Cape Verde: Where the Frig is That?

November 30, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Posted in Immigration, Life in the US, The Bucket | 3 Comments

Cape Verde is a nation made of up ten islands, located 400 miles off the coast of Senegal.  Colonized in the fifteenth century by Portugal, the country didn’t become independent until 1975. 

Why am I interested in Cape Verde?  Well, I learned from Wikipedia that there are more Cape Verdeans living outside the country than within. 

The largest populations of Cape Verdeans can be found in (in descending order):

  • Cape Verde
  • Brockton, Massachusetts
  • Pawtucket, Rhode Island (a.k.a. The Bucket)

In Woodlawn, the neighborhood that I work in, you can hear people speak Spanish, Wolof, Haitian Creole, Arabic, and English.  But more often than not, you’ll hear Cape Verdean Creole, which sounds slightly familiar to my ears, yet mostly foreign. Their Creole is a mixture of Portuguese and West African dialects. 

One thing I love about The Bucket is the amazing cultural diversity.  And Cape Verdeans add a rich history and fascinating dialect (or set of dialects, actually) to the mix.  Now that I’m here full time, I will be sure to bug people with all my questions about what they’re all about!

For a more articulate (I’m so whipped, but wanted to get something down before I collapsed) intro to Cape Verdeans in Pawtucket, check out the beginning of this article from National Geographic.

My favorite part (just before they cut the article and ask you to subscribe) is about the triste alegria (sad happiness) that Cape Verdeans feel–nostalgia for the place they left, but an understanding of being here for more opportunities–something that most immigrants feel.

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Displaced Mexicans Smelling Hammocks

November 28, 2007 at 9:14 am | Posted in Immigration, Life in the US, Marriage, Mayan Culture | 9 Comments

Homeboy’s only advance preparation for coming to the US was to have a hammock made.  (For those of you aren’t aren’t familiar with the Yucatan, hammocks are an important part of Yucatec Maya culture: they sleep in them rather than beds and also make them.) He didn’t have his passport sorted until the day before (imagine my panic), he bought a suitable backpack a week before, and took some furniture in an open truck during a rainstorm from Cancun to his village about three days before his flight. But he did commission a gorgeous, mult-colored, double-weave hammock and paid 700 pesos for it, since his mum can no longer be on her feet for that long to make one for him herself. I told him repeatedly that there is NO way that you could put hammock hooks in sheet rock. But since he’d never actually seen a wooden house, he didn’t believe me and was sure that we would soon be swinging in our hamaca matrimonial in our little apartment in Rhode Island.

So the hammock has been in its bag for a few months since we don’t know what to do with it. A few weeks away he took it out to show our house guests, Monica and her Campechano husband, and I reminded him that it still smelled delciously smoky, exactly like the palapa kitchen that it was made in. So he smelled it, I smelled it, our guests smelled it. Then the two guys kept smelling the hammock, looking all sad and nostalgic. The more they smelled, the sadder they got!

Back in its bag it went, until next time he wants to smell home! I rue the day that we actually figure out what to do with it and it gets aired out so it doesn’t smell like Yucatan anymore!

Creepy Voodoo Message: Amazon.com Knows My Soul

November 26, 2007 at 8:18 am | Posted in Books, Quirks, Self | 5 Comments

Together with one of my writing professors, I managed to put a positive spin on my penchance for procrastination.  Rather than putting things off, ignoring important deadlines, and “being lazy,” I experience what we deemed an incubation period in the creative process.  Unfortunately for the fate of finished projects, the incubation period for some of my ideas has lasted several years. 

