Thursday, December 11, 2008

Update (again)

Our classes just ended last week and a I went to Cancun for a few days with some friends. It was a great time and I have plenty to say about it just not right now, check back a little later. Right now I am at the computer lab in Queretaro about to board a bus to Tijuana where I will then cross the border and meet my sister somewhere down there and stay with her and her family for a while. It is a 38 hour bus ride so hopefully I will come out of this alive and sane, although I wouldn´t count on it. I wrote that bit below about Lolita about a week ago and am just now getting around to putting it up. Hope all is well with everyone and I will check back once I am back in the U.S. of A.

A Farewell to Lolita


As the end of the program gets nearer and my departure from Queretaro becomes imminent and inevitable, there are a lot of mixed emotions going around from everyone, including Lolita. She tells me everyday—sometimes a couple times a day—that I don’t have to leave and that I am welcome to stay with her as long as I want. The crazy thing is, I know she is absolutely telling the truth; I could stay with her for the next 10 years and she would never ask why I was still there or when I would be leaving. I’m serious. Today, in attempt to talking me out of leaving, she claimed that Oregon and everywhere else are colder than Queretaro and only partially joking asked I why would I want to go back to that. She followed that up with a story about some animals that change colors in the winter but if it isn’t cold enough they can’t change colors and get eaten. I’m not exactly sure what she was getting at, we’ve had our share of equivocal conversations since I’ve been here, but I hope I don’t get eaten.

The whole seƱora-student relationship has fascinated me since before I even got here. The two of us are two completely different people, in two completely different places in our lives, heading in two completely different directions. She is a 50-something Mexican divorcee who lives alone and likes soap operas and I am an American college student who turned 22 under her roof and is just out for a good time in Mexico. She has kids and grandkids. I have guy friends and girlfriends. I take classes weekdays for university credit in hopes of someday getting a job. She takes painting classes twice a week just because she enjoys them so much. For the last two years I lived in a house with four other buddies, a beer pong table and enough garbage and clutter that Pixar used it as the basis for “Wall-E.” And, I had grown quite accustomed to that lifestyle. I did what I wanted when I wanted, I never worried about what time I got home or woke up, and I could park myself on the couch, drink beer and watch sports without anyone raising an eyebrow. I probably made my bed about as often as I watched “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” (never) and usually only cleaned my room only at the end of each term. So, you can imagine that someone moving into a house with only one other lady in a foreign country who literally doesn’t speak the same language as you has to be somewhat of a learning experience. There were certainly times when things were wearing on me and I was not in the mood to go home and have to speak and listen in another language to a women who was sometimes lonely from living alone when all I really wanted to do was park myself on the couch with a game on and a beer without anyone raising an eyebrow. She also has an uncanny knack for carrying on long conversations on mornings when I have a test or am already late or both. For whatever reason or reasons, however, the two of us have gotten along great over the past four months and I could not be more thankful. She has done so much more than just welcome me into her home and give me a room to sleep in. It’s really not like that at all. I wake her up with a knock on her door every weekday to the response, “Ya voy,” followed by her making me breakfast and telling me all about whatever the hell she wants to talk about. She shows me her drawings from class and asks what I think of them. She makes me a massive lunch everyday and we do more talking about what ever a 22-year-old male college student with less than two years of college Spanish and a Mexican grandma could possible talk about. It certainly hasn’t always been easy, but putting forth the effort has paid dividends.

I do not mean for this to be in any way taken as concieted, but I do wonder how she is going to do with out me around. I know that I mean a lot to her and she has been clearly emotional the past couple days. I know it will be hard for her to not have anyone come home for comida everyday, tell her about their weekend trip, or wake her up in the mornings. She has her kids and grandkids that I know she loves very much, but the two of us have a different relationship. She tells me about almost everything: her divorce and her ex-husband, her children and their spouses, her friends and their drama, her father who died a few years ago, and much more. I even came home one night to her going through a box of pictures followed by her making me sit with her while pointing out every person in every picture and where and why they were there. I can now tell you more than you would ever need to know about Lolita’s family. It’s this kind of stuff that I was in a unique position to be a part of—these aren’t things she talks of or can talk of with her kids or grandkids. She knew all along that due to the language barrier and the fact that we are two completely different people, that I couldn’t offer her much feedback when she would delve into these issues, but that there was someone there at all was what mattered. I don’t mean to make her out to be a depressed lonely hermit, because that would be very far from the truth. She has lived in Queretaro her whole life and has plenty of friends and family here and is usually always very outgoing and quite sanguine, but like I said, partially due to timing (I am the first student she has had in a while because of her divorce) and partially due to god knows what, the two of us became very close and we will both have a void to fill in the absence of each others company.

Now that I am heading back I am starting to reflect more on my time here. For reasons I can’t exactly remember I named this blog after a line in the Bob Dylan song “Visions of Johanna.” The last line is, “and these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.” I wonder what halcyon memories of Mexico will remain when I get back and am telling people about my experience. What about five years from now? Ten? Twenty? etc. I know I am going to walk away from this with some great stories that I will probably tell a million times, friends I plan on knowing for many years to come, and memories that aren’t likely to fade anytime soon. I also know that living with a wonderfully crazy Mexican lady named Lolita in Queretaro, Mexico for four months will not be something I will soon forget.

Monday, December 1, 2008