Monday, April 6, 2015

Nadia My Friend (7) Alejandro

Keiko, Aya, Alejandro, May and Nadia

My ultimate concern was that I could not reach our another best and oldest friend Alejandro. Then last Wednesday I was able to speak with him, finally. 

He is in Mexicali doing business with his partner. It was the day before Good Friday in Mexico, he was done his work around 8pm. He found my email when he checked his personal email when he came back to the office and opened his inbox after a while.  

I felt very bad and had to apologized him because originally I sent my message to his old email address and that delayed to reach him the news even more. 

It was also April the 1st, April Food day. However, he understood that I am not the person who would make this a joke and took the news seriously. 

Alejandro y Nadia at the border
He gave me a call and we talked nearly 30 minutes. He is a man with deep sentiments. That is, I believe, why we three were very good friends. We all have good hearts.

He told me he just spoke with Nadia around two weeks ago. They were talking to see each other. He said he wished to go visit Tijuana a bit earlier. 

"Nadia told me she was going to visit Japan. Do you remember Aya right? Somehow she got back in touch with her and she was planning to go visit her."

Aya is a friend who is from Nagoya and minored Spanish at SDSU, but then she suddenly disappeared and we all lost contact. It seems Nadia found her on facebook not so long ago and they seemed to be exchanging messages.

In spite of the shocking news, Alejandro appreciated that I reached him to tell him the news. We confirmed that we are still friends and he will come visit San Diego soon. I also told him "Let's meet up soon and talk." We promised.

He wanted to speak with Luis, and I gave him Luis' phone number. 

It was so sudden for him and I thought he would like to know more. I passed him the links to my English blog writing on Nadia just to hope to share what I have and helped him somehow.

He seems tied up with his work, he said he would be able to come visit in two months. I will look forward to seeing him then. 

We all have our own life, life goes on.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nadia My Friend (6) The Last Mass and Nadia's Home

Tijuana's San Miguel Church

After the early dinner with Luis, we headed to the San Miguel Church by his car.

As far as I know, Nadia's family was not religious, but Luis told me that Nadia's mom is visiting the church for the last couple of years for her concerns.

This is the church where Nadia's last funeral was taken place. Now there was no coffin, Nadia became ashes and is resting in peace somewhere in Tijuana. No more pain.

This time I learn that mass is the only event in Mexico that starts in time. Thanks Sylvia. We arrived just on time, ran to the bathroom. There were a fast high sharp sound "clang clang....." like triangle telling the mass started.

As we sneaked in to the church from the middle side door, and Afra found us and told us with her eyes to sit somewhere. We sat in the right middle, the 2nd row couch from the corridor behind where Nadia's family and relatives were.

The mass lasted nearly one hour in Spanish. With my limited knowledge of Spanish and Cathoric ritual, I barely understood the contents of the preach, but I caught Nadia's long full name in the first and the last of the mass.

I observed from the behind Afra held mom's shoulder during the mass. Mom held tissue in her hands and attached to her face in the last half of the mass.

The priest held a little bowl with pieces of bread in the middle of the mass, the believers made a line for the bread. The priest picked up a piece of bread with his hand and put it in each mouth. Nadia's family and we did not stand in the line for the bread, but Luis whispered to my ear "That bread tastes nothing."

In the last part of the mass, the priest encouraged us to shake hands with people near you, we shook hands with stranger nearby and also Nadia's family and relatives. I held mom's hand with two hands, she looked sad. Dad was there too, he saw me, looked sad, but sent me a wink.

And the mass was over. All the event was ended. I hugged with mom, Afra and dad. Long ones. Mom told me something in Spanish ".....espiritu..... existancia..." I could not get the full meaning and Afra helped me "She is saying Nadia's spirit is here with us."  "Si..." Nadia's spirit is with us. She is within us. "Thanks for coming." Afra spoke in rapid English as always.

We were invited to her home after the mass. We went back with their relatives.

The view from Nadia's home, taken in 2009

Nadia's home was the same as before except some minor changes. The steep slope was steeper than the one in my memory. I still will not be able to park here. Admire those who can do this.

Nadia's green parrot was there looking good, and Aini the cat was hiding somewhere due to her shy characteristics. Those pets were another concern of Sylvia and I reported her they were fine after returned home.

In the house, each sit on a chair and talked over coffee (I had water bottle I brought). We simply talked about what happened recently. Luis was asked if there is no girlfriend yet. Everybody laughed and the air warmed up a little bit. 

Afra said "Mom is doing okay now because the relatives here now. But they leave for home in Nayarit (the Mexican state where mom's hometown is) and I have no idea how she is going to be. So I will be taking a week off from work to stay with her."

The relatives was traveling by long-distance bus as they could not book the air flight due to the Semana Santa holiday. I heard it is 36 hours bus ride one-way. 

Afra was working for Deloitte 5 years ago, but now she works close to her home at her friend's audit house. It would have been hard for her to commute all the way to the Deloitte in Otay Mesa, her commute life would be much easier now. 

All the relatives (Nadia's tio, tia, prima, sobrino and sobrina) left the house at 830pm to catch their bus at 9pm. They were talking "I still cannot believe it" in Spanish and saying goodbye one another with tears. We shook hands with each of them to say good bye.

We left the house at the same timing. I gave a long hug to mom. To Afra I said "You must be tired. Please rest well. I will write you soon. Take care.." Afra said "Yes.. I still need more time... you need to consider about your health as your first priority. Take care." We kissed on the cheek and hugged each other.

