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Monday, January 25, 2010

January: Part I--Feliz Ano Nuevo!

The beginning of January marks four months now that I have been living here! Oh yeah, Happy New Year. But, before I get ahead of myself—December ended with a constant flow of celebrations and holiday cheer.

“Posadas” are any parties held during the month of December, in anticipation of Christmas. What makes any dinner gathering a “posada” are a few crucial elements: tamales, pozole (soup with meat and corn), alcohol, and singing. Singing you ask? Yes, well the tradition is to re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging the night before the birth of Jesus, and they do this by song. The party splits up into two halves and creates a physical distance between the two groups, either by going outside the front door, or on the street, or even a slightly lower part of the house or patio. The “outsider” group represents Joseph and Mary, and the “insider” group represents the inn or residents of the barn they are trying to stay at. The two sides sing to each other, taking turns singing their scripted lines, and then finally the outsiders are let in and the whole party reunites and sings together…And then continues eating and drinking together.

About now you’re wondering when I’m going to make a funny comment or something, in desperate attempts of keeping your attention. Well, as of yet, I’ve got nothing, so just keep reading.

A lot of family from the States flew in for the end-of-the-year festivities, and so it was good getting to see them, especially those that I haven’t seen in a long time. Some of them I didn’t even remember too well but it was good seeing them again, and reestablishing a relationship. However, I find I am constantly asking myself who is or isn’t family, if so, what that makes them to me, and how it is exactly we are connected. For example, with all the posadas and everything, on one instance I met the brother, wife, and kids of the spouse of my first cousin of one of my aunts. For all I know there might exist a title for that connection, but I sure don’t know it. Another time I met the youngest nephew (and his family) of one of my aunts, but on her husband’s side, and tried to figure out if that makes him anything to me. It is quite impressive how they keep track of relationships here, from the nucleus of one’s family—mom, dad, brothers and sisters—further out to spouses, children, brothers-and-sisters-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, second cousins, and then again the spouses and children of these ever-expanding relationship networks. So you don’t date or marry a single person down here, but rather, their family network.

All that said, all the way from Labor Day back in September, all of the “American” holidays beginning with labor day have been “first-time” holidays outside of the country, and it has been a different experience for me, as I have mentioned before. I suppose the main “experience” of it is this: whereas in one country, everything shuts-down for a given special day (e.g. holiday), but the day passes like any other in a different country, without the slightest indication that it is a holiday for millions of others. I guess it has just been a lesson in cultural relativity, and emphasis of cultural traditions, because hey, after all, I am living in a different culture than the one I grew-up in.

Lastly, here are some “how-you-know-you-are-in-Mexico” moments:

-you need to drive at all speed bumps at a severe angle, otherwise the car will scrape not because it has been lowered or “tricked-out,” but because it has too many people in it.

-you have ceased to be surprised by scooters or motorcycles (made for 2 people, maybe) going by that are carrying 4 or 5 people—without helmets. Example: recent quote from a friend (translated), “Look at this guy—he’s leaving with the entire preschool on his scooter!”

-you have ceased to be awakened by the roosters next door which begin cock-a-doodle-dooing at 4a.m.

-everyone has (pay-as-you-go) cell phones down here, but no one ever has any “minutes” left on their balance, so they just wait around for each other to call.

-when you sleep, your dreams take place in Mexico. And are in Spanish.

I will probably have another post up on here in about a week or so (I’m telling the truth this time, I swear!); the material’s already written, I just don’t want to bombard you with too much writing in one entry. Hope all your holidays passed well, and we’ll talk soon.