Monday, November 17, 2014

The Adventures of Rosella: Lost and Found

For those of you who have been waiting for another Rosella story - This one is for you:

Every month, my mom goes to the Tucson Indian Center for an "Elder's Luncheon."  She LOVES going to these luncheons.  She loves being able to speak O'odham and be with other people her own age.  They do some programming, my mom has mentioned that they sometimes have presentations, and they like to throw parties for them during the holidays.  The luncheons give the elders an opportunity to share a meal, gossip and laugh and enjoy one another's company.  I know that it makes my mom feel special and it gives her something to look forward to.  I am so grateful that the Tucson Indian Center holds these luncheons for our elders.    

Since my mom lives with my sister, usually, my sister will drop her off at the Tucson Indian Center, then she'll wait around for her downtown to finish up and take her back home.   

Normally, the Elder's Luncheons are on the last Wednesday of the month.  This month, they changed the date because they knew it was so close to the actual Thanksgiving, and they didn't want it to interfere with anyone's family's plans. 

My mom has been staying with us for a week, but she didn't mention the Elder's Luncheon until Saturday.  She told me that they moved it to Monday the 17th.  I thought that was a little odd, but since it was Saturday, and their office was closed, I didn't feel like there was any way to verify this.  My mom is pretty good with dates though, so I figured she knew what she was talking about.  I recommended we ask my sister to take her, as usual, but my mom already had a plan in mind which involved the bus. 

Although the idea of my mom riding the city bus from my end of town and back made me nervous, I didn't fight it.  My mom simply asked that she be dropped off by my husband at a specific bus stop on his way to work.  She said, "I'll take the #16 straight there, then it's just a few blocks away." She said she'd hang out at the downtown library, until it was time for the luncheon, since she'd be way early. 

Neither my husband nor I liked the idea either, but the alternative was that one of us would have to call into work or something. 

We didn't commit to anything.  I had planned on talking about it with my sister anyway, but honestly, the weekend got away from me and I just forgot.

I did ask if she wanted to contribute something for the dinner, which the Indian Center always leaves open-ended.  My mom said no.  Fine.  I wasn't going to push it.  My mom can go from calm to crazy-pants in about 30 seconds if you bog her down with too many questions. 

It wasn't until Sunday, that she started to pester my husband for a confirmation that he would drop her off "at the bank" by our house, on his way to work. 

I told him, "Just do it. She'll be fine. She goes to the casino all the time on the bus, if she can make it there, she can make it downtown.  It's JUST down the street from there.  She's done it before."  My husband reluctantly agreed. 

Late Sunday afternoon she started poking around in my pantry. 

As some of you may or may not know, my mom is a HORRIBLE cook.  She's an even worse baker and she is not to be trusted in my kitchen. 

As carefully as I could, I asked her what she was doing, "I was thinking about making some biscuits for the luncheon."


I didn't ask her, I just went to the store for stuff for dinner and came back with some frozen-dough, which you let rise and then bake - because I didn't have the energy or time to bake something from scratch. 

I baked the rolls, and it wasn't until they came out of the oven, perfectly golden brown that my mom even realized what I had done. 

I buttered the tops and when they finally cooled, I packed them in a huge plastic container, then I put that plastic container in a reusable grocery bag so she could easily carry it. 

My mom was really excited. 

Before an early bedtime, we went over the times that she had to be up to leave with my husband an daughters. 

In the morning, before I left for work, I peeked in on her to see if she was awake.  She just woke up.  It was 6:30.  I reminded her that Ryan has to leave the house at 7:30 every morning to make it to work on time.  She sleepily nodded at me as I left the house.

I didn't hear anything until around 8:30, when Ryan told me that they left the house on time and everything went smoothly. 

He sent me a text that said:

I finally relaxed about the whole situation.  I imagined my mom sitting in the library with her bag of dinner rolls, happily reading a magazine and watching the clock until it was closer to the time she should head to the Indian Center. 

