Tag Archives: living in mexico

Living Like a Local: The Importance of Family

8 weeks have flown by here in Agua Caliente Nueva. It’s been an incredible experience living with such a wonderful family. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and took care of me through thick and thin, especially when I had food poisoning twice during my time here lol… Extrañaré a mi familia Mexicana 😥 Mexicanos son muy buenas personas y me encanta la gente en Agua Caliente mucho. ¡Conocerlos antes de hacer juicios! (I will miss my Mexican family. Mexicans are really good people and I love the people in Agua Caliente. Get to know them before you make any judgments!)

I learned that Mexicans are very family-oriented and everyone knows each other in a small pueblo like Agua Caliente Nueva (less than 1,000 inhabitants).  The families here are large and from my understanding, there are generations of families that remain in this little town.

I was talking with my host father the other day and he brought up the fact that there are some people who have grown up in their town or in other cities in Mexico, only to leave to the United States. He mentioned that this was understandable, but it was sad to find how some family members wouldn’t want to return to “su casa“, or their home in Mexico. These individuals would leave Mexico in order to pursue the “American Dream”, as I tried to rationalize with him. He acknowledged that and said that it made sense, but that it was disappointing when these people didn’t return home, and seemed to forget their families here. It was disheartening to hear, especially coming from the US and understanding why people would want to try to pursue prosperity in the States. He mentioned that some men who had moved to the US continued to send money home to their wives and children who are here, meanwhile having another family in the US.

My host family is extremely close. My host father runs a carpentry business from his shed and hires his own family members to work for him, keeping things in the family. When I’m invited to family gatherings, there are toooons of people who show up, all of whom are family. I admire the close-knit ties they have to each other :’)

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Mi familia Mexicana ❤ 

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Living Like a Local: The Not-So Itsy Bitsy Spider…

If you’re living anywhere outside of an industrialized, large city, you’re bound to find insects and other bugs that you haven’t encountered before. This is the story of my experience with a spider the size of my HAND.

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Not drawn to scale 😛

This spider seemed to live in my bathroom, and every so often I would see its shadow scurry away into hiding when I’d enter the bathroom. We shared a space together, and I left it alone for my 6+ weeks here since I figured it’s a mutually beneficial relationship: I leave it alone, and it will eat the insects in the bathroom…

UNTIL one day, I was taking a shower in the middle of the day because, you know, 90-degree weather, and I saw the shadow of this spider with what looked like a Mentos disc under its belly. Normally, this spider scurries away super quickly, but this time it was moving ever so slowly… I had a feeling it was carrying an egg sac or something out of the ordinary. I even considered the possibility that this spider had cancer and this was its tumor. So I rush to shower before this disc possibly bursts into a million baby spiders and quickly dress and leave the bathroom…

Later that evening, I go to take my second shower because you can literally sit in front of a fan and still perspire. So I’m in the shower, drawing the shower curtains to prevent water splashing, and I see this big spider again, no longer carrying that disc, and it’s walking really quickly. I’m thinking, Oh, -expletive-. I’m still wearing my contacts and I see these tiny little white things moving along the brown plastic curtains and again I curse to myself and start to panic. THERE WERE SO MANY BABY SPIDERS EVERYWHERE. So I’m panicking and splashing water onto the curtains to try to get rid of some (and before animal and bug supporters say I’m being cruel, spiders can lay between 50-200 eggs so relax, there’s no way I was going to get all of them anyway).

 

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Feeling unsuccessful and completely uncomfortable in my own skin, I quickly shut off the shower, shake off my towel and clothes and get dressed and bring in my trusty Raid spray and start spraying the shower curtains and floors like I’m trying to put out a forest fire. I found Mama Spider and we dueled for quite a bit but I eventually cornered her and I won the fight.

Living Like a Local: Nature’s Instincts

Human babies are born with the instinct to suckle as a means to get food. No one taught them this, just like many other animals in the world. I think it’s pretty incredible how nature has a way of taking care of animals, big and small.

