Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Sliver of Hope

Continued from I am Annana

“What’s going on, why is it so loud in here?” asked Uncle Jake.

“We can't find your nudel schnida,” I explained.

“Oh, I don’t have one.”

“What, oh no! What are we going to do?”

“Well, I have all kinds of noodles in the cupboard.”

“Okay, let me see what you have,” I answered.

Uncle Jake opened the cupboard and showed me all the spaghetti noodles he had in there.

Ha li kringel! (Oh twisty bun!)”


“You think it's okay to put spaghetti noodles in nudel zup?”

“Sure, why not?”

Oba nienich!” (Never!)”

“I don’t think we have much of a choice at this point,” Said Izaak.

“You’re right Izaak, but this is not acceptable, and I'm not okay with it!” I said.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” said Uncle Jake.

“Oh you will, when you take the first slurp,” I answered.

I showed Uncle Jake all the ingredients I put in the broth and boiled spaghetti noodles. Izaak set the table and answered a knock at the door.

“I didn’t know you were getting company.”

“Neither did I,” answered Uncle Jake.


“Annana! Meet Feo and his brother Juan Pelos. These two have been friends with your brothers for a very long time,” explained Izaak.

They both reached out to shake my hand, Feo asked, “Así que eres la hermana de los hermanos Wall? (So you're the sister of the Wall brothers?)”

Asi es, (That’s right.)”

Pensé que tu nombre era Anna (I thought your name was Anna.)”

“You're right it is, Annana is a long story you don’t wanna know,” I explained.

What? But I want to know.”

I gave Izaak a ‘help me’ look.

“She's right it is a long story, and we'll explain it another time. How about we eat before the soup gets cold.”

We sat down around the table I bowed my head to say my mealtime prayer, Uncle Jake and Izaak followed.

I waited until everyone filled their bowl and watched.

Algo no está bien. ¿O debería decir que incluso la comida menonita sabe mejor en México? (Something is not right. Or should I say that even Mennonite food tastes better in Mexico?” Asked Juan Pelos.

I stared at Uncle Jake until he couldn’t take it anymore, so he got up and fetched a bag of tostadas, avocados, and salsa and explained to his guests why the nudel zup tasted so different.

“I think I have ruined nudel zup’s reputation forever!” I explained to Uncle Jake in Low German.

“It’s okay Annana it’s not that bad, the tostadas will be a nice compliment.”

¿Qué dijiste Anna? (What did you say, Anna?)” Asked Juan Pelos.

Ahhh who wants a tostada?” Uncle Jake asked, and everyone raised their hands.

Regardless, no one left the table feeling hungry. Uncle Jake, Feo, and Juan Pelos went outside for a smoke. Izaak and I cleared the table.

“Thanks for helping me.”

“Annana, I would never leave you to clean all this mess up on your own.”

“This is one of the reasons I like you the best Izaak!”

“Well, it’s all about spending as much time together as we can, no?”

“You got it,” I answered and threw the dish towel at him.

By the time Uncle Jake and his guests came back inside Izaak, and I were sitting at the table and looking at Uncle Jake’s photo albums.

“You know what we should do tonight?” asked Izaak.


“We should go to this disco club in Dallas that I go to sometimes. I think you would like it, they play all kinds of different music tonight is norteña night, and there’s a popular band playing. What do you say, Annana, you wanna dress up, let your hair down and go dance the night away?”

Feo and Juan Pelos almost jumped through the roof with excitement.

“I think you would love it!” said Juan Pelos in a heavy Spanish accent.

I looked at Uncle Jake, and he said, “Knock yourselves out. I’m too old for that. I’m staying home.”

“Okay,” I said, and let my hair down, put on lip gloss, pulled together an outfit as best I could with what I had, and off we went to the club.

The club was jam-packed with impeccably dressed gorgeous, confident Mexican people. The atmosphere reminded me of El Guero’s parties. Again, I felt completely out of place and self-conscious, but the more vampiros I drank it helped enhanced my vocabulary, or so I thought, and I cared less about what I looked like in the clothing I was wearing.

