Friday, March 14, 2014

Mexico, reflected

As I sit waiting to board my airplane, a day early due to my mother's worsening health, I have a chance to reflect on Mexico. I know as soon as I hit Minnesota soil, I will lose some of it, so I'm writing fast and furiously.
The real Mexico sucks you in if you are willing, open and accepting, and it will make you one of its own almost immediately. If you are perceived as a " gringo" you don't stand a chance. You will still enjoy Mexico but you will never KNOW  it.
Mexico and I were as new lovers often are. There is not enough time, smells, words, or energy to satiate. Always I looked, looked and I saw. I saw an island that is alive, 24/7. I drank in the beauty of the Caribbean with it's pristine water. I bounced in it's swells, swallowing it while waiting for the dive boat to pick us up. I tasted it.
I listened. Mexico is noisy, because being alive can be noisy at times. The cars, the taxis, the mopeds, the people speaking their beautiful language. I soaked in the sounds, as they are not the sounds I hear in my world. Street music, impromptu parades by children, music always music somewhere...these are all the sounds of Mexico. 
Mexico smells. Yes it does. It is a delicious, earthy, human  smell. At times I smelled urine as we strolled or stopped at a local outside eatery. In America I would gag...but the rest of the world smells at times. So do we , but we cover it up. It also smells of saltwater, fried food, cigarette smoke, and at times a whiff of ganja. It smells like the stuff of life. Animals are everywhere; some have owners, some belong to the street. 
Mexican people humble me.  I tried to fit into their world, their language, in my infantile ability. But I learned so much. Mexicans are not lazy. That is completely offensive to me now. There is no OSHA here, there are no pay scales, or laws on labor, or at least not the kind we employ.  Mexicans may work slowly as part of their culture in the heat, but they work all the time. All the time. I spent the week watching a young man repaint the sign for the hotel. He was on a tall ladder held together by ropes. He worked when I had breakfast and he was working in the evening. I doubt he was 18. Restaurants stay open until people stop coming. And then they start again. One place we ate could only stay open for as long as it was light out, as they operated with no power. Food was kept fresh in coolers and cooked on a stove run on a generator.
Corn tostadas , refried beans even for breakfast, fajitas, tacos and and things I couldn't pronounce were part of my diet everyday. A giant pork leg cooking over a flame would provide meat for my tacos while I watched. Fresh seafood of all kinds and chicken, lots of chicken. Why? Because it's cheap and chickens are easy to raise. Last night at what would be my last meal there, we ate at an open air stand where no one spoke English. Across the street there was a chicken, in the house. It's fate is sealed.
And I watched. I watched with no judgement, but purely with open eyes. I watched the children, passing the time while their parents worked in the shops and around the town. I watched the workers in the hotel, on the dive boat, in the street, at the animal shelter, everywhere.  And I think I saw them this week, as I am more apt to do these days. And they are amazing. 
Clean water is an issue in Mexico and the world. Most American women would cringe at the fact that around the island, you are not allowed to flush your toilet paper. Their sewage systems just can't handle the bulk  But they are trying. This morning there was a parade of school children marching in support of "Clean water for  the family".
 But there is still so far to go. Generations of people used to disposing of their biodegradable trash outside, are now met with the "new" plastics that will outlive our planet. It opened my eyes widely. There is trash everywhere. You can pick up bags full, and more will reappear the next day.
And now I am on Sun Country Airline  flying back to my world. Even after five days, it felt strange not to say "Hola" or "Buenos Dias" as I boarded the aircraft. And Cozumel? Yes I've been saying it wrong all these years. It is Coe-za- mel....not Cah-zu-mel. Always there is something to learn in this life
And so, Adios Mexico. 
My life is infinitely richer and fuller than it was a week ago
On the journey.