Archive | July, 2015

Electrical Rebellion Smells Like Coffee

25 Jul

Remember that blog post I wrote about us getting electricity finally? A week and a half later we were plunged back into darkness, and I fell into the deep dark depths of despair over it. The worst part was that it was all because of our nasty, backstabbing neighbors.

Not the good neighbors, thank goodness; they had nothing to do with it. Both households of our friendly neighbors were supportive. Our other neighbors, however, all got together behind our back. They didn’t come say, “Gee, guys, how did you get electricity? How can we all get it?” No. They got together to complain that we had it. They went to the electric company, and instead of protesting the fact that we were supposed to have electricity six months ago, or that everything has been set up for us to have it for 3 months now, they went and protested only that we had it! They didn’t demand to have it themselves! They just demanded that we not have it. I’m still furious and shocked. Why would you do something just to hurt someone else, that has zero benefit for you? Nobody acquired electricity through their actions. What a waste!

So our lovely connection who hooked up our electricity in the first place went to talk to someone in the office. He, our connection, was told he’d have to disconnect us because we were causing too many problems. He said he’d take care of it in 2 days. So less than 2 weeks into our joyous venture in modern life, we were scheduled to return to darkness.

But he didn’t get around to shutting us off the day he was supposed to. He asked us to keep it on the down low that we still had electricity until he could come shut it down, so that he wouldn’t get in trouble. This meant that we couldn’t use our lights or our ceiling fans, since you could see all that from outside. We couldn’t use the blender or any other loud appliances.

But until we got shut off, we could charge things. We charged the lamps we used for light at night, without having to go back and forth to someone else’s house twice a day. So even though I was grumpy to not be able to use real lights, at least we didn’t have that errand.

It was still revolutionary having electricity, even without lights. The most amazing thing was plugging in the laptop. I could clean the house or do dishes with music on my laptop! Suddenly we had to start putting a limit on Lucia’s screen time, because for the first time ever she could watch a ton of videos without the computer going dead. Conan and I could watch a video together, too. I got to do exercise videos and write my blog and listen to music. Just plug in the laptop! What a world.

On the weekend I didn’t have to worry about where to charge my phone so that my alarm would go off on Monday morning. And even though we mostly couldn’t use the ceiling fans, we did use our two floor fans, which was still a huge relief from the non-stop heat and humidity. Plus I used our ceiling fan in the middle of the night a couple of times, when all the lights were out and I was sure no one could see. It was reassuring, too, to know that we had electricity. Lucia got a cold and we thought we might need a nebulizer for her again, and it was fantastic to think we could just plug it in and use it, instead of seeing whose house we could go to, or using up our car battery to plug it in.

And we bought a refrigerator! Despite knowing our electricity could be cut off any day, we bought a big, fancy refrigerator, with one of those things on the door for cold water to get into your cup without even opening the fridge. I’ve always wanted one of those. We bought a fridge and put a pillowcase over our small kitchen window and crossed our fingers that no one would realize we hadn’t actually been cut off yet. You should have seen Conan outside checking to see if it was noticeable, me opening and closing the refrigerator door, Lucia yelling to her Papi out the back door (in English, thank goodness). Granted, the water is something we have to fill up all the time, but Lucia can get water by herself. I can get water one handed while nursing. And did I mention it’s something I’ve never had and always dreamt about? It is amazing! And we can make ice! I can drink terere, my lovely Paraguayan iced tea, whenever I want, because I can make my own ice. We don’t have to buy ice to keep food cold(ish). I don’t have to stress about the shelf life of our leftovers or my breastmilk because- yikes! the ice in the cooler is running out again. No, now our fridge maintains a cold temperature all by itself! And we can freeze things! I can freeze breastmilk and Conan doesn’t have to go somewhere else to get it! It’s already right there in our house. I can make big batches of soups and stews and beans and things and freeze it for later! I’m going to make popsicles, someday, when it really sinks in that we have a working refrigerator. Because it is a paradigm shift, that’s for sure.

