Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Because I owe you one...

I just realized how much time has already gone by since that last post. It has almost been 2 weeks! I had no idea! Time is really flying by me.

I have had all kinds of great post ideas floating around in my head, but never have the time and/or mental energy to really pull one together. So I haven´t written anything. Instead, I am going to give you a few blurbs of the ideas that have been rumbling around in my head, and maybe some day in the future I will expound on anything I feel like gets cheated by doing it this way.

I wrote a while back about the independent streak in American culture vs. the community orientation of Mexican culture. What follows are some of the things I have been noticing that play out of that difference.

For example, in America, we get tons of junk mail and correspondence from companies we are affliated with (ie banks, credit cards, car, etc). This is the primary form of communication from advertisers and companies that want to keep us informed of our standing with them. Here in Mexico, people go door to door. This is in part because the mail system is so unreliable, but it really plays a part in the different sense of community. Salespeople, creditors, even the government - they all come to your door if they need or want to make contact with you. And if you are not home, it is perfectly acceptable to explain the purpose of your visit to a neighbor and ask them to make the contact for you. Can you imagine the average American´s response to a creditor or government official explaining their problems to a neighbor?

Although there is now what I would definetly consider a mall here in Saltillo, and many large plazas, in general you go about shopping in a very different way. When you want to, ´go shopping´, you go downtown and walk the streets wandering in and out of little shops. If you just need to grab something, you walk to the nearby appropriate shop in your neighborhood. For example, if you need a notebook or a map, you go to the nearnest ´papeleria´(paper shop). If you need a gift, or the fixings to wrap a gift, find the nearest shop labeled ´regalos´(gifts). Oh, and don´t bother buying whole rolls of paper for a single gift - there is no place in the house to store it anyways. Just buy a sheet or 2 for about a quarter.

In America, we generally chant the mantra that beggars and panhandlers are just trying to get another fix of drugs or alcohol (so don´t give them any money). Here it is understood that you are not so far above the person asking and it is very hard to find work, especially if you have any type of disability. A large percentage of the population freely gives out their pocket change to everyone from the person sitting on the sidewalk to the person somehow performing entertainment in the street in hopes of donations to the deaf person that walks door to door with a paper explaining her plight. Homemade food being sold door to door is also easily bought up.

Well, enough cultural comparisons for the moment. I have to get going. But I´ll try to write again sooner this time!

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Cultural Observation and A True Wifely Rollercoaster

Ok, so let me preface this by saying that in no way am I attempting to put myself down or put myself on some type of pedastal....this is purely a cultural observation and something I am trying to adjust to. I consider myself to have a pretty healthy self-image, all things considered, so dont worry about that in reading the following.

In America, as in, all of my life up until now, I was not what one would consider stand-out pretty. I think, normally, you have to be blond, extra tall or thin, or bronzed skined to garner extra attention from the male species. (Excuse all my broad generalizations, please) I have long been average height and weight, very white, and decidely brown-haired. Nothing that attracted a whole lot of obvious attention in public.

Here, however, I automatically stand out because I am American. And you can see in my sidebar picture just how much whiter I am than people here. In Rochester, there is a pretty diverse cross-section of many nationalities. Here, it is pretty much completely, uniformly, Mexicans. I am very different. (I am also very thankful for brown hair so I can at least blend in a little bit!) I draw attention. I mean this in the most innocent of ways as well as the not so innocent of ways. I am pretty sure that I am remembered by my 2nd visit of any of the little shops, cybers, or even the supermarket I frequent. I am memorable. But also, when I walk by myself somewhere (which I do somewhat regularly since I do not have my own car and happen to like walking), men on the streets are staring at me....and occassionally vocalizing their attention.

Being recognized in the places I frequent is something I appreciate. It makes unfamiliar places and things feel comfortable and safe faster, especially since it makes for that many less people I have to worry about understanding the fact that I am not yet fluent in Spanish.

Being whistled or stared at is something I do not like at all. I am currently reevaluating my wardrobe. Do I own things less flattering? Mind you, I usually just have on your basic pair of jeans and a comfortable top. Should I buy a few baggy, shapeless items for when I leave the house alone? Do I dress as always and just continue to act like I do not see or hear these men? Thoughts, anyone?

