Next week’s FS Blog Round Up optional talking point is to do a post on some of the pros and cons of your current post. Since I’m in between posts, I chose to write about my previous post, Ciudad Juarez. So, without further ado, 5 pros and 5 cons of a posting in Ciudad Juarez.
1. The people: The FSOs, the locally hired staff, and even my neighbors in Juarez were really nice. Juarenses are generally nice, open people and are willing to share a lot about their city. I also met a lot of people who were doing really good work towards ending the violence and rebuilding the city which gives me hope about the future of Juarez.
2. Mail: The consulate uses several addresses in El Paso to receive mail, so there are none of those pesky liquid, battery, or other restrictions that you might have with pouch or APO addresses. There are some size restrictions, but they’re quite reasonable and GSO and the mail room can usually work with you on larger items. So, order all the laptops, kindles, iPads, and jumbo bottles of liquids you want! It’s close enough that you could even get your own P.O. box if you wanted to do that.
3. Proximity to the U.S.: Juarez is right across from El Paso. That means that you can go grocery shopping at U.S. stores, get U.S. standard medical care, travel home easier than you can from Nowhereistan, etc.
4. Cost of Living: The cost of living in CDJ is very reasonable. Groceries are less expensive than in the D.C. area and pretty much any U.S. product is available in Juarez or in El Paso, so no exorbitant costs for U.S. products.
5. Easy pet import: While technically you need a pet health certificate and whatnot to bring your pet in to Mexico, no one ever asked to see any paperwork for my cat any of the times I brought her in to Mexico.
1. Travel in Mexico is difficult: Ciudad Juarez is pretty isolated geographically and Mission Mexico has a pretty strict travel policy where all trips have to be cleared ahead of time. There aren’t too many great or cheap flight options out of Juarez, so travel in Mexico from Juarez is difficult and comparatively expensive to traveling within the United States.
2. Dealing with the border: While it’s nice that Juarez is so close to El Paso, getting back and forth is a hassle. Imagine going through customs at the airport each time you want to go over to El Paso. Now, imagine that the lines are much worse during certain times and that you might be waiting over an hour to get through customs, even with the trusted traveler express lane. The regular lanes can take over four hours during the holiday season. Yeah.
3. Dust: Juarez is in the middle of the desert and it is a constant battle with the dust. It gets in and on everything and you can dust one day and then it looks like you’ve never dusted the next day. It’s worse during the dust storms but it’s a battle year round.
4. Visa work: Some people love visa interviewing, but I am not one of those people. Visa work in Juarez is high volume and many cases are really difficult. It’s very important work and I did learn a lot, but I’m glad to be done with it.
5. Violence: The violence in Juarez is the 800 pound gorilla in the room in any conversation about Juarez. It was a tough two years due in large part to the violence. It was really hard to have any kind of normal existence when you had to decide if it was worth it to go do something after hearing gunshots that were entirely too close for comfort, just hearing about a grisly multiple-murder along the route you need to take, or having seen something very scary on your trip home.
However, I will say that things improved quite a bit my last six months or so at post. I saw a lot more people out and about, the murder rate went down significantly, and it really seemed like the city was starting to come back to life. So, I’m not sure that people going to Juarez now will have the same experience that I had.
That’s my contribution to the FS Blog Roundup. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people have to post about their posts.