Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Worlds Collide


Continued from Gone with the World

I got up and walked to the door, still half asleep. I opened it without checking first to see who was outside. I was thinking that it would be my cousin but it was Mark. He brought me a coffee and I was wondering if I had slept all the way through until the morning.  He walked right in and said, “You like coffee, right? I thought you could use one since it’s only four o’clock and you are having a nap.”

It felt really strange and I began to think that I shouldn’t have opened the door. I was still standing by the door when there was another knock. I opened it immediately and it was my cousin. I felt so relieved to see his face and thought, “ay caramba! What perfect timing.” Mark gave me the strangest look, put the coffee on the counter, walked to the door, and said, “I’ll call you later,” as he stared my cousin down and walked out. 

Izaak shook my hand. That was what we did when we had missed someone, or when we hadn’t seen someone in a long time. We never hugged, not even if you really liked the person. I imagine it was because of people like my teacher in Mexico. It would just be safer not to hug at all. But, that could have just been my overactive imagination again.

Izaak and I always got along really well. I hadn’t seen him since the one summer before when he helped me learn the road signs when I wrote my beginner’s driving test. He got me an already written beginner’s test that someone else had passed.

Apparently, that was how people got their beginner’s. He asked me, “How else do you think people that can’t read pass this test?”

I thought that if everyone else was doing that, then it must be okay, and I would do it too. I memorized all the right answers and passed on the first try.  

Izaak asked who that creepy guy was and what he was doing here. I explained the story of how I met him and that he kept calling me and that he came over even after I told him not to. I just went on and on. It felt so good to talk to someone who knew Low German. I didn’t have to think so hard to find the right words before I gave an answer. I was so excited to tell him that I had passed my driver’s test a few months before I got laid off from my job at the factory.

I had put all my excitement about passing the road test into the back of my mind. When I saw Izaak, it all came back. Finally, I got to tell the one person who knew how much this meant to me. He was the one person who could appreciate my efforts and he was truly happy for me.

Then I stopped myself and thought before I told him about all my struggles, that I was completely lost and that I had no idea what I was doing. I had to find out why he came over. I asked why he had come over he said, “Well, I came over for a few reasons. One is that I brought you a box of stuff that your mom sent. She also told me to ask if you could just come back home to Mexico.”

I said, “I knew it!”

“Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you what to do. I always knew that you wouldn’t come back and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t either but please don’t tell your mom I said that.”

He told me that he was just passing through and that he himself had a really hard time accepting the Mexican Mennonite way of life.

Other than Izaak, I had one cousin, Susana, whom I had always been very close with. Her parents stopped going to the Old Colony church when they came to Canada about a year before I did. I didn’t get to see her much because they lived about two hours from where I lived.

I thought, “How lucky am I? Out of my one hundred and thirty-eight or so cousins, two of them don’t think that I am completely out of my mind!” My aunts and uncles were spread all over the place. Some lived in Manitoba and others were in Ontario, Texas, Honduras and Mexico.

I didn’t know exactly what they all thought of me leaving but I knew most of them were against it. Just like they were all against Susana’s parents for letting she and her siblings go to public school in Canada.

One of my aunts had told my mom that she should have just forced me to stay in Mexico and that I just needed a good old spanking. When I heard that, I thought of a plan in my head about what I would do if she ever came over. I wasn’t going to open the door for her. I would call George to come and deal with her.

Another reason Izaak came over was to ask if he could leave his old clunker of a car in my parking space at my apartment until the next time he came back to Canada. He wanted to go live in Texas for a while. He said he was sick of working in tobacco fields and giving the money to his parents, so he was leaving before tobacco picking season even started. 

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He said I could use the car whenever I wanted to. I thought this was perfect. It would give me a bit more freedom. Now, if only I had money for gas, I could really test the driving skills that I had learned at the driver’s ed course.

Getting my driver’s licence was my second biggest accomplishment since coming to Canada. My first one was landing that dream factory job I loved so much. I had dreamed of it but never thought that it would actually happen for real, especially being a woman and a “hard learner.” For me, those were huge accomplishments.

