Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Huevos Rancheros


INGREDIENTS:

2 corn tortillas
1/4 cup of cheese 
1 slice of ham
2 eggs (cooked any way you like)
1/2 cup salsa verde (I use my homemade, but you can also use the store bought salsa too)


DIRECTIONS:

Melt the cheese between the tortillas. I typically do this in a nonstick frying pan on the stove burner over low to medium heat. But you can also do it in the microwave if you wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel first.


Warm the beans and cook your eggs to your liking. Assemble the huevos rancheros. 

1.Tortilla with cheese, 2. ham 3. beans, 4. eggs, 5. green or red salsa.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Discovering Useful Learning Skills under Painful Colony School Memories



I woke to the sound of someone knocking on my door. I got up and tip-toed to the door to see who it was and there stood George with a TV in his arms.

I opened the door and he walked in, put the TV down and said, “The landlord was getting rid of this and I thought you might like it.”

He plugged it in and fiddled around with it for a while. He said, “I thought since the cable is included in our rent, it’s such a waste for you not to have a TV.”

“You mean the cable you just plugged in?” I asked.

He explained what cable was, how many channels I had, and that there was even a Spanish one.

He turned it on, put it to the Spanish channel and it worked. I was amazed and thrilled about it. I wanted to hug him again but, instead, I just said, “Thank you.”

“So, how was school? What do you think about it?” George asked.

“It was hard. Learning all that English gave me a nasty headache but it went okay. I think I will be able to do this but it’s going to take me forever” I replied.

“I don’t think so. You are way too ambitious” he said.

I thought, “What am I?” I asked if he could show me how to find the word ‘ambitious’ in the dictionary.

“Absolutely,” he said.

I got my dictionary out and he wrote down the word and showed me step by step in alphabetical order how to find the word in the dictionary.

“So, first I have to know how to spell the word before I can find it in the dictionary?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Ay, caramba! I’m in so much trouble” I replied.

“No, Anna, don’t say that. If you practice with the words you write down in class it will get easier, even if you are not sure how to spell something. You should still look it up and that word will most likely be close to the word you are trying to find and it will be on that or the next page” he said.

With a big sigh I said, “Wow, I have a lot of work to do.”

“You should give yourself a bit more credit, Anna. You actually know more than you think. It will be a lot of work but if you take it one word and one day at a time, then before you know it you will be well on your way” he said.

“You really think so?” I asked.

“Absolutely and when you learn how to read and figure out what you like to read I think you will love it! You can just pick up a book and learn about anything you want or visit a place without actually leaving home. I think you would benefit from it” he said.

“Wow, you are right. That sounds so amazing! I have so much catching up to do” I replied.

The Mexican news came on the TV and they were talking about the nuevo peso (new peso) and how people were still having a hard time getting used to it. I said, “No way, I didn’t know about that. That is interesting.”

“You can understand all that gibberish?” George asked.

“Enough to know what they are talking about. I am not sure what ‘gibberish’ means but it sounds like a word I would use to describe English when you guys talk really fast” I said.

He laughed as he said, “Awesome! This will help you stay informed about what is happening where your family is. I better get going so you can do your homework.”

“George, before you go can you write down the word ‘gibberish’ for me?” I asked. He laughed, said “Sure” and wrote it down in my note book.

I thought, “I need to know for sure if it means what I think it means so this won’t turn into a schmuck story all over again.”

George left and I made myself a bean and tweeback sandwich with salsa on it. I sat down to watch more news but it was over and a telenovela came on. I was so happy and thought, “This is great! I can learn more Spanish in case I ever go home and visit my family. I will have to know how to speak Spanish well enough to get by.”

I had a hard time falling asleep again. All I could think of was that not one person has said that I was a hard learner like I was in Mexico. “George thinks I am ambitious and my teacher thinks I don’t even need ESL.”

My Low German thoughts were telling me, “They will probably notice that when the real learning begins. This is just the beginning so don’t get all excited that you will actually learn, Anna.”

The next morning when I woke up I couldn’t help but feel excited about school. I went even earlier and I was the first one there. My teacher came soon after I arrived.

She said, “Good to see you here early, Anna. I’m so glad you came back.”

“I think I can do this” I replied.

“Try to tell yourself, ‘I know I can do this’ instead of ‘I think I can do this’ because that is the truth.”

