Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ecstatic Mennonite


Continued from Adiós Mennonite


I ran up the stairs and into my apartment threw my bag down and ripped that envelope open. Out of breath, my heart was pounding as I began to read the first few words of the letter.

Dear Anna Wall,

We are sorry to that we missed you on your first invitation to write your Citizenship test. We automatically rescheduled you for a new date to write the test. 

This is your second notice to write your Canadian Citizenship test.

I stopped reading and did a little happy dance with the letter in my hand. During my excitement, I thought, “George! I’ve got to tell George!” and ran to his apartment but before I knocked I remembered that it was probably getting close to midnight and that he would be sleeping. I turned around and tiptoed back to my apartment thinking I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

The next morning I drove Izaak’s care to school to meet with my teacher to go over my book report. She went over it with me and answered any questions I had until I was done.

“Thank you for teaching me how to do this again. I hope I can remember how to do the next one on my own.”

“You’re welcome Anna, you are doing great, there are just a few areas that you need to focus on a bit more on. This works, if you ever need to stay after school to work on anything just let me know. I’d be happy to stay and help you as much as you need.”

“Thanks, I will do that.”

By the time I was done at school, It was getting close to lunchtime for the day shift people at the factory. I thought I would go buy George a coffee and bring it to him when I go tell him that we don’t need to call the immigration office anymore.

When I got to the coffee shop I thought if Bree is sitting at the same table I should bring her a coffee too and also I bought one for her.

It felt strange and awkward walking into the factory in the daytime. Especially when I passed the table where the Mennonite women were sitting that I sat with when I first started working there. They all stared at me as I walked pass them to the table where George was sitting, and sure enough, Bree was sitting at the same table. She was really surprised to see me when I put the coffee in front of her she jumped up, gave me a hug and kissed my cheek. She turned to George and said, “Isn’t she a doll?”

“Yes. She sure is. Thank you for the coffee Anna.”

“You’re welcome,” I answered.

Bree sat back down and opened her coffee and I watched her smile turn upside down when George said, “Anna, let's go for a walk.”

“Okay,” I answered with excitement.

George got up, grabbed his coffee, made his way to the door. I held my breath as I  followed him while Bree and the Mennonite women stared me down with disappointed looks on their faces.

We went to George’s tool shop at the back of the factory. When we got there he said, “Okay Anna, here we go. Let's call immigration Canada to find out what we can do,” as he reached for the phone.

“Actually, you don’t have to call them anymore. I got another letter,” I answered as I pulled it out of my pocket and held it up.

“What! No way. Are you f#cking kidding me? That is great what does it say?”

“Here you want to read it?” I asked with the biggest smile on my face.

He took the letter, read it in a few seconds, threw it on the table, pulled his hair up, and said, “Holy f#cking shit! Anna. This is the best news ever, what a relief.”

“I know! Isn’t it? Well… if I pass the test, I will be a Canadian in two weeks,” I explained. I felt a tickling sensation traveling all over my body as I was telling George this.

“Oh Anna, you will pass the test. I am ecstatic. When did you get it?”

“It was in my mailbox when I got home from work last night.”

“You should have come over to tell me right away.”

“I was about to, then I realized that it was midnight and thought that you'd be sleeping. I didn’t want to wake you up, so I changed my mind.”

“Well, Anna that is so considerate of you, but some things in life are more important than sleep and this is one of them. You should have used your key to let yourself in and woken me up to tell me the good news.”

“Ah… wouldn't that freak you out, if you woke up and you saw me standing beside your bed staring at you?”

He smiled revealing his beautiful teeth and said, “No. Not at all,” and winked at me.

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself as I desperately searched for words to say to that. But I didn’t get to respond because we got interrupted as the door opened and people came back to work.

“Okay, I have to let you get back to work,” I said.

“Ahhh shit! Alright, I’ll talk to you later. Thanks for the coffee.”

“Anytime,” I answered as I walked through the door and left.

I drove around not knowing what to do with myself and all the excitement I was feeling. I didn’t want to go to my apartment and be by myself. I was used to not having a minute to spare but I still had three hours before I had to be at work.

I decided to go to the thrift store and look around for a while. While looking around at the thrift store, I ran into Mrs. Braun. She only had her baby with her. When she saw me, she smiled and came closer. I said, “Hi.”

I could tell she was feeling awkward and wasn’t sure what to say to me, so I just kept talking so she didn’t have to.

She began talking after I asked, “Where are all your kids?” in Low German.

“They are at home with my sisters. My parents are here to work in the fields for the summer and I brought my mom to buy some things they will need. They are looking for a house to rent, would you know of a house that’s available around here?”

