dimanche 7 avril 2013

AN ENDOCRINOLOGIST IN SOUTH TEXAS: FROM INDIANS TO INDIANS


The alarm went off at 0600 AM, I had already packed my bags, so it was easy to be ready to leave at 0700. Switched off the heating of the Blue House, thanked the House for the nice hospitality, and the tribe for the incredible days with them.
As I was leaving the village I saw a man walking slowly along. I hesitated for a moment, but then decided: I will take him where he wants to go, that way I don't have to decide whether I take the highway or the rural route to the Airport!
The man was lightly clad, tall, dishevelled, replied: I am going to Macy, which is about 9 miles away.
He got in.
One of the earliest lessons that my Meskwakia teachers gave me: regardless of who is sitting in front of you, treat them all with respect.
When you meet an Indian, usually you try to place yourself in their world. So I asked about his family and soon realized that he is related to the family I was adopted into.
I dropped him off to the entrance of the village to Macy, and asked him: Have you ever seen me before?
Are you not the doctor who comes here?
I realized that repeated visits over the course of twenty years, you become part of the community.
Few miles down the road is a small community of Decatur, the second oldest white settlement in Nebraska and it is easy to say that in the years since then, the attitude of the people there towards the Indians who had been living here for centuries have not changed. There is hardly any social interaction between the Indians and the White People.
A nice little steel bridge at least one hundred years old over the river Missouri and you enter Iowa and as far as you can look there are farmlands on both side of the road, Quickly you catch up with the traffic on I-29 and within one hour you are at the Airport and returning the rental car to AVIS.
Brand loyalty is so well rewarded in the USA. D greets me and we chat for a while, he is the person who checks the car out, but over the years that we have known each other, we have become friends and always some niceties are exchanged.
Is B working at the desk inside? I asked him about my good friend B who has been a friend ever since I started renting AVIS cars here at the Airport.
It took no more than one minute to check the luggage in and get my boarding passes and I went over to the AVIS counter where B greeted me with such warmth.
It was only 9 AM and the airport seemed deserted. We chatted for a little while; she is always helpful and helps me with the various coupons AVIS sends me.
She has been working with AVIS for 16 years, which I think, is a record since this is an industry where there is high turnover. In fact only D and B remain of all my acquaintances over the years at AVIS and thus have become my friends.
You forgot my birthday, didn't you? She kidded. I am extraordinarily bad with birthdays, since I am not in the habit of celebrating my own.
On 21st March, I turned 36. And I know that she likes bracelets and jewellery. I made a mental note to buy her something on my next trip to Asia. She admired my ring from Iran and I told her that two jade stones were waiting for me in Malacca…
She showed me the pictures of her two sons, and told how difficult it is to be a single mother, despite the fact that she has a goo salary and a nice supportive social system.
I don't think they would believe if I told them that many Indians live under dire material poverty but the social structure is intact and that helps them survive. An average American is not educated in nor is he aware of the injustices done to the Indians by the invading marauding Europeans from whom they are descended. But individual Americans, such as D and B are so nice and friendly and for a traveller like me, having these social interactions gives context to the travel I have to do within USA.
A short 2 hour flight to Houston and there, a layover of 3 hours (I like the United Club at Terminal E) and a very short flight of 42 minutes to San Antonio.
I thought to myself, this is exactly the same flying time as the one from Miami to Havana but these two flights had nothing in common other than the fact that they were both undertaken in aircrafts!
Ducked into the United Club at San Antonio situated close to the arrival gates and was happy to see W, who has worked there ever since I have been flying into San Antonio on my way to visit to the Kikapu Indians of Mexico.

A well built, closely cropped man of Mexican descent was the driver and yes, he has served in the Army for ten years and now back home and I love it, he said. They are so polite, Yes Sir, and No Sir and make very polite conversations.
Within minutes of arrival at San Antonio Airport, I was already on Highway 480 West on my way to Eagle Pass via Uvalde to be with my Kikapu family.
I had taken the 90 West this time and had a chance to stop at Castroville, an Alsatian settlement, with preserved architecture of that era. It is amazing to see blond, blue eyed European men and women (now fully integrated Americans) who would not be out of place in that province of France and Germany from where they had migrated. They make good bread so I got a nice whole wheat bread for my Kikapu sister.
This drive took nearly three hours…and once again I enter another world. Eagle Pass is a town right on the border with Mexico and within this isolation from mainstream America; there is a small reservation of Indians, which is isolated from the culture of Eagle Pass.
It felt so natural to find my around and enter the Reservation and find the house of my Kikapu sister.
Her son and grandson were busy playing video games and a new Mascogo (descendant of Africans who went to Mexico with them 150 years ago) lady was in the house to look after them.
The irony was not lost on me. 150 years ago, Indians and African slaves left the then young United States to go to Mexico where they lived side by side but maintaining their distinct cultural identities. The relationship never changed and now 150 years later the Indians are back in the land of their origin, and the Mascogos are suspended between Africa and Mexico, well accepted in Mexico but not so well in the USA. I thought of Rogelio Martins Fure, that brilliant Africanist from La Habana, who would be thrilled to hear some news about them.
Why did I make this long journey, when I have to drive back the 160 miles back to the San Antonio Airport and then catch a very early morning flight to Rapid City, South Dakota and drive another three hours to the Reservation of the Lakota?
I am the traveller, I am on the road, but my Kikapu family nor my esteemed colleague  Dra E and her delightful husband P, can travel to see me, unless we make elaborate arrangements to meet in Cancun or La Habana.

We went to the appointed Restaurant, Parillada Don Miguel in Eagle Pass, by far the best eatery, comparable to the ones in Mexico. My good friends, colleague Dra E and her husband P arrived and we had a delightful dinner together. All four of them, including my Kikapu sister M have been friends for more than 15 years.
Friendship is like a growing plant that nurturing, you need to water this plant and your physical presence is necessary. With all the current social interactions and possibilities over the net these days, nothing beats the face-to-face presence. I cherish each and every one of these moments.
A very nice Mexican Meal, the waitress was the very same one who had served us when I was here two months ago.
We always talk about Juanito, the bartender at our favourite restaurant El Jacal in Muzquiz in northern Mexico. Simple yet wonderful people, these people who come into our lives and are there in the periphery but never to be forgotten.
But as for Dra E, P and my Kikapu sister, they had entered my life, and their presence is permanent and have had a great effect on the course of my life.
It is a morning, a little cloudy; the day has not woken up yet. I am going walking around the reservation away from the homes.
On my right, along the river Bravo, is Mexico, I can see people going about their daily chores.
I am in between, two grand civilizations, in fact both originally Indian, among the Kikapu, they are still Indian but on the other side, they have long ago become assimilated to become Mexicanos.