"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship with Mexico (Part 3)

Here comes the hate, in a big uncontrollable stream of consciousness flood:


I hate the same things about Mexico that most Americans hate - the squalor, the dirt, the garbage in the streets, the ubiquitous artless graffiti, the lack of toilet paper or bathrooms that resemble in the slightest a bathroom in the states. I hate the fact that there is not, apparently, a single bathtub in the entire country, nor could I take a bath in one if there were, because I'd be sitting in a pathogenic stew of evil latin american organisms, each capable of causing me many many hours of misery shitting myself blind. I hate diarrhea. I hate puking. I hate sick children burning up with fever, and tiny, disgusting doctor's waiting rooms with flies in the air and water on the floor. I hate never ever being physically comfortable, always either too hot or too squished or too wet or too covered in mosquito bites. I hate mosquitos. I hate gnats. I hate big, weird, lumbering rhinoceros beetles. I hate not knowing which bugs are dangerous and which are not - the kids pick up a fuzzy caterpillar and everyone goes apeshit, but I go apeshit because a wasp the size of a kaiser roll is in my hair and everyone says "oh it won't hurt you!" I hate sunburn. I hate driving - I hate the way people drive, as if it were a contest to see how many pedestrians you can make shit their pants. I hate sitting eight to a volkswagen beetle. I hate the roads, rutted, washing away visibly in the rain right in front of your eyes, twisting and turning in hairpin curves over 1,000 foot cliffs with no guardrail or even pavement. I hate hyperventilating on those roads. I hate imagining us all plummeting to our gruesome deaths and my relatives erecting a stupid little cross where I died and once a year putting plastic flowers on it. I hate the way people treat animals here. I hate seeing dogs stuck up on rooftops who have probably never been down in their lives, half-crazy with loneliness and rage, and even worse I hate the hordes, the army, the crowds, the legions of street dogs - starving, limping, mangy, blind. I hate that the knee-jerk Mexican response to these animals is to throw a rock at them. I hate seeing tiny children, no more than four years old, selling flowers barefoot and grubby faced along the highway. I hate seeing a family in the median, holding up a sick baby and a slip of paper to the cars passing by. That slip of paper is a prescription that they don't have money to get filled. I hate seeing twelve year old fire-eaters performing at busy intersections for pesos. I hate seeing old people beg on the streets, elderly indigenous women for the most part, who I can only imagine were once proud mothers living traditional lives in their ancestral pueblos and now, through some circumstance or another are reduced to holding out their wrinkled old hands to tourists. I hate feeling rich and guilty. I hate having to weigh, a dozen times a day, my need to buy my kids a popsicle against some abuelita's need to eat today. Most of all, more than anything else, I hate not knowing what the hell is going on from minute to minute. My relatives act like a flock of sparrows - they all act communally, nobody ever does anything by themselves, or even in a nuclear family group. To go anywhere - the store, say, or out to lunch - might take four hours because it requires getting thirty people to move in unison. First so-and-so has to take a shower, then another person decides they have time to go to the corner pharmacy, and then the next guy decides they may as well take their kids to the shoe store while they wait... WHY in the name of God everyone has to do everything together I don't know. Today we were all going to the same restaurant, but we had to all meet up in the centro first - three different families - and then caravan in three different cars. We all made it to the restaurant a full two hours late. I hate being late, I truly do. It's my biggest pet peeve. I hate not knowing what is going to offend people, and I hate that apparently it is anything I want to do. I hate not having any say whatsoever in what to do or when to do it, and I hate that anytime I express a preference I piss somebody off - my husband, mostly. I hate that we always fight when we come here. I hate that he puts my needs last, after his third cousin's sister-in-law. I hate feeling helpless and needy and weepy. I hate that I don't know my way around and that even if I did can't go anywhere on my own because my relatives would be shocked and offended for reasons I don't understand. I hate that my normal desire for a little privacy and alone time is seen as anti-social. I hate that we haven't been able to make love and won't for the length of the trip, because we are sharing a room with all of our kids. Plus neither of us even feels like it, what with being mad at each other all the time. I hate biting my lip and walking on eggshells. I hate the feeling that I am just being tolerated, that everyone sees me as a soft, whinging, spoiled American who just can't hack life in the real world.