“No, I don’t, but I can ask my friend if he knows of a house for rent.”

“You mean that man with all the tattoos?”

“Ah…” I said as I was thinking of something clever to say I took too long and got interrupted.

“Aren’t you ever afraid? Living alone? Without a husband?”

“Ah… It’s not always easy but I am learning how to take care of myself so I don’t need a husband.”

I wanted to ask her if she was happy living the life that she was but I knew better than to ask her a question like that and I didn’t.

“Okay,” she said as she looked at me sideways.

I spotted a sewing machine, picked it up and said, “I am going to buy this.”

“You still sew?” she asked.

“Yes, I do. I am going make a dress from the material that mom sent me,” I answered as I thought of telling her to tell her husband to call Mexico and tell people that. But I didn’t because I knew that that wasn’t something interesting to gossip about. No one would be interested in talking about that. Talking about me being seen with a “schwien-noagel” was way more interesting gossip.

I continued to look around for clothes keeping in mind to look for something that would be ‘sexy Mennonite balance’ and what I thought looked good on me. I found a long black top that only had two buttons at the front. I liked it because it reminded me of a schaldüak (apron). I thought I could wear it over a plain t-shirt and it would make it look a bit more sindoagsch (dressy) I put it into my cart to buy.

I continued to look around and found a perfect white shirt, and a short gray skirt that I thought would look good all put together. I still had no idea about what size I was, I just guessed and took the whole outfit to the change room and tried it on. All three pieces I picked fit and looked pretty good I thought. I decided that that would be the outfit I would wear on the day I would go write my Canadian citizenship test.

When I was ready to leave Mrs. Braun’s mother was in my way and I had to wait for her to move so I could get through. She stared me up and down then at her daughter and back at me, as she was looking back and forth I wanted to ask “if it’s so hard to look at me then why are you looking at me?” but that would have been considered very disrespectful of me. Finally, she asked, “This is that girl, you are Anna Wall?” in Low German.

“Yes, I am,” I answered.

She said, “You should be a good girl and go home to Mexico.”

“I know, but I am not going to,” I answered as I looked at Mrs. Braun and she quickly looked away.

Mrs. Braun’s mother said, “Na jo” as she stared me up and down again and moved so I could get through.

I paid for my items, drove home washed the clothes I bought and tested the sewing machine and was happy to learn that it worked. I folded my new to me freshly washed clothes, and put them away ready to wear on my big day. I put my Discover Canada booklet back into my work bag along with my notebooks, dictionaries and off I went to work feeling confident and happy about actually getting somewhere with my struggles. 

I spent the rest of the days during March break studying for my test. I ironed the tiniest passable pleats into the skirt of my new dress and finished sewing it during all that spare time I had.

As it got closer to the date that I was to write my citizenship test. I lost a few nights of sleep due to a recurring dream that I had. I was floating on a giant letter in black water, I was throwing books at Mexican Lobos that were swimming around me like sharks trying to eat me. While a floating windmill that occasionally turned into to my fula was telling me to be a good girl and entregate (surrender).

Finally, the morning that I had been preparing for, for so long had arrived. I sat up in my bed and imagined that I yelled at the windmill asking, “SURRENDER TO WHAT?” and thought maybe it means, “Go home to Mexico and beg for jauma (mercy).”

I got up, put my new-to-me outfit on and off I went to write that test that felt like I had forever studied for.

When I arrived at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the room was filled with about sixty people, all from countries I had never known or heard about. I sat beside a lady who was completely covered in black material. I couldn’t help but stare at her, all I could see were her eyes. I felt awkward and just smiled when our eyes met, but I thought what the heck? I can't tell if she is smiling back at me or not. At that moment, I felt bad for wearing such a short skirt because she was so covered up.

I followed along with everybody and I picked up the pen with my shaking hand when everyone else did. I began to fill in the little square boxes beside the answers I thought would be the right ones.

When I got to the part of the test where I had to write the answer down, my head began to hurt from concentrating so hard on reading all the questions before I wrote down the answers. My hand was still shaking as I put down the pen when I was done.

A man that looked like a police officer said, “Please stay seated if you hear your name called that means you passed the test and you can stay for the ceremony and receive your citizenship”. 

I held my breath and my whole body tensed up as I began waiting, listening and hoping with every fiber of my being for my name to be called. Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Adiós Mennonite


Continued from Dear Mennonite

When the movie ended George asked, “What do you feel like doing now? Would you like to watch another movie?”

I got up and said, “I want to go home.”

“But the night is still young.”

“I’m really tired.”

“Alright... just remember what I told you, don’t worry so much about missing that appointment.”

“Okay.”