Luis dropped me off at the border and I crossed walking back (Thanks to SENTRI, there was no line, just me) I went back home safe and informed Luis so. I also encouraged Sylvia to meet with us soon again.

At this point my puzzle pieces gathered lot better. However the only concern is about Alejandro. I still cannot get in touch with him. I cannot think of any other methods other than one last chance. I need to confirm the last method in the next couple of days.

This news would make him sad very much. We three were very close. (Somehow Alejandro and Luis know each other but not that close.)

In this kind of situation, I wish Nadia was here... then she would easily contact people with no flaw...

Nadia My Friend (5) To The Last Mass, with Luis

Dec 2005 Nadia, me and Luis

Mon 3/30/2015

According to Luis, Nadia was cremated. I thought in Cathoric world burial is more common, but Sylvia told me in Mexico it is half-half.

I vaguely remember that Nadia preferred cremation over burial. She might have thought she would want her ash in the ocean, but I do not know. My bad memory. But I kind of remember about cremation and she was treated as she wished.

After I attended the services on Thu 26th, the funeral and cremation was taken place on Fri 27th. The following Sat 28th, Sun 29th and Mon 30th were the regular mass at the church and they called Nadia's name in the ceremony.

After the lunch gathering with Sylvia on Sunday afternoon, I shared the picture of Sylvia and I to Luis and said "You owe us one good meal next time!" Luis apologized that he could not make it and he promised he will treat us next time.

Luis also said he will join the last mass on the Monday evening. That seemed like the last event of Nadia. I told Luis that I will be there because I wanted to see her family once again and I wanted to beside her spirit.

Luis and Nadia are kind of neighbors and probably the friends from university. They are from UABC and also the exchange students to SDSU.

They spent 3 hours in a car every early morning to commute to SDSU. People even now ask if they were something more than friends, but in the real world they are like a brother and a sister. (Age-wise Luis is the big brother, but actually Nadia was like the big sister. Nadia's family know Luis very well also.)

I got off from work early and drove my car to the west. I parked my car at the paid parking lot near San Ysidro border and walked crossed the border to the south. The coffee shop chain D'Volada was the meeting point. Luckily I checked on Google Maps before I left, I was able to find the little shop even it was hard to find. Luis was waving me from inside the shop.

Luis is sharp on time. "I came early just to avoid any trouble." Nadia was a typical P-person. Time punctuality was not her first priority. I trained myself well through her Mexican time. I even asked friends "So it says 7pm but actually what time it would start really?" for the last few days.

Luis made funny face as he was shy on photos

In Mexico, people kiss on their cheeks once as a greeting. This day Luis gave me a kiss on my cheek and gave me a hug.

"Ohhh, sorry May! I forgot again! You do not do this in Asia! It is my habit! Even at the services I did the same in front of your husband and I was like Oh Shoot!! but it was too late!"

"That's no problem! We are in Mexico, we do Mexican way. It is me always forgetting Mexican way. My husband is okay with it, he has been working here for 15 years. He understands."

We met early enough to sit and talk before the mass. We moved by his car. His car was a white Nissan. Looked pretty new. He said he bought last year. He seems to be successful in his business.

And he asked "Did you eat yet?" and this confused me again. He asked this question at 430pm and I was not sure if he was talking about lunch or dinner. He said "I had late breakfast." I am still far from understanding Mexican meal time culture.

Anyway I just agreed him as he suggested to eat and talk even it was a little early dinner for me. It did not really matter.

Luis studied finance both in UABC and SDSU. After graduation, he got an opportunity to work for Merill Lynch in the US with his working visa support. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to everybody, but he declined the offer. (Nadia was convincing him hard on this, but it did not happen and she was pretty upset about it.)

Luis passed the background check and worked for the Mexican major banks such as Banamex or Santander. Luis knows how to talk with people and always smiling, and of course smart. (Well, according to Nadia, Luis is lacking of caring others or forgetting things, but let's put that aside now!) He went up the corporate ladder to a fairly good position, but then he left the bank couple of years ago.

He ran ice cream shop afterwards and I was slightly worried, but this time I learned he is doing real-estate business (renting houses) with his partner. Sounded pretty lucrative. I work in Tijuana, I know it is a great business now. It is always great to know that my friends are successful.

Open-air, relaxing restaurant in TJ

Luis took me to the brand new mall in TJ where there were only restaurants. The place was open concept and modern. The menu was Mexican, but each taco was over 4 dollars, it was such a luxuous restaurant.

I told him that I never had such a fancy tacos in my life (Except in Japan). We laughed. We ordered two tacos each with soft drink, and talked until 15 minutes before the mass starts.

Luis was interested in Bushido or Buddhism since he was a student. His email address back in college was "bayushi", which is a fake Japanese name that he made up... He said he recently read a book about Native American culture and he was just thinking about death.

Death is always aside you. And you will never know when the next guy will pat your shoulder and say "it is time to go". So we should be conscious about the existence always at the side of you when you make your decisions in your daily life. That is the contents he read recently.

I replied that Native American thoughts are very similar to Asian ones. Like respect the nature, etc. He agreed and said he read that too in the book. It is not us who control the nature, but we are the part of the nature.

(Although he can talk deep like this, he is 37 years old single. Nadia set up blind dates for him in the past, but Luis said he did not click to any women he met...)

Also he had some tragic news to his family friends and he was mentally prepared to death lately. he said he did not have to be shocked as he imagined.

Shrimp and Cheese taco. Fancy.