Using my coffeemaker every morning became an act of rebellion. It makes a pretty distinctive noise, but I was guessing that our closest neighbors would not recognize it as a coffeemaker since almost nobody has them, electricity or not. It was so nice to get up in the morning, press a button, and go lie down another 5 minutes until my caffeine fix was magically prepared for me. Every day that I could get up and do that, every day that we still had electricity, I decided it was going to be a good day. We were still in the dark, but we had so much more than before.

The worst part, though, was trying to explain to Lucia that she couldn’t turn on lights anymore. “But we got electricity now,” she said when we first told her that we didn’t / couldn’t have lights, after finally, finally having it. I almost broke down in tears over her confusion and the senselessness of it all. She is too little to understand or carry the weight of spiteful people trying to bring us down. So instead we fumbled around, nodding our heads that it didn’t make sense, but that was just how it was. Now we don’t have lights, okay? It’s really, really important that you don’t press the button. Thank goodness we have the best three year old ever and she accepted this absurd change in the situation and miraculously didn’t turn on lights after that.

Except for the bathroom light. We indulged ourselves on that one and kept on using the bathroom light. It’s in the interior of the house, and from outside it looked more or less the same as using one of our rechargeable lamps. It was another act of rebellion, and yet, unlike the joy of my coffeemaker every morning, it made me nervous as hell. I loved it, reveled in the act of flipping the switch, loved being able to really be illuminated in the bathroom. (Even though the only bad part of having electricity had been seeing how dirty my bathroom looked in the bright light! I think we’d never cleaned it as well as we thought because we’d never really seen it before! It was shocking.) But it was nerve-wracking! Every time I turned it on I pretty much started biting my nails, worrying that someone would realize and we’d get totally shut down. I kept thinking, “it’s not worth it to give up all these other electrical pleasures like floor fans and computer charging just to see all the grit on my bathroom floor.”

But here we are. A month and a half since we started stealing electricity (inadvertently stealing for lack of other options; I would have gladly paid for electricity since we built the house two years ago). Our electricity didn’t get shut off. And now, finally, finally we have electricity legitimately. Yep, boldface, folks, because now they can’t take it away. Okay, they can if we don’t pay the bill, but other than that, our electricity is here to stay! And now I can see at night to finish my chores. We can read the bedtime story without my cell phone light. We’re gonna bring our washing machine to Puerto. I’ve never been so excited in my life at the prospect of washing clothes and diapers. But oh! We’re going to save so much money! It’s going to be so much more convenient! Quote me on this, guys, in a couple of years- I’m dying to do laundry! There is so much to enjoy.

My most important plan is still just to get up every morning and press the button on my coffeemaker. To lie down another five minutes while it magically prepares my morning motivation. To decide that every single day that I have this, it’s going to be a good day. At least in the morning.

Evaluations and Califications in an English Class in Oaxaca

16 Jul

I’m a bit over a year into my perfect-for-now job, and I still love it (especially with vacation just a day away). This year our English program at my university changed our focus and our curriculum. We went from an almost-totally grammar-focused program to a focus on reading comprehension, mostly of scientific articles. That is what most of our students use English for, so it was exciting to try to craft something more relevant for them than reading paragraphs about Sonya’s Two Houses or having writing prompts about your last big vacation trip to Europe (ugh! Totally irrelevant to most students’ realities). Additionally, the curriculum change was thrilling because I’m a big nerd and I love love love to work on curricula.

So a ways into the new program we gave the students anonymous evaluations to get some feedback- mostly about the program, but also about the teachers while we were at it. Here are some highlights from my evaluations. Mostly they were written in Spanish and I’ve translated them, except where noted.

Some of my favorite off-the-wall ones:

“You all have done a better job, congratulations”

I guess this is “a better job” compared to the previous curriculum. It cracked me up because it sounded so patronizing, like, “finally, these teachers got it together to do something decent.” Bless.

