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What Are You Going to Write Next?

This is a question that I'm not only being asked but a question I'm asking myself, and it's beginning to cause me a bit of anxiety.

"What are you going to write next?" is causing my leg to rock back and forth more than "What have you published?"

Mostly because the latter is asked by people who don't know a lot about writing. They don't know things take time. They don't understand being a writer. They only know books that are on the best sellers list. (Nothing against a best seller. Hell, I want a best seller!) They only read (whisper) genre fiction.

"What are you going to write next?" though, well that is a question. The other day I was having a conversation with D:

"What if now that I have time to write, I don't have anything to say?" I asked.

"You always have things to say," he replied shaking his head.

I paused, "Wait, are you just saying that 'cause I talk a lot?"

"No, you always have …

Things I Learned This Semester

1. I need time to write.
2. My students don't read and would rather ask me questions.
3. I am a high energy person, but with so much on my plate I became a slug with little patience.
4. Even when I think I'm dropping multiple balls or not getting it done, people can't tell and/or it's still more effort than most.
5. I need time to write.
6. I remember things about psychology that I thought I had forgotten.
7. I relearned American History as I taught a French golf student athlete about it.
8. I don't like grading papers.
9. I like helping people. Motivating. I hope inspiring.
10. I need time to write.
11. I have to learn to say, "NO!"
12. My husband is a patient man.
13. I miss my friends.
14. All work and no play makes Yasmin a dull girl.
15. I need time to write.
16. I need time to read.
17. I cannot control everything, but it doesn't stop me from trying.
18. Sometimes the only person I should worry about is me and say "Fuck it" to things, …

20 Random Yasminisms

1. I don't like ketchup or mayo. When I see people's food drowned in either, I shudder and remember an old episode from School House Rock with a song "don't drown your food!"

2. I'm impatient. Many people don't notice, but the people who know me feel the moment when I want to yell, "Get to the point!"

3. My favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts. They are tiny cabbages of goodness.

4. I've been told I have high expectations of myself. This backfires on me because I expect the same from others. If I can do  it, why can't you?

5. My favorite color is cobalt blue. It's dark but bright at the same time.

6. I'm fiercely loyal to my friends and family and will do anything to help, support, etc.

7. Fighting has always been easier for me. I think it's the temper I inherited from my mother.

8. My closet is organized from light to dark within each color. Years of retails has left unable to just hang anything anywhere.

9. I can tell if …

Tangibility

Last night I found out my paternal grandmother died through a text from my mom. It was 9:59pm. I read the screen, paused, put the phone down, and turned to get comfortable in my bed.

I woke up this morning, reread the text and still had no answer. I knew I was supposed to say something. I put the phone down again and got into a hot shower.

I text my sister while riding the elevator to the 2nd floor.

"Did mom text you?"

"Yeah, I tried to get her to focus on how [Name] must be feeling. She was still his mom."

"I didn't respond. I felt like she wanted me to say something."

"Well... I mean, you would feel bad for a stranger losing their mom, its the same thing with [Name]. I feel bad for anyone who loses there parents, but she was 87. So it was good run."

"I mean I feel bad. My first thought was "that sucks" then I thought I should feel worse or something. 87 is a good run."

"Why should you feel anything else? You didn&#…

We Are Not Alone in Our Loss

Last week a friend's sister died suddenly. He was flying home the next day to say good-bye. His good-bye's were instead said to us sitting on a balcony with fall winds creeping all around. His words although beautiful did not warm us, but only made us feel his cold loss as if we too had lost a sister that night.

"Somos familia. Somos un circulo," he said gesturing with his Modelo.

We nodded as the somber night shifted, and we laughed as if nothing had happened. Only in moments did we remember. When there was a lull and someone quickly moved to break the silence.

His girlfriend, sat stoically, face smooth as she took drags off her cigarette, but her eyes gave her heart away.

The next day one of the circle posted this on Facebook:
"Ayer fue un día muy triste y muy dulce. Partió de este mundo la hermana de alguien a quien mucho amamos. Entonces hicimos lo que se debe hacer en esos momentos, los seis que somos nos sentamos a charlar, reír, llorar, brindar porque aún…

The Age of Multitasking

I had to Google the word "multitasking" to double check whether it was hyphenated. At this moment I have six windows open. I will inevitably flip back to another tab to check something. I just got a text message from Sarah. Of course I will check it.




