After 12 years in Mexico, everyone told me that we would have some trouble adjusting to life in the US. In a lot of ways, it has been hard to pinpoint exactly what those differences are. But a few months ago, I wrote one post about differences I’ve noted, and here’s another!
But, all in all, our adjustment has been smooth. Nothing made us lose our minds. And with our homeschooling adventure in the fall, we were in a much better place, mentally, this time around. We now have our own house, the Hubs is with us, and we don’t have so many unknowns. Basically, our lives are not (currently) at the whim of the US’s tempramental immigration policies, and that makes life a LOT less stressful.
Thanks to the Swine Flu in 2009 and the narcos running amok in our city 2011-2012, quarantine is something we’ve experienced before. (OK, it wasn’t exactly a quarantine with the narcos . . . but we didn’t leave the house much!)
So we’ve been rolling with the punches that 2020 throws at us. I hope you have, too!
In Mexico we have always lived in houses with tile floors. Just about everyone in Mexico lives in houses with tile floors. They’re a whole lot easier to clean, and they’re cooler.
On moving to the US, the kids and I were pretty excited about living in a house with carpet. It’s so easy to snuggle up on the floor, while reading a book or watching movies. Rooms with carpet are so cozy. While I’m not a fan of vacuuming, I didn’t see any other drawbacks to living in a house with carpet.
Then we started living in a house with carpet.
My boys immediately decided that any room with carpet was an open invitation to make a wrestling pit.
All of a sudden, I am not such a big fan of carpet!
While in Mexico (at least once they attended school), my kids were fully bilingual. Bilingual families often choose between two methods of teaching their children a second language.
One method is One Parent, One Language. If we used this method, I would speak to my kids entirely in English, while my husband would speak to them entirely in Spanish. I’ve heard it works well.
But we’ve never gone that route.
We’ve always only spoken English at home and Spanish outside of home. That worked well in Mexico. But now that we’re not speaking Spanish outside of the home anymore, our bilingual household is suddenly not so bilingual.
So far, we haven’t come up with a good solution for this issue yet.
The Hubs is starting to speak to the kids in Spanish on weekends (and I do, too). But we’re inconsistent at best. Furthermore, the first time we tried having a meal in Spanish, The Boy resisted fiercely. The Girl got up and left the table. I’m not even sure Sunnyjim even understands Spanish anymore. Now that we’ve been doing this for a few weeks, the older two are OK speaking Spanish again. And Sunnyjim is actually trying.
So there’s hope for us.
I’m used to seeing something advertised for a certain amount of money, and then I pay the person selling it the price that was advertised.
But not in the US!
No, we advertise a certain price, and then we add tax at the cash register. So unless you can calculate and add in 5.75% sales tax in your head, it’s usually a mystery exactly what the price will come out to at the cash register.
I know this oddity was begun so people would know exactly how much they were paying in taxes. But now that we live in the 21st century and all our purchases come with receipts that specifically list how much tax was paid, can’t we just advertise the price that we’ll pay at the register? We all know we have to pay taxes. It’s well labeled on our receipts.
I’d just really like to know exactly what the total is I’ll be spending up front.
Surprising us at the cash register is ridiculous.
So Many Options!
While I mentioned before about the amount of options facing us at the grocery store, I’m also becoming overwhelmed with the amount of options I have when I consider how I can spend my time.
Beind a stay-at-home-mom, the opportunities to volunteer are seemingly endless! I spend one afternoon a week at my kids’ school library. My church would happily fill my calendar with all kinds of volunteer opportunities. The parks system actively recruits volunteers, homeless shelters are asking for volunteers, the library has volunteer positions . . . I could be a full-time volunteer!
Opportunities like this just don’t exist in Mexico. Well, they may, but more likely than not, you’d have to carve out the niche yourself. In Mexico, many people never retire, so volunteer opportunities for retirees are the thing they are here. Homemaking is a much more labor-intensive activity there, so many stay-at-home parents have their hands full by just getting meals on the table and keeping the house clean. (If I didn’t take shortcuts–or just cared about cleaning–I could claim that myself. But, I shortcut!)
There are a plethora of other reasons why volunteering isn’t the “thing” it is in the US. (Underemployment/unemployment and low wages, for starters.) But now that I’m faced with so many organizations and causes that would love my time (with varying levels of commitment), I just don’t know which way to turn!
Woo for quarantine! I can delay making any choices, because we’re all stuck at home now.
In Mexico, school got out at 2:30, so we would come home and eat our main meal of the day at 3:00. The kids had breakfast before school, a packed lunch at school, and we always had quesadillas or milk and cookies before bed. So we had one main meal in the middle of the afternoon.
The Hubs had a cafeteria at work, so he ate his main meal there, and joined us for our bedtime snack.