“Why don’t you come to the factory during my lunch break sometime this week? And I will call that number on the letter to find out what we need to do, and try to get some sleep, okay.”

“Okay, I will. Thanks again for everything.”

He put his arms around me, and as he squeezed my body against his, hugging me tight. He said, “You’re welcome sweetie and I wish there was more I could do to help,” and walked me to the door.

I lay awake most of the night thinking about all the ‘what ifs’ I could come up with. What would it really be like if I went back home to Mexico?

I imagined it as realistically as my mind would allow it and was very hard on myself. My parents would let me live with them only because I am their daughter, they raised me and feel responsible for the way I have turned out. I would never fit into any of the groups. Most of my friends were married already and the ones that weren't were getting baptized and planning on getting married. I wouldn't be allowed to be part of my younger sister’s youth group because I was too old and knew too much, I could corrupt their innocent minds.

I wondered if any of the girls that were my friends before I left would even speak to me after all the rumors they had heard about me. Would they and every member of my colony judge me for all the things they had heard about me that weren't even true?

After thinking about all of that I thought death may be the better option. Or maybe I could go and live with the Lopez family in Nuevo Ideal. They owned a supermarket and a Pharmacy. They seemed like a really nice family and they were always curious about us when we shopped there when I was little. Mrs. Lopez was white and she had blue eyes, as long as I didn’t speak, no one would know I wasn't her daughter. Maybe I could go to the Catholic Church with her, they might forgive me for all of the rumored sins I had committed. It seemed to me that the catholic people were a bit more forgiving than the Mennonites. I thought that because I had seen all kinds of sins being forgiven in the telenovela that I was watching. I could go to a Mexican school to learn enough Spanish so I could help the Low German people that didn’t speak Spanish at their store.

Aaahh… NO! Bad idea, that wouldn’t work, that would ruin their business. The Low German people would stop shopping there if I worked there. I couldn’t do that to a nice family like that. Or I could go live in the city of Durango by myself. But where would I live? And how would I support myself? I could be homeless, live on the streets until I figure it out.

No! The Mexican Lobos (Wolves) would eat me before that would happen. Those Lobos had already caused me many sleepless nights when I was growing up. I always thought that they were hungry for Mennonites, and that was why they came so close to the colonies when I heard their howls echoing across the desert in the middle of the night while I was trying to sleep.

I thought Dios Mio… what am I going to do? Either way, I am done, death seems to be my only way out at this point.

Finally, I just got up, got myself a glass of water and looked to see what time it was. It was only 2 a.m., so I went back to bed and finally fell asleep.

The screaming, screeching sounds of a windmill woke me up at my grandma's house in Mexico. I got up and walked outside to see what was happening. When I opened the door there was nothing but black water everywhere and grandma’s house had turned into a ship. I stood in the doorway and saw the windmill, it was floating in the water it was really windy. The waves were getting bigger and bigger and I held on to the door handle so I wouldn't fall into the water. The windmill was screaming at me, ANNA, JUST WAIT, ANNA, JUST WAIT, ANNA, JUST WAIT! over and over echoing across the black water until the sound faded further and further away. The further away the sound got the more it began to sound like my Fula’s voice echoing, “Anna, just wait… just wait… just wait…” until I couldn’t make out the words or see the windmill anymore. I was getting so tired of holding on to the door handle and my finger were beginning to slip off one by one and just before I fell into the black water, the windmill appeared before me. It looked right at me. I jumped up when it rang like a telephone and it was my phone ringing.

By the time I caught my breath, figured out that it was Sunday morning, I was still in my apartment in Canada, and what I had just experienced wasn’t real, the phone had stopped ringing. When I got up, my whole body ached from being so tense. I walked over to my kitchen window and while I stood there staring out processing everything that had left me extremely shaken up, exhausted and depressed, my phone rang again.

My arm was still shaking when I reached over to pick it up as I wondered who it could be.

“Hellooo?” I asked.

“Anna?” asked young voice I had never heard over the phone before.

“Yes,” I answered.

“This is Maria, what are you doing?” She asked in Low German.

“Ah… I just woke up,” I answered and realized that it was my little sister.

“Anna! We are allowed to drive cars now and all of the colonies are getting hydro,” she shouted with excitement.

“What?” I asked.

“Mom, dad, Sara and Agatha went to church in a car and the rest of us drove here to Nuevo Porvenir with Johan to call you.”

“Mom and dad went to church in a car?” I asked.

“Yes, we are allowed to drive cars to church now,” she said again.

“Okay, and what do you mean you are getting hydro?”

“A bunch of people that didn’t want hydro moved to Campeche. They all left on a bus yesterday. Everyone else that stayed here wants hydro, so we are getting it, isn’t that great?”

