Kristina Marie Fullerton blogs at smoothliminal.wordpress.com. She dreams of becoming Mexican Snack Ambassador and encourages you to try chamoy as soon as possible.
7:00 am, in bed at my aunt’s apartment in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico
I wake up relieved to see blue skies. There was a huge thunderstorm last night, and I’d woken up in the middle of the night crying. I have an irrational fear of storms, which I blame on the fact that I moved to the States in second grade, the year that students at my school learned about extreme weather. We watched terrifying videos, made scarier by my lack of fluency in English. Couple that with moving from the desert (in a drought) to Tornado Alley (during an extremely rainy year), and I was a wreck. For years, I wanted a tornado shelter for my birthday. Anyway, I’m in Mexico now, trying to decide if I should jump out of bed and fulfill my daydream of going to the park first thing in the morning. My partner Devin must be exhausted from calming me down last night. Usually he’s wide-awake by the time I open my eyes, but today he sleeps soundly next to me. I’m exhausted, too, and decide to let myself rest.
7:56 am, still in bed
Can’t go back to sleep. Decide to get up and do yoga, but first I check Instagram where I see that someone has used the hashtag #unpluggedhoneymoon (but how? Doesn’t the hashtag for it effectively negate the “unplugged” part? I guess #strictlylatergramhoneymoon doesn’t sound as romantic). This reminds me of all those inspirational graphics about putting down our damn phones and closing our laptops (But if I did put down my phone, I would miss out on your sweet graphic, my dude). Truly a dilemma for our times. Oops, I accidentally wake Devin up. He tells me about his dreams including one about a hockey mascot being hit by one of our friends during a televised game. His dreams are invariably silly. Mine are always mundane.
8:36 am, bathroom at my aunt’s apartment
We decide to go to the park, and I skip the yoga. A while ago I read a comment on Feministing that said there’s no way for someone like me to practice yoga without committing cultural appropriation. I remember it as I brush my teeth and get dressed, promising myself to research this later. Doing yoga helps me feel better physically, but it’s true that I know very little about it as a spiritual practice or even its history, and maybe if I did I wouldn’t do it.
9:05 am, walking to the park
After a lot of back-and-forth about water bottles and sunscreen and which keys to take, we leave for La Ciudad Deportiva (literally “The Athletic City”), Chihuahua’s big park. It’s only a few blocks away, which is my favorite part of being in this apartment as opposed to my other aunt’s house. We pass a MetLife office, and I take a picture for a blog post I’ve been meaning to do juxtaposing this tiny building with the MetLife building in New York City. I think it sums up the problem with globalization better than I can with words.
As I take the picture, I tell Devin about it, and he starts talking to me about last night. He said he felt sad watching Tarahumara children play in the street. I tell him I feel ashamed when he notices things like that. I wish I could hide all of Mexico’s injustices and present it only in a positive light.
“Why are you ashamed? It’s my country’s imperialism that causes most of the problems.”
Technically, the United States is my country, too, but I feel proud that Devin thinks of Mexico as mine. I haven’t lived in Chihuahua since 1996, but it still feels like home.
9:09 am, the park
The first thing we see is a small high-school band consisting of bugles & drums. The drummers are incredible! And all of them are girls! I recognize the song. Toma que toma que toma, toma que toma que toma, toma que toma que toma ta, they drum, at the same tempo as the original song, not the slower remake. I can’t believe that they can drum so fast and that they’re playing one of my favorite earworms. We stand and watch until the song ends and then we clap. They hadn’t noticed us standing there, so they are very surprised. All the kids laugh, and so do we.
We head to some of the analog exercise machines that dot the park. I don’t know what their technical name is, but they’re like ellipticals and other exercise machines, only they don’t require any electricity. They’re made of metal and painted bright colors. Some of them are painted with Coca-Cola logos, which Devin finds ironic (“Exercise! Brought to you by…soda!”). I don’t find it interesting because everything is sponsored by Coca-Cola in Mexico. I don’t think you can walk five blocks without seeing the logo.
We pass a statue commemorating the Adelitas, and I explain that they were women soldiers who fought in the Mexican Revolution. I don’t really advocate war, but the idea of women fighting alongside men in the 1910s is undeniably cool. I’m proud of our feminist history.
