Leaving a place close to the heart is always hard. For us in this lifestyle, it is unavoidable, yet still very hard. We know from the moment we arrive somewhere that the day is coming when we have to leave, and for a long time that day seems to be in the distant future, until suddenly it is upon us. Like now.
Today is our last day in Matamoros. When I arrived here, I never thought I’d be so sad when this day came. We’ve been preparing for it for the last couple of months: slowly downsizing some of our belongings, planning for our departure, having the packers and movers come, cleaning the house, and so on. Yet now that we have reached our last day I suddenly feel both unprepared for our next step and really, really… sad.
I went for my final run in Matamoros this morning, on the dusty border levee that I have come to love as much as I hate. Several weeks ago, when it last rained here and made the levee a muddy mess, someone drove a truck all over it, creating huge ruts in the already uneven path. After it dried and was runnable again, I silently cursed the person who did it, gingerly and awkwardly stepping over the hardened bumps of mud as I ran, praying not to twist an ankle. The trail is relatively smooth again now, from the many people who walk and run on the levee every day. They are the same people I have seen and with whom I have exchanged hellos most mornings since I have been here. There is the woman who runs with her purse; the older, portly, jolly gentleman who walks; the man who always wears a track suit- no matter the temperature- and walks his greying boxer; the two men who ride circuits on their bikes…. I have become so used to seeing them, and they me, that when I have chosen another path or taken a break for a couple of days, they ask me where I have been. Though I never learned their names, we had the common bond of being out there every morning, which we acknowledged with a smile or a nod as we collectively made the trail smooth again after a rain. I will miss seeing them.
My first thought when I arrived in Matamoros for the first time was, of course, where and how I could possibly run here. With basically two areas of town deemed safe enough for running, one a 2.5-mile stretch of the border trail, and the other a 0.5-mile city park cinder track, never did I think that I would be able to maintain my usual running schedule, let alone actually feel sad at the thought of never running in Matamoros again. Indeed, some of the best runs I’ve ever had have been here. In total, I have run 1,466 miles here, 920 of which I logged on the 2.5 mile stretch of trail, and all relatively unscathed: no dog bites, no missteps, and most thankfully, no crime. I’ve gone through several pairs of shoes, trained for and run two marathons and a handful of shorter races, and lost several pounds, in spite of likely having eaten a taco for every mile run. Matamoros has been good to me, in running and in life. And I will miss it dearly.
Tomorrow morning when we drive across the border for the final time, we will be moving on to a new adventure. We will be on home leave for the month of August, traveling to visit family and friends while slowly making our way across the country to Washington, DC. The first week of home leave will take us through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and eventually to Washington, where we will visit with family and friends for two weeks. From there, we will head back south to Las Vegas for my sister’s wedding and a good time with more family and friends. Following the wedding, we’ll drive to northern Arizona to visit more family, and then we’ll begin our journey through the southern states towards DC. It’ll be a Great American Road Trip, and little Frieda will get to experience it all with us.
As we say our teary good-byes to our friends, many of whom have come to feel like family, we have been reflecting on the wonderfully rewarding experience that our first foreign service tour has been. We have made new friends, learned a new language, experienced a new culture, traveled throughout beautiful Mexico, and most importantly, we have made a home here. And that is precisely what makes leaving so difficult. Neither M. nor I had ever been to Mexico before our tour here, and we never expected Matamoros to carve its way into our hearts. It now has a permanent place there, no matter where life takes us from here. México lindo indeed. ¡Te extrañaremos!
Thank you for reading!