But I said "Do you have some other friends like Nadia who you can easily call up and say "hey, let's meet up!" and actually hang out?" I dared to ask this knowing the answer.

He thought and said "I do not have other friends like Nadia. She was somebody who is OK to talk about just anything. She just accepted anything."

"I am not the type of the guy who say "Somebody help! I am so down!! HELP!!" but Nadia understands it and just gave me words. Yes, I will miss her."

It is for sure that Luis is facing a big loss too, of course.

Surprisingly Luis heard the news from Vereniz the same friend who passed me the news. "Considering stories I heard from multiple people, it seems it was doctor's malpractice. Our family was saying we will know the truth if we go to the hospital and ask them, but I am not the type of person..."

I was believing Luis heard the news from Nadia's family and it was a little shocking to me. But then for Nadia's family it would have been difficult to call each one of her friends to tell that nearly impossible tragic news. It would have been like admitting the nightmare if they pass it by their own.

At the same time, it was Nadia who was the bridge between the family and outside friends that the family literally would not have the contacts of her friends.

Luis is not the type of person who stands in front of people and leads and organizes things. But he had to be in the middle of the loop in this case just because everyone knew he was close to Nadia and her family. He said it was tough.

"The funeral was tough too. Each person had different mood." Some of their school friends who had not met her for a long term after their graduation was relatively OK and they enjoyed the reunion with the other friends. But at the side I saw Nadia's mom was crying. It was horrible."  I was the latter side of person...

I asked him some of the questions I hardly asked the family, but Luis did not know. "I cannot ask that considering their feelings." We still do not know where Nadia sleeps now. I said we will know eventually and we do not rush to ask them right now. We both agreed.

I also asked Nadia's relationship with her mom and her sister because Sylvia was worried about this as Nadia once shared her frustration. In my personal opinion, the frustration was a short-term thing. Everyone experiences disagreement with family members. But I wanted to make sure for me and for Sylvia.

Luis said "There are some people who are happy about their relationship with their family, and some are not. It is about how you feel about it." Luis said it was not a serious issue.

"Do you think Afra was close to the mom than Nadia was?" " Yes, mom loves Afra. Afra is the special kid. Their relationship was closer than Nadia. But you know, each parent has favorite kid. It is cruel but it is the reality. Of course most parents say that's not true we love everyone the same, but that's not true. I have a big brother and a younger sister, but my brother has fair skin and sister got blue eyes and used to be a model. It is apparent that each parent has their own favorite."

"Could be. Parents are human being too." "But you do not need to get upset about it. The reality is the reality. I know my good points. I am smarter than the other two. I am more clever. These are the reality too." That's right.

For me, being the first child and first grandchild, it might not be easy to actually put myself into Nadia and Luis' standpoint. Both Nadia and Luis are middle child. Another common thing of them.

One of the reasons I liked Nadia and also the one big reason that we were able to keep our good relationship was that Nadia was not the person who envies others or takes a grudge on others. I am very confident about this.

Whenever Nadia introduced me to her friends, they paid respect to me maybe just because I am Japanese (the impression towards Japanese are generally fairly good in Mexico), simply outstanding because of the different look, and I was treated much better than I actually deserved, maybe just because I had fairer skin or maybe I did not speak Spanish. (Skin color matters A LOT in Mexico. They talk a lot about it.)

She never got jealous or upset about the situation. She even seemed to be proud of being my friend. It is, of course, because she knows the reality that she has lots of  good things in her that I do not have. She would not have had the idea of being jealous or upset. After all, she was easy going and cool, like I agreed with Sylvia.

Thus Luis and I left the restaurant and went back to the car, moved to the church for the last mass.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Nadia My Friend (4) Nadia's Friend Sylvia

With Sylvia. After lunch in Little Italy
Sun 3/29/2015

Sunday afternoon. Sylvia drove down from LA. We met up at a restaurant in Little Italy. The restaurant was my favorite and I took Nadia once, and she loved their pesto gnocci.

Originally Luis was supposed to join us for the gathering, but unfortunately he got stuck around the border due to Semana Santa (Holy Week). We two ladies had lunch instead.

When I parked my car and walked to the restaurant, Sylvia was sitting at the terrace seat.

"Thanks for coming." We gave each other long quiet hug.

Sylvia was an ex-coworker of Nadia at an US company. Sylvia was the receptionist there. The company did not seem to treat employees well, and Sylvia got laid off right after Nadia joined the company. "The company instead hired five temp cheap staff. That's what I heard later on."

The same night of the day Sylvia left the company, Nadia called her up and told her "This is nothing to do with your capability or anything, it is because of the company's unreasonable decision." Nadia comforted Sylvia. This is how they became closer friends after Sylvia left.

On Nadia's side, the company did not support her working visa in spite of the original discussion with her. Nadia left the company eventually.

At Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista. Nadia y Sylvia.

I met Sylvia in 2009, when I quit my job and moved back to US and had some break. We met through Nadia, of course.

Around this periond, I remember Nadia was little down, maybe lost in life, and she used to attend the church in San Diego where Sylvia used to go. According to Sylvia, the day we met was the day Church's youth group gathered, so it should have been a Friday. However, my photo data says it is February 2nd, which is Monday, I do not know what day it actually was.

With Chino.
Now Chino is married to a Nicaraguan lady.

This day Nadia and I were hanging around in San Diego side, and met up with Sylvia in Old Town after her church activity. The actual intention of Nadia and Sylvia was to introduce me to Chino, who is the major church member and pro-Japan..