A few months ago my Tio came over to help D and I with moving some things. He came in sat and started to talk to me. D sat on the other couch trying to finish some work on his Ipad. My laptop say on the coffee table. We were both facing out screens.


       "So mija how is everything?" Tio asked.

       "Good, Tio. Hang on. I just need to post this." I said without looking up at him.


       "Man, all you guys do is stare at those screens. Why don't you put them down," he said reaching for my laptop.


       Tio was demanding my attention. My work was demanding my attention. The T.V. was on in the background.


       "Tio, just give me a minute," I snapped. "I just need to finis…

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

The past few weeks El Paso has been blanketed in gray bellied clouds and sheets of rain. The typically dry desert land has gulped and drank, but it's had it's fill and now the water is overflowing into the streets and flooding parts of highways with brown tinted running rivers. This is what happens when houses are built in the armpits of mountains, and the city hasn't planned for proper water run off.


Even though all of this has happened and chunks of rocks have floated away from one lawn to the other, I smile. I smile as my feet get soggy, as the drops run off my peach anchor printed umbrella and down my arm, and as I listen to it with my window wide open inviting in the smell. In traffic, I drive cautiously and am thankful for all the years I lived in a rainy city and learned the do's and don't's, unlike many of my fellow commuters. I smile at the green vines dancing and twisting up and out in the front of my house the more they are showered in the rainy mus…

Driving Billie

It was hot.

Even with my black Ray Bans on I squinted against the sunlight as I walked to my red Civic.

"If I gave you gas money, would you give me ride home?" a voice asked to my right.

I turned just noticing a young girl with brown skin and beads of sweat clinging to her top lip.

"Where do you live?" I asked. Quick.

"Over by the Albertson's on Abbot," she paused. Her mouth stayed open ready to inhale my no.

I looked at her, she was only holding a gray binder, and nodded.

I pulled my head to left and said, "Come on."

She didn't hesitate and her steps fell into rhythm with mine as we walked to the car.

"It's so hot, you know? I'm from Vegas, but in the last few weeks I've gone from white to brown."

I clicked the car doors open.

"Don't mind the mess," I said grabbing wrinkled papers off the passenger seat.

"Oh, no worries," she said as she sat down, "I'm from Vegas. Land of fast food…

Because I Cry

The last few weeks have been emotional for me for many reasons. At any moment I find that I feel the burning pressure at the bottom of my lower lids that is accompanied by incessant blinking as I try to wash away the tears hovering just around the curve of my eye.

I once believed to be strong one had to swallow their tears. I didn't like to cry, even though tears seem to accompany most of my emotions. I'm sad. I cry. I'm angry. I cry. I'm happy. I cry. Perhaps because I didn't like them they enjoyed springing to the surface so readily.

But, in the last two weeks I've cried because I had a realistic bad dream which I couldn't seem to wake myself from. I cried for a friend driving to the gym because I didn't have any words to respond with that could make her feel better. I cried watching a movie because a father died, and I've never known a good father. I cried because I'm scared of what is coming in the next months.

And mostly, I've cried bec…

Riding Shotgun with Angie in Downtown El Paso

The beginning of a transcription of a conversation I had with my sister driving around downtown El Paso.


Y: Ita never lived this far did she? A: No, she didn’t. Y: I remember parking at that place right here… to go to Juarez [point at parking lot off of South El Paso Street] A: Uh huh… to go to Juarez Y: I haven’t been down here since I don’t even know when, man. [pause] This does look nicer though. [car blinker clicks in the background] A: Yeah, they’re cleaned it up quite a bit. Y: Then when I was a kid.  So, when you would go with grandma would you go—well yeah, it was this bridge, right? A: We’d go through both bridges.  But, most of the time we’d go through this one. Y: Okay. A: Which is uh, PDN. Paso del Norte. Y: Isn’t this the Santa Fe Bridge, though? Or am I…? Oh, I used to park here and cross! A: Mmm hmm. That girl walks funny, like she’s a washing machine [points at pedestrian]. [both laugh loudly] A: Yeah, this is Santa Fe Bridge. It’s on Santa Fe Street. So, we’d …

