Thursday, January 22, 2009


Everyone out there, what do you know about semiotics?

I'm looking into a PhD program at the Universidad de Guadalajara, in part because I adore the city but mostly because I think the program is right up my alley. It's a program in Literature and Linguistics, two of my great loves, and I wouldn't necessarily have to choose between them as I did with the MA. So, I'm trying to brush up on all those literary theory places where my knowledge is scant. I say "brush up", but wow this is a big job. I'm trying to settle on a theoretical bent that suits me and my interdisciplinary approach, so I'm looking at philosophy-of-language theorists. I also think that's a suitable approach to my favored area of Hispanic Literature: ahem, Colonial. Friends from my program poke fun at me for that, but I love Colonial Lit. There's so much more to it than just the text; so much depends on context. It's a fascinating period to me because, even be it one-sidedly, it documents the collision between such wildly different worlds and worldviews, and the Spanish were scrambling to find a way to express themselves in their Brave New World, and they had to reformulate their Eastern Hemisphere discourse. This meant reorienting and recontextualizing symbolic thinking. As I perceive it, anyway.

So, I'm leaning toward semiotics. It's a bit like semantics and pragmatics (a course I adored in the MA, minus a few opaque lectures), and focuses largely on symbols and contextual meaning. I think I may have found it. . .

I'm starting soft, though. I just started reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, because it's supposed to be the great fictional text in which he shows off the application of the theory in fiction. We'll see if I can grasp it. Then I'm going to read a little more Kristeva, and if I get her then I might take a stab at Barthes, Foucault, Lacan and all those other françoises.

Damn, how I hope I'm zeroing in on a fruitful theoretical approach, one within which I can operate, and perhaps even add to it someday. And oh, how I hope I can grasp it.

Lola will penetrate this novel, dangit. Er, comprehend. I'll stay away from that oh-so-phallic verb for now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I get mixed messages from fluffy womens' magazines when I stand in line at the grocery store. Consider the following:

Will I really lose weight fast by baking and devouring the oreo layer cake? Which am I supposed to do?

Lola feels weird about being the citizen of a nation where our poor are obese, and where starving ourselves in various ways is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Esperanza, parte II

I could just complain about how difficult things are here and now, but I don't want to be a broken record. So, I'll say something happy.

President Obama's inauguration speech this morning made me really, really happy. I wish I could have been there. I was so impressed and inspired. It was like a good sermon: Have faith, have hope, now pony up and do something so we can fix this mess together. He's much more eloquent than I am, of course, but I loved that message.

I do have hope. I'm finally truly proud to be an American (though I do remind people here that I am _not_ from Arizona. They're always so shocked that my Spanish is so good, so they believe me about where I'm not from). I have hope that the rest of the world will stop hating us now that they see we're capable of electing someone that isn't an idiot. Not only is he not an idiot, he's honest-to-goodness presidential, world-leader material. I love that he extended an open hand to the world, including the nations willing to unclench their fists. How much more effective and diplomatic than pounding his own fist, like his predecessor! I have hope that the nation will unite under his invitation to pull our act together, together, and to take responsibility and fix our nation. I have hope that we can look past our differences as we work together (I guess that means I should quit knocking Arizonans and other tourists that come to the shores I currently occupy).

If only Mexico could elect someone who could inspire them to pull themselves out of their hole! Then again, maybe I only say such a nasty, jaded thing because I live in Mexico's most unsavory, sad fringes. Ah, the border. . .

If I keep saying things like that, nobody is going to come visit me. We do have lovely, warm beaches.


Jane, as far as books: thank you for your kind offer. I'm in Phoenix this week and my mother-in-law showed me an awesome bookstore called Half-Price Books. It's one of those cool used bookstores, the kind that has a wide selection of far more than ragged cheap sci-fi and romance paperbacks, and doesn't smell like damp basement. It was really cool. I got some books that will make me happy: Faulkner, Hemingway, Eco, Tolstoy, Kristeva. I didn't even spend lots of money. Yay! Sadly, the closest ones to the Jungle are in the Bay Area. Though, it sounds like you've found a nice little joint yourself. And guess what, Rocketgirl-- only two of those books are non-fiction. Are you proud of me?