My mom gave us a novelty badminton set with a giant birdie, but we only play with it for about ten minutes before breaking one of the rackets. For the rest of the hour, we walk through the park, and I’m not really thinking about anything, just listening. I love hearing chihuahuenses talk. I don’t know anything about linguistics, but I wonder if my brain classifies it as “normal speech” because I learned to talk here and that’s why it’s so soothing to hear.
10:11 am, walking home
We stop to buy tortillas so we can eat burritos for breakfast. I wonder aloud, “What’s taking so long?” and Devin explains that the woman is making them to order. The advantages of being tall… I can’t see into the kitchen. When we get our order, they are piping hot. I have to carry the bag by a small corner to avoid burning my hand.
10:28 am, my aunt’s kitchen
We’re heating up the beans when my aunt Martha Cecilia asks us if we want some coffee or tea, pointing to all the boxes for her new Dolce Gusto machine. It uses pods like a Keurig, but I’ve never used one of those either. Trying to figure out how to use it feels like a science experiment with the three of us speculating what we should do first, and if there’s really only enough for one pod per cup. I’m so fascinated by the process that I only feel a little bad about wasting all those little plastic things.
10:33 am, my aunt’s hallway
We’re just about to sit down for breakfast when Martha Cecilia hands me the phone. It’s my cousin Nolan, and today’s his birthday. He sounds happy even though he doesn’t get to be with his wife and newborn today because the three of them are in the process of moving from one city to another. When I turned 25 I told everyone about how it was my dream age. Nolan tells me he realized that 26 is his dream age, and I’m happy he remembers. We make plans to see each other next week when he drives through the city to get to his parents’ house and for us to go to Casas Grandes to meet his baby, born less than a month ago.
10:44 am, my aunt’s dining room
We eat burritos––real burritos––which contain two ingredients: refried beans and flour tortillas. It’s my personal goal to make sure everyone knows that Mission-style burritos are an abomination, and I think about how Chihuahua was the birthplace of burritos. I don’t say any of this out loud because Devin’s heard me say it all before (approximately 342 times).
11:32 am, my aunt’s bathroom
I promised my mom I’d go to the doctor with her, but we got so busy talking over breakfast, I lost track of time. I take a record-fast shower and somehow we make it on time to her 12 o’clock appointment.
12:00 pm, the doctor’s office
When my mom is in Mexico, she always goes to the doctor. Sometimes I do, too. It’s not because we don’t have health care in the States, but because the medical system is so much more accessible. Here, she knows a lot of doctors and can find recommendations. Also, doctors’ offices are kinder and more accommodating. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen a U.S. doctor on a Saturday. Perhaps most importantly, the costs are not hidden. You can ask how much something will cost, and they’ll tell you upfront. Once I went to a podiatrist in Connecticut who fit me for orthotics. I asked him how much they would cost, and he said it depended on insurance. I asked how much it would cost if insurance didn’t cover them, and he said no more than a couple hundred bucks. A few months later I got a bill for $1,000.
The doctor’s office is in a renowned private hospital, and they’re building a Hilton Garden Inn across the street. “So lots of Americans will come to get surgery!” my mom beamed yesterday. I space out thinking about medical tourism. I guess it’s good for the local economy, but it weirds me out. I make a list of other things that are strange about medicine and remember talking to my friend Annika who’s in med school about how doctors specialize in specific organs and systems even though they’re all part of a whole and affect each other.
1:43 pm, my mom’s car
I let Devin take the front seat and sit in the back. There’s a calendar from my mom’s church in Texas peeking out from the seatback pocket with an ad for a funeral home. I read the name of it, and my stomach churns. “Family-owned,” it says at the bottom, and I remember whose family. In high school I had a crush on a football player in my photography class. One day we were walking around in a group taking pictures for class. We passed a big group of Latin@ students, and he said, “I wish I had a bomb to kill all those Mexicans.” A few months later my stepdad died, and the hospital gave my mom a list of possible funeral homes. I didn’t want to tell her about the racist boy, so I just prayed she didn’t pick that one. Luckily, she didn’t. I don’t want to think bad things about Texas because my mom still lives there, and I know there were things I liked when I lived there, too, but the bad parts were so bad that mostly I just try not to think about it at all.
My mom asks where we want to eat lunch, and we settle on sushi. We make a few wrong turns and end up driving a long way on the periférico. I wish Chihuahua were more walkable.
