“So, what do you actually do?”
The question–“What do you do?” is a fairly common one, at least in the slice of American society of which I’m familiar. It’s the sort of standard intro question, at parties or in other situations where one meets new people. It’s a normal ‘get to know you’ kind of question.
The thing is, I get it from people who already know me, and it tends to have a slightly different emphasis. Instead of “What do you do?” It is more often, “So, what do you do?” I’ve had various ways of answering it, since a simple answer seems to be outside of my grasp. My favorite was someone’s suggestion to answer “About what?”
The thing is, I often don’t even know how to describe what I ‘do’ so the idea of trying to communicate it to someone else can be a challenge.
In light of that, here is a slice of ‘what I do.’ It happened to occur yesterday, in Baja California, Mexico.
What’s become my morning routine of contemplative prayer/meditation (I’m working on this one–I sit there for 15 minutes, but it’s not always very focused), green juice, coffee, reading, writing, breakfast (oatmeal with mixed nuts, fruit, cinnamon), and taking Tigger for a short walk was cut short because, after a four year hiatus, I had finally made a dentist appointment. For 9AM. In Rosarito. My entire life I’ve only been to one dentist’s office, in Corona del Mar, that of (no joke) Dr. Smiley. Dr. Smiley passed away a few years ago and though I’ve been to his office to see his replacement, it’s not the same. Plus, since I’m in Mexico, and since rates are significantly more reasonable here than in Corona del Mar, I decided it was time to make the switch.
Doctora Ana Pacheco Nuño had been recommended, so I made an appointment to see her at the Hospital Jardon (which, it turns out, also does breast augmentation–good to know that when I return for my ‘fillings’ they don’t just have to be for my teeth). My Spanish is pretty good, but I’ve never had reason to learn words such as ‘gums,’ ‘cavities,’ or ‘fillings.’ So, when she asked me about my ‘rellenos,’ (which literally means ‘fillings’) it took me a minute to move from ‘chile rellenos’ to ‘you need a new filling’ as in, teeth. (By the way, if you think it is tough to carry on a conversation with the dentist while your mouth is propped open and your teeth are being scraped, let’s just say doing so in Spanish adds to the fun.) Doctora Ana also learned a new English word, ‘straw,’ when she was trying to explain to me that she wanted me to treat the suction device to clear my mouth of saliva as a straw–“you know, the thing, when you are drinking a soda, that you use to go like this (sound of sucking on a straw).”
After leaving Doctora Ana’s office ($40 will take care of your cleaning, then $50/cavity/filling from there) I went in search of the ‘panaderia’ (bakery) that we used to always stop at when I was a kid. Rosarito has changed and grown and spralled much in the intervening decades, but the panaderia is still there, still the same inside, with all of the tempting looking treats, but without the short fat man that used to work there. I got my bolillos and then asked the woman at the counter about the man who used to work there. “Where is the man who used to work here, he was a bit short?” I asked. “Oh, you mean the short little fat man?” she responded. I love the directness of Mexico. “Yes, the gordito,” I replied. Turns out he moved to mainland Mexico to take care of his aging and ailing mother, but he is still in good health. I asked her to pass along greetings (saludos) to him, as I’ve known him since I was a young girl.
From the bakery I went to get water at a great new place that Kathy told me about where it costs only 7 pesos instead of 12 pesos to refill your 5 gallon jug (garafon). That’s approximately 60 cents instead of $1. But still… A quick stop at Smart & Final (for dog food) somehow turned into a great time to stock up on jack cheese, nice looking celery, olive oil, cumin, and chopped garlic. Rosarito errands done, I headed back to La Mision to make it in time to the Monday Market (el mercadito) which is something of a cross between a farmers market and a flea market.
You never know what you are going to find at the Monday Market. Last week I got a copy of the complete Chronicles of Narnia, basically new, for $1.50. I gave them $2 and they didn’t have change, so instead of .50 I got a used stuffed penguin, which Tigger quickly tore apart. I’ve been looking for a small FM radio, as there is a local station in Ensenada 92.9 that I’ve been wanting to listen to as a way of practicing my Spanish. Not only was I successful on the ‘baby boom box’ front (though I had to borrow 11 cents from a neighbor as I only had $1.89 left and the absolute bottom price for the baby boom box was $2) but I also made my favorite Monday Market purchase yet–two fruit trees.