“Raise the passing grade from 6 to 8.”

Grades here use a 0-10 system, with 10 being like an A plus. Previously the passing grade for English classes was a 7, but we lowered it to 6 for this year to see how the new program went over. Indeed, the lower passing grade was totally unnecessary for most of my students who put in a bit of effort. Unfortunately, most of the students in one particular major would have failed had it not been for the lower bar. I think this is due to a combination of factors- mostly the pressures put on them in their major combined with the belief that English isn’t important. Obviously, this is not a comment from that group. Regardless, I don’t think we’ll be raising it to an 8.

“The teacher July (sic) is an excellent teacher because all her classes are fun and interesting and she explains to us very well she is understanding and I appreciate her a lot.”

My thoughts: That’s a terrible run-on sentence! Add some periods and commas! But thank you for the compliments. Or is this secretly a poke at my English teaching? No, probably not. Okay, well, thanks, even if you just called me July.

Some of the nicest comments about me and my teaching:

“She’s very respectful and patient. She’s a professor who’s very attentive and responsible in terms of our learning and work. A wonderful and dynamic professor. Very good, thanks.”

A thank you and all! This is above and beyond a compliment!

“I like the class and Miss Julia’s form of teaching a lot, plus the class is very lively, interactive, and fun.” (“Miss” in English, the rest in Spanish)

“I just want to congratulate the teacher because she puts a lot of effort into the class every day to make it dynamic and not so boring.”

Again with the congratulations! I think it just works better in Spanish- felicitar. Whatever the case, I’m glad it’s “not so boring.” Too bad it couldn’t make it all the way to interesting, but alas, you can’t have it all.

“(Does your professor respond to questions respectfully?) Yes, it’s the most important thing, the professor always clears up our doubts. (Does your professor explain things clearly?) Of course. She always does whatever is necessary so that we we’re not left with any doubts. (Other comments) I hope the professor keeps it up because she’s very good at teaching others.”

Awwww, shucks.

The best ones in English (super kudos to all who wrote answers in English! Bravo! Way to go!):

(Does your professor respond to questions respectfully?) She always have answer for the question.  (Does your professor explain things clearly?) We can understand in class. (Other comments) In this class I am learn so much.”

Okay, so this student still hasn’t totally mastered present progressive change in his/her final year of English. She/he has forgotten that pesky 3rd person singular present tense change- have to has. There are much worse things. They can express themselves, and that is the most important part. Good thing we changed to a reading comprehension focus, too.

“She is very polite. I like how teach my English teacher she’s great.”

Yep, it is really hard to get sentence structure right when subjects and verbs just don’t have a definite order in Spanish. But wow! This is a level 1 student! And they used the word polite in English! That wasn’t even one of their official vocab words! That is an extra compliment in and of itself.

The not-so-nice comments about me:

“Although I think the program is very important and in some ways I like how the professor explains, what I don’t like is that she’s so strict, that she wants to follow all the rules.”

Me, follow all the rules? For real? Where did this come from? Perhaps this was somebody who was mad because I try to kinda-sorta enforce the attendance policy. Let me just say, I personally am against taking attendance in college. I think it’s insulting and unnecessary. By college, you’re a grown up, and you get to decide if you go to class or not. Miss enough classes and you’re more likely to fail, but I think it should be up to each student. But in general down here they don’t like to give much freedom to college students. They don’t even have a hang out spot on campus and they get moved along for sitting around on the ground in big groups.