I told her that my friend taught me how to use a dictionary and I asked her if she knew where I could find a Spanish-English one. 

She said, “Yes, we actually do have some in the library. I will go get one for you if you think that will help. I didn’t realize you know Spanish. I thought you only spoke Low German.”

I told her that I had a hard time with the High German in the Mennonite school I went to. I never learned it but I read Spanish books and, even though I didn’t really speak it, it was easier for me than the High German.

“So you speak Low German but in your school you only read High German but that was too hard for you and you learned how to read Spanish on your own, and you figured all this out by yourself?”

“Yes, well, I did have a great teacher. Her name was Irma and she was our neighbour in Mexico. She only spoke Spanish so while we played she taught me the letters of the alphabet in Spanish” I told her.

“Wow, that is incredible! You should be really proud of yourself.”

I thought, “Hmmm, ‘proud of yourself’. I’m so looking that up in the dictionary tonight.”

While the teacher went to look for the dictionary a Chinese man came into the class room.

He said, “Hi Anna. I’m Chung. How are you?”

“I’m okay, I think.”

“So what country did you come from and how long have you been in Canada?” he asked.

“I came about three years ago from Mexico.”

“What? You are Mexican? Wow, you do not look Mexican at all. I would say you look a bit more European than Mexican” he replied.

I thought, “European? What the heck is that” and tried to explain it to him.

“White, Low German speaking Mennonites live in Mexico? How the heck does that happen? I have never heard of that before” he said.

“Well, I have no idea how this happened” I replied.

He answered, “That would almost be like Chinese Mennonites living in Iraq or Africa” and we both laughed as more students came in and asked, “What’s so funny?”

“Aaah … it’s a long story” Chung said.

The teacher came back and handed me a brand new Spanish-English dictionary. When I picked it up I felt butterflies in my stomach and thought, “This is going to change everything. With what George taught me last night and this, I am going to spend every minute I have looking up words. I am never going to be bored again.”

The teacher wrote the words of the day on the wall and said “Before you start these ones we will do a dictation of the words from yesterday.”

Chung noticed I looked confused so he explained it to me. I started writing like the rest of the students and I actually spelled one word correctly. I was so excited and thought, “Tonight I am going to work hard to memorize these words for tomorrow.” 

Memorizing written text I didn’t understand was actually something I was very familiar with. That was all I did in my school back home.

When it was time to do the newspaper articles again and whenever there was a word I didn’t understand, instead of asking someone to help me, I looked it up in the Spanish-English dictionary.

I figured out that it might help if I sounded an English word out in Spanish. I could hear every single letter in the word, which was not the case in the English words. It was like a light bulb lit up in my head that was so bright my face turned red on the outside. Click here to continue reading my story.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Transforming Fear into Action



Tuesday morning came. I hadn’t slept much and my cousin, Izaak, never came to rescue me as I had secretly wished. I was a nervous wreck as I sat there thinking and knowing that there was no rescuing me from this. In order for me to move forward with my life, I had to go to school. I couldn’t even drink my usual instant coffee, let alone eat anything for breakfast.

While getting dressed, I decided to wear my jeans. I thought, “If I blend in a bit more, then people won’t be able to figure out that I am a Mexican Mennonite right away and I will have a better chance to make friends.”

I could hear my heart pounding as I walked through the door into the hallway. I just focused on the echoing sound of my foot steps as I walked down the stairs. As I walked out through the front door, the sun was shining so brightly that it almost blinded me.

I just stood there for a moment to absorb my surroundings, inhaling the air that smelled like freshly cut grass. An elderly woman working in her garden spotted me, smiled and said “good morning” as if I were just any person enjoying a morning walk. She couldn’t tell that, on the inside, I was freaking out.

I smiled back at her and said, “Good morning.” I thought, “Anna, just start walking.” I just focused on my feet as I put one foot in front of the other. When I approached the front door of the school there was a woman waiting for me. With a big smile on her face, she held the door open for me.

She had shoulder length medium blond hair and she was wearing grey pants with a matching blazer and a plum coloured top underneath. Her pink lipstick matched her fingernail polish and her toenails that peeked out of her open-toed, high heeled shoes.

She reached for my hand and said, “Anna?”

I shook her hand and said, “Yes.”

“It is really nice to meet you, Anna. I’m so glad you came today. My name is Julie and I am the principal here. Please come with me and I will show you where your class will be” she said.

