A Horse’s Best Friend

I thought I’d continue my little rant on friendship and Mexico with this touching story of equine friendship…

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Red has been quite the handful these past three months since he’s joined the Flores homestead. He isn’t contrary like Spirit or Joey were but he isn’t as friendly as Shadow was. He does what he wants and really doesn’t have a care in the world.

He and Lady have become bosom buddies. Yeah, he likes mom to be in his sights, but when Lady goes for a ride with my husband, he carries on until she returns. This past Sunday, my husband had the idea to take Lady on the yearly cabalgata (horse ride) to El Ojo de Agua en Medio a nearby town. Red was having none of that. It took nearly 20 minutes for my husband to sneak off. 

The friendship between the two is reciprocated by Lady as well. She is only just over two years old, so a relatively young mare. She doesn’t seem to mind when Red bugs her to have his back scratched or races around while she’s eating. 

The other night Lady was fussing in her stall so much that I got up to see what the issue was. I shined the lamp down onto the animal area from the front porch and saw her circling her stall in agitation. The goats believed that the sudden glow of the lamp was the circus spotlight and immediately began running in circles, jumping off the walls doing mid-air twists and generally making quite a show. 

Lady continued her anxiety until Red popped his head over the wall in the stall he shares with his mom Cookie to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as Lady saw Red, she calmed right down. 

My husband has been talking about selling one of our mares. Really, three horses are too many for the space constraints we have. He hasn’t decided whether Cookie or Lady will go. I think Red just might be more devastated at losing Lady then his mom after he’s been weaned. So perhaps he’s made the decision for us.

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Read more about our animal friendships!

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International Women’s Friendship Month

September is International Women’s Friendship Month. So how do these international friendships typically pan out? Sometimes not so well, sadly.

Living in rural Mexico often means isolation for women who have chosen to come with their husbands to the lands of their ancestors. Friendships with other women are slow in developing, if ever. And yet, women need the support of a tribe of their own, not just the husband’s sister or aunt or cousin. 

Studies have shown that deep, abiding friendship between women can counteract stress–and moving to a new culture is certainly rift with that. Women have an innate drive to communicate, which moving to an area where a new language is spoken can inhibit. Friendships occur over shared experiences, beliefs and values–things that are not found in the new environment these women have settled in. 

Friendship can help women combat loneliness, improve their chances of surviving breast cancer, and generally help create a satisfying quality of life, no matter where a person lives. 

So why is it so hard to foster friendship in a new country?

Unfortunately, we have an inherent bias built into our perceptions that takes deliberate effort to overcome. We tend to choose friends who look like us, have a similar background, and social values. When we are faced with making connections with people who neither look like us nor have a shared history, we need to work more at finding commonality than we would otherwise. And while we immigrants to Mexico may be driven to find connections, the women that live in our village with long-time established friendships, are not. 

So where does that leave us? Depressed, lonely, and ill. Online friendships sometimes help with the worst of this, but virtual buddies can’t ever replace an actual friend. 

In June, I was able to visit my hometown for the first time in 10 years. I stayed in the home of my best friend since third grade. I thought that it was just me, who had been living in relative isolation for so long, that most enjoyed our time together. So I was surprised when my friend said that she really missed the company of women, both her girls were grown now. 

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We talked about the growing Amish community in the area and whether they had a better support system than most women. After all, they have shared values, a common background, activities, and history. Since that society of women is closed to non-Amish for the most part, we weren’t able to do more than speculate.

Bringing these thoughts back with me to Mexico, I started to feel less resentful of the women who refused to befriend me. The closed society of women here is no different than the Amish community in Pennsylvania. Which of course, makes it difficult for interlopers like myself to establish deep and abiding friendships. 

shopping with e

So where does that leave me? I will continue to enjoy my virtual interactions in the various Facebook groups I am in, including two that I help manage SOTB Bloggers and Women Surviving Rural Mexico, which I invite you to join if you live in Mexico. I will keep trying to be supportive of the women as they struggle with their online presence and daily interactions in Mexico. I will try to remember that I have an internal bias as do the women I come in contact with, so I mustn’t hold it against them. And I will continue to cherish the friends that I have no matter the distance between us. 