Unfortunately, the attendance policy is not my decision; the university insists that all professors take attendance, and my department decides how many unexcused absences get you in trouble (absences without a doctor’s note or other officially sanctioned reason). If you miss more than 15% the class (around 12 absences per semester), we discount your midterm grade from your final class grade AND you have to pay a steep fine. I think it’s a crappy system, but the English department allows for way more unexcused absences than everyone else. And regardless, I didn’t make up the rule, and I’m not all that strict about it. I personally excuse absences all the time if people come up with a good enough excuse, even though technically only Student Services can excuse them. Because I know I’m not particularly strict, it was a bit amusing to get this as a complaint. It is right up there with my other negative comments (keep reading)- where I’m thinking, “Were you really in my class?”

(Does your professor respond to questions respectfully?) Yes, but sometimes she says it all in English. (Does your professor explain things clearly?) Yes, but sometimes it’s boring.”

Okay, this one is pretty good. I kinda like the brutal honesty there. And then I wonder, does the “she says it all in English” mean you find that disrespectful? Or is it just a misplaced comment? Is it not clear because I’m saying it in English? Apparently it is clear, because their next comment says I’m clear but boring. Who knows….

The really funny part about the next two is that they’re coming from first semester, level one students. One says “Explain more in Spanish” and the other says “I don’t understand when she speaks English”. If these comments were coming from my level 3 students, with whom I rarely speak Spanish, I’d understand. But in my first level classes I barely speak any English! Even when I do speak English, I usually repeat it in Spanish. The times when I exclusively speak English it usually involves lots of hand gestures, examples, repetition, etc. I’d been berating myself for not using more English in class, worrying that I’m not giving them enough opportunity to practice and understand English, and here some of them are, complaining that I need to speak more Spanish! Everyone’s a critic, folks.

Other random work fun / Best attempts to invent a cognate:

As you may or may not know, a cognate is a word that sounds/looks the same or very similar in both languages and means the same thing (not to be confused with words that look the same but mean something totally different). Spanish and English are full of fabulous cognates (like similar / similar, or dentist / dentista – I could go on for days.) Sometimes when you don’t know a word in the other language you can try to adapt the word- the way us gringos often try to just add an –o  to a word in English to make it Spanish. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

My students often do the same thing- use the rules that they have to try to guess a word they don’t yet know in English, making it a cognate. This is a good skill, and works wonders with words like evaluation- evaluación.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with all –tion to –ción words. The word for grade is absolutely not a cognate, and though I’ve told them over and over again, so many students keep wanting to make it a cognate. The word for grade in Spanish is calificacción. There is no such word as calification. No existe esa palabra. No such word. Repeat, repeat, repeat- grade.

So, because I’m a mean old English teacher, I scared the crap out of two of my students at the end of this semester who came into my office asking for their “calification.” “No!” I scolded. “You’ve failed now! Reprobados!” They stood looking at me. “Really?” One of them asked, wide eyed. “No,” I relented, too quickly to enjoy the torture. I wrote and pronounced for them again the word “grade” (with appropriate amounts of finger-wagging and smiling) and gave them their actual (passing) grades. “Teacher, you scared me,” one of them said. “That’ll help you remember the word grade forever, then,” I told him. “You can tell your future children about your mean college English teacher someday, and how you learned the word grade.” Will it stick for that long? Maybe, maybe not. But regardless, I do love my job.

Anti-Vaxxers: Sponsor a “Third World” Child for Vaccines

12 Jul

Here’s an idea to put some US excess to good use: All the anti-vaccine parents can send their kid’s share of vaccines to somebody who needs it in a foreign country! We could have TV campaigns, like those “for just a dollar a day, you can sponsor this little girl to go to school.” Except this could even be free, or close to it! “For just the use of your health insurance, plus shipping and handling, you could protect children like these from potentially deadly diseases” (cameras pan in on various-hued children from various countries).