When I went to the kitchen to grab some pozole for lunch the other day, I noticed a steadily moving black blurry line from the dining room door leading into the kitchen. My host father warned me before I took a closer look, “¡Cuídate! ¡Esas hormigas pican!” which translates to “Be careful, those ants bite/sting!”

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Being the anti-bug enthusiast, I was already not thrilled, and I saw that they was a LOOOOONG trail of them, uniformly entering the kitchen. I asked my host father why they were indoors, and he told me not to worry as long as I left them alone. He explained that they enter many houses looking for food because they can anticipate the rain (WHAT?!) and they know it’ll be a couple of days before they can go looking for food once the rain stops, and once they gather enough food they would leave. I sat with my host father and with my luck, I felt what seemed like an electric shock on my hand and a freaking ant was on me!!!!! I panicked and shoved it off my hand, but there residual stinging and today I have a slightly swollen red bump on my hand -_-

What he told me was fascinating. The past 2+ weeks had no rain, and we had no idea when the rains were going to come aside from observing where the clouds were originating from over the cerros (hills), but these little creatures just knew by instinct that rain was coming. My host father also told me that the birds could also sense when hurricanes would come, and trees that would normally be populated with birds would suddenly be barren and eerily quiet because the birds have flown to a safer location to wait out the storm.

Surely enough, when I retreated upstairs to the safety of my mosquito net, I came back down and found that not one ant was in sight :O

That’s my story for today 😀 Hope you enjoyed reading!

 

Living Like a Local: “Mexican Time”

When you hear people talk about “Mexican time”, you don’t really know what that means until you’ve actually lived in Mexico. In the past, I went on vacations to Cancun with my family, so I didn’t really count that as understanding the concept of “Mexican time” since we never had schedules to follow. Even when I volunteered abroad in Mérida, I had a schedule to stick to since I worked at a food bank, and whenever I took excursions out of the city, the bus schedules were somewhat on time. Living in Agua Caliente, however, is a whole other story!

Some of my classmates are doing their practicums with organizations with set work hours and co-workers and supervisors, but here in Agua Caliente, I’m a solo gal communicating with my professor via Skype weekly, while my other supervisor is currently exploring the hills of India looking for more exotic plants to investigate. My schedule is relatively “set-it-yourself” and while I’d like to sleep in in the mornings, the carpenters working in the shed like to work at the crack of dawn (what I mean is 8am, but still, SUPER early and who wants to wake up to sawing sounds?!)

Moringa site

My supervisor who lives in Mexico has this Moringa germplasm site where he plants all the Moringas he’s been able to collect from around the world, along with other trees that grow in dry tropical areas.

On the times when I don’t work on my coding part-time job or on my Moringa projects, I get invited to travel to other parts of Mexico such as Colima (the city), Manzanillo, La Manzanilla, Melaque, Cihuatlan, etc. It’s funny because I’m so used to being on time for everything, that when the family says we’re heading out at a certain time, I’m ready to go about 10 minutes before said time. However, this has been my error on more than one occasion!

The first occasion: We were going to La Manzanilla to the beach and to grab some yummy fresh seafood for lunch, and I was told “Vamos a La Manzanilla a las dos” so as you all know, I’m extremely punctual, and I’m ready to go. Two hours later, my host father texts me “Vamos!” Yes. TWO WHOLE hours later! But I didn’t quite learn my lesson…

La Manzanilla

We always manage to go to the beach at La Manzanilla when it’s cloudy :c

Second occasion: We were going to Manzanillo to Walmart and I was super excited since *civilization and cityyyyyy* and I was in the middle of eating my lunch, and I’m like “¿A que hora nos vamos?” and my host mother goes “Ahorita”, roughly meaning, “[like] right now”. So here I am trying to scarf down what’s left of my soup and rice, and then I see my host mother and sis just grabbing their plates and sloooooowly sitting down and taking their time eating.

Lesson learned that “ahorita” never really means “right now” and that I need to learn to take the times they mention REALLY lightly or risk choking on my food the next time lol.

Living Like a Local: Staying Cool

It’s pretty much summertime year-round in Agua Caliente Nueva, with the exception of December, apparently, when the locals feel a temporary relief from the scorching sun and the countless insects that buzz around the home. I’ve managed to survive without an air conditioner for a month now, with average temperatures in the high 80s, often reaching 90s!