I hate thinking that just might be true.

14 comments:

Rowan Day said...

Mom, if they see you as antisocial (the thought hadn't even occurred to me) they must see me as violently mentally ill! At least you can talk to them; if I wanted to "socialize" I'd have to sit pretty on the couch and laugh when everyone else laughs...

AnyEdge said...

Sounds like soon-to-be-ex wife's family. Except that they were alwayd 4-6 hours late for everything, and they only had about 6 people to manage.

I... can't... stop... bitching...

AnyEdge said...

And Ro: that just means you have to pick a cute boy your age and have him teach you spanish.

Aimee: curious, does Homero's third cousin's sister in law's husband treat your needs as more important than his wife's? I bet he does.

AnyEdge said...

In her eyes, I mean.

Aimee said...

Ro - you can too talk to them, it just takes more effort. Believe me, there are still plenty of times when I just laugh when they laugh. Bro - good question, I assume so.

Penelope said...

Thanks for this post, it took the edge off of my jealousy a bit :-) and gave me a new level of appreciation for my in laws :-) all in all it still sounds like a great trip

Rosa said...

Okay, my not-in-laws are from MILWAUKEE and the behavior is the same, with the everyone having to go along and my partner choosing to blame me over anything that goes wrong between us. Holy cow.

I think the difference is (not just Polish people from the Midwest but our neighbors, who are Mexican-American-Californian but from the same kind of big communal family) if you're born into the family, you get to be angry sometimes, to fight and make up. The daughters-in-law don't get the same slack :(

Andy Brown said...

Your entry made me laugh. Cultural Anthropologists are trained at length to deal with being the cultural outsider and yet every anthropologist has sections in their fieldnotes that sound even worse than yours. Disgust, exasperation, impatience, contempt and, of course, guilt for being too small-minded and culture-bound to love and appreciate every aspect of the culture they are meant to be taking part in.

Olive said...

I've been married to a German migrant to Oz for 26 years now and I can assure you Aimee that reading your post sounds EXACTLY like my life. Not quite true ..... the difference being we are NEVER late, eg. a trip to hospital last week, my time to be there for minor surgery was 8:15am we arrive at 7:25am. and so it goes on. Then, I have never been a visitor to his home country but his family have been to visit us, both times for SEVEN WEEKS !!! (I dont speak the language but can get the gist of the conversation) I thought I was going mad.
Hang in there girl, it will all turn out OK in the end.

WeekendFarmer said...

I am sure thats how my Japanese wife feels when she goes to Bangladesh with me : ). Hang in there. How about you and Homero take off to go somewhere to another city or something? Leave the kids with abuela and take off. That might make things easier. Take it easy...think good thoughts...smile a lot and go for walks. How is the food? What are the fruites in season? Mangoes?

Aimee said...

WF - the last two posts i wrote before the rant were things I LOVE about Mexico (hope my relatives read those posts too) and some of it is the food and the fruit. EVERYTHING is in season as far as I can tell - pomegranates, mangoes, bananas, coconuts, guava, zapote, papaya, mamey, etc....

polly's path said...

I think the parts that are always the hardest for me to handle when I am abroad are two of the things you described-the beggars who make me feel horribly rich, and the way animals are treated.
Thanks for sharing the bad parts of the trip, too. It made me just a little less envious:)

Garden Lily said...

Aimee - What a wonderful post. I laughed many times, and although I really don't have any relatives which compare with yours, I am enjoying coming along for the experience through your posts. I'm sure it has been a treat to get away from your usual farm life, and it will likewise be a treat when you are able to return to it. That is a good vacation!

Jerry said...

Its nice to know people are crazy everywhere, both in their own individual ways and communally.