Saturday, December 9, 2017

Making Friends and Fitting In

This week I have been a little at odds with what to write and could not come up with anything exciting, until Herman said that I should write about what it is like to try to fit in, and it suddenly came to me.

I have often referred to our experience here as flopping around on dry land like a fish out of water. You know nothing, can understand very little and have constant conflicting thoughts about where you find yourself. Fitting in is a daunting experience that only hits you after the first few months of excitement. You start going about your daily routines and come down to earth and realize that you have to pay the bills and pull the weeds and do the laundry and it's back to living. That's when you start to feel the need for connections, people to visit on a weeknight or invite over for a drink. You start to feel extremely lonely. When you meet someone you like, it dwindles into insignificance, because of the language barrier. But you try to talk and start getting better and start understanding more, but it is work. When you are done, you are literally exhausted with the effort of translation in your brain. I actually switched to German while speaking to someone the other day, even though I haven't spoken German since I left University. Your brain just bounces around trying to find the right phrase to use and I guess mine short-circuited.

So when you find someone that you can talk to in English, it is such a relief that you can relax, that you just talk and talk. But you don't always end up being friends, it is a very nice feeling. Then when you meet someone and you really connect, it is the best feeling you can possible have in a new country.

So, when Herman read a message on Facebook about a man who was born in South Africa and just arrived in Mérida from Canada, he felt compelled to connect. One thing led to another and suddenly we were going to a brunch at Jackie's house for a super awesome brunch with three other couples who have at least one South African-born spouse. Weird how we came all the way to Mexico to find so many other South Africans. When you come from Africa, there is a bond that no one else gets. You have similar tastes in food, music and a very bendy sense of humour. Not something you can explain or teach, but definitely there.

In the mish-mash of Canadian/South African/American cultures, despite our differences in age, we found common ground and just had a wonderful time. We could talk about what we missed about our past homes, what brought us to Mexico, what it's like to start over in a new country, and why we were drawn to travel and new adventures. We talked about our new adopted home that we are starting to love, each in our own way and on our own time. We swapped recipes and some lessons-learned in surviving immigration, and where to find our favourite spices. We also decided that our next get together will be a proper "bring-en-braai". (Directly translated this is a "bring and barbecue", which in Canadian would be something like: bbq potluck & byob.)

What we all wholeheartedly agree on, is that the reason we all fell in love with the Yucatán and Mexico, were the people. The hospitality, kindness and generosity of the people, grabbed us and kept on pulling us back here. It is also clear that the Mexican middle class is moving up and Mérida is a prime example of development and economic growth that attracts so many young professionals and their families to this area. This makes items that some of us have come to expect to be easily accessible in the stores, which just adds to the overall sense of finding a place where one can fit in.

I have my own thoughts about advancement and whether it is really good for the local culture, but it is undisputed that the influx of money does help the local economy and in turn, hopefully benefits the local communities as well. One of the most successful programs for local communities is the Yucatan Giving Outreach charitable organization that compels the expat community to help various local well deserved initiatives, including the youth orchestra that I wrote about a few blogs ago.

So it seems like we are finding our groove so to speak, not entirely as a result of making friends, but definitely boosted by it.

On the lighter side, I included a non-related video: Xena is getting very comfortable in hammocks. Herman and I still do some target shooting on warm afternoons - those poor beer cans! And Herman is becoming a swimsuit model and his six-pack is not too shabby, but it's his love of hats that make the man and I think I captured our lifestyle perfectly in the photo shoot at the pool...