From Old Town we went to a Starbucks, assuming somewhere near Bonita or Chula Vista as we took 54 freeway. According to Sylvia, the church youth group used to hang out at the Starbucks on East Palomar, which is the nearest Starbuck from my current home! But the Starbucks I remember had the high ceiling and seems different from my neighbor Starbucks. I don't know.

Sylvia is an active, outgoing and pretty girl. I got very nice impression and wanted to be good friends. She called me "Mayu" and very kind to me. Besides she told me she is one-eighth Japanese. Her grandpa is Japanese. She said she did not know his Japanese name because he changed name to a Spanish one. In spite of my hoping to be good friends with Sylvia, she was more interested in hooking me up with Chino back then..

Sylvia was apparently disappointed when she learned Chino and I did not happen. Well, Chino was a nice person and he likes the Japanese "visual-kei" bands which I also like, but it cannot be helped...

We tried to see each other after that, but timing did not match. We both had another priority in life.

So Nadia went to the church for a few months and she connected with Sylvia as friends afterwards.

Sylvia was moving between San Diego, LA and her hometown Ensenada back and forth due to her work and family reason. Now she is settling in LA and she is trying to settle there in a long term.

The last time Sylvia met her was in 2012 when she still lived in Ensenada. Nadia visited her over the weekend.

Sylvia told me that she will restart her ballet lesson once she changed to the new job and her schedule is fixed. She explained how great the ballet studio in Torrance is and named some famous ballet dancers from that studio.

I told her that I wished Nadia was there with us, because Nadia was telling me about Sylvia quitting the church and restarted dancing. Nadia was happy to know she was doing what she really loves. (Nadia would hear this from Sylvia in 2012 in Ensenada.)

In Ensenada, she danced in two dance studios. Sylvia explained the first one was one of the best in town and Nadia visited there with her and met the teacher there. The teacher and Sylvia went along with Nadia when she went back to TJ after the weekend. They had to shop some ballet shoes in San Diego. So probably the teacher would remember Nadia.

Another studio Sylvia used to go was Cuban. According to her, Cuban ballet is like Soviet ballet, very strict but sophisticated dance. I learned something interesting.

Sylvia was teaching English at school and at the same time she launched a translation (English- Spanish) business. She still does the translating business on the side. She is currently doing accounting at a flower shop, but soon she will move to a trucking company, which will give her mor e fixed schedule. She was happy about it.

The weather was beautiful and it was so comfortable being outside. We were sitting at the patio seat talking nearly 3 hours. I had pappardelle pasta with salmon cream sauce, and Sylvia ordered lasagna as that was the menu she had with Nadia, but she ordered vegetarian one.

Sylvia has a younger sister with kids living in San Diego. She said she would stop by her sister before heading back to LA. Her sister has met Nadia also, and she said Nadia was a cool person.

Yes, Nadia was a cool person. We both agreed. She was easy going. She never gave people hard time saying something difficult. Sylvia said it was only Nadia who supported and understood her when she left the church.

She felt like she wasted the 10 years at the church, but she wants to believe that she accompanied Nadia at the church and helped her to get some answers she needed back then. She quietly talked.

I really appreciate Sylvia for suggesting me to go to the services. I am free from regret thanks to her. We are hoping to get together soon and this time with Luis also (with Luis' treat!!! He owes us one good meal!)

Nadia My Friend (3) Nadia's Friend Barbara

This is following Nadia My Friend (2). I am writing this for my memoir.

Nadia's soft spot was sweets

Fri 3/27/2015

As Nadia's passing was recognized as a reality in my mind, I started to have the desire to gather all the pieces of small memories of her, confirm each of them and organize them. I am writing this to make sure I have all the puzzle pieces with me.

The following day of the funeral. Supposedly this morning Nadia's final funeral was taken place and she would have been cremated. And there were the mass on the following Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 6pm at San Miguel Church in Tijuana.

Friday night I exchanged messages with Barbara on FB. She talked to me at the funeral. As far as I saw her on FB, she seems to be interested in Japanese culture. I wanted to know Barbara's relationship with Nadia, what she saw about Nadia.

Below is what I learned from Barbara:


Nadia and Barbara were coworkers at the company called Hyson, which manufactures and provides services to Rain Bird the sprinkler and irrigation maker. Nadia was with the company almost 2 years since May 2013.

When Nadia talked to Barbara about me, she would call me "Mi Amiga La Japo." Barbara said "You know Yazmin never really verbally called me friend. But we already knew that we were so we didn't need to say it out loud." I don't remember Nadia ever called me a friend either. I did to her though. In my best assumption, she might have avoided the word "amiga" as it is "too Mexican". In any case, it was one of her aspects.

"And she talked about your good news too. She was looking forward to being an aunt. She was very glad for you." This is something Nadia did not tell me and I just heard. It makes me happy even it were not really true.

"Well, she thought about you in the silliest ways. Do you remember the umbrella you gave her from Japan?" It did not click me first, but after thoughts I gradually remembered that I actually gave her an umbrella, a folding type. Beside it was a used one. I think I gave what I used to use. It was about 10 years ago.

"Yes, it was blue." It was my umbrella, no doubt. Because blue is my favorite color. I would have picked some other color if it was for Nadia.

"She said it was awesome and it is. I also had one from Japan, and we compared note and decided that the Japanese made the best high quality umbrella. So we made plans to visit the 4 floor building of the brand the umbrella you gave her was from." I laughed.