I followed her to a long narrow room with a row of tables in the middle and chairs all the way around it. One side and end of the wall was clear see-through glass that faced a street. 

She said, “Please have a seat and the teacher will be right with you.”

I just smiled and secretly wished that the teacher would be a woman. I really wanted to ask her but I was too nervous.

She noticed I wasn’t sure where to sit and said, “Anywhere is fine.”

I picked the chair on the end of the table, farthest from the teacher’s desk. I sat down as the principal walked out of the classroom and wondered if the seating arrangements would be like they were back in the school in my colony in Mexico.

Old Colony Mennonite School in Durango Mexico

My Mennonite school in Mexico was a three room schoolhouse. It had a little room at the front on each side. The left side was for the girls and the right side was for the boys. These rooms were called the steefke. In this room we would hang our hats and sweaters on the walls. There was one door on each steefke that opened into the schoolhouse.

On each side of the schoolhouse were rows of benches that had a desk attached to them. They were the length of the whole side of the schoolhouse, leaving a wide walk space between the boys’ side and the girls’ side. The teacher’s desk was at the front in the middle facing all the benches.

Image by Miguel Bergasa
There were four levels and books we learned from that would go with the levels. The first one is the Fible. We started with this one at the age of six and we were seated according to our birthdates. The oldest would sit at the first spot starting from the right side and so on. The youngest would sit by the wall.

The Fiblea, the youngest kids, would take up the first few rows of the benches when coming into the school. Then the next couple of rows would be the Catechisma, then the Testamenta, and the Biblea would sit closest to the teacher.


In each of those groups we sat in order from the best learning student sitting at the first spot on the right side of the bench toward the middle of the schoolhouse. Then the second best learning student sat next to the best and so on. The one who was at the lowest level, the ‘hardest learner’, would sit at the end of the bench against the wall.

Whenever the teacher decided that a student was a ‘better learner’, the one sitting to their right was made to switch places. There was a term for it: “unja dreien”, meaning “turn under.”

My birthday is in September so I was somewhere in the middle when I started as a Fiblea. It didn’t take long for me to be at the bottom. About once a week I would get “unja je'dreit” until I was at the bottom.

The same thing would happen when we moved to the next level. The catechism we would be seated according to our age. In the first week I started getting “unja je'dreit” by all of my friends until I was at the bottom again.

Then, after the catechism we moved up to the testament. Again I got “unja je'dreit” until I was at the bottom and that was where I stayed when all my friends moved on to the Bible. That is when my mom decided that I could just stay home and help her with the chores around the house.

Seven years later, as I sat in a classroom in Ontario, Canada waiting for a teacher and wondering if I would have to sit at the bottom again, a Chinese man walked in. I silently wished he would go sit at the front of the classroom but instead he came and sat down beside me, smiled and said, “Good morning.”

Shortly after that, another man walked in. He had brown skin and dark brown hair and he sat down across the table from me. As my heart was pounding, all I could think was, “Why? Why couldn’t they go sit at the front?” Finally a woman walked in with an arm full of books.

She put the books down on the teacher’s desk and looked right at me and said, “You must be Anna. My name is Marian and I will be your teacher.”

I was so relieved. She looked like a nice person. She had really dark brown hair rolled up into a bun with side bangs.

She was wearing a navy blue shirt that complemented her big blue eyes and she had a beautiful calming smile. She was wearing the most gorgeous dangly turquoise earrings I had ever seen. I thought, “If only I could wear those.”

She asked if I could come to her desk so she could help me fill out some paperwork. I walked to her desk hugging the backpack George gave me tightly in my arms. Eight women and two more men came into the classroom. I sat down and Marian said, “Now that everyone is here, this is Anna. She will be joining us in this class.”

Everyone said hi and started writing in their books while she helped me fill out some more paperwork. She put a story in front of me and asked if I could read it to her. I thought, “Oh crap, here we go. Now everyone will hear me and know how bad I am at this.”

As my heart skipped a beat and struggled to keep beating, I told her that I couldn’t read and she said, “Just try a few words and see if you can do it.”

It took me a long time to work up the courage to actually do it. In a broken, shaken-up voice I read the first word out loud. I turned all red but I kept going. I just read the words that I could and when I got stuck she helped me. I read one paragraph and she told me that was good. Everybody got up and I thought, “It must be the end of the day now.”