Izaak and I went outside to the parking lot where he showed me his car and gave me the keys. I got in behind the wheel, closed my eyes and imagined the freedom. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that the car had almost a full tank of gas. That was going to change so many things! Izaak had no idea.

Izaak’s buddies drove onto the parking lot, wearing their cowboy gear, hats and all. We could hear them coming a mile away because of the Narco Corridos music they were playing so loudly. I was trying really hard to fight it but that whole scene and the smell of Mexican dust mixed with the air freshener in Izaak’s car was so familiar. It brought back so many memories that it gave me the shivers.

The cowboys stayed in the truck as Izaak shook my hand and said goodbye to me. That’s when I felt the true separation between all of my worlds. I truly enjoyed seeing Izaak but, at the same time, I was hoping no one from the apartment building would see me with those guys. Similarly, I enjoyed spending time with Bree and George but I didn’t want any Low German people to see me talking to them.

Growing up, all I heard was that we don’t do things like the welt menschen doone (worldly people do) because we are not worldly people. Now that I could decide for myself, all my worlds: Mexican Spanish, Mennonite Low German, Canadian English and Anna were colliding faster than I could handle. 

I just leaned against the car as I watched Izaak get in the truck and drive off. I felt sick to my stomach for feeling like that. I slid down against the car to the ground and sat there and tried to process everything that had just happened.

This all had happened way too fast. My head was spinning. I couldn’t even think in one language anymore; they were all mixing up. I didn’t know what to do with all my feelings and this was supposed to be a relaxing day off for me. Click here to continue reading my story.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gone with the World


Continued from Speechless Mennonite

I sat on the couch for a while to catch my breath and find my voice again. George walked back and forth from the kitchen to the living room a few times with his hands still on his head and said, “Okay, please forget what I just said and let me show you how easy it is to work the VCR remote.”

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It looked easy enough when he was doing it. He showed me where all his movies were.

“Here, I have an extra set of keys. How about you take the keys and your tape? Go home and think about it and decide if you want to watch a movie,” said George.

I took them and said, “Okay, I will.”

“Awesome, and make yourself at home. Help yourself to anything in my fridge. I have to get going; my ride should be here soon,” he said.

I took the tape and the keys and walked back to my apartment. I looked through the window and watched as he got into the back of a black car and drove off. I put the tape into my tape player and sat down on the orange flowered loveseat that Mark had given me. I listened to the tape three times over and thought, “This is going to be a really long day if this is all I am going to do.”

I felt the butterflies forming in my stomach as I started imagining what it would be like to watch a movie at George’s apartment all by myself. I talked myself into it and thought, “Why not? George is right. No one else has to know.” I got all nervous. The more I thought about doing it, the faster my heart started pounding.

I turned off the tape player, grabbed the keys and slowly walked through my door. I stood there completely still and listened for anyone walking in the hallway. I slowly turned to lock my door and tried not to make any noise while I tiptoed all the way to George’s apartment. I unlocked the door, walked in as quietly as possible and I locked the door right behind me. I stood there for a while and when I turned my head to look around, the lizard was staring at me.

I imagined what the lizard was thinking: “What is she doing just standing by the door?” I slowly put down the keys so it wouldn’t startle him and walked around to see if anyone was hiding in there. I checked the bathroom and, on my way back from the bathroom, I passed the bedroom door and peeked in a little and thought, “Oba Nee, Anna, do NOT go in there!”

I checked the kitchen and then I took a deep breath and thought, “Okay, it’s all clear. I am by myself in George’s apartment with only his pets.”

I got myself a big glass of water and started looking through his movies. I had no idea what to look for or which one I might like, so I picked Basic Instinct because Bree said it was a good one and she loved it. I put the movie on and sat down but I was not comfortable since I heard every noise. I walked to the window to see if anyone was coming.

I sat down again and saw a bottle of black sparkly nail polish on the coffee table. I thought, “This must be Bree’s because she always wears black sparkly nail polish. I thought maybe I could do my nails. I didn’t think she would mind if I put some on.

I thought, “Ahhh, why not? I am already doing so many things I’m not supposed to do!” I opened the bottle and, as I felt the first brush stroke on the nail of my pinky, I even got the shivers. I thought that now I really had gone with the world.

