Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ill Informed Mennonite

Continued from Canadian Mennonite

I felt incredibly empowered like I could conquer the world because I had that little plastic card with my name on it in my possession. I thought, “Now I can just focus on finishing grade nine, then grade ten, then grade eleven and then grade twelve…” and sighed overwhelmingly. 

Suddenly it hit me, “I can even vote! Ay caramba! I can vote! Oh no… who am I going to vote for? Ah… I’ll figure that out later. Oh, Canada! Watch out, here I come.”

When I got home I changed into my work clothes and drove to work as fast as I could hoping that I could show George my citizenship card before he left. I parked close to the back door and he must have seen me through the window because when I got out of the car he was already standing in the doorway waiting for me.

I tried to keep a serious face to trick him into thinking that I didn’t pass the test, but I just couldn’t keep a straight face. I couldn't stop smiling.

When I got close enough he just put his arms out, hugged me tight and held me as he said, “Anna, I couldn't even sleep last night and this was the longest day of my life. I can tell by looking at you that you passed.”

He dropped his arms down, backed up, looked at me and said, “Hmmm… I wonder who told you that you would pass.”

“Hmmm… it's all coming back to me now, and I think it was this man that I know, who's teeth are way too nice to be real.”

He laughed and said, “Oh Anna, you are hilarious. I still can't believe you thought I had dentures.”

“Ah… I am an idiot for even telling you that. I should have kept that to myself,” I said in a low voice.

“No, Anna you are not an idiot. I am glad you told me.”

“NO George. I am an idiot!”

“Stop it! Anna, you didn’t think you would pass this test, even though I told you that you would, but you didn’t believe me, did you?”

“No, not really,” I answered in an even lower voice.

“This is killing me, it would make my day if I knew. How well did you do on that test Anna?”

I still couldn't believe my own words as I heard myself say, “I got 98 out of a 100” out loud.

“Holy shit! Anna, you are f#cking brilliant. I am so proud of you.”

I dropped my head down and said, “Ah… brilliant? I don’t know about that, maybe a brilliant idiot.”

“Stop it, Anna! Now I am being serious,” he said as he gently placed his index finger under my chin, lifted my head up and said, “Anna, please do me a favour and don’t drop your head down when I am complimenting you.”

I blushed as I looked up at him and made eye contact, “Okay, but I’m just not used to this.”

“Well, you should get used to it. I am astonished that you were able to pull that off in spite of everything that you had to deal with while you were studying and... ah… heck, I’m proud to call you a Canadian. You worked so f#cking hard for this and you deserve all the praise in the world for that. And Anna, this is the part where you lift your head up high and just simply say ‘thank you.’”

I just stared at him sideways as I asked, “Thank you, like this?”

“Oh no, Anna, not like that. Let me show you, watch this,” and he over exaggerated by looking way up as he said, “Thank you! Thank you,” and laughed.

“You mean like this?” I asked and lifted my head up enough so I had to look down a bit to see him and said, “Thank you! Thank you, George.”

He laughed, clapped his hands and said, “Atta girl, that’s good, but you will need more practice.”

“What are you practicing?” asked Sam as he came walking toward us, he shook George’s hand and said, “Hey man.”

“Hey, how are you doing man?” George asked as they shook hands.

“Great, what’s going on over here?” Sam asked.

“Anna is now officially a Canadian,” George answered.

“Wow, that’s awesome Anna, congratulations and welcome to your new home.”

I lifted my head, looked at George and said, “Thank you, Sam.”

George laughed, winked at me and gave me a thumbs up, but my head dropped back down when I saw all the day shift people came out.

“Okay I’ll talk to you later,” said George as Sam and I went to work.

That whole night at work I couldn’t stop smiling or thinking about Fatima and why she was so covered up. I had never seen anything like that before. I wondered what country she was from, where she lived, what kind of a job she had if she had one, and what it had been like for her to come to a new country as I regretted not asking her for her phone number all over again.

At lunch break, Sam brought me a cappuccino again and sat down on my sewing table.