It felt like it had taken me the whole day to read that paragraph.

“It’s break time now. You are welcome to stay in here with me or go outside if you like” she said.

I thought, “Wow, they just got up and walked out. The teacher didn’t even say, “sen min'üten posie.” (Ten-minute pause) I stayed in the classroom with her and went over the books while everyone else went outside.

“I think you are going to do great in my class. You won’t even need to start in ESL like most people for whom English isn’t their first language” she said.

That comment made me feel really good. I thought she was going to say, “There is no level low enough for you at this school so don’t bother coming back.”

She brought me a bunch of books to take home and work on, including a dictionary. I asked where I should sit and, with a confused look on her face, she said, “Anywhere you like, Anna.”

I sat down on the first chair, closest to the teacher, since no one was sitting there before.

As everyone came back in the class, she wrote down ten words on the board for us to copy and practice spelling. I took out one of the notebooks that George gave me and remembered to take a deep breath as I wrote my first word in it.

I was happy that no one was sitting on either side of me so I didn’t have to worry about someone watching me write. When lunch time came I stayed in the classroom again and my teacher asked if I had brought anything to eat. I told her that I couldn’t eat when I was nervous.

She came and sat down beside me and offered me some of her strawberries and potato chips. I ate a few and she got up and walked to her desk and picked up a bright green diary with purple flowers on it. She gave it to me and told me to write in it every day, about anything I wanted to. She said, “Don’t worry about the spelling. Just write it the way it sounds to you.”

When everyone got back from lunch she handed out newspaper stories to all of us and we had to pick one, cut it out, and find “the who, what, when, why and where” and write them down. I picked one based on the colours in the picture. After I cut it out I looked around and watched everyone and then the girl closest to me showed me what to do.

I worked on that for the rest of the day and by the time three o’clock came I had a massive headache. While walking home I began to feel the effects of not eating and began to feel sick. When I got home I forced a bit of food down and took a nap. Click here to continue reading my story.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Not Fried Refried Beans


Ingredients:

2 lbs. dry Romano beans (I do the whole 2 lb bag and freeze some)
8 cups water
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp Tex max seasoning  
salt to taste

10 roasted chilaca/poblano peppers 

2 cups of grated Munster or Mozzarella cheese 

Directions:

Pour the beans into a large bowl, cover with water, rinse and drain the beans.

Place beans, 8 cups of water, olive oil, cumin, Tex-max and salt in the slow cooker.

Give it a stir, cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours. 

Check the beans halfway through, if it looks like most of the water has evaporated, add a bit more to get the beans covered and again, stir and place lid back on.


The beans are done when you can push the back of a spoon against them and they mash up easily. 

With a potato masher or a hand blender, mash or blend beans.  

It won't take long as they will be very soft.  Mash as much as you like - leaving them a bit chunky, or mashing longer to make them smoother. 


Roast, peel, seed and chop the peppers. 

After beans are blended add chopped roasted peppers, cheese and stir it all together. 


Serve immediately hot on tostadas, as nacho dip, side dish, in a flour tortilla as a burrito, taco filling, tamale filling, mix with rice and other dishes for later, they freeze well too, I freeze them in serving-size portions to make huevos rancheros.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Drowning in Fear and Doubt



Oba, George, how does a person get ready to go to kindergarten when they are about to turn twenty years old?” I asked and held my breath just thinking about it.

“Oh fff… crap, Anna! I can’t even give you an answer or imagine how that must feel. Why don’t you think of it more like taking it one day at a time and breathe, Anna, breathe. You are turning blue! F#ck Anna, why do you do that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. It just happens when I am thinking about something that freaks me out” I replied.

“Well, stop it! You are starting to freak me out. If that happens at school, you should talk to the principal. From what I hear she is a kind-hearted human being and she will help you figure it out if it does” George urged.

“I brought you a backpack and some school supplies I don’t need any more. I thought you could use them.” George handed it to me and said, “Try not to worry so much; it’s only making it worse. The first few days might be really weird for you but, once you start to get to know people, you will make friends and I’m sure you will start to enjoy it.”

He continued, “I’m sure you will meet some jerks along the way. Unfortunately, they are everywhere. But you are a strong brave person, Anna. You left your entire family and everything you have ever known because you believed that was the right thing for you. I believe if you can do that you can do anything you set your mind to, and I believe this is the right thing for you.”