I met many of Izaak’s friends and had deep conversations with him.

“So, what do you think?” Asked Izaak.

“This is awesome! I wanna live here.”

“I knew you would. I can help you find work.”

“It’s very tempting, but it’s a bad idea.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I would unintentionally become Uncle Jake’s maid and end up resenting both of you for that. It would probably ruin our relationship.”


“You know, this trip has been very hard for me, and many times I thought that it was a huge mistake, but I have learned so much. Going back to the colony has helped me mature and accept many things. I think I have found my purpose.”

“Oh yeah? And what is that?”

“Well, for me to be okay, I need to stay part of my family in some way or another, and I need for the Bueckert girls not to hate me, I can’t let them go either I love them too much. It may take my lifetime to prove to them that we can still be some part of each other’s lives maybe even only in our thoughts for now in spite of us disagreeing about school and many other things. I think by me finishing my high school will be one way I can be a sliver of hope in the far future for them and many people from the colony who can’t read and write. I am going to stop trying to convince them and show them by doing it. I know that the hardest part for me will be keeping some kind of relationship with them while I do it.”

“I am proud of you. Most people who leave the colony become hateful, bitter, and cut all ties they have with the life they left behind. I see it here in Texas all the time; people end up putting all their energy into proving that they are not part of that. I have done it for years, it’s exhausting, and we just end up making fools of ourselves. No matter what we do, we can’t change who our parents are or where we came from. Good for you.”

“Thank you. I know that it might not even work, but I am going to do it anyway. I will just have to do what mom has always said, that if you want to get anywhere , you have to adjust my attitude accordingly. Ay caramba, Izaak, I said accordingly!”

“You sure did.”

Juan Pelos didn’t like how serious my conversation with Izaak was getting and asked me to dance. As always, I put up a big fight resisting, but in the end, gave in.

“Ahhh what the heck! I’ll go to the dancefloor with you, but I can guarantee you that I will be stepping on your tows. Are you okay with that?”

Claro, mis botas de avestruz pueden manejarlo. (Sure, my ostrich boots can handle it.)”

Juan Pelos did a really good job of not letting the fact that I was imposable to lead on the dance floor ruin his optimism. There was just no way I could even pretend to put out moves like the rest of the people in the club, so I thought I would talk to him to make it go by faster for his sake.

“So Izaak tells me that you guys are from Esfuerzos?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“You know, I think you grew up in the best little Ranchito in Mexico. That mountain with the cave is my favorite!”

“I couldn’t agree with you more.”

“You know that my friends and I used to run and hide when anyone from Esfuerzos past through our colony.”

“Yes, how could I forget?”

“That was very rude.”

“It did hurt a lot, but this makes it better.”

“I am so sorry.”

“That’s okay I understand why you did it. I’ll never hide from you when you go through my town to visit your favorite place.”

“I know you wouldn’t. Thank you for that. When we drive through any Mexican town, people do nothing but smile and wave at us.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Sooo how long have you known my brothers for?”

“About four years or so, how are they doing?”

“Good, really good actually. They are so easy going. I sure didn’t expect that I would get along with them as well as I did.”

“I know what you mean. Your brothers are awesome.”

“I know, I am going to miss them even more now that I spent so much time with them. You know that they lived in Cuernavaca, Morelos and worked as extras on a movie set?”

“What? No, I didn’t. That’s awesome!”

“Yeah, I know. I’m totally jealous.”

“Me too. Oh shit! Are they still going to talk to me now that they are actors?”

“Oh yes, they are all relaxed about it. I was the one that freaked out with excitement especially about the fact that they got to work with Joaquim de Almeida and Tom Berenger.”

“Wow good for them.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Come, I’ll buy you a drink,” suggested Juan Pelos when the song ended.

“What would you like?”

“I’ll have another vampiro.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to try something different?”

“No, not really, vampiros are my favorite.”

“Okay,” He replied. We went back to our table and met some more of Izaak’s friends.