One particular procrastination episode verged on psychosis, and Amazon.com enabled me.  I was procrastinating as only the lazy and tense can do (this is an ugly combination of personality traits, which I manifest by alternately chain-smoking and serial-napping) in the writing of my undergad thesis.  I decided I simply couldn’t move forward until I learned how to overcome my habit of procrastination from experts.  Ordinarily, Amazon.com delivers books faster than a Spring Breaker in Cancun flashes her boobs for Mardi Gras beads.  Yet this time, the company tested the outer limits of the “delivered within 10-14 business days” guideline.  I refused to move forward on my thesis until I read the books on procrastination and absorbed their lessons.  And to keep myself busy in the meantime, I engaged in binge-drinking and artfully dodging my thesis advisor’s irritated phone calls about my progress.

Jump to the present, seven years after I finished my thesis.  Amazon.com sends me an email, recommending a book called Self-Discipline in Ten Days: How to Go From Thinking to Doing.  Cripes! Amazon.com, how did you know? My loved ones see me as totally together, even driven.  They know not my dark, lazy side.  I hide my lolly-gagging nature well, yet Amazon gently prods me away from day-dreaming and toward action in the form of marketing emails. 

What’s next in your witchy bag of tricks, Amazon.com? Stop Being Snide in Thirty Days: You’re Not That Bitchy, Are You?

Cancun Hearts Atlante!

November 25, 2007 at 11:21 am | Posted in Cancun, Futbol | 2 Comments

Of course, I didn’t get to watch Atlante beat Cruz Azul live last night in the cuartos de finales, but we did watch it on TV.

 The commentators had a lot to say about how frisky the Cancunenses in the stands were, which made me swell with pride.  Cancun gets knocked a lot for not being a “real Mexican city,” whatever that is.  Yes, it was only created for tourism, and yes, the Hotel Zone looks like Miami, and yes, it lacks the stately colonial buildings and rich, bloody history that other parts of the country have in spades.

 But finally having its very own primera division futbol team seems to me to be a step towards defining itself and creating its own culture.  Cancun is a city of migrants from all over the country, who arrived with attachments to their home teams, and no team upon which to transfer that attachment.  But now there’s Atlante!

And now with the big-time stadium, Andres Quintana Roo, Cancunenses have something to cheer for collectively.  Cancun will always be looking out at the Caribbean and the tourists camped at hotels along the coast, but now there’s popular (as in, of the people, not famous) support for something tangible within city limits. 

With only 30-odd years of existence, Cancun has a long way to go in creating its unique culture, but I think Atlante (if they can keep them there) is a start.

Any other signs of Cancun creating something from within for its residents that you’ve noticed?

How Many Balls Can I Juggle?

November 23, 2007 at 11:49 am | Posted in Blogging, Nonprofit, Working | 2 Comments

These past five months of working part-time, looking for full time work, and spending lots of time getting Homeboy acclimated to the U.S. have been alternately frustrating and wonderfully under-scheduled.  Alas, it’s now time to go back to my favorite state of being: overcommitted and frazzled, yet ultimately enlivened and inspired.

I’m a bit daunted by the roster of activities I’ll have on my plate from Monday on:

  • My brand new job designing and implementing a workforce development program for out-of-school youth (high school drop-outs in normal-speak).  This job is a great mix of program management and case management, and the offer couldn’t have come at a better time.  I was getting bitter and crazed about the difficulty of finding a full-time position in the nonprofit world.  Ultimately, I think all those rejections for positions I was perfectly qualified for primed me for this job: with people I know and adore, in a community that has grown on me, and only five minutes from our apartment.
  • And since my new job will be at the community center where my old job rents office space, I will also continue Weeding & Seeding a few hours a week.  I’ll get to tend the projects I love the most: a leadership development program for urban youth and the volunteer tax preparation site for low to moderate income families.  And I’ll also continue writing whatever random stuff needs writing: flyers, newsletters, letters begging people for things, translations, etc.
  • A new, itsy bitsy (yet super cool and exciting) freelance blog writing gig.  I’m offering commentary and posting articles on the topics closest to my heart: immigration, ESL instruction, and cultural competency in the workplace. 
  • And lastly, I’m making the slowest progress possible toward my Master’s.  At this rate, I’ll be done with it in 2015.  But every semester, I get giddy with excitement before the first day of my class.  I get light-headed with glee when I have the syllabus in my sweaty little hands.  And next semester, I’ll take a course on grant writing, which will be so useful to the work that people give me money to do.

