Tag Archives: what is life like in rural Mexico

A Day in the Life in rural Mexico State

Daisy shares a day in the life in a small town in the state of Mexico.

What is my typical day like? Well, it starts off pretty early in the morning, as I regularly get up around 4:30 am to teach Chinese students online. There are a million companies out there, some needing a degree, some not, but most paying between 15 and 25 dollars an hour. I am lucky enough (or unluckily enough, since those student loan payments are still a burden) to have a BA, but in addition, I got my TEFL off of Groupon for 39 dollars. I haven’t had it turned down once since most companies just want to be able to tell students (and their parents) that the teachers have a piece of paper.

But wait! What about me? Well, I have been living in rural Estado de Mexico–central highlands, altitude 8000 feet where I often wear sweaters in my house even in summer-close to Mexico City but quite countrified–for the last 8 years. My husband is Mexican and my two children (8 and 3) were born here. I never had a plan to move to Mexico but once life circumstances put me here, it was like I was made for it!

Compared to the families around me (a good proportion of whom I am related to by marriage) you might say my husband and I are a bit unconventional. I work from home, online teaching and WordPress support, while he is in charge of the kids. Since schools have a nasty habit of informing the parents the day before of some vital meeting or big project due, it’s nice to have someone not working. Plus, he made such a small amount of money for the long hours he worked, I worked really hard to convince him to leave his job and just do side projects when he was bored. It’s not always easy on his self-esteem since it he is the only stay at home dad most people have seen before, and it goes against the strictly defined gender roles of the area, but it works for us.

Working online has enabled me to really add to our creature comforts. There is nothing like the satisfaction of a hot shower, after taking bucket baths for several years. I used a contraption like this to heat our water; basically, electric coils wrapped around a block of wood. It is the same concept used to heat up water in an electric kettle, but it was a shock when I first saw it. It’s totally safe, you just have to remember to NEVER test the water by touching it!

As I mentioned, I get up early, work a few hours with the Chinese schools, then do some hours with another online ESL company that has daytime hours.. I try to not work from 12 to 3, since that is the main meal time in Mexico. I cook while he goes and picks up the kids. Then after we eat our main meal, I go back to work while he helps with homework and coaches his soccer teams. We don’t eat any processed foods, and I buy all our vegetables, meat, and fruit and local mercados (markets) or shops, not in the grocery store. It just seems fresher to me, and I like buying from the exact same person I have been buying from for the last 8 years, and knowing I am supporting that individual instead of a corporation.

If it is the weekend, you might catch us at a party that we can fully enjoy, knowing we helped pay for it. Cooperation is still alive and functioning in my area, where there is a great big circle of party love going around and around. I am proud to be asked to be the madrina (godmother) of the bouncy gym, tents, etc since these same people did the same for me when I had my daughter’s tres años presentation (3-year-old presentation). I only paid for the food!–which was still a lot, considering it was for 300 people! I know that some people have not had good luck with this sort of setup, but it works very well where I live–and I really think it strengthens the ties that bind the community together. When it works, it is a great deal–entertainment for the whole family, food, and drinks, for about 1500 pesos–the same amount you might spend at a semi fancy restaurant. I still consider myself lucky I landed in an area where people dance cumbia instead of grupero or norteño.

I often rage on expat pages because of their ignorance of how difficult life is for average Mexicans. I think that they have a Pollyannish attitude about corruption and crime, such as murders and kidnappings that can fall heavily on rural areas, but which don’t usually affect expats living in tourist areas.  Even though I am lucky enough not to live in a narco area, my house has been broken into several times here, and we have a big problem with assaults on buses. If you are a woman in an abusive relationship….good luck. I have seen several cases where the police refused to file charges, even with physical evidence of abuse. I think the issue is the impunity. Hardly any crimes are solved here, and people don’t feel they can rely on the police to help them. That is the big difference to me.  I think what happens with the Pollyanna folks that if you have everyone asking you constantly why you would go to such a dangerous place, you want to defend Mexico’s honor but if you are here, you want to defend the people who are suffering and not getting help from their government. Having said all that though, I feel quite safe and  I love that my children can play outside in a great big mob of 20 cousins with no supervision; I love that they can explore their independence by walking to the store alone (well, with 5 cousins in tow). Yes, we have tablets and TV, but the majority of their time is spent outside playing, which lines up perfectly with my beliefs about how to raise emotionally resilient and communicative children.