"So she thanked you for that umbrella, it was very useful to her, and she wanted to buy her sister and mother another one too, from the retailer in Tokyo." I thanked Barbara for sharing all what she said because I totally forgot about the umbrella until she brought up. "Those are some very good memories of Yazmin that I want you to have. You see it was silly, but it meant a lot to her."

"She also LOVED Maquillage from Shiseido. You gave her some nail polish years ago, she still had it. You don't know how many times we visited Shiseido shops in LA and San Francisco asking for that line. Apparently it was exclusive to Asia. " Nadia traveled to LA and San Francisco with Barbara and other friends last couple of years.

I remember this one. It was a big hard homework for me to think what gift to bring for her whenever I visited her from Japan. Eventually I learned that something "made in Japan" would be a good option. And once I got three nail polishes for her, her sister and her mom.

Also, Nadia and I stopped by Shiseido booth at the Macy's in San Diego. That time she got her a foundation. Now I think Nadia was a Shiseido fan.

Nadia y Ximena

Speaking of Shiseido, I once gave her an eyelash curler for her because I remember she once said that eyelash curler here hurts her because she's got more like Asian eyes. She was actually using a spoon to make her eyelashes curled! She loved the curler, it was pain-free curler. Barbara said she had heard about it too.

Then Nadia lost the curler when she was playing with her friend's kid Ximena. The little girl lost it somewhere. Barbara said she was very upset about it. I said jokingly that I was disappointed too.

"She even kept the pamphlet of Maquillage, and asked me to search where we could buy that when we went to Japan."

Nadia's one big habit was she used to keep lots of stuff once she likes it or she has good memories with it. Even very old things, pictures, packages, papers, or anything. One time she got a tea bag of coca tea from a friend as a souvenir of Andes. She opened it and tasted when I came back to San Diego. Later I saw her still keeping the yellow tea bag package with her. She preserved stuff pretty well and of course her room was filled with lots of stuff.  And I kind of do the same, so this might be something we had in common, but she was obsessed with more stuff.

"Well, I was impressed that every pamphlet she had was very well preserved. The pamphlets from NOLA (New Orleans), OMG May, she wouldn't shut up. Really, it was something annoying, but now I look back and can't help but smile."

What I remember her about our New Orleans trip was she loved Bourbon Street, where there are lots of bars and restaurants are on both sides of the street. She said she finally knows why people loves to come Revolucion Avenue in Tijuana.

'But Cafe DuMont, that was the one of the things she talked about NOLA the most. She could almost taste the beignets and coffee. She tried the beignets in Disneyland but would always complain that they will never be as good as the ones in Cafe DuMont. You spoiled her. Hahaha. Even whenever she had coffee, she would complain it's not as good as the one in the Cafe DuMont. She was hard to impress."

"But I'm glad I saw some genuine surprise from her. Sometimes it was something as simple as just gifting her chocolate." Sweets were Nadia's soft spot. Like Barbara said Nadia loved sweets and she was like a child on this part. She was not the person to waste money, but she would buy chewing gum here, and candy there.

Also, Barbara told me that she advised her to use red lip sticks, which is a truly good advice as red lips definitely suited her light skin color. It was surprising that Nadia actually considered to visit Japan this year as I know she was not really interested in Asia generally. Barbara said it was a hard sell, but they was talking to go visit Tokyo Disneyland. (Late years Nadia was with Disney fan friends and she got influenced by them.)

Lastly Barbara said "She talked a lot about you, so I kind of knew you from out talks :-)"

My desire to find the missing puzzle was getting satisfied much more than before the talk. I was so happy to know that Nadia got to know such a great friend at work.

My collection of puzzle pieces will continue...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nadia My Friend (2) The Last Glance

Nadia holding a four-leaf clover

This is following Nadia My Friend (1). I am writing this for my memoir.

Wed 3/25/2015 
It was the morning of Wednesday March 25th when I learned the tragic news. By the evening of the same day, I was informed that the funeral will be held on the following day. Later I learned that it is general that funerals are done promptly in Mexico.

Because my physical and mental condition has not been very good since January, I was concerned if my body and soul can endure this absolutely brutal event. It was very difficult to make decision of whether I should be at the funeral. To tell the truth, I was scared to see my friend not moving, and friends and family are mourning. I was very scared to face the reality.

Even by the evening I was thinking it would be better not to go.

This day I exchanged messages with some of the mutual friends. One of them was Sylvia. She inboxed me around 9pm. "Is it prank or something?"

I told her that it is not a prank, the fact that she actually passed away and the reason. Also, I confessed her that I am physically weak now, and not sure if I could endure the ceremony.

She said "OK Mayu, I will tell you something. I lost my childhood BFF at 15. I only saw her at the funeral but did not to the burial. I regret it till this day. I got sick, so bad. I held all inside."

The word "regret" strongly hit me in my head. I absolutely do not want to regret. I swear that I have to maintain and prepare my condition and need to be there the best I can.

Sylvia and I could not sleep until 1am exchanging messages.

On this day I posted on FB a photo album "Nadia and me", which has over 60 photos of Nadia and I from around 2002. I still have some more photos, but they are not digital and stored in my home in Japan.

I passed Nadia's news to friends with the photo album. When I named the names of the friends I met through Nadia, it was easily over ten people. This is the evidence that Nadia was always the bridge connecting people to people. She really connected me to people, great people.

It was very nice of my friends, even some of them does not know Nadia, that they wrote to me kind words to comfort me. Very kind people. I was moved.

