A few observations – North and South of the border

September 13, 2009

The Highway

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.

More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. This was a great post. I’ve been following your blog for a few weeks now, in preparation to move to Merida in January. Thanks for the blog, it’s inspired me, and maybe I’ll start my own version of a “moving to Mexico” blog. Keep up the writing!

      1. David, Thanks for reading, and the compliment! Moving to Merida in January, I think you should start a blog about the process. If you do, let me know what the url is, I would love to follow along as you make the move.

    1. I really enjoyed your comments, Nancy. Whenever I am first back in the U.S. I always feel a little uncomfortable and out of place. Aside from water with ice in restaurants, it doesn’t seem to offer me much. After a few more days, I am pretty much a television zombie like everyone around me. It always feels so much better to get back to Mexico where my senses are so much more alive.

    1. This is a great post!!! I really liked it. You sound like me and I know my observations would be similar to yours. Especially the shopping and veg food. . .
      Hope you guys will come up and visit sometime.

    1. Nancy, what a great post. I loved the pictures, I love the flowers, the farmers’ market. I love Bellingham. Tried to get both KD and Ian to go to college there, but was a nogo…………….I don’t know when we actually will get back for a visit to the PNW but your post took me there for awhile. Thanks, Linda

      1. Hammockman, I love living in Mexico and feel happier and more myself here. I can never tell where you are when you blog…have you moved to Merida full time now?

        Mexican Trailrunner, Thanks, it is always nice to find a kindred spirit. I know we’ll get over your way sometime in the next few months, and I’ll get in touch ahead of time and we can get together.

        Linda Lou, Thanks! Yes, we love Bellingham and it was nice to have a break in the cool. This was the first time Paul had been in the US in two years, he had expected more of a culture shock than he got. The farmer’s market was such a treat, I salivate just thinking about those blueberries!

    1. Hey darling. Welcome back. I was salivating just a little while reading about the market and the blueberries. I really miss the produce from Portland. I do know what you mean about feeling the differences. I had the same feeling when I was up there. Watching people spend on dinner what I make in a month and then not even eating all of it (or taking it home with them) It was a really interesting feeling. I have really come to appreciate things about living in Mexico that I had not really thought about before.

      I am glad that you are home- safe and sound.

    1. I agree with all you wrote but the shopping/money really hit home. I cleaning out some closets now and as I look at the abundance of things I have bagged up to give away, I’m embarrassed.

    1. Mindy, The produce was amazing up there, but you know they don’t get the amazing mangoes and pineapples like we do! But the waste is incredible, you’re right.

      Billie, I didn’t buy several things I had on my list because I just couldn’t – I was to affected by the shopping experience. We ended up taking home mostly small things and items friends had asked us to look for. I didn’t even buy the clothes I needed, it just felt too uncomfortable.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I feel the same way every time we head back north to Toronto (which we’re doing this Sunday for 3 weeks). I get anxious thinking about the crowds, the stores, the frenzy pace of everything and everyone. We made the mistake of going to Toronto for Christmas one year. Never again. Yet at the same time, I love going out for dim sum, greek food and ketchup flavoured potatoe chips (yum!).

      1. I hope you have a great trip, three weeks is a long time, though, to long for me! But it is a long way to go for a short visit. No way will we ever head North during the winter, what with the travel being challenging I couldn’t handle the shopping during that season I know. Plus of course, too cold and snowy!

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