Tag Archives: new mama

Epic Burgers

5 Sep

I didn’t plan to come to Mexico to eat burgers. Yes, burgers. Not burritos. Not chimichangas (which aren’t real Mexican food anyway). No. Burgers. Go figure. I’ve been a vegetarian, most of the time, since I was 11 years old. The exceptions have been mostly when I’ve been out of the U.S., which has been quite a bit in the past 10 years. Even so, the past several countries have all been in Latin America, and while I’ve eaten meat there (even Chilean versions of hot dogs!), I have not eaten a burger in at least 7 years. I believe the last time I ate a burger I was in Italy, with a horrendous case of boot-rot, and in an effort to avoid walking my travel partner got us McDonald’s, since it was the only very close food available where we were staying. (We swore each other to secrecy from the shame and irony.)I don’t even like burgers, or most meat, really. I eat it when I’m away because I want to try all the typical food in a country, because it’s convenient and I don’t always have access to what I would normally cook for myself, because I don’t want to reject food that kind people offer me. But I don’t get excited about meat, especially burgers.
But we walk down the street to visit Epic (whose name is actually Epigmenio, who people call Epig, which sounds more like Epic). I am not planning on eating a burger. But I am desperate to get out of the house, so I gladly accompany Conan, with Lucia wrapped up against my chest, of course. Epic is friendly. He speaks directly to me. He smiles- and has very cute dimples, by the way. He has that idiosyncratic I’m-super-busy-working-very-fast-but-it’s-all-cake-to-me, laid-back attitude that experts in the service industry do so well. It’s the first time I’ve seen that attitude here in Mexico, where tips do not prevail. It takes me back to that camaraderie of the restaurant business in Louisville. He chats with us despite the blaring volume of telenovelas, which he glimpses at from time to time- super multitasking, as busy as he is that night.
I can’t believe how many people come for his burgers. That night he runs out of burgers, so many people come, but he still has some hotdogs left…. More than the sheer quantity of burgers, I can’t believe what these burgers look like. I watch him prepare plenty of them before he gets around to taking our order- and by then I’ve decided that yes, I have to have one. Because these are Mexican burgers, after all. And not just Mexican burgers- these are fucking epic burgers.
Let’s see if I can manage to name all the ingredients:
-the burger (which I might add, is local beef, ground the same day, formed into patties by hand that afternoon- although I didn’t learn that till later)
-american cheese (or some equivalent of gross orange-yellow version of cheese, ew)
-pineapple (for the Hawaiian burger, which I ordered)
-quesillo (delicious Oaxacan melty cheese)
-fried onions
-ketchup AND mustard AND mayonnaise
And the verdict is in…. they’re fantastic! (Okay, so I got mine without bacon or American cheese. Even when doing as the Romans do and all that, you gotta have some standards.) You might think I can’t make a fair comparison, since I hadn’t had a burger in years. But come on, converting a vegetarian is a pretty impressive feat.  I advise you all to abandon your fast food burgers immediately, and high tail it to Juquila.
Even more important than the burgers (and what, you ask, could be more important than burgers?), I’m turning Epic into my first friend in Juquila. Call it instinct, sixth sense, intuition, whatever- Epic exudes friend-material energy; he’s friendly but also, I think, sarcastic and skeptical, he’s funny and giggles easily, and I think he’s strong and tough and nice and lovely. I don’t actually know him, especially not that first night when I go and eat his hamburgers, but I warn him that same night that he’s gonna end up being my friend. More details on that later, but I will mention that so far so good- he’s even the first visitor that’s come to the house to see ME (not for Conan, not for Lucia- but to talk to me!)…. I think it’s gonna be an epic friendship.

