Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mennonite in Mexico


Continued from Pasajero Menonita

Suddenly the breakfast I had just eaten didn’t sit so well in my stomach when I saw the flight attendants walking down the aisle passing out papers and pens.

“We are landing in Guadalajara in about forty minutes. You need to have your immigration papers filled out by the time we land. Especially for those of you who are boarding a connecting flight,” explained the flight attendant.

When the flight attendant handed me a pen and the immigration paper I just stared at it blankly.

“Anna, the instructions are also in English on the other side.”

“It’s just that I have never filled out one of these before and earlier I got in big trouble because I said too many wrong things. I’m afraid that I will make a mistake again and get in trouble for it.”

“If you don’t mind that I would be looking at your passport, I can fill that out for you,” said Daniel.

I didn’t think twice about handing my passport to over to him if he was able to take that burden off my shoulders.

“That would help me out a lot. Thank you,” I said as I handed my passport, pen, and paper to him. I felt relieved and embarrassed at the same time as he handed me back my passport and the immigration form, but I thought since he seems to know what he is doing I will ask him one more favor.

“Daniel?”

“Yes, Anna.”

“How, will I know where to go when we get to Guadalajara?”

“I could tell you if I looked at your ticket.”

“Okay,” I said and handed my ticket over to him. He looked at it for a moment and explained what gate number I had to go to.

“I can walk you there and show you.”

“That would be great. Thank you.”

“Oh, and one more thing, you don’t need to collect your luggage, it will automatically be transferred onto the airplane that you are going on,” he explained.

“Thank you. That was going to be my next question.” 

After landing in Guadalajara, Daniel walked me to the gate where I had to wait two hours to get on the other airplane.

“Are you hungry? Would you like to join me for lunch?

“Ahhh, okay.”

“Do you like gorditas?” he asked and watched as my face light up like the Christmas tree that was behind me.

“YES! I love gorditas. Mexican food is one of the things that I have missed the most since I left,” I explained. I got a bit emotional and teary eyed as I heard myself say that out loud.

“Okay then, come on, let's go.” As we made our way to the food court, Daniel explained that he had eaten gorditas at that restaurant every time he visited Guadalajara.

Hola señorita, ¿qué te gustaría pedir?” (Hello miss, what would you like to order?)

I froze and just stared at him and looked at Daniel and he said, “Go ahead Anna, tell him what you want.”

“Okay, um, bueno, me gustaría dos gorditas. Los que tienen rajas con queso. (Okay, I would like two gorditas. The ones with roasted peppers and cheese.)

Muy bien y para beber? (very well and to drink?)”

Una fanta de toronja por favor (A grapefruit fanta please.)”

Muy bien (very well)” he said and the proceeded to take Daniel’s order. While Daniel ordered, I couldn't help but feel proud that I had just ordered my very own food for the first time in Mexico.

When that waiter put the plate of gorditas in front of me, I felt like I should say my ‘thousand, thousand times thank you’ prayer before I ate them instead of after like I had been taught.

I silently said my prayer quickly and when I took the first bite of the gordita it felt like I had just made it home as I savored the flavor I had missed so much.

“Wow, Anna don’t you find them spicy?”

“Yes, but that’s how they are supposed to be. Just like I remember them.”

“I once ordered those by accident and almost died from the heat. Ever since that I stick to the less spicy ones.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

I laughed as I asked, “Do you think that anyone has ever died from spicy food?”

“I doubt it. Or at least I hope not,” he answered and we both laughed as we continued eating.

Daniel put his business card on the table and asked, “Do you email?”

“I am learning, I think with the help of my teacher I could.”

“Very well, here is my business card. I would love to know how the rest of your trip turns out. Would you be able to send me an email when you get back?”

“Okay, I will try.”

“Well, Anna, I think you better head back to the waiting area at the boarding gate. It was a pleasure having you as a travel companion. Good luck with the rest of your trip.”

“Okay, well, thank you for helping me with everything.”

“It was my pleasure, Anna. Have a safe trip home,” he said as he got up and picked up his bags.

“Okay, you too,” I said while I watched him walk away.

I sat back down with my full belly for a moment and experienced a feeling of having just regained possession of something that I had been missing the whole time I had been in Canada. I felt like I had finally eaten the food that I had been craving ever since I had left Mexico.

I took Daniel’s business card and didn’t even attempt to read what he did for a living. I just put it in my backpack and went back to the boarding gate.

I got really nervous as I thought about the rest of my trip and who I might be sitting beside next. I got up and walked up to a huge glass wall where the bright Mexican sun was shining in. While I stood there soaking up the sun, I wished with all my heart that the person that would sit beside me would be as nice as Daniel had been.

