Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dark Mennonite


Continued from Doomed Mennonite

The water was starting to cover my face as I was going under. I panicked. I was getting frantic and fighting for the next breath, knowing that there was no air left.

I woke up from the heavy breathing sound I was making. I felt like I had been under the water for real. I was so cold and I began shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t fall back asleep after that.

As I lay there awake, freaked out about the dream, I began to think that I should try to avoid Bree as much as possible. I knew that she was having some jealous feelings about my friendship with George, but I thought she had gotten over it.

Life was supposed to be getting easier for me, especially after the week I had had. I was going to grade nine soon and getting that award that I could hang on my wall. Finally I would have something to show that I was good at something. And not just anything -- this was proof that I wasn’t really a hard learner.

I began to realize that doing well in school wasn’t really going to fix everything like I had hoped it would. I was still having nightmares about being in water, seeking answers from my grandfather in Posen Land, and feeling like I was literally drowning in so much.

I thought, “Bree is not really my friend and I guess she doesn’t think that I am too young to want die anymore. She is willing to help me get it done already. Ugh, how will I ever know who’s actually my friend for real? Okay, but this is not real, it was just a dream!”

There was no way I could fall asleep after all that. I just got up, called my teacher, and left her a message saying that I was going to the library instead of coming to school. While getting ready to go to the library with Christina, I thought, “I really hope she is a real friend.”

The whole time I was getting ready, that dream just kept popping to the front of my thoughts. I thought, “I need to find out what this is all about. Why do I dream about water so much and how can I stop it? Maybe I just need to learn how to swim. I really should learn how to swim.” 

At the library I just followed Christina to the section where she was looking for a book to help her deal with her anger. I was amazed all over again when I saw the number of books that were in one place. I thought, “Somewhere in that mountain of books, there must be the answers to all my questions. I just have to find them.” 

I felt Christina’s pain more than I could express to her. Though our situations were very different I thought they were similar in a way. I felt that I finally had a chance to learn how others deal with all the stuff about suicide.

I thought that it was a learning opportunity for me. It was so interesting to me that she would say out loud how she felt about it, even if it was dark, ugly and uncomfortable.

I felt relieved that I finally had someone that I could talk to about that. Ever since my grandfather’s funeral I felt terrible thinking that my grandpa may have gone to hell. I heard people at the funeral say that he went to hell because he took his own life. No one ever talked about any of that as I grew up.

I tried to just put it away, but I often had nightmares about it and that would cause me to think and feel bad about it all over again. And I would try to make sense of it again. I really wanted to learn more about how others handled that even if I would never understand it.

I picked out a few self-help books myself. Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide; Surviving a Stalker: How to Keep Yourself Safe; Fitting Life's Pieces Together; Learning How To Stop Feeling Guilty; and then I stumbled on the best one yet, about how to get over the worst first kiss ever. 

“Wow, you’re going to read all those?” Christina asked.

“I want to, but I will probably just look at the pictures in them and pretend that I am reading.”

She laughed and that was the first time I heard her laugh after Richard committed suicide.

As we carried our pile of books to the car, we could barely see, it had begun to snow very heavily. We decided to go to the coffee shop across the street. Christina bought me a cappuccino. We sat down and watched the snow falling as we sipped away at them.

I told her about how Bree was embarrassing me every chance she got and that I thought it was because she was jealous of my friendship with George. I asked if she thought that I should still invite George to the award ceremony or if I should just stay away from him too.

“Anna, tomorrow night is all about you. You should be able to invite anyone you like, including your friend George, if it is important to you that he be there,” she said.

She gave me the courage to talk myself into inviting him. “Okay, yes it is important to me. I would like it if he came. I mean, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have even started school yet. I am just going to do it! I will invite him then,” I said.

“Great! You do that. I am so proud of you, Anna, and you should be so proud of yourself. You have worked your butt off learning full speed ahead no matter how hard it was. I am so happy that you are getting that award.”

“Thank you,” I said, while I felt like hugging her.  

The gusts of wind began blowing the snow around, everything looked white. We couldn’t even see the street sign anymore. We quickly made our way back to the car and started heading back to my apartment. Christina turned on the radio and they were telling people to stay home because we were in for some nasty weather.   

“It sounds like we might not have to go to work tonight,” Christina said.

We barely made to my apartment safely. I offered her to come in and stay until the storm passed but she wanted to go to her mom’s house. It was only a couple of blocks away.

I made my way up the stairs and into my apartment with my pile of self-help books. I checked my messages, and sure enough, our shift had been canceled. I thought “Great! This is perfect, I am going to read all night... or I will try to, anyways.”

I sat down, still thinking about my dream. I thought, I will start reading right away to see if that will help me stop thinking about it. Then there was a knock at the door. I put the book down and opened the door. It was George. He had this frantic look on his face as he came barging in.

“Have you heard about the storm that’s coming? We all got sent home early because of it.”

“Yes, and that my shift has been canceled,” I answered.

“Okay, I just wanted to check and see if you were home, if you knew that your shift has been cancelled, and that there is a nasty storm coming.”

He noticed my pile of books and said, “Wow, you are reading a lot.”

