Nuestro Rancho

December 22, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Marriage, Mayan Culture | 8 Comments

I decided that I wanted Homeboy to buy me a horse, and he said he could get me one for about 500 pesos.  He also said that we could keep them (of course, he wants a horse too) on his father’s land, which is just south of Chichimila.  Don Petin (Homeboy’s dad) used to work his milpa there, but now the fields are fallow and the land abandoned. 

Our plans exploded from there, but Homeboy has now taken it in a direction that I don’t want to go!  Despite the fact that he used to cry like a baby when his dad would send him to the fields to work, he dreams of being a ranchero.  This, coupled with his parallel dream of being a torero, has taken our plans to an ugly place. 

I said I wanted sheep.  He accepted that, and added cattle to it.  Now he’s gotten it into his head that he wants to start raising black, brave bulls to sell for corridas.  We’ve often argued about bullfighting, as it really upsets me.  Yet he absolutely adores it. 

(An aside: when we were first together and I was living in Chichimila, we went to a corrida during the village’s feria.  He started egging on his friend, whom everyone calls El Vaquero , to jump down from the stands and get in the ring with the bull.  His friend protested, and I noticed Homeboy getting twitchy and crazy-eyed.   Before I realized what was happening, he had jumped off the stands and launched himself into the ring.  He then proceeded to chase the bull around for a good five minutes.)

If we actually ever do something with the land, I can forsee a lot of head-butting over the bull thing.  I really just had this romantic fantasy of getting to wear cowboy boots and spending leisurely afternoons on horseback.  But nothing gets Homeboy more excited than the idea of raising his own bulls. 

I also envision doing tours for those gringos who adore “authentic Mexican experiences.”  Tour on horseback, learn about how Mayans farm, swim in a cenote, eat some relleno negro, and get “cleansed” by a real Mayan shaman!  My idea for the last part was to get one of his friends to wave some tree branches around and babble on in Maya.  But Homeboy now wants to pay an actual shaman to do this!  There’s one living in his brother’s house.  He is supposedly ridding the house of the after-effects of the curse placed on his brother’s deceased wife.  This man has been there for years, and I imagine that if the house has not yet been cleansed of evil, it never will be.

I wonder if people would actually pay for something like this. 

If not, we’ve always got the bulls to fall back on.  Gulp.

Life in a Parallel Universe

December 11, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Immigration, Life in the US, Marriage, Weirdness, Working | 6 Comments

Homeboy and my father are tight, and they certainly make an unlikely pair: a twenty-five year old, compact brown fellow and an elderly, red-headed white man.  Yet they go out to breakfast together at my father’s favorite diner, go on errands, and sneak donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts.  My father also fancies himself Homeboy’s tour guide, taxi driver, and ambassador to the English-speaking world.

So when Homeboy finally got a call from the temp agency to report for work yesterday, dad was only too happy to snap to attention.  I switched to crack-head soccer mommy mode to get Homeboy home with his resume, so dad could pick him up, pass off the required work boots, and take him to the temp agency. 

Dad calls to give me a run down of what transpired, but then got upset and only said: “It was chaos, pure chaos.  I helped him with his application, then they took him away in a van.  I don’t know where they took him.”  He calls me a few hours to express his concern, and he sounded even more traumatized than before, especially since Homeboy hadn’t called me to let me know what time to pick him up.

Homeboy finally calls, and I go to pick him up.  He had been moving packages for DHL and is thrilled to use his first paycheck in America to buy a gold chain and crucifix pendant. 

Jump to a few hours later.  Homeboy’s at English class, and I call dad to let him know that he was safely returned to me.  Stepmom picks up the other extension to tell me that after they attended a wake, they went to dinner.  Dad spent the entire dinner with his head down, mumbling “They took him away in a van, I don’t know where they took him.  I didn’t even get to shake his hand. They just took him away.”  Note: my father clutches at Homeboy every time they see each other.  He gazes meaningfully into my husband’s eyes, and celebrates each new step of his life in America as if he were a newborn. 

Dad was much relieved that Homeboy was fine, even jubilant.  I told Homeboy about my father’s trauma and how worked up he got that he couldn’t shake his hand. 

Apparently, as they shoved him into the van, my father remained on the steps of the temp agency, shaking his hand at his favorite Mexican in some sort of victory salute as a van load of recent immigrants, ex-cons, and the generally downtrodden temp laborers looked on.

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!

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!

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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