I painted all my nails and sat there and didn’t move as they dried. I just turned my head to look at the lizard and it was still staring at me. I couldn’t really enjoy the movie. I was restless and nervous the whole time the movie was playing. I had a hard time turning my brain off. I tried really hard not to look at the gargoyles. They looked so scary.

I thought how strange it was that he had a table in the middle of the room and the way he had placed the furniture in his apartment. I wasn’t used to that. In Low German people’s homes in Mexico, all the houses had the furniture lined up neatly and placed against the walls. Most houses had hand crafted shelves, calendars, clocks, ceramic birds and ducks hanging on the walls. I had never known anyone that had a lizard or ceramic gargoyle statues in their homes before.

When the movie was done playing, I hadn’t watched much of it. I had missed a lot of parts because I was so nervous and paranoid the whole time. I was exhausted from sitting on pins and needles and thinking too much again. I had no idea who killed whom and was it with an ice pick or a gun?

I went to the bathroom and noticed George’s cologne on the counter. I picked it up and smelled it. It smelled so good I was tempted to put on a little but I didn’t. I thought, “What if Bree comes over and I smell like George? What will she think?” I quickly put it back, turned everything off and ran home.
 
When I got home I had two messages and, this time, one was from my cousin Izaak. He came to Canada every year for a couple of months. He had left a message that he would like to come over and talk to me sometime soon and that he would call again later. This really scared me. I knew the only reason why any family member would visit was to convince me to go back home.

The other message was from Mark again. His voice sounded really strange and bossy, almost angry. It didn’t sound like him or, at least, how I had heard him talk before. I just finished listening to the message when the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Mark again.

He started asking me so many questions: “Why weren’t you at work? I called you at your work and they said you didn’t work there anymore. Why didn’t you call me? If you weren’t at work, then where were you?”  Before I could answer him, he said, “I want to come over right now.”

I told him, “No, not today. I’m really tired and I need to take a nap.” He said,

“Okay, maybe tomorrow then?” I hung up the phone and laid down on the love seat. I thought that watching a movie was not relaxing at all. I was exhausted! I fell asleep and had a nightmare that my teacher in Mexico was chasing me with an icepick. He kept just missing me but whatever he hit was so loud and it got louder and louder.

Then I woke up and that loud knocking was so real that I still could hear it. Then I realized that someone was knocking on my door!  Click here to continue reading my story.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Speechless Mennonite


Continued from Mennonite Curiosity

When I woke up the next morning, remembering where I was and what kind of day I had the day before, I got sick to my stomach with worry about what I was going to do.

I lay there wishing I hadn’t woken up. I thought maybe I should just go back to Mexico. Life was not getting better; strangely different, but not better as I had hoped it would. The thought of going back frightened me enough to force myself out of bed. 

Ekj tweeveled  - I waffled about whether or not to go to George’s place to pick up the tape he had promised to make for me. But, I thought my day would be so much nicer and shorter if I had that tape to listen to. It would distract me at least for a little while and then maybe I could start thinking about different things again.

Sure, I had listened to music before. Someone always had a ghetto blaster on the Colony streets on Sunday afternoons playing Narco Corridos. Everyone knew we were not supposed to do it but most people still did it anyway. I figured that Alanis Morissette’s songs were no worse than the Narco Corridos I had listened to in Mexico. In a way, it was actually the same.  I was listening to music but only understand about every other word.

I really wanted that tape badly. I talked myself into it and decided to go get it. I could hear my heart pounding as I went down the hallway to George’s apartment. I worried that I shouldn’t go there when Bree wasn’t there. I had learned from a very young age to never put myself in a situation where I was alone with a man. I felt like I was doing something really wrong, even sinful, but I was hoping that it was the right thing to do in my situation.

I walked past his door a few times, back and forth, and took a few deep breaths. My arm felt so heavy when I lifted it to knock on his door that I thought I was going to pass out. He opened the door and when I saw him I almost fell backwards.