Flash Fiction Work In Progress: Paint Flecks

She was silent. The silence so loud it was as if the world had been put on mute. It was just them. He reached out and ran the thick pad of his thumb along her bottom lip as the other cradled her neck.
                                                               *****
"How was your trip?" he asked, fingering the arm rest of the chair.
The rectangular shaped desk between them was more than desk. It embodied the tangible gestures as they looked away from one another and fiddled with imaginary things around them. It was the space between two people who once loved.
"It was good," she said, looking down then back up at the darkened shadows of his eyes.
She smoothed the papers on her desk, flattening the curled corners with her right hand.
"Did you go into the city?"
"I did. It was amazing. Really great. Amazing," she repeated, "How are you? You look pale," she added rushed.
"I've been painting. A new collection," he held his…

The Left Breast

I was 13 when she fell five steps away from the front door. I slept with my mom in the front bedroom of the red-bricked Craftsman style house. The window was open to let in the cool night breeze when we were awoken by a soft yell, “Leticia!” My mom woke complaining, “’¿’Ora qué?”  I sat up, rubbed the sleep from eyes, and looked at the clock. 2:15am. I jumped out of bed and ran outside when I heard my mom yelling at my Ita though.  As I helped her lift my grandma I saw she was covered in something red. The acidy smell of tomato hit my nose and realized she had fallen carrying a glass bottle of Clamato. The glass had broken against her left breast. Once we got her inside I saw a deep slice close to the top of the soft skin and realized the red stains were Clamato mixed with blood. My mom grunted and yelled as we sat her on the bathroom toilet seat. She stomped down the hallway to her bedroom to get dressed, “Qué estaba haciendo, Amá?” she yelled. My mom always lost her temper when we g…

As I Walk

As I walk in the hot summer El Paso sun to my classroom at UTEP my shoulders sizzle. I sometimes feel like a rotisserie chicken. My skin browns more with each rotation to and from the parking lot to the Classroom Building where I meet with my students. Beads of sweat begin to pill at the base of my skull and race down my neck even as my hands snap to wipe them away. I loathe how hot I get. This is my daily routine. By the end of the month my shoulders and arms will be a deep coffee brown while my legs will be latte. I will never be evenly brown.

As I walk I look at the people shuffling, biking, running, strolling past me. Today, a little girl around ten years old scurried toward campus as I walked away. She looked so odd because I wondered why she was by herself. As I stared, I forgot this. She ran pitched forward from the weight of an overstuffed backpack. The tips of her ballet flats were the only thing to touch the hot concrete. She skipped across as if she were skimming the surfac…

Chica-no/Chica-si

When one first begins to write, at least for me, I didn't have a sense of where the writing was going, who my audience was, and if there was a greater message of my culture, and I suppose more importantly where do I, Yasmin Ramirez fit into the literary landscape.

I first started writing fiction. Short stories. I just wanted to write and I wanted it to be good. My first pieces fell toward a film noir surreal genre. Had a read any of surrealist? No. Were they good? I'm afraid to look. Later when working on my MFA I found I didn't know what to write about. I was finally simply supposed to write and my mind drew a blank, so I began to write what I knew. Stories I told many times over and made people laugh over the dinner table and now seemed to be working on paper and in workshops. These stories about my grandma, Ita, and being raised in El Paso became my thesis and now the book I'm attempting to finish by the end of this summer.

Now, as I've published several (12 to …

Work in Progress: The Scars of the Body

If scars tell the stories of our lives, my grandma’s body, fair skin loosened by age, held a map of lines disclosing the life my Ita lived. These are their stories. I’ve pieced them together and filled in the rest.
Forehead In a fight before I was born, she ended up with a scar at the peak of her forehead, where a widow’s peak would have been. The fight, I imagine from the stories I’ve been told, takes place in the living room. She yells about where he’s been, how much he’s been drinking. He, Gil, tries to walk away from her and she swings. 
He ducks, “Mamita, todo esta bien,” he says, but he still wraps his arms around her and holds her to him like he will never let go, and in a way he never did.
She struggles trying to pry her arms away from her side. She grunts and yells, "Dejamé carbon,” but he keeps his arms where they are. He knows if he lets go her left hand will come out swinging and instead throws his head forward.
Smack.
The sound of two stubborn heads echoes through the ho…

Confessions of a Neon Desert 2014 Attendee

I wanted to write this post earlier in the week, but I got caught up in other things. I think perhaps it was better because the feeling I was left with after the two day music extravaganza was a mixed bag. Now that it's simmered and I've had some time to reflect I think I may have the right balance. The right words.

