Posts Tagged ‘Real Life’

Dear Oaxaca,

Bright yellow Oaxacan walls

Hey love, how have you been? Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I’m back. I don’t know if you noticed but I took a little spontaneous trip to see New York a few weeks ago. I know, I know, I’m cheating on you again. But look on the bright side – I was faithful to you for an entire year without so much as a weekend fling with my old flame.

Forgive me, cariño. I don’t want to hurt you. You’ve been so good to me this year. I feel like we’re closer now than we’ve ever been. You’ve shared so much with me. And you’re so easy, relaxed, laid back. Sure, you’re not very punctual or organized and sometimes people and politicians take advantage of you, but I’ve got nothing but love for you. You’ve shown me so much patience and grace. Above all, you’ve been so welcoming and wonderful to Max. He’s yours, you know. We came here so that he would be a part of you, and so you would be a part of him. And he’s had such a fantastic first eight months growing up with you.

Okay, I’m sure you know where this is going, so I’ll just get to the punch.                 I’ve decided that I’m leaving you and I’m getting back together with New York.   Please don’t be mad. It’s been a really tough decision to make.  New York is completely the opposite of you. All crazy and busy and go, go, go, never stop. But whatever I do I just can’t seem to break it off with her. There’s something about her, her edginess, her confidence, that I’ve always been drawn too, you know?  (The Bagels and Pizza and amazing community of old friends doesn’t hurt either.)

Anyways, I didn’t want to just up and leave you without warning, so I’m giving you some notice. I’ll be leaving on the first of July, so that gives us one last month to live it up and enjoy each other. You’re so good at living in the moment that I’m sure we’ll have a great time these last few weeks.

25 minutes from Oaxaca City, up in the mountains.

And I promise you that this is by no means the end of us. We’ll maintain the long distance thing (like we always have), and before you can say Guelaguetza, the holidays will be here, and we’ll be together again.

I don’t really have anything more to say except thank you. Thank you for everything, mi amor.

Love always,                                                                                                             Miranda.


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TIO SAMThis morning I woke up alone for the 29th day in a row. Okay, I’m exaggerating (there’s always the little babe to snuggle with) but my man is gone. He’s spending six weeks solo up in NYC while he waits for his absolute last and final appointment from US Citizenship and Immigration services. On April 23rd, he’ll take his Oath to become an American citizen. Yep, he’s done it: gone GRINGO. It’s hard for the both of us to believe. I still have nightmares that he’ll show up at the Oath and they’ll find some way to reject him. I suppose I’m a bit skeptical after a long, arduous process.

It all started in July of 2002 when we met by chance here in Oaxaca. We hit it off, spent about a week together. I returned to NYC and my life, and he returned to his. But when we separated we were both left with a yearning.  So began our long distance courtship. In a pre-Skype era, I became a phone card connoisseur. We talked for hours, began to know one another.   We sent packages back and forth. Then I started going down for visits. Day of the Dead, Christmas, Spring Break. After my fifth trip and a summer back-packing Central America together, we thought that Miguel should come to NYC.  It seemed the natural progression of events in a normal relationship, no?  Alas, borders cause problems. And so our roller-coaster of Immigration trials and tribulations had begun.

Stars and Stripes

2002  – Applied for tourist visa. Denied.
2003  – Applied for tourist visa again. Denied again.
2004  – Applied for K-1 (fiancé) visa. (Please send proof you are in love.) (Good thing I take lots of pictures and save my airline ticket stubs. It also doesn’t hurt that Miguel is an amazing graphic designer who can whip up some faux wedding invitations in a jif.) Approved! (Please proceed to US Immigration office in Ciudad Juarez (yes, that Ciudad Juarez) right across the border from El Paso, Texas to get your physical, fingerprints & stamp for entry into the US.)

Fall 2004 – Miguel packs up his entire life, is thrown multiple going away parties, says goodbye to his friends and family, and makes his way to Juarez. Day one, receives physical. Day two, receives fingerprints. But no stamp. (We’re sorry sir, but you cannot pass into the US.  Your name needs to go through a terrorist check at the Dept. of Homeland Security. We’ll let you know via mail when you are able to proceed.)  You’ve GOT to be kidding. Miguel returns to Oaxaca crushed. I return to my empty NYC apartment crushed. (My roommates had moved out, and I had left the place bare so that we could re-arrange and decorate together when he got there.) Sigh.

