Wednesday, March 30, 2011

packin' up, movin' on (a week and a half belated)

"Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically"
- Ed Vedder

All wicks burn down.
a.k.a. This too shall pass.

We've only days left in this Texas border town, and then northward, ho!  Here are some tidbital happenings and thoughts in our final times here.
  • What I'll miss is our new friends, the weather, a ridiculous variety of fresh fruit and tortillas. I'm going to post another doo-lolly about friends, and the fresh fruit thing is pretty self-explanatory, but I can't help swooning for a minute about the weather - wow. You can't beat opening up the doors in the morning to singing birds and the embrace of a comfortable moist warmth. And then there are the townsfolk we see all the time - my favorite store and restaurant employees, the maintenance and office crew of our community - people whose personal lives I know virtually nothing about but feel strangely connected to because of the smallness of our world.
  • But to be honest, there is a lot I won't miss. Since I've been pregnant most of the time with an aversion to the smell of grilled food, I probably won't miss the constant barbecuing. More surely, being a minority, something I'd rather enjoyed during travel to Central and South American countries, isn't pleasant here. At stores, we are generally treated as graciously as the next consumer, though not always. We've had several restaurant order mistakes due to the language barrier, but even that's just par for the course, an endearing quirk of living in a Spanish-speaking region. The main problem is being easy to spot, resulting in 8 months of living on a loose form of house arrest. If you're white or black around here, you're most likely a government or law enforcement official, which places you at greater crime vulnerability. (Most such officials are Hispanic, but they can blend in better - they do, however, still take precautions.) The anxiety over this has been a huge weight on me and on our extended family. Suffice it to say, I am ready to leave, although that readiness is tempered by a lot of uncertainty about the next few months (no house, baby on the way - stuff like that).
  • Though I've been doing small chores each day for a few weeks, it always, frustratingly enough, comes down to a mad finish. But there were some accomplished moments, like the major scrubbing I gave two showers and tubs. I'm certainly glad there was nobody around to film; full bending at the waste is out of the question, so I arranged myself into some rather scandalous positions. But by the end, I would've eaten caramel pudding out of those tubs.
  • I threw out four or five pairs of sandals, all but the one pair I wore. Three seasons in Texas are test enough for which of that particular apparel item are worth hanging onto!
  • The quintessential Texas grocery store is called H.E.B. At checkout, they always give the kids a few Buddy Bucks, pretend money they spend in a little spin game by the exit door. There, they win stickers worth various points, which are eventually redeemable for a prize. We weren't saving the stickers for the first few months, but one day Zoralee won three 50 point stickers! You can bet I started saving stickers then. At the very end of our stay, we redeemed all those stickers for a cereal bowl and two sets of kids' silverware, one fork of which Zoralee broke within the first 20 minutes home. But it was such a fun grocery store activity, we didn't care.  

And now for a couple of ironies.

Since I'd never been here, I had ignorantly considered Texas to be one (big) cultural lump. Cowboy hats, boots, women in heavy makeup and large hoop skirts, and children immaculately dressed, chests popping out their buttons due to excessive breakfasts of biscuits and gravy. Before coming here, I looked forward to the southern drawl and hospitality we hear so much about up north. Welp, instead we live in what is essentially an extension of Mexico. Now, Mexico is a country whose people, food, and culture I've previously enjoyed; this was just a bit of a let-down for the type of interaction I'd expected. (On the other hand, this has been a highly informative and unusual experience for us.) Anyway, at a local Mexican diner two nights ago, we sat next to a table of 10 loud, boisterous people who all southern-talked at once. Finally! Classic, stereotypical Texans! Honestly, they weren't all that amazing, but maybe if we'd had the chance to taste one of their apple pies...

The other thing is this. Zoralee and I are outside every day, playing in front of our townhouse unit, looking as inviting as possible when other children skitter by from car to house or house to car. Nobody else plays outside, ever, except the other northerners who are here with us, but the ones we know live as far from us as you can be within this community. We arrange to run into each other fairly often, so that's great! But we've also wanted to play with these nearby kids, and seriously, there seems to be this anti-playing-outside thing going on. Granted, we have no yards to speak of, and the community wouldn't allow permanent toys or play structures set up across the sidewalks, but still! What about our squirt bottles and water toys? Sidewalk chalk? Doll strollers and toy cars? There's a lot we can do together!

So when the kids run into their homes after school, or the younger ones after a trip to the grocery store with their moms, Zoralee watches them longingly. If we're inside the house and she hears children's voices, she rushes outside in hopes of catching one. Well, last night, the neighbor kids FINALLY came out to play. She didn't know what to do at first. When they offered her a toy, she ran inside our house with it, making them nervous that she planned to keep it forever. Eventually she settled down and just wanted to sit on a lawn chair and watch them play.

Here is a picture of Zoralee and the little gal, whose faces have been blurred to protect the identities of the innocent. (Actually, the fuzz is due to it being a cell phone picture at dusk, but here you have it.) And wouldn't you know, they never came out to play again.



Elaine said...

What town in Texas were you in? That does sound different than I imagined too. Maybe if I ever go I should just stick to the tourist traps!

Christi said...

This phase has been strange for sure. I'm glad you wrote about these things; they seem to sum up your entire time in Texas. I'm ready for the next book in this amazing series!!

Christi said...

Now I am picturing your life as a popular book series.

- What did you think of Book 33?
- Was that the Texas one?
- Yeah.
- Oh, that one was kinda odd and freaky at times.
- I know, I was kinda glad to move on to 34.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I was camping in Big Bend this summer, and I was fortunate enough to have a few stereotypical Texan experiences. The most humorous was when I hitchhiked into the park (because there is no public transportation to get you into the park). The first half of the journey was with an old Texan who, no matter how closely I listened, I couldn't make out more than 50% of what he said due to mumbling. He told me not to put my pack on the cooler, which took me a while to understand. Turns out, he needed easy access to pop open another cold brew.

The second guy I hitched from, who took me into the park, also drank beer while he drove....and he had already been pulled over for DUI.

South Texas. So interesting. I loved the wide open spaces, but I'm not sure I could deal with the heat.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Btw...all the best as you relocate.

Tamie Marie said...

I really hope you write more about your experiences in Texas! I'm so interested.

Dude, is that the front door of your house in the bottom picture? Because, cool stone columns in front of the door. But also, what the heck are stone columns doing in front of your door?