He was all dressed up in a black suit, a white shirt and a silver striped tie. His hair was sleek and tucked behind his ears and he smelled really good. With a big smile on his face, he said, “Good morning, Anna. Please come in and don’t mind the mess! I have been ironing shirts all morning and I can’t decide what to wear. Ahh …  this sucks!”

It was really strange, I had never seen a man iron anything before.

“What do you think, Anna? Please tell me the truth. Do I look stupid?”

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For a moment, I lost myself in the question. “Anna, what do you think?” I couldn’t remember if I had ever been asked that before.

I had a really hard time concentrating. All the English words I had learned were gone and I couldn’t find them. He was used to getting a delayed answer from me but he always waited, no matter how long I took. Some people would try and answer for me and I often would just nod my head and go with it, even if they were way off because, the more someone would try and say it for me, the harder it was to find the right words.  

“Ahhh … that looks good … what you’re wearing,” I answered.

My face turned all red as I said it and didn’t know where to turn so he wouldn’t notice it.

“Really? You think this is okay,” he asked.

“Ahhh, yes, I think so.” 

“Awesome, thanks! I will stick to this one then,” he said. 

I thought he looked and smelled amazing, a whole lot better than the Schlaubbekjse (overalls), dark long sleeved plaid shirts, socks, rubber sandals and the smell of cow poo I was used to.

I didn’t share that thought with George. I thought I would keep that to myself for the whole forty-four years of life I might have left.

“Oh, before I forget, there is the tape I made for you.” He pointed to the coffee table and said, “If there is any other CD you like, just let me know and I can make it for you. It’s really easy.”

“Okay.”

I asked why he was going to court and he said, “Ahhh, it’s complicated. I will tell you all about it another time, okay?”

“Sure, okay.”

“Sooo, what are you going to do all day,” he asked.

“Oh, nothing but sit by my phone and wish Hilary would call me.” I didn’t know what else I could do. I was so bored.

“You know, Anna, I will be gone all day and I have a VCR and a lot of movies. If you want, you can stay here and watch movies all day.”

I thought that was the best idea I had ever heard. I enjoyed that thought for about five seconds and then my Low German thoughts had to ruin it. I could think of many excuses as to why I shouldn't be alone in his apartment watching movies. What if someone came over and thought I broke in? What would I say?

George knew I would love his offer but I tried really hard to hide my excitement from him. I said, “I shouldn’t. What if someone finds out and tells my mom?”

“Your mom is a million miles away; no-one will ever know! Look at it this way, it is your day off and you can choose to do whatever you want to do and this is what you would like to do, right?”

I was getting really worried as he slowly walked closer and closer to me and put one hand on my shoulder and said, “Anna, I know you have a lot on your mind. Maybe this will help you forget about everything just for a little while. Don’t you think you deserve one day to enjoy yourself and not be worried about what someone you don’t even know might say about you? I mean, have you ever just done something that you wanted to do just because you wanted to do it?”

Then it happened again. I couldn’t find any words to say. All I could think of was his hand on my shoulder and the sound of my pounding heart. He took his hand off my shoulder, backed up a bit, put both of his hands on his head and said, “Hell, if I were in your shoes, I would probably kill myself.”

I felt my face turn from red to white in a second and suddenly felt really cold and shaky. I just knew I had to sit down so I backed up a bit and sat down on the couch. He realised that he probably should not have said that.

“Oh, crap, what am I saying? It’s just a figure of speech. People say it all the time. It’s okay, Anna. You really should learn to relax. Everything is going to be just fine.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Flour Gorditas


Ingredients:

2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp oil
3/4 c lukewarm milk (2 percent is fine)
2 tbs shortening



Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening. With your hands, mix the ingredients, incorporating the shortening into the flour.


Stir in milk and oil until combined. 


Pour mixture onto the counter top (it will be dry and crumbly at first, but after kneading, it will come together) and knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes.)


Return kneaded dough to bowl, cover and let sit for 30 minutes (this is to let the gluten relax, the dough will NOT rise.) Cut large dough ball into 8-10 pieces.


Roll out small dough balls thin and at least 8-10 inch wide with a rolling pin (The dough will shrink once placed on the griddle.)


Preheat a pancake griddle, (comal) or a large skillet to medium high heat.

