Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where's the Beef?

Growing up, especially during my high school years, the question, "Mom, what's for dinner?" was usually answered with "chicken, broccoli, and insert-starch-here."  If we didn't hear that answer, it was, "Whatever you're making, I guess."

My mother was the queen of the out-of-a-box dinner.  We had frozen chicken breasts, grilled to perfection, frozen broccoli, steamed to perfection, and something dehydrated and then rehydrated, to perfection, of course.  I can remember meals from my childhood- chili and chicken-n-dumplings and lots of Hamburger Helper (oops, that's from a box).   By the time I reached middle school, however, we were surviving on the chicken/broccoli/boxed starch diet.  And pizza, usually on Friday or Saturday nights.  My sister was a picky eater so that may have stopped my mom from being more creative in the kitchen.  She was also doing the 9-5 thing, with an hour commute each way so I can understand why she didn't rush home and prepare gourmet meals each night.

My least favorite dinner nights were the ones where Mom declared that corn was a starch and not a vegetable.  I'm not sure of the actual classification of corn, and I do like corn, but when you pit against mashed potatoes or say macaroni and cheese (Kraft dinner to any Canadians reading this), it pales in comparison.  Dish it out with grilled chicken and broccoli and it didn't stand at chance at being loved or revered.  That bright yellow food was met with sigh's and glares of hatred for not being orange or white.

There are so many reasons that my job is awesome.  Yes, of course, long summer and Christmas breaks top the list.  But another really great perk of being a teacher is getting done each day at 3pm (or so).  Right now, living in Guate, I am home by 3:15pm and if I am tired, I can sit down and veg for a little while in front of the TV.  Or I can do my workout with my honey if we didn't get a chance at school.  Or I can just spend some time with my baby girl.  And by 5pm, I'm bored of sitting and I'm ready for dinner.  I don't have to rush home after a long day and jump right into the kitchen and try to whip up something that no one will complain about.  I'm lucky to be married to someone who also likes cooking (as long as there is meat involved) so some nights, he cooks.  Some nights I cook.  And some nights we cook together.  I have tried so many things since being with him- for example, he eats his chili over rice.  That is so weird!  But yummy!  And he can make a killer curry, which I never knew I liked.  I've also learned how to cook too- I know what spices and herbs I like.  I'm not afraid to try new things and I find myself watching cooking shows and wishing I could get all those ingredients here.

My daughter will grow up eating interesting dishes.  Maybe not every night, and we will definitely have a few things that we eat regularly (make-your-own-pizza and bbq pasta are two big favorites right now). I hope that I am able to teach my daughter how to cook and to not be afraid to eat something new or different.  I hope that she doesn't grow up harboring a secret hatred of corn.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

R-O-C-K in the USA

I just realized that I promised, but did not deliver, the story of Rory's Guatemalan birth certificate.  I have some free time now, so here goes.  You might want to get some popcorn and a drink- as with most things in Guate, this could take a while.

Rory was born.  My sister came to visit.  I cried a lot when she left.  My dad said he probably wasn't going to be able to make it to see us and meet his granddaughter before the summer.  Dave's parents said they couldn't come for Spring Break.  I was sad.  Dave and Sissy and Daddy said, "Go/Come to GA for Spring Break!"  I checked our United miles, realized we had enough for two tickets and the plan was set in motion.  We were going home.

Step One: Rory needed to be declared born.  And an American.  It made sense to go ahead and get her passport at the same time.  I actually had to make the appointment at the US Embassy for all of this to happen about six weeks before she was born, just to guarantee (HOLY CRAP!  I JUST SPELLED GUARANTEE RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY!  That is one of my words that I can never spell...) we'd get seen.  For several days before the appointment, I worked on filling out the paperwork and figuring out what I needed to take with us.  I had a folder.  I had a checklist.  I was SO prepared.

Step Two: Attend appointment at the US Embassy.  Dave had to go with me.  We packed the baby and her bag, my folder and checklist, our passports and off we went, hoping to find the Embassy... because we didn't actually know where it was.  You can breathe a sigh of relief, we found it easily after some slow driving down Reforma.  We alerted the guy in the window to our presence and waited.

Step Three: Realize you left the formula for the three-week old baby on the counter at home.  But it's going to be fine because this whole process should not take longer than two hours and she just ate before we left.  No worries.

Step Four: Get called to the counter.  I handed over our passports and my folder, quite pleased with my organizational skills and eagerly expecting some praise from the man at the counter, something along the lines of, "Great job, Mrs. Horner.  You are so prepared.  Here's your gold star."  What I heard instead was, "Where's your RENAP?"  Now, on the information sheet sent out by the Embassy, it clearly says you have to have a RENAP, not the birth certificate from the hospital.  We had gotten a certificate of birth from the hospital.  It was green, they put her little feet prints on it and someone signed it.  Then, my doctor had given me a more official-looking form.  This one had been typed and had a seal of some sort and had also been signed.  That's what I took to be the RENAP.  After all, I'd asked me doctor what I needed to get her passport and that's what he'd given me.

That wasn't it.  The RENAP is the official Guatemalan birth certificate and, not surprisingly, there is a whole other building and process for getting it.  This is Guatemala- they couldn't possibly make it simple.

