Excuse This Interruption

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I have been writing this blog for lots of different reasons, including to share our new life in Mexico with friends and family (although it’s not all that “new” anymore as we’ve been here for ten months).  I write it for myself to give me something to do – I’m not working here which is the first I haven’t had a job since I was 16 (not including the two times I took off for our newborn girls).  Going from a working-mom to a stay-at-home mom is a huge transition in itself, but maybe that’s a blog for a different day (or not, it’s not all the interesting of a subject).  I find that writing about our life here has done wonders helping me to adjust to it – to ensure I see the beauty, the positive and wonderful (I have to see it or I won’t have anything to write about) – or, at a minimum, to take the not-so positive items and try to spin them in humorous ways (like cockroaches, flat tires, school skeletons, language struggles, lonely days, driving conditions – you get the idea).  In life you have to find ways to cope, and for me struggling to keep my sense of humor has helped me keep my sanity and not allowed these negative aspects greater weight in my world than they deserve.

But I’m going to interrupt my normal blog musings for something a little different today – please excuse the interruption.

One thing my blog is not is political, and regarding my online presence and our life here we have been told to “keep a low profile”.  I have come to learn that that is an interesting attitude to live your life by.  Before we decided to live in Mexico we did lots of research; enrolled in culture training, Skyped and had meetings with Mexicans about the culture and the area we were moving to.  Lots of people had various opinions about our decision to live here (interestingly enough, including people who themselves had never stepped a foot into this country – their “advice” was always my favorite).  Actually, since the opening has presented itself, let me share a quick word of advice:  if you do not have personal knowledge of a subject, then please keep your mouth shut.

These past ten months we have adjusted and learned so many wonderful and amazing things about Mexico.  Maybe if you have a moment or two you are welcome to cruise back in my past blogs and read about a few, as I have not had any problems findings positive things to write about while here.  One thing I haven’t been writing about is the safety issues we face.  I have no way to add a humorous spin to this subject.  I haven’t been writing about them for bunches of reasons, some of them are too personal, some of them don’t make for interesting reading.  But dealing with these differences is the biggest and hardest challenge our family has had to face while being here.  I guess sharing them wouldn’t be considered “keeping a low profile”…, and in the spirit of blogging and sharing at times it has been hard to skirt around this particular issue because it plays a heavy part of our life here.  But I feel compelled to share a little of this today.

I was born and raised in The United States of America.  I’ve always been proud of that fact, for lots and lots of reasons.  Maybe I didn’t always appreciate that fact growing up spoiled with freedoms and safety that I take for granted.  Luckily I didn’t know any better and figured that’s just how the world works, and even reading about other countries with their own problems and issues I’ve always felt the U.S. is the best place to be.  I’m not stating that as a fact – that’s just my opinion, based on personal knowledge.

I love talking to Mexicans here about how much they love their country, how they are proud of their culture, of their history, of their close family relationships.  I love to experience that, to hear that in their voices and see it in their smiles as they share all the beautiful places their country and culture as to offer to us. But there are certainly some darker aspects to Mexico, some of which we now deal with because we live here – either personally, or indirectly through our relationships with these wonderful people.  Security is an issue, and by that I mean crimes are much more common here than what we are used to in the U.S.  Actually, hold up a minute and let me make something clear:  there is crime and violence everywhere in this world, I’m not trying to infer otherwise.  This blog is coming from my own personal experience – from what our life was like back in the U.S. to what it is today in Mexico.  Crime is much more common here.  Specifically, driving at night is not safe.  When out shopping with your kids, your kids cannot browse through the toy department while you pick out toothpaste on the other side of the store:  they have to stay with you at all times.  House burglaries are very commonplace.  You can’t just get in your car here and drive to the next state – many areas are not safe to drive in.  Back in the U.S. you can call authorities at any time and expect assistance (be it police, ambulance, fire, etc.)  It’s not like that here.  I have no crime stats to share with you, but I do know for a fact that sometimes, even when the police are called, they do not show up.  So any stats that might be compiled will be grossly inaccurate.

Remember that we had been contacted by House Hunters International about doing a show?  That was a fun process and I’m happy (and a little proud) to share that we passed the audition and interview process and were proceeding to the scheduling phase.  However, shortly thereafter the show’s producer was contacted by their insurance company, indicating it would not authorize sending their film crew here due to insurance reasons involving the safety conditions.

Before we came here we were told (and gleaned from our own research) that safety is “an issue” here.  But what does that mean, exactly?  Saying that something “is an issue” is such a generalized statement that we would wonder:  what does that mean for our family to come and live here?  What does that mean for the local families who were born, raised and are now trying to raise their own families here? How does that apply to life here, and how would I explain it to someone else (even after only living here for a mere ten months)?

What’s confusing and sometimes misleading about this issue is that everyone’s comfort levels are totally different: levels on dealing with stress, culture differences and the weather (as trivial as that sounds) but also on on safety issues.  What one person can be terrified by, another simply shrugs off.  A quick example of this issue is to tell you quickly about some expat friends of ours who live here.  Although we’ve been warned NOT to drive to certain places (and certainly never at night), these guys will get into their rickety truck and drive where ever they want.  So far nothing bad has happened to them (thank goodness) and they have been to some really amazing places (a few with us accompanying them).  They have traveled to places that we were warned by locals NOT to go to – and they went and had a great time with no problems.  Interestingly, as we share our own traveling adventures in Mexico with local Mexicans – I’ve had several locals respond to my own travels stories with “you’ve been to more places in my country than I have!”.  Does that mean we (and our other expat friends) are foolhardy to do the traveling we’ve been doing, or are the locals exaggerating the issues somewhat?  I wonder if those of us that have grown up in the freedom and safety of the U.S. are now bringing with us these spoiled attitudes and applying them to our lives here.

