A big topic that came up repeatedly while we were deciding our move to Mexico was the subject of “safety”. The word “safety” has a bunch of different definitions depending on its usage (don’t believe me? look it up yourself). My favorite explanation of safety is this: “safety can be defined to be the control of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk”. I like that definition because I believe it correctly implies that the term is how you make it (“recognized hazards” and “acceptable level of risks” are all relative, and will be different from person to person). Regardless of the exact technical definition and how it’s applied, I’m pretty sure that safety is not a guarantee anywhere in this world.
I will share that a huge annoyance to me as we were exiting the U.S. was some people’s reaction to our relocation news. “Concern” I could handle and appreciate. “Mild worry” I could accept. “Gentle apprehension” – didn’t bother me. What bothered me were those reactions of people looking at us like they are already picking out their black-outfit to our funeral, in their head, after learning our news. And don’t get me started on one idiot woman (whom I didn’t even know), who after being told of our upcoming relocation, started freaking out like we were moving into the real-world version of The Bridge – in front of my two children, no less (idiota). And I can tell you this idiota had never even been to Mexico.
Moving to a different country and a different culture – no matter how much training and talking and research you do beforehand, in some ways doesn’t really prepare you to actually live in it. One of the topics we were warned about regarding this culture, but we didn’t really absorb until after we’ve been here a bit, is the subject of “the exaggeration”.
Exaggeration is defined as “a statement that represents something as better or worse than it really is.” We were warned that everyone here exaggerates. We were warned to be careful of what we listen to, because most likely, it will be blown well out of proportion.
Personally, I love exaggerating (and if you’ve been reading my blog this entire time, I’m sure you’ll agree with that). You take any story, memory, event – exaggerate it a little – and it magically becomes more funny, more exciting – more interesting! And along with this exaggerating comes lots of animation. When talking with most Mexicans I find that they speak with their entire body as much as their words – and when they get excited – it’s awesome with the eye-rollings and the finger waving and the arm gesturing and the facial expressions. A lot of the time I may not understand their words – but with all the other signs their energetic communication offers, I can sometimes make out what they are sharing – and it’s fun and interesting. And with this animated exaggerating also comes a love of talking. Most Mexicans LOVE to talk – they are a nation of talkers. And with today’s social media outlets, sometimes events (exaggerated or otherwise) get around extremely quickly.
However I will admit that putting together the issues of “safety” and “exaggeration”: not so fun and interesting.
For example, my favorite gal pal (you met her in my last blog), recently posted a safety-warning in the fellow-mom’s WhatsApp list I belong to for school. I was fairly alarmed by this warning, and started reaching out to those I was comfortable enough with to do so for more information. The next day, I texted my gal-pal directly to ask if I could call her and talk about the warning she had posted. Her response? “What warning?” I had to remind her of the text she had posted, just the previous day. After a little time had passed (to, I assume, go back and read what she had texted), she responded to let me know that it wasn’t that big of a deal – just sharing information.
Don’t get me wrong – I know Mexico has a lot of problems, just like any other country. I know that although I find the gates around many homes to be architecturally pleasing – they were built for a reason. However friendly I find the guards at the gate to our street, I know they are there for a very serious reason. But I will admit it is different here in terms of how they deal with those problems or even how they accept them. It also makes me miss home even more – although, home has it’s own problems, too. Talk about sad: let’s discuss the recent events in that food processing plant Oklahoma. Or just go to CNN.com and click on US events, and in between the headlines about Chelsea Clinton giving birth to a daughter and… oh wait, that’s the only top headline that’s not scarey in some way, shape or form.
Another warning I recently received was about a mugging that happened in a local supermarket parking lot (not the one we shop at). Before we get to that, let’s add in a little perspective. I did a little research quickly and Chicago last year had about 1,398 “thefts” per week (their crime stats don’t include “muggings”, per se). So before anyone starts picking out their best black suit on our behalf, it’s a sad fact of the matter that thefts/muggings go on in all populated cities. Anyway, the warning said a woman had her purse snatched while in this parking lot. The perpetrator of the mugging?: An old woman.
I can share I’m not sure what to make of that. My heightened sensitivity of living here honestly did not include marking the location of all the old ladies in my general vicinity. And I also don’t know if I have the heart to actually pepper-spray an old lady, who I would guess is very desperate. Honestly, if she would give me a sec to grab my cellphone, photos of my kids and my driver’s license, I’d probably just hand my purse over. But really? In everything we are trying to adjust to, learn from, enjoy here – I have to factor in muggings from old ladies? Now, that’s if it’s even true (please see above definition of “exaggeration”).
So, my point here is that there is a lot more to adjusting to a new country and culture than just learning the language, driving conditions, food, etc. I knew that coming here – but again, you don’t really know that until you live it. We knew our lifestyle would have to change, for many reasons, including safety concerns. That being said, in the two months I’ve been here, I haven’t seen any muggings – or any violence of any kind (thank goodness). But I know it’s out there. With lots of assistance, we have recognized many hazards here, and with lots of help, have been able achieve an acceptable level of risk. We will be doing that for the next two years and ten months that we will be living in this beautiful country.
It’s just a little disappointing – with all the positive adjustments we’ve been making, all the wonderful people we are meeting and getting to know, this wonderful culture we are experiencing for a little bit – old-lady-muggings just doesn’t factor into that. I guess it all comes down to perspective, and how you want to see the world. You can live anywhere and be fearful – or you can live anywhere and stick your head in the sand and simply not even look. I’m hoping we’re living our life here a little in between. It’s all about perspective, no matter where you live – and that’s no exaggeration.