I knew she'd be excited about showing off her contribution.  She'd laugh off any questions about whether or not they were home made or who made them (experience has taught me this). 

I was finally feeling really good about the whole thing, when I get a phone call from my sister,

"Hey, just I wanted to give you a heads up that mom has her elder's luncheon on Wednesday."
"Oh. My. God.  Are you serious?"
"Yeah, why?"
"Oh. My. God.... "
"She thought it was today!  She said it was today!"
"No, it's on Wednesday!"
"Craaaaaap!  Are you SERIOUS?! We let her go on the bus!"
"It's on the 19th, that's Wednesday!"
"Oh my god.  We even sent her with a contribution....I sent her with all these dinner rolls!She SAID it was today! On the 17th!"
"It's usually on the last Wednesday of the month, but this money, that's the day before Thanksgiving, so they moved it up."
"Crap!  Uh...I'll call the Indian Center, then I'll call you back."

If it hadn't been for my sister's phone call, my mom would have been wandering around downtown for hours today, holding a bag full of dinner rolls, looking around for the other elders to show up.

Good thing my mom is really predictable and thank god for my sister.  My sister went to the downtown library and checked every floor.  She went up to the security guard station where an older gentleman asked her if she needed help:
"Do you need something?"
"Is this lost and found?"
"Yes, Ma'am.  Have you lost something?"
"Yes.  My mom. Have you seen her? She's a little old lady with a leopard print purse.  She's also carrying a big bag full of bread."
"No, Ma'am, I can't say that I have."

Rosella was found just outside the bathrooms at the Indian Center. 

Rosella realized her mistake early on and was making a pit stop before heading back on the bus to the Northwest side, to my house. 

They held on to the bread at the Indian Center. 

My sister gave my mom strict instructions to be ready for her when she comes to pick her up on Wednesday at 10am to take her to the luncheon.  My mom didn't argue. 

When I got home, I walked in the door and my mom bashfully looked at me for a few seconds before saying, "I was a little early."  

A Photo of Rosella, in case she ever gets lost again.

The exact OPPOSITE reaction my mom would have if anyone mentions that I wrote about her again.  :)
She HATES my blog nowadays.
"Eee! You're always writing about me!  You're the family reporter. I'm a private person!"

Sorry mom, you give up the right to remain anonymous by using up all my toilet paper, drinking all my orange juice and subjecting my family to hours and hours of Matlock Marathons. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rez Directions (Ku:pk)

Yesterday, I had to give a person at Tohono O'odham Waste Management directions to my mom's house in Pisin' Mo'o, over the phone, so they can deliver a dumpster. 

Considering that I usually use hand gestures to give directions, it was harder than expected!  Especially because the woman wasn't very familiar with Pisin' Mo'o.  She was really cool about it though, I could tell that she gets phone calls like that all the time. 

There are no street signs anywhere on the main Rez.  We also don't have house numbers.  People nickname roads, but usually directions will include things like, "Go on the loop" or "Turn by the big tree" or "Get on that road and just keep going." 

I know it's a big deal for emergency services.  Often, people will wait for emergency vehicles on the roads, and wave them in, so they know where to go.

A while back, I thought about writing this blog, so on my last trip back home, I took some pictures...

BUT, now that I think about it, most people won't even NEED directions from this way.  This is "the long way" if you're coming from the east end of the Rez.  If you're from the west end, you probably already know where to go!   

My uncle really flattened the road, it's gorgeous.  It's like driving on butter (actually, that sounds kinda dangerous).  Anyway, it's pretty smooth. 

IF YOU WERE PLANNING ON GOING THROUGH PISIN' MO'O, this is how you'd get to Ku:pk.  :)  

Highway 86
Go South on Indian Route 21, towards Pisin Mo'o (Pisinimo)

I didn't take a picture of Pisin Mo'o, because there's a lot of signs there, telling you where you are. 

Pass by Santa Cruz Village
(Tagging on The Rez, especially, is really lame.)