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I can’t say that I’m enjoying feeling a thin layer of sweat and dust on my body pretty much all the time, including minutes after I take a shower…but I’m pretty used to the heat now. As I type, I’m sitting one foot away from my standing fan while my ceiling fan is running at top speed, and my skin is feeling sticky with the insect repellent I use so liberally day by day. Update guys: the repellent bracelets do NOT work for me!

So how do I stay cool in Agua Caliente? The answer is, I don’t, really. 😦 This town is in a dry tropical region, which experiences very few rains throughout the year (pretty much only during late July through September) unless there’s a hurricane that hits the southwest coast of Mexico.

  • Sitting on the roof of my house–so much more of a breeze!
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Watching the sunset from the roof of my house

  • I’m using two fans whenever I’m in my room and have my windows propped open (thankfully with a mosquitero to keep insects out–but there’s a darn mosquito that’s lurking in the shadows and always taking a meal when I’m not paying attention 😦 )
  • I’m lucky to have running water to be able to shower multiple times a day (who likes cold showers?!) to rinse off the mix of sweat, dirt, dust, sunscreen, and insect repellent on my skin.
  • I cut my hair just below shoulder length prior to Mexico, but even keeping it down is unbearable so I have it tied up all the time.
  • Some parts of Mexico are more conservative, but here I’m able to wear shorts above my knees and tank tops to let my skin breaaaathe in this humid air. I did pack three loose-fitting slacks but although they’re breathable while standing, it sticks to your skin when you’re sitting down (what kind of bogus is that?). I also packed a pair of jeans which has been a lifesaver when I know I’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time, because those pesky mosquitoes can’t suck my blood through the denim, yay!
  • Drink LOOOOTS of water! I bought a 36oz stainless steel insulated bottle for only $10 at Marshalls (did I mention I love Marshalls and they have great deals?! 
    IMG_9112The average recommended water intake for someone of average height (aka not me) is 8 8oz glasses of water per day, and I’m drinking about 72oz or more. It’s totally necessary to drink this much so you don’t faint from the heat or suffer a heat stroke. I’m pretty sensitive to heat as of last year and so I want to avoid headaches caused by excessive heat as much as possible. I even downloaded an app to send reminders throughout the day to drink water, and I can input my water intake as well to see how close I am to reaching my daily goal 🙂

Living Like a Local: A Series of Unfortunate Events

This week marks the 5th week I’m living in Agua Caliente; the longest time I’ve ever been out of the country was 3 weeks. I thought I was doing so well with handling my time here, but as luck would have it, I was wrong and faced a series of unfortunate events.

As some of y’all know, I’m here working on my first practicum through school where I’m making Moringa fresh tea leaf samples for my professors, and also doing my own side project where I’m interviewing locals about their dietary practices at home and whether it’s acceptable and feasible to incorporate Moringa leaves into their diets. After successfully integrating myself into the community, I recruited an adequate number of female participants whom I would interview. This past Saturday, I scheduled a Moringa cooking demonstration, expecting at least 6 people to show, but I only had 3 (one of whom I literally had to walk over to the demo site myself). So that’s one. My host family tried to explain to me that flojera is a thing, where people are essentially lazy and will commit to something but end up not following through -big pet peeve-…

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Quesadillas with Moringa leaves and flowers

Religion was never something I was forced to embrace in my family, but it’s a huge part of the Mexican culture. It seems that the longer you hang out with someone, the more likely the topic of religion comes up, and it’s kind of a huge deal when you say you don’t practice one. I have been asked at least 4-5 times if I believed in God or practiced a religion. I would get responses like “Oh, that’s bad. You need to believe in God” or the best one from a Jehovah’s witness was a whole hour-long lecture about how I need to study the bible in order to be saved. To each their own, you know? It made for very uncomfortable table talk when I’d get preached…

