Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Learning Conversation with Mexicans

One of the things that I have noticed since being back in Canada is our speech.  Aside from the obvious thing that we are speaking English here, and I would be speaking Spanish while in Mexico, there is a huge difference is the actual content.  And I realize how natural my Canadian self comes out, and that I have to constantly work on my latin side.  How so?

Well In Canada, those of Western roots, speak directly and come to the point instantly without much preamble.  Sample:

Me: Hey bro, can you com by and take a look at my car? Something is wrong, it's making a strange noise.
Brother: Sure I can come after work. You gonna feed me?
Me: Sure

Takes all of seconds to ask a favor.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

Not so with my Mexican counterparts... they take a while to get there.  Sample:

Friend: Hola.
Me: Hola Lalo
Friend: Como estas? How are you?
Me: Bien y tu? Fine and you.
Friend: Todo bien. Que has hecho? All good, what you been up to?
Me: Fui al gym... ... ....  Went to the gym... ....  Y tu? Como va todo? And you, all good?
Friend: Pues fíjate? well look... ...
And much later after all the conversation about how life is, one gets around to the reason for the call. One NEVER comes right out and just asks for a favor.

Because life, to a person from Latin America, is about relationships.  This is a lesson I have to learn and re-learn.  It is hard to remove that directness from one's character.  And since this is a trait that is quite extreme in GDL (it was much less so in Chihuahua) I find myself tripping up regularly.

Part of this characteristic is creating a gentleness in how you respond in a conversation.   If someone invites you to something, and you are fairly certain (or even know for sure) that you can not go, you never just say no.  One has to gently share that, even to the point of saying that you would try to make it.  Or my favourite answer, "Si Dios quiere", (if God wills it). This, to the Western mind set, is lying, but not to the person from a 'warm, or relationship, culture'.  It is ensuring that you don't damage the relationship.  An iffy response is better received than a definitive no response.

I have been heard to say some pretty flowery things.  I have learned to refer to friends as 'hermosa' - beautiful, or 'linda' - lovely, pretty, 'querida' - dear, etc.  I have been referred to with those same adjectives. The Spanish language lends itself wonderfully to this as do the people.  I often say they drip with sweetness, where we are much for stiff and direct.  I will most likely have to unlearn what I find myself slipping into while being here.


Mis queridos amigos, que tengan un muy lindo día y que sientan el calor de sus amistades todo el día. Los quiero mucho.  Abrazos y besos. 

My dear friends, have a wonderful day and may you feel the warmth of your friendships all day.  I love you all.  Hugs and kisses.

This would sound so normal in Mexico.  Just sounds hinky in English.  But I have loved seeing my friends from here, and hugging them, but we don't generally talk to each other like that!

My dear sweet wonderful friend Jodi and I

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Too Foreign for Home

We have been in Manitoba for two weeks now and I am still having this odd feeling, like I'm on foreign soil.  My reference point is always Mexico, in every conversation.  When I talk about 'home' now I am referring to Mexico, yet while in Mexico, I referred to Manitoba as home.  The above quote so says it all.  Neither here nor there.
Me with my son Mike (brother Keith in background)
Don't get me wrong, I am loving being able to hang out with my family.
I have lived two and a half years of life away from these people.  They have lived those same years without me.  How does one share that life with another, when that life was lived in a foreign place, so people you wish to share the story with have no context for the story?  How do you talk about your life when you are not sure people even care? How do you give your story the depth that it has without losing your listener?  

But, the real question is, how do you get people to understand that it is hard to be from two cultures?  How do you communicate that your world view has been altered, changed, and to such a degree that you are no longer the same.  That you feel like you don't fit. You feel like an apple in an orange grove.  And that you live in that feeling! In both countries ....

This is what I would love to be able to say ... ...

That the weather in GDL is amazing every day, blue skies, sun and no wind.  That a cool day requires a light sweater - yes, cool days do happen.  
That I love to eat out because I love real authentic Mexican food, which is inexpensive by comparison to eating out here.  Flautas and chilaquiles make a great breakfast, that avocados go with everything and that 'deep fried' should be its own food group!
That Mexican people are the most warm and embracing people.  That they love on you in such way that you feel you belong - like you are part of their family - even though you know you don't and you aren't.  It is a love and caring that is indescribable. 
That we just love going to the gym every day.  We enjoy working out, most definitely, but what we really love is the camaraderie amongst our friends.  That, while we are there for the fitness aspect, we are also there because we are family.
Would just love to explain Danzika and my muscle toning class and how that has impacted my life.
How much we love our study groups with our friends - studying the Word of God with people of faith, but a faith that is distinct from ours.  How rich the discussions are, how challenging and inspiring.  How we begin around 8 but at times go on till midnight, because the topic is incredible. 
That going to Puerta Vallarta, or any of the other beaches close by, are not all that amazing, per se.  But going to one of them with Mexicans most always is, because they will take you places you would never find on your own.  And it will always be better, because life is always better, richer, in relationship. 
And, and, and ... ... 