Spring 2005 – Miguel decides that while he waits for the letter he’ll finish those last six credits he needs to officially complete his undergraduate degree. Submits Thesis. Receives Diploma. Letter arrives. (Your name has been checked and you are not a terrorist. (YAY!) Please proceed to US Immigration office in Ciudad Juarez to receive your stamp for entry into the US.)

Summer 2005 – Miguel packs up his entire life (again), says goodbye to his friends and family (again), and makes his way to Juarez (again). Receives stamp and crosses border! Arrives in NYC-JFK on K-1 Fiancé visa. Conditions are as follows. You MUST marry said fiancé within three months of entry into the US. You cannot work legally in the US. You cannot leave the US. If you do decide to leave for any reason, you will not be granted another visa for entry.

10.28.05 – Miguel and I dress in black and get hitched at City Hall in Lower Manhattan. We walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in celebration, and share a large pizza pie at Grimaldi’s. We promise ourselves that this is NOT our wedding, and one day we will have a big fat Mexican wedding with all of our friends and family.

Fall 2005 – Miguel applies for permanent residency (green card). Until he receives said document, he cannot work on the books. He also cannot return to Mexico unless he asks for a special visa (only granted if family member is sick or in dire conditions.) We are told that before he receives the green card, we will be called in for an “interview” to prove that we are actually married.

Spring 2006 – We are wondering how our application is doing, and go online to check the status of Miguel’s case. There we find that on multiple occasions USCIS has tried to send us correspondence in the mail, but the letters have been returned to Immigration Services as “UNDELIVERABLE.”  We have no idea what this means. We go to the post office. They have no idea what it means either. We go to the Immigration office in Lower Manhattan to ask what the letters were.  They tell us that they do not have that information, and we should “fix” our mailbox situation, if we live in a building with multiple units.  I show them certified letters from our mail carriers and insist that all of our other mail has been delivered. We leave the office with no information, no explanation, and a ton of frustration.

Summer 2006 – An envelope from USCIS miraculously arrives in our mailbox. Your green card has been APPROVED! We can’t believe it! We didn’t even have to go to an interview to prove we’re a bona-fide couple! In this package we also receive all of the previous letters that were “undeliverable.” We take said letters to the post office. Clerk tells us that USCIS has been printing their barcodes upside down and they cannot be read by the post office sorting machines. We wonder how many zillions of cases besides ours this little problem has wreaked havoc on. But we’re so ecstatic about getting approved that we quickly brush our shoulders off.

August 2006 – Two-year green card arrives.  Wahoo!  Miguel is free to work on the books. He gets a nice jobby job. We plan our first trip back to Oaxaca for the coming December. Miguel hasn’t been home in a year and a half.

August 2008 – A whole two years pass with minimal worry and paperwork. Two year green card expires, so Miguel applies for the 10 year one.  We are told that we will DEFINITELY be called in for an interview this time.

May 2009 – Me, Miguel and belly make our move to Oaxaca.

June 2009 – 10 year green card arrives! Again, luck is on our side, NO INTERVIEW necessary! (Before celebrating, we go online to check random immigration law sites and listservs to be sure that this is possible.) It is!

Sept 2009 – Maxwell Ayuso Botshon is born.

Oct 2009 – Although he doesn’t want to leave me and brand new babe alone in Oaxaca, as a legal permanent resident Miguel cannot stay out of the US for more than six months at a time. He goes back to NYC and puts in his application for Citizenship so as to avoid this re-entry ridiculousness in the future. After app is filed, Miguel waits for a notice telling him what to do next.

Nov 2009 – Four weeks later, Miguel is called in to get his fingerprints taken (to make sure he is not a terrorist, again.)  Fingerprint clerk tells him a letter with a date for his Citizenship interview should arrive in the mail within the next six months.  He rushes back to Mama and baby in Oaxaca.

