10 February 2010

Culture Shock



Idling around in the Kingdom of Random.

On the recent safari to Atotonilco, I was accompanied by an American visitor. A good woman, whose heart is in the right place. A former school mate of the Mexicana. Bilingual to boot. It is not my intention to pick on her or disparage her at all. It is simply that I do not have another concrete example readily at hand to explain that which I wish to explain.

So with that disclaimer. . . .

The American lady is a Los Angelina who has been visiting this place off and on for many years. I drove, and as I drove, we passed the gated communities and other real estate developments on the outskirts of town. The American lady launched into a monologue about real estate values in Southern California. The implications of real estate values in Southern California. The fact that the developments here appear quiet for now. Californians can no longer undertake a second mortgage on their American homes using the equity as collateral in order to secure cash to invest in a home here. (Invest.) Interest rates are. . . .

And on and on and on.

This sort of talk is babble to me now. My mind wanders. My eyes glaze over. I really do not give a shit whether every single Californian is upside down with their mortgage. I know I should care. That situation is impeding growth in the real estate sector. (See. I can still throw around a phrase like “real estate sector.”)

It is still putting a damper on consumer spending, too. We all know that the real estate sector needs to fire back up. We all know that only unqualified good comes from robust consumer spending. And on and on and on. Do we not? I know that I should care.

We ate lunch at a café run by nuns in an annex to the church in Atotonilco. We sat at a table outside. The American lady suggested that we go in and place our order at the counter inside. Otherwise, there would be no telling how long it would take the one little nun hopping the tables to come out and take our order. She suggested that we order our desert pastry along with our entrée because there was no telling how long it would take for the little nun to come back outside and take our desert order later.

I was befuddled. What the hell was the hurry? I cared not a whit whether lunch spanned two hours. A lunch crammed into one hour is no longer a part of my existence after all. The sun was shining on me out there. Luckily, México is implacably resistant to this sort of thing, this effort to somehow impose an alien promptitude and efficiency. The lunch took well over an hour anyway.

I now experience a disconcerting culture shock when I encounter an American who has just arrived here within the previous couple of days. Their eyes dart around. It is apparent that they are continually asking themselves, “What's next--or what should be next--on the itinerary?” Sometimes they ask me that sort of question. I wonder why it is difficult for them to sit their asses down and relax. That is precisely what should be next on their itinerary. They try to do too much every single day here. They do not get it at all. They miss the real appeal of the place.

There are exceptions. Occasionally and only occasionally, I encounter that rare American who has just arrived here and gets it immediately. For the life of me, they look as if a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Their eyes do not dart around at all. They stare at things and take deep breaths now and again and smile a lot. Every once in a while, they say something. But I know they are daydreaming about what it would be like to live here.

3 comments:

Four Dinners said...

'This sort of talk is babble to me now. My mind wanders. My eyes glaze over. I really do not give a shit whether every single Californian is upside down with their mortgage. I know I should care'

Question.

Why should you care?

Peeps buy homes with mortgages all over the world - at least the bit of the world where peeps can do that.

Life's a bitch and then you die.

Such is life.

You live you die. The bit in between is called life. Enjoy. - Grant Naylor.

Anyone so wrapped up in mortgages and shit is missing the point.

Most of us do eh?...;-)

Señor Steve said...

I am now invariably checking your comments for wise counsel, Four.

Once again, you display wisdom beyond your years. I am immediately going to cease even thinking that I should care.

Bloggerboy said...

You've captured the tourist's dilema perfectly. Frau Bloggerboy refuses to sit down for lunch when we visit a new place. I can understand that if you're in a new place and not likely to come back. But if you've been to the place numerous times, then you really need to slow down, even if you're only there for a short visit, especially in a place where the slower pace is one of the main attractions. Ah, Senor Steve, you're starting to sound more and more like a long-term expat. I'm glad you stayed in one place long enough to catch the rhythms and patterns of your new home. Sounds like the Mexicana is a great traveling partner to help you see things that you might otherwise miss.