Readjusting: la experiencia mexicana

After about a week of being home, reverse culture shock and getting back into the swing of things has been difficult to say the least. Between Pakistan and Mexico, I had about three days at home – clearly not enough to transition smoothly from one context to the next. Now that it is spring break, the full effect of both trips has begun to take its toll on me. Since Mexico was the most recent trip (and also the longest I’ve ever taken), I am going to share a few points I miss the most to help me cope and readjust.

Greeting strangers

I became very accustomed to greeting everyone: neighbors, people on the streets, the bus driver, passersby. This isn’t common in the US, at least not in my experience, where people tend to walk past one another avoiding eye contact. I remember everyday and every night on my way to school and returning home, there would be two or three women sitting on their porch at the corner of my street and we always exchanged “¡Buenos días!” and “¡Buenas noches!” It was something small but I looked forward to greeting these women, my day felt incomplete if I did not see them some days.

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One of the last pictures I took in Mérida; I am sitting on a love seat that is common throughout the region (but the rest aren’t this big!)

Mexican food

Although I did not eat meat or chicken my entire time there (team zabiha) I really loved the meals my host family provided for me and everything I ate in restaurants. It was all fresh and authentic. The way that vegetables, rice and fish were prepared were new to me but I liked all of them. At lunch time, I had soup with every meal and almost every dish had a side of beans, which I liked a lot. Whenever I had seafood, it was awesome since it was usually by the beach and very fresh. Oh, and the tortillas were really good too, they reminded me so much of roti but they taste different.

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Pescado ajo – garlic fish; seafood at Tulum

Spanish all the time

Surprisingly, I really miss speaking Spanish 24/7 even though it was hard to communicate at times. Living in a Spanish speaking country was great practice and learning a foreign language is fun despite common struggles. I enjoyed learning slang and colloquial usage of the language from my friends and teachers. Messing up in public although it was embarrassing in the moment was funny now that I think about it and I know I won’t make the same mistake again. Also, the biggest thing I miss about Spanish is the confidence that I got from always being exposed to it. Making mistakes isn’t a fear of mine anymore and this allows me to improve even more.

The weather

I missed four months of a Chicago winter, something that’s never happened before. Instead, I was under bright, sunny skies and sweating every day during the afternoon when it would be the hottest. Winter is my favorite season but being back in cold, gloomy weather is making it all the more difficult to readjust. I went from 90s weather to 50s, where instead of getting out of the house I just want to sleep and relax indoors.

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At Palenque, a Mayan archaeological site in Chiapas, there was this cottage located at the top of a hill. It looked like something out of a fairy tale book.

Though Mexico entailed so much for me, from learning to making memories and learning some more, the points I have outlined here are a few that have made a stronger impact on my experience now that I have returned home. If anything, I can use these memories to push me to return some day but for now, I definitely have acquired a stronger admiration for Mexico and one of its many cultures (since every state is different and I am most familiar with the Yucateco culture). Like I told the people I met there at the end of the program, “¡No es adiós, es hasta luego, México!

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