My oh-so-wonderful husband hopes it never happens in his presence, because he thinks he will react in anger. However, I am pretty sure it is unlikely to happen as long as I am with him. He says to just ignore it as I have been, though.

So, I lost it last night, just broke into tears, while talking to my husband. I am sure you all can understand.... I mean, he told me he did NOT want his breakfast sandwhich this morning quite the way I planned on making them. That is obviously cry worthy, right? You all see where I am coming from here, I am sure.

Seriously, though, I got pretty upset when he made faces and expressed the exact opposite of interest in the combination of ingredients I mentioned (and that I was actually looking foward to). I insisted he at least try it (he never had before). But I did not realize how upset I was until he said something to the effect of, *Ok, I will try it. Just please dont be sad about this, ok?* At which point I started crying.

At first I wasnt even sure why. Then I realized, I have been a little stressed about the whole cooking thing. Cooking for him is one of my most important wifely tasks, you know? And I need to cook at least 2x a day.... culturally, you eat a big, cooked breakfast that can last you until the big, main, midday meal. But I do not know how to make very many of the dishes he is accustomed to, at least, not yet. And one of the ones I thought I did know how to make (eggs with chorizo), he had told me a few days earlier he prefers a different way!

We have discussed that at times I will make things I am familiar with and that he is more than willing to try them. I had always found him to not be very picky, and it appeared he´ll eat just about anything. But as I said, this week he actually asked me to make something differently, and now he was telling me he did not want what I planned on making for breakfast. You can understand how I suddenly had nightmarish visions of him regularly refusing to eat what I made, particularly anything I am really comfortable making. And so I lost it. (This would be the low point of my above mentioned wifely rollercoaster.)

I was able to express what I was feeling, he did his usual great job of comforting me, and agreed to try things even if it sounded strange to him (he ended up liking my breakfast by the way). We also discussed the possibility of me spending time with him mom and sisters so I can learn more about the dishes he is used to (which was something I had thought I´d be able to do back when I was going to live with them before the wedding).

And now you may be wondering, what about the high point of my wifely rollercoaster?

Well, I made rice today for our midday meal. And it was good.

That may sound silly and little to you all, but let me explain. This is coming from the girl who only ever bought anything other than instant rice one time when I first moved out of my parents house and didn´t acutally know the difference between real and instant rice but only saw that it was cheaper. I don´t think I ever made it more than once...? In case you weren´t sure, they don´t eat instant rice here.

To further explain, not only do they not use instant here, but it is not cooked in a saucepan. They cook it in a frying pan. In fact, they start out by cooking it in oil. Then you add flavorings and something that turns it pink. And the few times I tried to ask anyone about how to do it, I got very vague instructions (cause it is just one of those things that everyone here does, and does slightly differently).

So maybe now you can appreciate why it was such a high point for me, especially after last night´s cooking breakdown, to successfully make tasty rice, and be told by my husband (who did not know I had never made it before) that it was really good. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

A bit more...

I only have like 10 minutes, but I thought I{d add a bit more about life here...
(sorry to those who are punctuation conscious...I can{t for the life of me figure out how to type an apostrophe on this keyboard!)

Some good news...stove is hooked up and working great! and washer should be by days end. And we are off to buy the dryer my family gifted us with the money for :)

Some fun news...I received my first real piece of mail last week. I think it was Friday. I was walking home from visiting a friend and found myself wondering where they would put are mail were we to ever receive some, since no one here really has mailboxes. And what did I find when I walk in my door but a letter for me that had been slipped under the door, from a good friend with the same first name as me :)
What an awesome treat that was! Please, please...write to me! Emails are great too, for those mail challenged. Ive loved the few emails I{ve gotten from friends and family so far! But gosh, what good it did me to have a touchable taste of home!

And before I run out of time, I got to thinking how I went into narration mode last time and failed to mention the really amzing man I now have for a husband. So far, his worst quirk is the large amounts of soap he feels a need to use, either when washing his hands or in the shower. Mot bad huh? And Ive only been more impressed by all of his good qualities. I know there are many of you who think you have the best husbands out there, but I know I really do! ;) Ok, maybe hes just the best husband for me, but one way or another, hes the best!

K, Im gonna go cuz if I dont post this before my account runs out of time, I lose everything Ive written.

Until soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008

For Carole...(and everyone else who has faithfully waited...)

Sorry, folks, that it has been so long!

