Monday, October 4, 2010

Anonymous, noticed, known.

As of today, I love my uniform.

I didn’t bother to change before Ibis dropped me off downtown, so I’ve been rushing around Oaxaca in my white polo shirt, bright yellow sweater vest, gray skirt, white tights, black shoes. It's ugly, but it’s the same uniform the kids I teach wear, similar to the uniforms anyone who attends school, public or private, anywhere in Mexico wears.

And it’s amazing: wearing the uniform, I fit in. I walked up and down the Zocalo twice and not one of the restaurant hawkers offered me a menu. Nobody tried to sell me ANYTHING. I walked into the fabric store and no one gave me the who-do-you-think-you-are once-over. In my uniform, I’m as anonymous here in Oaxaca as I am in California, and I’ve missed my anonymity at times.

I don’t REALLY think I look 16 anymore, but that’s the magic of the uniform: no one is looking that closely. I’m just another uniformed schoolgirl, or some sort of official person, and my coloring must be just a genetic accident, because clearly I belong and am not worth thinking about. It’s delightful.

Of course that doesn’t work in our little town, but I realized the other day that, while I’m not anonymous there—I still get plenty of funny looks—I’m becoming a regular part of the place. I’m becoming known, rather than merely noticed.

I walk into the market and I greet the vendors by name, and joke with them, and we ask about each other’s families. I walk by the hardware store and often Herminio is there, swinging in or out of the delivery truck, and shouts me a greeting, or Don Sergio waves and smiles from the shadows just inside.

And people I don’t even recognize greet Isaias when he’s riding on my back, or ask where he is if he’s not.

We just celebrated his first birthday. He was born at home, at 2:30 a.m. on the Festival of San Jeronimo, the patron saint of our town. When the first fireworks went off that morning, we were so dazed and sleepy and thrilled that we thought they were for him.

Whether he decides it means anything to him or not, he’s one person who will always know where he’s from.

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