Follow the sign!
(Thanks to my cousin, Maykayla for the photo!)

The road to Ku:pk

Pass the wo'o.
(or you know, go for a quick, muddy swim, whatever)
Ku:pk Village from the west entrance!
(Disregard the rain and the sprinkles, this was taken a long time ago.)

Have I mentioned that Kupk (without the colon) is on the iMap App?!  If you're coming through what we call, "The Back Way," through Sells, then... disregard everything I wrote here.  :)

See you at Ge'e Piast!

What's Ge'e Piast? Eee! I wrote about that yesterday! You can read that post here: The Big Dance in Ku:pk

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Big Dance in Ku:pk

For those of you who know my church going habits, you're probably wondering why I'm making such a big deal about this year's Ge'e Piast.  I've written about my beliefs before, you can read about it here: Carrying Traditions With a Smile On Your Face.

The road to Ku:pk
My uncle, Lu:ga spent his time straightening this road to perfection especially for Ge'e Piast.
(And yes, I fully stopped my car to get this photo) 

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ge'e Piast, it literally translates to "The Big Dance."   

This is an event which has blended O'odham Culture and Catholicism together into one giant event. 

The Agenda, should you decide to join us. 
10:00 Mass with Father Alfonso Ponchi Vasquez OFM
11:00 Welcome Pisinemo District Chairman, Stanley Cruz
St. Francis Committee Chair, Margie Lopez
11:30-12:30 Bayou Ceco Fiddler Band
1:00-1:30 Singer, Shania Manual
1:30-3:00 Waila Band Big John
3:00-4:00 Hunter Family Hopi Dance Group
4:00-6:00 Waila Band Cruz Band
6:00 Procession followed by Exchanging of Ribbons
8:00pm-6:00am- Dance
Music by Native Creed and Native Thunder

Feeding begins after Mass until food runs out

Pascolas, Deer Dancers, Mathchina Group and Rosary Groups @ the St. Francis Food Booths, Arts and Crafts and Bingo

Drug and Alcohol Free Event!!

Each year on October 4th, there is a big feast for St. Francis Day on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Each year, a different community is chosen to host the dance.  There is a St. Francis Committee, who organizes the events, and the host community simply provides the space. 

For years and years and years, my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat (My late, great-uncle) was a part of the St. Francis Committee.  He was a very active member and he submitted a request for Ge'e Piast to be held in Ku:pk, the community where our family is from, probably before I was even born.  I remember he and my Hu'uli-bat (my late grandmother) talking about it when I was a little girl of maybe only 5 or 6 years old. 

It's been many years now since my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat made his journey to the Spirit World, but this year, the St. Francis Committee is honoring him by hosting Ge'e Piast in our community!

Left: The Seal of the Pisin' Mo'o (Pisinemo) District
Center: The Church in Ku:pk
Right: A statue of St. Francis

Vincent JoseMaria -My Hu'ul Ke:li
The nickname literally translates to "Grandma Man"
He was the younger brother of my maternal grandmother, which, in mainstream culture would make him a "Great Uncle." But I don't like referring him as that, because it makes him seem less important in my family, when in fact, he was simply our grandpa.  I didn't realize there was a specific definition to "grandpa" until I was an adult. 
Ku:pk is very tiny village of maybe 5 or 6 houses, a church, feast house, dance floor and a cemetery.  It's one of my favorite places in the world.  My grandparents and my late brother, Adrian are buried there, and the one thing that brings me a sliver of comfort is that it is a beautiful place.

The church in Ku:pk
Inside the church in Ku:pk
This is what it looks like all the time. (Not for special occasions)
It's a little on the dirty side, because of the preparations going on.
When I was a kid, my Hu'uli-bat and Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a mud house there.  We used to stay there in the summers.  My Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a garden that I wasn't careful enough to be in.  My Hu'uli-bat constantly had a fire (or just coals) going outside so she could cook our meals.  Sometimes I helped. 
My Niece, Hu'ul Ke:li-bat and Hu'uli-bat in Hu'ul Ke:li's house. 

