I will admit there are some differences here that are hard to swallow, so to speak. My blog isn’t intended to offend or upset anyone, so I won’t go into any specifics – but there are some differences here that I just cannot accept, and at times simply witnessing them is hard. But does that make me right and them wrong? Is it even fair of me to even think in those terms of rightness and wrongness? Maybe I just need to come to terms with the fact that it’s not “right” or “wrong” – it’s just “different” – and I need to respect that concept. And frankly, maybe I’m now completely over-thinking this entire concept way too hard, considering I’m sitting in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese.
I’m writing this blog from a just-built Chuck E. Cheese establishment that has recently popped up in our area – I believe it’s the first of it’s kind here, and rather disappointingly it’s just like all the Chuck E. Cheese’s I’ve been to back home in the U.S. I’m not sure what I had expected: maybe a mariachi band to play in the background while the kids played, tacos instead of tokens? But I feel like I could be sitting anywhere in the U.S. right now: the same nasty confetti-carpet to hide the stains and pizza toppings littered everywhere. The same annoying kiddie-music playing on a relatively short loop – although also interesting is that all the music, videos and games are in English. It just makes me wonder how many of the kids, and their folks, understand the tunes and animated puppeteer-videos. I’ve been here ten minutes already and I wish I didn’t understand English all that much. I can almost see the germs jumping from table to table – just like back home – dirty, grubby little hands are the same no matter where you are.
Different here, however (at least in my experience), are all the nannies following and playing with the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure mixed in with the little people are actual moms and dads, following along and being directed about by their tiny little drill sergeants. But also mixed in are lots of nannies and “help” that are very common with families in our part of Mexico. Although I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much – rather than hang out with my own little dictator I’m hiding in a corner booth typing this blog, so who am I to judge?
I’m not going to touch the pizza so I won’t be able to report back whether that’s the same as the U.S. fare or not, although I don’t seem to remember the Chuck E. Cheese pizza back home being all that great so it probably couldn’t get much worse; although I will say we’ve been disappointed with the pizza options here (it’s a tad dry as they use very little sauce). The authentic Mexican food is so good that it doesn’t concern us all that much, but a few times we had a hankering for a good ole’ slice of pepperoni pie and have been dissatisfied.
Anyway, back to my incarceration at Chuck E. Cheese. So apparently daughter #2 received an invite to today’s party well over a week ago, but never gave me the invite, or even told us about it. I happened to see a mention of the event when trying to translate my WhatsApp messages today (always a frustrating chore) – so I had about 4 hours notice. When picking up daughter #2 from school, upon entering the car she immediately confirmed that yes, the party was in 2 hours, and she really wanted to go because she really liked the birthday girl and “wanted to show respect”. I’m not sure where she gets this “respect” part, and I’m not sure how going to Chuck E. Cheese displays respect, but I did comment that a way to show respect would be not losing the girl’s birthday invitation, and then actually being a part of the process of shopping and picking out a gift for said girl (as opposed to me running to Walmart rather frantically trying to pick out a generic gift for either a boy or girl – I didn’t even know the gender of the birthday kid). My reward for pulling all of this together for daughter #2 (who, as I write this is having fun, eating some sort of pizza-shaped object and laughing, so I guess it was worth it) is to be sitting here, by myself, in this Chuck E. Cheese, typing this blog post. There are some nice moms from our classroom sitting at some tables close by, but I guess I don’t feel like subjecting them to my dismal attempts at speaking Spanish, and don’t feel like forcing some of them to speak English – so here I am, typing away.
Not to let this blog become a Chuck E. Cheese-bash, I’m trying to think of all the other things here in Mexico that are basically the same as in the U.S., like this Chuck E. Cheese establishment. So often I think we adjust in terms of all the things that are different – because there’s a lot. The differences far outweigh the similarities. But rather than focus on that at the present moment, let me think of all the things that are the same… wait a minute, sorry, I’ve got to cut back into the Chuck E. Cheese-bashing really quickly: turns out a person dressed up in a giant mouse costume going around hugging all the scared and crying children is just as creepy in Mexico as it is in the U.S. I can’t even look – hold up a minute – I have to change booths….