He looked at all the books and picked up the one about the worst first kiss ever and looked at me with one eyebrow raised and smiled. He put it down and said, “Sorry, Anna, I shouldn’t be so nosy.”

“That’s okay, I don’t mind,” I answered.

“What are you doing tomorrow night? Are you busy, do you have plans?” I asked.

“Nope, no plans. I’m always home drawing tattoos. I am probably the most boring person you know,” he answered.

“Ahhh… boring? I don’t think so. We’ll talk about that more another time. Would you like to come to the award ceremony? I mean only if you feel like it.”

“Absolutely, Anna. Yes, I would love to come. I felt a bit strange after you bolted for the door as fast as you could when you saw me yesterday. I was worried that Bree might have said something to scare you.” 

I turned all red and didn’t know where to turn my face as I remembered everything that Bree said. I wondered if she actually went over to his place after work. 

“I know that she was asking you about what I have been doing. I told her if she wants to know she can ask me herself. And besides, that is none of her business anymore. I told her not to drag you into her head games if she wants to stay friends with me,” he explained.

“Okay.”

“She seriously needs to grow up and move on already. I told her to get the idea of us getting back together out of her head. But I think she didn’t listen to me and is stalking me instead. Last night I saw her car driving by about five times,” he said.

“Oh no! I hope she doesn’t plant a bomb in the factory.”

“Don’t worry, Anna. I think everyone has learned recently exactly what happens to people who try that,” he said. He laughed as he walked to the window.

“Wow! That is some serious snow coming down out there,” he said.

“I hope Christina gets to her mom’s house safely.”

“How is Christina doing?” he asked.

“Not so good. She picked up some books to learn how to get over a man that would rather kill himself then marry her,” I told him.

“Oh f#ck!” he said.

“I know, I really hope that she will be okay,” I answered.

George picked up the book again about how to get over the worst first kiss. As he was flicking through the pages, I told him that I finally had all the ingredients to make komstborscht and tacos. I asked if he wanted to stay for dinner, I thought, “This is the perfect time since we aren’t going anywhere.”

“Heck yes! Tell me what I can do to help.”

“Ahhh… well there is something you can do. You know, reading all those books will take me forever, would you read to me while I make komstborscht?”

“Ahhh…. Sure,” he said as he continued to flip through the pages of the book and said, “I’ll read this one to you.”

“Ahhh… No, not that one,” I answered.

“Why can’t I read this one?”

“Because, I need to read that one all by myself.”

“Please?”

“No!”

“Okay, which one would you like me to read then?”

I asked if he could read a chapter out of the book about suicide.

“This is some seriously dark shit, Anna.”

“I know! Dark shit that I need to learn what to do with. Every time I am dealing with something I can’t handle, that dark shit turns to dark water and when I am supposed to be safe in my bed sleeping. I am drowning in it because I can’t swim! I can’t swim George. I can’t swim.”

I got all worked up and held my breath again.

He said, “Oh shit, I’m sorry,” and threw the book down as he got up and put his arms around me. He rocked me back and forth in his arms and whispered in my ear, “Just breathe Anna, breathe, shhh… breathe.”

The warmth of his body, his voice in my ear and breathing in his scent calmed me right down.

When I lifted my head I was so impressed I couldn’t even look at him. He put his index finger under my chin, lifted my head and said, “It’s okay, Anna. I will read that whole f#cking book to you, if that is what you want me to do.” Click here to continue reading my story.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Doomed Mennonite


Continued from Frantic Mennonite

When I got inside I put my books down and I immediately opened the envelope. It had a Canadian history booklet in it, along with a letter that said something like (from what I understood) that I could now apply for my Canadian citizenship card.

I took the envelope to school the next day and asked my teacher to read it, just to make sure I understood it correctly. She explained to me that I had to start studying for my citizenship test.

Becoming a Canadian citizen for most of us Mennonites was pretty straightforward. If our grandparents were born in Canada (and most were), then our parents could apply for a Canadian citizenship in Mexico for their children and receive it in the mail.  

My parents had never bothered to apply for our Canadian citizenship cards, though. I had to apply for it as an adult after I came to Canada. Because of that I had to study Canadian history and go write the test just like any other person who was becoming a Canadian Citizen.   

My teacher thought that was no problem. She said she could incorporate the Canadian history into what we were learning in class already. That was when I learned that everyone in my class -- including the people who grew up in Canada -- knew more about the history of the United States than Canada.

“Who is the president of Canada?” asked one of the new students in our class.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and listened to what the teacher was going to say. I was so glad that he asked that question because I had no idea either. I know the names of the president of Mexico and the United States but I had never heard the name of the Canadian president.

“In Canada we don’t have a president, we have a prime minister, and his name is Jean Chrétien,” the teacher answered.

That day after lunch break we watched a video of a speech Jean Chrétien gave. I had a really hard time understanding what he was saying but he spoke so much about parties.  That’s when I learned the difference between political parties and the parties I kept getting invited to.

I went to work feeling overwhelmed about the test I would soon have to write. I asked Christina everything I could think of about Canada. She knew the answer to every question I had.

She was happy to talk about anything other than her fiancé’s suicide. She was very sad and didn’t talk much but she answered all my questions. It was the perfect learning opportunity for me since it was just the two of us working the afternoon shift in that department. We had few interruptions.

