The sun had already made its appearance in the sky, casting long narrow shadows on the ground with its winter morning gaze. The moon still obstinately occupied its own corner of the heavens even though day had broken. I left the oasis of Van Horn and drove westbound along I-10 as it bisects the foothills of the Sierra Blanca and the Malone Mountains which break the brown and dusty monotony of the eastern Chihuahuan desert. Along the curving road through the hilltops, a sign fittingly informs passersby that they are entering Mountain Time. With that news, I scored a little victory; with the change in time zones, I was now going to be right on schedule.
As you continue along I-10, you pass “stripper alley” where a seemingly endless line of strip clubs adorn the side of the highway. Perhaps it’s for one last hurrah before the static buildup subjects truckers to a high risk of explosion.
Then there’s El Paso. First you pass the eastern shopping developments, and then you pass Central, before finally entering into the western part of the city where the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is located. This place, the home of the only NCAA Basketball Tournament winning team in Texas, was where my home for the next semester was to be.
The first house I looked at was beautiful. It is located next to a large park that had tennis courts and other bourgeois stuff in it. If only the room on offer were in the house.
Calling the space in the “guest house” situated in the back yard a room would be generous, by first world standards. It was clean, and an option, so I thanked the landlord and went to my next meeting, hoping to find something a bit better.
Today the neighborhood has a great variety of housing. The streets are haphazard, rarely lining up. Intersections provide a view of the mountains and Mexico. Parts of Sunset Heights still have the massive houses which indicate its affluent past. Yet some streets, like the one I live on, are packed with apartment buildings and small, single family dwellings, some of which have been split up into several apartments, each of which has an entire family living inside. The sidewalks are covered with glass and trash, the yards are full of barking dogs and children play in the evenings, a sight unseen in places where kids are plugged into their videogame systems.
After hanging with my new landlord, Ricardo, and realizing that two hours had passed and he was perhaps more excited about my work than I was at the moment, I decided to move in to the house in Sunset Heights. As a bonus, there was even a dog, named Bruno, who in many ways was like Marshall. The room wasn’t quite ready though, so I spent the next few days hanging with some locals who I had met though a hospex site and getting to know the area a little bit better.