February 2010 – Letter arrives. You have been granted your citizenship interview. (Please prepare a folder with originals and copies of birth certificates, passports, tax returns, bank statements, utility bills, leases, destinations and dates of exit & entry into US, and a ton of other papers. Also be sure to cram for the US Civics and History portion of the interview. Do you know how many Representatives are in the House? What the Federalist Papers are? What James Madison did?)

March 2010 – After studying for days and triple checking all documentation, Miguel dresses up sharp and heads downtown to his interview. He’s so happy to get a patient, good-hearted officer. He breezes through the Civics questions, answers simple application questions correctly and hands in requested documents. After a total of 15 minutes, the officer tells Miguel they are done, and that he is going to recommend him for Naturalization. He sits patiently in a white waiting room for the final word and final letter… It’s for real. Please present yourself on April 23rd to take your Oath to become an American citizen.

As I think back on all the years of stress, worry and wonder, I remember the first time Miguel and I had a conversation about starting the process. It was December, five months after we met. We were in the kitchen of our little adobe rental in the hills of San Felipe. We had very little furniture, so we ate dinner on the cold red tiles. I remember his big curly hair and the love in his eyes. I remember how he looked at me and said, “One day I’m going to come to your city, Miranda. You’ll see.”

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Okay so, this being a mom thing – I really love it. I mean, I love my kid more than life itself – he’s amazing. No, really, he’s AMAZING.  He comes to parties, art-openings, out to swank restaurants and just chills. I simply throw him in the sling and we’re off. I’ve chatted with numerous Mamas and have been told that this is not the norm for many two month olds, so I feel really lucky. Some people think I’m crazy to take him out with me wherever, whenever, passing him around like a hot potato – but he doesn’t make a fuss and it works for us.  As long as Maxwell is fed, changed and not in the same place or position for too long, he’s super tranquilo. I appreciate that he’s down to come out. And I know it won’t last forever, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

I know that in a few months, he’ll hit that super-Neanderthal baby stage, when he starts crawling and teething and putting everything on Earth in his mouth, and we may end up a bit more homebound, just because it’ll be easier.  And as much as I love going about my life and taking my kid along, I’m surprised at the ease with which I’ve come to appreciate the “stay at home mom” thing.  I can’t believe it, but I don’t mind being home as much as I thought I would.

Sometimes I’m the quintessential Mexican Mama. I spend entire days cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and listening to talk radio. I’ve officially come in contact with my inner Donna Reed. And it’s easy to do that here – in a place where being a mother is looked at as a given, a good thing, a priority.

Also, the fact that I’m a mom makes me feel more integrated, more part of the community here. Before, I was just a Gringa, an outsider, a tourist. Then when I was pregnant with a half-Mexican kid, I gained some more clout. Now, with a babe in a rebozo, strolling through the market, I realize that I’m part of a club, the not-so-secret society of Mexican Mothers.  I was thrilled to discover I was automatically a member of this club, but it turns out there’s some hazing involved. There are some very specific rules that MUST be followed, and unfortunately, I never got the handbook, so I get reminders, suggestions and advice in all forms at least once a day…

For instance, just in case I don’t know, or I might have forgotten, Oaxacan friends, family members and perfect strangers consistently remind me of the most basic thing: CUIDARLO! Take CARE of your baby!  How old is he? Wow! So little! Be careful with him on the street!  Then rules get more specific (sometimes insistent) often having to do with climate concerns. Cover him up! Put a hat on him. A winter hat! And don’t forget the socks! Isn’t he cold? (It’s 77 degrees.) Isn’t it a little late for him to be out? (It’s 7:45pm) Isn’t he a bit squished in that sling you have him in? (Noooo.) You’re not going to bring him into the KITCHEN, are you? (Huh?) If he’s exposed to the smell of food, he’ll get swollen glands! (Hmmm. I’ll take it into consideration.)  Where’s his red string? (Red string?) He needs a piece of red string on him to ward off the evil eye. (Oh, right! I’m on it.)  And are you drinking your Atole?