At the end of the shift I thanked her for answering all the questions I asked her. I asked if she was going to Derick’s party on the weekend and she said, “Heck no! He is way too full of himself. He thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips. He can go and screw himself at his party.”

I thought “Wow, okay I am not sure what all that means, but I’m guessing what she said might mean in English what die schmucka gunj kaun sikj packen wua de päpa wauss means in Low German.” I was glad she told me that because then I knew that I was not the only one getting an uncomfortable vibe from him.

The day of the award ceremony happened to be on a Friday evening during work hours. After inviting Christina to come, I asked her if I should even ask the supervisor for a day off. I had a feeling that he might think that that was a stupid reason to take a day off of work and roll his eyes at me again.

“I would go straight to Hilary and ask him,” she said.

The next day I left school early and went straight to Hilary’s office. I knocked on his office door. He yelled, “Come in!”

I opened the door and there was a tall beautiful women standing beside Hilary. She had dark brown shoulder-length hair and bright red lips. She was wearing a really short skirt and high heel shoes.

“Hi, Anna, come in. Have you met my wife before? This is Marianne, my wife,” Hilary said.

Her shoes made a loud knocking sound as she walked toward me. She shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you, Anna. I will go back to my office so you can talk to Hilary.”

She looked and smelled amazing. I couldn’t help but stare at her as she walked to a door that had Marianne written on it. I watched the door close behind her and thought, “Man, I wish I was her instead of me. One day! I want my name on a door just like that.”

Hilary asked, “What can I do for you, Anna?”

I had to dig deep to remember what I had come there for in the first place. “Ahhh… I was wondering if I could take a few hours off on Friday afternoon to go to a ceremony.”

“A ceremony? What ceremony?” He asked, in his deepest voice.

I explained it to him and there it was again, that beautiful sound surrounding me, filling the room as he began talking, “Wow, congratulations, Anna. That is wonderful, how exciting. Good for you, just wonderful. Take as many hours off as you need, that won’t a problem at all.”

I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his kindness, but I just couldn’t think of how to say what I felt without sounding stupid, so I just said, “Thank you,” and walked out of his office thinking, “Grrr, what’s wrong with me? Why am I so nervous around him?”

I went to the furthest corner of lunch room to avoid being stared down by the Low German people who worked the day shift. I put my arms on the table, laid my head down on my arms and thought about what I should have said to Hilary.

I heard someone walking toward me and thought, “Please let it be George.” But it was Bree instead. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

I didn’t feel like explaining it to her so I said, “I’m just tired.”

“I haven’t seen you in a while, how are things with you?”

“Great. I am getting a fastest learner of the year award and I am going to grade nine soon,” I answered.

“Wow, Anna, that is amazing. Good for you. We might all have to join you and go back to school. Don’t tell anybody, it’s a big secret, but I heard that this factory is closing very soon. Hilary is trying to find ways to keep it going but my dad said that he won’t have any luck with that.” 
 
My heart skipped a beat when it sunk in what she was saying. As that image of me sinking on that tobacco field popped into my mind I felt like I was going to pass out. That news killed all my excitement about that award I was going to get.

I thought maybe she was just messing around with me, especially when she began asking me all these questions about George and him having a new girlfriend. I always felt a bit of a jealousy vibe coming from her when she asked me about him.

“How is George, does he have a new girlfriend yet? Are you his girlfriend yet?” she asked.

I had a hard time thinking or talking about anything else after what she told me. I thought, “I really hope she is just messing with me, because if what she said is true that is going to be disastrous for me. I thought “Oh GOD please don’t let it be true.”

She was staring at me, waiting for an answer about George having a girlfriend or not.

“Ahhh… I don’t think he has a girlfriend. He doesn’t go out much but we are just friends ... I think.”

“So you don’t mind if I go over to his apartment and f#ck the shit out of him tonight, do you? He’s really good at it. Or do you already know?”

Suddenly I had no control over my jaw-dropping facial expression as I turned beet red. I couldn’t even speak. That’s what she was looking for, she just couldn’t help herself. While she enjoyed herself I wanted to fade away.

I looked up and there was George walking toward us. Bree was facing away from the door so she couldn’t see him. She just kept talking about how she wanted to rip his clothes off and so on and on.

“Ahhh… Bree,” I said as I looked up at him.

“Hey! What’s going on over here?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I felt so weird I just had to get out of there, “Ahhh… I got to go, see you later,” I said.

“Okay, have a good night Anna,” said George with a confused look on his face as I frantically fled through the door.

I went to hide in the bathroom until the bell rang. I never wanted that bell to ring as badly as I wanted it to ring that day. It felt like I was going to turn twenty-one in that bathroom before that bell was going to ring.

When it finally rang and I opened the bathroom door I was happy to see that Christina was working next to my station. I thought, “I have to find a way to stop thinking about what Bree told me.”

I knew that Christina had gone to school for a long time and that she could tell me what grade nine would be like. I began asking her questions and we talked about school the whole shift. She made grade nine sound easy.

I told her about my experience at the library and she said, “Let me know the next time you go. I’ll come with you, I need to pick up a few more books to learn how to get over a man who would rather kill himself than marry me.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I felt so bad for her. She didn’t sound sad anymore, she was beginning to sound angry.