However, school gets out later here, so eating our main meal in the afternoon is tricky. Here, the Hubs does not have a cafeteria at work, so he’s almost always hungry when he gets home.
But we don’t like having our main meal so late in the day.
We still haven’t figured out a satisfactory solution to this problem yet. But quarantine is helping out, as we can once again have our main meal in the middle of the day! That’s something I’ll miss about going back to “normal” . . . whenever that happens.
Because when we eat the main meal at 5 or 6 in the evening . . . that’s a lot of food that we don’t get the chance to burn off before bed! (And it’s starting to show!)
When I first met the Hubs, he told me, “You know, you complain a lot.”
I was shocked.
Me? Complain? I’m one of the most positive people I know!
That may be true. I am pretty positive. But once I made a concerted effort to stop complaining, I saw how often I really did complain. Then I came home from my study abroad semester, listened to people in the US and realized how much we complain. It wasn’t just that I was whiny.
We are all whiny.
It’s like a national sport. No matter how good a situation is, we have a tendency to pick it apart and find something that we can’t enjoy.
Years after I was made aware of my tendency for complaining, I hosted a prayer group from church at my house in Mexico. They asked what I needed prayer for. At the time, the Hubs was working long hours which included weekends, so I asked for prayers for that. It was kind of draining.
However, in a country where jobs are hard to come by, complaining about work in any form is apparently a huge faux pas. Instead of praying for patience us in dealing with the work hours, we thanked God for the Hub’s job–and I can’t say I’ve ever complained about long hours again!
Or, just not as often.
Even after six months here, the Hubs is still flabbergasted that write the rent for our house on a check and blithely stick that check in the mail.
One: personal checks just aren’t a thing in Mexico. Apparently they do exist. But I’ve never seen them used–nor has the hubs.
When we paid our rent in Mexico, we took a huge wad of cash right over to our landlord’s house once a month. He was old, and I believe ours was the only house her rented, so that worked out. If he had a number of houses he rented, we would probably have to stand in line at a bank and deposit our money into his bank account every month. Let me tell you, bank lines are LOOOONG in Mexico–particularly on the first of the month!
Paying the electric bill? Stand in line at the Electricity Comission.
Paying the gas bill? Stand in line at the gas company.
Most of these options are available to pay online, but so many people in Mexico rely exclusively on cash, so the in-person options need to be available!
Two: in the twelve years I lived in Mexico, I mailed maybe ten letters. I received two or three Christmas cards every year (thank you Aunt Dorothy, Uncle Bob, Aunt Virginia, and Carli!). They always arrived in March.
Generally, people just don’t use the postal system in Mexico. It doesn’t work well. Given how not well it works, it’s kind of expensive. So people just don’t use it.
Never underestimate the benefits of a reliable and effecient postal system!
It’s still an adventure every day to open up the mailbox. We literally went months in Mexico without receiving any mail.
Spring Versus Summer
The other day, The Hubs asked, “So when DOES it get hot around here?”
He has been here in the summer. He knows it does get hot. Well, relatively hot.
But this Spring has him down because his seasons are all flipped around. In Mexico, Spring is hot and dry. In much of Mexico, it’s just a miserable time of year. (When I lived in Morelos we’d always go dance in the rain at the end of May, the first day it would rain.)
Summer in Mexico is rainy and a bit cooler. Kind of like Spring here.
(OK, Spring in Ohio is just crazy and really doesn’t know which way is up. Who am I kidding? But then again, given the crazy storms we had in Mexico last summer, there might be more similarities than I care to admit.)
Anyway, in Mexico Spring=hot + dry. In the US, summer=hot + dry.
In Mexico, Summer=rainy + cooler. In the US, Spring=rainy + cooler.
Given the difficulty The Hubs had adjusting to northern Mexico, I’m not sure he’ll ever adjust to this!
All In All?
All in all, our transition has been an easy one. In some ways, quarantine is helping us out, as everyone else is so off their kilter, but we really haven’t had a “normal” to deviate from. We don’t have friends in Toledo, so we don’t miss not seeing them!
We do miss our family and friends in Ft. Wayne, but we are used to only seeing them once a year, so this year is pretty normal in that respect!
We do miss Mexico, but the pain of missing people and familiar places isn’t catching in my throat anymore. Like all losses, it is softening over time.
And we do hold out a hope that the border will open again in time for us to visit this summer!
(Of course, I was holding out a hope that school would open up again in May.)
But even if the border doesn’t open in time for us to visit this year, we’ll get there sometime. That door has not been closed on us.
Meal Photo by Matheus Frade on Unsplash.
Boy in the Rain photo by June Admiraal on Unsplash.
Featured Image (flowers) by Lee Qin on Unsplash.
Pinned Dahlia photo by Dell RG on Unsplash.