Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gringas Are Smelly

My Gringa-ness makes people feel uncomfortable. I couldn't think of a good way to begin this post so there you have it.
When we go to fiestas here there's always family or friends that we know and then about 30 OTHER people that we don't know. And I, singlehandedly with my pale English speaking self have a magical ability to make those 30 other people feel really uncomfortable. Plus the host, because none of their friends will speak or have a good time until I vacate the premesis.

I'm a nice person, friendly, smile-y and everything but there's something about my Gringa-ness that just .....FREAKS strangers out here. Is it a cultural thing I don't know about?

Yesterday we were invited to a birthday party at our friends house. When we showed up there were about 12 people outside eating and having a good time but when we came and I sat down the party went silent. *chirp chirp* *crickets* People sitting on either side of me stared straight ahead and all conversation stopped. Some people have the grace to go to another area of the party but the others just stay and try and not stare at me.

This ALWAYS happens!

After a while, another car load of about 10 people showed up and they didn't even want to come in the gate of the house, they stayed outside and STARED in my direction and then away, like "OMFG, the devil is in there!" The host had to drag them in and make them sit down. Nobody shook my hand but there were at least a few polite "Buenas Noches." People ate in silence.

I usually try to start conversation with someone and normaly get one word responses or strained grunts.

If the host is really great they'll talk to me and maybe tell a joke about me to the crowd and help me to say something to kind of break the glass a bit and then people will at least find a way to party among one another and do their best to pretend that I'm not there. A lot of sideways stares.

Sometimes, to my relief, a person will get brave and ask me what in the world I'm doing in Mexico or where I'm from. Those questions usually lead to a big group Q & A where they ask me all sorts of crazy stuff about the U.S. or my past life, but at least then they TALK to me. After one of those they'll even include me in the party and I'm always thankful for the curious person.

I've noticed that strangers in general aren't too talky-talky here like they are in the U.S. so I know it's not JUST because I'm a Gringa, but I know it makes it worse. Back home you can strike up a conversation with a lady in line in the store by saying "OMG, I LOVE your shoes!" and 20 minutes later you're in the parking lot still taling and soon to be best friends. HERE if you say you like something another person has or is wearing they look at you like you have two heads and may bite them at any moment. With both heads.

I don't know WHY strangers aren't friendly with one another here and I don't know why Gringa-strangers are even more freaky. Back home if a foreign person came to a party we would MAUL them with questions and attention.

I often wonder if there's a key, a magical IN that I don't know about in these situations that would help. Like, a phrase I could say or handshake. I thought my babies would get me in the in-crowd but turns out it's a no-go.

Someday maybe we'll just know enough people that I won't BE a stranger anymore or maybe I'll just get used to being an Elephant with Leprosy hanging around in the room. But for now, I'm gonna REALLY appreciate the new friends I'm making at work and the family of my husband.

Ugly Elephant
*** Years later update***  Yeas have gone by and I'm still smelly, but not nearly as much.  I've found that there is no magical "in" and folks still don't like me to compliment them on their earrings or shoes - BUT - but it get's better.  The more Spanish I learn the friendlier people become because they're not nervous about the language barrier.  I'm able to say Mexican jokes and little phrases these days that help set people at ease.  And I've found that a smile continues to go a long way. It get's better. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm A Big Kid Now

I JUST got back from teaching my first English class to *drum roll.........d.d.d.d.d.d.d.d* ADULTS!!! :) EEEEEE!!!! I was psyched before the class and I'm still psyched after!

It was miraculous, they...LISTENED. They didn't complain about doing the work and they didn't yell or throw things or... well, it was just great.

There were a few times when they were talking when I was talking but it's a different thing. It doesn't bother me like it would with the littles because quite frankly they are adults and it is no longer my job to teach them manners. If my 4th graders are being rude I have to give them the what-for but if these adults are commiting a wee little transgretion - whatever! As long as it's not horribly disruptive I just don't care and it's nice to be able to let things slide off my back for a change.

I did have to lay the smack down a few times for the NO-SPANISH rule, but it's a more FUN smack-down with adults!

I only have 6 students! I DID just about piss my pants when two of them walked in the room though. One of them is a mother of one of my 4th graders that I had some trouble with at the beginning of the year, plus, she works at the school and her decisions directly effect me. When she walked in my knees turned rubbery and I thought "Oh dear God, I am in so much trouble, she's going to eat me alive."

But she was great. She's an excellent student and was just all around awesome.

Another worker, one of our fancy office people is a student of mine and I once again wanted to flee the building when she walked in but I held my ground and it worked out just fine.

There was a couple of moments I wanted to jump off a bridge, like when one of the students asked me "WHY do we use ___ word and not the other?" And......I had nooooo freakin' clue. I knew I was RIGHT, but I didn't know WHY I was right and I just stood there imagining myself kicking myself in the ass. I eventually just fessed up and said that I don't remember. He of course smelled blood and came after me quite a few more times, "WHY is this like that? Why not this or this?"