“So how does it feel to be a Canadian?” he asked.

“Well, I have only been a Canadian for about seven hours now and I can't stop smiling. I feel so relieved especially now that I don’t have to study for that test anymore.” 

“What are you going to do now with all that free time?”

“Free time? No way. I am only half way through grade nine and I’m going to have to work a lot harder so I will actually pass and I still need to learn more Spanish for when I choose to go back to Mexico.”

“So what part of Mexico are you from?”

“Nuevo Ideal, Durango.”

“When do you think you will go back?”

“I have no idea. I think maybe when I am strong enough to stick up for myself which could take many years. Hopefully, by then I will know enough Spanish to be able to make my way around Mexico by myself.”

“Which parts of Mexico have you been too?” He asked.

“Not many, when I was nine I got to go to the city of Santiago once, and I have been to the City of Durango a few times.”

“Which places would you visit in Mexico then?”

“I’m not even sure.”

“Well, I think you are doing great. You are very determined to learn. Your English is getting better every time I talk to you. I can say hello and order a beer in Spanish, that’s about it.”

“Have you ever been to Mexico?” I asked.

“Yes, I have. Many times. I love the history and culture of Mexico. I especially like visiting the areas of the ruins,” he answered as Derek the supervisor walked by.

“Okay, I better let you go back to work before Derek comes over here and gives us shit for slacking. I don’t want to get you in trouble. It was nice talking to you, Anna.”

“You too, Sam. Thanks for the cappuccino.”

As I continued working I thought about how nice it felt that everyone was so proud of me and how many hugs I had gotten in that one day. I loved getting hugged by the people that were proud of me. Even though I grew up in a place where hugging didn’t happen at all.

I felt like a brand new person when I walked into the school for the first time as a Canadian. The hugs and praises continued at school as I proudly told my teachers, Steve, and Chung that I was officially a Canadian citizen.

I gloated in the fact that so many people were proud of me. I felt empowered to know all that I had learned about Canada. It just made me love school and my new country that much more.

During the second half of grade nine, I was beginning to figure out ways that I learned. I figured out that I remembered what I had learned by writing my notes in different colours. It was easier for me to remember it if I thought back to what color I had written it down in.

I learned to force myself to be more present and stay focused while I was reading so I would remember what I read. Whenever I didn’t understand something I met with my teacher to work on it during lunch hour right away before I got too far behind and that made all the difference.

I was loving life, finally, things were going my way and I was making progress in most areas. Except in my dreams, I was still haunted by talking windmills, and my deceased fula. I was still floating on the water toward Posen Land but I always woke up before I got there. Though the water wasn’t black anymore and the Mexican Lobos were no longer trying to eat me.

As I thought about everything, I began to feel disappointed again and thought “how the heck does Fatima, a person that was so completely foreign to me, know about ‘the Mennonites?’’”” I wondered how much she knew and where she learned about ‘the Mennonites?’

I was really bothered by the fact that Sam knew more about Mexico than I did. I was born and grew up there, I thought “this just isn’t right, and what the heck are ruins anyways?”

As the time passed, It began to bother me more and more that I knew absolutely nothing about my people and the country that I called home before I came to Canada or any others for that matter. Just about every person I met, knew about ‘the Mennonites’ and I didn’t know anything about anything. All I knew was that us, the ‘dietsche people’ lived in Mexico but we weren't Mexicans.

While I was growing up, I remember being confused and curious about that. I often thought, “then why do we live here if we are not Mexicans?” But that question never got answered.

I decided that it was time to start learning about that and thought maybe I should start with Posen Land. I remembered that my teacher told me that you could learn about anything you wanted too, on the World Wide Web. I decided that I would begin by looking into ‘Posen Land’ in hopes to find out why I was dreaming so much about it.

One day during my regular school lunch break with my buddy Steve, I asked him if he could search the words ‘Posen Land’ on the World Wide Web.

“Yea, I sure can,” he said and we went to the computer lab right away. Steve typed in the words Posen Land and just like that, up popped a lot of information.

