A couple of years before I came to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, I was offered a job to be the publisher of a small, daily newspaper on the United States-Mexican border.
I respectfully turned down the job and made a couple of suggestions to the newspaper's owners, two of which were to hire someone with family ties to the highly ethnic area and someone who spoke fluent Mexican-dialect Spanish ... for the same reason.
The newspaper publishing company did both.
Why didn't I take the job, you ask? Because my high school Spanish wasn't good enough to even order a hamburger at the local fast-food restaurant, let alone carry on a conversation with the staff, all of whom either spoke Spanish as their first language or were fluent second-language speakers.
It was the only time I ever had felt like a foreigner in my own country. The people with whom I dealt were friendly, welcoming and warm, but the language barrier was even more obvious than when I worked in south Louisiana where Cajun French was spoken freely.
There was another issue in that U.S.-Mexico border town ... violent crime related to drug trafficking. The town was a major gateway for drug smuggling and has been the subject of several programs on various cable channels highlighting the neverending war between smugglers and border police.
This was all about 10 years ago ... and the situation along the border has gotten even worse, with drug cartels targeting police, judges, prosecutors and anyone else who aims to stop the trafficking. Countless kidnappings and murders have occurred, making it nearly impossible to know the good guys from the bad guys.
Sadly, the violent crime along the border will not get better until both governments demand a stop to border warfare and supply the manpower, money and total cooperation necessary to end the cartels.
For me, I'm glad I didn't take the border-town job and am much happier in West Virginia.