OK, I’m back, and back on subject of similarities. I’m trying to think of things that are the same here in Mexico, as in the U.S.: like getting freaked out by giant mouse costumes coming in to grab at you – seriously, if that giant mouse even looks in my direction – we’re going to have problems. Other things that are the same: electrical outlets are the same here, and having to annoyingly pop the little grounding button in every time I want to use my hair dryer hasn’t changed; kids menus at restaurants are the same (chicken fingers are universal, apparently); here we’ve still got those irritating department store attendants waiting to spray you as soon as you walk near them with their Obsession By Calvin Klein product (why are those departments ALWAYS at the front of the store?); Dominos delivers here; and you can never find Home Depot employees to assist you when you are looking for something specific, but when you aren’t those guys in orange are EVERYWHERE.
That’s about all I can come up with on such short notice of items that are the same. My list of things that are different is much, much longer: like how last weekend we spent the day on the beach, and walking down by the water’s edge was this cowboy leading a beautiful, and fully saddled, mare down the beach (this scene was just missing Fabio posing on the horse, his long hair flowing behind him in the wind). The missing-Fabio notwithstanding, it was really neat to see. I believe that if you gave the cowboy money he would allow you to ride the horse (take it for a spin?) I didn’t give him any money, but for free I was able to pet the mare, tell her how pretty she was and feed her my apple.
The Super Bowl was a couple of weeks ago, for those of you who aren’t football fans (what a game, right?!) – we were able to get the game, but no Super Bowl commercials! No movie trailers! It was very strange not to be able to enjoy those – although we were grateful to at least be able to watch the game – so there’s that. Interestingly the local Mexican channel we were watching only had a few of it’s own commercials to subject us to – the cameras were still on the field but with no microphone for other stoppages of play. It was weird – it would just get quiet and we’d be watching shots of the players on the sidelines, some fans in the stands, etc. From what I’ve been able to gather after the fact online, however, is that we didn’t miss much this year on commercials (did we?).
A few other items here that are different: the legal drinking age is 18; children get their very own holiday on April 30th – Dia del Niño and it is customary to give children presents on this day (sigh – as if our spoiled American children need another excuse to pester us for more Legos); and often times you have to pay to use a public restroom. Here you do not pump your own gasoline – you don’t even get out of the car (and I bet my peeps back in Chicago are really wishing they had this service right now – as I remember how cold and uncomfortable that 30 seconds was at the gas station in the winter time where you had to leave your heated car to put in your payment, try to punch in the numbers through your gloves and pick your product and engage the automatic gas pump holder so you could scramble back into the heat.)
Speaking of my reality back in Chuck E. Cheese, daughter #2 now needs assistance trying to figure out how to feed those little tickets she’s won so proudly into the ticket counter, so she can see just how little all those hard-earned tickets will get her. And of course those ticket counting machines are just as annoying here as back home (hey! another similarity!), so I guess I actually need to get up and help her, because picking out those ticket trinkets is some Serious Business (yes, the words here are capitalized for a reason – and anyone who has taken their kids to these kiddie-gaming-establishments know what I’m talking about…)
So I guess I’ll wrap this up. So many things are different here for us. Some days those differences go a long way to spice up our lives a bit, and I’m hoping that all four of us are learning things about ourselves and how we’re living our lives to deal with those differences. Other days, it’s very overwhelming, and then being in a different country and culture gets lonely and isolating (more so than dealing with dry pizza and overzealous perfume retailers). But you know, if everything was so similar the adventure wouldn’t be as great, the challenges so rewarding, and the benefits so gratifying.
Some days we just need to remind ourselves of that. Oh, great: now my “respectful” daughter is starting to show signs of a fit at the ticket counter unless I don’t get a move on pronto, so I’ll really finish this. But… much more importantly… I see the giant mouse making its way toward us again through the sea of pizza covered niños – so respect or no respect – we’re out of here.