Spanish Study and Guided Travel in Mexico

spanish teacher in Yelapa and Sayulita, Mexico observes the culture

Think Again Before Trying to Change Mexico

Before Trying to Change Mexico, Let Mexico Change You

I’m stressed living in paradise. The summer has been very hot, and the summer has been stressful. What could stress you in paradise? It’s been a slow summer and I was hoping to take advantage of this and do lots of work on the computer, some fun projects, and some  that I’ve dreaded or were difficult , but must be done.

As I sit here a few days before my imminent return to Canada, I fret that things haven’t progressed well in my summer business plan. My best laid plans really went sideways; deviated by various acts of God and Politics (and God has nothing to do with politics, especially not here in Mexico). Yelapa’s power lines were robbed, many kilometers of them, for the copper. CFE, the electrical company, worked to replace them with aluminum cables. Then a lightning bolt badly placed, took out most of the town’s phones, but worst of all, destroyed my computer, two printers, and fried the router and phone connections. Surprisingly the electricity still worked. I still perservered, bought a new computer, etc. etc. etc. And I’m frustrated by not being able to produce what I must before leaving.

As I got up to begin supper, I was hit by the irony of it all. I borrowed off of two credit cards and used all my savings to live here in the winter of 1999-2000, just because there was no electricity! I wanted to experience a season of that before the town changed with power and all its trappings.  And now, I’m here complaining about how I’ve brought my work to this world, and it can’t be done here due to lack of that of that harbinger of change that I avoided in the first place.

This place should NEVER have had electricity introduced. By nature and design it’s meant to be a tranquil, sleepy little piece of heaven. Undisturbed by outside pressures. I’ve been thinking alot about this this summer. I remember well the peace,harmony, fun and community cohesion that existed then, that defined Yelapa back then. I just yesterday reminisced with Seguín, the town comisario (justice rep) about bringing back the old baseball team, and the fun we had back then. A few years ago, when the electricity went out, I remember sharing with Ana, at her little store, the comment, “Ah, just like the old Yelapa”. Some things are better left alone.  There’s no sense in trying to drag a place like this into the 20th Century, let alone the 21st and its challenges.

As I reflect on this, there’s scratching sounds on my palapa roof. I glance up as a crab pokes it head, tentacles first, through the palm ribs that form the side wall. I think it’s offering its agreement. And the mottled owl that lives in my big tree offers wise words, “ow,ow, ow, ow”, seconding this thought.

A Tourist Visa in Mexico or Hell – Another Perspective

I like to meet other Spanish teachers in Mexico, and I like to learn about the culture and language in other language regions. This year I spent a week in Guanajuato and checked into two Spanish Schools. One was the University of Guadalajara. Twenty six years ago, the last time I was there, I fantasized about studying at this University. It’s such a beautiful town, rich in history, art, music, architecture and cuisine. I spent a class wtih Martín. He had lived in Toronto for a year and wants me to arrange meeting a Canadian woman who will take him away from the problems of living in Mexico. He’s the second Mexican I’ve met recently that expressed surprise that I’d want to live here, not just for the weather.

He had a story to tell. A man was taken to heaven after his death, and met St. Peter who was happy to show him around. It was tranquil, with mellow music, every comfort provided to make life blissful. He enjoyed it immensely. After a while, he had “un inquietud” , an itch he had to scratch. He asked St. Peter about hell, and could he go there just to see it for a day. With surprise, St. Peter questioned him, but since it was for a short while, he made the arrangements, processed the papers and next the man was escorted out and directed to go to hell.

He was more excited than worried. He arrived at the gates under the brightly lit signs, knocked and was greeted by a beautiful woman. She was happy to see him, and took him around to all the best sites and places. It was beautiful. Not at all his conception of hell. Everyone looked happy, and lived well.  They went to the bar and had a few drinks, ate the best barbecued ribs and everything he couldn’t get in heaven. He danced with many beautiful people, laughed, shared lots of fantastic stories and jokes, and definitely had too much to drink. He requested a woman he could spend some intimate time with. The woman of his dreams just floated his way and as he reached toward her,.. he heard an alarm ringing. It was the end of his day in hell. Well, he’d enjoyed himself and guided by his hostess, he said farewell to all and headed back through the doors of hell, to the pearly gates of heaven.

Things continued as they had before in heaven for the man. Life was perfectly blissful. But over time, he was discontent yet again. He asked if he could in fact live in hell instead of heaven, remembering the many pleasures he had enjoyed there, that were just not available under God’s watchful eye. St. Peter was surprised, but again processed the papers and saw his charge back to the gates, and wished him well in hell.

Upon arriving at the doors of hell again, he was a bit taken aback. There were no beautiful neon lights announcing his destination. There was no exciting music. When he opened the door, there was no welcoming committee and definitely no beautiful babe to greet him. He walked along the dark path, and didn’t see the inviting lights of bars, restaurants and lively dance scenes he’d had so much fun at before.  In the distance he saw people who were not enjoying themselves much at all; digging in the hard earth, carrying heavy loads, perspiring with their chores. It was not a scene he hoped to see. He looked around for someone to ask what had happened. How had hell changed? The crew boss led him to the person in charge. “Where did it all go?” the man asked. “What’s gone on, since I was here last?”  The Devil’s helper asked for papers, which the man provided. “Oh,” he explained as he examined the papers. “Last time you were here on a Tourist Visa for 24 hours.”

Martín enjoyed embellishing the story and the parallels to be made, so that only a tourist or an idiot could miss the point. I had no questions. I went away thinking how many people in Mexico think like he does. That life in this hell might be fun for  us visitors but not so much fun on the inside. The country is in a fine mess. Many do well. Many more do not. Most live an enviable life (to us) surrounded by their families who are everything to them. They have cultural roots that bind them to the earth. Solidly. But many aspects of the system that governs them doesn’t govern them in a benevolent way, the way democratic societies are (were) supposed to do (I have strong Canadian biases about this). Many struggle.

Are we naive tourists on a 24 hr pass? Unable to fathom the complex web most are trapped in?  Many Mexicans come back from the United States, some with money, to set themselves up to live, work and retire here with their families and childhood friends. What’s heaven and what’s hell? Depends on your perception of the two, I guess.

So as I turnoff the computer, I plan to put on some blissful music, eat a nourishing and tasty snack, followed with some wine I’ve been saving for a special occasion, and thank the sleeping crab, still lodged in the palapa roof, for his angelic interrupton of my heavy cloud of self-pity, and more to the point, thank the divine forces, for giving me the choices that I have.

Crab in myYelapa palapa roof overlooking my situation

An angelic interruption in my heavy cloud of self pity

Juanita in Yelapa Mexico toasting the lifestyle of summer in two countries

Heaven or Hell; Cheers to the choices that I have available to me.


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