We had metal frame cots that we used both indoor and outdoors.  We'd sleep on blankets and large pieces of canvas.  Hu'uli had us roll them up during the day to keep them clean.  We didn't have electricity, but we did have running water (due to a generator).  We were still careful with how much water we used.  We used to have a basin and pitcher to wash up in.  The dirty water was splashed on the dirt wherever it was needed, to help pack the earth down. 

There was always plenty to do each day.  We'd walk to the wo'o, look for usap, walk along the trails that the cows made, help Hu'uli grind corn, sweep the dirt floor, refill the kerosene lamps with oil, watch Hu'ul Ke:li skin rabbits, help Hu'uli cook, sit under the mesquite trees and listen to the wind, watch the stars come out.  My favorite thing to do was to shower outside, though we didn't do it everyday, and Hu'uli didn't let us waste water. 
Hu'uli's mud house is gone now.  One year, the monsoon winds and rains blew off the tin roof.  The rain washed away the mud.  Each year, the storms and the winds took more and more of the house away.  There was nothing left but a heap of dirt and a few forgotten items. 

The last of the house was cleared out in preparation of Ge'e Piast. 

We expect to have people walk to Ku:pk from wherever they're from on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Not everyone does this, usually people who are asking for special prayers, or giving special thanks for a granted blessing.  A lot more people will drive.  The dance will go on into the morning.   

On October 4th, there will be mass and food will be served.  There will be entertainment and lots and lots of music.  

My cousins have been working on this event for over 2 years.  They did fundraising.  They had a dance floor installed.  They brought in electricity and so many other things, that it's really incredible.  

I can't wait to be there and see everything and visit and laugh with my family.  I can't wait for the delicious things to eat and the music that will go until the sun comes up the next day.

If you find yourself there, think of my Hu'ul Ke:li, say a prayer for him and most definitely, dance a cumbia in his honor.  :)

I thought this map of Arizona, with Ku:pk highlighted was interesting.  Please note that my iPhone doesn't outline the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Dammit, Apple!

Ku:pk is LITERALLY on the map!!!
(Just spell it without the colon)

According to my iPhone, you should go "the back way" if you're coming from Tucson.
I'm assuming the road is clear that way by now, BUT, historically, it's been a rougher road, and especially after the rains, you should plan to drive through Pisin' Mo'o (You can put "Pisinimo" in the map app and it'll pop up.)

For very specific directions which include going through Pisin' Mo'o, click here: Rez Directions (Ku:pk)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baking with my Daughters

Recently, I did some baking/cooking with my daughters for a school project.  I've been thinking about it a lot so I thought I'd write about it and preserve it in time. 

First off, I was having a really bad day.  I had been out of town for work for a few days.  I came home to a sleeping house at nearly midnight on a Wednesday night.  I woke up at six the next morning, before anyone else was awake and dragged myself to work. 

Needless to say, I was exhausted and grumpy all day and although I was looking forward to seeing my children after almost four days without seeing them, the last thing I really wanted to do was bake. 

After work, I managed to get into an argument with my husband (the result of limited communication opportunities while I was away) and I angrily went to three different stores to pick up the required ingredients for the recipes that we were going to be using. 

It was raining.  I was trying to navigate through grocery store aisles as I looked at my phone for the recipes my husband was sending me and I was getting phone calls on top of that.  I love the rain, I view it as a blessing, but generally not when I'm trying to keep a sack of flour dry as drivers who've suddenly forgotten how to drive, splash through grocery store parking lots. 

This was what I looked like coming in from the rain.
(Add in a big chick, subtract the crocodile.)

I came home grumpy and completely unconcerned with what we were going to have for dinner and immediately started baking with my daughter, Si:baƱ. 

She had chosen to make Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti.  I had never made biscotti before, so I had no idea what we were in for.  I hadn't even seen the recipe before we got started.

