Saturday, August 26, 2006

Small Frustrations and Larger Pleasures

Gorgeous little red sedum (enhanced with my water color paints)
Just kidding
Yesterday two gardening friends of mine came over. Concha came up because I had offered a Desert Rose and another plant a few days ago. But it turned out she already had the second plant so she took a Bird of Paradise plant plus some others I had several of. I loved seeing her head home with her new plants. Plus, as we were walking down the driveway, making jokes about calling a taxi because the plants were so heavy, a friend drive by. We yelled and waved and he stopped and gave her a ride home. (Sharing with Concha was the pleaure).

(And here is the small frustration)
The other person who came over is definitely a "material girl". She's a local young woman who seems to be very aware of not having much. She asks for many things, and it's a little annoying. She has been coming over quite a bit, and hinting heavily about which of my plants she would like. But I have been concerned that she won't take good care of the plants. So each time I would say, "When you have pots with dirt in them, I can share some plants with you. Do you have any pots? Do you have any dirt?"

After several days she finally said, "Yes" to having both pots and dirt. I should have checked to make sure she was really ready to take care of my sweet plants. And then yesterday, when she came up and asked for some plants, I said okay. "Your pots are ready and full of dirt?" And she said "Yes" again. So we picked out about 10 plants for her and carried them over to where she is staying. No pots and no dirt. I asked where they were and she sort of waved her arm to the back of the lot. So I left.

I went over to her place today in the late afternoon, to visit her sick Grandmother next door.
I noticed the plants laying on a table where she had set them yesterday. Drying out, in the direct sunlight. I kept saying to myself things like "I gave her the plants, it's none of my business what she does with them", and "Lazy, little liar", and "If I don't insist she take care of the plants, she won't understand why I don't want to give her a plant the next time she wants one".

I went with the last thought, and walked over to the plants, and said, "These plants are really drying out. It's looks like they are dying". Then I asked where the pots and dirt were, she said she didn't have any.

This is no a case of misunderstanding. Or a language problem. Or that she doesn't know how to garden. At her last house she had an extentsive garden. I think she just wanted some plants, and said what she needed to say to get some. It makes me sad. And mad. And I don't want to deal with being lied to three times. Or my lovely plants being abandoned in the hot sun. And I don't know have a clue about how to handle it.

It's interesting how people here react to not having things they want, particularly when they are really aware of the inequities in life: have's and have-not. etc. My guess is TV coming to Chacala has really intensified poor people's awareness of the severe economic equity in Mexico. I think before people saw the wealthy characters prancing around on the Mexican soaps on TV every day and every night, they weren't so aware of how little they had. And how much stuff other people do have. And even, how much stuff there is out on the big world to want.

The young woman who wanted the plants, actually wants many of my belonging. She asks directly sometimes, or repeatedly drops not-so-subtle hints. I have pretty much stopped giving her things. It feels like she is a bottomless pit for wanting. And she never says "thanks" or offers anything in return.

My experience in Chacala is most people are very careful about sharing and reciprocity. And very generous with their belongings. If you give someone something, you almost get something from them, and usually very quickly. But I am starting to wonder how the outpouring of gifts, trips, schools supplies and scholarships from visiting gringos has impacted the young adults here. Maybe created a sense of entitlement, or specialness or something that is occasionally very distasteful. I am specifically thinking of some of the young men and women who are no longer in school but were previously recipients of gringo generousity.

Of course, I really don't know what is happening here. The social and economic changes here are happening so quickly, it's probably impossible to attribute cause here on any issue. And many times I probably misunderstand what is going on right in front of me. So who knows. Not me.


Jill said...

I think that it is very possible that tv has had an impact on people's feelings of entitlement. I like to share and give things to people, but it drives me crazy when people ask for things. There is a lady at church who sends her teenage daughter to ask me for things. For example, "Ummmm I need you to bring me some jewelry. It is for this other girl." Um, that is not happening and get out of my personal space. Now seriously, if you are starving I am happy to give you whatever you need, but don't come and ask me for jewelry!!!!!!

I feel like they think that I owe it to them because I come from a more prosperous country. And I honestly do feel like it is my responsibility to share what I have, but not in a situation like that!

La Gringa said...

How strange that she would ask for the plants and then just let them die where she knew you would see them!

Lost Roses said...

I find the "material girl's" behavior very strange too. Does she just want the attention in the form of your reaction? I think it's a darn good reason to ignore futher entreaties for plant material or anything else for that matter! You may be right that there is a sense of entitlement since she's apparently received that in the past from visitors. And hey, you're a gringa, so why not get the same from you?

One thing I found to be a common assumption in Mexico; if you're from the States you have lots of money, whether it looks like it or not. I think from reading your blog that you are very generous by nature and she took advantage of that. Here's hoping you meet more "Concha's" of the world and fewer "material girls"!