To my friend who inspires me to keep the tradition of letter-writing alive.
Forgive me if I make this letter public. I’ve been thinking about writing you in this format for a while, expecially because I told you that I wanted to document my coming back to Mexico after 5 months abroad living as a nomad around Europe. So I’m sharing this with other people, too.
As I write this, I am already 4 weeks into my 6-week trip to Mexico. If hurricane Rosa lets me, I will fly tomorrow to San José del Cabo, on the tip of the Baja California peninsula, to visit my high school friend Lucia who just moved there. I remember I bought the plane ticket on the first week I was here, and thought “How the hell am I going to go through four bloody weeks in boring Guadalajara before I leave for that trip?”
Well, these four weeks have flown by, and, most surprisingly, have not been as boring as I thought. Starting with (what my friend Anna calls) the “landing back crisis” that hit me on my first weekend here, then getting over the stomach discomfort that comes with readjusting to not-very-clean tap water, tacos, and spicy food, I have been challenged by my home country on a daily basis. It’s very interesting to come back after living in two very different countries and see life back “home” with a different pair of eyes.
For instance, I just came to realize that people in Mexico live every day with a constant struggle in the background. It’s so different from the chill, European way of doing things. Everywhere you look, there is always someone going somewhere, in a hurry, or hard at work, or just generally very busy. People here have this attitude of hard work and battle from the early hours of the morning until late in the evening. It’s true! We even have a way of answering the question “how’s it going?” by simply answering “well, here, hitting it”. What exactly are we hitting, I have no clue. But it’s there, and we’re hitting it.
Another thing I noticed is that this is the land of the unexpected. And you need to be prepared for virtually anything. A few days ago I went to get a new driver’s license. Luckily, I could do most of the paperwork and payment online, so I just had to swing by the government office at a given time to have my picture taken and pick up the license. But many, many people were there without an appointment, just queueing for hours. There is such a long waiting time that there’s literally a lonchería (a small snack stand with sandwiches and beverages) inside the Transit Office facility. People. actually. get. food. inside. this. place. Seriously? I’d like to see the Germans try that one.
In this country, you have to learn to pray. Not because it’s a predominantly catholic country, or because you will eventually end up inside a church anywhere you go, but because you need God on your side. You never know what’s going to happen on a given day: there’s lots of people here. Many things happen simultaneously. Parades on Independence Day. Road blocks for no apparent reason. 3-year long construction sites that make everyday traffic jams unbearable (but people get used to it). Dodgy neighborhoods. Unreliable (but quite quaint) public transport. If you want to come down here and get things done, you better start praying for the odds to be in your favor. It’s just the way the totopo crumbles.
But Tim, please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE this country. Having been born here and getting the chance to leave for long periods of time only to come back and see it with fresh eyes is by far the most extraordinary experience I could ask for. I feel, as you know, like a citizen of the world, so a nationalistic approach rarely interests me. But the food, the warmth, and the joy of the people who inhabit this eccentric paradise is unlike any other. So, no matter how far I go, I will always come back to Mexico.
In the hopes that you will soon come to experience this land in the flesh, I send you the warmest of hugs.