Saying Adiós and Teaching Tolerance

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Saying Adiós and Teaching Tolerance

Thanks to the wonders of Internet over-sharing (and by that I mean Facebook), most of you already know we’ve said adiós to Mexico, and have recently relocated to Texas.  But let’s backup a moment…

¡Vaya! has our past year been loco!  We signed up for an adventure – and that’s what we got – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the tasty and the spicy, the… (enough already, I’m sure you get the idea).

I’d like to thank Mexico for all the wonderful things it has provided to our family this past year.  Breathtaking beauty from driving on pothole-ridden paths through mountains to swimming in cool and pristine rivers and splashing in crystal-clear waterfalls.  The culture is so vibrant and colorful that lives so vividly in its people and the strong family ties that keeps them connected, generation after generation.   Food so good that the extra weight it provided was mostly worth it and has totally ruined most “Tex-Mex” restaurants (and Taco Bell for sure) for us – forever.

Thank you, Mexico, for teaching us that a family is a family, no matter where on this globe they live.  Thanks for teaching me that I had hidden strengths to find, even in my 40s.  Gracias for showing me how much braver my kids are than I am, and for confirming for me in different ways just what an incredible person my husband is, even after thirteen years of marriage.

Mexico, you have taught me that friendships are not defined by how far apart you physically are, or even what language you speak.  And even incurring ridiculous international phone rate charges, there still is no better remedy at solving life’s problems than calling and talking to your mother.

I will no longer take for granted the feeling of cool (and reasonably-priced electricity) air on my skin in a warm house; I will never complain of traffic conditions anywhere in the U.S.; I will feel gratitude every time I turn on a kitchen faucet for clean, drinkable water; and can I get a HALLELUJAH that I won’t have to do math every time I want to go shopping since I won’t be converting pesos into dollars anymore.

Muchas gracias for all the cultural experiences Mexico has provided my two children, both of whom we have learned are total superstars and (pardon my language here) bad-asses.  They both faced all the challenges of moving there, dealing with the differences and the language so much better than us adults and finishing out their their school year with honors (which is extra amazing considering they both were a full-year younger than their foreign speaking classmates).

If we hadn’t gone to Mexico, I would never have guessed that our youngest was the fearless cliff-jumper, waterfall diver, lucha libre luchadora that she became, or that she would totally surpass me in learning a new language (yeah, she’s 8).  We knew our oldest was very academically talented, but for her to go to Mexico and win writing awards, set new school reading records and consistently have the highest scores in the country on their online courses was certainly more than we could have hoped for.  Hubby and I have risen to new levels of being proud parents.

Currently, we’ve been in Texas now for a couple of weeks, getting re-acclimated to home (including the necessity of buying lots of boots, according to our 8 year old), and I have to say one of the biggest life-lessons I have noticed in myself since we’ve returned home is: tolerance.  Quick example:  on Facebook recently I read a post of someone complaining that while at their child’s school they witnessed a fellow child having to translate their teacher’s English to their Spanish-speaking mother.  The Facebook complaint went on and on about how this Spanish woman was now in America – so “they should speak the language”, blah blah blah.  I couldn’t help but notice that lots of people “liked” and agreed with this statement, harshly judging this Spanish mother in an English-speaking country.  Honestly, I may have thought that way once, too.  Then I moved to a Spanish speaking country, only speaking English.  Although I was taking Spanish lessons (working really hard, by the way), taught by the best Spanish teacher ever (Liliana!), I had to have people still translate for me, including my children.

Here’s how my life has changed for the better due to my experiences this past year, the good and the bad:  if I had witnessed the recent Facebook-complaint scenario, rather than so harshly judging that fellow mom, first I’d be so incredibly impressed that her child can already speak two languages (I bet you anything the person doing this FB language whining did not themselves have a bilingual child).  Second, I’d want to commend the foreign mom and her family for potentially seeking out a better life for themselves (as I’m sure that’s one of the biggest reasons a foreigner moves to a different land.  Not always, but sometimes).  Having lived in a foreign country myself for a short time, and the United States – I can say the U.S. is pretty darn amazing, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to live and raise their family here, too.  And if that’s the case, think about how hard that must have been to leave their family, their country, their culture.  Living in a place where you can’t speak the lanugage is freaking terrifying – and until you have actually done so – who are you to judge someone else?  This foreign-speaking family is in a foreign land for a reason – maybe even for safety reasons – so why judge them for that?  And thirdly and lastly, for all we know, that Spanish speaking mother is, in fact, taking English lessons.  Again, take it from someone who has walked in her shoes, it’s REALLY HARD to learn a new language, and EVEN HARDER to then have the courage to use those new language skills with native speakers.

