Recently, I was asked a potent question by a friend passing through town.
“What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make living in Mexico?”
My mind started racing with possibilities. Was it the barrage of dirt and dust that settles into every square inch of space? Was it the language barrier that creates an arms-length relationship with locals? Maybe it was the vendors around every corner selling trinkets, likely to feed their family. Or maybe it was replying with the standard and rehearsed “No hoy, pero muchas gracias,” for the fiftieth time. Perhaps it was relying on my own two feet or the local bus to get me where I needed to go.
No. Those didn’t feel right.
I took a bite of my al pastor taco and washed it down with agua mineral as motorcycles and ATVs whizzed by in the growing darkness. A 1990’s Ford truck slowly rolled past blaring traditional Mexican music. Horses clip-clopped along the cobblestone while dogs and chickens howled loudly and sleep tugged at my eyes from the night before. The culprit? Our neighbors had thrown a full-blown fiesta until 5 a.m.— complete with a live band and karaoke between sets. The night before that it was fireworks exploding in the sky to celebrate a patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“For me, the biggest adjustment has been the noise,” I finally said.
Yes, that felt right. The noise. It is constant—unrelenting even. No other country I’ve been fortunate enough to form footsteps in has been so...loud. Except for India. Yet, for all of the frustrations, I’ve come to realize that it brings a sense of gratefulness and presence to my life that has been hard to find in other ways. I become grounded into the moment and my mind releases all of the inner overthinking—all of the irrational worries. Every moment is imbued with meaning. Every minute holds immense value.
Immersing into this culture for so long has shifted that external noise into internal music—and what a beautiful gift it has been. I acknowledge and recognize the immense privilege to even be able to make a statement like that and it is not lost on me.
I know Mexico is not for everyone and there are certainly other challenges, but I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be than right here—amongst all that exquisite clamor and din. Those dusty roads, the fumbling exchanges in Spanish, purchasing fruit from a vendor or offering a cold beer to a construction foreman in flip flops, even the local bus—it’s all an opportunity to see how the vast majority of the world lives; and to have compassion for what I can’t and likely will never fully understand.
The best part? After three years of living here, the nameless street vendors, the bus drivers, the taco stand employees, even the rowdy neighbors—they all have a name and they all have become friends. Monica. Martín. Nimrod. Patrícia. Oswaldo. José and Antonio. Karen and Lulu. My girlfriend and I even baked them homemade cookies for Christmas and we were met with a warm embrace. The arms-length distance has grown smaller and each subsequent run-in now starts and ends with another hug.
It's made me realize that there is no barrier to the language of love and human connection, but it does take time. Thankfully, in Mexico, time moves a little slower—reveled in a little longer.
Here, every day is a celebration and every day brings a new gift; for me, that is enough. Thank you for the warm embrace, Mexico.
Copyright © 2022 Ryan Crain