Dearest amigos and amigas, it has been a long time since we last spoke. I will start by filling in the gaps of our summer experience in Canada and reentry to Mexico in August.
In early July we headed back to Canada to reset the operating system, check for memory loss, and cool our hard drives. From the moment we got off the plane in Calgary, it was like hearing a symphony, replete of familiar instruments and musicians. We had not heard English spoken exclusively for a whole year. We were in remission for good steak and fresh salmon. I immediately I felt more relaxed and at ease, back in my home culture, back on easy street. It is quite something to be able to communicate fluidly each day, going to the grocery store and buying food that doesn’t require google translate. After a Stampede BBQ and red meat fest with our small group in Calgary, a visit with our renters, two days in the AER office for Kary and a couple of small speaking and fundraising events, we got on the plane to Comox and proceeded to settle into the Canadiana lifestyle of Vancouver Island. I immediately went for yoga pants, Birkenstocks and farmers’ markets that sell yogurt as a living organism with animal rights protection. The weeks flew by with visitors, fishing trips, boat camping, and family outings to forest trails and ocean vistas. I noticed how much I missed the scenery and the comfort of ‘home’, despite this not being our normal home in Calgary, or our new home in Merida.
During a short return through Calgary, we prepared to head back to Mexico for the start of Year Two in the Field. I began to replay the culture shock of the year prior. I started to dread reentry into foreign orbit. I imagined the Apollo 13 mission with the five of us crammed in the lunar module, sucking limited O2 and fighting over who would get the last water bottle as we melted like butter on the windshield. If we survived the landing, I imagined there would be an immediate and armed mutiny attempt by the kids. I dreamed up scenarios of Rachel dying her hair pink, ripping the buttons off her uniform, and dropping out of school in protest, Jacqueline rebelling by speaking only in Mandarin, and Ryan boycotting tacos and going on a straight bacon binge for a year. I pictured Kary and me swimming in an Olympic sized pool of sweat and then cooling off in a steam room. I visualized mould in my tennis shoes. Vines growing around my toothbrush. Iguanas living in our bedroom. Ants partying in the kitchen.
I could not have been more wrong. As the taxi drove up to our house, next door neighbour Nicole and her brother Andre came bounding over. Nicole clobbered Rachel in a Latin-ly passionate nine year old embrace and spurted out a bunch of romantic Spanish phrases that could have been from an old Audrey Hepburn movie. Rachel switched hard drives immediately to Spanish mode. Ryan and Andre said ‘hey what’s up’ in Spanish and went their separate ways, happy. Jacqueline squealed in delight to see Yesenia. Paradise was restored. The eagle had landed.
Ecstatic to say hello and to reunite with dear Yesenia, I searched for an English / Spanish switch like they have on the back of a Leap Frog. I apparently don’t have one.
Two months later, life is back to our new normal, and although I never found the switch, I have stooped to a new low and paid both Ryan and Rachel ten pesos for Spanish lessons. I’m far below their grade level now, but content to be taught by my own children. This will become fodder for Thanksgiving dinner stories as they tell their own children someday.
Stay tuned for more stories from Year Two in the field.