Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Las Oaxaquenas

I had breakfast with my Oaxaquena posse this morning and I again was struck with what luck I have had making friends in a foreign country, speaking in a foreign language. To be sure, there are huge gaps in my understanding that seem to arise more from cultural differences than linguistic differences, like the look of shock Flor gave me when I treated for her breakfast as a belated gift. Al norte, it would be so easy to insist, "I'm treating!", but here it felt like I had done something terribly strange.

The strangeness aside, though, my friends always shock me with some little bit of information, an insight into their version of contemporary Oaxacan culture, that makes me appreciate them so. For example, they often complain about machismo or women not being able to stand up for themselves in certain situations, and it just goes against this stereotype of the more traditional Mexican woman. They rehearse strategies for speaking with their husbands about touchy subjects, and we all argue about approaches and commiserate.

I walked home feeling elated that they would welcome me and trust me so, but I might also have been fueled by the two cups of coffee I drank, not a typical ritual for me (but necessary because La Geni spent midnight to early morning grumpy with a slight fever and I awoke thinking I could not bear to socialize in Spanish for three hours).

What Oaxaca and just expatriation does to people is of an eternal fascination to me, because I am only starting to understand the magnitude of our decision to sell everything we own and live in Mexico. For me, it was a test sort of, a wondering, if I could really live somewhere foreign and feel like it was home, especially in regard to forging new friendships, something which rarely comes easy to me. It's never smooth but, in some ways, foreign friendships can be more freeing, because you have to let go of so much of your worries and your past, unless you have the time and the grammar to adequately express it all.

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