“There are books at the library about that?” I asked.

“Yes, there are tons of them, but they don’t really help though.”

I made plans with her to skip school and go to the library the next day. I knew my teacher would be okay with that.

When I got home from work I was so tempted to spy on George to find out if Bree actually went over to his apartment. But I told myself, “Oba nee, don’t even think about it, Anna. Whatever they do is none of my business.”

It was still very fresh in my mind that stalking people was against the law in Canada. Soon I was drifting off to Posen Land again, looking for answers. This time it was Bree with me on that boat. There was no land in sight when she said, “Let’s get off this boat and go for a swim, Anna.”

“But I can’t swim.”

She said, “I know, Anna.” Click here to continue reading my story.


Floating girl image courtesy of Manuela Gilke Screenwriter and Filmmaker.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Frantic Mennonite


Continued from Hello! Mennonite

In the box I found: letters from my siblings, another piece of fabric with big flowers on it for a dress, and some of my belongings that I had left behind. Among these items were some of my school books that I had copied Bible verses into. I had forgotten that I even kept them.

During my earlier years at the Mennonite school we used ink pens to copy the verses into our books. We never wrote anything in print -- we wrote everything in Gothic script in High German. Our school desks even had a little hole in it for the ink bottles. I had copied many Bible verses into my book that I had no idea what they meant.


I picked a book and opened it. The first page had an ink smear stain on it. I remembered exactly when that happened. I had dipped my pen into the ink too far, when the pen touched the paper it pooled into a little puddle. I tried to wipe it off but it just made a big mess instead.

I quickly put the book back into the box, closed it and decided to leave it for now. I was not ready to go down that memory lane. I was having a hard enough time trying to forget those school days and create new memories of a very different school experience. Looking through that book was not helping at all.

It was one thing to leave everything behind and start over, but when pieces of what I had left behind were making its way back into me it became tough to stay focused on the big picture. Especially after my aunt and everyone at church was so nice to me.

I felt so guilty for disappointing so many people. But luckily for me, that guilt wasn’t stronger than my desire to learn. Though it was nice to spend time with my mom, in a way things would have been much easier if she would have just left me to figure things out on my own and not come to check on me.

I decided that I would go through the box again at another time. I thought I would sit down and look through the books when was the strong, independent women I dreamed of becoming.

I got ready and when to school.   

Walking to school I felt strange, sad, confused and not sure if what I was doing was what I still wanted. That was until my teacher told me that I was nominated for the fastest learning student of the year award. And that she was planning on putting me into a grade nine credit program very soon. She thought I would be ready by the time the next semester started.

I had no idea when that would be -- weeks, months, a year? I thought it had to be a year at least.

I asked my teacher what an award was and she explained to me. She said that I would get a framed paper that would say something like “Anna Wall, the fastest learner of the year, Lifelong Learning Award,” and that I could hang it on the wall. 

I didn’t react much to that at first until I had some time to think about it and let it sink in. It happened at work. I was sewing away as usual, thinking about everything and what my teacher had said. I began to shake and feel warm and tingly from the inside out.

I had a few thoughts about what I would like to say to everyone who had ever told me that I was a hard learner and all the people that unja dreien me to the bottom at the Mennonite school. The thoughts I was having, only George would be allowed to say them out loud, not me. Just the thought made me giggle out loud. I put my hand on my mouth just as my supervisor Derek walked by.

“What’s so funny, Anna?” he asked.

“Ahhh… it’s a secret,” I said as I turned all red.

He stopped, turned around and came toward me. I thought “Oh crap! I shouldn’t have said that, oh crap! No.”

He sat down on the sewing table, looked me right in the eyes and said, “A secret? I would love to know your secret Anna.”

As I turned beet red, I looked down and said, “Ahhh… No.”

“Anna, I am having a party on the weekend, would you like to come? I would love to get to know you better, outside of here. What do you say?”

“Ahhh… Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“Ahhh… Okay, maybe.”

“Awesome, I can’t wait,” he said as he walked away.

I couldn’t believe it. How could my day be so different from one to the next? I sat back down and continued to sew as I processed what just happened. I thought, “I wish I knew what happened. I thought he hated me.” Every time I talked to him he rolled his eyes at me and shook his head. I thought, “I do not like this, I am NOT going to his party. Die schmucka gunj kaun sikj packen wua de päpa wauss.

I got back to the important stuff I had on my mind, like remembering my mom and wondering if she was still safely making her way back home. I began to do the countdown to figure out where she might be travelling by now.

Once I figured out roughly where my mom might be traveling in the US, I got back to thinking about my award and realised that that was very close to what I’d had in mind about getting a perfect attendance plaque like Anita Dyck got. Only it wouldn’t be Hilary that would present it to me in his deep, dreamy voice. It would be my teacher instead.

After I had some time to think about it and what that meant to me, I thought, “This is even better -- this will prove that I am not a hard learner. And I can stick it to all those people who called me a hard learner.”

I quickly reminded myself of the fact that I was going to leave my hostile thoughts of “those people” on the bench at the Old Colony church and that I was going to leave them for good.