How have you made and maintained your friendships with other women?

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El Tortillero

Before we went on our trip to visit my family, my sister-in-law T. asked if my son would help her out on weekends at her tortilleria. Saturdays and Sundays, she averages 8 buckets of masa (dough) each day. Some days, her pistoleras, the ladies who crank those hand-pressed tortillas out, arrive late or not at all. (The word pistoleras literally women wielding pistols or in this case prensas–tortilla presses.) Their tardiness or absence puts T into a bind since she has to fire up a comal and make tortillas herself instead of packing them up and receiving the money.  Because this has been happening regularly, my son said he’d be the money handler.

Since we’ve returned from our trip, he is now working 6 days a week at the tortilleria with T. Weekdays, he works 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for the lunch rush with Thursdays off. On the weekends, he’s there from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or so. 

He seems to be enjoying working with his aunt, and she with him, it appears. She has some pan dulce y leche (sweet bread and milk) ready for him every morning. He’s adjusted his schedule so that he is up early for some computer fun before heading to work, then naps in the afternoon. Plus, there’s a little trickle of income for his own use that sweetens the deal and a kilo of tortillas, a container of salsa and some beans every day for dinner.

I enjoy hearing about his day. Customer service always provides some interesting anecdotes. Plus the pistoleras themselves chatter away as they pat and flatten and flip the tortillas.

The other day, my son came home with another one of those strange health beliefs that abound here. This one was that you can’t drink coke and atole (corn drink) together because one is black and one is white. The colors apparently clash in your stomach and make you ill.

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who would want to drink coke and atole together. It sounds like a horrible combination and sure to upset your stomach no matter what color the mixture happens to be. I actually think this belief has more to do with the hot/cold indigenous categorizations. You wouldn’t ingest something cold and hot together. This is why water is often offered al tiempo (room-temperature) with meals or on hot days.

My son also brings us the goings-on from Moroleon. The tortilleria is the hub of gossip mongers. We learned about the sudden death of our neighbor, el plomero (the plumber) from my son. The guy had gotten into a fight, sustained injuries and didn’t go to the doctor. It seems there was some internal bleeding and he died as a result.

Not all the stories are so tragic. One day my son was dispatching the tortillas and a girl about his own age paid him too much money. Before he could give her change, she ran off flustered. All the pistoleras hooted at that! Remember, my good-looking son is a Lady Killer! Later the girl’s mom came back and picked up the change with the young lady in tow, red as a tomato.

It sounds like my son has just pulled up to the house with his bike. Time for me to find out what the latest news from town!

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Renewing Our Seguro Popular Policy

September arrived and it was time to renew our Seguro Popular policy. It comes up for reaffiliation every three years and since I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled in November plus all the lab work that goes with that, we needed to make sure our policy didn’t lapse.

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So first we headed to the Módulo de Afiliación y Orientación building. I was just the paper carrier. I let my husband do all the talking. First, he showed the guy at the desk our expiring policy. Then another guy came over to take a look at it. He said we needed a copy of identification and comprobante de domicilio (proof of residency). 

When my husband explained we had no utilities at our house, he said we should go to the presidencia (town hall) and request a letter. We’ve tried that route and since we live outside of town, they won’t do it. Then I handed my husband the letter we have from Super Prez verifying that we live in La Yacata. We haven’t had to use it since the last time we applied for Seguro Popular. The letter was dated 2016. So we’d need a new letter.

My husband showed his driver’s license, but it was expired. Then he showed his motorcycle driver’s license, but that too expired in May (as did mine). So we’ll need to renew those as soon as we have the chance but that was a quest for another day. His IFE was still valid and even though his photo makes him look like a psychopath, it would do. Whew!

