Monday, April 30, 2012
My sister (Jen) told me a story the other day. She says she has told me this story before, but I don't remember. You'd think I would, since it's fairly amazing.
The reason she repeated it to me the other day is that I said to her, during a conversation about what the hell I was going to do with myself in Mexico for a year, that I have decided it would be an excellent time to buckle down and finally write the book I have been thinking about writing for a decade or so. The book about how Homero and I met and married, the book I call in my head "the ongoing saaaaaaga of a man, a woman, and the the INS: a romance spanning all of North America, two generations, and the third part of a decade." Cumbersome, I know.
Jen told me "Oh, you're going to write it all right. Remember the prediction?"
"No," I said, bewildered. "what prediction?"
"The palm reader! Remember?"
"Um, no," I said. "What's all this?"
She sighed and shook her head at my notoriously awful memory. Then she told me this story. When she and her now-husband had been going out for a very short time, like only a couple of weeks, they were at the Pike Place Market and on a whim, decided to step into Tenzing Momo (the most fabulous magical apothecary on the west coast) and see the palm reader.
They spent the next half hour writhing in an agony of embarrassment and awkwardness, as the first thing woman told them was that they would get married and have babies. After all, neither one of them was legally able to drink yet, and they had met each other less than a month before. But of course, the woman was right about that. She also said several other things which my sister says turned out to be true, and in retrospect Jen considers it one hell of an accurate reading.
One thing the palm reader told her was "you are going to go live in a Spanish speaking country, and you will write a book there that will be published."
Jen said "that sounds like my sister, not me! Could you be talking about my sister?"
"Sometimes that happens," the palm reader shrugged.
"So you see," Jen told me, "you are going to write the book."
I will take whatever encouragement I can get, and the word of some psychic lady I never met is as good as anybody's.
It is a great story - the one I plan to tell in the book, I mean, although my sister's story is good too. There's romance, sex, adventure, and the struggle of love against high odds and a monolithic bureaucracy. There's the timely and controversial theme of illegal immigration, a couple of daring feats of illegal border crossing, and descriptions of the epic roadtrip from Vancouver B.C. to Oaxaca, Mexico by way of Atlanta and Tucson. There's a young child (Rowan) trying to adapt to life in a foreign country. There's all of us, me, Homero, and our families, trying to understand each other and create a bicultural, blended family. There are humorous incidents and serious disappointments. Oh, and maybe some recipes.
Besides the fact that I've been wanting to write this book for a quarter of my life, and the curious supernatural compulsion of it having been foretold, there's another reason this would be a good time to finally write this book. One of my readers, Andy Brown of Anubis Bard suggested that I give my Mexican relatives a convenient "hook" to hang me on. Meaning, a "thing" as in, "birdwatching is Andy's thing." This makes everybody more comfortable and gives him (or me) a nice easy explanation or excuse in all sorts of circumstances that gives no offense to anybody. "Come up with a hobby slash project that gives people a handle on what they should do with this alien in their midst," Andy suggested. " Whenever things are feeling crowded or hectic... I can just take my binoculars and have an excuse to clear out."
This struck me as an excellent idea. I am a fairly private person, even here in America. In Mexico, my need for solitude borders on anti-social. If I don't get an hour or so of alone time every day, I start to go nuts. Here in my own house, I tend to get that time by taking a paperback book and disappearing into a long hot bath. That's not an option there - no bathtub for one thing, and one bathroom for seven people for another. Writing, however, is an inherently solitary activity.
Two birds with one stone. Maybe even three. I get to take a stab at something I've always wanted to do - write an entire book - and I identify a discrete project and an explanation (for others and for myself) of what I plan to do with myself day. And, perhaps most importantly of all, I have a safety valve and a sanity protector in the form of a valid reason to lock myself up in a room alone once a day.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The playroom. I cleaned it up and then Phil tore out the old carpet. That ugly yellow stuff is the carpet pad, which I think we will reuse. The new carpet I bought (cheapest avaialable indoor/outdoor option at Lowe's) is in a giant roll in the foreground. The playroom is also enormous - I guess the builders of this farmhouse - the grandparents of the people we bought from - really liked their elbow room. The playroom measure 33 by 22 feet, with a big bite taken out of one corner. It's nearly 700 square feet. That's a lot of carpet. Maybe this time we can keep the chickens out of the playroom so they don't crap on the new carpet.
Rowan and Phil washing the walls. Wall-washing and trim-scrubbing are NOT part of my regular housewifely routine. The high traffic areas were looking exceedingly grungy. I decided we needed to do some spot painting. Luckily, we have a gallon of the original blue paint leftover from five years ago. All I had to do is buy a quart of semi-gloss white and a couple of small brushes.
