For the first time in over 20 years, I’ve celebrated a birthday in the presence of my parents. This has been coupled with the return to living life in the country of my birth and has been a strange, emotional, exciting journey. The first noticeable sign that I was back, however, was the culture shock.
Anyone who has lived in Mexico for some considerable amount of time will understand what I am talking about when I say how strange it felt walking into a supermarket with groceries from other stores, as well as your personal hand carry, without having to leave those items in the bag check at the entrance. Or pulling into a gas station and finding that there are places that used to charge you for the use of their air pump and water for the windshield wipers.
The commercials. I don’t watch much in the way of television but seeing countless ads for pills that cure one thing but watch out for the 20 side effects, seems absolutely insane and ridiculous to me. Why would you take that? Is getting a boner really that important that you need to suffer the added possibilities of shortness of breath, dizziness, tachycardia, delusions, sleeplessness, mad cow disease, oak rot and whatever else?
Why would you willingly do that to yourself?
Starving students? I went to the UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. If a student had a car, that was something of an achievement. San Francisco State is near where my parents live and I find it hard to fathom how in student parking, I’ve found BMWs (normally the 328i), Mercedes, a Harley, Ducatis and an Aprilia.
Seeing a Maserati on the street still impresses me.
Boxes on wheels. I will say I am a relatively calm person but since my arrival, I’ve developed an irrational hatred towards these boxy cars that seem to be all the rage. You know which ones I’m talking about: the Kia Soul, the Nissan Cube and even the Scion iQ. There is something that makes me angry at how the design story reads to me as just putting an ice box on wheels. Such is my hatred that I feel that should I be presented with the designers of these cars, I would punch them in the throats.
Rainbow variety. It is weird coming back to a country where there is a veritable variety for every item on the counter and in the store. I am not sure if lemon-flavored Oreos are good, why the soap I bought is froyo-flavored or if there is a huge demand for cappuccino Lay’s potato chips. All I do know is that seeing row upon row of “stuff” makes me remember that it is all about keeping it simple.
Pass me a donut from the corner shop.
Sea gulls. I don’t there is a sound I associate more with San Francisco than the squawk of a sea-gull. Living in the land-locked city of Mexico City for 10.5 years to later live in Cancun for another eight, where you have frigate birds, pelicans and crows, hearing one for the first time in years reminded me of how much they were a part of my life.
It’s It Ice Cream Sandwiches. Some people have chicken pot pies or a hearty stew. My comfort food is the It’s It ice cream sandwich. I had missed those things with a fervor that I don’t think I’ve ever had for food. For those of you unfortunate enough to never have tried one, it is ice cream in between two oatmeal cookies, dipped in chocolate. I could say it is hard to explain but frankly, I think it is a pretty easy sell, really.
Mexico: Where is it again? For the amount of Spanish spoken in restaurants, shops and stores, I am beginning to feel that I never left Mexico at all. Slowly, yet quite surely, it seems as if the two parts of me that crossed over borders for these past 18 years, now provide the inverse in the country of my birth. Where else could I watch a movie about a Mexican film star (Cantinflas) in an American movie theater and see both English subtitles for the Spanish bits and Spanish subtitles for the English bits? I walk out and pick up panela cheese while the guy behind the counter offers me in Spanish a taco de chicharron (pork rind taco) as a freebie with my purchase.
So the fight continues. It turns out that I will not be attending school this quarter due to lack of funds so onto Plan B: work my ass off and make this dream come true.
I am 40, going on 21. It is my chance to shine. Giving up was never an option and it never will be.