Monday, May 26, 2008

Ser extranjera (being a foreigner)

I wanted to share a passage from a book I recently read. The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. A very good read, excellent Indian literature.

"For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner...... is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."

I suppose this passage is not exactly what I feel, as I know I will be going back to Sydney at the end of the year. But at the same time, identify with it so much. Despite all the joy and magic in my life in Mexico, in my quieter, darker moments I clutch a similar view as this one.
I sometimes just long to walk down a street, dressed up beautifully and feeling like a woman, wihout having that joy dragged away from me by eyes and yelps and whistles. I have come to feel as though I own the streets a bit more in mexico these days, but it is still not the same as staring down a Sydney street and knowing it was yours, to fling yourself to the wind without caution.
But slowly, I am becoming and have already become to some extent, a chilanga (mexico city resident). My slang, my late night cravings for tacos del pastor, my ability to now be pushed and push back if needed on the metro (for better or worse).

And yet, a long day, a small comment, a weakened smile from a stranger. These things still have the capacity to make you melt and just feel like a small creature on a planet in outer space.

And then, on the good days: there is a buzz inside and every now and then you get a sudden flash: my god, I am doing what I wanted to. And I'm on my own in another country, and have been away for 18 months. I'm doing it, you realize.
The little girl I was who had wanted to cry at a Brownies camp when I was away for one night from home, now here I have found myself. Every now and then you get a charge of happy jitters when you think these thoughts and you realize the crazy things you are doing: Today as I walked out of the National Institute of Migration after having a meeting about the visas for an international human rights observation mission we are organizing..... on these afternoons the light catches in the trees and lifts you up and makes you remember: I'm doing it. Even if sometimes I feel like I'm the weakest little dot, I'm doing it.

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