And now we come to a segment I like to call: West Side Living: 10 Differences of my Life Now. These are just a few of the things I’ve noticed about living here in the West Side!
1. Basketball. I would say I end up playing or watching basketball at least 3 times a week. And I’m ok with that. It’s just what people do here. There is an outdoor court behind the church and it is there that I have been schooled many a times by my 7th grade nemesis/favorite Rojelio. But twice I did finally beat him in 21 so at least I have that going for me. Also, everyone loves the Spurs. It’s everywhere. Season’s about to start and I’m looking forward to cheering them on with the rest of the city!
2. Spicy snacks. I don’t know what it is, but seriously every snack like Cheetos or Takitos come in flavors like “fuego” and “spicy hot” and I can’t really handle it, but I like it. Also my food standards are pretty low these days, so when a kid from Peace Pals says,”Miss, you want one?” I join in just like any other kid, puckering my face and breathing in cool air to make it through.
3. Handshakes and hugs. When the youth come in for House of Teens it’s always a hug from the girls and a quick handshake and pound it from the guys. Some of the Peace Pals kids do it too. Well, besides 2nd grade Alex who tackles me with a full force hug when I see him. But yes, it does make me feel way cool every time.
4. Tortillas. Just a side note here. Homemade tortillas, like the ones you can get from a tortilleria, are the best thing I’ve eaten since I’ve been here. Pair that with some chorizo and eggs and you’ve got yourself a $.99 breakfast taco. Anyone who actually makes it out here for a visit, breakfast tacos on me. It will change your life.
5. Cat calls. There is just something about the combination of riding a bike and wearing sunglasses that will automatically earn you a “hey cutie pie”. Literally someone said that to me. But hey, it’s part of the culture. Our Spanish teacher always talks about how these people like to joke around and flirt, so it’s just part of the experience. Though it’s definitely not my favorite part.
6. Lotería. Essentially, it’s Mexican Bingo, but this game is what’s up around here. The fun thing is instead of numbers, you have these characters and objects and foods to call out. The elderly people at the church play it at least twice a week and I always look forward to hearing the caller shout in her monotone voice, “el Obama, el Obama” (that’s what they say for the negrito card. It’s valid).
7. Spanish. So this may be obvious, but it’s a really different thing for me to rely on Spanish every single day. Whether it’s listening to a fully Spanish sermon or conversing with my co-workers or helping a first grader with spelling words in Spanish or trying to understand the directions being shouted in my Aerobics class or explaining a million times how to pronounce my name (seriously Meredith is not Spanish friendly), it’s part of my life. But it’s kind of cool to be able to listen and understand most everything that they are saying, even if it takes a little bit of time to formulate my response…
8. Jello hair. One of the first things my Peace Pals kid noticed about me was my hair. Though I would say it’s brown, to them it’s blond. Which to an elementary schooler means yellow hair. But to a Hispanic elementary schooler it comes out as, “Miss, why you have jello hair?” Although I think I have finally convinced sweet Alex my hair is brown, he still likes to drawn in that little bit of jello (aka my blond highlight from the sun) on his weekly portrait of me.
9. Halloween. It’s defiantly part of the Hispanic culture to looovveee Halloween. October 1st, our neighbors’ houses were covered in spider webs, skeletons, and masks. Even at House of Teens, our big project for this month is creating a haunted house for Halloween night. Of course, this is all fine except for the fact that I’m scared of everything intending to be scary. But good news. I’m not expected to be any of the characters in the haunted house, like the Santa eating body parts with milk or the elf in a coffin being eaten by zombies (they went holiday themed). I just get to be one of the tour guides and walk through the house over and over again. Perfect! Haha. But really, it will be fine and I’m looking forward to seeing what the kids come up with!
10. The dogs. How can I not mention the stray dogs? But you know what. It’s ok. I’m not as scared anymore. Ever since Julius befriended this pit bull and black lab that once chased us, snarling and barking because we walked in front of their old house, a lot has changed. He really is some kind of dog whisperer because he had these dogs like puppies, licking him and wagging their tails. Turns out, their owners moved, are looking for a place to live, and intend on coming back for them once they find a place. So that means they pretty much live on our front porch, eager for someone to have them. They’ve gotten used to most of us and I even sat outside petting good old Blu and Pepper some this morning (don’t tell my roommates. Not everyone is a fan of our new friends). They still cause plenty of trouble, chasing after any biker or dog that passes by, but mostly they’re sweet. And to me there’s nothing like petting a dog and scratching her ears until her eyes begin to droop. Maybe I am a dog person after all.