(Continued from part 1)
My Visa interview that lasted less than 10 minutes took forever to happen. The guards at the gate did not permit my phone or my handbag, so I carried in a few dollars, a stack of documents and Medha as I entered the premises of the US Consulate. As time dragged on and my little girl started feeling hungry, I tried desperately to force a $20 bill through the vending machine. It accepted only pesos. Watching me struggle with that unyielding machine, a kind Mexican worker dug through her pocket and handed me a few pesos to buy a pack of crackers. God bless her, that kept Medha going for the 4 hours we killed waiting for our turn.
Finally the visa was approved. We decided to give the consulate some time to process my new visa before walking towards the DHL courier service a few blocks down, hoping to collect my passport. I was asked for a waybill number about which I had no clue. But I nudged the front desk operator to look for my package. She obliged and came out empty-handed. On an average, she told me, reluctantly, it takes about 6 days for the Visa processing. She asked me to check in after a couple of days. We were planning to be out of Mexico that day; so the news came as a shock. To avoid slipping into depression we decided to make the best use of the time dealt to us.
Up and down the streets we strolled, once again, watching kids display their skill at leaping off the wall of an old building; biting kernels off corn roasted by a street-side vendor; and simply comparing and contrasting the populace of the 2 neighboring countries. As long as Prasad was by my side I felt like a junior ranger excitedly exploring a new terrain. The moment he was compelled to head back home on an urgent business I began my descent into an area I hate to be – the feeling of helplessness and despair.
To avoid trouble I decided to remain bound to my room. With no human contact other than a kid who was running out of ideas and toys to play with, everything began to look sinister. Where once I saw families and couples buzzing about the streets, I began seeing notorious-looking men. The friendly porter who had always seen me with my husband began looking suspicious after he enquired where my husband was. Even a slight knock on the adjacent door left my heart racing. Every few minutes I refreshed my web account with the US consulate to check the status of my passport. It remained unchanged: “There is no information on your DHL waybill number”.
The prospect of getting ready and going down for breakfast exhausted me as I sat moping. Medha scattered bits and pieces of play-doh all across the carpet and broke into a song to entertain me every time my tears threatened to erupt. That provided some respite from gloom.
I had to do something before my fear of unknown could drive me insane. I shut my laptop, freshened up and went down with Medha who was super-excited to be out. My decision to brave up was already having a positive effect on me. After eating something to keep starvation at bay I decided to head to the mall. We spent a couple of hours at the play area and took the train ride up and down the mall. Feeling refreshed, I decided to take a cab back to the hotel. With considerably better English than most Nogalans I had met, the driver asked me where I was from and what I was in Nogales for. We talked about the train of vehicles waiting to enter the US near the border. As he dropped us he took less-than-the-agreed-upon fare and blessed my Chiquita (pretty little girl).
I returned to my room to a call from my husband congratulating me on the arrival of my passport. I could believe neither my ears nor my tears that were gushing down even though what I heard had a happy note to it. When I checked my account there was the waybill number I’d been waiting for. We rushed out, took a cab to the DHL and returned with my passport, beaming. I hurriedly packed my bags and checked out of the hotel. With Medha in tow I walked up towards the border where my identification was verified and my entry approved. I could finally go back home!
The first thing I did was to march up a steep ascent towards a Burger King where I ordered a meal of Veggie Burger with Fries. As I sat sharing a big bowl of Chocolate Brownie Sundae with my daughter I looked out of the window at the tallest building across the steel border- The Hotel Fray Marcos. Someday I would go there again, that is, when I cease looking back at my time in Nogales with fear.