I returned to the United States on July 2nd, so I have been back for a little less than 2 weeks. I’ve been very busy trying to pack up my apartment, give away as much as I can, and plow through the piles of paperwork to update my change of address for social security, insurance, etc., etc. Maryland will be my official state of residence as of the end of this month, and once I am back in Cofradía, I will also obtain my residency in Mexico.
People ask if I have experienced culture shock since returning, and honestly the only thing I had to consciously remember was that I could drink the tap water and run my toothbrush under the bathroom faucet to brush my teeth.
The weather is about the same right now as it is in Mexico, so light clothing is fine, and my huaraches are perfect on the paved roads – I don’t have to switch to thick-soled shoes or carefully step from cobblestone to cobblestone to walk in the streets. There is also a distinct lack of chickens and street dogs, and no children and men riding in the streets on their horses.
One very obvious difference is my accessibility to cash – my bank is 5 minutes away. In Cofradía it is a one hour bus ride to Villa de Alvarez to get to an ATM, along with numerous bank fees and international fees, so I would make the trip only about once per month and take out 7000 pesos, which would last me a month or more.
One pleasant surprise was stepping on a scale when I entered my apartment – I lost 11 pounds when I was away! With the change in diet, exercise and having to walk everywhere, plus the heat causing a decrease in my appetite, I am not surprised. However, since I was losing it slowly, I didn’t realize it until I put on a windbreaker as the rainy season started and noticed it didn’t fit as snugly as it had when I first arrived in January.
I am determined to stay healthy and fit, so I am making a conscious effort to eat as I did in Mexico. Once you have lived in both places, it is easier to see why other people gain weight once they are here in the U.S. I can stop in any one of hundreds of gas stations, coffee shops, diners, etc. to grab a coffee, a roll, a danish or doughnut loaded with sugar and calories. You can drive everywhere here, though in some places that is a necessity due to lack of sufficient local public transportation. As a result, you are eating more calorie-laden, unhealthy food and not burning off those calories through exercise.
In Cofradía, there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can walk everywhere. Yes, the small tiendas do have things like individual servings of ice cream or packages of cookies, and you can get bread, or sweet bread (pan dulce, conchas, etc.) from the tiendas or panadería, but not in the overwhelming quantities you have here. The good weather also lends itself to increased exercise. While it can be brutally hot during the afternoons, it is cool early in the morning and late in the evening. I was walking 6 km (3.6 miles) 5 or 6 mornings a week with my neighbor Lourdes and going to exercise class at the albergue 4 evenings per week.
I am trying to keep my diet as Mexican as possible, and am lucky that here in the Goshen/Warwick area I am able to find familiar fruits and veggies. I bought chayote at Price Chopper in Warwick, and found some good yellow Mexican mangoes at the Indian market in Middletown. So I made a pot of carrots, zucchini (calabacitas), chayote, tomatillos and red tomatoes cooked up in tomato sauce with some baked chicken. My refrigerator also contains cheese and eggs, and I have oatmeal in my cabinet, so even with less exercise, my intake should be roughly the same as in Mexico, and I will stay away from processed food and things like bread as much as possible.
In between packing, I am catching up with old friends and with family, and happy that most of my things are going to a good home – people that care about them and will take care of them, and many things will be kept in the family.
As for Rotary, thanks to e-clubs, I can still be a Rotarian and still be active, even though there is no physical club where I am in Mexico. A few days after arriving here, I was the guest speaker at my old club, the Monroe-Woodbury Rotary club, and discussed what it is like being in an e-club and all about my volunteering and life in Mexico. My e-club, the Rotary E Club of the Southwest USA, does have a banner, which they sent to me, so I was able to exchange banners.
Through modern technology and social media, I can still stay in touch with everyone in a timely manner. I thought it would be nice for my grandchildren to get a paper letter from Mexico, so I sent two to them and one to a friend, and it took a month to reach them. One former co-worker sent me a letter, and it took 3 months to reach me! So while I mourn the loss of paper letters, this is so much more efficient, and you can still make it as personal as necessary.
I remember my friend Victor having to be away from home for two years, but being able to talk with his family via Skype. I remember him telling me how his toddler son tried to feed him through the screen, so technology can be a wonderful thing to help families stay in each other’s lives.
So on this note, I will close, and probably not write another post again until August, after I have moved. I really must find time to write to my three students whom I am sponsoring and start a post about GROW, the organization of banana growers that provides immense support to our students at Project Amigo. I am so far behind that everyone must think I have forgotten them, so I will apologize profusely once I am caught up.
Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures, and I’ll speak to you again next month…..
Exchanging banners – Sue Ketterer and Patricia Green