I sat across from her, ready to answer any questions she had, as she slooooowly mixed the ingredients together. 

A friend of mine was texting me, mostly about my bad day.  I decided to send her a video of the agony I was going through as my daughter sloooowly mixed the ingredients. 

I made a Youtube of the video I sent her:
(And yes, you can hear me tell my daughter, Ani, to "shut up.  Do your powerpoint."  I was joking.  She laughed.)

My friend responded to the video with, "I would've taken over.  Or told my kids, follow the directions, I'll be in the shower."

As much as I would like to do that, it's not even an option in my household... yet. 

My mom didn't often tell me or show me how to do things in the kitchen.  I don't think it's a coincidence that I don't like to cook.  I learned about baking from reading recipe cards that came in the mail.  You were supposed to be enticed to buy a binder to put them in, then you'd get more in the mail, but my mom never bought them.  So I just read about frosting cakes and making candy (though I didn't actually ever make anything). 

I want my daughters to be able to do things by themselves and feel confident about them.  I hated my mom's impatience when I was a kid.  I always dreaded asking her for help or for her to explain something to me. 

I learned by making mistakes, but the mistakes weren't simply accepted.  They were questioned, "Why didn't you do it like this?!"
"Um...cause... no one told me to do it like that..." 

My daughters and I have come a long way with our baking.  They've learned how to read measurements and follow a recipe, and I've learned how to appear patient and positive.  

Please note that I don't always feel patient or positive, but I've learned that it's important for me to wait for them to ask for help.

When my daughters bake, it is both a high and a low for me.  I feel great when we pull the finished product out of the oven and I can see the pride and delight in my daughter's face that she accomplished something.  The low comes both before and after she pulls the finished product out of the oven.  The low comes as I'm sitting across from her as I coach myself into being more patient and loving.  I feel awful each time, wishing I was a more patient person.  The second low comes when I see her finished product and know that I had to push myself to be positive about something that clearly makes my daughter happy and proud. 

Each time I bake with my daughters, they do a little better, and I do a little better too.  I feel like it's a test of my parenting.   

One cool thing is that they choose to make things that I never would have thought of.  Sometimes, we learn together. 

My husband and I are currently obsessed with biscotti.  I had never made them before in my life, and probably never would have thought to look up a recipe for them, but since this project, I've made biscotti twice and just bought more ingredients for another batch to make tonight.  If it hadn't been for this project, my life would be biscotti-less. 

It's a terrible fate.

Here are Si:ban's

Biscotti dough.  I was worried that her classmates would be grossed out by the green pistachios, but they loved them.
The dough was really thick. 
This is when I thought she'd ask for help, because the ends were breaking off a little.  But she didn't want my help.
I know this photo looks like it came straight off of Martha Stewart's website, but it didn't.  These are my Si:ban's, made start to finish all by herself. 

Here are Ani's blinis, which we made the same night as the biscotti, above: 
The beginning of blini batter.
A mini blini.  Made, start to finish, by Ani.
A close-up of the mini blini.

Here's a video of how we made Ani's blinis:
She says something about an onion, because in the directions, it said you could use a piece of onion to grease the pan.  We skipped that suggestion and used a pastry brush.  (No, we don't use it for painting)

I'm not using this blog post to ask for a pat on the back or a pep talk.  I'm simply recording where I am as a parent, and where my daughters are as bakers.  I think we tend to not make a big deal of the small accomplishments of teenagers, but I once wrote a blog about my daughter learning to tie her shoe, and reading it years later, when we're closer to the year they learn how to drive, rather than the year they were potty trained, brought me to tears. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jiffy Pop Popcorn and Burnt Dreams

Warning: This post involves upsetting topics such as suicide, grief and other things that may make you experience "feelings."

Some of you reading this may already know that about five and a half years ago, my brother, Adrian, chose to end his own life. 