That was not easy. I wanted to send a picture of that award to every person that I knew to prove to them that I was not a hard learner. But then I realised, just like my mom had forgotten all about that, that this was only a big deal to me. None of those people even remembered.

I decided that instead of proving myself to all “those people” who didn’t even care or remember, I would just accept the award, knowing that my teacher, George, my nurse, and my classmates were proud of me. That was what mattered, because they were the ones who convinced me to go to school. They were the people who believed that I could actually do it.

When Chung heard that I was getting and award, he was so excited for me. He was so proud of me he ran around the lunchroom table and jumped up and down. I felt a bit weird at first but I got over it quickly. He had become a really good friend, a friend who came from a country that a few months earlier I didn’t even know existed.

When I got home that day I just had to go tell George about my exciting news. I went and knocked on his door and as always he hugged me and asked, “Hey, what is happening with you? How are you doing, sweetie?”

I told him about my day at school and that I was getting an award. He got even more excited than Chung did.

“Holly crap! Anna! That is f#cking awesome! I knew you could do it,” he said as he hugged me, lifted me off the ground and spun me around. “We should do something to celebrate. What would you like to do? You want to go out?”

“I don’t feel like going out, I’m too tired. How about we just watch a movie?”

“That sounds great, a movie it is. I will make us something to eat then,” he answered.

 We ate while we watched a movie. The movie had a steamy love scene in it. I was afraid to look at George. I just pretended that it didn’t faze me. I was as cool as a cucumber.

At the end of the movie I looked at him, he winked at me and all that coolness melted away.

I looked away quickly, took a deep breath, and mumbled, “Ahhh… I have to go now.” I grabbed my shoes and ran home barefoot. I imagined him just standing there with a smile on his face as he watched me go frantic and exit out of there like a crazy person. I never dared to look back. That was becoming a regular way I left his apartment.

In the three weeks leading up to the award ceremony, I learned that my mom had gotten home safely, Christina came back to work, George and his friend got rid of my ugly love seat. It began snowing, it was getting very cold, and Christmas was fast approaching.

I had studied hard and completed four more work books. I had attempted to read a novel.

My teacher had decided that I deeded to spend more time reading bigger books rather that the short stories I had been reading.

My whole class came with me on my first visit to the library. I was amazed by the amount of books that were there. It was love at first sight. I thought, “Wow, I could live here and learn about anything I have ever wondered about.” All I had to do was sign my name which I was getting good at, I thought.

I got a library card and the first thing I did was check if it had the word SIN written on it anywhere. The lady with the square glasses who worked there said, “Anna, you can come here any time you feel like it, just bring this card and you can pick up any of these books you like.”

I was amazed, I felt like she had given me the key to the world. I smiled and said, “Wow! And thank you.”

I picked a book based on the colours of the cover on it, was called Blood Sisters. It had a sad looking girl on the cover of it. My teacher looked a bit worried that I picked that one but she said, “If that is the one you would like to read, then go ahead Anna, you are an adult now and you are free to choose for yourself.”

I thought about what she said for a minute. When it sunk in I felt butterflies. I thought, “Yes! I am an adult now and I am free to choose for myself.” Just hearing her say those words confirmed it for me. She had no idea that hearing those words from her lessened the guilt I was feeling about making my own decisions. I went and picked five more books.

When I got home from the library, my hands were frozen from carrying the pile of books I had picked. I checked my mail and there was a big thick brown envelope in it, addressed to me. It had “Canada” written with big bold letters on the front of it.

I thought, “Oh crap, what the heck is this?” Click here to continue reading my story.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Basic crepes with pumpkin pudding


It took me a long time to think of pumpkins as human food. In Mexico we grew lots of pumpkins and took the seeds out of them to dry and roast and the rest of the pumpkin was fed to the pigs.

This pudding definitely doesn’t taste like what I imagine pig food would taste like.  If it does, then those Mexican Mennonite pigs are the luckiest because this pudding in the crepes is delicioso!  


Pumpkin pudding

Ingredients for the pudding

¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 large egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon

Process

Combine sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and cinnamon first then add the pumpkin puree and mix in egg yolk into the mixture. In a medium sauce pan heat the milk and vanilla over medium heat. Stir frequently until pudding heats up, then stir constantly until it starts to bubble bout 30 seconds or until it thickens.

Basic crepes

Ingredients for the crepes

1 cup of flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
½ cup of milk
½ cup of water
2 tablespoons of butter melted

Mix the salt into the flour, add the milk, water, eggs and melted butter whisk it all together.

Process

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat pour a ladle full of dough into the pan. Lift the pan up and move it around side to side until the dough covers the bottom of the pan evenly. Put the pan back onto the burner and let it cook for about a minute or so. Flip it when the edges start to curl up and the dough doesn’t look runny on the top and cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Spoon in as much pudding as you like into the crepe, top with some whip cream and sprinkle some icing sugar over top.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hello! Mennonite


Continued from Mennonite Foreigner

I explained to her that I didn’t feel welcome at church, then she began with one of her “just because” speeches like she always gave us growing up.

She said, “Just because you don’t feel like doing something is not a good enough reason not to do it.”