When you start learning, all it will take is that one teacher to tell you what you need to hear and you will get all inspired to go discover the world and accomplish amazing things. I can feel it. You will probably forget all about me” he said.

“George, how could I ever forget about you? You are the only person that is sticking up for me and making things happen” I told him.

When George left I was feeling a bit better. He worked so hard to convince me that everything would be alright. I knew that I was starting to drag him down with my doubts and I felt bad for doing that, especially when I looked through the backpack he had brought me. Everything in it was brand new. I thought, “Oba nee (oh no), he bought all this for me!”

I got a notebook out and practised writing my name. I was having a hard time concentrating. I kept thinking about Mark and how strange he was. I wished he would just forget about me so I didn’t have to tell him to leave me alone.

Finally, the longest Sunday had come to an end but I couldn’t fall asleep. I felt like a child counting down the sleeps until it was my birthday and the start of school.

I lay there thinking, “Dios mio, what have I gotten myself into? Maybe I am not strong or brave. Maybe I am the stupidest person that ever lived.”

I was beginning to doubt my decisions and was feeling very anxious about everything. All I could do was picture George’s face telling me to breathe, over and over until I calmed down. I forced myself to think of all the good things George had told me earlier.

The next thing I knew Marco Antonio Solis dressed in a white robe appeared in front of me. He put his fingers under my chin to lift my head so I had no choice but to look up at his face. He looked right in my eyes and sang, “Anna, si no te hubieras ido sería tan feliz. (Anna, if you wouldn’t have left I would be so happy).”

He came closer and closer and whispered, “Anna, su alma vive en México por favor regrese a casa conmigo. (Anna, your soul lives in Mexico so please return home with me.)” I could feel his breath on my skin. He slowly drifted away. When I could barely see him anymore, his face turned into my grandpa’s face and he said, “Onna, waut doest dü? (Anna, what are you doing?)” Then he faded away.

I woke up and remembered where I was and realised that it was Monday morning. I thought, “Oh no, even Marco thinks I shouldn’t have left and my grandpa who committed suicide is wondering what I am doing.”

I suddenly had the biggest knot in my stomach I had ever felt. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I got up and did what I knew every Low German person in my colony in Mexico was doing: my laundry. I came in with a load of dry laundry to the sound of my phone ringing. I picked it up and said, “Mama?”

“Ahhh, no, it’s Bree. Hi Anna, how are you?” she asked.

I told her how miserable I was feeling. 

“I have a tape that is perfect for those kinds of feelings. I will bring it over she said. Have you had lunch yet? I have to bring some stuff back to George’s apartment. I can pick us up something for lunch on the way, if you’re up for it” she said.

I said, “Yes, I’m up for that.”

I got so excited, folded my laundry really fast, sat down and waited for her.

 When she got there she handed me a bag of Taco Bell and said, “This is the only Mexican food I know around here so I hope you like it.”

“Here, whenever I can’t sleep, I listen to this music takes me to a heavenly place in my mind. You should try it” she said handed me a tape of Enigma.

I didn’t really understand the concept of a heavenly place in one’s mind. I put the tape on and we sat on the floor and quietly ate Taco Bell, listening to Return to Innocence. When the first song ended she asked, “Do you like the food?”

I told her that she shouldn’t call this Mexican food but it was better than George’s Mr. Noodles with wieners and cheese whiz and we both laughed.

I thanked Bree for the food and the tape. I loved the music and it reminded me of the music I used to hear playing in the Mexican church in Nuevo Porvenir on Sunday mornings. We always rode past it with our friend’s horse and buggy on the way to our old colony church in Schoenthal. We always sang the lange wies (long melody) only.

Bree said, “I think George and I are done. It’s time for me to move on. We don’t want the same things and it’s just causing too many fights. I’m going to miss him, though; he is an amazing man. I don’t think I will ever find another man like him. This really sucks!”

“At least it will be easier now that I have been moved to the afternoons. I won’t have to see him every day” she said.

“I was wondering why you weren’t at work today” I replied.

“They are getting busier again so they started an afternoon shift from three to eleven. I love this shift. There are only a few people on it and I don’t have to get up so f#cking early every morning” she said.  

