Culture Shock, Shock, Shock
“Mom, I keep telling you. You’ve gone native.” After spending all but a few weeks of the last four years in Mexico, immersed in a different life, what is one to expect?
My first intimation that I needed to be alert to where I am, “one world” notwithstanding, came when the man who assisted me at LA International with a wheelchair, zoomed me through customs, held my hand through security and escorted me to my next gate, gave me a raised-eyebrow, incredulous stare, when I gratefully proffered a handful of pesos for a tip. Oops, wrong money.
Since I carry two wallets when I travel, one stuffed with pesos, the other with credit cards and a few US twenties, I soon remedied my mistake.
Cash and credit. In Mexico, in the small town where I live, I have no use for a credit card except to extract pesos from the bank machine. I purchase everything with cash. My needs are few. Even when I lived in the city, in Mazatlan, I seldom had need or opportunity to use my card. In Etzatlan, I don’t carry a card.
My son met me at Seatac with a surprise: my granddaughter Lexi awaited me in the car, a joyful reunion. I got to meet Ben’s new girlfriend, Kristen, but with Lexi motor-mouthing the entire drive home, giving me with updates of her life, the rest of us had to squeeze words in edgewise. Once we got to the house, situation normal.
Ben lives a mile from our first home in Kitsap County and another mile from the home we bought and in which we lived longest. We always lived in the country, surrounded by towering trees. I love the combined scents of Douglas Firs, majestic cedars and maples with the underbrush of impenetrable Holly and blackberry thickets. I know this country intimately. I feel at home instantly.
The “kids” (Well, they always will be our “kids”.) had made arrangements for me to have a car and a US cell phone. I’m so used to life without either, that I decided to do without. Unheard of deprivation. Right?
Truth to tell, it’s no different in Mexico. Everyone has an implanted hand-held device that requires total attention. Despite the fact that many a caballero rides his horse into town and ties the reins to a tree branch, he probably has a cell phone in his back pocket. Most families own a car.
My first trip to the grocery reminds me of how differently I’ve come to live. In Etzatlan, I go to the fruitera, a small basket in hand, and fill it with enough for a few days, all for a handful of pesos. I haven’t forgotten how I used to fill my cart as though the Barbarians were at the gate and wonder if I’d need a bank loan to get out the door. But tell me, who needs forty-two brands of corn flakes from which to choose?
Speaking of Barbarians, they arrived in the night and conquered. The brought mountains of useless, redundant and unnecessary items, seductively placed to lure one to purchase, take home and wonder, “Now, why did I think I wanted this?” Had to be the Barbarians.
My first morning here I awoke puzzled. Where have all the birds gone? In Etzatlan I awake at first light morning to a symphony of birds, birds which sing to me while skittering through my yard and trees all day. Here I awaken to silence. Though I spend a good deal of each day under the trees, I hear and see only the occasional crotchety crow or marauding jay.
The first week here I awoke at 5:30, courtesy of the two hour time difference coupled with longer hours of sun. (In Etzatlan we are close to having twelve light and twelve dark hours.) When I return, I’m guaranteed a week of sleeping in until 9:30. I’m usually up with the sun, between 7 and 7:30 in Etzatlan.
Friends, they are the same. I flew north to be in the arms of my family, for snuggles with my granddaughter, to renew communication on a deeper level with my son, Ben, whom I almost lost. A morning teaching the Dancing Crane movements to Lexi. Gardening all afternoon with Kristen. That’s what life is all about.
I treasure hours of conversation with theatre friends over buckets of steaming coffee. How can one measure the good times. Good timing is easier. I attended the monthly poetry reading at the Poulsbohemian Coffee Shop where I got to meet old friends and new poems. I wish I had brought one of my poems with me for open mike. Next trip.
Best moments so far: Sitting beneath the trees at night with Ben and Kristen, listening to their stories. Waking up next to Lexi’s snuggly little body.
But where are the birds and butterflies?
HDN: Looking out my back door
August 10, 2017