My challenge will be to find some balance without compromising my favorite activities like sleeping, reading, and staring into space for uninterrupted stretches of time.  And oh yeah, to make sure that I continue to be a good wife to Homeboy and a good dog-mommy to Leo.

Immigration Grrrls Rock!

November 22, 2007 at 2:03 am | Posted in Blogging, Immigration, Internet, Marriage | 6 Comments

The idea of forming friendships and making acquaintances online has long made me twitchy.  Pretty ironic, considering I am the consummate lurker and do love to post my snark (and occasional advice) on forums.  And it makes me feel slightly uneasy when I’ve followed someone’s blog or forum posts and then meet them in person.  In fact, at an expat gathering in Cancun last Xmas season, I admitted sheepishly to Rivergirl that I followed her blog and therefore knew about the parts of her life that she chose to share in posts.  I felt as though I was admitting to something bizarre like collecting panties from Japanese schoolgirls but Rivergirl took it in stride. 

Imagine my surprise when, after embarking on a long visa process to get Homeboy here, I started bonding with women on immigration forums.  This bonding led to emails, text messages, phone calls, and in one case, in-person visits!  All with women I’d be thrilled to suck back cups of coffee with on my lunch break or share some beers and fried goodies with after work.  And what connects us is the fact that we all went through the immigration process (some much more arduous than others, and others still unresolved) for a Mexican. 

There’s Stephanie, who lives too far away to meet for a weekend, but is from an area enticing enough for me to fantasize about a double-shot of adventure: meeting her and her Mexican in person, and taking a road trip through Baja.

There’s Candace, who I “met” on the Ciudad Juarez forum.  It turns out that she and her husband own a house in the same fraccionamiento in Cancun that Homeboy and I first lived in. 

And Laura in Wisconsin, who filed a hardship waiver to get her once undocumented husband legalized.  A fellow writer and wonderer, yet she seems much more productive and less lazy than I.  Maybe she’s faking it, but perhaps she’s not and she’ll post some inspiration for me to get my butt in gear.

I’ve saved Monica for last, since she holds the place of honor as the only woman I’ve ever met in person after connecting online.  Of course, it was inevitable that we’d get along: our Mexicans share a name, they’re both from the Yucatan Peninsula, they both worked in restaurants and bars in tourist regions, and they arrived in the US for the first time ever within a week of each other.  And they’re both currently cold ALL THE TIME. 

Perhaps for others, meeting online and then in person is normal.  For me, not so much.  But it’s added another fascinating layer to my life. 

So thanks, immigration grrrls for changing my mind about online friendships!

And adelante, chavas! Or shall I say, ñoras!

In Limbo…Always

November 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Life in the US | 7 Comments

I really don’t see myself living in the States forever.  In fact, I think I would be miserable spending the rest of the days here.  At least in Rhode Island.  Homeboy and I eventually want to move back to Mexico, but only after we’ve saved enough money to do something.  What that something is, we don’t know yet.  But it’ll be a really great something.

I’m reminded of something I miss about life in Mexico every day. 

But as I walked the dog last night, I started to think of things that I’d miss about living in Rhode Island.  I came up with the following:

Yep, that’s it.  And it’s not even like I actually participate in or watch the roller derby here.  It seems enough just to know that, should I choose to, I can watch edgy hipster women beat the crap out of each other while whipping around a roller rink.

Upon further examination, I came up with one more thing I’d miss: beer in pint glasses and burgers.

This one will have to be continued, as I further examine the profound reasons I remain here. 