Let me pause here on the Atole bit. Rewind to when I was 8 months pregnant. Everyone and their mother told me that in order for my milk to come in, I should drink Atole. Atole is kind of like a cream corn soupy porridge, but without that perfect sweet-salt-cream combination. It’s this THICK, hot, grainy, maiz based beverage which I liken to the gruel that made Oliver Twist get out of his chair and demand “Food glorious Food.”   Sorry, ladies who love it. I know it’s supposed to increase your milk supply immensely, and I do feel bad about offending the Mexican corn goddess, but YUCK! And if I had a dime for how many women have told me that I need to drink Atole, I’d be living on a beachfront property in Puerto Escondido right about now. (By the way – my milk supply – out of control. I’m a fountain over here, no Atole necessary.)

Okay, glad I got all that out. Enough kvetching. I’ve known for a long time that Mexico, like everywhere, has its own idiosyncracies. Yes, it is sometimes challenging to be discovering motherhood a world away from my darling NYC, (where it really is freezing but nobody would dare tell me to cover up my kid). But it’s actually comforting to know that so many people are genuinely concerned for the well-being of my son. In the end, being in Oaxaca reminds me that the old adage – it takes a village to raise a child – is still in effect… I’m glad I’m here to witness and be a part of it.

Now, I know I’ve got some red string around here somewhere…

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Labor Day has taken on a completely new meaning for me this year. I’m four weeks away from my due date (more or less) and taking all necessary steps to prepare myself to have our kid at home.
Yep, you heard it here, I’m going to join the ranks of indigenous women all over the planet (and a very small percentage of modern ladies, not to mention celebs – Ani Difranco,  http://www.mindful-mama.com/media/p/26.aspx   Demi Moore, and Meryl Streep  http://www.merylstreeponline.net/healthy.html ) and go for it in the comfort of my own casa.
Miguel and our two amazing midwives, Cristina and Araceli will be here with me.  We’ve got a massive tub or (tina) coming, in case I want to give birth in water.  We’ve got an OBGYN whom I’ve already had check ups with (and worked with) who has worked with the midwives before and is considered our backup.  (He´ll be able to attend me either at a clinic or at the Civil Hospital (2 minutes away) “por si las moscas” – just in case.) 
So, against the advice of about 72% of friends and friends of friends who have given birth, I’ve opted to not be in a hospital or clinic, and to go it natural – no drugs available.  No epidural, no Demerol, nothing to even take the edge off.   
What do I hope to achieve by doing this? Well, first of all, I want to say for the record that I don´t have anything to prove. In the end, all Miguel and I want is to have a healthy baby.  But I do want to experience my son´s birth in the most organic way possible.  
Why a home birth? It´s pretty simple for me. Some women feel comfortable in hospitals with technology all around them at the ready, and that´s what they need.  Personally, hospitals don´t make me feel safe, they make me feel like an outsider, intimidated, and sometimes even frightened. 
When I am experiencing the most intensely profound and intimate moment of my life, I don´t want to be bathed in flourescent light, surrounded by people who I have never met before.  (This inevitably happens in most all Mexican hospitals.)  Being at home in my own space, in the company of my amazing partner and two women who have delivered hundreds of babies gives me confidence. 
Why no drugs? I´ve heard all sorts of stories, “Go for the Epidrual, girlfriend!  It´s sweet relief!” or  “You´re nuts if you want to go through that pain. It´s not necessary!”   But others have said they have felt completely “cut off” from the experience.   I don´t wnat to be cut off from the experience. In the end, a home birth choice equals no access to such drugs.  

And so the last weekend of summer is upon us.  I can imagine all of my Brooklyn friends making plans for the long weekend, some choosing to escape the city for the quiet of a B&B on the Hudson, others keeping it local – fireworks, frisbee, a Prospect Park BBQ.  But for me, Labor Day has taken on completely new meaning this year. Four weeks away from our due date, Miguel and I are spending the weekend ticking off things on a long list of preparations for our home birth. 