If you don't have a gordita presser, you can use a small sauce pan filled with some water to press the gorditas down.












Cook for about 2 - 3 minutes on each side. As soon as the gorditas are ready, i will cut them open. With a small knife, dip it in some water and start cutting your gorditas open. Slice about half way around the gordita to create a pocket.


Roast your favorite peppers, peel and cut them up.

Add your favorite grated cheese and melt it in a pan with the cut up roasted peppers.

Spoon the pepper and cheese mixture into the pocket of the gordita.

You can stuff taco meat into them or anything you like.

The most popular gordita filling in Mexico is the ground beef or pork with the red pepper sauce the one I used for the Chicken Tamales.






My favorite gordita filling is roasted poblano peppers and mozzarella cheese mmm good.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mennonite Curiosity



As George attempted to explain the meaning of bear with me, with no success whatsoever, there was a knock at the door. On his way to answer the door, he pulled his fingers through his hair again. I could tell he was so frustrated that he was tempted to swear. I could almost see the F’s flying around above his head but he was trying so hard to keep it under control around me.

He opened the door and it was Bree. She was all happy and in a good mood. She had a new piercing again, this time on her tongue.  As George was making dinner, Bree and I looked through his CDs and I found my favorite one: Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. I had heard a few of the songs on my alarm clock radio and I loved them. I had planned to buy that CD after I bought a VCR.

She asked if I would like to listen to that one and I said, “Yes!” She put it on. George came into the living room with a beer for Bree. He looked surprised that I had chosen that CD.

“I figured you would only listen to, church music or something,” George said.

Bree rolled her eyes, shook her head at him and said, “George, you shouldn’t always say what you think.”

“Ahh shit, I know, sorry Anna. Okay, let’s eat!” He said.

He made Mr. Doodles with cheese whiz and hot dog slices in it. George said, “This is my favorite, I hope you like it.”

Bree gave him a really strange look and said, “Really, George? This is your favorite? That’s bullshit.”

He just smiled and grabbed his fork. I bowed my head and put my hands together and in my head said the High German prayer that I memorized when I was two or three years old. When I was finished, I looked up and caught them looking at each other and then looking at me. I felt really awkward.

It reminded me of when I was little and our neighbour’s kids in Mexico used to come over to play house. We would all sit around a little table to have, pretend faspa. My sisters and I would say our prayer and because they didn’t know what to do, they just counted to ten in Spanish. They only knew a few words of Low German and they spoke Spanish because their dad was native Mexican.

Bree asked, “What language do you say it in and how often do you say it?”

George looked at Bree and shook his head.

I told him that it was okay and I would try my best to explain it. I said, “But I think it is going to go just like earlier when you tried to explain the meaning of, how to bear with someone!”

Bree gave George a strange look again. They both started laughing and then Bree asked, “What are you talking about, Anna?”

“I have no idea,” I answered and began telling her that I say a prayer before and after a meal, when I go to bed, and when I wake up in the morning.  I say them all in High German. I knew all four by memory ever since I could remember and that it was something I had done my whole life.

Bree asked, “So you don’t tell God how you feel or about a thing that you wish for? You tell him the same thing every time you pray?”

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“Yes, I think so. Well, all four of them are different. The one I say before a meal is different from the one I say after a meal,” I answered.

“So you speak Low German and High German?” Bree asked.

“Well, sort of. Where I grew up, we spoke Low German but all the books that we learned from, like the Bible, the Testament, the catechism, prayer and song books, were written in High German,” I answered.

Bree slowly rolled her eyes toward George to look at him without turning her head and he just smiled and said, “Okay, that’s enough questions for now. Let’s eat.”  Bree was so confused and curious and I could tell she had a lot more questions.   

I grabbed my fork and took a bite but I had a really hard time swallowing it. 

“It’s okay, Anna. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it,” George said.

I told him it was good but I just wasn’t that hungry. I took a few more really small bites but I just couldn’t eat any more. It was the grossest food I had ever tasted. I would never tell him that but it didn’t help that the knot-in-my-stomach feeling was coming back again.

I got up and said, “I am gonna go home. Maybe Hilary will call me to say I can come back to work soon.” 