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Learning Gratitude

gratitude

Immigration and decidedly one-sided historical manipulation aside, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. To me, it was about grandma’s lumpy potatoes and my cousins swinging from the tire swing in the gigantic oak tree in the back. It was a time for my family to gather together in one place, under one roof, if just for the day. It was about taking time for gratitude in our oh-so busy lives.

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Well, the Pilgrims never made it to Mexico having pretty much died out the first year in the New World. And since they didn’t, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here. My first Thanksgiving here was rough. I cried. The second wasn’t much better. I missed having that day set aside for family. And although Mexico has several family orientated holidays (Children’s Day, Mother’s Day, Navidad) it just hasn’t been the same.

This will be my 9th Thanksgiving here in Mexico. I’ve tried to recreate the holiday in my new country on several occasions. Overall they have been dismal failures. Frozen turkey is over $500 pesos and completely out of our budget. We tried raising our own one year (See Mr. and Mrs. Turkey) but that didn’t work out very well either. Roast chicken and mashed potatoes were the best I could provide–with the ever-present risk of the gas running out mid-chicken. Pumpkin pie filling was hard to come by. Growing our own pumpkins would have worked out ok, but the pumpkins that grow here aren’t those orange ones I was used to. Oh, the list goes on and on.

This year I’m not even going to try to recreate Thanksgiving. I have to work anyway. But the part of the holiday that I can maintain is taking the time to express my gratitude to whoever or whatever may be for my life in Mexico.

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I am thankful that for 6 years, my husband was able to be the primary caregiver for our son. I often worked during the day and my son went to school in the afternoon, so he and dad took care of the house and animals. (See Why we chose to send our son to elementary school) We all enjoyed our days. Unfortunately, secondary school has put a wrench into our easy schedule, but I am grateful for the time we had and hope that we can finagle the schedule to our liking again in the near future.

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I am thankful for the numerous business ventures we have had that failed. I know that sounds crazy, but our family quest for gainful employment has encompassed nearly 9 years so far. We finally have something (or rather some things) that more or less works, but in the event of yet another failure, well, no worries. We’ll find something else.

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I am thankful for the opportunity to build our home. (See Building a dream–Constructing a Life) It has been frustrating at times mostly because the progress is SOOOO slow, but like Thoreau wrote, I feel that “There is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest.

opportunityI am thankful for the hardship of living in Mexico. Things that I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash at in my own community require mental and physical exertion here, more than I ever dreamed of. It’s not just the blatantly difficult things in my life, like doing laundry in the arroyo (See After Ecstasy, the Laundry), or eeking out an existence by sharecropping. It’s the superficially simple things that really get me, like going to a doctor for a check-up (See Seguro Popular–a model of inefficiency), buying tortillas, ordering meat at the carniceria, taking the bus…the list goes on and on. These hardships have honed and shaped me into the Super Woman I am now. I have confidence that I never knew I possessed as I sashay about town on my moto now. I am Woman–hear me roar! Si se puede! That is, on my good days. (See A Night At the Movies) Other days I can just manage to pull on my big girl panties and get’r done.

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I am thankful for the AHA! moments Mexico has given me.  The sound of the wings of a thousand birds flying in formation, the slow waddle of the dung beetle with its ball of poo, the jeweled hummingbird feeding from the wild klip dagga flower, the clouds of butterflies…it’s like being on the nature channel.  I would never have had these experiences in any other place.

everyone-is-my-teacherI am thankful for the lessons I have learned along the way and those that I have yet to learn. I have learned that I can not impose my will on others (See You can Lead a Horse to Water…). I have learned that all things must die (See When someone dies) but that remembrance allows for a life beyond death (See El Dia de Los Muertos). I’ve learned that it’s ok to fail. (See Failing at Your Own Business) but it’s never ok to give up. I’ve learned about my own emotions from our animals (See Running the Emotional Gamut) and rather unpleasant truths about people (See Hate Thy Neighbor). Oh, I can’t even imagine what more life has in store for me!

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And lastly, I am thankful for having the opportunity to share our adventures and disasters with you, Reader, so that I will not be one of those who “lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” when all is said and done.

Amen

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