Many of us are choosing vacation or retirement homes south of the border. We feel drawn to the slower pace of life, the small town safety, and the magical waters of the Sea of Cortez. My husband and I are enjoying the Loreto-Baja version of this story, along with a community of like-minded friends.
I love watching how North Americans tend to acclimate to Mexican culture.
First, you arrive on foreign soil with a deer in the headlights look. You grope around, looking for the person or people who seem to have found their way – even if their arrival precedes yours by a mere month. Neighbors become experts if they’ve discovered simple things, like where to buy fresh fish in town.
You ask a million questions, realizing that part of the new challenge is learning to separate truth from rumor from folklore. What do you do if a manta ray or a jellyfish stings you? What garden plants grow best in the hot desert sun? How do you signal to other drivers that there are free-range cattle in the road? What’s the best strategy for door screens in a country that doesn’t use them?
You try out your elementary Spanish. Call things by the wrong names. Mix up all the verb tenses. Scramble your brain a little. You’ve got to be willing to make mistakes, even to make a fool of yourself. At the very least, expect to be misunderstood now and then. Make even the smallest mispronunciations, and people look clueless. Others are very helpful, appreciative that you are making the effort to communicate. (How could a word ending in ‘o’ sound that much different from a word ending in ‘a’?)
Bit by bit, you learn that it feels good to live in a culture where people smile and say ‘hola’ when they pass you. Where people sing while they’re working. They tell you ‘Sí, se puede’: anything is possible. When you ask around, everyone’s got stories about serendipity and luck and making things work—the kindness of strangers and the resourcefulness of the locals.
And even though you come to understand that the word ‘mañana’ simply means ‘not today’ and the word ‘ahorita’ (which theoretically means ‘right now’) more accurately means ‘in a little while’—you learn to wait if it’s important and let go when it’s not.
You know that you’re walking the same path many have walked before you, but to you it feels unique and a little scary. Bottom line, you’ve gotta find your own truth. It’s kind of like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. If you jump in and start connecting pieces, eventually you will create the picture. And even though it makes practical sense to connect the edge pieces first in order to define the boundaries, if you follow your intuition, your curiosity, and your passion, poco a poco the new life you create will be uniquely yours. Buena suerte!