There are not normally plants for sale, but a man from Ensenada, Josue, drove up a pickup truckload of plants/trees to sell. “Do you have fruit trees?” I asked. Yes, was his reply. He had limon (what we would call lime), peach, plum, pear and something else for which I did not know the word. “It’s like a peach” he described. “Oh, smaller, and soft like hair?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. I’m pretty sure it was an apricot. Though I guess it may also have been a nectarine.
Anyway, after discussing the trees a bit (they are good trees, tall, he said–I know, I answered, I can see they are good trees) the price came down a bit, and then came the negotiation. “How much for 2?” I asked. He thought a bit (one tree had been 150 pesos) and then said “240 pesos.” Now, I’m pretty sure I could have bargained him down lower–he wanted to make the sale and he saw that he had me on the line–but here’s the thing–240 pesos is about $20, for two healthy tall (about 6ft each) fruit trees, each of which that would probably cost me around $40 in the US. It was a bargain for me to get them for $10 a piece. The average day’s salary for a worker in Mexico is about 200-250 pesos, a bit more for a skilled laborer. So, I’m guessing that 240 pesos was a good deal for him too.
“It’s a deal,” I said, and gave him the 240 pesos, all of my remaining money, save 26 pesos for two tacos. He took my money, I took my trees to the car, and when I returned I saw him leaving the market, with many plants still in the back of his truck. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that he made the sale that he needed for the day, so he was done. It’s something I love about Mexico. Sure, he could’ve stayed longer and maybe sold more, but why? He had what he needed for the day, so his work was done.
I got my two birria tacos and then headed home to figure out where to plant my new fruit trees. I found what I decided was the perfect location for the plum tree and began digging. Let’s just say I’ve got some rocky ground to contend with normally, but this was even worse that usual. About a foot down I came across what can only be described as a small boulder. I got the pick-ax and tried to dislodge it, but realized that this time the boulder was going to win. So, I moved the hole slightly to the side, planted the tree, and brushed off the dirt.
Luckily I got done just in time to leave the rocky ground to the garden and head to what has become a monthly ‘spiritual conversation group.’ Last month we talked about grace. This month we were to discuss good and evil. Our group is somewhat eclectic, including three science of the mind types (I’m not sure if that’s how they would describe themselves, but I think so), one former Baptist minister, one former (and excommunicated) Jehovah’s Witness, one Presbyterian pastor’s widow, one atheist Jew, one atheist Catholic, a practicing Catholic, and me, a Presbyterian Designated Tentmaking Evangelist. Needless to say, we’ve had some fascinating conversations. Yesterday’s included whether or not love requires action, if evil is just an illusion, letting go of judgment, the writings of a greek slave named Ἐπίκτητος (Epictetus) and whether or not there is a hell (including a quote from Pope John Paul II that would make it sound doubtful).
What is amazing about this group is that we come from some seriously different worldviews, but we are able to share with one another, listen to each other, push back against things that don’t make sense in our understanding, and explain how we each have come to experience God (who some refer to as Source, Light, Love). I feel thankful that I can be a part of these conversations.
Since I didn’t have time to change out of my gardening clothes (though I did try to clean off the dirt) before our spiritual conversation group, when it was done I headed back to the garden to plant a blueberry bush I got while I was in the US. I’ve been putting off planting it in the ground as I’ve been dealing with ‘topos’ (gophers) in something of my own personal Caddyshack. I thought I had begun to have them under control (apparently dog poop and human urine are both potential deterrents…I’ll leave that one there) so I figured it was time to get the blueberries in the ground. (Unfortunately this morning I have seen some new gopher activity, so we’ll have to see how things go.)We’ll see whether or not any of this planting will bear fruit. I hope so. Some of the local boys that help my friend Jose with the horses have given me the nickname ‘frutas’ (which means fruit). I think it is fairly appropriate.
So, that’s what I did. At least what I did yesterday. Are you sorry you asked? 😉