“Yes, that's great. Wait, you have two cars already?”

“No, we don’t have a car yet. We are just driving Chevo’s car and mom and dad went to church with Nicho’s car that dad fixed last week, but we are getting a car and so is everyone else.”

“Okay.”

“Anna, do you still remember Nicho and Chevo?

“Yes I do, Nicho is the Mexsa (Mexican) man that drove us to grandma's house all the time and Chevo is his son.”

“Yes!”

“What are you doing today?” I asked.

“We are all going to the Guatimapé River to have a BBQ with Susana and Isaac for lunch. When are you coming home, Anna?” She asked. And that’s when the waterworks began to make its way upward.

I held back the tears long enough to say, “I’m not sure yet.”

“Anna, I have to go now, but as soon as we get the hydro wires hooked up we are getting a phone and then I can call you all the time.”

“Okay,” I said fighting back the tears so she wouldn’t notice.

“Bye Anna.”

“Okay bye, Maria,” and as she hung up the phone the waterfalls started.

I wiped the tears off my face, boiled some water for a coffee and while I drank my coffee I thought Ay caramba! It sounds like things are changing a lot in the colonies. If all of what Maria said is true, then maybe I would be able to go and live there again.  

Just as I finished that thought, my phone rang again and this time, it was Christina. She invited me to go to the mall.

She said, “I have some exciting news to tell you, Anna.”

I was so excited to go out with her and leave my misery behind to die alone in my apartment. I couldn’t get ready fast enough.

She picked me up and while she drove, she told me her exciting news.

“I am moving to Ottawa to live with my father,” and just like that, my day went from bad to worse. I couldn’t and didn’t want to believe what I was hearing.

“What, why?” I asked.

“I need a change, I need to get out of here and build a new life, in a new place, away from all the memories,” she answered.

“What about your job?”

“I am quitting that job, It’s just a job Anna, I can get another one.”

“Oh yes, I keep forgetting that not everyone needs this job as badly as I do.”

“When you finish school you could quit this job and get a better one too.”

“I really hope so. But I might not be able to finish school.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Ahhh I missed my appointment to write my citizenship test. I think I am going to get deported.”

“What, how did you miss that?”

“Well, I got the letter during the holidays when I was trying to figure out what to do with my stalker and completely forgot to even open it.”

“Oh shit Anna.”

“Yea…”

“Wait… My mom’s friend missed an appointment like that because she was sick in the hospital. She got another letter a couple months after, to go write her test. She didn’t get in trouble for missing her first appointment and I don’t see how this would be any different.”

“Really, you think so?”

“Yes.”

“But she couldn’t go because she was in the hospital.”

“I don’t think that that would make a difference.”

“Okay thanks, I really needed to hear that. What am I going to do without you? I miss you already,” I said as we arrived at the mall parking lot and the tears started rolling down my cheeks again. She parked the car, got out, walked around and gave me a hug.

“Oh Anna, you are going to be just fine. You can call me anytime you want too. I will come back to visit you, my mother and Josh, once in a while since I am leaving them behind too. You still have Josh here. He adores you and you can call or visit him whenever you want to.”

“Okay,” I said and started feeling a bit better. We ate lunch, walked around in the mall and tried on some sexy outfits but this time, I didn’t buy what she bought. I bought a long skirt, similar to one I had seen a Mexican actress wear in the telenovela I was watching.

We went back to her mom’s house after and she also reassured me that I would get another letter to tell me when I could come and write my test again. By the time I went home Sunday night I was a bit more hopeful about being able to stay in Canada. But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something unpleasant was going to happen to me.

Monday morning, the first day of March break I decided to listen to George, that sitting around and worrying about everything wasn’t going to do me any good. I worked on my book report and tried to fix as much of it as I could before I met with my teacher.

Christina picked me up to go to work and on the way she told me that she was handing in her two weeks notice but she was planning on talking to Hilary to see if she could take off sooner. Her father was coming over the next day and she was hoping to go with him when he was going back to Ottawa.

At lunch break, she went and told Hilary what she was planning and he told her that it was fine, she didn’t need to give him two weeks notice.

I got extremely sad when Christina explained, “Hilary told me that tonight can be my last night if I wanted it to be because we don’t have a lot of work anyways. I told him that tonight would be my last shift.”

My heart broke into a million pieces when she said, “This is it, Anna, I am going to Ottawa with my dad.”

She dropped me off at my apartment one last time. We hugged, said our goodbyes and just like that, she was gone. My chest felt so heavy that I had a hard time breathing as I stood there alone in complete silence under the dark, cold night sky and watched her drive away. 

