A few years ago, I had the opportunity to see a movie called "The Namesake."
It's about a newly married couple from India (I think back in the 50's) who move to New York to start a new life. It's a very long movie and spans from the beginning of their married life to the young adulthood of their two children. It mainly centers around the young son, Gogol, who becomes very "Americanized" and doesn't want anything to do with his Indian heritage. After his father's death, however, he returns to his roots and learns to respect and value his ancestry. It was a very moving film, and you learn quite a bit about the culture of the Indian people. The main feeling I came away with was how much history so many countries have while America doesn't even come close. Many of these cultures have been around for thousands and thousands of years and we're only a couple hundred years old. Mexico is another one...just look at the Mayan civilizations, just to name one. Yet, Americans are one of the most arrogant and bigoted people in the world...thinking we know everything and no one can tell us anything.
I took my first solo trip to Isla Mujeres in May of 2008. I always visit Romi at the Posada del Mar for his wonderful Margaritas.
I stopped by one evening and there was a group of very loud people sitting at the bar. Some of them were being totally obnoxious and I felt bad for Romi because he had to put up with them. (I hope they tipped him well, but were probably too drunk to think about it.) I know people are going to party and have fun on their vacations, but I bet the poor natives get pretty tired of dealing with the really obnoxious tourists. Anyway, those are the kinds of times that I can be embarrassed for my fellow Americans and think there are a LOT of them who could use a few lessons on respect and maybe a little bit of class. (By the way, I'm sure there are people from other countries, as well, who can be just as obnoxious.)
Whoa...I've digressed here. What made me bring all this up is that I recently read a blog post from Countdown to Mexico...about an ex-pat couple living in Mazatlan. I hope Nancy doesn't mind my quoting some of her thoughts, but even though I don't live in Mexico, I love it enough to share her feelings about some differences between the two countries when she recently spent some time back in the United States.
Countdown to Mexico: People are too freaking polite! Good grief, people! Quit waving each other access to the intersection and just GO! I didn't even rent a car this trip so I barely drove at all -- but I still found myself flabbergasted at how SLOW people drive - and how SLOW they turn (ever hear of hand over hand?) and how LONG they stop at a stop sign. Especially if there is a car ANYWHERE within view. Sheesh!
Me: OMG, TELL ME ABOUT IT!!! Driving in Texas is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had. (Keep in mind that I have lived on the east coast where you have to learn to drive like a maniac to survive, which I frankly prefer, because there are probably fewer accidents there than in Texas where everyone drives slow and polite.) I've already mentioned in a previous post that they drive slow in the fast lane on the highway. But if four cars come to a four-stop intersection, you might as well set up your tent and wait awhile. "You go first." No, by all means, YOU go." "Not at all...be my guest." You could sit there for hours. Then, when someone actually DOES start to go, it's at a snail's pace because they're not sure whether they're supposed to be going or letting another person go first. I live by the "three-second rule" now. If I come to an intersection and no one moves in three seconds...I'm outta there, even if I was the last one to pull up. And sometimes I will look in my rear view mirror and still see them all sitting there waiting! Unbelievable. And you could say they're just being safe, but I've had several times since moving to San Marcos this past year in which drivers (probably students on cell phones) who have pulled out of side streets without looking right into my path when my street didn't have a stop sign. I've been lucky enough that either the parking lane or the oncoming traffic lane wasn't occupied so that I could veer out of the way...otherwise I would have gotten whacked. I honestly feel safer riding with these guys than on the streets of Texas...
Countdown to Mexico: Everyone is solo! Most cars are occupied by one person. Certainly most motorcycles. And NEVER. EVER. do you see two MEN on a motorcycle. And nothing fun like people on bicycles or motorcycles carrying surfboards or extension ladders. and NO MOTOS of course with the little juice stand or coco stand or hotdog stand on the front buzzing along at 15 mph.
Me: That is definitely true. Parking is a nightmare on campus and around the town of San Marcos. Yet, all these young students are driving huge pick-up trucks and SUVs all by themselves (while taking on their cell phones). I would rather see these:
Countdown to Mexico: Friendly greetings everywhere? Or nowhere? Mazatlan has a population of about 400,000 but it mostly feels like a small town. People smile a lot. Say hello a lot. Are friendly in general. I did have some friendly stranger interactions while I was NOB but mostly people pass on by without looking at you or greeting you.
Me: Very true...and sad. When you walk around campus, everything is either talking on their cell phones or looking straight ahead with a very serious look. Almost no one smiles. I usually walk to the student center at lunch time so I can sit outside and read. There are some groups who sit together, but for the most part, everyone sits by themselves. Another example is getting on an elevator in my building. Unless you're familiar with the other person who gets on with you, NO ONE says a word and don't even THINK of having eye contact! I usually take the stairs. I can't think of a single time when a young person has given me a smile like this in the States.
Countdown to Mexico: Lots of rules, and lots of people obeying them! Bikes this lane! Use these bags to pick up after your dog and put it here! No dogs here. No parking there. No entrance. You know what I mean. We probably have as many rules here in Mazatlan bu the signs are missing or the lane marker is worn or whatever! NOB everyone is wearing a helmet, and biking or skating in the lane provide and obeying the rules and making sure everyone else obeys the rules, too. I think I am becoming a bit of an anarchist in my old age -- I really don't want to be told what to do as long as I don't hurt anyone else!
Me: Haha...I like her last statement...AND I can totally relate. When I temporarily moved into the apartment complex after I sold my house, I got a complaint from the office that was filed by the girl living below me, who was about 23 years old, that I was making too much noise when I moved in. WHAT?!?!? I was moving in for cryin' out Pete's sake! It was all downhill after that. That place was a freaking prison of rules and regulations...and everyone looked like zombies. When I stayed in a little apartment in the Colonias on Isla in 2008, the guy who lived in the house next to me played music one night at full blast till all hours of the night. It didn't even bother me...and I'm old!! I turned up the TV and the air conditioning muffled the sound, as well. Who am I to tell him to turn his music down? It's his home and no one else was complaining. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed the noise and the hustle and bustle of the street below my apartment.
Countdown to Mexico: What about a relaxing meal? My family laughed at my surprise during one meal in a restaurant where the waiter interrupted our animated conversation twice for no reason and then brought the check before we had half finished!
Me: Tell me about it...again!! Going out to eat in the States is a whole different deal than it is in Mexico. I think you could actually sit in a restaurant the whole day in Mexico without the waiter bringing you your bill. And that's just fine with me...especially when you have these views...
...and are eating this...
Who the heck wants to rush through a meal when your toes are in the sand and you're looking at that beautiful blue sea?? Besides that, when I'm there, it's just impossible not to get into the relaxing mode. When I was sitting at Picus one night by myself, this friendly waiter...
...sat down with me and helped me practice my Spanish for a long time. That ain't gonna happen at P.F. Chang's.
Well, this post is ending up to be longer than I planned. I'll get off my soap box soon, but I will bring up two more items that weren't mentioned by Countdown to Mexico that make me love Mexico.
The color, warmth and personality...
And the genuinely warm feelings you get from the people...their ability to relax and enjoy life no matter what, and the family closeness which is evident everywhere you go.
Americans could learn a LOT from Mexico. Oh, but that's right...we already know everything.