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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