She asked if I had figured out what I was going to do. I told her that I was starting school the next day and she said, “You know, Anna, I think you have made the right decision. You are a natural people person and you will do really well. I just know it.”

“Our time here will pass no matter how much we wish we were born into a different situation but we can’t do anything about that. The only thing we can do is accept it and go after what we want and that won’t happen unless we do the work and never give up. I know you have that in you. Maybe one day I will figure out what I want and go after it too. I just wish I knew what that is” she said.

Bree left and I sat back down on the floor and turned the Enigma tape back on. I lay down on the floor, surrounded by the voices singing Return to Innocence. I closed my eyes, thinking about everything Bree had said.

In my beautiful purple satin Sunday dress I lay flat on my back in a beautifully crafted wooden boat. The boat had a long narrow pointed front that curved up high in the air and rounded back down to the middle of the boat. An oil lantern hung down from it, shining a soft light on me as the boat slowly drifted me away.

Image

Looking up at the stars as the tiny sparkling waves drifted the boat further and further away, I could feel a slight warm breeze on my skin. It smelled like fresh summer evening air mixed with the smoke from the oil lantern and a hint of George’s cologne. It began to smell more and more like George.

I felt his warmth right next to me so I glimpsed over without turning my head. He was wearing nothing but a pair of torn jeans and his tattoos.

He put his hand on my cheek, stroked it with his thumb, and slowly moved my head to face him. I opened my eyes, looking right into his blue eyes as he said, “Anna, why is it happening again? Breathe, Anna! Breathe!”

I jumped as I inhaled a deep breath. I woke up to the sound of what I thought was my own breath but it was the heavy breathing in one of the songs Principles Of Lust that woke me up. 

I sat up and thought, “Wow, Bree was right. This music really takes you to another world.” 

I was so disappointed that I had woken up. I really wanted to go back on that boat.

I tried to force myself to fall back asleep, hoping to get my dream back, but my darn Low German thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone. Every time I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself back on that boat, Jake Dyck force-kissed me with his garlic warscht and mescal breath. I got all nauseous and that was the death of my bountiful dream.

I got up and continued doing my laundry thinking about my mom and wondering if my younger sisters were helping her with the laundry like I did before I left. Monday had finally come to an end and I was feeling absolutely terrified about starting school the next day.

As I got ready for bed, I turned the Enigma tape around, pressed play and lay down, hoping that my dream from earlier would continue. Instead, I tossed and turned all night thinking, “Will they tell me on the first day that there is no level low enough for me? Will my teacher be a man? What kind of people will be in my class? Are they all going to laugh at me when they find out I can’t read or write at all?”

If my cousin Izaak would have stopped by to offer me a ride back to Mexico at that moment, I just might have abandoned my flowered love seat and my beautiful purple dress and taken off to Mexico in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t be the first Low German person to have done that. Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seeing Beyond Menno Blinders


Continued from Where Do I Belong?

Sunday morning, while I was having my usual cup of instant coffee, I sat there thinking about and missing my family. I wondered if things at home were still the same. Mom and one of us would usually go to church.

My older sister and I took turns staying home to make lunch and look after our little brothers very quietly so our dad wouldn’t wake up. On Sunday mornings he was usually sleeping off a hangover.


Even though I missed my family terribly, part of me was happy that they were so far away. They were still telling me how wrong I was, but not as often. I was hoping that one day I would be able to prove to them that I was doing the right thing. I felt that I loved them more from Canada than when we lived in the same house but I sure felt guilty about that for a very long time.

I felt like a really bad person and I hoped that one day they could forgive me. I dreamed of what it would be like to go home and visit them. I wondered if they would welcome me home as the new person I would become after going to school in Canada or if they would never see things the way I did.

I looked at the clock and it was only eight in the morning. I thought, “This is going to be a long Sunday if this is what I am going to do all day.” I decided to go for a long walk and breathe in some fresh air.

It was late August and the clear blue skies reminded me of many Sunday afternoons in Mexico when I spent hours looking up at the dancing crows. I was fascinated by them and I often imagined what it would be like if I was a crow. What freedom I would have if I could fly anywhere I wanted to!

I especially wanted to fly away the Sunday I experienced my first kiss. This happened a few Sundays before my year and a half “relationship” with the man who put his arm around me. It was a hot July Sunday afternoon, just like any other. While we girls sat under a tree knoking sot (eating sunflower seeds), the men went to Patos to buy a few gallons of mezcal.