I went inside the building, opened the mailbox and there it was. Another brown envelope from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The way I was still feeling at that moment I had an immediate vision that the letter would say, “Dear Anna Wall, you have two weeks to get out of Canada” and I almost fainted right there. Click here to continue reading my story.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dear Mennonite


Continued from Surviving Mennonite


“What! What is it?” I asked.

He sat down beside me, put the letter on the coffee table, pulled his hair up as he leaned back looking up at the ceiling and as he let out a big sigh he said, “Anna, this letter was sent to you to let you know that you can go and write your citizenship test.”

“What! That is great, when?”

My heart stopped when he turned to me and said, “Last week Anna.”

“What?” I asked while his words sunk in. I suddenly felt really cold as all the warmth of my body rushed to my feet.

It was the first time I really felt George going into a panic mode with me. I could see the worried concerned look on his face as he dug deep and tried to find words to say to me.

“Okay, before we get all crazy worried here, there has got to be a way to ah…” 

“I can't believe I missed it. I am such an idiot!”

“No Anna don’t say that. There has got to be something that we can do about this.”

“Have you ever heard what happens to people that miss this kind of appointment?”

“No, to tell you the truth Anna, I don’t keep up or pay attention to the Canadian immigration laws. I have never actually cared about this kind of thing before.”

I went right back into a nerve-wracking panic state when it sank in that this time I was in such big trouble that not even George could help me. But we continued talking about it which didn’t help at all.

He said, “I can't imagine, that this is the first time that this has happened.”

“Yea, I mean when people are working and going to school, they don’t exactly have the time to just go write a test on a Wednesday morning,” I answered.

He looked at me with such compassion as he said, “I think most people would miss work and school for an appointment like this. I mean this is the appointment you don’t miss so that you get to stay and continue to work and go to school in Canada.”

“Oh no! What if I will have to go back to Mexico because of this?”

“Ah, crap no! Sorry Anna, I didn’t mean to scare you. I don’t think that that will happen. Wait there is a number on here I can call.”

I got all excited and said, “Yes! that is a great idea would you?”

“Ahhh shoot! It's Saturday, all government offices are closed, I know that much is true.”

“Oh, okay,” I answered in a low voice.

“We will have to wait until next week to call.”

“Okay, oh no if I have to go back to Mexico because of this I will be known as that stupid girl who got deported because she didn’t open her mail, instead of that stupid girl who left her family. I’m not sure which one I prefer.”

“F#ck no! Stop it, Anna, you are not stupid and you won’t be deported for missing this appointment. Not if I have anything to with it.”

The idea began to grow on me. Part of me was begging to feel relieved that I might have to go back to Mexico because it felt like a never-ending cycle. Every time I was getting comfortable thinking that I was doing great, something like that happened to make me doubt myself all over again. I thought if it happened this way then the decision to just give it all up would be made for me. I couldn’t handle being on my own anyways.

George got up, threw the letter on the coffee table and said, “I have an idea I’ll be right back” and went to his bedroom.

While he was in his bedroom I had some quiet time to think it all through. I thought this will all be for the best If I am forced to go back home, it will be so much easier to face all those people that I know are dying to tell me, “We told you so. We knew that you wouldn’t be able to do it.”

When I imagined those people looking me into my eyes and telling me that. I changed my mind. I got all excited and began to feel butterflies in my stomach as I began to dream about the idea of, what if I was able to prove to everyone including myself that I could do it. Stay in Canada and finish school if nothing else.

George came out of his bedroom looking and smelling amazing. He had changed into dark blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket. He brought a leather jacket over to me and said, “Here put this on… let's go.”

“Where are we going?”

“Just trust me,” he said and winked at me.

“Okay,” I answered while I blushed and struggled to put on and zip up the jacket that smelled as amazing as he did.

I felt nervous walking beside him down the hallway and down the stairs. Every time I looked at him wishing that he would answer my question about where we were going. He just smiled and winked at me.

I kept looking at him as we walked down the sidewalk thinking that he didn’t notice. But without turning his head to look at me, he said, “Watch where you're going Anna, you don’t want to step into a puddle and get your jeans all muddy.”

“Okay,” I said as I turned all red of embarrassment.

“You still don’t really trust me, do you?”

“Ah… I am just curious as to where we are going.”

“Have I ever steered you wrong Anna?”

“No,” I answered in a low embarrassed voice.

“Okay, then let's just enjoy this walk and the fresh air.”

“Okay,” I answered as we kept walking and got closer to a plaza with a video store, a pizza shop, and a sports bar in it.

I was thinking okay so we are either renting a movie, picking up a pizza or going to that bar. We passed the video store, then the pizza shop and when we got to the bar door George opened it for me and still just smiled as I walked passed him into the bar.

