Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spanish-spoken love stories and the challenge of a growing self.

Actually today now. Let’s see. My first thing was just meeting Edgar here at noon to go back to Barrio with him to what I thought was a meeting about planning this big event they’re having on Saturday. What really happened was that he and Hayley and Nico and I met and hung out for a while, placticando de mi horario allí con ellos, and then I went with Edgar to a meeting at the police station. Sounds scary, but really Barrio is working with the policia to do events that get them into contact with the comunidad. It’s really incredible how many angles Barrio attacks social problems from. And they’re getting bigger all the time, which is really good, but they are super intentional about not letting stuff like having to meet with important people take away from the time they actually spend working with the población. They coordinate everything, and DEFINITELY lead actividades también. Edgar leads basketball every Wednesday and Erick does capoera (spelling) twice a week. AND they meet with the mayor of Mexico City. And teach values and nonviolence and responsibilidad. Jesus. Anyway, the policia are donating some stuff to the event on Saturday, so we were picking it up. They seem to kind of often fall through on what they promise, so from what I gathered Edgar is pretty good and trying to keep the pressure on in like a super friendly way. He’s really good at explaining context to me after we talk to somebody. Even though I was super out of it today and really unable to talk, I mean it obviously was really cool going places with him like an assistant (who couldn’t understand most of the meeting) or something.

Later we finally made our way to Barrio, again way before the actividad that I was allegedly there for was supposed to start. Here’s the thing – it’s great, it really is. I’m so grateful for this experience and these connections and the fact that I recognize the gas station I’m supposed to turn at to get to my bus stop from Barrio Activo. It’s just that the whole thing leaves me so profoundly exhausted. And I LOVE it, I do. Pati is officially like my mamá Mexicana, we talked for like an hour today and she is absolutely the sweetest, most caring person. She likes me to call when I get home to the Casa safe. All of them are so concerned for my safety. I don’t find it smothering at all. Erick asked me when he was walking me back to the bus stop at the end of the day, if I felt a lot of pressure from everyone making sure I was safe all the time. I told him it makes me feel loved, like I have these two Mexican dads and a Mexican mom, and a family and a community. I am really so grateful. It’s just that there is also an undeniable element of it being really hard – to understand, to speak, to be on and alert for hours on end without really knowing what’s going on. Yeah, it’s just trying really really hard to be present for six hours straight. When the plan was for me to be there for an hour, I thought. So I love it. I’m so happy I’m there. It was just a little tough for parts of today. I started out tired, and then realized that the class that I was there to see a) was not actually a class, but just a time when kids could come over to watch a movie, and b) started not at 3:30 but at 5. So okay. Super long. But I mean I am so glad I got to talk to Pati and play with their little almost-two-year-old son. I understood so much more of what she said, and I was able to tell her really a lot in Spanish without thinking about it that much. That was really awesome in and of itself, in addition to connecting with her. So yeah. That was important.

Got home though just so so wiped. Erick and Edgar walked me to the stop (well, Edgar most of the way), and I really feel so warm and fuzzy about the immediacy of their care and concern for me. Touched, that’s what I am. Moved, even. Because I didn’t do anything to earn or deserve it. But, ugh, just I misunderstood the question Erick asked me, and I started talking about this whole other thing which is sort of a charged topic. Which I’m fine with that – had that been what he was actually asking about, I feel totally comfortable being honest about the fact that I feel different here. I just thought he was asking if I felt strange here, “Te sientas extraña?” I finally figured out that he was asking if I felt weird, or strange, about how concerned he and Edgar and Pati are about my safety, asking me to call, and sort of physically guiding me through the street, pulling my arm and stuff. Once I understood him I explained that I actually love all of that, that it makes me feel so good and safe and cared for. But I couldn’t figure out fast enough how to say that I hadn’t understood his question before, so I just really hope that he doesn’t think I meant any of that about my experience with Barrio Activo. I’m sure it’s fine, it’s just the kind of thing you can mull over a lot on an hour-long busride home. The stress and the exhaustion and the embarrassment I was feeling made me pretty touchy when I was starting to make dinner and tell Linet and Molly how my day went. At a certain point I just lost it, said, “Fuck it, you guys, fuck it. I can’t fucking do this,” and honestly pretty much stormed out of the kitchen and out of the Casa, and just turned around and said, “No” when Linet came after me. I just needed to walk, so I did. I walked and walked to this nearby park. And then just sat there for a while. I realized it was the first time I’d just had time and space really and truly to myself, and how hard this whole thing has been, in spite of it’s simultaneous really incredible-ness.

I told someone yesterday that I’m really not doing service work here. Honestly, the person who’s going to benefit the most from my time here is me. I felt weird about that when I first realized it writing the application (isn’t that selfish or something?). But I realized today that just because I’m not actually saving the world by being here doesn’t mean there’s anything easy about it. Just because I’m the only one benefitting doesn’t mean that it’s all fun and games. It’s amazing, yes, but a fucking legitimate challenge, too. So if you’re going to be impressed by me and the “work” I’m doing here, be impressed by that. I’m not saving anybody. I’m just putting myself through the wringer, and managing a genuine smile la mayoridad of the time.

1 comment:

  1. Annie, I hear what you are saying about benefiting the most from your time at the Casa, but I will nevertheless be impressed with your service. I watched the Freedom Riders (PSB website...see my post on facebook) and those people really took the brunt of of a lot of social change, but I bet if you asked any one of them, they would say that their experiences were VERY MUCH about their own growth. Saving the world, I think, means saving yourself, too, or something like that.

    I can't know how hard things are for you, but they seem balanced with great experiences, so achieving some balance is not bad for an adult life. I feel so grateful there are people looking out for you, concerned about your safety and well-being, providing gentle parenting, and I also feel grateful that you are okay with them doing it, that you feel cared for. That is another adult life experience some people unfortunately do not receive very often.

    You have really put yourself out there this time and something in you must have been wanting that and felt ready for that, and from my end of things, I am greatly admiring of your sense of purpose, commitment to values, and alertness to your feelings. Even as you navigate your days in Mexico City, you inspire and teach me!