That ones a teenager, it's his job to make fools of adults I guess, and I did my best to answer or avoid him. I of course ran STRAIGHT to my boss to freak out after the class and ask him what to do in those situations. Luckily he's brilliant and gave me some great advice. Next time I'll be able to stop Mr. Teenager in his tracks. BooYA Justin Bieber!

And in my defense I had no idea what level or even what material I would be using and teaching in this class till 10 minutes before hand. So.....there.

So anyhoo, it's an odd feeling to be teaching ones superiors but I think I'm gonna be just fine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Somethin' To Talk About

I was super excited when we moved into our new house a couple months ago because my new neighbor speaks ENGLISH!!! EEEEE!!! I was PSYCHED!! I hemmed and hawed and shuffled my feet for WEEKS trying to figure out a way to go over to her house and start up a conversation (leading to everlasting friendship and happiness) and was thrilled when I came up with a way.

Insert - Babies! Hooray babies have a use after all!! She and I share babies of the same age so one day when she was outside with hers we wandered over so my baby could say hi *ahem* to her baby.

We of course started talking and I was thrilled to be speaking in English to a lady that seemed pretty nice! And she IS nice.....but there's a wee problem.

She's of the Mexican culture arena that is super DUPER over protective, MY-BABY-IS-THE-UNIVERSE.

I, am not.

If my baby wants to throw a 2yo tantrum and fling herself on the ground in the street and scream? Let her ass! If HER baby wants to do the same? Oh my God. First, it would be a catastrophe if her baby were to touch the ground. She'll swoop him up so fast and squeeze him to her bosom "OH, MI AMOR, YOU ALMOST TOUCHED THE GROUND!" DEAR LORD NOT THE GROUND!

Are there mini zombie brain eating monsters that I don't know about on the ground waiting to kill our babies? Did I miss something?

If my baby throws herself on the ground I let her stay there until she's done being an asshole and then just -NEWSFLASH- dust her off when she's done! There's no harm in a baby sitting on the ground for a minute but this lady goes into the freaking VAPORS if her kid even starts to kneel!

It's not just her though, I've seen mmaaaaannnyy Mexican Mommy's that are the same way. Maybe there's a superstition I don't know about or something???

Anyhoo. Also when her kid starts to throw a fit (and I mean a little bastard I-am-a-two-year-old-the-world-is-ending-fit) she'll cram him to her bosom, drop what she's doing and exlaim "OHHHH Mi VIIIIDDAAA Mi AMMMMMOOORRRRR What is it??? What is WRONG?? How can I make it all better mi precious peice of GOLD???" And all the while the kid is kicking and screaming - OR - going complacent because he knows he is soon to get his way.

Also, dogs. The neighbor lady saw our dog come up and lick Daisy in the face and saw me laugh and do nothing about it but shoo the dog away and about came UN-GLUED. "OH! That's disgusting! Dogs are nasty your POOOOORRR baby!!!" She then wouldn't let my baby go near her baby - fear of disease?? - then rushed back to her house for fear that we would ..... well I don't know. Chase her baby with a slobbery dog?

So. She thinks I'm a bad Mommy and I think she's a freak and now we can't be best friends for life and share our secrets and eat chocolate like I was hoping for. We talk once in a while but the baby taboo always comes up and I always go home feeling like a pod-person.

SO! Onward I go, a friend I will find some day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Circus Peanuts

Today on our almost daily trek to the park we were surprised by a pop-up mini carnival. They're super common here in Reynosa and appear from time to time in our local park. A couple times a year I guess? There's quite a few outfits that travel all over the parks here (there are tons and TONS of parks here) year round bringing their carney joys.

The rides match everything else about Mexico. They're all a bit ramshackle, somewhat dangerous and outdated - but fun. The SPEED on these things, oh dear lord, it's like ....they run at LEAST 3 times faster than any ride you'll find in the U.S. And most of them ARE FROM the U.S......from about 30 years ago or so. The little baby-car round-y-round goes so fast that the babies have to hold on for dear life to avoid being flung off by the centripical force.

So what do we do? Why throw on our 21 month old for a few joy rides of course. The key to rides here is to pick the one that is most likely to not have super-dire consequences if it blows a hose or bolt and goes haywire. The horizontal-spinning-wheel-of-death? No. The spinning-30mph-in one direction-at-one-level? Yes. If it goes wackadoodle it'll just stop, the wheel of death will topple and crush. No Thank you.

Speaking of death wheels, last spring when it was here there was a mini ferris wheel that we were contemplating going on as a family. That is untill we got close and noticed that the spinner-wheel that turned the contraption HAD A FLAT and was just sort of smushing along and letting the bigger wheel slip now and then. We asked the guy running it about it and he said "NAH, don't worry about it, 20 pesos, let's go!" He was also BLASTED drunk, like...weaving and bobbing. We just stared in disbelief as a fellow carnie came by and told drunk-pee-pants to shut the thing down and shooed us away.