Lucia in the sky with diamond… earrings? Or not. And other mama drama

5 Sep

Lucia, being a baby of not-quite 2 months old (at the time of writing this), looks pretty androgynous.  In the U.S., the color of baby clothing is what tends to identify a baby’s sex. I even had a nurse think that what was on the medical chart identifying my baby as a girl must have been wrong, since the baby was wearing green. In Mexico, apparently what identifies sex is earrings, or the lack thereof. So since Lucia doesn’t have her ears pierced, everyone assumes she’s a boy. When we say she’s a girl, people are shocked and dismayed. “When are you gonna do her little holes?” they ask. “When she asks for it,” we reply.  That stops some folks, but others insist that that’s silly; she really needs some earrings.
People also believe that babies here are cold all the time and must be totally bundled up, even in sunny, 80-degree weather. “Where are her socks? Where’s her hat?” someone scolded me (this is a theme, really). “It’s hot out,” I asserted. “When did she tell you she was hot?” Around the same time she told you she was cold- I didn’t say. What’s even better (“better” being more ironic and irritating) is when strangers insist on holding my child, and then when she cries they tell me it’s because she’s cold, or for some other reason which is surely my fault. It couldn’t be because she doesn’t want to be in their arms, even though she was not crying in my arms just 3 seconds ago and now that you’ve given her back to me she’s stopped crying again. No, no, you, the stranger, surely know better than I what’s wrong with my baby. Thank you.
Which brings us to another baby mama drama of mine: strangers snatching my baby from me. I realize it’s probably universal that people like to hold babies. I don’t normally mind other people holding Lucia. In fact, it’s often a nice little break for me and her papi. But my mama-bear instincts kick into high gear when people who haven’t even introduced themselves to me come up and try to take my baby out of my arms. There’s no, “oh, can I hold the baby?” or even, “hello, my name is so-and-so”. They just come and reach out their arms, and I’m a big bitch for not wanting to hand over my baby. I don’t care if they know Conan, or Conan’s mom Paulina. I don’t know them. And I am (one of two people) responsible for Lucia’s wellbeing. Even if it weren’t dangerous (and parents, you try telling me you like to hand your newborn off to strangers on a regular basis), it’s still exceedingly rude. I can’t imagine trying to take someone’s baby out of their arms without a) asking them if it’s okay, and b) INTRODUCING MYSELF, if it’s not already a friend of mine. Part of this is, I believe, another symptom of me not being a real human being here (or maybe there’s another reason why so few people will speak directly to me?). For example, day 2 in Juquila, I go to the corner store with Paulina, with Lucia in her wrap as usual. People in the store come make a fuss about Lucia (Okay, cool. She is an adorable baby and all that.), but they ask Paulina if it’s her baby. Ummm, have you seen Paulina pregnant in the past year? Is Paulina carrying this baby around wrapped up against her body? You obviously can’t really mean to ask if this is Paulina’s baby, so why are you asking that? Is it that important to not acknowledge my existence? We could make a comic book character out of me- the invisible mommy. Look! There’s a floating nipple feeding that baby! Look! That baby is walking down the street held up by thin air! Bless their little hearts, they surely just want to help poor Lucia, as it must seem that she’s all alone.
And then I have culture shock around safety. Car seats are practically non-existent, for example. We went out to eat tlayudas a couple days after arriving. A friend of Conan’s picked us up in their car, so we had our car seat ready to go. The friend rolled down the window and his 7 month old daughter was sitting on his lap. He says he’s teaching her to drive, and doesn’t understand why we’d want to use the car seat. Granted, I understand better as we drive around town- between all the hills and curves and speed bumps, the random livestock and the people in the street, you never actually pick up speed. But in this case my cultural idea of safety is soooo deeply ingrained that I can’t help but feel nervous and upset. All I can think is that of course it’s fine to ride around without a car seat- unless something happens. So I wrap her tightly in her wrap, pressed up against my body, put a seat belt around us both, and throw a prayer to the wind. What else can I do?
Being a mom in a foreign country adds a whole new dimension to what it means to adapt. I have always considered myself such a chameleon, so capable of accepting whatever happens as an interesting story, if nothing else. But between the fact that I live here now, that I’m not just passing through, and the fact that I have this adorable, precious, teeny-tiny being to take care of, it’s a whole new ballpark deciding where and how to stand my ground, where and how to refuse to adapt, and how to do it graciously. No one said that motherhood would be easy.

That was then, this is now: the move

27 Aug

I was walking through the airport, pushing one of those carts that you can rent. It was almost overflowing, with 2 carry-on-sized suitcases, a backpack, a laptop, and a diaper bag. And those were just our carry-ons; we had 5 other full-sized suitcases we’d checked. It seemed absurd and excessive almost, but when you think about packing up your entire life- for you, your partner, and a 7 week old baby- getting it down to just a few suitcases isn’t really so bad.
But I was thinking more about 10 years before. I saw myself, barely 18 years old, headed off to spend 6 months in Europe, waking through the airport alone, my hair a mix of purple, red, and blue, a scowl on my face, hung over from my good-bye party that had lasted into early that morning, with nothing but a backpack. Not a backpacker backpack, mind you, but rather a school backpack. And that was all. No checked luggage. No purse. Just me and my backpack, and all my hopes and fears. I was sure I had everything I needed- essentially a couple changes of clothes, a toothbrush, a book, and a raging sense of adventure. What I lacked in packed items I more than made up for with my blank-slate-open mind and heart.
Ten years later, I’d like to think I’m just as adaptable. But I know I’m not. My life is different; I’m different. I’ve got way more baggage, in more ways than one. But that baggage is a mixed bag; it also means I have way more to bring to the table. And so this new phase begins.




Here we are on the plane:



27 Aug

Essentially, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement kicked all 3 of us out of the country: Conan, a citizen of Mexico who’d lived in the U.S. for almost his entire adult life thus far; me, Julia, a U.S. citizen scathingly skeptical about the land of the free; and Lucia, our newborn daughter, a little bitty dual citizen. So here we are, on our grand adventure in transition from Louisville, Kentucky (population approx. 1 million, or a bit less) to Juquila, Oaxaca, Mexico (population approx. 14,000, plus a whole bunch of pilgrims paying homage to the Virgin of Juquila).  It promises to bring very different kinds of joys and challenges for each of us. And it seems certain to be interesting, one way or another. Let our exile begin!