Friday, May 14, 2010

Travel and Arrival

Lynn and I wait patiently at the Mexican Aduana (Customs) office at the border in Nogales. It is an austere white plaster room with nothing more than an old folding table and some grubby glass fronted offices surrounding it. Two young women work at a computer in one of the rooms, and another young woman is processing papers for a group of Mexican guys and one gringo, an expat. There is always a sense of the unknown here – what will they not like about our list? What will they put us through before we can pay and be on our way with all our American stuff?

The men move on and the young woman says “Pasa les” (Come in.) We hold our breath as she looks at Lynn’s list. “Que es?” She points to an item on our list. Not knowing the Spanish word for frying pan, we had decided upon “Cosa para cocinar” (thing for cooking.) She wants to know what kind of thing for cooking. Is it a spoon or a stove? Could be anything.

I make gestures of tossing something in a frying pan. Still not clear. Lynn finally turns over the list and draws a sideways profile of a frying pan. I add some jagged lines underneath to indicate flames. I see the light bulb go on in the young woman’s mind and the hint of a sly smile come over her face. She takes the paper and draws a sunny-side up egg in the pan. We all crack up, laughing almost until the tears come. Then she gets all serious and says “sarten.” She writes it out. I will never forget the Spanish word for frying pan again!

This short moment breaks the tension and speaks volumes. It is so easy to see foreign people, particularly uniformed customs agents as “the other.” I tend to fear them because of the power to bestow hassles and delays that they hold. This small gesture unites us in hilarity and humanity. Suddenly she is no longer “the other,” but a woman who could be our friend, joking with us. After this, she quickly writes out the form, asks us if the total amount is OK with us and sends us on our way with a chuckle.

We go to the next office – the bank – and pay the duty she has specified and then head back to the car. Lynn says “Pray for a green light!” I do. We drive up to the gate and wait to see what color light we will get – will the car be inspected or not? A motionless inspector in a dark uniform stands far in front of us staring at us as we stare back at him. Suddenly, the light flashes green, he waves at us, and we are on our way!

At Home in Banamichi:
I am astonished by how much things in the yard have grown. It is almost as if the plants know that the hot season is coming, and they have said to themselves, “Wow! I better do my thing now, because soon it will take all my energy just to stay alive.”

The corn plants, which just 3 weeks ago were 18 inches are now chest high with tassels and ears beginning to form. The tomato plants have grown to fill their cages and have small green fruits on them. Five zucchini the size of my arm lie shaded by the large bristly leaves.

Chard is the veggie that won’t quit. It seems like the more we use it, the more it grows. It is waist high with brilliant red and yellow stalks, and some of it is beginning to bloom. Note to myself: half a row of that stuff is plenty!

Meanwhile, the tiny mango tree has several hard little green fruits, and the peach tree is covered with peaches. The herb garden has gone haywire with mint that is waist high.

The trumpet plant (decorative datura) was waist high 3 weeks ago, and now it is as tall as I am and its flowers send out their sickening sweet intoxication into the night air. I can see the growth of the sunflowers from one day to the next.

What a joy it is to grow things in fertile soil and a productive climate. Even the papaya seeds that Terry saved from last-year’s fruit have sprouted! I accidentally plucked most of them when I was weeding, but that is a good thing – what would we do with 10 papaya trees? What will we do with the 3 or 4 that remain?

I love this season here. I also enjoy the last breath before the heat. The mornings are deliciously cool and fragrant with flowers and alfalfa. In the morning I walk around the yard with a cup of chai inspecting the state of the garden. Birdsong is loud and insistent. Hummingbirds zip in for the first taste of nectar today. Aircraft noise is conspicuous by its absence, although I see a vapor trail way overhead.

I work in the garden until the sun is directly overhead and begins to burn my skin. Lunchtime. By mid-afternoon I can almost see the plants turning within themselves and shrinking in the glare. Soon it will be this hot all the time. I head indoors to rooms kept cool by 20 inches of adobe walls. As the sun sinks and the shadows grow long and blue, the coolness and fragrance return to the air – I can smell the dust, and the flowers again – so sweet.

1 comment:

  1. I like both stories and I think that each one could be broken down to its own story - blog post. Who is Lynn - a friend from home? Where is home? Remember, that even though I am your only follower right now, you are writing to a broader audience that doesn't know you or anything about where you are going. Right? Again, good beginning!