Are you a list maker like me? As I prepared for my trip South of the Border earlier this week, I went through my usual 4-5 checklists of household chores to complete, as well as the ones for deciding which clothes, toiletries, electronics and electrical cords to keep them operating I'd be taking with me in my cutest purple suitcase. I'm favoring reading off my Kindle ever since recieving one as a hand me down last year, but at the last moment- I mean, getting into the car leaving for the airport last minute- I happened to grap our barely flipped through Spanish/English dictionary. I also happened upon a duffel bag with wheels that my cutie suity fit inside, so I had a secret cute suit with me during my 19 hours of travel.
Do you think I've regretted carrying that 1350+ page tomb around with me a few times as I shlepped my bags around two airports, multiple bathroom breaks, and a sightseeing trip around Guadaljara? I'd be lieing if I said I hadn't. Things is, it actually has been extremely useful... turns out, relying on a few choice explain-my-life phrases and a Kindle loaded with four, Learn Spanish in A Week books? Not a great plan for attacking a language barrier. Even if you think you "understand" what you're hearing.
After I finally "understood" the last Customs Agent's requirements, I ventured out solo through the automatic doors and scanned the line of waiting cowboy hat wearing mustachiod men for one who looked like I remembered. It HAS been a long time, but the years melted away when I found his seldom shared grin from across the room and concentrated on keeping my feet from running toward him. What is it about dads that brings out the kid in you- oh, um, yeah, that whole parenting thing lol.
After introducing his friend and taxi for the morning, I again had to stop myself from reaching for his hand as we crossed the parking lot. Trying to play cool and sneaking glances at the newest version of my father distracted me from the fact that I wasn't participating in the conversation as mentally planned and rehearsed since the day I asked to come down here. No matter that I hadn't yet (and if I can chicken out, wouldn't be) asked him to speak Spanish to me the entire way down, I'd just eavesdrop! An easier feat once I ensconced myself in the back seat of the Mercury SUV. Following along as best I could, I soon determined that my best basically sucks. This is getting to be kind of a downer post, with all my non ability breaking through, so I'll move on to talking about the excitement that over rode all that.
Imagine, if you will, that you are about to embark on a two hour trip with a relative you've not spent much time...awkward! Now detour it to stay in Guadaljara exploring la historica sites, dining al fresco, and even perusing our way through a few mercados. Oh snap, I did learn a word or two today... and that's not all.
My father showed me a thing or two about wheeling and dealing in the open air market. Visiting many, but buying nothing, His strategy was much different than mine, which generally includes committing to spending nothing and leaving with crap I can't keep and no money in my wallet. Totally could have used him along with at Diamonds International Jewelers during cruise week, ya feeling me?
Then a few stops later and it was back on the road again, this time heading towards the town where a Jalisco princess was born, Tenamaxtlan. Named for the ancient native word for "a pot between three rocks" (ancient cooking method) it is full of colorful houses, friendly inhabitants, my spirited younger sister, and much thought of grandmother. The house I've only seen pictures of? Turns out it was built by mi familia. Once I'd been given a tour I was able to appreciate so many more details than I first observed. The hand tiled curving archways, custom doors and Through the Looking Glass wardrobes simply didn't hold my attention because I was on the look out for my little abuelita, who I could hear rustling about in the kitchen like a little Mexican mouse.
With her silver strands still threaded through with black at her ripe age of (insert unbelievable number here), her wisend face lit up with joy and I later realised my choked ABUELA! probably went unheard as I crushed her to my much taller body. HOld up- no idea what is being said right now, but how in the world am I bigger than someone who is not a child?!
Oh, this lady is small like a bird, and so again I toned down my exhuberance and simply held her tiny shoulders as she grasped mine. What a moment. Are you crying now too? As if it could not get any better, we were actually communicating too! Well, I could "understand" her anyway, as she asked about my family and reminded me that she hadn't seen me since I was a wee baby. I won't say how many years that has been either, but literally, a life time apart.
Sitting down on her little loveseat, we again collapsed against one another, with laughs and "Ay, Dios Mio!"s on her part. As tears slipped down our cheeks there was more silent embracing, and I savored every awkward moment of it. When do you let go, right? Cause, I'm gonna get tears in your hair here!
Why wasn't I surprised when she reached for the toilet tissue for a three square hand off to me. Isn't that what the best grandma's do, give us the best shared feelings imaginable and then clean us up before giving us back to our parents? Back out onto the road again we went for a rousing hike through cattle lands bordered by an insane amount of rock walling.
Pulling back into town at sunset, I was eager to be in grandma's arms again. Perhaps the travel fatigue, or the last four hours of speaking ONLY English are to blame for the helplessness that engulfed us both as I tried to share the forty or so pictures I had brought along and practiced speaking about. Oh, did I mention she lost her glasses before I came? Poor little abuelita, and me running around shouting some cock-a-many made up spanglish about where or where can my grannies glasses be... words I picked out of my dictionary between field crossings.
Remember my last post about being ensconced within another culture and realizing I don't have a clue how to communicate naturally? Not much has changed there! Which gave me a new approach to my list making tonight. This time I searched for the phrases I could relate to my current situation when I copied verbs from the Kindle to Notes.
Here's to hoping I'll finally be able to offer her some assistance- and figure out what the heck in the camasita she's been talking about...*
*No grandmothers are intended to be harmed by the writing of this somewhat snarky ending blog post. She's blind, remember?!