Maybe I’m just slightly bitter about how hard it is to acquire this basic protection for my kids. Here we are in Mexico, scrambling and crossing our fingers to get vaccines for our kids in a timely enough manner for the vaccines to protect our kids, while a bunch of folks in the US are fighting to not use theirs. This post is totally not about hating on people for not getting vaccines, although honestly I don’t really understand it. I mean, why are people not vaccinating? Even if they believe the shabby excuse for science that claims vaccine can cause autism, isn’t autism preferable to possible preventable death? Don’t want to give your kid “unnatural” ingredients? Well I hope you’re not eating anything, either, because even food grown in your garden still likely has some dodgy substances from the soil, unless you live really far from all civilization. I mean, sure, it sounds gross that the polio vaccine has traces of baby cow blood serum*, but I’d rather have a shot of that than polio. But whatever. Don’t vaccinate your kid. It’s not my purpose to convince anybody today. Just pass along your vaccines instead.

Granted, this is Mexico, not, say, some country currently at war, or someplace where there’s no refrigeration for vaccines, etc. It shouldn’t be difficult here at all. Theoretically, all public health centers have them. So any hospital, Centro de Salud (health center), public insurance company (like my horrible insurance, IMSS, or the teachers’ company, ISSSTE), or other public health institution has them and gives them for free. All kids get a cartilla (a small booklet) where their vaccine records are documented. Most towns have one place where vaccines are available, or if it is too small a town you might have to travel a little bit. Additionally, a few private doctors carry them, but they are very expensive.

the cartilla

the cartilla

All in all, access to the places that provide vaccines isn’t bad, yet getting the vaccines is still easier said than done. The nurses who provide the vaccines have some different (outdated?) information than what exists in the U.S., for one, so they won’t give you a vaccine if they think they shouldn’t. For example, one time they wouldn’t give us I-don’t-remember-what combination of vaccines because they said they shouldn’t go together, so they gave Lucia one of them and told us to come back for the other in a couple weeks (at which point they were out of it, of course).

I spent the better part of this week trying to get Khalil his four-month vaccines, so far to no avail. I wanted to take him to the health center, and I had read that their strike was now over. However, when I asked around I found out that they’re still not providing most services, although their doors are open. So instead I went to ISSSTE, one of the insurance companies, on my lunch break. When the health center was first on strike back in May and it was time for Khalil’s two month vaccines, a doctor had told me that technically any public institution had to provide vaccines, even if the kid isn’t with the insurance company. So I went to ISSTE then and had no problems. This day, though, I had bad luck, since there was a professional development talk happening about some mosquito-born illness, and so they weren’t giving vaccines. Some nice employee told me to go back the next morning at 8 AM.

The whole family went back the next morning and stood outside the door of the preventative medicine room. Conan went and asked if they were giving vaccines or what, since we’d been standing there since 5 after 8 and 20 minutes later there was still no sign of life from the vaccine-giving nurses. The employee assured Conan that they’d surely be opening any minute now. Sure enough, about 8:30 a nurse walked out of the room and proceeded to ignore us, even though we’d been knocking on the door. Conan stopped her to ask if we could go in now. “What did you need?” she asked. “Vaccines for the baby,” I told her. “How old is he?” she asked. I told her, and she said, “No, come back in a week. We don’t have vaccines right now.” I assumed that they just didn’t have those particular vaccines, so I told her we were still missing the tuberculosis and the 2nd hepatitis B vaccine as well. “No,” she said, “we don’t have any right now. Try back next Thursday or Friday.”

So what was the point in asking how old Khalil is, if they didn’t have any vaccines of any type anyway? And why didn’t anyone tell us before that they didn’t have any vaccines? Neither the employee the afternoon before nor the one we asked that morning happened to mention that we were wasting our time because they’re out of all vaccines. Did they just not know? And why didn’t they know, if that was the case? I should know by now there’s no rationalizing the situation about health care around here, and yet I continue to wonder about these things.

We are leaving for Kentucky next Saturday, and I’d really, really like to have him up-to-date before we’re in international airports and the like. If they do have the vaccines on Friday, then we’re all good, but sometimes they tell you a date and it turns out they don’t get the shipment after all. I don’t really understand why there’s so often a shortage on vaccines down here, but it’s just another fact of life. So, against my better judgment, I decided to chance my luck at IMSS.

