I just returned from eight days visiting my mother in Mexico, and it was interesting to get out of the country and “away from it all.”
I forget, being in the media business, how much I am immersed in current events day in and day out. While out of the country, I made a point of not listening to the news or checking my e-mail, and just these simple acts had a noticeable effect on my state of mind. Usually, I listen to NPR every time I’m in the car, I read the local papers, I check Google News and click on the links friends send about various news stories. It’s difficult not to obsess about the news 24/7, and these days the news is all about the economy.
It’s not like the economy is any better in Mexico. In the small fishing village where my mom has lived for the past seven years, about an hour north of Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast, many folks live in stick houses with dirt floors and unreliable water and electricity. A few of them have cars, but there is no mail service to the town and most people don’t have television, much less computers or e-mail (although, ironically, almost everyone has a cheap cell phone and they’re constantly text messaging).
It appears many of my mom’s neighbors are so poor that they don’t have much further down to go by our standards, but the truth is they are affected by the global financial crisis as well. Many have relatives in the United States who help support them, and the Mazatlan economy has a large tourism industry that depends on foreigners, mostly from the U.S. and Canada. While gringos might still be visiting, they aren’t buying condos and timeshares the way they used to, and this is affecting everyone from restaurants to the construction industry.
Interestingly, my mom says her Mexican friends don’t seem to be very concerned about it. She says they think Americans are crazy. We are obsessed with money and possessions, and we are annoyingly impatient — we want everything right now. In contrast, she has noticed that what seems most important to her friends in the village is family, food and music — and not neccessarily in that order.
Living in a warmer climate does seem to affect one’s sense of community. You walk down the street and everyone is outside. They cook outside, they walk everywhere, the kids are always playing outdoors. My mother can’t walk down the street without stopping to talk with half the town. Coming back to chilly Bellingham, the contrast was starkly apparent. It’s just too cold outside for months out of the year to socialize with neighbors.
Upon returning from this trip, I made a mental note to slow down a little. I am trying to be a little less obsessive about listening to the news all the time. I’d like to cook more and worry less. In late February, when the weather warmed up just enough to get outside and do some gardening, I made a point of talking with my neighbors. And this is all doing some good things for my state of mind.
It’s hard not to feel down when the world is going through such hard times. Sometimes for me it helps to remember the simple things — like family, food and music, and getting outside more often.
Thank goodness spring is right around the corner, and just in time, too. I think a barbecue is in order.