Sunday, October 10, 2010

7 Things in 7 Years

Today, October 10th, 2010 marks my seventh anniversary of coming to Mexico. I boarded the plane in Toronto, waved goodbye and set off for my "divorce recovery vacation". Well, recover I did but the vacation has turned into a life. Seven years living in a foreign country has taught me a million things, but since seven is a lucky number, I'm going to share with you seven things I have learned (it's also a lot more concise than trying to make a million point list).

1. Living in a first world country it's easy to forget just how good you've got it. Obviously I still keep in touch with Canadian and American friends and family and I have noticed something big. The "gripes" of those living my old life are small, really, really small yet for those who don't know any better they seem huge. People bitch and moan about not having enough money, thoughts they share from their iPhone, sitting in their climate controlled house, while the kids play Xbox and flip through 300 channels of HD TV on the plasma. They complain about paying taxes but don't understand that they actually get something in return, health care, decent schools, clean streets. If I lived in the US or Canada I would NEVER complain about taxes or a lack of anything material, you are all blessed and need to appreciate all that you have. Living in Mexico where a huge portion of the population lacks drinkable water and any kind of government services gives me perspective. There is no such thing as "poor" NOB (north of the border), even the homeless and jobless have resources that make them rich in comparison to the people living in poverty in other countries.

2. Learning a language ain't easy, but the benefits are endless. After seven years my Spanish is far from perfect, but I am now able to function and communicate and even work in a foreign language. It's broadened my perspective of just how difficult it is for anyone making a change, the refugees and immigrants to Canada and the US have to make huge sacrifices and an incredible amount of effort to learn English, give them a break. The next time I read "Learn English or go home" in the comment section of a news article, I might just go postal. I believe that everyone should have a second (or third or fourth) language, it opens up the world and opens your mind (and studies show it prevents Alzheimer's and increases abilities in science and math).

3. Tacos taste good. Enough said.

4. The ocean is a healer. I know that I NEED the ocean, it's not just a "want" or a "desire", it's a necessity. If I go more than a couple of weeks without swimming in the sea, my mental and physical health deteriorates. The moment I am in the ocean everything gets better, my back feels loose, my nasal passages clear and the stress of day to day life melts away. I truly believe that without the ocean nearby I might just shrivel up and die.

5. Patience is a virtue. (I stole that from somewhere). Coming from big city life where everything was "Go, go, go, now, now, yesterday!", it was a big adjustment getting used to "Mexican time". A two hour wait in the bank or a three week wait for a repairman is the norm. Showing up to a party "on time" means one or two hours after the designated start time. I still don't really like it, but I've learned to not pull my hair out over it. Just say "Ni modo" and don't get your knickers in a knot, you'll just make yourself nuts if you don't relax.

6. Politics are the same everywhere. Right wing, left wing, it truly doesn't matter (though I am still a lefty lefty liberal to the bone). Politicians make promises they can't keep, lie through their teeth and don't give a crap about anyone except themselves. Watching from the outside as the Canadian and US governments "work" leaves me laughing, they're really no different than the famously corrupt Mexican counterparts, they just hide it better and have better public relations people and orthodontists.

7. Life is what you make it (another stolen gem). We all make choices, sometimes without even realizing it. We choose our paths, our friends, our way of life. No matter where you live you can be happy, you just have to find your happiness in that place. If you "hate" a place, you just haven't focused on the positive, there is something good about every city, every country and every person in this world. If we continually look at the negative, we're going to be pretty miserable. Yes, there are bad things about Cancun, there are also bad things about Toronto and Timbuktu. Surround yourself with good people, seek out the positive, eliminate the negative influences that are within your control and appreciate all that you have. Life is too short to spend your days complaining when we all have so much to be grateful for. Look at the poorest of the poor, the people living in rundown palapas with no running water, no electricity, barely enough food and you will still find smiles on their faces, laughing children and love. You've got to accentuate the positive or what's the point?

Well, hm, that post turned out a bit differently than I anticipated, the path it took was not what was planned but I am gong to leave it as is. I think perhaps because today is Canadian Thanksgiving my mind wandered to gratitude. And really, I suspect that is the most important lesson I have learned. Be grateful for all that you have, be grateful for the opportunities that present themselves, be grateful for the problems in life as they give you perspective on the good things, be grateful for the fresh water you have to drink, not everyone has it, be grateful for the food on your plate and most importantly, be grateful for the people around you who love you and whom you love in return.

I am grateful for all of these things and more and I really don't know if I would be if I hadn't made the move south. I too was caught up in the "me, me, me, more, more, more" NOB life. I hope the coming years bring more learning experiences and chances to grow, thanks for the lessons Mexico, one day perhaps I'll be able to return the favour.


Cdn Cat said...

Great post,and perfect timing...Thanksgiving.
Funny thing, I started to write this big long response but you said it all so well that I erased it.
While at the grocery store today something happened that made me smile so much I couldn't stop. I'm smiling now as I think about it.
An elderly Italian man came over to me with a jar of Prego in one hand and a jar of Catelli in the other(spagetti sauces). In very broken English he proceeded to ask me "Iffa dis isa de kind you justa heat anda pour ona da spagetti?" I told him yes and that the only difference in the two kinds were the spices. He thanked me very much and went on his way. Afterwards I thought ...hmmm...I bet his wife always made sauce from scratch and for what ever circumstance he is now having to fend for himself. I was just so glad I could help.

Anonymous said...

Seven years....doesn't it fly. Point number one - I share your feelings exactly. I'll be going back to the UK in a few months though, so whether I'll practise what I've been preaching on that score is yet to be seen...


Brenda Maas said...

Happy Anniversary.
How odd, today is our 5 th anniversary here.