Lola is going to kick back and read, but not for too long. Then I'm going do something to make the world a better place. Thank you, Mr. President.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Todavía no me acostumbro

I've been here two weeks and two days now. It feels like it's been much longer, in terms of trying to pass the days. My husband refers to me as the princess locked in her castle all day, which isn't too far off. I know he feels bad about me being here with so few books (and no bookstore within less than 200 miles, so far as we know), a shared car, and so little to do. The beach is still to cold to play there for long and much to cold to get in the water. I have research I should be doing, but right now I'm still in the phase of getting all my background information. Of the dozen books I brought with me, six of them are about the tribe I'll be visiting this spring and their language, and two more are about bilingualism. Also, I should be writing, but I have trouble finding the motiviation/ inspiration/ ánimo/ ganas to pull that off for more than an hour or two a day. I can feel myself starting to slip down that depression slope again, and it seems like I have to pull myself out of it every day. It doesn't help that the anti-depressant I'd been taking is not yet available in Mexico (neither is my birth control, by the way. Lovely). I'm trying, trying, not to let on too much to my husband, because I don't want him to worry about me, but to him I'm transparent. I can't hide a thing, and I know he knows I'm struggling. If I can't force myself be happy for me-- it's familiar, like an old bad habit, to feel listless and depressed-- I can try to be happy for him. I know it means so much to him.

I'm working to find things to be happy about, and a few days ago one fell into our laps. We were out driving around after church on Sunday, and we met a really nice guy, El Yucateco. We got to talking, and it turns out that his wife La Terapeuta is from the states. She also goes to the same church we do, but we hadn't met her yet. She's in the same boat that I am, with no demand for her specialized occupation in this backwater, hence unemployed and at home all day. The other night they invited us over for rosca to celebrate Reyes Magos (normally not celebrated in this cultural wasteland part of the country, but he's from down south). Like good fellow countrymen, we shared the last of our stash of cheddar with them. If you've been stranded in Latin America without good cheese, you understand the significance of that (I thought of you, Rocketgirl). We don't have loads in common but they're really friendly people with great senses of humor. I think we've found friends.

When we were telling people that my husband had gotten a job here, they would say, "Oh, you must be so excited to be going back to Mexico!" Sometimes I would just smile politely, and other times I'd clarify that it's not like the Mexico I know and love. The central plateau it ain't, folks. I explain that it's as though someone had gotten to know the US by living in San Francisco or New York, and then "move back" because their spouse gets a job in some backwater fifty miles outside of Little Rock or Biloxi. Just like SanFran, right?

My cousin accuses me of being of a Mexico snob, and she's right. She's just as guilty, anyway. Her husband's from Leon, outside of Guanajuato. Lovely, lovely area; it's mountainous and green, with little colonial villages tucked into the valleys. Earlier, she did her postgrad in Tucson, and made the occasional seedy border run to Nogales for entertainment. She know the difference. She teases me, but only because she understands.

As the silver lining, I know my marriage is getting stronger because we're passing through this together. My husband's job is challenging in the ways he didn't anticipate, and I'm struggling to figure out what to do with my life now that I'm out of grad school with no job opportunities here. It makes us both a bit more sensitive, and I feel like we're taking better care of each other for it.

Also, we've finally found some good taco stands. Ay, vampiros. . .me hace agua en la boca just thinking about them.

Lola's trying, but this is a tough place to love.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Espero un Prospero Año Nuevo

In case you were wondering, my excuse for not having written about all the thrilling things that have happened in the last month, is, well, all those thrilling things that happened over the last month. Once again, I will proceed to sum up some significant details of my life in pithy list form.

1. I wrote my two final papers of my MA program. Yes, this means I turned in all the work, it's graded (yay for As!) and I'm officially DONE. It's an odd feeling.

2. I'm also done teaching. I wrapped up the dreaded review for the final exam, my kids did a great job, and once again, we got through another semester with not a single F. Barely, but not a one. They were a good group-- my highest number yet of adult and non-traditional student. We don't get many of those at the Boulder campus, and so it's a treat to have them and their rich life-experience contributions to the class. I miss it already.

3. I complete part of the international move, in the form of a one-way flight with a crammed suitcase and an overweight carry-on stuffed with books. I have now an unofficial (illegal?) Mexican resident. I'll be working on that Visa starting Monday.

4. This means I now live in the same nation and house as my husband. Relief!

5. I'm not really in Mexico, not culturally. More on this later.

6. I spent New Year's Day on a yacht watching dolphins and eating too much. Is this my life? The rest of it is filled with a combination of dust, unavailability of anything besides Mexican food, and mind-blowing sunsets.

By the way, I was wrong about the name of our P.O. Box. It's Gringo _Pass_. More on that later, too. Also by the way, my new book is going to include a highly unscientific survey of people's perception of the word "gringo". Racial epithet, or benign categorization?

Lola isn't sure what to think. More to follow.