On a cold and foggy evening, I found myself surrounded by eleven new faces and a portrait of Jesus inside a small house made of concrete. Everyone was watching WWE wrestling and playing games while trying to stay out of the cold mountain air. Still unaccustomed to the language spoken in rural communities, I feigned comprehension of the various conversations surrounding me.
After the third round of Jenga, I heard a toddler stirring from her nap. She was ready to stretch her legs and practice walking. I watched her as she stood, supported by her mother. She began wobbling from side to side while moving forward. She was smiling ear to ear. Occasionally, she toppled over and looked lost, but for the most part she was happy to be learning.
All the while, I could not help but relate to her: I am new in my town; I am new to the language; I am new to the food; I have very few contacts in my new world. But I cannot be happier. Simultaneously, I cannot be more frustrated.
It is a strange feeling to be well into adulthood, and at the same time feel so much like a child. For the first time in about 20 – 25 years:
- I had to call my “mom” to tell her that I would be spending the night at a friend’s house
- I actively struggled to form sentences that strangers would understand
- I got hopelessly lost in my neighborhood. I had to wander around for about an hour while asking directions from every second person
- I was proud when I knew how to spell words correctly
- I felt like a cool kid when I was invited to a local person’s house to watch movies and listen to the trendy hip-hop group, no parents around!
It feels like my life in Mexico is finally beginning; I cannot wait to see how it develops. After my first day at work – which involved a five hour hike at 10,000 feet followed by incredible quesadillas and mango juice – I began to define a more specific work project with my work partners. It is still in the wobbly-baby stages, but I am filled with hope and excitement at all of the possibilities.
Making me smile
The little successes, like:
- Finding a good map of my new city
- Getting on the right bus
- Buying new toiletries
- Being able to ask questions like “Excuse me, do you sell cables for charging iPods?” off the cuff, without even thinking about how to say it beforehand
- Watching a Mexican movie at the theater, following the entire plot, and picking up several new phrases
Other simple pleasures:
- Drinking super fresh cows milk
- Eating blue tortillas that were made right in front of me, made from corn grown down the street
- Having my first pajama party with the closest PC volunteer to my house