He led me to a table in the back near a pool table where two men with long beards and tattoos were playing pool. We sat down and, a waitress came over right away and asked us what we wanted to drink. George ordered a beer, so I did too. While the waitress went to get our drinks George turned to me and said, “I can't wait to get my bike out and take you for a ride on it again.”

“Yea, me neither. If I am still here,” I answered.

“Alright Anna, you know how worried you were when you had to go to court and in the end, it wasn’t as bad as you had imagined it would be?”

“Yes.”

“I have a feeling that the same thing will happen with missing that appointment. Try to live in the moment, you are here now, can we just have a good time and not think about that for the rest of the night?”

“Okay, I will try,” I answered as the men with the long beards walked toward us. George got up, shook their hands and introduced me to his friends Bones and Pug. Bones reached down, grabbed my hand, pulled it up, placed his other hand on top of my hand and held it there for a moment as he looked at me and said, “It is really nice to meet you Anna” and proceeded to gently kiss my hand.

Bones looked scary to me but I had a really hard time not laughing because his beard was tickling my hand while he kissed it.

Pug shook my hand and said, “Hi Anna.”

After I had a few sips of my beer I began to relax a bit and enjoy myself as George and his friends convinced me to let them teach me how to play pool. After a few attempts and failing miserably, Bones stepped up and told me, “Don’t be so uptight Anna, try to relax your hands and shoulders.”

“Okay, I will try if you think that’s going to help me.”

It worked, I did a lot better and he let me think that I won but I knew that he let me win. Bones started clapping his hands and everybody in the bar stopped what they were doing and clapped for me while the song “Brown Eyed Girl” played in the background.

I wanted to enjoy that but it was strange and awkward for me, I turned all red and didn’t know what to do with my face while everyone was looking at me. Then George came to my rescue while he was still clapping for me he said, “Good job, you did great Anna, I hope you are you hungry because I ordered us some food.”

I said, “Yes, I am” and thought, “Oh no how am I going to say my prayer in a bar with all these people around me?” as I followed him to the table. My heart was pounding with panic as we sat down at the table. I took the napkin from the table and while I opened it on my lap I took a moment to quickly say my prayer in my head so that no one would notice what I was doing.

It felt so wrong. As wrong and awkward as hearing Jesus’s name in a song while having a good time. When I looked up at George he winked at me to let me know that all was good and he knew that I was having a hard time with that. He just sat there and patiently waited for me as I processed my thoughts through it.

I talked myself into just moving on because the food smelled so good and I was very hungry. While George and I began to eat I looked around to see if anybody was staring at me. I was relieved to see that nobody noticed my awkwardness. It was all in my head.

People were talking, laughing and having a good time. George’s friends continued to play pool and every time I looked over at them they smiled, held up their beer and nodded their heads.

“Thank you, George, this food is delicious and your friends are being really nice to me.”
I felt butterflies in my stomach and all the way down to my toes as he looked me right in my eyes as he said, “You're welcome, sweetie” followed by a wink.

As I finished George’s fries, he asked, “What would you like to do now, you want to play some more pool, go for a walk or rent a movie and go to my place and watch it?”

“A movie would be nice,” I answered.

“Okay, but you have to pick the movie.”

“Ah… are you sure that’s a good idea? I wouldn’t know how to pick a good one and what if you don’t like it.”

“That’s okay, surprise me. This is not about me, it's about you Anna.”

“Okay,” I answered as I felt the pressure coming on and got all nervous about picking a movie.

We walked over to say goodbye to George’s friends, they both gave me a hug and Bones said, “It was a pleasure meeting you, darling. I hope to see you again.”

“Okay, you too and thanks for teaching me how to play pool and letting me win,” I answered.

He laughed and said, “You did good kiddo.”

We walked next door to the video store and I took a long time to decide what movie to pick. I finally picked Pretty Woman. I picked that one because it was called “Pretty Woman.” I was fascinated and wanted to learn what exactly non-Mennonite people considered to be a pretty woman.

I held the movie up and looked at George, “Is that the one you pick?” he asked.

“Should I?” 

“If that’s the one you want to watch, then yes,” he answered.

“Okay, yes I do.”

“Alright then that’s the one we’ll watch”

George paid for the movie, some popcorn and we walked around the block taking a detour back to the apartment building.

The movie was a bit confusing to me because I wasn’t really paying attention to it. I blushed every time I looked at George because of some of the scenes in the movie. It felt like all the other times I watched a movie with him except instead of thinking about a plan as to how I was going to bolt out of George’s apartment when the movie ended. I thought about how ridiculous it would be if that would be the last time I would ever get to watch a movie with him and I might never see him again all because of one letter I didn’t open at the right time. Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Surviving Mennonite


Continued from A Mennonite in Agony

Image courtesy of Lori Ann's Photography

I took a moment to collect my thoughts and when I looked out the window again, I was relieved to see that we were parked in front of my apartment building.

