I have gone through my fair share of emotional ups and downs during the past few weeks. Let us just say that returning to the United States prematurely has started taking a toll.
Moments of reverse-culture shock are mixed with the frustrations bring unemployed, suddenly uprooted, and injured. This is contrasted with successes in my recovery, attending my cousin’s school play, and realizing that I will not miss a friend’s wedding in October. It is an odd place to be, mentally.
On one particularly tough day I ran across a blog post from a fellow returned volunteer, and it instantly cheered me up. It was a list called “Things that I have done in Armenia That I’ll Probably Never Do Again.” I decided to cheer myself even further by making my own list with the same format.
Her list looks pretty different than mine, but there are some striking similarities.
I changed my diet
1. Ate corn tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; ate a tortilla in a sandwich
2. Happily ate corn fungus and squash blossoms on a weekly basis
3. Ate chilies on or in virtually everything, from mangoes to ice cream
4. Was told to eat tamales off of a grave and to thank the dead person for sharing
5. Held a 6 pound bag of off-brand Cheetos
6. Was instructed to drink fermented cactus juice regularly so that I will have many babies
7. Picked a foot out of my squirrel taco, then followed it up with a second taco, that one filled with skunk meat
8. Ate hot dog tacos; maybe ate dog tacos, if the rumor is correct
I adapted to a unique office setting
9. Wrote professional business documents IN ALL CAPS
10.Wrote a grant application IN ALL CAPS and in a second language
11. Worked in a building that oscillates between 35 and 65 degrees
12. Delivered a professional presentation wearing 12 clothing items to keep warm
13. Taught my co-workers how to make jam and preserve it in jars
14. Worked without phone and internet in the office, but with a “magical town” down the street and a horse with no name in the yard
I learned how to live in Mexican homes
15. Awoke to donkey brays or sheep herds passing by my my bedroom window
16. Lived in a town where everyone knew my name and where I lived
17. Killed my house plants by watering them with tap water
18. Had flowers in my yard that were four times taller than me
19. Lived in a house with a window pane strategically missing to allow the water heater’s fumes to escape and not kill me
20. Lived with train tracks in my back yard; watched goods being exported to the United States and looked for illegal immigrants riding on the roof
21. Upset my landlord by storing a crate full of her Jesus paraphernalia under my bed rather than displaying it throughout the house
22. Was able to fit inside the gigantic kitchen pots
I traveled a lot
23. Received secret admirer notes on a public bus
24. Regularly shared a seat next to car-sick children during my commute to work
25. Traveled by bus across the country for 14 hour stretches
26. Was heckled by clowns, stared at for hours, and entertained by live music on public transit
I experienced some cultural surprises
27. Got hit by wet branches inside a traditional sweat lodge, by a topless indigenous woman no less
28. Walked into my house to find a giant altar set up in the dining room, dedicated to deceased parents
29. Ran past a mural of what I called “laser Jesus” each time I went for a jog
30. Got a marriage proposal from a hammock salesman, with the promise of copious tequila at the wedding
I went to so many wild parties
31. Attended a party where the host arrived on a donkey and wearing a wool pancho
32. Ate meat that was cooked all day in a cactus-lined pit in the ground
33. Watched women hunched over a fire making tamales that were served at breakfast, the mid-point of the party; those women worked for 35 hours with only a short nap to ensure that guests were overfed and happy
34. Attended a party where guests took power naps in their car because the party lasted two and a half days
35. Watched a man climb up a tower of fireworks to fix part of the display with his cigarette, all while the tower spat fire at him
36. Helped a 12 year old girl duck an cover from the sparks showering down on the crowd from a poorly designed fireworks tower
37. Ran away from a man who was charging at me with fireworks strapped to his back
38. Danced on the stage in front of the entire community
39. Stepped on a lot of feet while learning how to dance cumbia, salsa, bachata, and banda
I went on some unforgettable vacations
40. Summited a 15,000 foot volcano, then ran the 10 kilometer crater loop the next day at a 13,000 feet
41. Learned how to rock climb in a second language
42. Hopped across a 80 degree Celsius river, stone by stone
43. Spent an entire month’s rent on one night at a hotel just to have a nice room with a bathtub
44. Won an international trip for my blog
45. Sent a baby sea turtle on its way into the ocean for the first time in its life
I lived like a poor and crafty Peace Corps volunteer
46. Opened a bottle of wine with a butter knife; opened a can with a serrated knife
47. Spent an entire week hunting for Thanksgiving groceries and another week shopping for an American Independence Day party
48. Completed two impromptu TV interviews in Spanish
49. Built a fence using no tools other than a leatherman and a big rock
50. Used a machete when preparing Thanksgiving dinner
So there they are; the 50 things that I have done in Mexico that I might never do again.
Or will I?
As Evelyn said in her post about Armenia: never say never. Especially because Mexico is close and plane tickets can be cheap. It is one of the advantages of serving in Mexico: long weekend trips are not an unreasonable possibility.
With that in mind, maybe I should change the title to “50 things that I have done in Mexico that I will probably do again sometime!”
Addendum: After chatting with a friend about this post, I remembered a whole slew of other odd eats that could have made this list, including:
- Cow spinal cord civeche
- Chicken colon tacos
- Ant larvae gortitas
- Cricket and avocado taquitos
- Giant mesquite bug gorditas
- Maguey worm tacos
- Lots of other mystery meats
You are so right, Aliza. I could go on Fear Factor!
Making me smile
The outpouring of love and support after announcing that I had been Medically Separated from the Peace Corps. I have not been able to respond to each and every one of you yet (it has been one crazy week!) , but know that your words meant a lot to me. Thank you.
Thanks also to Evelyn, the RPCV from Armenia. I have always enjoyed reading your blog. Even though I have never met you personally, your words cheered me up when I needed it!