I especially wanted to fly away the Sunday I experienced my first kiss. This happened a few Sundays before my year and a half “relationship” with the man who put his arm around me. It was a hot July Sunday afternoon, just like any other. While we girls sat under a tree knoking sot (eating sunflower seeds), the men went to Patos to buy a few gallons of mezcal.

We would spend hours out on the streets of my colony in the hot, dry, dusty, desert sun drinking mezcal and coke. By five-thirty, most of us were no longer thinking about our nerve problems and we were feeling pretty good. Some of us would go home and do the chores, eat supper, freshen up and go do it all over again from seven-thirty until ten.

By seven o’clock, my brothers and I walked to our friend’s house and there was Jake Dyck waiting for me to make his move. He had not gone home to freshen up. He and a few others had continued drinking in the hot dry sun and had thrown up a few times in between eating butscha worscht (summer sausage loaded with garlic.)

Jake walked right up to me and put his arm around me and said something like, “ahh Anna, west du mat me schmunje?” (Anna, you want to make out with me?) Before I could respond, his lips were on mine. I tried to get away but he was way stronger than me so I had no way of getting out of it. All I could think about was, “How long can I hold my breath?” Not long enough; it went on and on.

When he finally came up for air and loosened his grip, I made a run for it. I ran straight home. I got a glass of water and rinsed my mouth out and then my mom asked what was happening. I told her that I was really thirsty and tired, that I didn’t feel good, and that I just wanted to stay home.

She said, “Okay, then just stay home.”

Even though my Sundays in Canada were lonely, long and boring, I often wondered if things would ever change in Mexico. I already knew that it was just me secretly hoping that it would. I knew better than to even wonder. I really missed my friends in Mexico but, at the same time, I was grateful not to be in my colony any more being force-kissed by a drunken worscht eating guy named Jake Dyck.

My human-ship with George was beginning to feel comfortable and safe. I had never had that before, especially with the opposite sex. I was learning that I could have a say and I would be listened to. Every time I was afraid of what might happen in his presence, he would say, “Is there anything else I can do for you, Anna?” and leave it up to me. I was really beginning to like that I had choices.

Even though I was still hurt by George saying that I didn’t know who I was, I was beginning to feel protective of him. It made me really angry to hear about the gossip going around in Mexico that I was seen with a “schwein noagel” when George did nothing but respect my wishes, stick up for me, help me and be kind to me. When everyone else didn’t know what to do, he was the one person that did something.

I decided to go for a drive through the back roads, hoping to clear my head by listening to Alanis Morissette. I wondered if George and Bree had figured out what they were. I thought, “Oh no, what if they get married? Will he still be my friend?” I scolded myself, “Stop it! Don’t think so far ahead again, Anna.”

As I finished that thought, I was fast approaching a buggy full of Mennonite men wearing suspenders and black hats. I thought. “Hahaha, in your face buggy boys, move over! I have a car now and I can go a lot faster than you. I dare you to put your moves on me now; just try and catch me!” As the song Ironic came on, I could hear my heart beating louder than the music and I bravely passed them while looking right at them.

It was starting to get a bit dark and I thought, “I should go home before it gets too dark.” I drove through town to go home and every person that saw me was waving at me. I thought, “What is going on? Am I such a bad driver?” Then I looked at the dashboard and saw that I didn't have any headlights on. I thought, “Ay caramba! I should turn the headlights on.”

I felt like an idiot and thought, “This is payback for assuming that those men on the buggy were the same as what I had experienced with those in Mexico.” I felt bad. I didn’t know anything about the Mennonites that drove horse and buggy in Canada and they didn’t deserve that. I realised I was doing the same thing as the people gossiping about me and judging George based on their idea of him.

I thought, “George is right. I can’t control what people say or think about me or anyone. But I can choose to learn from this and know better for myself.”

I drove up to my apartment parking lot and my heart skipped a beat when I saw Mark in his car, parked right next to my space, waiting for me with a coffee. I got out of the car and he came really close to me, so close that I could smell the coffee on his breath.

He handed me a coffee and in the strangest low voice he said, “Anna, it’s so good to finally see you again. I was beginning to have a hard time imagining your face in my head. I thought it was time for me to refresh my memory.”

I got really nervous and didn’t know where to look as Jake Dyck’s kiss popped into my mind.

