Sunday, March 19, 2006

Admiration, the aphrodisiac

The last two evenings we've had dinner at Marta and Pepe's home, compound rather, as it is more than one building and serves as a headquarters of sorts to the family and various members of the Olona construction team. Everyone gathers outside to eat alfresco beside a giant barbeque manned by hired cooks from Hermosillo who dish out the best carne asada and tonight, giant fish wrapped in foil, stuffed with onions and chilies. We arrived a bit late (not that it matters; there's no set dinner hour) and after the usual kisses and hugs we were made to sit down at one of the long picnic-style tables. Immediately everyone set to work to serve us. The fish was cold, insisted Pepe, who handed the platter to Marta to heat up. No, we insisted, it's okay. Still, off she went to return moments later with platters of hot fish, warm tortillas and frijoles thick with cheese. It's almost embarrassing to me how they wait on us. But, it's not just us; they are extremely gracious to all their guests.

Marta set out a delicious pastry treat called coyota, something she brought with her from her recent trip back to their hometown, Hermosillo. It's a thin round-pastry crimped along the edges and filled with (in this case) a sticky, rich paste which I'm guessing has dates in it? I praised it so much she insisted I take home a stack of them. Gladly.

After dinner, Marta and I talked about her hopes to furnish a model home for Loreto Bay. She has some connections in her hometown with furniture-makers and wants to offer LB homeowners another option for furniture purchase. She seemed very interested in my opinions, which are only that, my only experience of furniture is that of a consumer. She also asked me if in reality America's "morality" is like that portrayed on television shows like, "O.C." and, "Will and Grace, and MTV's, "The Real World." My heart sunk at her question asked so earnestly. I'm a jaded citizen, quick to complain about the downward direction of culture in my home country, so my answer to her could easily be, "pretty close." But interestingly, as she awaited my answer, I felt the tug of loyality to my America. I ended up giving her an answer that sounded a lot like a parent gently criticizing a rebellious teen-ager. Yeah, she's misbehaving pretty badly lately, but it's just a phase. Marta said she worries about the corrupting force of American culture. Her youngest daughter worked for a few months as a nanny to a young family in Baltimore, hoping to perfect her English and be within short distance to visit America's capitol and learn our history. The woman she worked had no job but spent a great deal of time away from her young children, a behavior Marta couldn't understand. And, the woman once expressed amazement, maybe scoffed at Marta's daughter's archiac notion of retaining her virginity until marriage. Marta met this news with equal measure of amazement and disdain for such a woman who would attempt to persuade her daughter to drop that notion.

Meanwhile, nearby, I could hear Robert and the menfolk discussing something. They're laughing a lot so maybe their topic is benign. They've been drinking a bit and I discover their conversation is stupid guy talk. How nice. I'm strained from holding up America so I find Robert's eye and we agree it's time to go home.

I get the impression this group holds Robert and I in a revered light that I suspect can only dim as they begin to realize what regular "folks" we are. They see us as slightly glamorous--these attractive, daring Americans coming to their country to build a vacation home. They think we have answers. The men are practically courting Robert. Their admiration amuses us both. But we imagine it stems not just from a natural attraction to us (oh, how charming and fun we are), but from a basic need to find trusted allies from the gringo culture. They are builders here to tackle a huge project with the formidible American/Canadian Loreto Bay Development Team. Pepe, who can barely speak English, must feel vulnerable on levels concerning relations with the LBC. I know he sees Robert as not just a extremely likeable guy who is great fun to kid around with, but more importantly as an American who has a successful business back home and surely knows the ropes.

They flatter us with their admiration making it impossible not to love these gentle people. They are trusting and kind and fun-loving. If we have something to give in return we will give it gladly. And funny, but the admiration they throw on Robert is working magic on me. He's looking smarter and more handsome to me than ever.

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