I love music. Every part of live music. The anticipation before seeing a band you love. The drive over. The chatter in the car on the way to the venue. Walking over. The buzz in the crowd. Everyone is amped  to see --insert band name here--. Standing in lines for beer. Getting a little pushed and shoved as you try to get a viewpoint of the stage. The heat as people squish together a bit and sing off tune to their favorite song. I love that. I love the live experience of music. There are people who get this and people who don't. If you don't get this at all don't read on.

I had all of this on Saturday at Neon Desert. I was amped. I was happy as I walked …

Javier and Ita

Javier Solis was born September 1, 1931 four months before my grandma. He dropped out of school after the fifth grade. My grandma dropped out of school after the eighth grade. They both held various jobs. Javier—I feel I can call him this because we are intimately acquainted, at least vocally—was a baker, a carpenter’s helper, and a car washer. He even trained to be a boxer but stopped after a few defeats and persuading. My Ita worked as an elevator operator, ticket taker, in a textile fabric factory, and a bartender among other things.

His first hit, “Lloraras” was a favorite of hers, but she also liked to change the words to the song and sang, “Choraras, Choraras mi partida…” when she wanted to be funny. I think she choraras as much as she lloraras in her life.

He sang and acted. She watched all of his movies and owned all of his records, then cassettes, and later CD’s.

He was considered the last of Los Tres Gallos Mexicanos along with Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, other voices I f…

As the Semester Winds Down

I want to lie in bed for a few days and curl into the sheets until they become arms who embrace me as I sleep.  I want to sleep in until 9am, stretch in the sunlight streaming in through my bedroom window, and just stare with blurry vision at imagined dust motes.  I want to read voraciously,  the way I did when I was younger. I'd read through the night and force myself to shut the dog-eared pages when the sky night broke into indigo.  I want to curl into his arms, not because I'm tired, but because I can't help but breathe in the smell of his his hair even when it's ripe with the scent of last night's run.  I want to write until my book is finished, until the pages I've clung to for the last year finish their fight for freedom and I've nothing left but to begin again with something new.  I want to....

The Cult of Education

In my previous life, I worked for a giant retailer.  While working there I learned words like company culture, we stand for, we do this here, we wear smiles, goals, LY, TY, lead by example, etc. While working for this company many things happened:
I became a "we" and not an "I" I lost sight of what was truly importantI didn't know what free times wasI didn't see my family, everI didn't, I didn't , I didn'tTo this day, and I say over and over, the best decision I ever made was leaving the corporate world. I still remember the flash of when I suddenly snapped out of it and "put down the Kool-Aid" as we commonly used to say about those who suddenly left the company or realized there was more to life. I sat at our monthly rally, a small sea of carefully coiffed, shined, scented, powdered, pressed people surrounded me. There was a slump in the economy and customers weren't so willing to pull out their black American Express cards, so our…

The Process: Writing Process Blog Tour

I had never heard of the Writing Process Blog Tour until Lacy Mayberry, writer, friend, and fellow BorderSenses member tagged me in it. (She asked first.) I read the post on her blog (check it out here) The Hurl and Gliding about a week ago, because I wasn't certain what I was supposed to write. I read about her process and wondered, what the hell is my process? I've never put much thought into my process, so it took me a moment to consider what my habits and quirks were. So, here it goes.

What am I working on?
Nothing and everything. I'm trying to finish my memoir, Por Un Amor, which consists of several short stories, poems, and flash fiction about my grandmother. My goal it to finish soon. I keep putting off the finishing date, partly because life keeps getting in the way and partly because the book has become a part of me. I have two to three pieces I want to add then I'm done. Many of the pieces have been published recently, so I think it's time. I like to imagi…

Birthday Blog: 32 Things I've Learned So Far

1. Priorities change as you get older.
2. Family is important and although I tell myself not to take them for granted I sometimes still do, but what's important is I try.
3. Make plans, lots of plans all the time to give yourself something to laugh about later.
4. One good drink is better than ten bad ones.
5. Beer can be good. Bud Light is not one of those beers. Ever.
6.  BFF's are the ones that change/grow with you. Not every person who was a BFF will stay one. That's okay too; you were in each others lives when you needed to be.
7. Smart beats hot. Every time.
8. Being around negative people is like licking a sick person's hand. It's contagious. Stay away.
9. Patience. Patience. Patience. (I'm still learning that one).
10. Life can continue without that MarcKheil'sChanelSevenChantelleDior thing. It can. Really.
11. If you can't have a conversation. Take the hint.
12. It's okay to cry. A lot.
13. Music. Music that you love that you feel in your b…