Some days I can talk about it.  Some days I can't.  Some days I welcome the memory of his smile in my mind.  I hold it in my head as long as I can and some days I can smile back.  Other days, the memory of his smile cuts me like a knife.  There are no absolutes in my world of grief.  I never know when the pain of missing him will hit me.   

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of someone who resembles him or hear a song on the radio that sparks a memory.  Sometimes, I read a funny story in the news or hear about a new movie that I think he'd like and remember that I can't tell him about it. 

I could go on and on about how confusing and absolutely devastating it is to have lost my brother.  I think about him and miss him every single day.  

But we persist. 

We trudge onward.   

This past weekend, my husband took our little family camping.  My husband is a really outdoorsy guy, he grew up camping and hiking and being outdoors every weekend and "roughing it."

Well, I grew up the same way too, except, "roughing it" was just life.  I grew up sometimes without my own bed, or a defined place to sleep, we grew up taking showers with a garden hose, eating rabbits that my great-uncle or my brothers had shot, outhouses, dirt floors, kerosene lamps and all that jazz.  It's the reason that I build fires better than my husband, even though he was a cub scout, back in the day. 

For me, it was just life.  For my husband, it was a vacation.  Now that we're adults, I think a vacation involves a comfy hotel room and maybe a Jacuzzi.  My husband wants to sleep on an air mattress and have to carry around his own toilet paper.

Eh.  We compromise.   

No really.  We went camping for one night and hung our trashbag in a tree to prevent animals from getting into it. The very next night we stayed in a hotel and watched free cable.  Compromise.  It's a beautiful thing.  I try to just roll with it.   

I bought two Jiffy Pop popcorn pans for the occasion.  As I was taking them off the shelf in the grocery store, I thought of Adrian and I laughed. 

He and I burned sooo many of those Jiffy Pop popcorn pans when we were kids that I almost thought it wasn't worth the measly $1.50 (or whatever) it cost to buy them for our trip.  I almost put them back, twice, but in the end, they made it to the campgrounds. 

When we were kids, Adrian and I were obsessed with Jiffy Pop Popcorn.  Every time my mom went to town, we begged her to buy us one.  Sometimes, she'd come back with two and we'd go crazy.  Even if she came home after midnight, we'd jump right up and try to make them immediately.  

Adrian and I tried popping them over the fire in our fireplace, on our kitchen stove (which didn't have knobs), over a bucket of hot coals, over a huge fire, in my grandmother's kitchen, on my grandmother's wood burning stove, we tried everywhere.  We were constantly fighting over who would get to make it.   

Looking back on it, we burned popcorn sooo much that I'm surprised my mom continued to buy them for us.  And no, she never tried to help us, although I doubt that would have even made a difference.   

My mom likes everything on the burnt side, though my interpretation of burnt and hers are vastly different.  But we used to burn it until the popcorn was black and practically disintegrated.  My mom always made us eat it anyway.  "It's still good!" she'd yell as we dug through the black sooty remnants for even a speck of fluffy, white popcorn.

Camping with my husband was interesting.  It was the first time we had gone camping with just our little family.  My father-in-law was really excited because he bought us our tent for Christmas, so he was eager to loan us his camping supplies.  

One of the things that we borrowed was a little, green, rectangular camping stove that required tiny, green, propane canisters to make it work.  I had never seen one before, but my husband commonly used it throughout his childhood. 

We had made a fire and we grilled hotdogs on that first night, so we just used the fire pit to cook our dinner.  A little later, I took out the Jiffy Pop and announced, "Okay, who is ready for some burnt popcorn?!" 

My husband decided it was time to set up the camp stove.  

It made me nervous at first (anything with propane makes me feel a little uneasy) but then he produced this beautiful blue flame.  The flames looked like the petals of a flower. 

Here's what happened:
Camp stove turned to medium-low heat. 

You'll be tempted to mess up the aluminum foil, but you shouldn't.  You place the pan on the flame until you can hear it sizzling.  It happens very quickly.

Once you hear it start to sizzle, you have to keep the popcorn moving.  All of the following photos are of me trying to remain calm as I shake the pan around the stovetop. 


