I’m a big fan of coffee – and it doesn’t have to be good coffee, although that would be my preference. And as a coffee fan, I’m also a fan of Starbucks. Although I think their brew is a tad on the bitter side, it’s just so relaxing to sit with a warm beverage resting comfortably in your hands (next runner-up here on relaxing beverages is wine, but hey, even in Mexico they frown upon drinking it so early in the mornings…) So when I wanted to invite a new friend to meet me this morning to chat over a cup of something warm and relaxing (and socially approved of), I picked the local Starbucks for some café.
Let me introduce you really quickly to my new friend, because she’s now one of my all-time favorite people in the world. She’s my age, born and raised here in Tampico, and has a daughter in the same class as our youngest hija. She first reached out to me at a school meeting (which was all in Spanish – I had no idea what they were saying). I was the only white person in the room, the only new parent and obviously the only person who didn’t speak Spanish (incómoda!). With plenty of other empty seats to pick from, she immediately sat next to me, introduced herself in English and has since become my go-to girlfriend contact here. She’s the one who loaned us a dress for daughter #2 to participate in the recent Mexican Independence Day celebration at school (with matching hairclips, no less). She’s the one who introduced me to another English-speaking mom at school so that I could find a school committee in which to participate. In fact, she’s been so friendly and helpful that I made a comment to her about this friendly behavior towards me (and I really hope I made this comment with more a “thankful and/or appreciative” tone of voice, as opposed to a more “suspicious” tone while giving her the hairy eyeball.. but I don’t know…) At this point, she admitted to me that one of the reasons she felt compelled to reach out to me was because a couple of years ago, she was in the exact position I am today.
A couple of years ago, due to the local safety conditions, she and her family (husband and two children) fled Mexico into Texas. Apparently a lot of families here fled during this time to escape the violent and scarey conditions at the time – and interestingly enough, some of them are only coming back now (my friend came back two years ago). She and her family lived in Texas for one year – in an apartment. She remembers what it was like to move to a different country, have trouble communicating, feeling like an outsider, looking different, and not having any friends or family around. Remembering that is why she approached me.
I am very grateful for this person for several reasons, and am appreciative to be the recipient of her goodwill, regardless of the reason or history behind it. But I have to say I find the history of it sadly interesting. We (my family and I) are obviously here in Mexico voluntarily. We very much want to be here. For us this is a positive once-in-a-lifetime-experience (and I really do mean once-in-a-lifetime because after our 3 years are up, I very seriously doubt I’ll agree to live anywhere else except the U.S.) – but I can’t imagine what it was like for my friend (and other families here) to flee their homes, countries, families, etc. to get away from unfavorable conditions (if not somewhat life-threatening conditions).
Life is hard enough what with paying your mortgage, being valuable in your career, raising honorable and positive children and simply living your life as a good person. I just can’t imagine adding to those simple challenges issues like fleeing your home because it’s not safe. I think a lot of people would return from this experience to their local lives and be jaded, closed-minded, maybe even guarded. But not her. And she even commented this morning how I look a lot younger than my age – and if that’s not BFF material then I don’t know what is. So, that’s my new friend – I hope you are happy to meet her because I sure am. In any event, before this blog becomes way too serious, or worse, sappy, let’s head back into Starbucks, shall we?
So I’m sitting in this Starbucks this morning with my new friend (you’ve just met her) and I can honestly say it’s the nicest, cleanest, trendiest Starbucks I have ever been in. There were abundant comfortable over-stuffed seats and couches available throughout (not just one or two, as I’m used to in the States, which are always taken so I’ve never sat in one) and had several fun outside, covered seating areas lit with candles and decorated with plants and flowers. The menu had lots of recognizable English – which to this transplanted American was just as comforting as the anticipated warm beverage I was about to cuddle. I felt – a little bit – like I had returned home. Here – take a quick tour yourself:
The baristas were all very friendly and didn’t bother writing my name on the outside of the cup (seriously, what’s the point of that? They NEVER get it right…) It was relaxing just walking into the place with the quiet, friendly laughter and relaxed atmosphere, the clinking of brewing utensils and steaming leche to the smell of freshly ground coffee beans. There were lots of private seating selections to choose from – many available just for me and my friend to sit back and have a private conversation. No obnoxious professionals loudly talking on their ear-piece cellphones while slurping their sugar-bomb-mega-venti-frapuccinos and subjecting the rest of the store to their conversations. No one in line ahead of me with a legal-pad sized office order (seriously?! call it in already!), or the annoying techie-dork obviously only there to play World of Warcraft begging for the WiFi password for the fourth time. There was no one to rush me while making my own selection (which is always the same, not sure why I even cruise the menu…) Interesting Starbucks fact: according to worldatlas.com, there are 193 countries in our world and Starbucks has stores in over 65 of them.
So I invite everyone to find the time to visit with a friend, with or without a beverage in hand, in or out of your own local Starbucks, simply to sit and relax, and maybe share any hard or easy challenges that have been faced. And maybe to also think about this: it’s not: “and remember, no matter where you go, there you are” (Confucius); it’s: and remember, no matter where you go, there will most likely be a Starbucks nearby.