Those last 10 days before the wedding were a little hectic, especially once my family arrived and I felt like I needed to host them on top of accomplishing all the myriad of things that needed doing before the wedding day. But it all got done, in large part thanks to my family´s help and that of the few friends who made it down. Except that our mattress never arrived (it should have arrived a solid week before the wedding), and so the day of the wedding we had to make other plans for where to sleep that night. ;)

The wedding day...hmmm...I think it must be a little bit like when a woman gives birth and the hormones cause her to forget the worst of labor...
I know it was crazy that day, and I felt completely depleted. And I did have one true complete breakdown when I thought for about 2 and half minutes that we didn´t have my wedding jewelry. But when I think about that day, I only remember from about 4pm onwards. My sisters-in-law and good friend did a fabulous job on my hair so that it looked salon quality, and just what I wanted. Everything came together just as it should, found jewelry included, and when it came down to it, although it felt slightly unreal, I was very calm and very ready.

If any of you ever get a chance, you should really experience a Mexican wedding sometime. Although there are many parallels to what Americans are used to, it is definetly a different experience. For example, our invites said the wedding was at 5pm. I think we started a little after 6 - and felt good that we started that early! They have a few additions to the ceremony itself that are really very beautiful - like the gift of kneeling cushions to symbolize the part that prayer will pray in your marriage. And how many of you have played musical chairs a wedding ceremony?! Or any other games that involve the distinct possibility of someone getting hurt, but make you laugh like crazy?

Really, though, it was so beautiful and wonderful. And I didn´t even cry during my own wedding ceremony, if you can belive that! I wouldn´t change a thing about it. A Pastor and good friend from Rochester gave a beautiful word, his wife (who I miss like crazy!) very graciously translated the majority of the service, and our Pastor here did the vows and what-not.

I´m really looking foward to seeing pictures (I think tomorrow!), because I know there were details I couldn´t take in, and because I think the photographer did a great job.

Oh, to backtrack a second, I got really nervous just before my family came that they wouldn´t like or wouldn´t understand Saltillo - it is a whole different world from Rochester. And I so love it here, I wasn´t sure how I´d handle that. And I was nervous about our families being able to connect with knowing so little of each other´s languages. But I worried for naught. If anyone didn´t like it here, they hid it very well :) And somehow our families really connected - a couple of them even want to stay in touch.

Beyond the wedding day, the honeymoon was awesome. We absolutely enjoyed every minute of it, with only a couple of exceptions: we missed our flight and had to leave the next day instead (FB´s brother was using FB´s car to take his sister to the hospital, which had one of my bags and FB´s ID in it); and we ended up having to call in the hotel Dr for some type of infection or something that required 3 different types of treatment and occassionaly make him feel like he was in a hospital or something. But neither of those things slowed us down much, and all in all it was a beautiful week that I wish would have lasted longer.

FYI, the birth control we had planned on doesn´t work for us after we´ve just kind of decided to see what happens. So no one should be too shocked if I end up pregnant sooner than I´d originally thougt.

I know this is getting way long, but its been ages since I´ve written, and I don´t know what I´ll get another chance. SO, if you´ll all bear with me, I just want to give you a taste of what my married life looks like here.

Monday: I cried a little when FB left for work the first time, then cleaned like crazy cuz I don´t think our place ever had been. And started organizing our things. After FB came home for the midday break, I went with him the rest of the day. That night, we discovered our mattress and stove finally arrived at his family´s house, but we couldn´t transport them back to us yet.

Tuesday: Our suitaces arrived from the honeymoon finally, our sofa set arrived (I was so excited - they are so pretty!), I walked our neighborhood a bit looking for a cyber cafe, and instead finding 3 near-by neighborhood stores (kind of like tiny groceries where you can get many of the basics).

Wednesday: I walked 20ish minutes to the supermarket to do our first real grocery shopping, and returned by taxi. Managed to make a meal without a stove still. In the afternoon I walked again to the supermarket to get what I needed to do laundry by hand since we can´t hook up our machine still. Stove and mattress arrived that night, but I´m still waiting for the stove to get hooked up.

Oops, gotta go, but the rest of the week included more laundry and walking 2oish minutes to visit with a friend for a couple hours.

So, alls well. ANd hopefully I´ll settle into a routine soon where I can write more.