Sue said...

So, did you write the title and then the content or did you go back and change the title after you saw the direction you went? Funny how that happens, you start off with one train of thought but the blog goes off in a very different direction. Very good 7 points are so right about the difference in 'poor'. I too had no idea.

Ellen Fields said...

Happy Anniversary, Kelly. Thanks for writing that... I agree with what you said and I needed to hear that today. Thank you!

Manolo said...

Amiga mia... I did the trip backwards (and from slightly farther away) more than 10 years now... Happy Anniversary and happy X - X - X. You have good points... however, just today I was telling my better half, looking at that red crawler leaves (I almost wrote leafs): I love to live in Canada. As you need the ocean, I NEED seasons. I went from being the head of the mouse to the tail of the lion, and trust me, you are right about No. 1. No. 3, I am not sure ;-) After spending a weekend with my father in law and family speaking language #3 I have to agree with you on No. 2.

Luciana Misura said...

Happy Anniversary! Being an expat myself and having made the opposite move (from SOB to NOB) I agree 100% with you. When I hear people here in the US complaining about taxes I want to buy them an one-way ticket to Brazil and have them live there until they get how good they have it. People NOB simply don't understand that they get so much in return for their taxes and elsewhere we pay as much (or more) and get nothing like it...

Anyway, congrats on your new (happier) life, a new language, new horizons. As I say to people who ask me about future moves: the best place to live is where I live right now, always. No regrets, no living life wishing I was somewhere else, just enjoy the good things that come my way. Good to see I'm not alone on this. :-)

ElleCancun said...

Great points - all of them. I haven't been here nearly as long, but can tell you've I've already grown to REALLY appreciate how fortunate we were in Canada, in so many ways. Ppl here ask me "which country is better, what do you like more". I always say why does one have to be better? They are SO different, however, in Canada I personally think ppl have a greater chance of making something of themselves. The end. I'm first generation Cdn so I can honestly say this to be true. That being said, I also inlcude, the weather/climate is about a million times better here! LOL!!

Happy Anniversary, and Thanksgiving!!!!

KfromMichigan said...

Well said .. Happy Seventh Anniversary! I know things are very different there, but the ocean and climate can't be beat!

Linda said...

First of all, I wish you a very Happy Anniversary!!!

Just a thought:

"If I lived in the US or Canada I would NEVER complain about taxes or a lack of anything material, you are all blessed and need to appreciate all that you have."

REALLY??? You NEVER complained about any of that when you lived in Canada? And you NEVER do now?

Surely no one can truly say they never complain about any of those things now matter WHERE they live! I read about it every day in many blogs.

Just my dos centavos.

Isla Chica

Holly said...

happy anniversary & thank you for a very timely post.

barry said...

Happy Anniversary , Ocean Kelly..there is much to be Thankful for indeed .. but the fact you already know the best things in this life never need dusting is something that took me decades longer to discover. Rock On, Wise Woman..see you at the beach.

BlueSky said...

Very well said. Cheers! :)

CancunCanuck said...

Cdn Cat- It's the little things in life that make it so wonderful, exchanges like yours. Thanks for sharing, hugs to you!

Gary- Yep, they FLY by for sure, I swear Max was just born. Can't wait to hear about your return to the UK, should be interesting to see how much reverse culture shock you suffer, good luck!

Brenda- Happy anniversary to you guys too!

Sue- Yes, wrote the title and the rest flowed out. Sometimes the best posts are not what they started out to be. :)

Ellen- Thanks chica, abrazos!!

Manolo- Glad you enjoy the seasons, you can have'em, haha! Everyone has different things that make their heart sing. (I am totally jealous of your three languages, good for you!)

Luciana- Thank you for the comments, interesting to see it from your perspective. I think everyone would benefit from a taste of life in a country with less privileges than the US or Canada, perspective is everything!

On Mexican Time- I agree, both countries have their good (and bad) points, there is no "better". Happy belated Thanksgiving!

KfromMichigan- Thanks amiga! The climate isn't so great today as we see Hurricane Paula pass us by, but we know it will be fab soon!

Linda- To be honest, I never complained about taxes, I always felt like we got what we paid for. When I first arrived in Mexico and met Hubby, he complained about taxes and I pulled out my privileged Canadian attitude saying "But when you pay taxes, you get things in return", not realizing that in Mexico it's not the case. I have even more appreciation for what my taxes did in Canada. Yes, in Canada I wanted more "stuff", but that's the point of the post, I have learned that "stuff" is pretty meaningless.

Holly- Thank you! :)

Barry- Thanks kind sir, I like that phrase "The best things in life never need dusting", so true!

BlueSky- Thank you, cheers to you!

Cameo said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE everything you said!!! And I couldn't agree with you more. I was about 7 when I first went to Tijuana and saw the slums and it never left my mind. My parents raised me to consider myself fortunate to pay taxes (absolute truth). I've seen how others live. My dad considered himself lucky if he got a whole orange to himself for Christmas, he usually had to share it with a few siblings, he went to sleep hungry. Yes, the homeless and poor have resources here that are unheard on in other countries. I went to Guatemala twice when we were adopting our daughter and again, were reminded of just how much we have. The biggest realization of our overindulgence was losing my sister to cancer in January. Nothing else matters. Nothing. My husband has been out of work for 9 of the past 12 months and we are scraping by, barely paying the mortgage, electric and a few other bills but we've been worse and money problems are only temporary. Great post!

Heather said...

how funny, we spent 7 summers in canada.

Philip said...

Hi Canuks Im coming down in Dec to Cancun airport. Havent been to Isla Mujeres in 30 yrs!!! Can you rent economical apartamentos there now? Gracis

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