Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rum Diary

We drank our Mojitos, ninety miles north of Cuba.  They were still pretty good.  Our bartender was an older, Hemingway buff.  I like Hemingway too, the only problem was that I already knew the lore.  Someone asked him if he owned the bar.   "No," he responded to my surprise, "too much responsibility and I would never get time off.  I don't own anything, just my boat.  And we live on it".  Okay kindred, sixty-five year old spirit, do continue. 

"I like to travel through the Caribbean.  I'm a rum specialist...". 

I walked over to Nia, who was visibly upset.  She hadn't been picked to play our game.  Before I could say anything, Emily was by my side.  She stroked Nia's head, and then grabbed Nia's arms and wrapped them around herself, in a forced, compassionate hug.  "Thank you, Emily." I responded, still on my feet without even having knelt down, "That is very caring.  I know that Nia will feel better". 

I have a number of succulent plants.  I buy them wherever, re-plant them and treat them as if they are my own children.  I am the succulent whisperer.  I carry them carefully inside and out, making sure they get the optimal amount of sun, enough water, but do not get frozen.  My newest ones lean toward the sun.  I have experimented.  Their fleshy sprouts move, move and shift toward the direction of the light.  It only takes a couple of hours.  I like that they know how to do that. 

I have met heliotropic things before.  They walked toward the sun, but not by choice. 

"I collect balsero stuff," he continued, "I've found all kinds of things, Soviet rations, two by fours nailed together and covered in carpet, stuff you never thought could sail.  Even a wallet, full of Cuban money.  Guess they didn't need it anymore". 

"What have you found the most?" I asked, thinking of my own border relics.  The constant packets of hot sauce in every desert crevice, the shoes, back packs and Pedialyte.  The embroidery.  The wallet I still have, with a Mexican I.D., phone numbers and prayers carefully written on notebook paper. 

"Oh it's just everything.  Anything you can imagine". 

I can imagine a lot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nobody Can Turn Me Around

"Have a great, four-day weekend, Danielle" I wished one of my kinder students as I dropped them off for aftercare. 
"I know what you are going to do this weekend, Maestra!" she screamed excitedly, "Watch T.V.!"
"No, no..." I stammered.
"And EAT!" she exclaimed.

Oh no, Danielle.  You think so little of me. I finished my report cards around 10:30 that evening, packed some random shit in a bag and flew out the next morning for my long weekend.

Ninety miles from Cuba.

I felt a little bleary eyed on Tuesday, but not as bad as previous trips.  I went to work.  And worked.  After, I went to a meeting about the Race to the Top money my school got and how I can get a piece of that action.  I actually wanted a piece of it, but not necessarily financially.  I remember my first years of teaching.  They were hell.  And I don't want anyone else to go through that.  I am experienced.  I have taught all grade levels - high school, elementary school, adults, here, Spain, Mexico, wherever.  And few helped me.  I want to help.  Folks ought to be good teachers. And it is hard walking into those schools.   And I know a lot about that.  It's about mentor-ship.  And that is what Race to the Top is about. 

I went to the meeting.  I was surprised how awkward I felt walking in.  I sensed the 'Why is she here?' vibe.  The 'She's not a real teacher, just Spanish' feeling.   Maybe I am imagining things.  Or maybe not.   It bothers me though.  You can tell, can't you?

I can't wear my resume stapled to my chest.  I have never felt like I had to.  Until here.

"Ain't gonna let nobody, turn me round!" the kids sang.  I sang too.  Nobody gonna turn me around.  But lately, everything is turning me around.  I may have lost the light.  The light I want to shine.  

"Sherman, do you mind if I take your photo?" I asked mister kinder lovely.
"No problem.  These are my antlers." he informed me, while pulling his purple and red feathered mask onto his face and hissing.

"Thanks!" I exclaimed, because I love him and he looked awesome.

Curley squatted down quickly, stroked my shoe and kissed it.

"Me too!  Me picture too!" Emily exclaimed, pulling her Carnaval mask on.  The feather she had placed in the middle stood erect.  She turned for a profile shot, tilting her chin upward, a large smile on her face, that face that used to be so expressionless.

Oh lovely.  I was only waiting for you to ask.

Monday, February 13, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

I sat in front of my computer, trying to finish my work.  I could hear Norteño music playing next door.   It was getting dark.  The brown men had been tearing down Boo Radley's shitbox house by hand.  For three days.  The scary house.  The one that rats ran out of as I run past on my way to school.  These men had been busy depriving Americans of a job they had been clamoring for.  Tearing down walls, beams, asbestos dust everywhere.  No machines.  Hands.  What a-holes.  So many Americans would have done that in a second!  In three times the time, for three times the money and half the house would still be standing.  I had a beer.  I considered going over there and offering them one.   Then I thought of walking up to a relative construction sight with beer in my hand and thought better of it.  I liked listening to the Norteño music, drifting in the warm winter dusk, accompanied by the sing song lilt of Mexico City Spanish. 

I had a party for my milestone, get a walker birthday.  It was fun.  Really fun.  So many people I loved crammed into one kitchen I could barely get around fast enough to speak to all of them.  Cristian's family came.  He tried to cross again.  And he got caught.  Six thousand dollars, down the drain.  They played catch and release on his dad, who returned to central Mexico.  They kept Cristian.  He is in a federal prison, for six to twelve months.  Even though he has never done anything.  All I can think of is when is he out, when he will try to cross again to see his family and his new child.

And open the Christmas presents that have been waiting for him since 2011.