If you read my blog regularly you know that IMSS, my health insurance company, is pretty much my arch nemesis. It is a building full of incompetent, rude, and uncaring bureaucrats disguised as health professionals (maybe not everyone in the building is like this, but it’s certainly the majority). I haven’t signed up either of my children or my spouse to receive their services, because I care too much about my family to send them there. IMSS in the state of Chiapas is also the party responsible for the deaths of 2 infants and the illness of several others when some nasty bacteria somehow found its way into a batch of vaccines recently. (Note- this wasn’t because of the vaccine itself, it was negligence on someone’s part, and yet nobody around here started saying that we should stop giving our kids vaccines.) Still, I reasoned that the chances of something bad happening were slim and it was a worthwhile risk to get him protected from whooping cough and the likes.

There were 2 people in line for preventative medicine services when I arrived, plus someone inside. When the person in the office was finished, one of the nurses came out, and I stopped her to ask if they had vaccines, before I waited even longer in vain. “Is the baby insured here?” she asked me rudely, even though they are supposed to give vaccines to children regardless. I explained that I hadn’t signed him up yet (nor will I ever, I didn’t say) but that I am insured there. “You’re supposed to take him to the Centro de Salud if they don’t have insurance here,” she grumbled, and I told her that they aren’t giving vaccines right now. “Let me see the cartilla” she said, and I handed it over to her. She glanced at it and finally said that they only had 2 out of the 4 that we needed. I decided it was probably worth the wait to go ahead and get the half available, so I stayed.

When it was finally my turn, I went into the room and handed the other nurse Khalil’s cartilla. She looked at it and immediately said, “No. This is for the 18th of July.” She pointed at the dates that were written in pencil on his vaccine sheet. (They always write a tentative date in pencil for whatever dose you’ve got coming up.) Of course I knew that that was the date they’d written in, that being exactly two months from his first dose, but it was a one-week difference, and I thought that they would listen to reason. I should have known better. “No,” the nurse told me, still pointing like a teacher with a difficult student. “He got this dose on the 18th of May, so the 18th of July is two months later.” “Right,” I agreed, “but it doesn’t have to be exactly two months.” At least that had been my experience with Lucia in the U.S., what her pediatrician there had told me, what other agencies say**. This nurse, however, disagreed. So what was the point in the other nurse checking the cartilla, making me wait for nothing? Perhaps insurance companies make more money for longer wait times, for fewer services provided. It remains one of the great mysteries.

So we’re left to hope that vaccines will be in by Friday and that they’ll be able to give them to us (even though it will be one day before the 18th! gasp!!). Meanwhile, we’re now accepting donations from all non-vaccinating parents! Send your vaccines on down and sponsor poor Third World children like these.

Send these children vaccines from the First World! Or at least lesson the absurdity of acquiring vaccines here, please.

Send these children vaccines from the First World! Or at least lesson the absurdity of acquiring vaccines here, please.

*I read this in The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Robert W. Sears. I bought this book when Lucia was born to be informed about vaccines. I am totally about people making informed decisions. Further, in the U.S., people have the ability to get their vaccines on an alternate schedule, or to get certain brands instead of others. That’s fine and reasonable, since the U.S. is all about choices and such, and I used to feel like that too. Even here I use what little bit of choice I have about vaccines to delay the Heptatitis B vaccine until Khalil was 2 months old, based on what I know about risks and benefits. I get wanting to be informed and wanting to protect your kids. But I don’t get not vaccinating at all. I just don’t get it, sorry.
**According to the CDC, most of these vaccines can be separated by as little as 4 weeks, not a minimum of two months. FYI, Oaxaca.

Date Night: There Should Be a Law!