Regardless of what language you speak or where you live, be it Mexico or the United States – I think all those places would be nicer for us all if we showed more tolerance to one another.  And maybe didn’t spend so much time on Facebook…

And speaking of the possibility of moving due to safety reasons – I will share that safety is one of the reasons why we came home early.  We enjoyed almost everything about Mexico and had so much fun traveling with our friends – and were enchanted by all the places we saw and visited.  I’ve written about all those positive experiences and shared those travels in past blogs so won’t repeat any of those here.  Sadly, in among the friends and food and adventures traveling, we witnessed and experienced fear and uneasiness in the city we lived in (Tampico).  So many things we took for granted here at home in the U.S. caused fear and uneasiness in Tampico: concern over what elected officials and law enforcement might do; criminal attention for having a nice home; concerns of traveling about by automobile; the ramifications of having a successful business or driving a nice car; worry about your children.  We experienced first hand fear of some of these issues ourselves, and then had to decide if the amazing cultural experiences we were accumulating was then worth this fear.  After a year, we made the decision to leave.

In our cultural training before coming to live in a foreign land – one of the concepts of being an expat we were warned of was missing our homeland.  But we came to learn that no amount of training or talking or meditating or crying or calls to our mothers would prepare us to live with that concept day after day, week after week.  To the point that we decided we could not do so, year after year.  Additionally, some of the expat friends we met in Tampico are also moving on and away:  one couple to Albania and another teacher to Malaysia.  We wish them nothing but the best on their continued expat travels.

As happy as we are to be back home, part of us is sad, too, and already missing lots of Mexican aspects of our ex-pat life.  We had met and gotten to know some truly wonderful people:  from fellow families at the school, to our two Spanish teachers, to our doctor neighbors across the street, to the nice real estate lady who found us our rental home, and two lovely and beautiful librarian assistants.  We will miss them all – and it was truly hard to say goodbye.

We have all worked hard this past year focusing on the good experiences, the good food, the good people.  Although it was an early goodbye, we left on good terms and happy to take with us all these amazing positive experiences.  However, we needed to leave before the bad experiences outweighed the good – and besides, our time there was always temporary.

So adiós Mexico!  We’ll be back to visit, of that I am certain.  We will keep in touch with several people there, of that I am certain too.  Thank you, Mexico, for all the wonderful things you provided for me to blog about, for myself and for my family, including opening the world to us and teaching us some tolerance.  This obviously will be my last blog.

This truly has been an adventure – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the tasty and the spicy, the… (oh for heaven’s sake).

And thank you for reading and sharing some of it with me here.

Un cordial saludo,

Johannah

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4 responses »

  1. Welcome home! I have really enjoyed reading your blog, but I have missed you all terribly. I am looking forward to our first visit in Texas and Poppa already has his cowboy boots out of storage!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting insights and counting of all the blessings of both Mexico and being back in the states. Don’t knock that Tex-Mex food, it’s a whole new food group of yum! I think you should blog about Texas, then I won’t get so homesick. Or at least a few more on the transition for the family. I always enjoy your adventures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was just thinking about your blog and it shows up in my in box. Great minds think alike! I have so enjoyed reading it, I appreciate you including me, it was always so exciting to hear of your adventures. I’m happy to hear that you’re safe and sound in Texas. Let’s hear it for good A/C and reasonably priced electricity!

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  4. Welcome back to the US, Johannah! I think your message on tolerance is so important, especially since so many people forget that the US is born of immigrants. I was one of those kids translating for my mom and yes, she was trying to learn english but it was shaky at times. I translated only when she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t miss anything important otherwise, she’d go at it with her broken english. While she took some english classes, she learned a lot from watching Sesame Street with us because we couldn’t afford anything beyond that (my mom was a widow when I was 5). And we were on the receiving end of the looks that said “why can’t she learn to speak english.” Wow, how do you describe how a kid feels when another adult is giving your mom that look? So thank you for message on tolerance. You will touch someone, a kid or an adult somewhere, with that attitude and they will remember it.

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