"so how many months will you be staying with my family?" alonso teased this morning at breakfast. my death stare prompted a spanish translation for his family. then, five heads turned to see my response.
"pienso que...siempre," i returned with a smile. originally, i had planned to visit guanajuato for a weekend and to stay with alonso's family in silao at the same time as two other wcl guests. but as well-planned excursions often do, it fell apart and i ended up making a solo visit, friday through sunday. on saturday, i got the grand tour of guanajuato. i came after a long line of international guests who have followed up on alonso's hospitable invitation.
i met alonso last fall when he applied for students united's mentoring program. from early on, he made it clear that he came from a beautiful part of mexico, near the city of guanajuato. i didn't think much of it because i'm from detroit and find it to be one of the most beautiful places in the usa. but my interest piqued as my winter adventure drew closer and other people - kate kelly, the friendly tapatio on my flight from atlanta, wouter from the language school - informed me that guanajuato was a must-see. even so, i was wholly unprepared for the potent arrow that struck me when i finally arrived. after maybe a dozen reverent praises - wow. you weren't lying. guanajuato is amazing. - alonso responded with clear satisfaction: "it has a mighty power for foreigners."
my visit took a turn when, on sunday morning, alonso informed me that his mother would like me to join the family for new years in the mountains. he explained that i could go with his family and return to guadalajara late on tuesday evening. ever-adverse to unanticipated changes, i protested:
"i have classes and a bus ticket i have already paid for."
"you want to practice spanish, right? why not practice with my family in the mountains?"
"i don't want to impose. it's your last few days with your family."
"mamí! un momentito, porfa!"
"alonso, no -"
"mamí, puedes explicarle sobre tu invitación a las montañas, por favor? christiane está ocupada porque ya ha pagado por cursos y una boleta por guadalajara."
i emailed wouter about monday classes and asked him to let the bustamantes know not to worry about me before piling into the car with victor and marisa (alonso's parents), alonso, ilse, luís, mariano, our bags, and two remote-controlled helicopters. the ride started out in silence. then rufus wainwright's cover of hallelujah came on the radio. i began sing along quietly. then mariano's pre-pubescent soprano voice came from the backseat. luís and ilse joined on either side of me. after dancing it up to el sondito, the ice was officially broken and the ride passed quickly with stories about mexican artists and legends. what followed was the magic life is made of: stepping into someone else's life for a brief moment. observing religious practices, family jokes, vacation mishaps. then listening as a friend confides about their perspective on what is transpiring. and occasionally stepping away from the wall to participate:
"christiane, conoces thalia?" marisa asked at new years eve dinner.
"sí. un poquito," i replied, happy to have a captive audience with which to practice past tense verbs. "cuando tenía diecinueve años, mi padre trabajaba en alemania. por eso, viajé a -"
"christiane," alonso interrupted with a chuckle, "my mom was asking about thalia - the singer who is playing right now - not italia."
collective laughter covered social shame and the festivities continued. at midnight we ate twelve grapes to reflect on each of twelve months. then the dj turned the music up and we danced our hearts out until 2. un mil gracias to the lara-bravo family for making my farewell to 2012 one for the books.
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