When I returned to my hometown after being in Mexico for five months, my best friend told me I had changed. I could feel that he did not mean that in a negative way, but still it intrigued me. He is right. Mexico did change me.
In my childhood, events happened which made me so jaded for someone so young. I developed a hatred for this country. I am very smart, but I barely passed my Civics class in high school. I was so committed to not learning about a country I had no interest in living in. I took opportunity at 24 to leave the country. I drove to Cancún. Not by myself, but this part of the story is about me. I was barely out of the country 24 hours and I realized how very wrong I have been.
The federal highway system leaves much to be desired, for one thing. The one and only time I have ever been lost in my life was in Veracruz. I had missed the signs that would have kept me on the highway skirting town. Instead I was downtown Veracruz, with no clue even which way was south to get me back to highway 180. I saw some police. With my limited Spanish at the time, I was able to communicate that I am trying to get to 180. He knew even less English, so we agreed I would just follow him. He led me to the highway and pointed the direction I needed to go.
The upkeep of the roads was also lacking. Horrible potholes in some areas. And the pinches topes, speedbumps, in all the little towns. My poor transmission had it from all the shifting up on open highway and down for the towns. Luckily it held together until we got to Villahermosa, to a Ford dealership. Again with broken Spanish, I told the guys in the service department about the problem. They took it for a drive around the block. When they got back the car needed to be pushed to the bay because the transmission had fully given out. We stayed almost three weeks in Villahermosa, mostly waiting for parts from the United States. The warranty manager was back to work our first full day there. His English was actually some of the best from a non-native that I’ve ever heard. He kinda took us under his wing and made our stay fun.
Finally we made it to Cancún. We got an apartment and attempted to live life, but all of our start up money got ate up by our delay in Villahermosa. My job didn’t help much in low season. Lucky we had a temporary support in the US, and Western Union was easy. Our neighbor José said like so many people do, “if you need something, ask.”
One day I nervously knocked on their door. José’s wife answered and said he was taking a nap. I asked if we can borrow 50 pesos. At the time that was about $5.00 USD. We needed more sandwich supplies. I never ate so much PB&J as I did in Mexico. About 45 minutes later, she came to our door. She had 50 more pesos for us. She told me José said 50 pesos was not sufficient, so take this other 50 pesos and don’t worry about paying us back.
My job was at a nightclub, and I made some friends in the area. After work we would often gather for food and drinks and the sunrise. My friend Jorge had a wife and baby at home. He was out with myself and other friends, although he had only made $17 at his job. What got me isn’t that he was out, but that he wouldn’t let me help with the bill. He said they make so much in high season that it will be okay.
The everyday life in Mexico amazes me. They have such strong faith that they will be provided for in the future, so why not enjoy the moment now. I am still trying to grasp that concept and apply it to my life. Here in the United States we get caught up in our lives and maybe push others away.
So yes, I have changed. For that I say thank you, Mexico. 💚