Yep, you heard it here, I’m going to join the ranks of indigenous women all over the planet (not to mention celebs like Ani DifrancoRicki Lake, & Demi Moore) and go for it in the comfort of my own casita.


    demi moore pregnant vanity fairricki_lake_your_best_birth3

Miguel and I have chosen Cristina and Araceli, two well-respected, seasoned midwives (who happen to run their own Oaxacan midwifery school) to be with us on our day. We’ve got a massive tub coming, in case I want to give birth in water. We’ve got a progressive OBGYN whom I trust as our backup.  I’ve already had check ups with him, and even produced a video with him about “the humanization of childbirth” in Oaxaca. He knows our midwives and will be able to attend me either at a clinic or at the Civil Hospital (2 minutes away) “por si las moscas” – just in case. 

So, against the advice of about 72% of friends (and friends of friends) who have given birth, I’ve opted to NOT be in a hospital or clinic, and to go it natural – no drugs available.  No epidural, no Demerol, nothing to take the edge off.   Some people think I’m nuts.  I´ve heard it all, “Go for the Epidural, girlfriend!  It´s sweet relief!” or  “You´re crazy if you want to go through all that pain! In this day and age, it´s not necessary!”   But then there are others who have gotten the shot, and have said they have felt completely “cut off” or “detached” from the experience.  I don´t want to risk being cut off from the experience. Regardless, by having chosen two midwives who only attend home births, I’ve opted out of the drug possibility, and I’m at peace with that. 

Okay, so why a home birth? It´s pretty simple for me. Some women feel comfortable in hospitals with technology all around them, and that´s what they need.  Personally, hospitals don´t make me feel safe, they make me feel like an outsider, intimidated, and sometimes even frightened. 

When I am experiencing what I imagine will be the most intensely profound and intimate moment of my life, I don´t want to be bathed in blue flourescent light, with people I’ve never met before checking out my vulva UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  What I do want is to be able to connect with my husband, switch positions, drink water, and focus.  I want to let the process happen naturally.  If I arrive at 24 or 48 hours and the babe still isn’t ready to come out, then he’s not ready, but I don’t want to be told that I need to be induced, cut, pushed along or given a Cesarian, just because things are taking longer than modern medicine says they should.  (If I go to any Mexican hospital, the aforementioned things are very likely to happen as Oaxaca has an 80% rate of Cesarian. To put that in perspective, in Japan there is a 10% rate of Cesarian.) But I digress. All I know is, being at home, in my own space, in the company of my amazing partner and two women who have delivered hundreds of babies is going to make the process of laboring easier for me. Punto.  

What do I hope to achieve by going this route? Well, first of all, I want to say for the record that I don´t have anything to prove. In the end, all Miguel and I want is to have a healthy baby. We know we have to be open to the possibility that things could take an unexpected turn. (This is why our backup plan is so elaborate.)  That said, I do have (and will retain) the hope that I will be able to experience my son´s birth in the most organic way possible. 

The whole experience of being pregnant, educating myself and making choices has been a challenging and wonderfully insightful process for me. The only thing I can say I have learned for certain is that each woman I meet has her own set of beliefs, ideas, needs, and hopes for her labor and delivery experience.  So, hey, if you’re one of the 216,000 women who is going to give birth on the same day as I am, and you believe you need a shot, get the shot. If you don’t think you can bare the pain and want to schedule your Cesarian for next Tuesday, schedule your Cesarian for next Tuesday.  I’m gonna try my hardest to have a natural home birth with midwives, the way women have been doing it for centuries.  

This is what I wish for my Labor Day.  



Curious about how I made my choice?  Check out INA MAY’s Guide to Childbirth.


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Okay I’ve gotta be honest here. I don’t know if this Internet at home thing is actually good. My Oaxacan husband and I arrived in Oaxaca almost 2 months ago and somehow, not always being able to connect was liberating.  When you have to go to an internet café and pay per minute to use a shabby PC in a not too comfy chair with teens who listen to their headphones way too loud flanking you on both sides, you go in with a purpose. Respond to two emails. Read one article. Update Facebook Status. And get out of there.  Now, here I am, wonderfully isolated (minus Brian Lehrer’s voice!) able to surf and compulsively check check check all sorts of feeds and inboxes and start a blog just because I finally CAN.  So, begins my life as a pregnant Gringa in Oaxaca?

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