This morning I’m on deadline, trying to work. I’ve forced myself to sit at my desk and type; I need to get this article done and off my plate.
Just outside the door are two workers, painting several rooms in my apartment. In the background I can hear gentle strains of banda and reggae music coming from the kitchen, where old paint is being scraped off, landing in big heaps on the floor. It’s already a mess and will become even more so before the day is done.
I’m deep in the process of moving words around the page when Sergio knocks tentatively to ask a question. I stumble from English to Spanish to Spanglish, and we both laugh. Sometimes it’s hard to change languages, but my Spanish is better than his English (which isn’t saying much), and so we smile and figure it out together. In the words of the author David Sedaris, I hope that “me talk pretty one day.”
After giving him the info he needs, I step out to the balcony for a break. Someone is speaking English, the voice coming from the empty lot next door. It’s not very good English, and his thick accent makes the words difficult to understand. He’s trimming trees for my American neighbor, and they — like Sergio and me — are communicating the best they can.
This is a lot of what our lives are about here: Stepping outside our comfort zones, stretching our limits, trying our best to be open-minded about so many things. But it’s not just us doing this, not just the gringos, the foreigners — it’s the locals too who have to step outside their comfort zones, stretch their limits and, Lord knows, try to have patience and open minds about us and some of our weird ways of doing things in what is (ahem) their country.
Personally, I love that we’re in this together; if we can just remember that, then everything becomes a whole lot easier. I’m grateful that Mazatlán, where I live, and Mexico as a whole, is as welcoming as it is, and that the people are as nice as they are.
While I’m nowhere near perfect, I do my best to choose kindness and understanding whenever possible, and to keep on believing in the inherent good nature of people, even when I’m frustrated with what can seem, to my American mind, to be impossible procedures and unnecessary obstacles for the simplest of tasks.
In the process, we make mistakes, laugh a lot, learn to be humble — but communicate and make friends nonetheless.
And even, sometimes, we get the job done too.
Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.