Musings of an Englishman who literally quit his life in Devon in mid-2012 to move to Tijuana to love a girl.
They ended up in San Diego where he became a TV anchorman (yes really...), they got married, and now they're living in England together.
Simple as that really.
Follow your heart, who knows where it will lead.

Crazy. Beautiful. Madness.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Home is where the heart is

TIJUANA has plenty of prominent landmarks and monuments.
The huge 160ft Mexican flag which flaps proudly over the city streets in the breeze, the spectacular arch, the awesome red-coloured Cerro Colorado mountain – these are all standout features.
But for me, there is one spot which stands out above all others as a symbol of what is both good and seedy about this place.
As you drive out of the city up into the residential areas, there on the right, is a building – on one side it plays host to a Church of England church, and on the other side is a lap dancing club called ‘Los Baldes’.
For saints and sinners... this building has it all
Even the club’s sign, fixed below the sign for the church, reads ‘noche de milagros’ (night of miracles).

There’s almost a divine beauty to the placement of the two establishments next door to each other.
I guess at least when you’re done having fun you can go and confess your sins a few steps away.
It really is hard to imagine a city in this world which has a worse reputation than Tijuana.
“Well, at least you’ve got a flak jacket,” was the obvious and uneducated comment from a Herald colleague before I left for Mexico’s shores.
That same colleague asked if Jacky and her family lived in a “tent”.
Yes, and they sharpen their spears and arrows before going hunting for food every morning.
I guess you can’t blame him, thanks largely to Hollywood Tijuana is seen as a tequila-swigging gun-slinging town – the latter day Tombstone.
When I mention I live here people immediately kind of cower, thinking I'm going to 'open up a can of whoop ass' or something.
It’s only when you have a direct link to a place that you begin hearing that place mentioned in films time and time again.
Sadly each and every time that mention is a slur. 
Personally I find TJ to have a gritty charm. It has a ‘can do’ mentality and a ‘f*ck you’ stance at the same time.
It’s kind of like how I imagine Iggy Pop to be.
TJ’s city centre is much like any other with high-rise buildings, Starbucks, and malls.
The ‘down town’ area is full of bars, taco stands and tourist shops selling sombreros and bottles of cheap tequila.
As you make your way out of the city there are areas which I guess you’d call well, poverty-stricken – or close to the definition. The sight of these areas reminds me of the vast residential areas of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Like Rio these areas criss-cross the plains below the mountains like a giant patch-work quilt.
TJ is not the nicest place in the world – far from it.
If you want to find trouble it wouldn’t be too difficult.
But hey, look out your window... do you see golden palaces and rabbits skipping gleefully on the scissor-cut lawn?
I’m guessing not.
It’s a fascinating place. Its home to three million people and many of those people are from different backgrounds and areas of Mexico.
With its proximity to the US it also plays host to people from countless other countries who are here to knock on America’s door.
I still believe I am just about the only Englishman here.
Having now spent nearly seven weeks living in TJ I can honestly say I have been bowled over by the positivity of the people.
As an Englishman I know full well how we’re used to building things up far beyond their worth.
And as a nation we seem to enjoy knocking these things down again just as much as building them up.
Back home in Plymouth the grey skies seem to reflect the overall mood.
But here in TJ people stand with their heads held high. Yes, they agree that it’s not all be a bed of roses (citing some pretty extreme violence a few years ago revolving around the drug cartels) but they want change.
And I think the glorious climate has something to do with that foresight.
They want to shed the image which has been so long-associated with this city.
One thing which is sure to do more harm than good is the potential setting of Hangover 3 in the city.
Rumour is rife here and – while many people living in other areas of the world would say for sure that TJ would be the perfect setting for the third debauched installment – to me the prospect seems sad given the efforts that are being made to change the perception.
When I tell people I’m now living in Mexico I’m sure their minds immediately picture white sandy beaches, endless sunshine and tequila.
Sure the endless sunshine and tequila are in abundance, but the idyllic image is pretty far removed.
Tijuana is kinda like America’s ugly step brother who lives next door.
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
Did I move to TJ chasing a dream of those white sandy beaches and tequila shots? Er, no.
I moved here to be with a girl who, with a mere glance, turned my world upside showing me that our lives don’t have to revolve around our jobs and the opinions of others.
My view every day is of Jacky. And there’s nothing more beautiful than the view of her smile each and every day, and the knowledge that I put that smile on her face.

As a newly-made friend told me a couple of weeks ago: “Tijuana, by its mere nature, attracts people who are re-inventing themselves.”
So let’s create something beautiful.

Oh, wait... news just in. We had a rather unwelcome visitor three nights ago in the form of a baby camel spider.
I spent a total of five months in Afghan and didn’t see one in the whole time. Seven weeks here and look what ran across the kitchen floor...
While the mere sight of it was terrifying, what was more alarming was the way – when cornered – it ran at us with its front legs held aloft.

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