Phil, by the way, has been a Godsend. He deserves his own post, but I can't give him one because my husband has this weird Mexican Macho trip where he resents any other male doing any work in his house. He barely tolerates Phil helping out, even though he concedes that Phil is an excellent worker. Homero would be jealous and annoyed if I gave Phil his own post, so all I can do is say here, at the end of this post where Homero will likely never read it, that Phil ROCKS.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
As the time for our departure approaches, I get more and more anxious. Partly, this is because there is still so much to do to get ready, but more than that, I'm just afraid of being in Mexico for a year. I'm afraid of how difficult it is going to be - for me, for the children, for my husband - even for Ivory, our elderly dog.
For Rowan, I imagine that having successfully navigated her first year away from her parents, as well as her first year in University (something I do not doubt will happen), will give her a sense of accomplishment and of independence. I hope that she will find her general anxiety level less as she accumulates the little day-to-day victories of doing well in school and taking care of herself living alone. I assume I will be coming home to a very different, more grown-up young lady, and I look forward to meeting her.
These are all long term benefits, and I really don't doubt any of them. But I need to spend more time visualizing the ways we will enjoy ourselves while we are there. Our recent trips to Oaxaca have been wonderful, especially the most recent one this past winter. Homero and I didn't fight at all, and there was little or no tension between the families. The weather was pleasant. We traveled and saw beautiful and interesting places. Certainly, during the course of our year there will be opportunities to do many of the things I love to do in Mexico - swim in the ocean, travel to new places, go to festivals and fairs. I will probably enjoy making a home for my family, even though it will have some frustrating limitations (such as being in my mother-in-law's house). If I try, I am sure I can see it as an exciting challenge to create a comfy nest in our little upstairs nook.
Homero will enjoy spending lots of time with his mother and siblings, and renewing his relationships with his other relatives and old friends. He will enjoy starting a new business venture (which he will certainly do - the idea of Homero not working for a year is rediculous). Just being in his home country will be a pleasure for him, speaking his native language all the time, having access to books and news in Spanish, and generally relaxing into his cradle-culture.
The children will surely go through a period of difficulty until they become more comfortable in the language, but I don't expect that to take very long - a couple of months, perhaps. After that, I am certain they will make friends at school and in the neighborhood. They adore their abuelita and she adores them. The deepening of that relationship will be a pleasure on both sides, I am sure. As will the deepening relationships with their Aunt Temy and their cousins. The children will enjoy many of the same things I do, travel, food, festivals.
I love the pageantry and richness of daily life in Mexico. I love the color and the exuberance of the landscape. I love the many occasions for festivities. I will keep thinking about the many things I like about Mexican life, and try to avoid thinking about the hardships.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
These three posts were written in July of 2010, while we were in Oaxaca for three weeks over the fourth of July. They go a fair way towards illustrating my complex and ambivalent feelings about Mexico. Of course there is much more history to tell. I'd like to start writing out the entire story of how Homero and I met and pursued our relationship despite the obstacle presented by his undocumented status. That, however, is a story that spanned three years, three countries, and many miles of red tape. I'm saving it for another day.
My love/Hate Relationship with Mexico, Part 1
I blame it all on a natural aptitude for languages. Way back in second grade, my school started a twice-a-week Spanish class, and my seven year old self loved it. I was GOOD at Spanish - I quickly outstripped my classmates and impressed my teacher. Being the obnoxious little show off that I was, I absolutely adored being told I was amazing and basked in praise, so I looked forward to Spanish every day and worked hard to be the best.
My Love/Hate Relationship with Mexico, Part 2
Well, actually all I have time to do is list off a few more things I love, then we are off to the cheap dentist. But the hate is coming, I promise!
My Love/Hate Relationship with Mexico, Part 3
Here comes the hate, in a big uncontrollable stream of consciousness flood:
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Welcome, friends and neighbors, to this journal of my family's year in Oaxaca. Most of you probably already know me, either in real life or from my blog, New To Farm Life. In either of those cases, you will already know that I, my husband Homero, and our two little girls Hope and Paloma are leaving our little farm at the end of the summer, and moving to Homero's hometown of Oaxaca for a year.
I've been sitting on a major news item. My husband and I made a decision a few months ago, which we only revealed to our families recently. Making this decision and dealing with the ramifications has been sucking up an awful lot of my brainspace, which helps explain why I haven't been writing very much.