I sat down and thought how nice I felt that I had a chance to apologize to at least one person for being so ignorant and rude to him just because he wasn't Dietsch. I got all worked up thinking to myself, “From now on I will decide for myself who I will be friends with how I will treat people.” And I felt unbearable guilt again about how I had judged George before I even knew him.

“You look sad what's wrong?” asked Izaak.

“Oh nothing, I just realized some important changes I have to work on.”

“Okay, whenever you want to go just let me know, okay.”

“Okay, I will. This is great, thanks for showing me what your life is like.”

“Your welcome.”

“Hey, does El Guero ever come here?”

“No, or at least I have never ran into him here.”


“Why do you ask?”

“I just wondered.”

“Do you plan on staying in touch with him?”

“No, you know, as much as I would like too, I know that I am better off listening to my mother about this one. I am so glad that I got to experience what I did and that I met him before I knew what he does. I think I am better of leaving things as they are, and besides, I think I might have lost his phone number.”

“You are making a smart decision prima! Cheers to that.”

I chugged back my vampiro and told Izaak with more confidence than ever before, “I have made many stupid decisions, for many different reasons and I am sick of it. From here on out I am deciding for myself, who I talk to, who I am friends with, whether they have tattoos, wear plaid shirts or ostrich boot. The decision will be mine, and I'm not hiding and pretending anymore. And you know what else?”

“What?” Izaak asked with a scared look on his face.

“I’m gonna go shopping! I’m going to dress how I want to dress. Who care about what people think!”

“You go, prima!” Izaak replied.

“And I’m gonna wear my purple dress! But only when I'm sleeping. And you know what else?”

“No, tell me.”

“This is my last drink.”

“Okay, how about I’ll get you a water?”

“Thank you!”

When I sobered up, I apologized to Izaak for speaking so aggressively.

Prima! If you are going to practice what you preach never apologize for preaching it!” Click here to continue reading my story.

Photo credit to Margaret Wall

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I am Annana

Continued from Seven Plautdietsch Words

As the sun began to rise over the mountains, looking out the window, I thought, “Stop being so sad, Anna! You’re going back to your life in Canada! A good life! Or at least better than the one you're leaving behind! Am I? Really? Should I talk to Uncle Jake? Maybe that will help.”

I looked over at him, and he seemed perfectly content with the silence. “I shouldn’t bother him! Just go back to being sad, Anna,” I thought.

I jumped when Uncle Jake finally spoke. “How about we have breakfast here in Durango City? I know a place that makes the best huevos divorciados.”

“Yes! I have no idea what that is, but I want some. How about you, Izaak? Are you up for some huevos divorciados?” I asked as I gave him an elbow poke.

“Yeah, yeah sounds good to me.”

The restaurant was bright, colorful and had cheerful music playing. It was hard to continue to be sad when the people who were serving us added to the cheerfulness of the atmosphere.

“This is what I am going to miss about Mexico,” I thought. I realized that I loved everything about Mexico except life in the colony. I looked around and imagined myself living in Durango City.

As soon as we hit the road again, it felt like an elephant of darkness sat down on my chest. Izaak went right back to sleep, and it didn’t seem like Uncle Jake was the person to talk to about what I was experiencing. So I did what I always did—I imagined George telling me to breathe through it, and before I knew it, I had fallen asleep and we had arrived at the border.

Now that I knew what my nationality was, crossing the border into the US was easy. They didn’t even seem to care. “Oh, sure!” I thought. “Now that I am with two guys, there are no problems! Or maybe the lesson I learned here is, ‘Don’t argue with immigration officers, and especially do not bring knives in your backpack ever again!’”

When I looked into the rear view mirror, and couldn’t see Mexico in the distance anymore, I felt what my cowboy friend Javier had told me about. I felt like I was leaving part of myself behind and thought, “This is what he meant by being separated from one’s soul.” I felt it too, and I thought, “How could I say that I would never go back to where my soul lives?”