Bree rolled her eyes again and said, “You are still waiting for him to call you? Anna, you shouldn’t be working. You should be going to school.” 

I wondered how her eyes were still in her head after all that eye-rolling she did in such a short period of time.

I said, “No, I really want to work so I can buy a VCR and that CD that is playing right now.”

George said, “You know what, Anna? I can make you a tape of that CD if you like it so much. I will do it tonight and you can come over in the morning and pick it up. I’m not going to work tomorrow. I have to leave to go to court at eleven so, if you come between nine and ten, it will be ready.”

Bree rolled her eyes again and said, “Really, George, you are going to make her a tape?”

“Yes! Yes, I am! What’s wrong with that?”

She laughed and said, “Oh, George, you are such a weirdo.” 

I wondered what the heck weirdo meant? But I wasn’t even going to ask. By that time, I had gotten a big headache from all that learning.

While walking through the hallway to my apartment, I was thinking how nice it was to know Bree and George. They made me laugh and kept my mind off the fact that I didn’t have a job again, at least for a little while. I just had to smile when I thought of them. I felt happy.

When I got home I had one message but it was not from Hilary. It was from Mark but I forced myself to just think about the fun time I had that night while I was getting ready for bed. Click here to continue reading my story.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Those Mexican Mennonites!


Continued from Sad Skinny Mennonite

I was working at the embroidery place and doing my best to follow the nurse’s orders after my visit to the walk-in clinic. I was just starting to eat a bit more, was feeling better, and was dreaming about buying that VCR again. Then it happened, again. At the end of my shift I heard my name being called, “Anna Wall to the office. Anna Wall, please come to the office.”

There it was again. My heart dropped to the floor and I couldn’t breathe and it felt like no time had passed and it was Hilary’s office all over again. I was told that they were letting me go. This time there was no hope of being called back like Hilary had told me. I was done. They told me to get my stuff and go.

On my walk home, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what had happened. I thought I was doing great.  They said I was doing a good job. I was so disappointed. I thought that maybe I should stop dreaming about buying a VCR because it just seemed to bring me bad luck. Maybe I was not supposed to buy one?

I stopped on the sidewalk at a highway overpass and looked down. The cars were flying by and everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere except me. What was I going to do now, sitting around again, thinking about everything day after day? I thought if this is it, this will be a long life. If I live as long as my grandma did, I have forty-four years left, since she died at the age of sixty-three.

The question crossed my mind, “Would that be a high enough drop if I jumped off?” But, as I stood there looking down, images of my mom’s face popped into my mind when she told me not to think so much and not so far ahead. I thought, “At this very minute, I have to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and keep going until I get off the overpass.” If I could do that, what else might I be able to do?

Before I knew it, I was back at my apartment. I took off my shoes, got a glass of water and sat down on the floor and drank it. I decided to take my mom’s advice and stop thinking so much, especially about the forty-four years I was thinking ahead. That was really hard for me. I just finished that thought and then I started thinking again!

I thought, “How the heck am I supposed to stop thinking when I have no one to talk to?” Or, I could just start talking to myself but, either way, I knew everything that was going on in my head had to come out one way or another.  If I could talk about it to a person who would talk back, then maybe I would learn English faster and find the answer to what I was supposed to do next.

I went to check my mail box to see if I had received a letter from my mom and there was George checking his mail. When he saw me, he said, “Hey, Anna, good to see you! How was the clinic visit?”

I started telling him but then I felt him thinking, “This is going to take a looong time!” Just as I finished that thought, he said, “Why don’t you come to my place and you can tell me all about it while I make us something to eat?”

I thought, oba nee, Anna, don’t do it! But, the other side of my brain thought, “Here is my chance! I can stop thinking and start talking!”

He could tell I was hesitant and said, “It’s okay, Bree is coming over too in a while.” So, I walked beside him through the hallway to his place, nervous as heck, hoping no one would see me and call my mom to tell her I was once again walking with a man with long hair and tattoos.