A Bit About The Gabacha

November 20, 2007 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Blogging, Life in the US, Marriage, Self, Working | 5 Comments

Kelly told me that I should write a Hello World! post to introduce myself.  And she’s a bit older than I, so when she talks, I listen. 

I spent the first chunk of my adult life living in Cancun, Mexico, and moved back to New England, which is where I grew up.  I never, ever wanted to live in a place as gauche and Americanized as Cancun.  Or so I thought.  But I ended up there because of a happy accident.  I had spent five months living in a Mayan village doing field work for my undergrad thesis on why Yucatec Maya migrate to Cancun to work and how their migration changes the village.  I fell in love with the youngest son in the house where I took my meals and used a bucket to bathe.  He made the same decision that many from his village make, and after I spent a few months in the States, we both moved to Cancun. 

My boss at the English school I taught at said that once a person spends a few years living in another country, they’re neither at home in their birth country nor in their adopted land.  I found out how true that was when two years ago I moved back to the States alone.  After a long visa journey my Yucateco is now by my side in the States with his shiny new Green Card.  He’s generally deeply confused about being here, and my ambivalence about the U.S. doesn’t help so much.  You’ll hear more about this, and my take on acclimation and being in a bicultural marriage.

But of course, there’s much more to a person than her love story, no?

I consider myself a writer-in-training, yet have found that when I sit to write something that will be seen by many, I become paralyzed and can’t continue.  So this blog will be a way to flex my writing muscles (aren’t writers supposed to stay away from cliches?), and share what excites, confuses, enrages, and delights me.  And hopefully I’ll work through this paralysis. 

A lot of what fires me up and inspires me comes from my job.  I’ve spent the past year and a half working and communicating with: cops, prostitutes, high school kids, the mayor, the IRS, school principals, disgruntled City Year Corps members, and a host of other random people in the Pawtucket community.  I’ve gotten paid to: accompany a street outreach worker to talk prostitutes off the streets, hold up one end of a broom in a limbo contest at a neighborhood block party, organize a neighborhood clean-up, cajole people into preparing tax returns as volunteers, beg for free food from neighborhood restaurants (a.k.a. ask for donations), and more.

But all this fun will be over by next Monday.  I’ll start a job as the Youth Center Program Manager at the community center where we’ve rented offices for my current job.  I’ll design, plan, and implement a program to help get at-risk youth jobs and training.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that.

You don’t want my life story, do you? Well, don’t worry.  I’ll stop here.  The point of a blog is to show you what I want to share, not tell you everything right away. 

So my little spiel is over.  I’m now officially joining the constant conversation that rumbles across the Internet. 

And I promise I’ll get and learn to use a digital camera to break up the monotony of text!

Those Kooky Mayans

November 19, 2007 at 11:53 pm | Posted in Marriage, Mayan Culture, Weirdness | 2 Comments

Homeboy and I went to visit a former student, now friend of mine this Saturday night.  I’m not clear on how the two topics of card-playing and what kind of music Mexicans play at wakes merged.  But they did.  Homeboy started talking about how Mayan wakes usually involve lots of card-playing, keyboard music, and drinking.  Of course, always the drinking. 

My friend asked how long the in-home wakes last and homeboy replies: Oh, for two days, we hold the wake and play cards, and on the third day, the corpse explodes.

Our friends just stared at him, and then Yolanda says, “Ay, que bien.”

 Apparently not much can be said when speaking of exploding corpses.  And apparently, in Queretaro, exploding corpses at wakes is not something that people worry about.  Not like in Yucatan, where it gets so steamy and unbearable that you think your insides must be cooking.  Especially in an inland village where there is no breeze and never any air conditioning.

Homeboy later tells me that his  paisanos have their wakes timed perfectly so that the body of the dearly departed loved one is packed up and taken for burial in time to avoid any horrific incidents.

 Yet another example of an interesting tidbit of life in a Mayan village I didn’t know about, even after being with homeboy for seven years.

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