The Process of Aging Ungracefully

The last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about getting older. This year for some reason I forgot I had a birthday. My mind just skipped over it; kind of like forgetting the milk when you go to the grocery store. But, the last couple weeks several things have happened which have reminded me that I am in fact getting older, and although there is nothing I can do about it, it's been naner- naner haw hawing in my face. (I think age is a bitchy girl who was once pretty and turned into an old hag and wants to make the rest of us miserable.)

What's been bogging you down you ask? Well, last week I found a friend from high school passed away. I had not spoken to Javier in a while, but there was a moment my senior year in high school where he and I were part of a happy foursome--with Vanessa and Collete--and we were inseparable. He passed away suddenly, and Facebook and texts were flying trying to figure out what happened. I think many people thought it was just gossip, "Ooo…

Downtown El Paso's The Tap Will Be A Little Less Familiar

Everyone has their place, their watering hole, their very own Cheers where they feel safe and it's filled with familiar faces. One of my favorite places is downtown favorite The Tap.

It's funny, because I basically inherited the place. I went there as a child with my grandma, Ita and spent a lot of time going back and forth between the jukebox and peanut machines perched on the bar. It was my favorite bar because of the Budweiser sign that had the Clydesdale horses behind the bar. (Now, it's above the new jukebox.) My grandma worked there for many years before I was born, so when we went to watch the fight, hang out, whatever, she always knew lots of people.

As an adult I only know a few people: Jasmine the waitress who greets me and the people I'm with every time with a familiar smile. Veronica, who I call Vaca who's like an Aunt to me. She became a part of the family long before I was born. A friend of my grandma's who became a friend to my mom and uncle. Who…

Spring Break Lists Fall by the Wayside

This week I'm on spring break. I had many plans. I wanted to work on my book. I wanted to spring clean the house. I wanted to tackle the garage. I wanted to post and sell more things on Craig's List. I wanted, I wanted, I wanted.

So, far I've checked my email, emptied my DVR, and slept. This week has been good though, hermit-ish, but good. There's something odd that happens when you allow yourself to just be.

I let my brain stop dictating what I was going to do and let my body chose to sit on the couch, to take a nap, to go back to the couch. Usually, I have lists constantly running through my head. Imagine a computer updating, white texts filling up a black screen,  that is my brain adding more tasks to the queue. But, the last few days my brain has frozen and the cursor is just blinking waiting for me to hit enter, to restart.

The best part is that this is very rare for me. I think it is very rare for everyone, but I recommend it. Especially at this time of year, whe…

Reflecting on the Program

The other day a friend and previous classmate asked, "Do you miss the program?" She was referring to the time we spent at UTEP completing our MFA in the Creative Writing department.

In May it will be a year that we graduated. Last year at this time I was knee deep in trying to finish my thesis under a pile of student papers I needed to grade, memories coming to life on the page, tears, half a sandwhich, and coffee. Did I miss that? Hell no! But there were things I did miss.

After being in the work force for five years prior to entering the program I enjoyed the free time, the odd scheduling, just sitting down with a cup of coffee and talking about books. I enjoyed the slow in pace after being rev'ed into red for so long. Now, I am not rev'ed, I still have free time, but now there is the worry of "What's next?" In the program I was surrounded by like minds, we talked about books and writing, we stayed up into the wee hours of the night giggling over half…

Ramblings of People Watching and 915 Tattoos

One of my favorite hobbies is people watching. I love to see how people gesture with their hands, the stride of their walks, arms swinging out, flicks of hair. There are so many messages being conveyed at once it's hard to ignore (either that or I'm creepy). Many times I use these people in my work when I write. I take interesting nervous ticks and shuffles, word choice and diction, and make them my character's.

For example, today while walking around campus I saw a guy  with slunched shoulders, as if the backpack he was carrying itched. Without seeing his face I knew he was uncomfortable. It was as obvious as a girl who's had on cheap stilettos four hours past their comfort time.