Then I remembered the ones I heard the most growing up: “Just because you are poor doesn’t give you the right to be a slob, you always have water and a cloth to clean with.” “Just because you don’t have all the ingredients to make the meal that you would prefer, doesn’t mean you can’t create a tasty meal out of what you have on hand,” and so on.

She said, “If you dress appropriately they will welcome you. Maybe you just need to adjust your attitude. You just have to give it a chance. You are still part of this, I want you to come with me and just walk in there like nothing has changed,” she said.

I thought, “Wow, like nothing has changed. Everything has changed for me!” I explained that I didn’t even know where the nearest Old Colony church was.

“No problem, we can get up early and go to the house where your aunt and uncle are staying and go with them. You will have to drop me off there tomorrow anyways because we are leaving from their house to go back home to Mexico first thing Monday morning.”

There was no talking myself out of it, she had it all planned out. No matter what my excuse was, she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

She looked at me and said, “Anna you are coming to church with me and that is it.”

I went and dug out my duak (head covering) and black nylons, and Sunday morning I went to church with my mom. 

While walking into the church I tried to just walk in like nothing had changed, but it didn’t work when all those eyes stared at me. I could tell which ones were from the Durango colony -- they were staring the most because they had all heard a story about me and the women were all wearing a mats.

I thought “Okay, I will put my mom’s advice to the test and adjust my attitude about this.”
 

I sat down and thought about how I was going to do that. While everyone sang I pretended like I was singing too. Just like I always pretended like I was reading in the Mennonite school because I didn’t actually know how to read High German. I felt like I was right back where I had started. I didn’t have a clue what the words meant that they were singing in High German.

That was always why my thoughts had a hard time staying where I was, and my mind would wander off to other places. I thought, “Okay, I think all these people are dead-set against what I am doing, but chances are that some of them are pretending, just like I am.”

I realised that most of them just don’t understand that I needed to do that -- that my life depended on it, and that I wasn’t going to stop because of them. I thought, “They may not all accept that, but if I do, that is what matters. And maybe I feel like this because I have just forgotten that a church is a place where people are so serious.”

My mind wandered to the time when I was standing in the lineup at the bank and every single person was staring at me because of what I thought was the way I was dressed. What I learned there was that when I smiled at a person who stared at me they would either smile back or stop staring.

While they were still singing the same song, I thought, “Maybe I should try that here, too.” My heart started pounding as I talked myself into it and was thinking, “Anna! Back to pretending that I am singing along,” followed by, “Wow, I can accomplish so many things in my head during one song. Sing, Anna! Sing!”

When the song had finally come to an end, the minister began talking in High German, and off my mind went again, working on all the other stuff I was trying to accomplish. “Okay, the next person that stares at me, I will smile at them,” I thought. Then the minister started speaking Low German.

I had to fight the tears as my thoughts stopped wandering. He had my full attention as I began to listen to him. As he spoke and I actually understood every single word he said. I felt like he was speaking directly to me and said things that I needed to hear. He spoke about treating people with kindness, respecting others all others, and treating our neighbours that way we would like to be treated.

I thought “Yes! Especially my neighbour!” And by the time we all knelt to pray the first time, I left a few tears on the bench when I knew it was safe and no one was watching me.

After the third time we knelt to pray and the closing song started, I had left my hostile thoughts with my tears on the bench. I told myself to try my best to leave them there for good, though I knew that that wasn’t going to be easy for me.

On my way out I happened to pass the minister and made eye contact, which I always incredibly feared in the Mexican Old Colony church. He didn’t smile but he nodded his head, which translates to, “Anna, you are welcome here with us.” I turned all red and looked away quickly. He might have even said hello if I would have given him the chance.

While I was waiting to reconnect with my mom I stood there and smiled. Most people that passed me smiled back at me. I thought, “Well there you have it, Anna! Mom was right again: they may not agree with my lifestyle but they don’t all hate me.”

While following my aunt and uncle to the house where they were staying at I felt relieved, guilty, and sad at the same time as I admitted to my mom that she was right.

Just like I asked her the day she arrived at my apartment, she said, “Said ekj dei dot nich? (Didn’t I tell you?)”

“Yes, you did, but it’s just hard to believe you when you are so far away,” I said and we both laughed.

We had komst bourched and head cheese for lunch at the house where my aunt and uncle were staying. After we did the dishes, we went outside and sat under a tree. We ate sunflower seeds and talked about all the family gatherings that were going to happen in Mexico at Christmas time.

My aunt asked, “What about you, Anna? Are you going to Mexico for Christmas?”

“No, I won’t be able to. I want to stay and continue school so I can finish before I turn thirty,” I answered.

My aunt laughed and said, “Really? Is it that important to you? I would forget that idea and just go to Mexico.” 

I sat there and felt like I had lived that exact experience before. Then it came to me -- it was the dream I had where George was sitting under that tree but we were in Mexico. In the dream he had said, “You live in this awesome country and this is what you spend your time doing? Anna let’s hop on my motorcycle and get the f#ck out of here.”

Remembering George made me miss him, my apartment and my routine. I was looking forward to going back to all of that -- especially after my mom’s visit I was feeling a bit more at ease with where things were between us.