We went home and I typed up the letter we’d need from Super Prez, the president of the asociación de colonos de La Yacata. I don’t have any ink in my printer, so we headed to a Ciber (computer cafe). Everything was fine except it printed on two different pages. Since I had saved it as a PDF, the girl couldn’t alter it there. And I couldn’t remember my Google password to access Google Docs, so we went back home. I took out a space and saved it again.

Back to the Ciber and it printed out just fine. Our next task was to locate Super Prez to sign it. We were in luck! While he wasn’t in his office, his brother who runs the ferretería (hardware store) next to the office said he was at home. So we rounded the corner and rang the bell. 

This worked out really well since he not only signed the letter, but we could bring him up to date on the goings-on in La Yacata. We were even able to brag a bit about our completed solar system

With this letter in hand, we headed back to the Reaffiliation Office. My husband was given a number (10) even though there was NO ONE else there. Whatever. We sat down to wait. Eventually, he was called up to the desk. As the clerk was entering the information, the system flagged my husband as having an IMSS policy. Thus, in the computer anyway, it looked like we were double-dipping in the healthcare system. In order to proceed, he would need to present a letter from IMSS that stated he didn’t have a policy. 

IMSS in Moroleon, GTO

We headed to IMSS which was on the other end of town. Let me tell you, it was liking into the gates of heaven when compared to el Regional where I go for my appointments. There were no lines. The floor wasn’t broken. There was AIR CONDITIONING! And the nurses, staff, and doctors were just strolling around, not harried and frantic. 

We were sent around the bend to an office where a nice young girl looked up my husband’s information. She said he DID have an IMSS policy in 2007. It turns out that the job he had then which lasted about 2 months, had turned in his paperwork for IMSS. If you remember, IMSS is healthcare for employed Mexicans. Of course, once the job was done, my husband was laid off, so we had no medical benefits since then, hence our application for Seguro Popular. 

So this nice young woman gave me a list of requirements we would need to request the letter stating my husband didn’t have IMSS including a sample letter. Apparently, this sort of thing happens enough that they printed up this information to hand out. 

We would need to bring back the original and copy of his birth certificate, CURP, IFE, comprobante de domicilio, and the signed letter entitled CONSTANCIA DE NO ASEGURADO. We headed home and I typed up the letter. It was too late in the day to continue our pursuit, so we would have to wait until morning. 

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Bright and early the next morning, we headed to the Ciber for the print-out and copies required. Then back to IMSS. My husband asked if we would need a ficha (number). Nope. The nice young woman took the documents and printed out the letter we needed for Seguro Popular. My husband asked if there was a charge associated with this. Nope. We thanked the nice young lady and left.

Back to the Reaffiliation Office then. My husband was given a ficha (number) even though there was NO ONE there and we sat and waited. With all the documents in order, the application could proceed. The clerk asked my husband a few questions about his work, our house, our income. I remained silent even when my husband didn’t get my education information correct. 

I primed my husband to ask about our son’s coverage since he will be turning 18 in May. He’s covered until then and as long as he is enrolled in school which can be proved by a constancia de estudios (a letter written by the school). 

I was a little worried about that since his school is online until I remembered that there is a UVEG branch in town where we could go and ask about it. If he is still studying, he can remain on our Seguro Popular policy until he is 26. If he isn’t he may need to apply for his own policy, which I’m not sure he’d get approved for since he isn’t the head of a household. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The clerk printed out the new policy sheet and we are hunky-dory for three years. Of course, the new president AMLO has been making sweeping changes in the national healthcare sector and they’ve been going along as swimmingly as the changes in gas distribution went in January. Medication shortages in states where the reforms have begun have created an unbelievable healthcare crisis. That means it’s hard to say what the future of Seguro Popular will be and how that will affect us personally. 

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Read more about negotiating the healthcare system in Mexico!

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