We arrived in Seattle at dusk and by the time we were driving North in our rental car it was full-on dark. We were driving along like kids who’d never seen the city marveling at the brightly illuminated highway. Five lanes each way, with bright white striping marking the way. Endless rows of red tail lights in front of us and endless rows of headlights the other way. All so orderly, so lined up and neat. Blinkers blinking. Driving at just about the speed limit. Neat and tidy signage, trucks with their neatly tucked in loads… it felt very surreal. So that was adjustment number one.
I’m a gardener and vegetarian and I was looking forward to getting back into some comfort food. And wow, did I! We went to the Farmer’s Market and I was marveling over all the organic produce, grown locally. I was the kid in the candy store, buying zuchinni, carrots, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes, basil, green beans, potatoes, peppers, and blueberries. Oh, and crusty delicious ciabatta bread, too! Then we headed home and made a fabulous stir fry with all those ingredients (and chicken for some.) It just made my heart feel good. We have nice markets here in Mazatlán, but buying organic from the local growers is just the best. The only berries we find regularly in Mazatlán are strawberries, so I ate blueberries every chance I got!
We had a list of things to buy while we were up North, so we got to know the retail areas pretty well. There is so much choice, and while we did get most things on our list we both became somewhat grossed out by the experience. I had a hard time finding a cordless phone with two handsets here in Maz, and at Best Buy I saw a row of probably 30 sets. Wow! Plus there are so many strip centers with strange entrances and exits, it can be quite frustrating to go from one store to another. We drove probably 6 blocks to find the entrance to Lowe’s (for graphite and a door peephole) that was just across the street from another strip mall!
We are in love with our adopted country, and wondered how far our Mexican-ization had changed us. But several times as we were driving around we said to each other “we could live here.” Bellingham is a very nice college town, and has a historic flavor downtown that we would find fun to live in. There are good parks and places to walk. Of course it also has short summers and long winters! You never know, maybe sometime we’ll rent up there for a month or two in the summer!
The biggest contrast I felt had to do with economics. People have SO MUCH! Living here has made me much more aware of the economic differences between households, but the lower end of the economic scale is so much lower here in México! Parking lots are full of newer cars. Stores are full of shoppers. It just feels like too much to me! I know that we have much more than so many people here in Mazatlán, and there really is nothing I can do about that. Every store we went to just made me embarrassed to be buying things. I will have to think about that a bit more, but it felt kind of like a feeding frenzy sometimes – or was it just that I am unused to retail in the USA?
I expected more differences between people, but aside from the general whiteness of the population, it didn’t feel too different. Although when we were walking the dog I noticed that people working in their garages or gardens didn’t look up and say hello like would happen in México. People walking dogs did, though! And while I know that México has a terrible obesity problem, we saw way more morbidly obese people in the US than you do down here.
Our son lives in a neighborhood of detached homes, and most homes have fenced backyards. I’ve lived in quite a few neighborhoods with a similar setup. But after living in our old Mexican house with its inner courtyards for two years I felt a little bit like I was in a fishbowl. When we’re at home we are only aware of what’s going on outside if there is noise that brings us to the front of the house to look out – otherwise we are in our own little world. I’m not saying one style is better than the other, but I did really notice the difference.
We traveled home on September 11. I found it quite moving to be flying along thinking of all of those souls whose lives ended that day. It made me reach out to Paul, hold his hand and feel grateful for our lives together. Wherever we live.