I think it is a good thing for Mr. M and I to visit the US occasionally, as we did for a few days last week. I like to spend time talking to perfect strangers during our visit. I find it absolutely amazing to discover how totally misinformed the ordinary citizen is about life in Mexico.
The conversation usually goes something along the lines of asking each other where the other is currently living. When I say Baja California, Mexico, a sort of shocked silence ensues. Then I am asked something like: “aren’t you afraid?”, or “Isn’t it scary/dangerous/life threatening there?” Every time, I happily explain that “No our lives are not in any more danger than if we lived anywhere, including the US.”
I always feel sort of like a good will ambassador for Mexico. I am here to tell you that if you use common sense and are not involved with narco-trafficking, the law, or politics here, you are relatively safe. As with any location there are areas in which one must use more caution and be aware of their surroundings. I grew up in San Diego and attended the lowest socio-economic area schools, so I learned how to navigate those areas. Common sense tells me not to be in certain areas of San Diego at night, and to avoid being ostentatious in my clothing, personal effects, or vehicle while I am there. These same common-sense rules apply to ANY area where the socio-economic levels are depressed.
I live in a Mexican community here in Baja. That is distinctly different than an “American” or “Expat” community here. My house and those of my neighbors are not part of a private, gated community. My home is a double wide mobile home. There is nothing fancy about it. I do have a large, edible garden surrounding my home, which is fairly unusual for this area. I do have a high brick wall surrounding the garden, which is common here. In other words, my home matches my community. It doesn’t stand out as a huge, fancy investment.
When I need something repaired, like my entire roof replacement recently, I ask my neighbors for a recommendation for a repairman. Our roof was replaced by my neighbor’s uncle and father. It is a win-win situation. I get a great, quality job (after all, I know where the repairman and his extended family live), and my money stays in the community and therefore benefits my neighbors. My neighbor can look at my roof with pride because her family helped me.
I can’t say I know everything about living here, but I am learning. I have been here for seven years and I am still learning the acceptable cultural ways to behave. I have found that even when I make a mistake the people of my neighborhood and community are generous and forgiving.
I am learning to communicate better as time goes by. I find it very amusing when I meet someone new and I speak to them in Spanish. There is always the same pause that allows them to align what I am saying with the fact that I am obviously an American. The next thing is usually a broad smile. It is a great ice-breaker! Even when I make a mistake in what I am saying they are quick to help me out without any judgment.
Living in Mexico is different! The joke here is that there is American time and there is Mexican time (you know, el mañana). If you live here for a while you will eventually become adjusted to Mexican time. It is a lot less stressful and relaxed. Which is a great description for how life is here.