When I first arrived in Monterrey (in the state of Nuevo León), my now-husband barely noticed me. We lived under the same roof during my semester abroad, and I think if I hadn’t landed smack in front of his eyes and disrupted his family’s household, we never would have made any sort of connection at all.
His mom introduced us on the day I got there, when he returned home from second shift at work (at the Lala factory, where he had been working happily for several years as a machine operator). He gave a slight “hello” and walked right past us into the kitchen.
Aron, his parents, his teenage sister, and I were living in a one-bedroom house in an increasingly shady neighborhood — returning from university campus, the taxi drivers would be like, “are you sure you want to go there?” — called the Colonia Moderna. The house had a small bathroom, kitchen, and living room. At the rear of the house was a patio with cinder block walls separating the property from the neighbors’.
For the most part, the size of the house was actually not bad. We made it work. The main issue I had was concerning the dogs. For the majority of the time that we were living in the Moderna, there were at least 11 dogs at the residence — the outdoor dogs: a German Shepherd named Negra, a part-Dalmatian named Pini, and a large Chihuahua named Peke; and the indoor dogs, all Chihuahuas: Fifi, Litzy, Paloma, Mila, Don Limón, Jenni, Bruce, and Jay. There would be more when one of the females had puppies, and Mamá usually sold them. She had a big heart so sometimes it was difficult for her to give them up.
Let me point out here that none of the dogs was housetrained. Ugh. But let’s forget about the dogs for now.
Though his initial greeting left something to be desired, Aron and I became close very quickly after that. We would often go spend time together at the quinta, as we called it in those parts. The quinta would become one of my saving graces. It was within short walking distance from our house (though to get to it I would have to pass by used auto parts places, where many times the guys would not have very nice things to say).
The quinta is a public park in the Moderna with a walking/running path, playground, a couple of dirt soccer fields, a baseball diamond (originally), a fútbol rápido court, and two outdoor swimming pools. We mostly occupied the rápido court, taking turns shooting and goalkeeping. There were times when a group of guys would be playing, and we would join in on the game. I was always the only girl playing, but the age range was impressive: even 7 or 8 year olds showed their skills, contributing to games involving teenagers and men in their 20s and 30s+.
Other times, we would go to walk and run. After our exercise, we would sit under the shade and talk. This was how we really got to know one another. Surprisingly, it was very easy to talk with him about some of the most difficult topics like family, work, goals, values, and how we each were raised. He had no problems with the millions of questions I would ask, and he would do his best to answer and to translate what I did not understand. His patience and respect for me was phenomenal.
I still was not at the peak of my mental or physical health, but within months, my love for myself had grown. And I had gone from a size 12+ to about a size 6 by the time my semester abroad had ended.
That was just the beginning of my transformation. I still had (and have) a lot of blanks to fill in, and I look forward to sharing more of those moments with you here🙂