflected on what the true point of a wall is. In the dictionary it says a wall is a “continuous vertical brick or stone structure that encloses or divides an area of land.” I can appreciate laws and rules as a way to bring structure to our society. But I kept thinking about the people that risk it all, even their lives, to get to the other side. People that may never see their families again, but work hard to sustain their children from abroad. The troubles of people that risk it all for a better future are going through suffering I have never experienced. I have never seen myself with so few options in life that I would spend a week or more crossing the desert with little or nothing to eat and drink. I am no expert to offer better solutions, or eloquent enought to debate you on this matter. But my heart tells me we need a more humane system of handling immigration in the U.S.

I am grateful for my parents, and whatever higher power helped us become U.S. citizens when we left Venezuela, a country that today offers less than basic needs like food and water to its people. In this, I am immensely priviledged. By legally moving to the U.S. with my parents, I was able to receive a good college education, become bilingual (which has helped my career tremendously), and let’s face it…My U.S. passport is what allowed me to move to Spain for 2 years with immigration ease. That does not mean I have never experienced racism, but I have had so many advantages in my life compared to other immigrant families in the United States. This Tijuana/San Diego border gave me all the feels! Especially after learning that my paternal grandfather (whom we never met) was Mexican. I never imagined this before. Sometimes we think we are totally disconnected from another culture, race, or nation. But the truth is that we are much more similar, and much more related than we think.

I just finished reading “So You Want To Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. While we may not always have a government that is fair and inclusive when it comes to race, I am learning how to become the change I want to see in the world. Reading this book was my first step. I am calling myself out and deconstructing belief systems that do not serve me or our society. My steps may be small, but whenever I feel that way I think of the Dalai Lama quote that says “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Have you ever moved to another country? Let me know in the comments below. I will keep on writing about our Baja California trip. Stay tuned if you LOVE seafood.

Happy Travels!

Cover photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

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