My eyes became very itchy, and I did everything I could to hide it from Uncle Jake and Izaak. To distract myself from feeling what I was feeling, I opened my backpack and looked through the papers mom had given me. Among those papers was my original Mexican birth certificate. Now that I could read, I looked over it and noticed that I was not the only one confused about what nationality we Dietsch people were. On my original birth certificate, it said that the nationality of all four of my grandparents and my parents was menonita.

“I knew it!” I thought, “My nationality is not Canadian, it’s menonita!

Uncle Jake glanced over and said, “Those are all wrong.”

“What?” I asked.

“The birth certificates that were issued during that time are all wrong. Look at your name, it’s Annana Wol.”

I began laughing so hard that all the tears I had fought back so hard were pouring out.

“So next time I cross the border I can say, ‘My name is Annana Vol, and my nationality is menonita, and it'll be true, because look, it says right here.’”

Uncle Jake and Izaak both laughed with me. “We are so screwed,” said Izaak. I just kept laughing and waited for him to say more. “If the people that are in charge of registering us can't even spell our names or know that menonita is not a nationality, how are we as a group going to survive?”

“Who did this?” I asked.

“I have no idea.”

I looked at Uncle Jake, and he said, “Nope, all I can tell you is when your dad and I tried to apply for new ones, the person at the registro civil told us that it would take a long time and a lot of trips to Durango City to correct all the mistakes. He offered to type up new ones right there in exchange for some queso menonita. But you know what that means?”

“No, what?”

“The new birth certificates were never sent in.”

“Okay, so what does that mean?”

“As far as the Mexican government is concerned you are Annana Vol, and your nationality is menonita,” said Izaak, “That’s what that means.”

“So my name really is Annana Vol?” I asked.

“You got it!” said Uncle Jake, and we all burst out laughing.  

“No wonder I feel like I am two people being separated one from the other when I leave. It’s true: in Canada I am Anna Wall, and in Mexico, I am Annana Vol.”

When things got quiet again, I thought, “I am just going to keep talking, so I don’t get sad again.”

“How did you learn to read and write Dietsch, English, and Spanish? Did you go to school after you moved to the US?” I asked Uncle Jake.

“No, I never went to school in the US. I learned Dietsch in the Mennonite school. My father, your grandpa, taught me to read and write Spanish and English. It was pretty easy for me to learn.”

“You must not have been a hard learner.”

“Nope, I was a soft learner,” he answered, and I looked at him and waited for him to laugh, but he looked all serious; I couldn’t tell if that was supposed to be a joke or not. He continued, “But my English isn't that great. I speak Spanish mostly on a daily basis. About ninety percent of the people that I fix cars for are Mexicans who don’t speak English. The only time I speak English is when I do my banking and shopping.”

“What about Dietsch? Are there any Dietsch people where you live whom you can talk to?”

“There are two Dietsch people whom I hang out with sometimes. But I'll never forget Dietsch even if I don’t speak it for years. As soon as I step foot onto the colony, my brain just knows to speak Dietsch.”

“Wow, you are so lucky! It was hard for me.”

“It was harder for me the first few times too, but it gets easier each time you go back.”

“What about you, Izaak, was it hard for you?”

“No, I never even thought about it, it just happened naturally. But I think the difference is I was with my family the first ten times or so going back and forth. We spoke Dietsch to each other and English or Spanish to the public. I’ve been programmed this way, I guess. You don’t need to go to school to learn that. Experience is the best teacher in my books.”

The sun disappeared behind the mountains, and seven hours later we arrived at Uncle Jake's house in Duncanville, Texas. It was a small, two-bedroom house. It didn’t look like a house to me, it looked more like a garage. There were car parts, magazines or calendars with nakschitasch (half-naked women) on them everywhere.  

I didn’t know where to look, so I looked at Izaak.

“It’s a bachelor thing,” explained Izaak.

“What’s a bachelor?” I asked, while I awkwardly made eye contact with Uncle Jake.  It was like he hadn't heard anything that had been said in the room.