“Here you go, Anna, here you can read all about Posen Land.”

“Okay, thank you, Steve,” I said and sat down at the computer and began reading bits at a time.

The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 until 1918. For more than a century, it was part of the Prussian Partition, with a brief exception during the Napoleonic Wars…

Incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Posen after the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the territory was administered as a Prussian province upon the Greater Poland Uprising of 1848. In 1919 according to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to cede the bulk of the province to the newly established Second Polish Republic…

The land is mostly flat, drained by two major watershed systems; the Noteć (German: Netze) in the north and the Warta (Warthe) in the center. Ice Age glaciers left moraine deposits and the land is speckled with hundreds of "finger lakes", streams flowing in and out on their way to one of the two rivers…

In many places, windmills dotted the landscape, reminding one of the earliest settlers, the Dutch, who began the process of turning unproductive river marshes into fields…

I was amazed that a place called ‘Posen’ actually existed, that it was a real place. There was so much information that I got lost and confused in it. I stopped reading and I wondered why my father always said that we were going to Posen Land when we went to sleep. What did he know about Posen? Were our people somehow connected to this place?

I still didn’t understand why Posen Land, in particular, and I wondered why I dreamt so much about water and windmills when I knew nothing about this place. Was I just overthinking it again? and one had nothing to do with the other?

Reading about Posen made me wonder about so many other things I didn’t understand. I remembered that I had heard many stories about a place called Russlaunt (Russia). My grandmother often told stories about the Russlander people. I just assumed that she had read stories about them that weren't real.

My thoughts, what I had read and how much information I saw on the World Wide Web. It all left me feeling overwhelmingly ill-informed. I decided that I should ask my father about it if I ever went home for a visit. Maybe he could tell me more about what he knew, now that I wasn’t a kid anymore, just asking questions about nonsense, things that were none of my business.

I drove to work feeling hopelessly disappointed and overwhelmed again. I realized that I had merely scratched the surface. I remembered jokingly telling Sam that I was going to have to learn the whole world at that New Years Eve party while I felt embarrassed about being half naked in that dress that I wore that night.

I felt like it was true, now that I knew that I was able to learn if I worked hard at it. I really did still have to learn the whole world. Knowing that, made me feel like a capable idiot. Click here to continue reading my story.

Windmill image courtesy of Susie Peters Van Hoeve

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Canadian Mennonite

Continued from Ecstatic Mennonite

I waited and waited tensely as I heard strange names being called that I had never even heard of before. When the name Fatima was called the lady beside me tapped my arm, and in a heavy accent she said, “That’s me! That is me! I go up then you can take a picture yes?”

“Okay, yes. I will,” I answered and as she proceeded to show me how to take a picture with her fancy camera. I heard my name called and almost dropped the camera and said, “That’s me. Anna Wall that’s my name.”

I was so excited and relieved I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought “this is probably the first time I have ever been in anywhere where I am the only Anna in the room” and wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

I turned to Fatima and asked, “Can you take a picture of me when I go up?”

She nodded her head and said, “Yes, yes, I take a picture for you.”

When they finished calling out the names of the people that got to stay. About half of the people left the room with sad disappointed looks on their faces. I felt bad for all of them and wondered where they would go after that.

The police officer announced that it would be about an hour before the ceremony would begin and we were free to leave and come back or stay and take a break in the same room if we wanted too.

I got up and asked Fatima if she knew where the bathrooms were. She got up, put out her arm, and gestured me to follow her. I could only see the very tips of her fingers as she waved me toward her and said, “Come, come I show you.”

I followed her down a long hallway with many doors on both sides. Walking down that hallway reminded me of my day in the courthouse and how I thought that I wouldn’t make it through that day. But there I was walking down another hallway on my happiest day of my life.

I had an emotional moment while I sat on that toilet. I thought about the letter I had gotten, and in that letter, I read that they were sorry that I missed my first appointment. I thought about how lucky I was to be there, and who I could tell how sorry I was for missing it. 