“Wow Anna, that was scary but we made it,” said Sam as he took a few deep breaths.

I felt so guilty for having all those bad thoughts about him while he drove me home, especially after I looked at him and saw that the drive had really scared him, and all he had wanted to do was to get me home safely.

“Thank you for driving me home.”

“Okay. You’re welcome Anna. Take care of yourself, and I will see you on Monday.”

“Okay. You too Sam.”

When I got inside, I ran myself a warm bath and decided that I wasn’t even going to check my messages but go straight to sleep. As I lay in there in the bathtub, I thought,Well I won't have to worry about Mark calling me anymore,” as I washed the long day off of my aching bony body. I got out of the tub, wrapped my hair in a towel, and climbed into bed.

I fell asleep thinking, How the heck will I ever know the difference between the good people and the crazy people? 

When I woke up with shivering aches, pains, and a schnodda-näs (snotty nose), I knew that I had the jripp (flu) and decided to put off the cleaning until the next Saturday.

I made myself a chamomile tea and while I drank it, I sat there feeling sorry for myself. The deepest regret I had yet experienced set in. I thought, “Anna, you are such a domm-kopp (a stupid person). If only you would have listened to George, you probably wouldn’t be this sick.  And how awesome would it have been to let him take care of you?”

I was so tempted to call him, but I was afraid that he might want to come over, and that if he saw me like this he might be so disgusted that he would never speak to me again. So, instead, I just slept, read, and watched TV for the whole weekend.

By the end of the weekend I began to feel better. I had survived my regrets and the flu by Monday morning. I walked to my first ever grade nine class in freezing cold weather to face the next chapter of what had become a nerve-wracking life story.

By the end of February, the bad word “pizza” was no big deal anymore. I had heard and said it so much that it had become just another English word. I was able to say it I with the same confidence as Christina said the word bra. I had become friends with all of my female teachers but was very cautious around my one male teacher. He taught Introduction to Computers.

I learned about algebra, book reports, floppy disks and, the most amazing thing ever, The World Wide Web. School was hard work, so headaches became a regular part of my life. My brain had never been pushed to such limits before. I began to think that I really was that “hard learner” Low German girl again and doubted that I would make it through grade nine.

I didn’t have time to be bored anymore. If I missed one day of school I would fall way behind. All I did was go to school, go to work, do my homework, sleep and occasionally watch telenovelas to keep the Spanish I had learned fresh in my mind.

I had no time to even fantasize about George's beautiful teeth and lips anymore. I saw less and less of him. I spent weekends and every spare minute I had, reading books and trying to remember what I had read so I could contribute to the discussions in English class.

I learned the difference between school reading and pleasure reading. School reading wasn’t nearly as much fun as pleasure reading. I didn’t risk making new friends in order to avoid meeting another stalker. I stuck with the friends I already had: Christina and Sam at work, and Steve and Chung at school.

Bree had gone back to work on the day shift. That made me wonder if she was back with George again. I’m sure he was the reason she wanted to go back to the day shift. But I never had enough courage to ask him about it during the brief visits I had with him between our shifts. He always said, “I know you are super busy, but if you ever need anything, my door is always open,” followed by a wink. I couldn't get over how that wink made me feel.

Christina started taking care of herself, dressing sexily again like she had when I had first met her and she even started going on an occasional date. Sam had become my trusted friend at work and brought me a cappuccino about every other day. He tried hard to make me feel like I was part of his group by asking me to join them play poker. But he didn’t have any luck with that. It was like a full-time job keeping the real reason that I wouldn’t play poker a secret from him.

Steve and I had an unspoken curiosity about each other. He sat beside me in English class. He stared at me when he thought I wasn’t looking, and I stared at him when I thought he wasn't looking.

Steve stared at me especially when I wore my favorite pleated dress on Mondays after I had spent time missing my family and my colony friends on Sundays. It was the same dress I had worn the day that he had run into the post while riding his bicycle and had hurt himself badly because he was staring at me instead of watching where he was riding.

Wearing that dress made me feel like I was still part of the life that I had had before I came to Canada. I wasn’t ready to give that up yet. That feeling happened at the beginning of every week. I didn’t care. I just wanted to please my mother even though she was a million miles away. It made me feel like I was still close to her. But by Friday I wanted to be sexy like Christina again.