And when I return to Mexico... I know I will be warmly received and welcomed.  I will be told countless times that I was missed.  They will share their lives with me and ask about what went on in mine.  And I will settle in once again to life abroad.  I will work to reconnect and shed my Canadian-ness and search for my Mexican-ness. I will once again feel like an apple in an orange grove, albeit another grove. I will struggle to adapt but adapt I will.  

So If you meet me, and I act odd, relax, I am odd!  If I do something, or say something weird, well it probably makes sense to me, somehow.  

That said, if you look around you, Canada, Manitoba and even Steinbach (and every other small town here) has many immigrants.  There are probably more apples in the orange grove, try to understand and maybe give them a listening ear.  Ask questions and listen to their answers.  

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

I Forgot...

I have been gone, from my small home town of Steinbach, Manitoba for about 2 1/2 years.  Didn't seem that long, to be honest. But I forgot some simple things...some of which are insignificant, others kinda sorta matter, or make a difference. Like:
Like how nice it is to goes for walks and just enjoy nature.  I think that might be a rural thing.  Guadalajara is a huge city and rarely does a girlfriend call to go for a walk.  Here, well, in one day I took a 5k walk with my sister-in-law and later that same day another 13,000 step walk with my friend on the left.

I loved both! But that brought me to another thing I forgot... weather can change, like three times in one day! My walk in the afternoon was windy, but not cold, and I wore a short sleeve t-shirt.  My walk in the early evening - well look at the picture, sweatshirts but no wind! Then there is the very next day weather:
Rainy and cold! Like what up with that?  A friend of mine, who lives in GDL but is also Canadian, once told me that the weather in GDL was boring - every day the same! Bite your tongue!  I would go for same old same old any day....especially when same old same old is 30 on the plus side!
Needless to say, I just plain forgot about how the weather is not constant but ever changing throughout the day.  I miss my sun and warmth. I don't think I packed enough sweaters. 

Here's another thing I forgot about: 

Open the tap here and the hot water tap brings you HOT water, not tepid, not warm, but HOT.  In GDL we get tepid.  Now I know some of it has to do with the way you set your hot water tank, but I am pretty sure it would not get that hot EVER in GDL.  AND the cold? WOW! Like from a glacier maybe! Cold water from our tap in GDL is cool at best.  I think I could get frozen fingers from the water from the tap here! 

No to mention that you can actually get "agua de la llave" to drink.  (My sons love asking for that in Mexico - tap water).  You NEVER drink the water from the tap in Mexico. 

Then the last thing I will mention, which is something I didn't really forget about, but have been reminded of how annoying it is.  
Taking off your shoes at the door.  The reason I didn't forget is because when people come to visit us in Mexico I tell them to NOT take off their shoes at the door: it is offensive in Mexico.  What I had forgotten is how time consuming and annoying it is. Mostly because I always purchased shoes with this in mind.  Meaning - slip ons!  That whole tying and untying thing - annoying.  But I also understand the why - carpet, nice hard wood vs our ceramic tiles, marble, etc.
I guess I could just look at the exercise factor involved in the whole bending down and lacing and unlacing footwear every day!

I will say that after only one week here, reverse culture shock is harder, mostly because you don't really prepare for it.  You expect 'culture shock' when you go to another country, but you don't expect it when you return to your own country. So, if I do something totally weird - chalk it up to that.  My kids just tell me I'm weird!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Good Bye Guadalajara

Goodbyes are never easy, even when they are more of a 'see you later'.  And they are even harder when you love deeply.  Mexicans have a way of making you feel loved and cared for, of making you feel that you are one of their's.  This is the feeling I had at the various farewell get togethers.

The one pictured on the left was especially so.  This is a group from the gym, the ladies from the dance classes, plus our two favourite teachers.

We got together for breakfast at a terraza and just were enjoying one another; much laughter.  Then it was announced that we would begin.  I was asked to stand up in the front, and each person there gave me a heart, with their name on one side and a note for me on the other, which they pinned on my shirt.  But, before they did that, they each individually said something to me, what they thought of me, their first impression of me, what I meant to them, etc.

Oh, and Mexicans have the gift of sugar and sweetness.  Although one lady did tell me she didn't like me when she first saw/met me.  I burst out laughing, as did everyone else.  She went on to explain why and how that changed.  It was like receiving a huge hug.  They so blessed me.

Then they gave me a gift to take along; a tree of life.  The meaning was that they are all leaves on my tree.  It was a truly wonderful morning.

When I posted the pictures on Facebook I got a few texted from other friends to ask if I was leaving for good, because that farewell party look a little extreme for a 3 month goodbye!!

The neighbours also got together in our terraza and everybody brought snacks to share.  We had a wonderful evening with much laughter.  We are truly blessed with some really great neighbours.  The ladies get together almost monthly, for birthdays, but on occasion we drag our men out and so those friendships are growing too.
Another group from the gym who took me for breakfast to say 'see you later'
We also took the opportunity to say good bye to our friends at the gym.  We have made some wonderful friends at the gym, and all of our Bible Studies have generated directly or indirectly through the gym.  It is considered a family gym and it really truly is - we consider ourselves family.
Mario, Ernie and Mario
So we are off, looking forward to seeing family and friends in Canada, but at the same time torn, as part of our heart will be staying here.  We love Guadalajara, but mostly her people.