Who do I want to be in Mexico that I’m not in the USA? This question was asked me by someone I met here at Las Casitas. This man and his wife and dog live in Oaxaca City and were here for a short beach vacation. We were having a chat about living in Mexico, if not full-time, for several months a year. (Up until this year, the longest time we’ve been here has been three weeks.) This question started me thinking about an answer:
I want to be spend time in places that take me, if not out of my comfort zone, at least to another area of it.
I want to see what it’s like to live in another country, specifically Mexico, at least part time.
I want to learn a new language.
I want to never be cold.
I want to approach cooking from seeing what the market has, and learn to make food that reflects the cuisine of another culture.
I want to understand more, and learn to completely suspend my judgments.
I want to be more open to other people.
We are just wrapping up three and a half months in Zipolite, a small beach town on the coast of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Trust me—when you stay this long it stops being a vacation and just becomes life. That means that you will have wonderful days and you will also have problems. There will be people and situations that will try your patience, and you will definitely have to deal with being the foreigner in someone else’s country. Truthfully, I am amazed that the people in Mexico are as nice to Americans as they are, in light of the US attitude about immigration. But, that’s another conversation.
But, you will also see a side of yourself that you haven’t had an opportunity to see. I think I have grown during the past months in several ways. I have learned that I can keep myself busy doing things I enjoy, and I can just sit still. I have learned that I can spend days (24/7) on end with just Fred and Pinky and be very happy, and that Pinky has exceeded my expectations as far as what a wonderful, adaptable traveler she can be.
If you know me, you know that I am a very social person. My social encounters here have been limited and I have learned to process that. I’ve had days when I wanted to stay here forever, and a few moments—not days—when I wanted to hop on the next plane. Because no place is Paradise, and when you stay somewhere for a time you start to see that it is just a place. You become much more aware of the lives of the locals and you really have to stop thinking about how to fix everyone and everything. I have really wanted not to be “the ugly American” here in this part of Mexico that in many ways is pretty primitive. While there are some very sophisticated people here, both Mexican and ex-pat, it is in many ways a very exotic and foreign place, at least to me. I would be kidding myself if I thought I had made anything more than superficial connections with the locals, (Paco and Javier excepted). But, after all, it takes time to connect with people, and is even harder when you only speak a little bit of the same language. I am more motivated than ever to learn Spanish. That has definitely improved, but to really have a conversation I’ve got a long way to go.
One interesting thing I have learned is how much my friends at home mean to me. (Of course, I knew that, but I really get it after being away for a while. I have loved keeping in touch via FaceBook.) I look forward to hanging out on our back porch this summer and hope to find that I don’t have to travel thousands of miles to just turn off my busy brain, sit, and enjoy the natural world around me.
While I am ready to be a home for awhile and enjoy a Nashville summer, I am also more motivated than ever to travel in Mexico and learn more about this beautiful country that seems so different from the USA. But, don’t get me wrong; that’s part of what I’ve always loved about it. So in October we’ll be heading south of the border again. We’ll do a little more exploring next trip. And I’m more certain that we’ll adapt. We’re not in Nashville any more, Pinky.