My husband was very worried about my health. Even so he agreed to go to see her one last chance with the following condition: Not to be emotional or crying in front of her (especially in Asia, it is said that the dead people cannot leave this world for heaven if the left people get saddened and cry. The spirit of the dead would get lost in this world.) He basically asked me to be calm not to harm myself.

He drove me to the venue (I do not even know how to drive in Mexico!), accompanied me to the funeral. It was a very good thing that I had him who can support me closely in this sad time of the life.

Nadia Laughing

Thu 3/26/2015
I asked my coworker's help to confirm the location of the funeral house. The Mexican coworker Socorro confirmed the correct location on the Google Maps. She said "Call me if you need help. I am very familiar with the area."

I was lacking of sleep and tensed this day. My condition was not the best thing. I had been contacting with people to pass the news.

The only one things I am still concerned is that I cannot get a hold of another oldest friend Alejandro. He is not using FB and he has not replied my email.

The funeral house is called AIMAR on Blvd Fundadores in Tijuana. I leanred this is the street where multiple funeral houses are located.

I was informed that the services was from 7pm, but according to my husband's Mexican coworker, normally the body is picked up from the hospital around 6pm, and they will have family time from 7pm. It would be good to visit after 8pm. The services would last until midnight.

The venue was only 10 minutes from the border, and 25 minutes from our home in the US. My husband came back from back a little early, we had simple dinner and left home around 8pm.

We arrived at the venue around 8:30pm. We were asked to park our car behind the funeral house, where the humble residence of the owner was. We parked in a very tiny spot, the area was filled with cars.

It was a night with no coldness or no heat. It was a typical California night. The funeral house looked not that big and relatively new and clean. It was a private venue that can hold only one services at a time. There was a simple rest area on the 1st floor, and the 2nd floor was the church-style place with some couches.

Once stepping in to the building, we saw a lot of people in a small area. Carlos, the brother of Nadia, found us and and came close to me. We gave long and quiet hug. Nadia's father was nearby and we shook hands and hugged each other.

Carlos told me "Afra and mom are upstairs. Whenever you are ready." Since we had nothing else to do on the 1st floor, I made up my mind and we decided to walk up the stairs.

After climbing the stairs, I saw lots of people sitting on the couches and others standing and talking. There were lots of attendants.

In front of all the couches, I saw the alter and the vivid red rims of flowers. I cannot recall well but I believe those were fresh red roses. The flower rims had banners with sender's names and messages. I saw one of them was from her classmates from junior high school.

By the time my eyes are used to the vivid red colors, I saw the white coffin in the middle of the alter. The coffin looked awfully small even Nadia's height was shorter than I am.

On the left side of the coffin, along with the more flower rims, there were two pictures of her. One was the colored one that she is holding a four-leaf clover in her left hand. The other was the dark one that Nadia and I took in front of the border. Her smile was in full bloom. My eyes were instantly filled with tears as her smile came in to my eyes.

Great smile of Nadia, in front of the border

In my mind, I told myself  that I must see her with my both eyes to convince me to accept what has happened. Also I felt this is the duty for me to see her not moving. Although my feet started to move towards the alter, Afra found me and came to talk to me.

We hugged each other long and quiet. I literally lost words, and could not give any words to her even she understands English. Afra told me "Thanks for coming" in her rapid English. "Mom is over there." She pointed where her mother was.

I saw Afra and understood that she had been working constantly as a host for all the preparation work related to the funeral while holding sorrow deep in her mind.  

Afra and Nadia would share a room in their home, and I was allowed to share the room with them when I stayed over their home. Also, Afra used to work for a Japanese company and studied Japanese language. I personally felt a little close to her.

Another woman came close to me when I was looking towards Nadia's mom. It was Nadia's friend Barbara. It was the first time to meet her, but I knew she was close to Nadia on facebook.

Barbara held both of my hands and gently told me Nadia would often talk about me, she told her she really enjoyed the trip to New Orleans that she made with us. I was moved but yet could not generate any sentences in my head. The best I could do was to hold her hands back tight and said "Thank you."
Barbara was truly kind and warm-hearted. She would know a lot of things about Nadia and I decided to send her a personal thank you note through FB later on.

Then I walked up to Nadia's mom. It has been a while since I saw her last as I had not visit Nadia's place, but she looked the same as I remembered. Whenever I would visit their home, she would welcome me by hugging me and said "Mi hija~~". This day she again called me "Mi hija.." but the voice was wet and choked up with tears. We hugged each other very very long quiet moment.

Mom spoke to me a lot in Spanish. I could not understand well, but I understood that she was talking about how I had good long relationship with Nadia and she left us all of a sudden. I just wanted to cry out loud, but instead I did my best to purse my lips and cried with my eyes, as I promised with my husband.

Mexican family relationship is close and tight. They are tied firm together, they stay together. That's my impression.  I clearly remember once when Afra had to move to Orange County for her work, mom was at the kitchen table holding handkerchief crying. I lost for words when I think of her now lost her daughter for good.

Luis was nearby mom. Luis was like Nadia's brother. We hugged and greeted. I imagined Luis would be helping the family as he was close to Nadia and her family and lives very close to them. Luis introduced me to their mutual friends from SDSU. They were trying to cheer me up with a chat with light jokes, I tried my best to catch up with the conversation, but my mood was far away from socializing at that moment. (Besides I could not speak for the shock when Luis asked me if I am still going to see baseball. That was the last thing I did with Nadia.)

