Sometimes, a day or even a series of days turn out to be so fantastic that you look back with much fondness. Last month, I had a series of those wonderful days. I had four in a row, to be exact. Lately, I’ve had a few more. What made these days so great?
“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to understand and speak a second language,” I said today to my Spanish teacher. “Learning Spanish is hard.”
“You will. You’re doing great!” she responded. Thankfully, she’s my cheerleader, because I’m realizing just how far away I am from being able to understand Spanish. I can say things. I can ask simple, present tense questions, and order food. But understanding the language and being able to speak in a bit more complex manner is eluding me. Reflexive verbs? K(ill)M(e)N(ow) (not really, please don’t).
I feel like I’m forgetting English now, too. “El codo,” I say, looking at the chart my teacher brought. I look at the picture. “I can’t remember the English word.”
I’m excited that I’ll be visiting my family for Christmas vacation. Even though it seems like the time here is going quickly, it simultaneously feels as though I haven’t seen my friends and family in a really long time. Technology helps, but a live video chat still isn’t the same as a real hug. Nor is it the same as the kids being able to play with their cousins in person.
And we are making some crazy Christmas vacation plans, because we’ll be like tourists in our former home. Our Thanksgiving, however, will likely be pretty low-key.
Sometimes, you get sick on the road. In our case, before our first international flight with our children, one child was up all night throwing up the night before we left. What do you do if this happens? What should you bring with you on your travels? Should you carry a first aid kit?
Mexico has many lovely holidays. Of course, I’ve heard of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). In fact, friends of mine used to host a Day of the Dead party, which was my first foray into trying to gain an understanding. But I didn’t really understand. Now that I’m in Mexico, I will work towards understanding as well as I can. I came to Mexico to fully immerse in a different culture. Being an outsider, I can never be perfect. Even so, I am saying yes to invitations and trying to understand the important cultural and religious holidays. And eat more amazing food.
We have been welcomed into the traditions here, both in school and in peoples’ homes.
I’m usually empathetic, so there are things that hurt my soul such as various injustices, animal and child abuse, and so forth. I’m thankful to have come from a place that (mostly) values animals, so stray dogs or abandoned or abused animals can have a safe place to live (like humane societies, if forever homes aren’t quickly found).
There are things about Mexico that have made me have to have a hard heart. While many people here do have well cared for pets and many even have multiple pets, stray dogs are still abundant. And they need help.
I didn’t expect to celebrate Halloween once we were living outside of the United States. I had heard that there is trick-or-treating in the neighborhoods here in central Mexico, but it was mentioned in an offhand way, in passing, and sounded like it wasn’t a big deal. Obviously, the Day of the Dead is the big and special holiday at this time of year in Mexico. So, why am I writing a post about celebrating our first Halloween in Mexico?
“I’m not sure if you are trying to be my friend or if you are trying to kill me,” I panted to my new acquaintance, in the middle of the
torture fitness class she’d invited me to attend.
“I am friend, I promise,” she replied with a laugh. We were both sweating, but I felt like I was the only woman in the room who couldn’t get her breath. The women were like goddesses or Wonder Woman (Wonder Women?) The older gentleman assistant said, “Calm,” to me. As in, it’s okay to slow down. Maybe he was worried I was going to keel over and die. I sure was worried about that!
The following is an excerpt of the first email I sent to a friend, when I was really struggling with all the newness of living in Mexico. I didn’t realize it, but I was culture shocked. At the time, we hadn’t been here for two weeks yet. I’ve added some updates to the text to highlight the changes that have happened in half a year.
How long did it take you to adjust to life in Mexico?
Before I became an expat, there were things I was certain were true about expat life. I thought I’d move to Mexico, meet my new best friend right away, become conversational in Spanish in 3 months, and go skipping off into the sunset of a perfect life.