Whenever I am in the States, people question me about what our life is like in Mexico. Things that I no longer give a second thought to are often things that amaze and intrigue people in the U.S.A. So, in an effort to let you into my world and experience life through my eyes, I am going to start this post tonight, and I will add to it whenever I think of something about my life that might be different from yours. Feel free to laugh, cry, be surprised, or ask questions...
#1- Here all the houses are built "stuck" together- in other words, we share walls with our neighbors. Living so close to your neighbors can have disadvantages...lots of disadvantages, in fact. The neighbor to our right likes to play LOUD music. There are days when he likes to play it all day long, but he especially likes to play it at night...like right around the time the kids are trying to go to sleep. It's especially hard when it's summer and the windows HAVE to be open all night, or when he plays music that talks about "666" and dancing with the devil. Not exactly what I want my kids listening to, or what I want to be listening to, for that matter! The same neighbor washes his dishes (loudly, I might add) EVERY night around midnight, right outside of our bedroom window (we can set our clocks by him...lol). At least 3 or 4 nights a week, he and his mom have a screaming match while he is washing the dishes. It's almost impossible not to eavesdrop, but we try our best not to...too many things are said that we don't want to hear! With our neighbors to the left, there lives an old man (the grandfather of the family) that likes to stare at all the women as they walk by. We try not to venture outside when he is there, but whenever we come home from church, he is standing right outside our door. What he is watching out for while we are gone, I have no idea, but we have nicknamed him the "neighborhood cop." He doesn't like us very well because we are Christians, and he likes to put screws and nails in our parking space...probably trying to pop the tires on our van. Our side of the relationship with him? Friendly, yet distant. So, there are disadvantages to sharing walls with the neighbors...but it can also be fun. We have a good relationship with the family on the left (all except for the grandpa) and we often have conversations with them through the windows or through the rickety back fence. We have also developed a rough code for communication with the neighbor boy by tapping on the walls. The lightest of taps can be heard loudly on the other side, and quite honestly, it's hilarious! We have tons of fun with it...and you would too (:
#2- I was startled awake last night at 3:30 am by the sound of someone banging on the front door. Our door is metal, so when someone bangs on it, it is LOUD! I woke up Noe, a little scared and wondering who in the world would be knocking at such an hour. He went downstairs to peek out the window over the door, only to see a man stumbling away in the dark. In his hand was a bottle of alcohol...he was probably very drunk. Once I realized there was no danger and I could breathe again, I was saddened by the situation of the man. Even when the knocking scared the heck out of me, I knew I wasn't alone...I was sure that God was with me and everything would be alright. Poor man, drunk out of his mind and walking in the night, must feel so alone.
#3- The "siesta" is not respected all over Mexico, but here it is. Almost all stores and businesses in the nearby cities close between 2pm and 4pm, and often they tend to close a little earlier and open a little later. Definitely an inconvenience at times, but you get used to it and learn to live around it. Here in the small town where we live, you need to learn the personal schedules of all business owners in order to know if they are open or not at any given moment. For example, the lady that runs the store across the street, always opens in the morning, around 10am for about a half and hour. Then she reopens around 12pm and remains open until around 1:45pm, when she has to take her son to kindergarten. She returns to open the store around 2:30 and is there until 4:45 when she has to go pick her son up. The store is open from 5:30pm until around 8:30pm, and then the whole process starts all over again the next day. Almost every other business here runs by the same rule: and the rule is that there aren't any rules. If you are planning a meal or party and planning on getting anything from a local store, you learn to plan in advance...and if planning in advance is impossible, you learn to ALWAYS have a Plan B. If you don't, you definitely run the risk of being left "high and dry."
