When I lived in El Salvador I used to dream of coming to the United States because I thought life would be like what I saw in music videos. Kris Kross, M.C. Hammer, C+C Music Factory – I admired the style of the clothing and imagined the fun I would have living among such cool people. I imagined I would go to a school like Bayside High School on Saved by the Bell.

I’ve lived in the United States now for 15 years and needless to say, my life does not resemble the life of Zack Morris, but it’s okay. At least I finally understand the lyrics (sometimes) to the songs I listened to so often without comprehending any of the meaning.

The past 2 years, my wife, Tracy, has gotten invitations to various events through blogging. Some I have gone to with her and some I haven’t. The most recent event was the Blogalicious conference this past weekend.

Tracy has always been pretty publicly open about my dislike of these kinds of things.

In the past our fights for and against events were basically like this:

Me: You’re being selfish for wanting to go off on your own.
Her: You’re being selfish for not letting me go off on my own.

I’m starting to accept that maybe we both have a point.

While I didn’t go to the actual Blogalicious conference, I had the opportunity to meet many of Tracy’s “bloguera” friends this past weekend. I could see within minutes that Tracy was part of a group of good people who care for her very much. I’ve never been a fan of male/female friendships, (it’s culturally hard-wired, sorry) – but I really came to admire and like some of Tracy’s friends. I was surprised by how much they know about me even though I know that Tracy blogs about me. Some have read this blog. Some congratulated me on going back to school. Others congratulated me on marrying Tracy, (ya sé que me gané la lotería con ella.) Some extended sympathy for the situation with my mother. Some asked me friendly and interesting questions.

It made me feel good but also it made me realize an area of my life that is missing something. My best friend is in El Salvador and I would consider other men I’ve met through work to be just acquaintances … Now that my mother isn’t part of my life and I have limited family I speak with, I’m understanding more the importance of friendship and having a community of people to understand, support and encourage you. It’s difficult to come to that conclusion since I’m not very social, (online or in real life), and not likely to seek it out.

While I was coming to understand Tracy’s need for these kind of events better, she somehow was also coming to understand things from my perspective. She told me that “finding balance” and “priorities” were major topics of conversation with her blogging friends. These topics are so hot that one of the conference sessions was about the same issue. We had long discussions about everything she had on her mind. Apparently it made her think a lot about these issues in our life together. I can already see some positive changes she’s made. She isn’t checking her phone as much, for one thing.

I don’t know what this means for us on this issue in the future. Maybe I will never like her going to events and maybe she will always love going, but I think balance and understanding are what we’re both working towards.

Image source: Digitalnative

[This post is in Spanish. English Translation HERE.]

Hace varios años yo estaba todavia en la escuela, mi escuela desidio hacer una excursión al Boquerón.

El Boquerón está como a 30 minutos de San Salvador. En aquel tiempo cuando yo fui con mi escuela la carretera no se encontraba en un buen estado, pero de todas maneras no impidio que fueramos a hace bonito paseo llegando sin ningun inconveniente.

Estando en ese lugar mis compañeros de escuela y yo nos sentamos a conversar de nuestras aventuras en la escuela. En determinado momento un amigo mio me pregunto ¿regresarias otra vez aqui?

Yo sin pensarlo le conteste sí. Pero cuando regrese sera con mis hijos y esposa así sera. Bueno alrededor de 15 años después regrese fue una experiencia que nunca olvidare y estoy feliz que mi familia conozca las maravillas de El Salvador.

I did not receive love and encouragement from my parents but that does not necessarily mean I will make the same mistake with my own children. On the contrary, I give my sons all my love and always let them know how proud I am of them.

Every child needs love and caring, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Unfortunately some parents are too ignorant to know what their child needs, and the problem is passed from generation to generation.

In some segments of the Latin American community, this is a real problem. Our parents believe respecting them is a priority above all else, while building a child’s self-esteem is seen as a ridiculous modern notion. Some parents put their needs above their child’s – worried only that they will be taken care of when they grow old. Some parents believe they must be first in your life, above all else – including your wife, children, or your own well being or desire for happiness.

It seems that this problem is taboo to talk about, and so nothing ever changes. If anyone suggests that maybe things shouldn’t be this way, they are called selfish, told that they are sinning and God will punish them, made to feel guilty or accused of being Americanized. (I have endured all these things.)

Hopefully things will change for future generations. At least I know that my children will never have to ask me why I didn’t love them or encourage them. My sons will never feel that I brought them into this world simply to make sure I’d have someone to take care of me.

My family and I returned from our trip to El Salvador a couple weeks ago. I am still trying to recover in various ways.

Though this was overall a happy experience which I don’t regret for a second, it did cause some confusion in me.

There were problems on the first day with my mother, which Tracy already explained on her blog. It goes without saying that this is a difficult thing for me and it’s something that will be an on-going problem. Regardless of the situation with my mother, the trip was emotional in other ways.

For the first few days I felt that I didn’t belong there – that I wasn’t Salvadoran anymore because I didn’t understand how things worked. I’ve lost some of my Salvadoran accent, and somehow, even when Tracy wasn’t with me, people seemed to treat me as a tourist.

After the first week I broke through all that. I felt like I fell into the rhythm of my country. I felt more confident in my actions. I knew where to buy what I needed at good prices and how to get there. I picked up on new slang and incorporated it into my vocabulary. I spent hours talking with my old best friend, reminiscing about old times and creating new memories – our two families together – our kids hanging out the way we hung out when we were their age. I felt proud to show my country to my children – and prouder still that they loved it.

I felt Salvadoran – not like a visitor. But with that new happiness came new problems. Now I felt as if I didn’t want to return to the United States.

Of course the day came when we had to go to the airport and get on the flight. I was surprised that Tracy and the boys were going through a similar mix of feelings. I hugged my best friend goodbye and we both pretended to be stronger than we felt. As the plane lifted off, taking me back to the land of my wife and children, back to my adopted country, back to our house and all its responsibilities, back to work and reality in general, I cried – all of us did.

Once back in the United States, I went through a period of readjustment which still isn’t quite over. Sometimes I feel depressed and nostalgic. At other times I feel thankful, blessed and guilty. I call my best friend daily. He wishes he could live in the United States – wishes he could work in a job that paid him even half of what I make per hour. He wishes he lived in a house on a quiet suburban street like I do, instead of in Soyapango where thieves have broken in and gangs have tagged his home with graffiti. He wishes his son, who is only a little older than my oldest son, had all the opportunities my kids have.

It’s difficult to feel like I belong in two places at once, but that I don’t wholly belong to either.

In two weeks we’re traveling back to El Salvador for the first time in over a decade. There are a lot of things I’ve missed. Here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to:

#5. oysters

(Image source: bocadorada)

#4. flying in an airplane

(Image source: treehead)

#3. my childhood home

(Image source: clarkefreak) - Not my actual house, but similar.

#2. street food (especially pupusas)

(Image source: ceasol)

#1. showing my boys all I can of their roots in 12 days

(Image source: damejiar)

4th of July

Posted: July 4, 2011 in gringolandia, personal

Today we celebrate the 4th of July – it’s a time to think about how lucky we are to live in The United States – a country of much freedom and opportunities.

I will always be Salvadoran, but I’m American now too – and I’m proud to say so.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!