SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2007        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Linda Candelario

No Vacancies?

Nantahala Mountain Resort. "Between the Streams." Search.

   “Yes, we do have rooms available” was Ben’s response to my question as to whether his motel had vacancies for the night. Ben’s motel was set back off of the beaten path of the interstate in Montana. The lobby furnishings consisted of a few over sized chairs, a few potted plants, and a tall, long, wooden reception desk. It was difficult to see Ben who was busy with his chores behind the desk. It seems that other people had the same realization that hotels were sparse along the interstate and decided that it would be wise to stop for the night.

    My family and I were traveling to go see my mother who lived in Missouri before we went on to our new military installation in Phoenix during June of 1989. We were enjoying the beautiful scenery of the states we traveled through. Our trek began in Neah Bay, Washington which is located on the far western peninsula of the state. We traveled in an easterly direction through the state of Washington noticing how the landscapes changed from green and lush vegetation to dry and barren. Our children, Savannah 5 and Cruise, 9 years old at the time, were no longer in session for school and so we decided to tour various states. We traveled through Idaho which was beautiful and then slipped into Montana to see what the state looked like, it was very flat and no businesses for miles. We traveled through Montana for awhile and decided that we would head south to see more of Idaho. We thought that Idaho was beautiful with its mountains and streams. After Idaho we decided to wander into Wyoming to see Yellowstone National Park.

     Savannah and Cruise were excited and were on their best behavior most of the time because they wanted to have some adventures by visiting tourist attractions. A family friend, Cathy, from Neah Bay helped with the children’s excitement by making each of the children their own activity travel bag. Cathy wrapped every item in gift wrap for the children and instructed me to give the children something different every hundred miles. However, I was to secretly take away what they had previously opened. After each of the items were opened and taken back, I was to give back what I secretly removed every fifty miles or so. Cathy was a genius with the gifts. Each child got toy cars, crayons, coloring books, reading books, clear tape, masking tape, action figures, yarn, snacks, small note pads, traveling dishes, toy binoculars, sun glasses, and toy whistles to blow when they got out of the van.

    Ben’s motel was the first one we stopped at in Montana because it was getting to be late in the afternoon and I wanted the children to get out of the van while they were content. Savannah and Cruise were asleep when Antonio and I found Ben’s motel, Antonio asked me if I would mind going into the motel to see if there were vacancies. As I was waiting for Ben to finish checking in the other travelers, Antonio and the children came walking in asking if there were available rooms. I told Antonio that there were rooms and that I was waiting for Ben to finish with the first customers. After Ben saw my husband, whose ethnicity is Mexican; he told us that there were no vacancies. I was very angry and annoyed because Ben had just told me that there were plenty of available rooms, Ben had just clearly lied to me! Antonio could not understand why I was so angry because he only heard Ben tell me that there were no vacancies. The beautiful warm sunny day turned into a day of anger and frustration.

    After driving for awhile Antonio asked me why I was so upset. I told him that Ben had told me that there were plenty of available rooms and asked me to wait while he checked in the first travelers. It wasn’t until after Ben saw Antonio that there were suddenly no rooms available. After my explanation Antonio understood why I was angry. Antonio felt angry and sorry for Ben because of his shortsightedness.

    We reasoned that Ben’s community was a small one that they had no tolerance for people who were different from them. My family and I had lived in many states and Germany; we had not encountered such extreme prejudice in this day and age. It seems incredible that people have a difficult time accepting different ethnicities. Ben’s reaction to our relationship was amazing to us. We hope he has learned to be accepting of different ethnicities and relationships. It is a relief that some people have come to accept those who are different. 

    Antonio’s parents had encountered prejudice while they were traveling around the United States. They had always encouraged Antonio and me to stop at well known motels because they felt that we would be safe. His parents had been assaulted in a small no name motel when they were young and adventurous.
This incident has lingered with me because this was the first time that I felt an unfairness which involved my children. Antonio and I had several challenges when we decided to get married but we didn’t care what others thought, we just knew we wanted to share our lives with each other, but this was the first time that our decision had an impact on our children.

I come from a background where my parents thought that being white was superior over any other race. From a young age I couldn’t understand why my family thought they were so much better than any one else. I mostly felt this way because we were living a hand to mouth existence, at best. My parents always called me uppity and a radical. I was okay with that because I didn’t like what they tried to teach.

My husband’s family is and was hard working, honest people who enjoyed their children. They are and were accepting of others, no matter their ethnicity. Both of my husband’s parents came from Mexico. They came to the U.S. because they wanted a better life for their children. My husband is the second eldest of seven siblings. After graduating high school he decided to join the military because he didn’t want to work as hard as his father.

People have become more accepting of our relationship over the years. There are occasions when someone will say some prejudicial statement to me not realizing that my husband’s ethnicity is Mexican. Depending on the situation, I may or may not tell the offending person about my husband’s ethnicity. When I introduce my husband to an offending party they usually become embarrassed and ask me why I didn’t tell them that my husband is a Mexican. I tell them that my husband is an American. I will usually ask them if my husband’s ethnicity makes a difference to them.

Our journey had other frustrations because of engine problems. Despite our experiences in Montana we kept a positive attitude because we wanted our children to have pleasant memories from their travels. We had a great experience in Idaho. We entered Idaho as the sun started setting behind us; we spotted a small motel of the side of the interstate. The motel had vacancies; soon we were setting up for the night.  The motel was made up of several small cabins. The inside of the cabins had rustic furnishings; glass lamps, queen size four post bed, lounge chair, crib and twin beds for the children.  The floors were hardwood and covered in braided area rugs.

The next morning, Antonio, started troubleshooting our van to find the problem. While he was working on the van, the children and I explored the outside. The motel was nestled in a small nook on the side of a mountain. The mountainside was covered with pine trees, the air smelled fresh with the scent of pine and grass. The landscape had many shades of green. The sky was crystal blue with a couple of drifting white clouds. The cabins were covered in wood siding and painted white with dark green trim.  A babbling brook was behind the cabins with large stones in it, tempting us to go into the water. 

The problem with van was a failed spark plug. The motel owner, Paul, approached Antonio and asked what the problem was. Antonio told Paul about the sparkplug. Antonio then asked Paul where the nearest car parts store was. Paul told Antonio that the nearest parts store was about ninety miles away.  Paul mentioned that he had just replaced the sparkplugs on his truck and realized that his engine was the same size as the van’s engine. Paul gave Antonio one of his spark plugs. Paul’s spark plug remained in the van’s engine for three years.
Our lives have been full of adventures and travel with good experiences, for example the motel in Idaho, and then a few not so good experiences such as our experiences in Montana. Keeping a positive attitude and believing that people are good at heart helps when situations get to be difficult. There are those who may have a hard time accepting people who are different from them but as time progresses sometimes they change their way of thinking.

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