#4- Here there aren't too many rules that you actually have to follow. We live in a really small town and pretty much anything goes. For instance, we can drive on any side of the street we want, or even right down the middle. There are no stop signs, just many speed bumps to slow you down along the way. I have to admit, it took me a long time to actually get used to driving on the "wrong side" of the street, even when only for a short distance. But I finally learned! Another thing that can happen here in town: there often are parades, funeral processions, religious ceremonies, and goat or cow crossings that can occur at any moment. I personally have been held up by all three of those things many times. No longer do I get frustrated...I'm just thankful I have a car with A/C to wait in. In that same category, I suppose I can add that people can block off their street if they are having a party or anything that involves a large group of people. We have had to take many a detour when finding that the street has been closed due to a birthday party or a wedding! One more thing that isn't unusual here...we have neighbors that spread fertilizer (aka: manure) as part of their job, and they like to park their truck full of manure right down the street all night long. When it's hot we HAVE to have our windows open, but the smell penetrates the house and it's unbearable at times. No rules can have its advantages at times...but it can also have VERY significant disadvantages. I would prefer rules any day...but it's all part of living in small-town Mexico! :)
#5- We don't have running water 24 hours a day. They intermittently turn our water off and on throughout the day on a rough kind of schedule. Usually we have water from 7am to around noon. Then the water is turned off and it usually comes back on between 3 and 5pm. It is shut off again around 6, and then it is turned on again from around 8pm until 10pm. The water is turned off all night long. Living here, we get used to the schedule, and learn to plan our dish washings and loads of laundry accordingly. However, it is a "rough" schedule, so we have all had the water turned off right in the middle of a load of laundry or in the middle of washing dishes. When the water is off and we need to flush the toilet we have to "bucket-flush" or pour a bucket of water from one of our reserves (we all have storage tanks) into the toilet bowl so that it flushes. The worst is when we are in the middle of a shower, all soaped and shampooed-up, and then the water suddenly disappears! Sometimes people here don't pay their water bill, and as a motivation (or a punishment) the town shuts off the water for everyone. We have had the water off for up to almost 2 weeks- not fun at all! We learn to live with it, but running water is something we no longer take for granted. Water really is impossible to live without!
#6- Adventures with wildlife! Here, in our little, rural town, it's not at all unusual to have run-ins with 4-legged, 6-legged, and 8-legged creatures of all sorts. The 4-legged ones I don't mind too much, although on occasion the kids have been scared by overly friendly dogs tackling them. Cows, horses, goats...they are all a part of this life. The 6-legged ones include cockroaches which are all over, especially during the hottest part of the year (which is right now). The other night, Uriah and I were running all over the bedroom trying to kill two cockroaches with our sandals...those things are fast little buggers! We've also had several encounters with scorpions, which are never fun and usually include running to the clinic as fast as possible for an anti-venom shot. The 8-legged creatures are the scariest for me...I HATE spiders. Although there are black widows here, we've thankfully never been bit by one. But there are spiders here, big and black that sit flat against the wall. They can jump from the wall to the floor in front of you, which scares me everytime! The other day I had an interesting encounter with a 2-legged creature. I was at church, and during the sermon Matthias was getting hungry, so as usual I took him out to the minivan to feed him. It's really hot here right now, so I left one of the sliding doors opened halfway so that we could get a little air moving. After a couple minutes, I thought I was hearing noises up near the front seat. I thought it was my imagination, but just as I was laying Matthias down in the back to change his diaper, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Lo and behold there was a CHICKEN in the front seat! Now, chickens do not usually evoke scary images, but for those of you who don't know, my dad used to raise chickens, and one of my jobs for awhile was to feed and water them. The chickens were mean, the roosters were agressive, and I developed a huge aversion to them. I was pecked, bitten, and spurred enough times to actually feel a little fear. In my shock, I left Matthias in the back and ran to the front passenger door, thinking that if I opened the door, the bird would come out. Wrong! When the door opened, the bird got scared, and ran towards the back. Oh no, I thought as images of the crazy bird pecking at my son flashed through my mind. I ran toward the back of the van, and the opening of that door scared the chicken back up to the driver's seat. I grabbed Matthias, and with him safe in my arms, I tried to figure out what to do next. I figured Noe wouldn't be all too thrilled if I interrupted his sermon to ask him to get the chicken out of our van. My next thought was to just leave the chicken inside and run to safety (ha, ha), but I had a feeling that the chicken could do a lot of damage in a short time. I decided to try one more time to get it out myself, so I situated Matthias so he was facing away, and I opened the driver's side door. The chicken flew up at my face and I almost fell over, but it was finally out of my car! I was so relieved...and then I noticed that the neighbors were all laughing at me. I hadn't even realized they were there, but quite obviously they had been watching the whole debacle and were sharing a laugh at my expense. Not that I blame them...I've had quite a few laughs over the whole thing since then, too!