When we went back into the house to start preparing faspa, my aunt invited me to the living room where she had all her luggage ready to go to Mexico. She pulled out a suitcase full of fabric for dresses that she had bought to take to Mexico. She pulled out a bag and gave it to me and said, “This one is for you. You should make it in case you change your mind about coming to Mexico for Christmas.”

I took it and said, “Thank you,” as I thought, “Great, my pile is growing.” I immediately felt terrible for thinking that, knowing that that was the only way she knew how to show me that she cared about me. Unlike the aunt who just thinks I need a spanking every time she thinks about me.

The only way I could show her I truly appreciated it was by making it and wearing it sometime, and I decided that I would do just that.

As we ate faspa together I had hard time staying awake. I was so tired and felt like I had had the longest weekend ever. I felt bad but I decided that I wanted to go home before supper to get a bit of rest before Monday came along.

I knew I had to say goodbye to my mom anyways, and the sooner I did it the sooner I could start getting over the torn, guilty, and exhausted feeling I had about it. I felt selfish for wanting to rest and get back to my routine, knowing that my mom had no choice but to continue to go along with whatever my uncle decided to do.

I really wanted to hug my mom and my aunt when I said bye to them, but I knew it would be really strange for them. I thought I would leave that for another time and wondered if that time would ever come.

On my way home I felt like all the rocks I had dropped on the church parking lot at Richard’s funeral had climbed their way back onto my shoulders. I realised that while I was feeling uncertain about most things, the one thing I could be absolutely certain about was the constant stream of unexpected hellos and goodbyes that were going to be a regular part of my life no matter what happened to me.

Something told me that the way everything went down that weekend was just the beginning.

When I got home, I was so exhausted I went straight to sleep. There I was again on the boat, drifting off to Posen Land, seeking answers.  I thought that I had moved on and put that away, as I had my feelings about Mondays being happy beginnings. All that progress had vanished after the weekend I had experienced.

Monday morning when I woke up and saw that my mom had left a box of stuff behind, I immediately thought, “Oh great, now I am going to have to drive it all the way back to where she is staying.”

I opened it to see if there was anything important in it, like a citizenship card or a passport that she would need to cross the border. But it wasn’t, and that was when I realised the she had left it there on purpose. When I began to look through it I realised that I shouldn’t have done that. Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mennonite Foreigner


Continued from Irked Mennonite

I stumbled to that door half asleep, looked through the peephole and when I saw who was there I thought, “Wow, that dream I had last night was so real, only it was my mom that was standing on the other side of the door, not George.”

Then it all came back to me. What was happening was real, and so was everything that happened the night before. It wasn’t a dream and my mom was sleeping in my bed.

 I thought, “Oh crap! Crap! Crap! What am I going to do?  It’s going to happen, how the heck am I going to handle this?” I told myself, “Anna, you can’t make this go away, so whatever happens, happens. I sure hope I can to explain this to him fast enough before my mom wakes up.”

I took a few deep breaths and opened the door.

“Hey, sweetie, I am really sorry for coming over this early. I all of a sudden got this feeling that something was really wrong. I just had to check on you. Is everything okay?” he asked.

“It’s okay, thank you for worrying about me, but everything is fine. You won’t believe who is here visiting me, all the way from Mexico,” I answered.

“Is it Izaak, and he wants his car back?”

“No! Guess again.”

“That’s all I’ve got, I give up.”

“It’s my mom.”

“What the fff-- ahhh… your mom is here?”

“Yep, she is still sleeping.”

“Holy surprise.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Okay, I will leave you to visit with her then.”

“Would you like to meet her?”

“Yes, I would love to. But then I have to shave first . . . holy crap!”

I laughed and said, “Okay,” and off he went.

I closed the door, and went and lay down again. I was relieved that he knew and had a chance for it to sink in before he met her. I couldn’t help but laugh when I thought about his reaction to the news and that he thought that he had to shave before meeting my mom.

I lay there with my thoughts for a while, thinking that I was happy that my aunts didn’t get a chance to team up with my mom to convince me to go back home. Then my mom came out of the bedroom. I got up, boiled water and made us each a coffee.

As we were drinking our coffees she asked me so many questions, including, “Do you really like living like this?” Meaning the life I was living in a small apartment, all by myself in Canada, going to school.

“Yes I do, Mom. It hasn’t been easy, but living like this gives me hope. I mean, I miss you and my family all the time, but this is the best thing for me right now.”

I asked her the same question, knowing the answer and that it was disrespectful to even ask her, but I thought, “We are beyond this.” I took the chance since it was no longer a secret that I was brave.

“Do you really like living like this, like last night for example?” I braced myself for what was coming.

“Well, life isn’t just about having fun and being happy all the time. Most of your uncles have nerve problems. That’s why they drink, you know.”

“Yes I know, but what about ours -- the women’s -- nerve problems?” I asked.

“We don’t have a choice but to be strong, accept life the way it is, keep our families together, and live in our colony like people have done before us,” she answered.

“Yes, I know. But what about when things turn out like what Grandpa did? Don’t you think we need to work out our nerve problems before we end up there?”

“Well, yes I do, but we don’t need to leave and change to do that. We can still live the way we have been and work them out.”

“Why couldn’t Grandpa do that?” I asked.