“Where did you get that car? What have you been up to? Why didn’t you call me back?” he asked. I didn’t know where to start. I told him that I worked on a tobacco farm and that the car was my cousin’s. “Come on, let’s go cruising around town while we drink our coffees” he said.

I slowly backed away from him and said, “Ahhhh, I have to go now. My mom is calling me tonight and I have to go now.”

I ran up the stairs as fast as I could and never looked back. When I got inside I locked the door right behind me and just stood leaning against the door, held my breath and didn’t make a sound.

I couldn’t hear any footsteps so I just slid down to the floor and imagined George telling me, “Anna, breathe!” It worked every time so I just sat there breathing for a good ten minutes. I got up and tiptoed my way to the window to check if he was gone, but I only made it half way when there was a knock at the door. I jumped and my heart was right back to beating full blast. I thought, “It must be him. I should call George.”

Then I heard, “Anna, are you home? It’s me, George; can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked.

I collected my thoughts and walked to the door and opened it.

“What’s wrong, Anna? You are all white; you look like you have just seen a ghost” he said.

He came in, put a backpack on the counter, and walked right to my kitchen window to see who was there.

I asked, “Is he still there?”

George turned around and said, “Who? Who was here? I don’t see anyone.” 

“Oh good, he’s gone. It was Mark. He scared me. He was waiting for me beside my parking space when I got home” I replied.

I explained to him what Mark said and how he scared me.

“Wow, Anna. I don’t like the sound of this at all.”

I told George, “I will tell him I have a boyfriend next time I talk to him. He caught me off guard and I couldn’t work up the courage to tell him.”

“Or, I could do it for you. I will tell him to back the f#ck off and leave you alone,” George said.

“No, it’s oaky you don’t have to do that. I should do it. I think I can do it,” I told him.

“Okay, but if you change your mind just let me know and I will tell him where to go.”

“Okay.”

“Anna, because of your ‘purple Sunday dress’, I completely forgot why I came over on Friday. I was going to tell you yesterday but you know, with everyone going on and on about all their ideas and suggestions, then all the drama with Bree, I didn’t get a chance to tell you. I explained your situation to the landlord and asked her very nicely if she could give you a f#cking break on your rent.”

“Ahhh…” I bumbled.

“For some strange reason she likes me and, because I have lived here for so long and have never been late on rent, she said she would take my word for it and trust that you will pay when you figure it out. That’s what I came to tell you on Friday. You don’t have to worry about paying your rent for now and don’t worry about when. Just focus on going to school,” he said.

I didn’t know what to say. I almost started crying. I really wanted to hug him but my Low German thoughts told me, “oba nee, Anna, don’t do it.”

I thought, “This man that my people think is the worst kind, he may very well have just saved my life and they don’t even know it.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chilaquiles de mole


Ingredients for mole sauce:

5 dried anchos or your favorite kind of dried chilies
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic peeled and chopped or from the jar 
¼ teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground cloves, dried oregano, powdered cumin, ground coriander, ground anise seeds
1/3 cup (55 g) sliced almonds
1/4 cup (40 g) raisins or diced prunes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 cup (250 ml) water (or more, as needed)
1 oz (30 g) unsweetened chocolate, melted

Instructions:

Remove the seeds and stems from the chilies (Make sure they’re submerged in water) and boil for about 5 minutes or so until soft. puree the chiles in a blender or with a hand blender. If the skins are tough, you may want to pass the puree through a food mill or strainer.


In a small skillet, sauté onion in vegetable oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic, and sauté another minute. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let them burn.


Add to the chili puree in the blender, the toasted almonds, the cooked onions and garlic, raisins or prunes, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, water, and melted chocolate, then puree until smooth.


Add additional water, if necessary, until the consistency is smooth and slightly pourable.

Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Ingredients for chilaquiles:

9 corn tortillas
9 slices of your favorite cheese into thin slices (my favorite for this recipe is muenster cheese)
1 small onion
4-5 cups of mole sauce


Instructions:

Spread a good amount of mole sauce in the bottom of the pan, layer the corn tortillas, add the cheese and sprinkle raw onions as you like.

Repeat these layers three times and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes.


I prefer this Chilaquiles de mole recipe without meat, but you can easily add your favorite kind of cooked meat to the layers like pulled pork or chicken.


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