Recently one of my friends emailed me to question whether we are really happy here. Whether we are at peace. Which made me realize that a LOT of my blog posts are about the crazy and difficult things that happen to us here. Let’s face it – drama makes for better blog reading.
But as the 3-year anniversary of our move passed in September, I thought this would be a good time to consider the question. Are we happy? And if we are, why? What are the things we love about living here. Just thinking about the question made me smile. YES! We are happy. I am happy. It is a bit hard to put into words what makes something ‘right’ or ‘good’ but I can think of many tangible things that I love about our life here:
- The weather. I can’t lie. The weather had a lot to do with why we moved and that has not changed. Yes, it is super hot right now, but I still love the perpetual summer and although autumn is no longer about pumpkins and gourds and red and yellow leaves, there are changes in the flowers that bloom and the foliage that grows. The bouganvilias are back and the pretty purple vines are now everywhere. Soon the nights will cool and our air conditioner remote control will be put away in the nightstand for a few months.
Fish Taco heaven!
The food. Who doesn’t love a good taco? I am surrounded by Mexican food – taquerias and loncherias – not to mention donut trucks that show up at my door and a French Fry cart that recently appeared right across the street from my house. I almost never tire of Mexican food, but when I do there is also a great Sushi place around the corner, the best burgers ever across the highway and a delicious pasta/pizza place a couple blocks away. All of it for less than $10 a meal and most of it less than $5. Unfortunately, that means I’ve gained some weight, so that brings me to the next thing….
- The beach. Any time I want to I can walk or run on miles and miles of soft sand beach or jump in the ocean which right now is as warm as a bathtub. Gorgeous sunrises, beautiful sunsets, majestic lighting storms – it is easy to get my 10,000 steps in if I want to. Those are the key words and I admit I have been slacking lately – time to get back on it before my Fitbit buddy Cheryl comes down to kick my butt as she has threatened.
- The people. There is something infectious about the passion of the Mexican people. Whatever they do is accompanied by loud music, loud laughter, loud children, loud dogs. Even the barrios most touched by poverty have streets blocked off and pinatas hanging from trees when birthdays roll around. Today we drove around town on our golf cart and we headed into the poorest communities in our town. Groups of men sat on corners sipping from giant bottles of beer, but they all waved at us and yelled greetings as we went by. I have no idea why I like that, but I do. I love these people and I love being part of the rhythm of life here.
- The meaningful work we do. The most important part of our life here is the work we do at Manos de Amor, the local Children’s Shelter. We have seen the worst of the worst there – a 10-year-old repeatedly raped by her father, a 5-year-old with an STD, a young preteen whose mom recently went to jail for killing her husband, leaving the girl without mother or father or home. Pregnancy, and drugs and prostitution and poverty. I hate it all. But we love these children and we believe that our presence in their lives matters – teaching them English, inviting them to stay in our home when they have nowhere to go, driving them to visit family on weekends, playing silly games and singing and dancing. Loving on them. It all means something that has become more valuable to us than careers, salaries and possessions.
I guess the bottom line is that we have changed and what matters to us has changed. We have less security but more peace. Less comfort but more joy. Less success but more compassion. I could make a long list of the things that are harder here, but you can read the rest of my blog to get all those stories. Tonight, we rest in the assurance that we are where we are meant to be, and we are indeed happy!
So dear family and friends, please stop worrying and go book your winter vacation flight – we’ll be waiting for you curbside in the golf cart with a taco in hand.
No point lying – this week was difficult, with more bad situations than good. Or at least that is how I felt at first. Bad things always take more of our attention, more of our energy, more of our focus. If we’re not careful they will settle in our hearts and become larger than they need to be. That was my test this week. Was it a crappy week or was it a great week with a couple of crappy moments? I mostly failed the test, but when I sit here and think about how to recap our week, I remember we had a lot of great experiences too. So for the sake of being real I will share some of the bad stuff – but no need to dwell on the details:
- We had some stuff stolen and lost some stuff – the golf cart keys, Grant’s phone, a watch, a big tub of bungee cords from the back of the truck. Aargh…..
- I didn’t feel so great. I had an ear infection and pink eye – painful, plugged ears and red, goopy eyes.
- We had to take baby Alison to the hospital twice – she had a bad flu and seems to have an allergy to milk. The pediatrician tried to convince her 15-year-old mama that she needs to nurse the baby but she’s embarrassed to discuss that. She’s 15.
- We first began the process of importing Grant’s trailer full of tools in September. We have hit roadblock after roadblock. Months of bureaucracy. Come back in 3 months. Bring more papers. Bring different papers. Pay more pesos. We finally made it to the final stage of getting the actual plates but needed one last inspection. We took all the papers – stamped by every imaginable Mexican department – to the inspection place. And then….. No. The serial number on our Saskatchewan registration form does not match the serial number on the paperwork done at the border in Nogales. WHAAAT??
In all these steps no one had noticed that the trailer manufacturer had placed 2 VIN stickers on the trailer. Saskatchewan had recorded one of them. Mexican had recorded the other. And they don’t match. “Okay but senor, you can see both stickers are there. It is clearly the same trailer.” No sorry – you will have to take the trailer back to the border and start over. Have you ever seen 2 gringos stand and just stare blankly at a Mexican official – no language, no emotion. Just unbelief. Our only hope is that he said to come talk to his supervisor on Tuesday – maybe he will have a solution?
BUT, we had some fun too. Yesterday we went roller blading AND boogie boarding. One afternoon we took the golf cart and the Bucerias map and drove up and down a whole bunch of streets and neighborhoods we had never experienced before. Everywhere we went people waved at us and children ran alongside our cart. We found new restaurants, new tiendas (stores), new potholes and speed bumps and dirt piles.
Friday we bought a piñata for little Kevin. Last week when we picked up Jose, his little 2-year-old nephew Kevin kept saying he wanted a piñata. I have no idea where he got that idea from but he was very serious in his request. So I told him I would bring a piñata on Friday when we came back. Of course, I promptly forgot my promise and on Friday morning Grant reminded me. My first thought was “Oh, he won’t remember I said that”, but after Grant gave me the look of incredulous shock, I remembered how important it is for these children to be able to trust our word and to be able to depend on us. So we went piñata and candy shopping in a little shop in San Vicente. The only piñatas they had were far bigger than Kevin but I filled that giant Spiderman with a pile of candy and we delivered it to Kevin. He was so excited – I expect Kevin has never had anything given just to him. In a few weeks his 16 year old mama will give him a brother and he will have even less for himself. We couldn’t stick around to play with him as we had to take baby Alison to the hospital but before we drove away I saw a whole bunch of 2 year olds – most with few clothes, no shoes, droopy diapers – gathering to have their own piñata party in the dirt.
Last night we had good friends over. I grumbled about our week. I think I whined. But as we sat in our candlelit garden sipping coffee and eating cake, I remembered that I really love living here and believe I am placed here for a purpose. I don’t love everything that happened this week, but I know that every good thing comes with opposition. I believe in spiritual battles. And I believe in being bold in spite of it all. I believe that this week Kevin needed a piñata and that Alison needed to get to a doctor. I believe that 12 children will have better lives because they learned a couple new English words and were kissed on the forehead by Maestra. I believe in the Good Shepherd who leads me through the valley and to the still waters on the other side. So I just step out in faith and say “This was a good week”.