Monday, August 29, 2011

The Spectrum.

The last time I visited the U.S., I called someone "sir" in English for the first time ever.  
He helped me get my bag down from the overhead compartment, and I said, "Thank you, sir."  It just slipped out.  It was weird.  I'm from California: we address groups of elderly ladies as "you guys."  We call our parents "dude."  We don't say "sir." 
It made me realize how much I've acculturated to my adopted country: the effusive politeness, especially when dealing with an elder, has become second nature.  I don't have the entire script down, yet, though: a real, old-school resident of Tlacochahuaya can draw out a simple "thanks" into a ten-minute exchange. 
It's that way with a lot of things: I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, no longer entirely comfortable in my home culture, but nowhere near being Mexican.  Look!  I made you a poorly formatted chart!

San Jose
My Little World

Person A: Thanks.

Person B: Sure. 

Person A: Thank you, sir/ma’am.  Very nice of you. 

Person B: It was nothing. 

Person A: A thousand thanks, sir/ma'am.
Person B:  No, it is I who thank you.
Person A: You’re too kind.
Person B:  Truly, it was a pleasure. 
Etc., etc. 
Eats only pre-packaged, pre-cut, de-boned, and de-skinned meat.  (Or, optionally, vegetarian.)    
Eats meat that is clearly part of an animal’s body.  Can look at organ meat without puking.    
Chews on the chicken foot, orders brain tacos.

"I want it yesterday." 

"I want it tomorrow.  Or the day after."  
"I’d prefer to have it by next Wednesday, but I’d be willing to wait six or seven months.  While standing in line.  In the burning sun." 

iPhone, iPad, iPod, iHouse, iBrain, etc. 
$20 cell phone with no camera.  5-year-old digital camera (larger than a pack of cards).

Donkey cart. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Perils of Fluency.

I was sitting across a desk from an immigration officer the other day (because it’s my favorite time of year: Time To Renew My Immigration Document!).  Happily, the trio of women who made me cry during this process (both last year AND the year before) were gone, but now I was faced with the task of explaining various funky aspects of my immigration status to a new person, all of which boil down to the fact that the good folks in Pachuca, Hidalgo, who originally issued my FM2, messed it up. 
I began, “It’s that the people in Pachuca…” and stopped short, because the ONLY Spanish words that I could come up with to complete that sentence were “me chingaron”—they f***ed me over.  Obviously not something you really want to say to someone who has the power to deport you.        
I started again, “It’s that they…” and came up with “hicieron un desmadre”—untranslatable, but call it “they made a f***ed-up mess.” 
I made one more run at it: “The ones in Pachuca, they…”   There was a long pause while the guy looked at me oddly.  Finally I finished, “They didn’t do it right.”
“Ah,” he said, and continued shuffling through my papers. 
I started paying attention, after that, and realized that, damn, Ibis and I have some filthy mouths on us.  The difference, of course, is that he can come up with non-filthy synonyms when the occasion calls for it (just as I can control my English cursing), but my proper, college student, I’m-reading-the-works-of-Sor-Juana-NOT-in-translation Spanish has gone directly down the tubes in the last few years.   
And, well.  We have an almost-two-year-old child.  One day his four-year-old best-amigo-neighbor was watching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron with him, and called out to me, “Doña Tere!  Este pinche caballo se pone bien chingón!”  Which we could roughly translate as, “This goddamn horse is a real badass!”  I confess that I laughed.  But I’m pretty sure that if that had come from MY child, I would have felt like a terrible mother.    
Something else to work on.  Yesssss!

Monday, August 22, 2011


So I came across this mysterious Word file in a mysterious folder-within-a-folder among the mess of random files and photos and folders scattered across my computer desktop. (Sometimes being pathetically disorganized pays off in unexpected ways.)  I don't remember writing it, though I clearly did at some point in the not-so-distant past.  It was the advice I needed to hear today, though.  And it's advice FROM MYSELF!  So I get to congratulate myself on being terribly sage and compassionate and admonish myself for being a materialistic idiot AT THE SAME TIME! 

No, really.  When my fantasy life starts to run along the lines of "wealthy benefactor treats me to a week alone in some random large American city where I know no one and can stay at a fancy hotel and go to day spas and buy myself anything I want as long as it's JUST FOR ME because those are the terms and I'm not allowed to feel guilty"...well.  That's when I need to hear this:

"Decide to be happy.  Just make the decision.  Stop fantasizing yourself out of your life, even at night, even when you’re sick, even when you’re sick and tired of everything being hard.  Live it.  Choose it again every day, all of it, everyone, every inconvenience and every bowl of beans and every scorpion and every class that goes horribly.  Choose the weariness and the backaches and the wanting to talk to someone in English.  Choose the laundry and the dishes.  Choose the traffic and the bloqueos.  Choose Ibis.  Choose his smile and his problems and everything that’s good and everything that could be better.  Choose your Little Bird, even when he doesn't let you sleep, even when he doesn't let you do ANYTHING for yourself, even eat.  Choose it and be happy.  That’s all." 
Because once I'm reminded, how could do I anything else?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Is the Twenty-First Century Too, or, Shove it Up Your App

"Macs, iPhones, and iPads aren't 'consumer electronics.'  They're lifestyle essentials...

...helping us get more from travel, fitness, home design, and more... you can explore your passions and keep life simple." 

--text from an ad for the magazine MacLife.  Photos from Pachuca, Hidalgo, and Palestina, Chiapas, in the 21st century.