Another quick example and story about these same expat friends:  back in April our city saw some drug-gang related violence.  It was very uncomfortable and the first of which that has happened since we arrived.  The violence included the stealing and setting on fire of large trucks (to create a barricade on a local highway).  Not to be undone, similar violence started breaking out in other places in our city, and our friends came upon a burned-out bus on a street near our school.  At the time my friend was telling me this story, I remember being appalled and scared and asked him if he was scared to come upon this scene?  His response:  “heck no, we stopped and took pictures”.  (I have a copy of his photo to prove it).

My point is that the entire issue of safety, and how it relates to where you live is so personal, so entirely dependent upon your own experiences, your own comfort levels, the differences in your own cultural background to the one you currently find yourself in – that it is hard to even try to explain, especially to someone who has never been here.

My heart has broken several times in the past couple of months while trying to “adjust” to these differences.  We have come to love and admire so many people here that it’s heartbreaking that, compared to our experiences in the U.S., these people are not afforded the same protection, the same security, the same opportunities.  My favorite mom-friend from school will be spending part of their family summer vacation time in Texas, for many reasons including to give their kids an opportunity to simply “play outside”, from riding their bikes through the streets to taking neighborhood walks or playing in the sprinkler in the front yard.  This same mom also recently spoke of the consideration in the future of sending her kids away to study abroad – not necessarily for the cultural experience, but to get them away from Mexico.

Back in the U.S. we took for granted the simple pleasures of our kids riding their bikes through the neighborhood, of simply getting into our car and driving ANYWHERE we wanted; we knew if we called the police that they would show up in a matter of minutes.  We didn’t fear driving at night – all we had to do was make sure our headlights were on.  Can you imagine?  Again, I realize that the above description could also be applied to parts of the U.S., and oh my goodness I realize that in other places of this world, it’s much, much worse – but I do not have personal knowledge of those places.  Also please realize that this blog is not intended to tell you how it is in the entire country of Mexico.  Just my personal knowledge of it.

Funny that we have experienced a huge contradiction while living here:  my naive opinion of the “good of my fellow man” has gone down considerably at moments; while at the same time, I have seen and experienced such caring and support and comfort that it’s like two opposite sides of the same coin.  So hard to adjust to for our family.

This interruption is not to alarm or upset anyone, and certainly not to stop anyone from coming here (be it to live or visit).  It’s an attempt to share a bit of our experience here that I have not already done so.  In writing 33 blogs of our experiences  these past ten months, and only have 1 dealing with a darker side, surely it can’t be all that bad.  I’ve mentioned that my heart has broken on a few occasions here, but I can also say it’s been filled countless times by the warm, friendly welcoming people, the breath-taking sights of natural wonders, the admiration of its cultural family values and sheer delight in experiencing its rich history.

So again please excuse this interruption of our normally scheduled blogs complaining about the humidity and driving conditions, the battles with bugs, how hard it is to learn Spanish and the constant raving about the food.  These more positive ramblings will continue, for my own personal benefit if for no one else.

And if you continue to read them, then thank you.

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5 responses »

  1. Johannah, your point about your views of safety are so dependent on your own personal history is so true. What a strong, valid point to make, I never thought of that before. I grew up in a not-so-nice neighborhood while my husband grew up in a relatively safe, bedroom community and guess who is the fanatic about locking doors all the time? Yup, my husband. You would think it would be me but with all that I’ve experienced and seen, I guess I’m more trusting of my neighborhood as it is right now. Not sure what his story is, I guess he doesn’t think our “attack dog” is all that protective?
    You are trying to enjoy the beauty and offerings of Mexico in a safe and pragmatic way and that is the best you can do.

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  2. Everywhere you live has a light side & a dark side and anyone would be foolish to believe otherwise. Only when you can spend the vast majority of your time in the light can you truly enjoy your life. Using the shadowy times (driving, bugs, language) as a basis for your humor shows you have the ability and maturity to thrive in your location. I am sure that you and your family will take away from this adventure wonderful & fond memories in spite of any issues. Be aware & safe!

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  3. Johannah–Thanks for writing this! A few years ago, when my part of Mexico was having similar issues, I wanted to write a similar article. Never did, though. Maybe I just couldn´t figure out exactly how to put it in words. But I hear you, and it´s a bit theraputic to read this. Way to put a touch of real humanity (or just reality) amidst the ugly–because you´re right, it isn´t all ugly!

    Thanks!

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  4. Hola … es agradable saber que gente otros paises le guste Mexico… pero tambien es triste saber que se rompen sus ilusiones por la violencia que estamos viviendo .. disculpa por escribir español pero yo leo tu blog con la ayuda del traductor. te deseo mucha suerte mientras vivas en nuestro pais. bendiciones.

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