He opened the door to let me go in first. It smelled odd in there. One wall was completely covered in a strange, yet beautiful, drawing of a woman who was covered only by her long hair. He had a big fish tank, a pond with turtles in it, and a huge glass box with lizards in it. It was really dark. Everything was black except for the carpet and some of the walls which were grey.

His place was clean, neat, and cozy with all the pillows on the sofa but it was still a bit scary. He had a few fearsome looking statues that looked like wolves with big bat wings. I had never seen anything like it before. He noticed that I was staring at them, so he explained that they were gargoyles. He started telling me about them, but he lost me at the word gargoyle.

He said, “Have a seat and make yourself at home. You want something to drink? Pop, juice, a beer?”

“I will have some water, thanks.”

He went and got a glass of water from the kitchen and said, “Tell me how it went at the clinic. Is everything okay with you?” I told him what the nurse told me: To eat three times a day, not to be alone so much, talk to people and make friends.

He said any time I wanted to talk I could call him or come over to his place to practice my English. He promised he wouldn’t laugh at me. I told him that I got laid off again and he said, “Ah, shit, no way. Did they at least pay you then?” 

“No, they didn’t say anything about paying me,” I replied.

George told me that he always thought there was something “fishy” about that place and I thought, “Fish?” Now I find out they have fish too! I never saw the bear she talked about but maybe they feed the fish to the bears. Then I caught myself thinking too much again and told myself to stop it! I didn’t even ask George about the fish or bears they may have at that place.

George said he heard that they do this a lot. They hire people who don’t speak a lot of English and then fire them and never pay them.  He said, “Someone has to do something about this! If it’s okay with you, I will go there and tell them to f*@ing pay you for the work you did. Grrr, it pisses me off when people take advantage of … umm … other people.”

He caught himself before he described me in front of me. He wasn’t sure how to say it. He was very careful about the words he chose. I probably wouldn’t have understood even if he told me exactly what kind of “people category” he would put me into.

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When I worked at the factory, I often overheard parts of conversations where people were talking about “those people.” Those that came to Canada with a big van full of kids, just for the summer, to work on the fields and then go back to Mexico for the winter. I was one of those, but I came without a van full of them.

I told George that it was okay if he called me a Mexican Mennonite. I didn’t even know if that was right or not, but that is what people in Canada called us and they must know because they must have read about it somewhere. How could I be offended when I didn’t even know myself?

Back home, it was never clear either. I heard parts of conversations that suggested my great grandparents may have been born in Russia. All I knew was that I was born in Mexico and my grandparents were born in Canada. I knew that for sure because that was why I was able to become a Canadian Citizen.

The native Mexicans called us Mennonitas but we never referred to ourselves as Mennonites.  All I ever heard was, “Wie senne dietscha” which translates to “We are German” and that is why we live like this. I was not sure if I was Russian, Canadian, Mexican, or even a Mennonite.

I told George that it was okay with me if he went to the embroidery place for me. He got up and said, “Better yet, you are coming with me.”

I told George that I was scared to go there because I thought they had bears and they might let them out if we make them mad.

“Why do you think that?” he asked.

I told him that they told me to “Bear with them,” at the interview. He pulled his fingers through his hair, sighed for a minute and then said, “Trust me, Anna, they do not have bears.”  I thought, “This man knows everything!” Click here to continue reading my story.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sad Skinny Mennonite


Continued from Men-oh-Men!

I went to the walk-in clinic that George told me about. I asked the lady at the front desk if she wanted to see my SIN card.  She chuckled and said, “No, but I need to see your health card. What is the problem?” 

I explained, “Ahhh, I don’t know. My neighbour told me to come here because I’m losing my shape and I don’t feel hungry. I just feel nauseous all the time and I can’t sleep.” 

“Hmmm, take a number and have a seat. A nurse will be with you shortly,” She said.

I explained to the nurse how I was feeling, to the best of my ability. She asked me all kinds of questions I didn’t understand. I told her that I didn’t speak much English and that I was from Mexico. I got laid off from my job, I didn’t know how I would pay my rent, and I did not want to go back home to Mexico.

I told her that I thought I might have the same nerve problems that my grandfather did and that he hung himself. Some days I was really happy and other days I was extremely sad. I told her that I missed my family a lot, but that I had felt like this ever since I could remember, even while I was living at home.

