Friday, July 27, 2007

Last Arrival in Santa Cruz

After the week-long seminar, I stopped in the U.S. for a few days. There, in another quiet, upper-class area, I saw Mexicans lined up along the street early in the morning, apparently looking for work. By 9:30, most of them were gone. In the time I previously lived in that area, I’d never seen that. It seems to be a sign of how out of control the immigration situation is becoming – that in towns across America, immigrants stand out in the open looking for work. Yet they are relegated to remain separate, apart from the population and the culture as long as they don’t pay taxes and can’t legally integrate. It’s an issue that definitely needs addressing.

It was nice to enjoy a couple days of summertime as well as unpack boxes into what will be our new home. It’s old and uneven and the basement is full of dust, spiderwebs and even live spiders. But I love it. It full of the soft light of wooden floors, I find the small rooms cozy, and I love being within walking distance of cafes, shops and a library.

So when I flew into Santa Cruz last night, into the chilly late evening, I realized it would be the last time I’d be arriving, at least this year. Mark and I are expecting a child. So I’ll be staying here through the end of August, then will work remotely from our home until after the birth. After more than three years of overseas living, I’ll be based in the U.S. for the first time. That in itself will be quite an adjustment.

After years of being an overseas resident, I’m afraid I may be one of the people Samuel Huntington referred to in a 2004 article,

“Coming back to America from a foreign strand, they are not likely to be overwhelmed with deep feelings of commitment to their “native land.” Their attitudes and behavior contrast with the overwhelming patriotism and nationalistic identification of the rest of the American public. A major gap is growing in America between the dead or dying souls among its elites and its “Thank God for America” public.”

I don’t think it’s so much a lack of feeling or commitment for my country. But it’s a deep questioning of the popular mentality that comes from learning to look at the broader picture, to consider other perspectives, to not accept what one is fed by a single nationalist media, and to not believe in my country’s superiority without comparative proof.

While I’m seeing more and more the underside of my nation, the areas in which services are desperately needed – from improving healthcare to addressing immigration, from building workplaces and life structures that support community and balance to providing safety and a quality education to poor youth, these problems can seem vast – difficult for an individual to impact. Whereas it’s easier to find individuals and issues in other areas where smaller efforts can make a meaningful difference.

Upon exiting the airport in Santa Cruz, I hopped into a taxi outside the airport, shivering in my t-shirt. The driver wore a jacket, fingerless black gloves, and pulled his collar up around his neck, covering half his face. Unlike the kind old man I had as a driver last time, this one was young, the vehicle ratty and the streets dark and bare. I felt nervous to be alone and didn’t enjoy the ride to my apartment much. But luckily, all went well.

I’m satisfied with my new home in Santa Cruz. While it’s still cold, the wind is light, just a whistle outside my window. I have my own bedroom, bath, and walk-in closet. So even though I share the apartment with up to four others at a time, and cockroaches crawl through the kitchen, my room feels almost like an apartment of its own. For the times when I do emerge from my room, I enjoy having some company I can speak Spanish with.

I returned to work today, and to the routine I have adjusted to here in Santa Cruz. I work for a few hours in the morning, get a workout and something to eat during the lunch break, return to work refreshed for the afternoon, then have some time alone to myself in the evening. Only the weekends vary much. On short notice, I was able to quickly fill up my Saturday, leaving Sunday for some quiet time.

I always knew I wouldn’t stay very long in Bolivia. In fact, I’ve been here longer than the initial two to three months planned. However, now that I have my departure ticket for late August, I feel myself a temporary inhabitant more than ever. And I look upon my experiences with an air of finality, knowing I have only so much time to see what there is to see of this area.

1 comment:

Alyclepal said...

Oh Congratulations! You'll be a thinking, aware mom and have lots to teach a young one. I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past couple of years. This year I got to take a course on felting from a teacher who works with an NGO in Kyrgyzstan and am trying to find a way I could volunteer skills next year out there. Maybe its a dream right now but I'm still trying. If you get back in the States and would like some handknitted babyclothes send me an email and I'll make some for you! Lisa in NC/SC