A couple of months ago, I wrote about what it was like to live in Mexico as an American. There’s things I’m observing and learning every day, so I feel like I’m overdue for a second segment:
Before, I felt like the Mexicans I knew here didn’t have a good idea of who I actually was because I wasn’t able to communicate myself entirely or really be myself. I couldn’t laugh at their jokes (or much less tell one of my own), I lacked confidence and spoke softly, and I was literally ready to leave any party or get-together after 30 minutes because my mind couldn’t take anymore.
Thankfully, that has changed. I can understand. I can speak. Sometimes things just come out of my mouth that I didn’t even know I knew, yet I know they’re right. I had a 2-hour lunch with a friend today and I understood practically everything. When we left, I actually wanted to keep talking. I’m still far from perfect, as evidenced by the fact that I can only sometimes roll my Rs, have trouble formulating sentences when I’m tired, and confuse verb forms. But all in all, I am so, so proud of my Spanish after living here for 7 months.
Americans follow the rules because there are consequences if we don’t. If we speed, we get a ticket. If we commit a crime, we go to jail. If we don’t pay our taxes, the IRS finds out. Obviously, these are generalizations, and I’m not about to say that there is no corruption in America. For the most part, though, we play by the rules.
On the other hand, I understand why Mexicans have to make deals with the police and other things that, before, I deemed as sketchy and unnecessary. Just last week, when I was coming back from Guadalajara with Carlos and 2 friends, we got pulled over for speeding. My friend Luis, who was driving, asked the police to just give him a ticket. They wouldn’t, because of course if they did that, the money would go to the police station. Instead, they tried to make a deal with us, which we basically had to agree with if we wanted to be on our way. So we gave them the equivalent of about 30 bucks, which they pocketed. That situation made me so angry: the law-enforcers are the ones breaking the law!
And then there are the politicians. As much as I don’t agree with Obama about many of his decisions for my country, I still do have a certain amount of respect for him because he is an educated man who certainly did not get elected because he bought votes. He won his office fair and square. From what I hear, the same cannot be said of many politicians here. Whenever I complain about American politics, Carlos usually launches into some story about a governor or mayor or president who stole tons of government money and somehow escaped to Europe to live the high life. Point made, Carlos.
A few months ago, I wondered if I would ever have real friends here. Friendships that aren’t very deep have always bothered me, but I know forming friendships that go beyond the surface-level takes time. God has really blessed me, because I now have more than one “real friend.” These people have been patient and unbelievably kind to me, opened up their homes to me, tried to help me with my immigrations problems-you name it. I know that they would do anything for me.
On Sunday, I went to a birthday party for one of mine and Carlos’ friends. Carlos had to go to work after about an hour, and I completely surprised myself by staying 2 hours more than him, enjoying every minute of it. Now I am friends with these people in my own right!
On Standing Out:
I’ve more or less gotten over the self-consciousness of always being looked at. What I focus on now is how to carry myself with dignity wherever I am. The last thing I want Mexicans to think of me is that I’m a spoiled, selfish, loud and crazy American, like what they see on TV or in movies. Even though I think it’s a crazy custom to tip the baggers at HEB here, I do it because I am living in Mexico, and whether I like it or not, people are watching what I do.
Mexico will always have its flaws, and things that make me uncomfortable and even angry, but I really, really love this place.