Monday, June 21, 2010

Visit to Jose's Hometown

We went to Jose's hometown of Huetamo, Michoacan last week for the first time, although unfortunately it was after we learned of his 20 year old cousins death. Rufino, his cousin, had lived in Healdsburg for a few years and was the only cousin Jose really knew from his father's side. Rufino's father has lived with Jose's family for years and is probably the closest relative Jose has outside of his immediate family. His uncle had sadly lost another son 8 years ago and is still dealing with his death. It was important to Jose that he supported his uncle, who left the United States to take care of his son's funeral, so we took a bus to Huetamo the day after I got back from my trip to the U.S.

The 6 hour bus trip took us through the city, farmland, pine forests, and finally Jose's hometown in the dry desert. Huetamo is surrounded by high peaks of rock, and the flat land outside of town is used for farming and cattle grazing. The landscape is surprisingly gray because there is little more than short gray trees, rocky soil, and dry grass.

While the three years Jose lived in Mexico were actually spent in Los Cuachalalates, a rancho 15 minutes from town, all but his most distant relatives have moved to Huetamo. We visited Los Cuachalalates and the abandoned house he lived in. As with most houses, there are only three full walls to the house, with one side being only a three foot partial wall. The area is so hot that houses would be unbearable without an open wall to allow air to circulate. Los Cuachalalates is a small village with few people, dirt roads, and mostly abandoned houses owned by the people who have left for town or the United States. It looks and feels like a town on its way to becoming a ghost town.

Huetamo is a thriving town of about 20,000 people. Some neighborhoods have paved roads, many houses are modern (some even have air conditioning), and the downtown is bustling. It strangely also has cows, horses, and chickens roaming the streets. Jose and I stayed with his uncle Israel, his wife, and their three children in a nice part of town. We met family from the Arzates (the family of Jose's paternal grandmother, who died when his father was young), Mederos, and Baltazar (Jose's mother's side). Most exciting for Jose was meeting his paternal grandfather for the first time. After growing up hearing negative things about his grandfather, and never speaking to him, Jose was surprised to find a grandfather who was interested in him, affectionate, and very kind. We spent hours each day with his grandfather, and Jose left Huetamo feeling like he had suddenly gained a new grandparent.

Jose had only met a few of his father's relatives before we went to Huetamo. He now knows his cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandfather, as well as his father's cousins, uncles, and aunts. He thought he didn't have any family left in Mexico, but it turns out there are a lot of people in Huetamo who consider him family. I can't even remember how many people told us to not return to Mexico City, and I think Jose would have agreed to stay for quiet awhile if we didn't have our dogs waiting for us. He is already talking about going down for a few weeks after I leave if he can find someone to watch the dogs. While we went down to Huetamo for a sad reason, it ended up being an amazing trip that Jose will never forget.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

In California

As soon as I started to get bored and restless, life speed up so fast that I can’t believe it is already so late in June. The first few days of this month were filled with packing, spending time with Anna, and getting ready to go back to California. Anna and I flew back on the 7th, and I spent a few days in Healdsburg with my parents. The beauty of my parents’ house and garden amazed me. Many times each day I walked through the house and all around the yard marveling at what they have created in the 10 years they’ve owned the property. It is truly a magnificent place to live.

I stayed at my aunt’s house in Oakland the night before my UC Berkeley orientation on the 10th. I spent days planning how I would get to her house, before I finally realized that I know how to drive and could do it alone. We went out to eat gluten-free pizza the night before orientation, walked the dog, and watched the season finale of Glee. I was so comfortable at her house and know that spending the summer there will be great.

Orientation was almost 12 hours long, and most of it was spent in an auditorium listening to presentations by students and campus staff. It got pretty boring, but I got to meet with my Social Welfare advisor, officially declare my major as Social Welfare, and register for my first 10 units. I lucked out and snatched suddenly open seats in two education classes and got first on the wait list for a Chicano Studies class. I had wanted to enroll in all three classes, but thought I didn’t have a chance because they were already full before orientation. While I was registering, I happened to look at them again and got into the education classes. I was really lucky, because when I checked again at the end of my registration period, there was already long wait lists for all the classes. In late July I get to register for the rest of my classes and finalize my schedule, but so far it’s looking really good!

No surprise, it was great to be back in California. Just like when I visited in February, I was struck by how suddenly comfortable and relaxed I am in my parents’ house. That house is definitely my true home. Jose was always on my mind, and I felt his absence every moment, which made being home a little bittersweet. The day he is in Healdsburg, in that house again, will be one of the best days of my life and the start of a really great time.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

In Between

More than a month ago I found out I got into UC Berkeley.  For two weeks it filled me with more excitement than I could handle, and it was enough to satisfy me completely. Now, however, its been long enough that just knowing I got in isn't enough to keep me from getting bored.  I've looked up everything I possibly could on the Berkeley website, sent tons of paperwork, submitted a housing application, and made a class schedule. There is little to do now but start classes, and that's still a month away.

I'm flying back to California with Anna on June 7th for my school orientation on June 10th.  There I will register for my fall classes, be officially accepted into the Social Welfare major, and get a ton of other information.  I'm flying back to Mexico City after orientation to spend a few weeks with Jose before summer classes start, but I will be here during the World Cup, so I'm not sure how much of him I'll actually see.  At least I'll see my dogs and have plenty of time to get started on the reading for my classes.

 I have been so ready to start school that the last weeks have just seemed like an in-between time.  I'm relieved that I don't feel hopeless like before, but I am so eager to start that I am impatient.  I don't want to wish this time away, because soon I will wish that I could be with Jose, but I can't help wishing for it to speed up a little. I know that I will be busy; involved; and excited when school starts, and that sounds like an amazing way to be.