Extreme panic.  IT'S GROWING!!

At this point, I was worried it might explode entirely. 

This is a photo of me trying to decide if the popping sound has slowed down enough for the popcorn to be considered, "done".  I'm also now even more panicked because the package is steaming through a tiny hole at the top and it's going crazy. 

At this point, my panic is subsiding.  Woohoo! it doesn't smell burnt!

You're supposed to carefully open this up with a fork.  I only had a pair of dirty hot-dog tongs.  You do what you can. 

What you can't see in this photo is that I'm dancing.

Still dancing.

My husband insisted on staging this photo above the campfire, to further perpetuate the unrealistic expectation that one CAN actually achieve this level of buttery perfection from a campfire. 

Here's a video. Just as a warning, at one point, my husband was so excited about the popcorn that he forgot he was filming. :)

For the first time in my life, I popped a perfect pan-full of Jiffy Pop popcorn.  I was really excited and happy and my family oohed and aahed over the popcorn and everyone agreed that it was popped perfectly and it was delicious.  We each happily took turns getting careful handfuls of still hot popcorn directly from the pan. 

And right in the middle of that cheering and happiness, I thought of my brother and our numerous failed attempts as kids. 

I felt a pang of quiet sadness as I started to pop the second pan-full.  I thought about our constant hope that we would finally produce a picture-perfect pan and later, as the room began to fill with the sharp smell of black soot, our inevitable disappointment.  I thought about the two of us sullenly picking out the least burnt bits of popcorn and resentfully eating them under our mom's watchful eye.  

The idea made me smile.     

Adrian would have thought this was a big deal.  He would have studied each of my pictures.  He would have laughed with delight as he watched the video I took.  He would have blamed all the burnt popcorn on me.  I would have let him.  Then he would have gone out and bought a Jiffy Pop pan so he could make some too.

The idea makes me smile. 

Just a reminder, the comments are glitchy, and sometimes they disappear. It's best to leave comments on my Facebook page. (Though please don't feel obligated.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Ode The Vendors On The Rez

Vendors on the Rez have been a part of my normal, everyday life since I could remember.   

On any given day, all over the Tohono O'odham Nation, there are people selling things they've made or grown (or acquired) with their own two hands.  There are a few who have made it their life, and who work hard to make a living off what they earn each day.

When I was a little girl, we used to have vendors come by our house with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to truckloads of firewood.  My favorite used to be the guy who would come selling menudo, mexican cheese and mexican soda out of his pickup truck.  These were kind of luxuries for us, a little on the expensive side, so my Hu'uli-bat would always kind of hem and haw at the cheese sample before she decided to buy.  She didn't always buy the menudo, but she and my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat LOVED the ju:kam so:la, so we often bought a whole case or even two!  Sometimes, we'd sell him back our empty soda bottles from the last time he came through.

Now, I live in town.  The kind of vendors I get these days are the ones who only want to sell me a vacuum or "premium frozen meat". Um... no thanks.  Luckily, I work on The Rez now, so I still get to be a part of the action.  
Sometimes, on days like tribal paydays, you get hit hard with vendors.  You may have as many as four or five people coming through your office or your village selling their homemade goods; breakfast burritos, cupcakes, cecemait, yeast bread, tamales, earrings, artwork, the list goes on and on. 
Rosella, slangin' banana nut bread in an office.
Some days you might have only one vendor peddling their goods.  

Some days no one comes around... and that's when you have to go looking for them, instead of waiting for them to come to you.   

In Sells, there are a couple of places that vendors hang out.  The main place, of course, is "The Parking Lot," which is a dirt parking to an abandoned building, which was rumored to be a hair salon back in the day, but which I've never seen open for business, and the infamous, "Rent-a-flick" which used to be a video store,* but now has changed to the "Intermission Snack Bar" and only serves snacks and lunch foods. 