So anyhoo, Daisy went on rides alone today for the first time and gripped the wheels like an old ghetto pro. She didn't fall off even when one of the carnie guys went off to talk to a friend and left her on the ride for about a 7 minute stretch going round and round and round while Mommy was getting a wee nervous because she noticed that said baby was getting dizzy and a little weavy and bobby herself. But she hung in there and all's well that ends well. I didn't have to hit the emergency stop or anything.

And Niko? He'll have to wait till next year.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo

*******WARNING: This post involves bathroom habitry. It's TMI and I don't care but YOU might care. So...there ya go.*******

We are fortunate (in ways) to live right on the border of TX and Mexico. The average wage here for a laborer in a factory is about 700 pesos a week for working 12 hour days. That equates to about 65 U.S. dollars. My husband worked in a factory earning that wage for our first year here and then we were lucky and brave enough to start up our own wee little business selling goods from TX, over here in a flea market. He makes a bit more than working in a factory and only has to work 3 days a week, leaving the rest of the time open for him to stay home and care for the babies while I'm at work. It's a super win-win situation.

To get those goods from TX I need to travel over there at least once a week to go shopping and find the things he'll need for the week. And THERE is where my little.....strange-it-ty takes place.

I travel to anywhere from 4-10 stores on a given Saturday looking for the cheapest and best goods to take back and sell. There are a few places I go to every week and in one of them my little problem takes place. No matter what time of day I get there, within 1 minute of walking in the door......I suddenly have the urge to.....find a potty.

EVERY. FREAKING. SINGLE. TIME. No matter what time of day and I can't even get down a half an isle before I'm jumping around and crossing my legs like a 4th grader fighting off the urge to not soil my damn pants!

I don't know what happened in my brain somewhere along the line but for some odd reason it's got a couple of nuerons all crooked crossed up and instead of it saying "It's time to shop" it screams "It's time to POOOOOOO!!!"

I told you. Tmi. But it's WEIRD TMI!!

About a year and a half ago I used to have the SAME thing happen in a different store that I would go to each week but I eventually stopped going there when I found a place with cheaper stuff and I thought my little weirdo problem was solved, but came back.

It's been going on for about a year now in the new store and it's just.... goofy. I wouldn't be botherd by it or even care but the shop doesn't HAVE A BATHROOM and the only public potty in the whole freakin' po-dunk town is a half mile away and always has a line out the door of women waiting to go.

For some reason I never remember it's going to happen and so I've never done a pre-trip to the potty place for some preventive measures and so EVERY SINGLE TIME I get half way down the isle and scream "DANG IT!! CRAP! AGAAIIINNN!!" inside my head and kicky myself mentaly in the face for being such a freak.

Most days I can prance around and wait it out long enough to get my stuff and go but sometimes, like today, I have to freaking put my basket DOWN, leave the crapping store and drive to the potty place. It's dag gum incon-freaking-vinient.

Why can't I REMEMBER this is going to happen and WHY does it happen every time??? I go almost eeeevvveerrryyy Saturday so that means it's happend about 50 times to me in the past year. That's just not right.

Is there some sort of anti-poo meditation I can do? A re-wire my retarded synapse pathways chant or something?


Monday, October 3, 2011

Let 'Er Fly

Mexicans can't sing.

In groups that is. It must be some sort of cultural thing but when a group gets together here to sing a group song, anthem what-have-you, basicaly people just....yell. They just yell the words in tempo and forget about any sort of melody.

I don't mean anything bad or rude by pointing this out, it just is what it is and maybe I felt like stirring up some shit. Nothing like a little hate mail in the morning but remember, I've always promised to keep my blog truthful.

At the school where I work we all stand together Monday morning and sing the Mexican Hymn, the Tamaulipas Hymn and the school song and it's always the same. The music blares over the loud speakers and a couple hundred people stand there and yell out the words. It always gets me feeling awkward and feet shuffly because I don't know how NOT to sing, I don't get this yelling thing, and when I try to sing along with the actual music I end up sounding out of place.

Maybe because they have a penchant for making music about a half octave out of peoples comfort range here? Kinda like that church lady with the warble who always insists on being a super-soprano and singing a full octave above everyone else and sticks out like a sore thumb? That's what I feel like trying to sing here, but I care that I sound weird.

It's the same at any family function where we sing Happy Birthday, I get all weirded out because I sound like an ass actually singing the song while everybody else yells and I usually end up lip-synching and REALLY looking weird.

What jerk lip-synchs to Happy Birthday??

I mean really, who really has the problem here?


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Who Wants a Ham Sandwhich?

During our Culture Fair at the school last year each class recived a country to make a table for.

They were encouraged to bring in foods, items and info native to their given country and the U.S. team brought all the things in they could think of to represent the States.

Here, right next to the macaroni and cheese, jello and Mcdonald's is what the kids labled
"Philly Cheese Steak."

I think somebody forgot to Google a picture of that one before setting it up.


And to boot? It was made out of a dog toy.

Love it!