Living at home, I didn’t worry about paying the rent or learning English but, rather, I worried about not being strong enough to live like all the Mennonite women had to in Mexico. I often thought about ending it before it even started.

She said, “Wow, ooookaaaay. Did you ever see a doctor about these nerve problems?” 

I told her that I had never really told anyone about this before, other than my mother, and she told me not to think so much, or so far ahead. She told me to just trust that my life would turn out as it was supposed to. I needed to just accept that and then I would be alright. I tried, but I just couldn’t do that.

The nurse told me that she didn’t have enough time that day but she wanted me to come back to tell her more about my nerve issues. She said she had never heard of this before but she was interested in learning more about it.

She took my blood pressure and a blood sample. I watched as the bottle filled with my blood and I almost fainted. She asked me to get up and step on the scale. When I got up, I had that same tingling, cold sensation I felt after Hilary told me he was letting me go and felt my knees go weak. The nurse caught me and held me up for a bit until it passed.

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I stepped on the scale long enough for her to write down my weight. It was 94 lbs. She asked how tall I was. I had no idea. All I knew is that I was taller than my mother and my older sister. She got out a measuring tape and that was the day I found out I was 170 cm tall.

She left the room and came back with a bag of chocolate cookies and a bottle of water and said, “Eat these while I go see my next patient and don’t get up. Stay sitting.” I said, “Okay.” Across from where I was sitting was a shelf full of books. I was tempted to get one and look at the pictures in it and thought how nice it would be if only I could read.

My Low German thoughts told me to just do what the nurse told me to do. I forced down a cookie and drank some water. When the nurse came back, she said, “You need to make sure that you eat at least three times a day. You are going through a lot and you should talk to someone who can help you figure it all out. In the meantime, when you feel sad, you can come back and talk to me.”

She said, “I think you should go to school to learn English, make friends, and go out and have fun.” 

She gave me sheets of paper with ESL classes and 24-hour help phone numbers I could call. She also gave me all kinds of pamphlets that had pictures of really skinny sad looking girls on them.

I thought, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” I couldn’t read the pamphlets, or call any of the numbers she gave me. Even if I did, what would I say? I just took them and said, “Thank you.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Schowanacks-Owent


We called Halloween Schowanacks-Owent which translates to mischief/pranksters evening.

No matter how far away from mainstream society we lived or, as we called it, “the people of the world”, meaning non-Mennonites, we still knew about Halloween.  We hand carved a lot of pumpkins around this time of the year.  Most of us would have fields of them and we called them sot- kjarps, seed pumpkins.  We grew them only for the seeds and fed the rest to the pigs. 
 
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I came to Canada in July and, by the time October arrived, I had heard many people say that they love pumpkin pie or anything made from pumpkins to eat.  When I finally figured out that pumpkin was sot- kjarps, I thought, “Eeww, people in Canada make pie out of pig food!”

We did eat only one kind of kjarps and that was zucchini. Any other weird looking orange kjarps we did not eat.  I do not remember ever seeing squash or any other kind of kjarps in Mexico.

We had so many pumpkins that our mom didn’t mind if we made jack-o-lanterns out of them, as long as they were not scary looking.  We put candles in them at night and lit them up. I don’t know where we got those ideas but I imagine my grandparents brought ideas like these from Canada.

I remember hearing talks about Halloween being the devil’s night and we were not to participate in anything that had to do with that.  But that didn’t stop the youth from going out on Halloween night. In my colony, the youth boys would go out and light firecrackers on the streets of the colony on Halloween night. Some girls were allowed to go too, if they had brothers that would go out with them. We did not dress up in costumes since those were not allowed.

We would go door to door and say, “Do you have something for the Schowanacka (Pranksters)?” If they didn’t, they would get some kind of trick or prank later that night, in the form of some kind of damage to their property or opening the gates to let the cattle out.
Most people, even if they didn’t want to, would give something just to keep the peace.  

I remember getting a bottle of mezcal at one house and a block of Queso Mennonita Mennonite cheese at another.  Some people gave out cigarettes, bottles of coca cola, chocolate and candy. 

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