And then there’s the issue of food poisoning. I posted about food safety on my public health blog after my first bout of food poisoning when I arrived, and was doing SO SO well being more careful with my food, until this weekend. We went to Colimilla and ate seafood at a waterfront restaurant (we were taken by boat!). Silly me, thinking that since we’re right by the water, that the seafood would be nice and fresh. When we ordered oysters, not only were they at room temperature, but they tasted fishy… I tried to convince myself it was because they were taken straight from salty seawater, but I think my gut instinct was correct. I suffered my second bout of food poisoning this week and was out of commission for two days and literally felt like the bacteria/viruses were having a party in my stomach. Note to self: don’t eat room-temp oysters –> when in doubt, throw it out 😡

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We took a boat to go to the seafood restaurant in Colimilla

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I think these were what caused my food poisoning 😥

And to put the cherry on top, I am very very averse to bugs and all things creepy and crawly, and I’ve had to endure lots of them while living here. Mosquitoes seem to seek me out wherever I am in the world… BUT, there’s one thing worse than a mosquito when it comes to staying safe: scorpions. I discovered my first one in my room, so now I’m pretty paranoid about shaking out my sheets and my clothes before I wear them ><

If you want a real experience living like a local, this is it. Find a home stay with a host family, and not a luxurious hotel, so that you can experience all the ups and downs of living in a foreign land! Moral of the story: expect plans to fall through and set low expectations, try to avoid talking about religion as much as possible, don’t eat suspicious foods, be careful of bugs 😐

Living Like a Local: Dealing with Pests!

I’m just about to hit my two-week mark living in Agua Caliente Nueva, and I don’t know if I’ve become desensitized to all of the creepy crawlies I’ve encountered, but it’s starting to not faze me as much when I see them crawling around. On night 1, I was attempting to go to sleep and I felt something on my neck, and I thought it was just a strand of hair and brushed my neck…and then I felt something more substantial on my leg and turned on my phone’s flashlight to find some beetle nearly the size of a dime just chilling on my bed! Trust, I was pretty skeeved and spent a good 10-15 minutes trying to calm myself down before trying to sleep again.

Luckily, that hasn’t occurred every night I’ve been here, but I’ve been disturbed by these bugs’ constant presence in the kitchen and around my bathroom sink! Just last night, I saw a macarena line of tiny black beetles marching in my bathroom sink, this strange-looking insect with funky, feathery antennae, and another beetle with these bright orange markings on its back. I literally can not for the life of me figure out where they are coming from when there are nets lining the windows! -.-

And then there are the mosquitoes… I’ve gotten so up close and personal to these abominations that I’m pretty confident I can identify the Anopheles from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Bringing some public health into this post, there’s a health clinic in the town that has a poster outside to bring awareness and educate the community on the different vector-borne illnesses different genus mosquitoes can transmit to humans:

  • Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can transmit yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika depending on what they’re infected with
  • Infected Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria to humans

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I love how they included some methods to prevent mosquitoes from encroaching on people’s territories, such as emptying stagnant water and changing out uncovered reservoirs of water every few days. It would be even more effective to provide options for how one can protect themselves from mosquitoes, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, or wearing insect repellent, using mosquito nets or staying indoors in the early morning and after dusk.

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I saw this really awesome sign on one of the houses that asks passersby: “What did you do today to combat mosquitoes?”

And then we have the lizards who like to stay out of plain sight, hiding behind my bathroom mirror and other picture frames. It’s a wonder how there are so many pests still lurking around the home when there are at least maybe five lizards/geckos I’ve spotted throughout the house. I’m just thinking, what the heck are you doing all day if you’re not eating these bugs for us?! They just slither along the walls like Spiderman and leave droppings wherever they go. What a useless bunch of reptiles!! What are they good for if they won’t help eat the bad insects?! 😡

Just thought I’d share the reality of living like a local where bugs run rampant both inside and outside of the house! Just this morning, I was negotiating with this bee that was holding my laptop hostage! It was hovering around my laptop when I had it outside on the terrace, and I had to have JUST the right timing to swoop in and collect my items before it came after me. Life’s rough living like a local when you’re used to  mainly black ants and mosquitoes in NYC! I miss my clean home free of any pests, but I’m finding living here to be a true taste of reality and cultural immersion.

Until the next post, hasta luego!