1) Where in Texas are you headed?
Basically about as far as you can go without hitting Mexico. When I tell people south Texas, they usually guess Houston (nope, that's about 5-6 hours north of RGC), Austin (nope, about 3-4 hours north), San Antonio (closer, but still 2-3 hours north), or El Paso (way off, but much closer to the border ... they're just really far - maybe 13 hours? - west of RGC). I often describe it as the bottom part of TX that gets chopped off when they show the national weather map! Here's the map from Wikipedia; the little red dot is RGC!
2) Do you have any family there?
Well, yes and no. No, no one there is related to any of us by blood ... but, yes, we have some incredibly close sisters and brothers in Christ there! As you saw in the pictures I posted a few posts ago, I refer to them usually family terms, like "cousin" and "sister."
A picture taken from the front yard of my first house in Texas ... the tree line in the distance is the border between Mexico and Texas, and some of those trees you see are in Mexico.
3) Why Rio Grande City?
During my senior year at UNC, I joined a program called Teach For America. TFA is somewhat like a domestic Peace Corps, focusing on ending educational inequity in this country. (And, off topic a bit, with the kick-off of Teach For All, a new organization launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in fall 2007, they're also supporting entrepreneurs in other countries who are aiming to replicate what TFA and Teach First, a UK program based on TFA that began in 2002.) As a TFA corps member, I committed to teach for two years in a low-income area with a documented achievement gap. TFA teachers are all over the country, from NYC to Phoenix, from Indian reservations in South Dakota and New Mexico to the rural Mississippi Delta, from Chicago to Miami ... and in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where I taught special education at Ringgold Middle School in Rio Grande City. I fell in love with that small town, and while we knew that Lee's job would bring us back to NC (where he was living while I taught in TX), we decided to celebrate our love for RGC by sharing it with all our friends and family and holding our wedding there in June 2005. Much of our love for RGC stems from the wonderful friendship and teaching we found at First Baptist Church of RGC, as well as the rich history of the place (my middle school was on the site of Ft Ringgold, a fort during the Mexican-American War, and many of the buildings on base - used for anything from storage to the elementary school building - were original structures from the military base) and the marvelous intersection of cultures on the border.
A place I liked to sit and read or grade papers. The bank I'm standing on when I took the picture is in Texas, the river is the Rio Grande, and the other side is Mexico.
4) Is there a large concentration of Mexicans there?
While the town is in Texas, about 98% of its citizens are Hispanic, most with ties to Mexico. My school was situated on the Rio Grande River, and one of my students was once caught by Border Patrol skipping school and swimming in the river. Most of my students had been to Mexico more times than they could count but had never been outside of Texas. When you pull up to the drive-through at a fast food restaurant, it is not uncommon to be asked for your order in Spanish instead of English. If anyone is monolingual in town, they're typically Spanish-speaking. When I taught at my middle school, we had about 1500-1600 students at the height of migrant season (in the winter when migrant families return from working in the fields up north); of those students, 3 were Caucasian, 8 were Filipino, and the rest were Hispanic.
Me with a couple of students
5) Are you fluent in Spanish?
I don't know that I was ever fluent, but I could hold my own in conversation when I lived there. I'm sad to say that I've let those skills rust since I moved here, though I've been praying for God to show Lee and I opportunities to rebuild those skills.
There's nothing quite like a small town parade (and we had plenty - almost any occasion calls for a parade!)