“I don’t know about you two, but I’m having a shower, and going to sleep,” said Uncle Jake.

“Okay, Annana and I will go get some groceries,” said Izaak.

“Great,” said Uncle Jake, and wrote down a few things he needed. He asked us to buy all the ingredients to make nudel zup.

“Annana, I would love it if you could teach me how to make nudel zup. Could we do that later today?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Izaak took me around and showed me the shop where he and Uncle Jake worked, and again, the shop was covered in calendars with nakschitasch on them. He took me to a Mexican restaurant and explained to me what a bachelor was.

“Okay, but why don’t you guys put up the calendars that you get from Mexico? You know, the ones with the horses and cute fluffy kitties on them.”

“Ahhh, no! Let’s go to the grocery store.”

Jee han hea mul june faschetna weln, nich?”

“You got it! It’s awesome. Uncle Jake doesn't seem to carry around guilt and shame like we do, and the good thing for me is, no one in my life here is constantly judging me. But I’m starting to feel like you are judging us, Annana.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong I'm not judging you, I am envious of you and Uncle Jake both. Uncle Jake seems perfectly comfortable with his lifestyle. I wish I could be more like that. You know, he just does what he wants to do and doesn't apologize for it, and his family welcomes him back with open arms every time he goes back to the colony.”

“He’s always been like that.”

“I know!” I said, and thought, “It’s because he's not a woman! But I'm not even going to say it anymore. I’m sick of this!”

“I know, I know, It’s because we're men!” Izaak said.

“You said it!”

“I’m truly sorry that it is that way. I appreciate you not judging me, and you can always count on me. I won't treat you differently just because you are a woman.”

“Thanks, Izaak! I am lucky to have you in my life, even if it is only once every two years or so,” I said, as I got up and hugged him.

We bought everything Uncle Jake needed, including beer, tequila, and cigarettes. Not one person spoke English to Izaak. Every person we encountered spoke Spanish. It felt like we were still in Mexico.

“I see why you prefer living here It’s like we're right in between the two worlds I’m torn about.”

“You’re right, Annana, that’s exactly what it is. Here we’re so much closer to Mexico, but far enough away from the colony not to be judged all the time, and best of all there are great Mexican restaurants everywhere. Most of the Mexican people that live here are our neighbors from Mexico, and here we earn even better dollars than in Canada. And the weather, oh Annana. don’t even get me started on the weather. It’s almost as if I were actually living in Mexico.  It never gets cold here like it does in Canada.”

“Wait! Who cares about the weather! Why are the dollars here better than Canadian dollars?”

“Because they are worth a heck of a lot more than the Canadian dollars.”

“What? Wow, I want to live here!”

“I knew you would! But you don’t, actually.”

“Okay Izaak, you are really confusing me.”

“It's not that easy; you see it’s very difficult to become a US citizen, and because of that most of us are very limited in the things we can do here, like owning a car or buying a house.”

“What?” I asked, and then he proceeded to explain that he, like many others, were ‘wetbacks’ (illegals).

“Oh no, Izaak! You just crushed my dreams! I’ll stay dry, thanks!” I said.

When we got back to Uncle Jake’s house with the groceries and started unpacking them, everywhere I tried to put things, there were either tools or spark plugs in the way.

“Okay, if I am making nudel zup in this kitchen, you're going to have to help me clean it and get all this crap out of here!”

“This is not crap, Annana! These spark plugs are going to make someone very happy one day,” said Izaak as he laughed. 

“Well, you better put them somewhere else then.”
After cleaning the kitchen, I prepped the chicken and put in on the stove to cook. I began looking for Uncle Jake’s pasta maker, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Izaak! Witz du wua Um Jap seen nudel schnida haft faschtaken? (Izaak! Would you know where Uncle Jake is hiding his pasta maker?)”

“Ahhh, he doesn’t have one.”

“What? Oh no! We’re in so much trouble! I can't make nudel zup without a nudel schnida!” Click here to continue reading my story.

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