When I came out of the stall I thought Fatima had left because I couldn't see her anywhere. I spotted a beautiful tall woman standing there smiling at me. She had long wavy black hair, perfect makeup, full red lips and the most gorgeous big dangly earrings I had ever seen. I continued to look around for Fatima and felt disappointed that I couldn’t find her anywhere.

Finally, the tall beautiful woman said, “Excuse, me who are you looking for?”

I kept looking around as I answered, “Ah… a woman um… that was all ah…”She laughed and said, “Anna it's me, Fatima.”

“What? Wow, you look so… ah…”

“Uncovered? It’s okay Anna I just needed a little breather.”

“Okay,” I answered as I stared at her and wanted to ask her so many questions, but I was too afraid and didn’t. I just stood there in awe of her beauty and stared at her while she wrapped herself up again and thought “Why would she do that?” and proceeded to follow her back to the room where we wrote our tests.

We sat back down and she began asking me all kinds of questions.

“I don’t notice you have an accent, what country are you from?”


“Wow, I could never tell, you are so white for being a Mexican.”

 As I was searching for words to respond, she asked, “How long have you been in Canada?”

“About four years.”

“You speak English before you come to Canada yes?”

“No, I just spoke Low German.”

“I thought people speak Spanish in Mexico yes?”

“Yes but not the Dietsch Mennonite people.”

“Oh, yes, yes I hear about your people, the Mennonites.”

I was shocked that she had heard about Mennonites and answered, “Yes.”

“Wow Anna, you so lucky. You put on different dresses and no one knows what country you come from.”

“What country are you from?” I asked as we got interrupted. 

“Can I please have your attention? Please take a moment to settle back into a chair before we begin,” said the policeman.

Everyone that was left in the room stopped talking and sat down. “Please rise for our national anthem,” said the policeman.

I followed along with Fatima and did exactly what she did. She picked up the little paper Canadian flag that was handed to us when we first arrived. I picked mine up too and when I looked at the flag I noticed that it had the national anthem written on the back of it.

When everyone started singing, I very quietly sang along while looking at the words on the back of the paper flag. I felt so proud. I thought, “I have never known a national anthem before, and I get to stay here, and be part of all of this” as I carefully listened to each of the words in the national anthem while fighting back the tears.

I got all nervous when the room got quiet and people’s names were called up one by one. I wondered what the judge was saying to them as he shook their hands and handed them their citizenship cards.

Finally, when I heard my name called my heart began pounding out of my chest as I gave Fatima my camera to take my picture. She reminded me to smile for the camera.

When I got up there, the judge shook my hand, looked me right into my eyes and said, “Ms. Wall, congratulations on becoming a Canadian citizen. May you enjoy a happy, healthy and successful life in Canada.”

I just stared at him for a moment as he continued to hold my hand, in a shaky voice, I said, “I have so much joy right now and I am already happy. I will work hard to be successful. I really hope I can get healthy too, and I am very sorry I missed my first appointment.”

The judge turned to the police officer with a confused look on his face and they both just smiled and the judge turned back to me said, “Very well, congratulations again” and shook my hand as I turned to look at Fatima while she took the picture.

When Fatima went up, I wished that I could hear what she was saying to the judge while I took many pictures. When she came back to her seat I gave her the camera back and said, “thank you for taking my picture.”

“You’re welcome and thank you for taking mine,” she answered.

I was so curious about Fatima, I could see us becoming great friends. I was tempted to ask for her phone number, but I was too nervous to ask her. I wasn’t sure if she would even be allowed to become friends with a white Low German-speaking Mennonite from Mexico, who obviously had no problem showing her legs to the world.

I said, “Thank you for helping me find the bathroom, Fatima. Because I got to sit beside you, my day went even better.”

She put her arms out and wrapped me in her black fabric as she hugged me and said, “Anna, we are Canadian women now. We can do so much more with our lives now” as she squeezed and rocked my body side to side with excitement. She was just going to say something else to me, but then we got interrupted by her friend who was speaking to her in their language.