Steve caught on quickly that I was having a hard time keeping up with the rest of the class. By the time everyone else was finishing up what we were instructed to do, I was still copying the notes from the blackboard. During every single class I felt like I was in a race to finish copying the notes before the teacher wiped the board clean. By the end of each class I had missed everything the teacher had taught and had to go back to work with only half-written notes.

Steve felt sorry for me. After watching me struggle day after day, he decided to help me out by giving me a copy of his notes after every class. Steve had no idea what a difference that made. Now I was actually able to focus on listening to what the teacher was teaching and not just worry about writing down the notes.

Near the end of the first semester I was finally getting it and was able to keep up. But then it was time to start writing a book report on the book I was supposed to have read. I was such a slow reader. And reading a book that didn’t interest me at all, especially when I was completely exhausted, wasn't helping me to comprehend what I had read.

One day, during the lunch hour, I started asking Steve questions about the book report while we ate. He had stayed behind to answer all of my questions while his friends went outside to smoke cigarettes that looked like Faros (cigarettes without a filter) to me, but they called them doobies.

I had decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t even ask what kind of a cigarette a doobie was and just call them Canadian Faros. Steve and Chung were such good friends that they always shared one and giggled about everything after they had shared one.

“Did you finish reading the book already?” I asked.

“Yup.”

“Wow, how long did it take you to read it?”

“I read it in about four hours.”

“What! and you remember everything?”

“Yes.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I was stupid and dropped out of high school because I hated everything about school. So I learned the hard way that it doesn't matter how good you can read and write, you still can't get a decent job without your high school diploma.”

“Okay, so you don’t mind if I ask you about the book for my report?”

“Not at all. Shoot.”

I asked him all the questions I could think of that I hadn’t been able to answer myself. I spent the whole weekend and every spare minute I had during the week writing that report. I finally just handed it in at the end of the week hoping for the best.

The Friday before March break, my teacher handed the report back to me covered in red writing with a mark of fifty-five out of a hundred on it.

“Not bad for your first book report Anna,” she said, “but if you don’t improve a bit you will just barely pass grade nine. I will be here a few days during March break. If you like I could help you rewrite it to bring your mark up.”

“Yes! I would love that!”

I went to work feeling so happy and accomplished that I had got at least over fifty on my book report and that my teacher was willing to spend one-on-one time with me to bring my mark up. All my hard work was paying off and I was barely, but actually, able to do grade nine.

The weekend of the start of March break I decided that I would do a major cleaning of my apartment since I never had time for that anymore. I put on my Tigres Del Norte tape, got out my bottle of pine sol, and started cleaning. I was happy and inspired about how things were going for me. The smell of the pine sol and the sounds of the music made me feel like a new person again.

I was so excited that I thought, “I should go visit George tonight and tell him all about how happy I am that he had talked me into going to school. I will tell him how much I have learned because of how he had taught me to use a dictionary and how far that has gotten me.”

While I finished cleaning I stumbled across the brown envelope with “Canada” written on the front of it that I had gotten in the mail during the Chrismas holidays. I thought, “I will take this to George’s, ask him to read it and to help me figure out if it is important or not.”

I showered, put on my best “English” clothes, and put some lip gloss on too. My wet hair flipped up and down my back as I skipped down the hallway to George’s place all happy thinking, “Even if Bree and George may be back together, I hope she isn't visiting him tonight.”

That thought made me really nervous as I knocked on his door, hoping that it wouldn't be true. George opened the door with a big surprised smile on his face--revealing his beautiful teeth as always--when he saw that it was me standing there.

“Anna!” he said as he scooped me up into his arms and spun me around into his apartment closing the door with his foot. He put me down and asked, “How the heck are you? I was beginning to feel like I just had this awesome dream that I knew this Mennonite woman from Mexico and that I had experienced so much with her, but that it never actually happened. That’s how long I haven't seen you. F#ck it’s good to see you, Anna!”

He grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the living room and gestured for me to sit down on the sofa as I kept talking.

“It’s really good to see you too George. I am doing grade nine. I mean I am actually doing it!  My teacher told me that I would pass grade nine, and I feel so light because it’s March break George. I get to take a break!” I said as I took a deep breath still holding the envelope in my hand.

“What do you have there?” he asked.

“Oh, it's this letter I got a while ago. I put it away and thought that I would read it later. But then I got so busy, I completely forgot about it.”

“Oh Anna, you should always open these brown envelopes. They are from the government and are usually very important. Here, let's open it and see what it is.”

My heart was pounding out of my chest as I watched the steady flow of words roll past his beautiful teeth. All of my excitement and happiness including my no longer beating heart dropped to the floor when I heard him say, “Holy-mother-f#cking-shit Anna!” Click here to continue reading my story.

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