5 Jul

Dear Pre-Having-Children Self,

I promise that you still exist. You are still the same interesting, vibrant, and yes, sexual human being you were before. Before your reality consisted of so much “pee pee and poopies” and drool and vomit and other such bodily fluids and functions. Before your conversations tended to vaccines and bedtime routines and how many ounces of milk did he drink and what do you want for school lunch tomorrow and you know we don’t color on the walls. Before you spent half your waking and some of your sleeping hours cajoling little ones to sleep, to shower, to brush teeth, and other such horrors that they don’t want to do. Before, when you had the time, energy, and privacy to be intimate with your partner on a very regular basis, in a not-rushed, shit-one-of-them-is-waking-up kind of way.

Seriously, dear pre-child self, life is not over! None of this will last forever. And your essence lasts. You are still you, and there is still excitement, romance, and travel to be had for you. Sure, you gotta pack 10 times as much stuff just to go down the street. Sure, you have to acquire something beyond bread and cheese to eat if you do manage to get out of town. Sure, it takes a bit more imagination now to see yourself and your partner outside of the butt-wiping role. But it’s all within your reach! You are still a cool, awesome, sexy, intriguing human being, somewhere in there!

My two main reasons for being just-as-cool-but-in-very-different-ways-as-before. They are pretty worthwhile reasons, though. And did I mention that I am just as cool as before? Seriously (Convincing self)....

My two main reasons for being just-as-cool-but-in-very-different-ways-as-before. They are pretty worthwhile reasons, though. And did I mention that I am just as cool as before? Seriously (Convincing self)….

Every 3-6 months or so I remember this, when Conan and I manage to go on a date. I know, I know, THAT IS NOT OFTEN ENOUGH. Regularly scheduled adult time should be on the list of basic human rights. There should be a law about monthly dates for parents- and if you could pull off weekly, then perhaps separation between parents would be reduced by half or more. This is my firm belief, and yet somehow months still pass between grown-up-only outings. There are so many barriers stacked against us- lack of money, lack of trusted babysitting folks who live in town, lack of time and planning, etc. etc. But we’re getting there. It was only a 3 month gap this time, between dates, and I’ve got plans for the future. There will always be barriers (the main two being small creatures named Lucia and Khalil), just like there are always just as many (or more) reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy. You just have to try to put more weight on the reasons to be happy, and you gotta find ways to get out without the small creatures, no matter what. (“Cheaper to go out than to get a divorce!” I keep reminding us.)

date night 2 weeks post-partum- feeling subconscious, but it's a necessity to go out when we can!

Date night 2 weeks post-partum- feeling subconscious, but it’s a necessity to go out when we can! (We didn’t get a pic from this most recent date.)

So my mother-in-law was in town and about to leave again, and if we didn’t overcome the other barriers it’d be more months before we had a date. Granted, my pre-child self would have laughed at these barriers, scoffed at the idea that they could stop us, but, you know, just because my pre-child self still exists in me doesn’t mean we’re one and the same.

There was lightning just down the way, coming from the mountains, and great thunderous booms that suggested a raging storm coming in. Our car- which has been working only off and on lately- was working a bit, which made it an almost guarantee that it would putter out soon. These were not normal conditions for us to go out on a Sunday evening, but it was now or never, so we took our chances.

We had talked about taking public transport for our date, but with the skies about to open up on us, Conan insisted on taking the car. It died as we were backing out of our “driveway,” but he managed to start it again and it got us out of our neighborhood right as the rain started. Another two minutes down the road it died again and refused to cooperate. But who cares?! We were on a main road already, and did I mention we were childless?! What’s a little summer storm and a busted car in the face of youthful romance?!

el  poderoso, our little car, in the dirt driveway Conan made

el poderoso, our little car, in the dirt driveway Conan made

We jumped out of the car as a bus passed by, and we hopped on. It was only slightly dryer inside since all the windows were still open and rain was pouring in. I watched in awe as the street turned into a river before my eyes. Conan had told me that we were lucky, in a way, that our street is unpaved, because there’s no drainage on the paved roads, so they flood almost immediately. But I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I realized that in the year and a half I’ve lived here, I’ve never been out and about during a really big storm. It doesn’t rain all that much, for one, and I’m usually either at work or at home when it does, since it mostly rains in the evening. I was well overdue for experiencing my town in a good hard rain.