2:30 pm, sushi restaurant
I always look forward to eating sushi here because there’s lime in the soy sauce. There isn’t a single vegetarian roll on the menu, but the waitress tells us they have one as a secret menu item. We also modify one that has mango, chamoy, and chili powder, my favorite ingredients. I’m so hungry I feel faint, but I can’t finish my food because I ordered too much. We take it to go.
3:50 pm, my mom’s car
Out of the blue, my mom starts talking to us about Millennials. “Once I read that Generation Y would be open-minded and creative, and I think it’s true. Your generation is very open to change and differences, not judgmental like we used to be.” We pass a new restaurant specializing in waffles, and my mom points, “See? Someone your age made that! There are so many creative young people, and they’re so entrepreneurial.” My mom would write a very sweet think piece.
4:07 pm, my aunt and uncle’s backyard
When we get to my aunt and uncle’s house, they’re eating in the backyard—grilled beef, nopales and limes. So many limes! The best part of being in Chihuahua is unlimited limes (and um, my family). I’m tired and think about taking a nap. What I really want is coffee, but it’s looking stormy (again!), so I don’t want to walk, and I don’t want to interrupt everyone to ask if someone will drive me. They eat mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I don’t feel like having any. Then, my cousin Caren offers me tea. She brings out a mug of hot water and a tray with all their teas. It’s such a nice gesture that all of the family claps, and my mom says a cheer (Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba…). I can’t believe how cute they are sometimes.
I told my family about Enormous Eye yesterday because I didn’t want them to feel spied on. It was probably a mistake because now they all have suggestions for what I should write about. My uncle’s is my favorite: “Wouldn’t you like to write about Chihuahua?”
“That’s kind of what I’m doing. It’s a project where I have to keep a diary about my day.”
“Oh. But wouldn’t it be better to write about the Mexican Revolution instead?”
We move on to talk about the term “Ms.” and how there isn’t a Spanish equivalent. My mom says, “Wait a minute. I already told you, the Spanish equivalent is ‘Seño.’” We all laugh, and Martha Cecilia does a spot-on impression of the guys who sell things at markets, “Pásele seño… Pásele… ¿Qué va a llevar?”
My mom says she was surprised to find that she liked a singer named Tito El Bambino, but he died recently. Nobody else knows who he is, so my mom finds one of his music videos on someone’s phone. Devin notices a tree with tiny oranges near the back of the garden and asks what it is. My aunt Minú says they’re sour oranges, which prompts Alfredo to look back and see that the figs are ripe.
6:54 pm, my aunt and uncle’s fig tree
Alfredo asks us if we want to go pick figs with him, and we walk over. I remember that last year we stayed here, and I ate figs and Camembert every morning. From across the yard, I hear that my mom’s decision to play Tito El Bambino has been down-voted. Instead they’re watching a video from my cousin Caren’s recent concert. She’s a classically trained singer, and a few weeks ago she gave a concert consisting only of songs in French. When I hear it, I realize that we are picking figs from a tree that her French grandfather planted many decades ago. If my life were a movie, this would be the scene where time collapses and you see the young grandfather plant the tree while his twenty-something granddaughter sings. “Oh no,” I think, “this is going to sound so contrived.”
7:56 pm, my aunt and uncle’s living room
We decide to go on a drive through the city because Minú is worried I won’t have anything to write about.
8:20 pm, my aunt’s minivan
The clouds are dark, and the wind is blowing, but the forecast doesn’t call for rain. We pass some new statues Martha Cecilia says are ugly. I can’t really see them from the car.
8:45 pm, the top of a mountain
Minú always knows cool places to go because she’s curious by nature. I love going out with her. We park at the top of a mountain, and she takes us to a shop where they sell geodes. There are piles and piles of them. Devin and I agree not to buy any because it would be silly to carry rocks in our suitcases, especially because we’re flying to Mexico City in a couple of weeks before heading back to the States. My resolve dissipates when I spot one that reminds me of a vintage world map. I can’t stop myself from buying it. Yesterday my cousin Carol texted me saying that Devin and I would be rich in Mexico because the peso is so devalued. I answered that I’d rather we be poor and Mexico be rich. Her response flashes through my mind as I pull fifty pesos from my wallet, “Pero no hay nada que puedas hacer al respecto so enjoy your richness.”