The Intermission Snack Bar
The Nation has tried to support vendors by creating new spaces for them to sell their goods around town, but none of them are as consistent enough as "The Parking Lot." 

"The Parking Lot" is prone to flooding during the rainy season.  Huge puddles of rain leave the dirt parking lot uneven and cavernous, but that doesn't stop anyone from showing up anyway.
"The Parking Lot" 

The Red Feather Cafe 
I like taking note of the different types of people who buy food from these vendors.  I'm always greatly amused when it's a business woman in shiny high heels or a dude in a business suit.  I'm always kinda interested to know what they order, I bet it's never the red chili.   

My favorite things to buy are made-to-order, fresh, delicious, popovers with beans and cheese or a hal c queso burro, made with fresh, thin, chewy cecemait.  If I'm lucky enough to be around for breakfast, my favorite thing of all time is a sausage and egg yeast bread sandwich.     
Here's a photo of me eating a Sausage and Egg Yeast Bread Sandwich.  It was so good, it almost hurt.  
You never know who will be selling or what the menu will be, but chances are, it'll be delicious. 

On this particular morning, I went to the parking lot hoping to score a Yeast Bread Sandwich.  The vendor who sells the Yeast Bread Sandwiches wasn't there, but I was very happy with a bowl of hot menudo and piece of yeast bread instead.

Delicious yeast bread

The parking lot has changed a lot over the years.  Trends in "selling" have come and gone.  As a little girl, I remember walking up to vendors to purchase a bean popover and they would hand me a ready-made, aluminum foil wrapped package.  I haven't seen popovers sold that way in years!  Now, if you buy a popover with beans, even if the popovers were made in the morning, before the vendor came to set up, they will have the popovers separate from whatever they're filling them with.  

And yes, you want the filling.  But we don't call it filling.  It's usually beans, or chili or ground beef (like a taco).  Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can get a squash and cheese popover.  Sometimes you see out-of-towners buying plain popovers or popovers with powdered sugar or honey.  It's not a big deal, technically they aren't doing anything "wrong" but it is smile inducing.  Seriously, you're missing out on the good stuff.  

People sell for a lot of different reasons.  It might be their livelihood.  There are some vendors who sell daily, usually, they are the best ones, because they've built up their reputation on good food or services.  Others might just be trying to make a few extra bucks to help with their bills or to fund a trip or a big purchase.  In recent years I've seen a lot of families selling for weddings or graduation celebrations.  

Fundraising for a trip to Hawaii for the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium.

We've also had an influx of non-O'odham vendors wedge their way into the culinary scene in Sells.  We now have several food trucks selling food like carne asada or sweet and sour chicken.  They make the drive all the way from Tucson, just to sell their food at the famous Parking Lot everyday.  I can imagine how profitable it must be for them, even after their food, operating costs and gas, because they keep coming back.  

Gwen.  Everyone says she sells "Chinese food" but she's actually Vietnamese.  Everybody but me knows her story.*  
It's a very respectable profession to the O'odham people, to be a vendor.  It shows that someone is willing to use their industriousness and their talent to provide for themselves or their family.  

This is my brother, Husi, selling at last year's Rodeo and Fair.  He writes books using O'odham language and culture.  You can check out his facebook page here: Husi's O'odham Word of the Day
The Sells Rodeo and Fair is juuuuust around the corner (January 30th to February 2nd) and there will be hundreds of vendors in the Sells area ALL WEEK.  

The parking lot is going to be PACKED with all the best vendors.  

You'll be able to buy t-shirts, music, toys, artwork and of course, delicious, delicious food.  

Thank you to all you cocineros and cocineras who do your thing to keep the people of the Tohono O'odham Nation swimming in deliciousness.  

I can't wait!!

hal c queso - Squash and cheese
cecemait - O'odham tortillas (different from Mexican tortillas)
Ju:kam so:la - Mexican soda
cocinero - male cook (professional/expert level/great reputation)
cocinera - female cook (professional/expert level/great reputation)

**a few corrections were made to this blog.