After boarding the flight and settling into my seat, I got really sleepy from all that sunshine I had been getting and almost fell asleep before I even found out who would be sitting next to me. I waited and waited but no one claimed the seat next to me. When the plane took off I realized that I would have all three seats to myself during the flight to Durango. I thought YES! What could be better than this? A belly full of Mexican food, the sun shining on me and three seats to myself. Can life get any better than this? Well at least for the next few hours anyway.

When the seatbelt sign turned off, I made myself a pillow with my backpack, laid down and fell asleep. I had a dream that I had slept during the whole flight to Durango and no one woke me up, so I didn’t get off the plane and it flew all the way to Posen Land. People were speaking a language that I couldn’t understand until a man’s voice kept saying, “Señorita, señorita, señorita, desperta (Miss, miss, miss, wake up.)”

When I sat up and asked, “What time is it?” A woman said to the man that was waking me up, “Ya ves, te dije que ella debía ser gringa (You see, I told you she must be American) the man rolled his eyes at her and whispered something to her and proceeded to ask me, “Miss, would you like something to drink?”

“Yes, water, please. How long have we been flying?” I asked as I thought, I really need to know if I missed my stop and if I am on my way to Posen Land.

“Yes, miss, um, twenty minutes or so.”

I let out a relieving sigh and said, “Okay, thank you.”

As I drank my water, reality began to sink in and I got so worried as I imagined walking into my parent's house. I thought, “I wonder if it's going to be dark by the time I get to Hamburg. Oh no! I hope they don’t have a vicious dog.” And my heart started pounding out of my chest uncontrollably until I spotted a Mexican tabloid magazine with Kate Del Castillo on the cover of it. I recognized her from a Telenovela I had seen her in. I thought I wouldn’t even attempt to read it and just look at the pictures of her.

For a moment I forgot all about how frightening it would be for me to walk the dirt road that led to my parent's house and what I might encounter on the way there. I began to daydream about being able to dress like Kate. I found her so fascinating that I actually began reading bits and pieces of what was written about her in Spanish. 

As I thought, “Sorry Kate, but am totally stealing your style, my thoughts got interrupted by the flight attendant asking me, “Cacahuetes? (Peanuts?)”

Finally, I was able to figure out what time it was when I heard the announcement through the speaker saying that we were to land in Durango City in fifteen minutes and that it would be four o’clock Mexico time. With my new skills that I had learned in math class, I began to calculate in my head a rough timeframe of when I might be walking that dreaded dirt road leading to my family’s unexpected surprise. But that all depended on the bus and what time it would head out toward Nuevo Ideal.

Other than my nervousness of what was ahead of me, I felt rested, well nourished and hydrated as I walked off the plane and into the Durango City airport. I followed the crowd to the luggage collecting area and spotted my suitcase right away. But first, I watch how others got their luggage off the rotating conveyor belt. When my suitcase got closer, it was too far away from the edge and I couldn’t reach it. I panicked as I watched it go past me, but a man noticed and grabbed it for me when it went past him. He rolled it over to me and asked, “Miss, is this yours?”

“Yes! Thank you! Thank you!” I shouted.

De nada señorita.”

I took my luggage handle and walked off thinking, “Okay, where do I go now?” But luckily this airport was way smaller than the one in Guadalajara and you couldn’t miss the long line of taxis out the front of the airport through the clear glass doors. I didn’t even have a chance to look up or deeply inhale my first breath of Durango air because a taxi driver was already putting my luggage into the back of the taxi. He asked where I would like to go and that’s when I wished that I could answer him honestly and say, where I am going and where I would like to go are two very different places. But I just smiled and said the bus station, please.

That thought got me wondering where exactly Kate Del Casillo lived and I wished that I was going to meet her to go shopping instead of the Mennonite colony I was going to. At that very moment, I imagined that being the thing I would want to do instead. I just finished that thought when the taxi pulled up to the bus station. I thought, Okay this bus station is way too close to the airport. I wasn’t ready as I dug out my Mexican pesos. I nervously handed over the pesos hoping that they would still be good. The taxi driver looked at the pesos for a moment and said, “Muy bien, gracias güerita.” (Very well, thank you) (Native Mexican people often called us güera or güerita. The word is used to describe people with fair skin and blue or green eyes.)

I walked into the bus station and headed straight to the spot that had the star symbol of a bus line that I remembered passing our colony on the daily bases called Estrella Blanca (White Star.) I took a deep breath and dug deep to find enough Spanish words to explain that I was going to the Mennonite colony that was closest to the bus stop near the small village of Nuevo Porvenir. When I figured that I had explained it well enough, the man said, “Ah, sí, las colonias menonitas ¿verdad? (Oh yes, the Mennonite colonies, right?)”

Sí!” I shouted with excitement. But then my heart sank when I realized that I hadn't changed into my pleated Mennonite dress yet. I was still wearing pants! Click here to continue reading my story.



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