So we're told we have to go get this.  First, the guy at the counter says it will take at least a week to issue.  Hmm.  That's not going to work.  Almost in tears, I explain that I had just booked a flight home for us because I was assured that we would have her passport in time if I came to our scheduled appointment.  The guy decides that, rather than risk a crying fit from a hysterical new mother, he will call the RENAP offices.  And he finds out that it only takes two days to issue.  Better.  He says I can bring it back on Monday and everything will be fine.  He writes down the address of the office, points in its general direction and shoo's us away.

Step Five: Try to find the RENAP office and figure out what to do.  After driving up and down Reforma several times, we finally find it.  We are at T-minus 90 minutes until the baby will need to eat.  It's going to be fine.

No it isn't.  The next 30 minutes go something like this:

Us: Ooh!  A giant sign that says RENAP!  Let's go there.  Speaking to the lady under this sign: Necesitamo un renap.
Lady under the sign (in Spanish): No, that's not here.  You have to go around the corner.
Us: Going around the corner.  Ooh, another RENAP sign.  Speaking to the guy in the little office under the 2nd RENAP sign: Necesitamos un renap.
Guy in the little office (speaking in Spanish): No, that's not here.  You have to go to information around the corner.
Us: Going to information around the corner.

This office was the size of a small kitchen and filled with 72,000 people.  We get in line behind the other two people with babies.  When we finally get to the counter, the woman tells us we must go pay for something at the bank right inside the doors to our right.  So we go.  But the banker says he doesn't have whatever it is we're supposed to be paying for and sends us to the bigger bank (you guessed it) around the corner.  We go there, are pushed to the front of the line because we have a small child.  I ask if anyone speaks English and NO ONE does.  The woman tells me she doesn't have what I need to pay for and I have to go to Zone 1.  That, my friends, is like telling someone they have to go to Atlanta for something... and that's all the information you're given.  I am becoming slightly ruffled.  Firstly, I have failed as a mother on my first big outing with my child- she has no food.  Secondly, it is hot and I don't speak Spanish.

Step Six: Decide to go home and have a disagreement about it in the street.  Who cares?  No one speaks English anyway.

Step Seven: Change our minds and stomp back to information because we can't think of anything else to do.  Out of nowhere, a man shows up and speaks English.  Then he brings a young woman who also speaks English.  Both of these people decide to help us.  We are pushed to the front of the 100+ people line (imagine a big room, filled with chairs with desks around the perimeter.  Each time the person in the first chair gets up, everyone else hops to the next chair up.  Nope... not kidding...).  We fill out some forms, the baby starts screaming, I give her water which is all I have, we fill out more forms, we go to the desk, everything is going fine...

Step Eight: Argue about the fact that your child does not have two last names.  Which she must, in Guatemala.

Step Nine: Decide on the two last names (just double her last name) and sit with a grin as the lady behind the counter gets ready to hit print.

Step Ten: Lose the network connection.

One hour later, the connection comes back.  The child has been screaming for that whole time.  I stood outside the office because it was so hot and was smothered in hateful looks the whole time.  Not because she was screaming, but because I couldn't make her stop.  I got told to breastfeed her and when I said I couldn't, I got judged.  Harshly.

But it was finally over.  We left there with the RENAP and drove home.  I went back to the Embassy the next day and dropped it off.  And the passport was ready two weeks later.  And we got to go home.

I wish it surprised me how complicated the whole situation was... but it didn't.  It is Guatemala, after all...
(That's an actual picture of the office)


ETA (edited to add): Today on the way out of school, I watched a cafeteria worker climb a tree so he could get on top of the school roof, for what, I'm not sure.  All I thought was, "Nowhere in the US would that happen..."  OIG.

Monday, June 6, 2011

That's Me in the Corner...

I can admit, without embarrassed, that I love "Ghost Whisperer."  Even though I hate Jennifer Love Hewitt.  Even though Jennifer cries just a little too much and her wardrobe is just a little too slutty.  Even though there have been some ridiculous situations- i.e. her husband dies but gets into another body and her very creepy son was five years old mere minutes after his birth- I can look past these things and admit that I like the show. 

One thing that the writers, and Melinda Gordon, advocate for in the show is that babies and young children can all see ghosts.  They all have 'the gift,' which enables them to be open to the spirits that watch over us.  Since losing my mother and having a baby, I have to wonder if this is true.  Rory stares- a lot- at the corner in our room.  I know babies like contrast, but there's no contrast in that corner.  It's a blue wall- a light blue wall, at that.  There is a curtain that stops near the corner, but I've followed her gaze as best I can and she doesn't seem to be looking at the curtain/wall combo... just the wall.  

A girl on a message board I'm a member of said she was home alone with her daughter one evening and he was staring at the wall over her shoulder as she changed him, wide-eyed.  Suddenly, the picture on the wall behind her fell to the ground.  The nail was still in the wall and nothing was broken on the frame.  It happened again later that night.  She was, admittedly, freaked out.

Does Rory see my mom hanging out in the corner?  Or even my grandmother or one of my grandfather's?  On one level, it creeps me out that my mom might just be chilling in a corner of my bedroom.  On the other, it'd be nice to know that someone was watching over all of us.