Luis said he would see Nadia much less than the past, like once every three months. He said he went to the movies with Nadia for Fifty Shades of Grey, just to be in the loop of trend, to try to catch up with the rest of the world. This made me smile as it was so much like them.

Luis and Nadia would commute to school crossing the border, which took them 3 hours every early morning in their early 20's. They spent so much time together. Even at the services some of their SDSU friends asked Luis "So are you sure there was nothing between you two?"

While friends were enjoying conversation, I got destructed and was checking towards the alter. Honestly,Really, I was not in the mood to fully enjoy chatting with people on that spot. I moved out of the friends' loop and started to prepare myself looking at the chubby white coffin. Nobody was around the alter area.

It took me quite some time to get prepared to walk to the alter. When I felt I became calm enough, I talked to my husband "let's go", I held his hand firmly and headed to the alter.

The coffin had two lids, the top one was open to show inside. According to Sylvia, this services was the last chance to see the inside of the coffin and the lids would be closed for the following services.

Nadia was there laying down with make-up nicely. Her one hand was laid on the other hand, and the nails got polished. Even so, she looked far from what she was when she was moving around, she was like a wax doll. "I should not cry otherwise she cannot leave for heaven." Still it is so painful and sad to see her not moving, I could not hold my emotion. I had to close my mouth tight and water pumped up from my eyes.

There should be so many things to tell her and ask her, but I was trying hard to put my emotion down. I could only tell her "Nadia, you are beautiful."

Coming back from the alter, Afra came to me and asked if I want some water or juice. I thought she would be missing her in a silence once this busy and crazy moment is gone.

Luis y Nadia

I read somewhere that people wear somewhat casually for the funerals in Mexico, yet I saw majority of the people were wearing black or other dark plain colors.

Luis, I and my husband sat on the couch and talked for a while. It would have been around two years since I see him last. I asked him what he does now. We talked a little bit, then the priest came in and stood near the alter and the mass had started. It was around 9pm.

I am somewhat familiar with Christian situations, but Mexico is a Cathoric culture. They were chanting "Santa Maria, Madre de Dios..." again and again. (I believe this is the one they were chanting) I also heard them chanting "Orar por ella (pray for her)".

The mass lasted for one hour. There were some singing in the middle. I did not know any of the songs. Would be different songs from Christian churches. Nadia's full name "Nadia Yazmin Aguirre Barajas" was repeated by the priest. That was what I could catch during the mass.

After the mass, I spoke with Luis briefly but not enough, yet we decided to leave the venue as it was getting late and I was still concerned about my body condition. I waited near Nadia's mom for my turn to talk to her as she was surrounded by several people. Mom told me "Our home is always open for you, please come visit anytime. Afra is still there." She said in Spanish but I understood this one. I handed her the money envelope and I gave her a long hug once again.

Carlos was upstairs. I briefly spoke with him, gave him a hug, and walked down the stairs. I saw Nadia's dad talked with other people. I gave him a nod and left the building.

Afra was outside the building with other people, but once she saw us she left the group and walked towards me. She said "Our home is always open to you. Come visit us anytime." I told her that her mom said the same thing in Spanish, and I somehow caught it. We smiled a little each other, hugged and said good bye.

On the way home in the car, I told my husband. "Thank you for taking me, coming with me. I was so glad I was there. I have no regret." I felt a little better after witnessing Nadia one last time. I was less tensed, and I felt I accomplished one of my duties.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nadia My Friend (1) Our Memories

My best and oldest friend Nadia, holding a four-leaf clover in her hand

On Tuesday March 24th 2015, my best friend Nadia passed away.
She was 35 years old as her birthday was in January.

I was on Facebook on Wednesday morning. There I found some of her friends were posting on her page some messages in Spanish, but I could read that those are like RIP, or I will always remember you, it is so sudden, etc. Some posted pictures of her. I just hoped it was a prank or something.

I reached out one of her friends Vereniz and asked what was going on. She wrote back and told me unfortunately our dear friend passed away.

"Apparently she had pain by her appendix that she let pass by. When she went to the doctor, they told her colitis and sent her home. Her pain continued and Tuesday she went back to doctor... they figured it was her appendix that bursted 1 or 2 weeks before... they operated her yesterday. She was in recovery but hours later she did not make it."

It was like a bad joke. I was absent-minded, could not swallow the situation, However, as time went buy the news struck me as a real thing.

In 2005 at SDSU cample we visited as alumni.
Nadia picked up Daily Aztec

Nadia and I met in 2001, when I was an exchange student at San Diego State University (SDSU).

Nadia is from Tijuana, Mexico, the border city South of San Diego. She was a student at UABC in Tijuana, and also attended SDSU as an exchange student.

Nadia was a border-born bilingual. She was nice and gentle to me who then did not speak good English. She even suggested to take the same class the following semester. First I thought it did not take it seriously, but we actually took Intercultural Communication class in Spring.

The second half of my stay in San Diego was extremely fun. She introduced me to her other Mexican friends and classmates. We used to meet up and chat between the classes, or went to somewhere for fun.

On weekends, she and other friend Luis and Alejandro would often take me to Tijuana. They showed me different areas of the city, and Nadia let me stay in her home multiple times. Thus I get to know her parents, her big sister Afra and younger brother Carlos, and we see each other again and again.

Not only Tijuana, but my Mexican girl friend showed me and taught me a lot about San Diego also. I remember we went to La Jolla together before my return to Japan. The beach was beautiful and I did not want to go back home. I thought I must come back to this land someday.