“I just don’t know, Anna. Are there any second-hand stores around here? I would like to go there yet.”

That was her way of saying, “Drop it, we will never get anywhere with this conversation,” and she didn’t want to talk about it.

We ate breakfast, got ready, and went to the thrift stores in town. At the thrift store I had a really hard time staying interested in what she was looking for. I was way more interested in looking for clothes. 

After we finished shopping at the thrift store I took her on a drive past the factory I worked at and the school I was going to. I explained my routine to her, how much homework I did every day, and that my teacher told me that I wasn’t a hard learner.

I just watched her to see the reaction that she might have. She said okay, and I realised that she had long forgotten that I had been a hard learner at the Mennonite school in Mexico. It wasn’t a big deal to her that I was learning to let go and overcoming that. It was only a big deal to me.

It made me sad that that was all I got from her. I had to give myself a little pep talk and remember that she was not accustomed to this kind of life. Everything was so foreign to her. If I would have had lots of baked goods and made a dress out of the fabric she sent me, I would have gotten proud praises from her. Especially if I had hung all the calendars on the wall that she had sent me.

I realised that she had not had a chance to learn what I had. I had learned over a period of time that if I wanted to get anywhere in life I had to go to school. I had seen for myself what doors that would open for me. All she saw was that I was changing and that was what she didn’t want.

December 23 2014 Nuevo Ideal Durango Mexico aka Patos.

I just had to accept that it was way more important to her that I kept my Old Colony ways then getting over being a hard learner. I already knew that, but I had hoped that she might see my point. I knew I didn’t have enough time to convince her so I just let it go.

When we got back to my apartment George was standing at the entrance, freshly shaved, his hair pulled back. He was wearing dark jeans and a long sleeved shirt. He just stood there and smiled showing off his perfect teeth. You couldn’t see any of his tattoos. I thought he looked amazing.

My heart started pounding as we got closer to him. My mom asked, “Wuaromm kjikje dee maun soo schaftijch too die? (Why is that man smiling so much at you?)”

In Low German I said, “Mom, this is my neighbour George. He is the man that you and everyone in Mexico is calling a schwien-noagel.” I just watched her reaction as I said, “George, this is my mom.”

He put out his hand and said, “It is really nice to meet you, welcome to Canada,” and all I could do was hope that she would shake his hand. I was just about to pass out when she finally reached out, smiled, shook his hand and said, okay, after she stared at him for a while.

George said, “Here, let me take those bags up for you.” My mom looked at me as I handed the bags to him then she handed hers to him too. She waited for him to go but he waited for us to go first. My mom wasn’t used to that, just like I wasn’t in the beginning. I went and my mom followed me. When we got up the stairs he walked in between us, carrying all of our bags for us.

“Thank you, George,” I said.

“Your welcome, sweetie.” He turned to my mom and said, “Enjoy your visit and have a safe trip back home to Mexico.” He turned around and walked way. We both just stood there and stared at him until we couldn’t see him anymore.

When we got into my apartment my mom said, “Dee maun haft an sea schmucket je'biss (That man has very nice dentures).” I just started laughing as I explained to her that he didn’t have dentures, that those were his real teeth. She couldn’t believe it. I said, “Yes, that makes the two of us.”

In Low German she said, “He doesn’t even look that much like a schwien-noagel.”

I did a little happy dance in my mind when I heard those words and said, “Didn’t I tell you that on the phone the other day?”

“Okay, yes you did.”

“The reason people think that is because he has tatuajes (tattoos), but that doesn’t mean he is a schwien-noagel. I know people who don’t have tatuajes that are schwien-noagels,” I explained.

“Yes, I know that,” she answered.

I thought, “Oh good, now we are getting somewhere,” and said, “George is not a schwien-noagel at all,” to really drive home the point.

The way that George made that happen made me so incredibly happy. I felt so light after that. I thought, “Whatever happens from here on, I don’t care. That was just perfect.” The way he handled himself just grew more butterflies in my stomach for him.

My mom hadn’t forgotten that it was Saturday and on Saturdays we baked and cleaned with Pine Sol. She made tweeback dough, put a pot of beans on the stove, and asked me how to turn on an electric gas stove.

In our colony everyone refers to a stove as a gas stove because we didn’t have electricity -- a stove was always called a gas stove. I had an electric stove therefore to us it was an electric gas stove.

After I showed her how to turn on an electronic gas stove safely, I cleaned the bathroom, bedroom and the floors. She wanted to wash some clothes for her trip back to Mexico. I took her down the hallway in perfect peace now that she had met George and I didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

I showed her how the washing machine worked and she was impressed at how easy it was to do the laundry in Canada. I couldn’t help myself and asked, “Why don’t you just move here and every Monday would be this easy?”

“Hah! Your dad would never move here, you know that.”

“Yes, I know.”

I began to really enjoy my time with her. I had never had an opportunity to be completely alone with her and talk to her the way I had. We baked tweeback, ironed and folded her dresses, ate beans and tweeback for supper, and then she started the dreaded talk about going to church.

She wanted to go to church and see what it would be like to visit the Old Colony church in Canada. And that’s when things took a downhill turn. She wanted me to go to church with her. Click here to continue reading my story.
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