We walk out and see the city lights glittering below. I buy a tiny silver and turquoise bracelet from a young woman’s stand. She tells us she makes everything herself and that she studied design. “Are you able to make a living from this?” asks Minú, and the jewelry-maker says no. She works at a veterinarian’s office, too. She tells us about her five year-old son, how when he wants something he makes eyes like a little mouse. I like her immediately. I want her and her son to do well and be happy. Enjoy your richness, I think again, as I buy something else from her and decide to try and spend more money supporting small vendors while I’m here.
9:15 pm, my aunt’s minivan
All day, my friends Gaby and Cecy and I have been trying to make plans to get dinner. It’s hard for me because I’m dependent on wi-fi to communicate. Martha Cecilia says, “Why don’t you use my phone?” which makes perfect sense, but the thought hadn’t occurred to me. I call Cecy, but at this point she’s in one neighborhood, Gaby’s in another, and I’m on top of a mountain downtown. We decide it’ll be too hard to meet up tonight and make plans to get dinner tomorrow.
Since we haven’t even pulled out of the parking space yet, I ask if we can get dinner here instead of driving home. Everyone says yes, and I feel overwhelmed with good luck. I really didn’t want to leave the mountain yet.
We walk to a restaurant where there’s a man singing with a guitar. My eyes tear up when he sings Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. I definitely have PMS.
None of the outside tables are big enough for our group, so we sit inside, upstairs, by plate-glass windows so we can still see the city below. I eat a little of everyone’s food: entomatadas, queso fundido con flor de calabaza, tacos vegetarianos, and my own sopa azteca. Everything is delicious.
10:38 pm, my aunt’s minivan
On the drive home, we pass my mom’s childhood home in historic downtown. Now it’s a cool bar specializing in mezcal. Martha Cecilia says she remembers when they used to cross the street to go to kindergarten at the girls’ Catholic school.
10:58 pm, my aunt and uncle’s living room
The TV is on when we walk in. Prince is singing while wearing blue sunglasses with an extra lens for his third eye. I realize that I needed to do some work today and ask to borrow a computer. When I left New York, I got to keep my job part-time, which is cool because it means I get to travel all summer without worrying too much about money, but the downside to working remotely is the same as the upside: I can work anytime anywhere.
11:11 pm, my aunt and uncle’s dining room
When I see the time, I make a wish to get to sleep soon. Then, I sit down in the dining room and scan news articles to share via social media for work. I schedule a post about the shooting in Lafayette and the link between violence and misogyny. Then, I schedule a post about Apache activists fighting multinational corporations who want to mine for copper on the sacred ground of Oak Flat. One of the companies is based in Australia, which reminds me that my mom and her siblings owned a small portion of a mine that was sold to an Australian company. What if it’s the same one? I try to understand what it means to live in a world where companies on the other side of the planet can so easily get permission to take over a holy place for profit, but all I can think is, capitalism gives me a headache.
11:49 pm, my aunt and uncle’s dining room
I wrap up my work and close the computer.
12:00 am, my aunt and uncle’s kitchen
I can’t wait to get home and go to sleep, but right when I say, “Let’s go!” I remember that I meant to write a happy birthday note to Nolan on Facebook. I feel bad because I didn’t talk to him longer on the phone because I wanted to eat breakfast. I remember that when he turned 17, I gave him a burned CD with “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene, and he told me he felt like that song really described him. I like that he’s always taken me seriously and let me share what I like with him. As I’m writing my note, I realize he was my first friend. The post I write doesn’t sound like what I mean, but I’m too tired to fix it.
12:17 am, my aunt’s car
We drive home, and I’m lulled. It’s only our first full day here, so I guess I’m still jetlagged, but it’s embarrassing to be sleepy so early. Nobody I know here goes to bed before 1.
12:22 am, the living room in my aunt’s apartment
When we walk in, I see my mat and think about doing yoga again. I make another mental note to read about cultural appropriation and yoga. I pick up my phone, but instead of researching, I answer the texts I’ve gotten via wi-fi, wonder what my friends who don’t have iPhones are up to since I can’t get texts from them, then check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp one last time. And another.
1:04 am, the bathroom in my aunt’s apartment
I take off my make-up with an oil cleanser that smells like orange. I have no idea if it’s done anything for my skin, but I love the smell. Then, I brush my teeth and walk to bed.
1:05 am, in bed at my aunt’s apartment
Devin’s already asleep, and I wonder why it took me so long to get here.