And it was romantic! To sit on a bus together, holding hands, wet and smiling, not worrying about children. We got off the bus where two big roads meet, where we were going to have to walk a few blocks down the road to get to our favorite pizza place. As soon as we got off, we realized our mistake. The street we needed to cross had rain at least a foot deep, maybe more, and had its own strong little current, as if it really were supposed to be a river. The bus was stopped at a light still so Conan asked the driver if he’d take us just across the road. The driver agreed but we couldn’t get all the way back on or we’d set off the sensor that shows how many people boarded the bus. So we rode on the bottom step, with the door open, scrunched in hugging each other tightly around the curve. Adventure and romance for us at last! It would have only been better if we were in some foreign country where we didn’t speak the language. Alas, you can’t have everything.

We’d made it across the river but the spot where the bus delivered us this time had no awning or protection of any form. So we ran, still hand-in-hand, instantly soaked in the pounding rain, towards the shelter of a nearby government building, where it just so happened there were brass instruments blaring and people dancing. We joined the party and danced until our feet were sore.

Okay, that’s a lie- the dancing part. Y’all know Conan doesn’t dance without a couple drinks in him, and it wasn’t our kind of music anyway (Lucia would have loved it, but- marvel of marvels!- she wasn’t with us). I did enjoy the ambience and the excitement of the moment, the exhilaration of something unpredictable happening and being able to just go with it instead of stressing about it being a total disaster. I reveled in the spontaneity and laughed at myself. Because if I had told my 17 year old self, or even my 25 year old self, that I would one day see something so simple as an evening out in the rain as an amazing romantic adventure, I would never, ever have believed it.

But life’s funny like that, so there we were, debating about our next move. We refused to pay a taxi to take us a few blocks down the road, because they’d have to charge us the minimum fee- too much for such a short trip. Conan was already cold and shivering and not excited about getting wetter. I tried to hitch us a ride with a couple cars passing in the right direction, but they didn’t pay any attention. We couldn’t come up with any other options, so we ended up walking through the no-longer-pounding rain.

Nothing else wild or amazing happened. We went with a medium pizza, due to budget constraints, a new kind that Bruno had just started added to the menu. It was fabulous, like all his pizzas, and we had a lovely cappuccino to get the cold wetness out of us. We still had a little bit of money left, so I bought 2 pieces of fancy chocolate at a coffee shop down the street, and we stopped by a newish sushi place to split a cup of their miso soup. Since it was a bit late for public transport, we got a taxi back to our car, which started up by then and managed to take us home. We chatted. We ate. We laughed. It was just a night out for a married couple.

Which is, actually, AMAZING. Revolutionary. Intensely earth-shattering. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really earth-shattering but it was like a recharge on my battery, like putting a deposit into the bank of myself, as my dear friend Meg would say. You can’t make withdrawals all the time and not put anything back in. And especially after all those months of pregnancy, which is its own little constant withdrawal from the bank of self-care, I needed another date!

Maybe I can’t go on outrageous trips to far-away countries and get lost in the streets, drinking wine and making friends with strangers. Maybe I have to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to butt-wiping and nap-time routines. Maybe my body is never going to look like it used to, either. I can still find adventure, can still revel in the not-butt-wiping moments, can still feel sexy. I am still me (I do believe, I do believe, like in that one Peter Pan movie), and nothing lasts forever, so I will enjoy all the kinds of moments (maybe not every moment, though), appreciate all the kinds of adventure that exist, butt-wiping and beyond. I am still cool, and I will appreciate myself and my cool partner! We’re gonna make date night a monthly law.