It was a lazy Saturday, mÌÁs o menos. I rose around 6 AM, normal time. Breakfast was lentil soup with a special treat: warm milk, straight from cow that Abuelita milked before the sun painted the greens of the fields and blues of the mountains with the colors of daylight. And then MamÌ_, PapÌ_ and Abuelitaleft for a Carnaval party in the ever-ambiguous location of abajo (somewhere a-ways down the mountain). My siblings and cousins and I were left at home for the day, free to do as we pleased so long as we took care of the animals and cleaned the kitchen. Fair enough.
We quickly divided up the cleaning; my cousins swept our house, I washed dishes, and my siblings swept Abuelita’s. We finished quickly and I excused myself for a run, relishing the sweat dripping down my back as I thought of the three+ feet of snow continuing to fall in Lexington. Before entering the house, I grabbed an apple off a tree in our garden, followed by a sweet, juicy plum.
By now a few hours had passed, and it was time to move the cows and quench their thirst. We set out as a clan, first tending to Abuelita’s cows, then ours. When we returned to the house, ready to make lunch, there was no water. MamÌ_ had instructed me to make a soup, and I was pretty sure the lack of water was a sign from the universe that no matter how hard I tried to learn to cook, it wasn’t going to happen. But after picking a few carrots, swiss chard, and cilantro from the garden, the water was back and operation-make-soup began. I chopped the vegetables as my brother peeled potatoes and my cousin filled a pot with water, which my sister set on the stove to boil. Many laughs later, we sat down to bowls of a sufficiently good-tasting soup.
After lunch, we cut grass for the guinea pigs, squatting in the yard with blades as we hacked away. With all of us working, we filled up a crate more quickly than usual, threw the long hierba into the guinea pig hut, and returned to the kitchen for our final task: bringing food to the pig. Pigs literally eat anything; what doesn’t get eaten by the humans, dogs, chickens or guinea pigs goes in the pig slop bucket. My brother brought the pig its food, and we were free to enjoy the afternoon.
A grand Carnaval fight ensuedÛÓwater balloons, foam spray, pots of water, confetti. We sprinted through the endless fields, pausing only to refill pots and grab more water balloons. The daylight faded, pure white clouds becoming shades of pinks and oranges. And then Abuelita came home. She yelled at us all, chastising us for playing with water at night and warning us of the colds we were sure to contract.
I was so happy to be yelled at, grouped with my siblings and cousins at fault. Finally I was a true part of the clan. It’s hard to know how to classify myself here. I’m nineteen years old, the age of many mothers, yet I function as a sibling or daughter. And then I also teach English at school, adding another layer of complexity to the puzzle piece that is me in Serrag. But with every task, every game, every day, I am fitting in more naturally. So being yelled at, that actually felt good.
Another interesting cultural belief presented itself in the situation: water. In the morning, at night, if the sun isn’t outÛÓforget about drinking cold water. Cold water and cold weather are said to be a recipe for sickness. When I had a sinus infection, the cold water I drank upon returning from a run was declared the culprit. When my sister had a cold and said she was going to brush her teeth, she was told not to, due to the cold water she would have to use. And once you’re sick, showersÛÓregardless of the temperatureÛÓare forbidden, as well. The best explanation I’ve received for this wholehearted belief is that the water changes your body temperature. Which is apparently problematic and unique to water. But no matter the reason, it’s a strong belief.
A final thought this day presented me with is that procrastination simply cannot happen here. Animals need to be taken care of, and on time. Yes, we got in trouble for playing with water into the evening, but we had no choice; the animals had to be prioritized. Work that requires such time-sensitive attention is duro, hard. The work ethic of my community is loable, admirable. So as I work to put together the pieces of my puzzle hereÛÓwhere I fit, deeply-rootedcultural beliefs, and many moreÛÓI strive to mirror this work ethic, albeit taking my time to process the details.
*In the above picture, “I” am the faceless thing in the red with a blue hat on. My family surprised me on New Year’s by making an effigy of me to burn for good luck in the coming year, as is the tradition.