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 began 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. 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 or what went wrong. 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, 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 mailbox 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, (Oh no 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 his apartment. 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 a lot of fluffy pillows on the sofa. Still, I felt scared. 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.

¨Well, any time you want to talk I´d be happy to listen. Feel free to call me or come over anytime, it will help you practice your English more. I promise I won’t laugh.¨

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.

After I explained to the best of my ability, George told me that he always thought there was something “fishy” about that embroidery shop.

“Fish?” I thought, ¨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.¨

I caught myself, ¨I´m thinking too much again and told myself to stop it!¨

I didn’t even ask George about the fish or bears they may or may not have kept at that embroidery shop.

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.

Image
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 was what people in Canada called us. They must know because they must have read about it somewhere and they knew a lot more about a lot more than I did, that I was sure of. 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 Menonitas 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.

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