There was something interesting in the guy with the itchy backpack, and it wasn't until he turned that I realized why he was uncomfortable. Almost ever inch of his body was covered in tattoos. There was no order or reason to them, they weren't delicate pieces of labored artwork, they …

The Little Things

Today is Friday. It's felt like a Friday from the moment I pressed snooze on my alarm. I dozed for 10 more minutes with a large dog barking in the background. He, I assume a he because of the deep baritone, barked on and off all night. Internitingly in my sleep I kept wondering how his owner couldn't hear him and if it would be really bad if I could kick him. The owner, not the dog, because only a man could ignore such incessiant barking though out the night.

I went to school and taught my class. Today we played a game called English 1301 Feud. I created a Power Point with common mistakes and definitions and each group competed against each other. They had fun. I had fun, and more imporatantly they learned the difference between passive and active voice. (She was killed by zombies. The zombies killed her.)

The rest of my day has consisted of conversations. Conversations about writing and publishing, students and teaching, all over coffee. Conversations about Sami the dog and o…

The Roles We Play

This is me you say, at least I say. "This is me, what you see is what you get," but there are so many sides to me, to each of us. Today I woke thinking about roles. The roles we play in our own lives as in others. I began thinking of one of those multi-faced dolls, the same face, but each is something different in a way depending on the angle. Somehow as we get older those roles begin to multiply further. More and more of our profiles appear like a flick of the finger against an endless line of dominoes with our features etched on the side in a continuous cascade.

 daughter
         sister
granddaughter
               niece
                cousin
              aunt
 sister-in-law
                wife
   daughter-in-law
          sister-in-law
                        friend
                  flaky friend
                       best friend
                confidant
            crazy friend
       like a sibling friend
                 ex-girlfriend
                       love…

High School Doesn't End When You Graduate

Today I subbed for P.E. at a local high school and I noticed something as I watched the boys playing basketball. I noticed that our adult lives are simply a continuation of high school. Five boys played on the court. Two tried to dribble and finally ended up kicking the ball back and forth on the other end of the court. One sat in an aluminum chairs off to the side and played with his phone. Later, when another class joined mine, girls sat on the sidelines and text while giggling. A hipster kid sat on the sidelines with the world tuned out as giant black headphones hugged his head. Everyone had their place, and I realized that as we get older we still have our place, some of us just become more comfortable in them while others spend their life trying to outgrow the shadow of who they were.

Sometimes when it comes down to it, we are just the mean girl, nerdy guy, jock, douche, brown noser, stoner. Look around at all your friends, what group would you be? What about your coworkers? Once…

Afterword: Colombia

I was just on three different flights: Medellin to Miami, Miami to Dallas, and now Dallas to El Paso. There is an odd smear that happens as you travel to so many places. I think my mind and parts of my body are still in Medellin.

Although I spoke English while there, when I exited in Miami my brain froze in bits when talking to people in English. My ear although relieved to hear the round sounds and nasal pitches we make was growing accustomed to listening closely to all the deep bellied rrrrrrrr's. The further I got away the more the accents changed from Paisa's and Rolo's to Cuban's and Jamiacan's to Southern belle's and ending finally with the singsong voices that are the choir in El Paso.

I lived in Dallas for many years, but upon being back I find I don't think I'll ever live here again. I prefer the broad spectrum of browns and yellows and reds of other places. It's funny how things happen. In Medellin, I grew excited when someone spoke to me …

Taganga, Santa Marta, and Beginning a Road Trip with Richard

Saturday we woke up early, 7:30am, the earliest we've woken up while on this trip to Colombia. The last two days we'd spent at Cabo San Juan and Playa Crystal. We were brown, tight skinned, but still wanted to enjoy our last day on the coasta.

Richard, our taxi driver and tour guide for the day, was early but patient as we just had to throw on our bathing suits, mine red and white polka dots a la '50's and Daniel's surfer style multicolored board shorts. We got in the cab and Richard (pronounced in Spanish Ree-charrrrd) started talking and reassured us not to worry we could take our time, spend whatever time we wanted at any of the places he was going to take us. He gave us a map, and a block down the steep rocky dirt road  we stopped outside a woman's house. A thin raisin colored woman with strong hands patted maza back and forth between her wide palms. The front door of her cement brick house was open, and her thick daughter sat in a chair just inside. On the…