Lifestyle of migrant worker hasn't been easy


BOARDMAN, Ore. _ I've been riding an emotional roller coaster for the past two weeks since Maria Elena Martinez first informed me that we would be leaving the area and returning to Texas ``any day now.''

One day it's ``We're leaving tommorrow,'' and the next day it's ``No, we're leaving next week.''

For me, I'm sitting one day in my friends' living room, crying and preparing myself to say good-bye to all the wonderful people I've come to meet here and the next day I'm telling her, ``We're staying here one more week. So, ready to party again this weekend?''

I go into Walla Walla every weekend to gain some distance and regain perspective. I have to keep reminding myself that I am a reporter living with this family to get an inside view of how they live and it is important to keep that separation and not get too engulfed in the family.

Going to Walla Walla has helped me do that, but I've also settled into a routine. I come into the community and I've been able to meet new people, socialize with friends, maintain some of my independent, single life that I don't have when I'm with the Martinez family, but the hard part is that I've become attached to some people therefore, saying good-bye is not something I look forward to.

To a certain extent I've had to start thinking as a migrant does. I meet someone; I get to know them and enjoy their company, but in the back of my head I must remember that any day now I will be packing my things to move about 3,000 miles away.

I asked Maria Elena how she can handle this daily, emotional turmoil. ``That's just the way we are and the way we've always been. We never know what's going to happen from one day to the next because plans change so much. Even when we're preparing to come up here, our plans change daily. It's just something you get used to,'' she said.

Although the constant relocation and resettling may come easy for Raul and Maria Elena, it hasn't been easy for their children.

In early September when Jimmy, 10, and Billy, 7, were enrolled in school here, Jimmy was very eager to go to school every day and see his friends. But as the month went by, I started noticing a change in him.

Then one day he asked me, ``It's sad when you have to say good-bye to your friends, isn't it?'' Not knowing what he was getting at, I pursued his questioning even further. He finally told me that although he has a lot of friends in school, he doesn't like to get too close to them because he knows he's going to have to say good-bye.

``The same thing happen when we were in Pasco. I made a lot of friends there but then we left and I don't think I'll see them again. And now the same thing is going to happen here. It's sad, I don't like to say good-bye,'' Jimmy said.

Another one who purposely avoided establishing any type of relationship with people is the Martinez's 15-year-old son Charlie. He told me once a few months ago that he considered himself to be alone. The few friends he did have came from other migrant families. ``At least, if they're migrant workers I know I will see them when we're traveling around,'' Charlie said.

Thinking back to this, I've come to understand why migrant families are a very close group and why they are so family oriented.

They are all they have.

They rely on one another for moral, emotional and financial support, and in many instances will travel together throughout the country looking for work. And it is very common for migrant families to marry within other migrant families.

Although it's time for me to say good-bye to people here that I've spent time with and have gotten to know, admire, like and respect, I know it's not forever. I will be back. I've prepared myself emotionally for this.

But for a 10- and 15-year-old to purposely avoid seeking friends and establishing any type of bond with other people at such a young age, life must be very, very lonely


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