In 2002, I was back in Japan, and yet dreaming of San Diego. Even when I got a job at South Korea's Tourism Bureau, I kept coming back to San Diego for my annual one-week vacation.

I was chanting that I want to go back to San Diego. Nadia always listened to me. One time I thought it might be difficult to find a job in San Diego, but could be possible in Tijuana. Nadia seek opportunity for me.

Now I know, it was nothing but Nadia's friendship that I was able to keep dreaming to come back and work in San Diego. And my unrealistic big dream came true.

In 2006, at the bull fighting place in Playas de Tijuana

The view from Nadia's home, which is on the steep slope.
Tadahito Iguchi and Nadia, probably in 2008.
She took this photo and sent it to me knowing I am a big fan of him.

Although Nadia was a middle child, she was like a big sister among our friends in spite of her age. She was unique, definitely different from others, had lots of guy friends, yet had girl friends too. She also had tremendous amount of knowledge and memory. She used to tell me some unbelievable stories from her past that I was blown out and yet doubting, but then always later it turned out to be true.

She used to talk about her friends, which everybody who knows her would agree. She used to say like "I have a friend called xxx, she is like xxx and we did xxx together..." etc.

In contrast with her, I have a bad memory and easily forget things from the past. 

At the funeral, her friends talked to me and said "Oh you are May. I heard a lot about you from Nadia."

Nadia and me in 2009, when I moved back to the US.
In front of San Ysidro border.

In 2009, I made up my mind and quit my beloved job. I moved back to San Diego. I studied Business Management at UCSD hoping to work in tourism marketing industry in San Diego.


But I first pretended that I just temporary visited San Diego.

I met up with Nadia and Alejandro Downtown San Diego. In front of Horton plaza, I said "I have a big news!" "Are you pregnant??" "No! I am coming back to San Diego!!" It was Nadia who instantly said "Congratulations!!".

And my friends said "Let's celebrate!". We crossed the border to Mexico, had some tacos for snack, and went to the apartment that Nadia used to live alone that time.

Taqueria we used to stop by for munches

Buzzed Nadia and me. We talked until dawn.

Around this time Nadia started to keep Aini the cat

Reunion with Luis the banker. At TGI Fridays in TJ.
Nadia's B-day Party with her high school (?) friends.
A few months later, Carmen the lady next to me passed away.
One of very few girly shots of us
The following day hanging at the mattress store where Fabian used to work
When she introduced me to Sylvia and Chino. At Taco El Gordo.

This is how Nadia put me in her friends' loop in the most natural way. It was a big fortunate thatI had friends who can support one another in this difficult moment .

Thus I spent a few weeks in San Diego and Tijuana after leaving my previous job. In February, Yuko, my friend from Japan, and I visited Mexico City and Cuba. In March, I started the program at UCSD.

There was a time when I suffered from homesick. It was about three months after the program started. It was my first experience. It would have been because the environment was totally different from the previous one at SDSU, and I was much older than the last time I stayed in a different environment.

It was Nadia and Alejandro who helped and supported me then. Although I lived in UTC area then, they came to visit me and cooked carne asada together. We talked on walkie-talked when we are not seeing each other.

Three of us visited San Felipe. With gigantic cucto.

We used to go places, sometimes over night whenever we all got time.

Dec. 2009 at quinceanera party of Hermes' daughter

Classmate Reunion
May, Fernando, Nadia and Hermes
Nadia, May and Alejandro
Jan. 2010, B-day Celebration for Nadia y Alex

March 2010, TJ and Ensenada with my mom and sister
At the Tijuana Beach, in front of the border

Nadia and Alejandro treated my family just like me when they visited San Diego and Mexico. It is needless to say that both my mother and sister are deeply saddened and shocked about the news.

Fundraiser Dinner in TJ April 2010

During this time Nadia was interested in helping people. She and I went to the fundraiser dinner.

Puerto Penasco Trip April 2010

Right after the charity dinner, we went back to the US side of the border, got on my old small red car and headed to Calexico/ Mexicali. We were supposed to trip to Puerto Penasco with Alejandro the following day. It is a funny memory that we had a short sleep in the car parked on the street and the border patrol officer suspected and woke us up. 

It was a hard schedule but we had a good time.

They accompanied me full two days when I celebrated my big 3-0 birthday.

Big 3-0 B-day lunch

We hang out even after the party

April 2012 in New Orleans

Nadia and I were seeing less each other after the second half of 2010 when I graduated and went back to the corporate world. But we still saw each other once in a while and exchanged emails.

In April 2012, I invited Nadia to the trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally I was planning to go with my boyfriend (current husband) and I remembered Nadia once told me she wanted to visit the city. She came along with us.

Holding baby crocodile. Nadia is behind me.

Right after the trip I was thinking I wish I spoke a little more with her. I was not sure if she enjoyed the trip. However, Nadia's friend Barbara kindly told me that she enjoyed the trip very much and would often tell her about the trip. This healed me a lot. According to Barbara, Nadia liked Cafe DuMont so much and she wanted to go back to that place.

It was July last year when I saw her last, when forty friends of us went to see baseball game together. Nadia's sister Afra was there, and her brother Carlos joined after his work at a sport radio station. My husband and I brought them back to the border. I said "I am soooo glad to see three of you at the same time!"

And January this year. We were planning to meet up for her birthday. Unfortunately I was very sick that moment. I explained her the reason and we postponed the gathering. I missed the chance to see her again.

Continue to Nadia My Friend (2)