We waved bye to each other and when I looked around, the room was almost empty. I thought to myself, “I wonder where they are all going now? Where should I go now? I can’t just go and carry on with my day when I have all of this happiness inside of me.” 

Everyone else was leaving so I decided that it was a good time for me to leave too. I walked out of that building hugging my citizen card against my chest like I used to hold my baby brother.

When I got to the car I remembered, “Josh! His apartment is right around the corner. I am going to go tell Josh that I just became a Canadian citizen.”

I got in the car and drove to Josh’s apartment like a good old fashioned Mennonite and just knocked on his door hoping for the best. He opened the door after only one knock and said, “Annaaaaa…” with a surprised look on his face. I could tell his brain was working hard as he tried to figure out if he had missed or forgot about something important, a reason for my unexpected visit on a late morning of a weekday.

Finally, he just gave me a hug and asked, “What’s up girlfriend?”

“Oh not much… except ah… I JUST BECAME A CANADIAN CITIZEN!

“AHHHHHH…” he yelled and hugged me again.

“When did this happen?”

“Like half an hour ago and I felt like telling you in person, sorry for not calling first.”

“Don’t ever be sorry for visiting me, Anna. I am so glad you did. Now let me see that citizenship. I need to see if it is real,” he said.

“Okay,” I answered as I handed my citizenship card to him.

“Oh wow, Anna, this is awesome. You did it. How does it feel?” 

“Ah… I don’t even have words to explain it. I feel like I can't just carry on with my day, this is way too big of a deal.”

“And you are sooo right darling, let's go out for lunch. Let’s to go to Red Lobster.”

“Okay,” and off we walked to Red Lobster, it was only a few blocks from his apartment.

When we got there the waiter that took us to a table asked, “Are you celebrating something? When you walked in you sound so excited something.”

“Yes, Anna here just became a Canadian citizen,” Josh answered.

“Wow, that is fantastic! Congratulations Anna, please have a seat,” said the waiter.

“Thank you,” I answered

We sat down and looked at the menu. The waiter came back with a basket of garlic biscuits and took our orders. We talked about how much we both missed Christina while we stuffed ourselves with the most delicious garlic biscuits I had ever tasted.

“I think Christina made the right decision to get away from here. Don’t you Anna?”

“Yes, I think so too, but only when I think about her and not myself, I wish she could have been here with me today.”

“Oh darling, I know what you mean, but why didn’t you invite that hotty fabulous friend of yours to come with you today?”

“You mean George?”

“Of course, the one and only. Wait, how many other hotties are you hiding from me?” He asked as he laughed.

I giggled and waited to answer him as our food arrived.

As we were eating I said, “I’m not hiding any hotties from you, Josh.”

“Oh, you better not.”

I blushed as I explained, “I wanted to invite George to come along, and he wanted to come, but I didn’t want him to miss any more work for me. I already feel bad enough for all the work he has had to miss because of me and besides, I kind of wanted to do this on my own. But after all that excitement, I was sad that I didn’t have anyone there to share it with.”

“Well thank you for thinking of me to share your special day with,” Josh said as the waiter brought us each a piece cake with a little Canadian flag on top.

“This is on us, thank you for choosing Red Lobster to celebrate your special day. Congratulations Anna, welcome to Canada and enjoy.”

We both said thank you while all the staff came over to congratulate me. That made my day extra special.

When we got back to Josh’s apartment where I parked the car. Josh hugged me and said, “Anna, you can come over anytime you feel like it, okay. I don’t mind at all, mi casa es su casa.

“Okay, thanks for that amazing lunch. It was perfect, I loved it.”

“You’re welcome darling, and watch out for all the crazy drivers on the road.”

“Okay, I will.”

While I drove home I had some time to reflect and felt butterflies in my full stomach while I got all teary eyed again. At that moment, I truly felt that I had proven to myself that the impossible was possible. My whole life I had believed that I could never learn anything because I was a 'hard learner' but, right beside the word “Pass” was a big red 98 out of 100 written on the top of that test. It was not a mistake. That test had my name on it. Click here to continue reading my story.

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