I have been in Mexico for a month now, though it feels like much longer. I wish I could say that it has been amazing, wonderful and everything I hoped it would be. The truth is it has been exhausting, overwhelming and extremely difficult. There have been days that I felt like this was the biggest mistake of my life. V has not joined us yet and there is still no clear time frame for the completion of the house. Progress is painfully slow and it is nowhere near livable, at least not with three little kids.
Of all the things I left behind, I miss having my own personal space and independence the most. It’s hard being a long term house guest with four kids. I have no privacy and no down time. Every conversation and interaction requires my full attention, and there are hazards everywhere. This place is not exactly set up for small children. Transportation to the house is complicated, and walking doesn’t appear to be an option with all these kids and the several hot miles of hills, unchained dogs and other mysterious things that make the walk “muy peligroso” or very dangerous. So here I am, losing the last bit of my sanity and grace, in a bright blue cracked stucco room, in the impossibly gorgeous tropical mountain paradise I now call home.
With only basic language skills, I never know exactly what (or when) I’m getting in to, so I’ve learned to keep a bag packed with baby essentials and a full water bottle… And that the phrase “muy temprano” means very early.
Our last trip to the house was to plant fruit trees. Manderin oranges, apples, guavas and nuts. We carried eight trees, a pick ax and a machete on the Combi, a 1970’s VW bus that appears to have no set schedule and serves as the public transportation system. We got off at a seemingly random, unmarked spot on the road that turned out to be a short cut (kind of) to our house. The ramshackle trail led down a deeply rutted dirt path, shifty rock stairways, through back yards with barking dogs and hissing geese, smokey kitchens and laundry drying in the hot morning sun, avocado and banana trees, tropical vines and flowers and finally, to our front gate.
Abuelo chiseled out the places for the first three trees, then said something I couldn’t comprehend and ran up the hill. I assumed he went to check the water line, as we would need to fill the tinaco to water the newly planted trees. When he didn’t return after thirty minutes I realized we were stuck there with 5 more trees, 3 babies, 2 oranges and my water bottle. We (mostly Sid) got the trees planted and watered despite the heat, crying babies and no breakfast. Then miraculously, a relative appeared, and it was time to go. We ducked into a smoke filled kitchen and drank tall glasses of water while our eyes adjusted to the darkness. We watched the chickens and bubbling pots for a moment, exchanged a few words and then we were off… Walking several miles, up hill in the sweltering afternoon sun, through dusty avocado orchards, carrying the two smallest, sleeping children.
Fresh tortillas, eggs and ham and a large pitcher of water were waiting for us when we arrived. After we ate, we rested in the shade, and for the first time since I’ve been here, I felt myself sink in a little bit. We decided to stay with her for a few days, let the kids climb the avocado trees and chase chickens. Turns out that it was exactly what I needed.
The next morning, with two bags and a large plastic pitcher with a string for the handle, we started walking up the dirt road behind the house. I didn’t know where we were going or what she had in the bags. We quickly reached a plateau with a view that went on forever. Steep cliff like hills dangerously dropping off into the rolling mountain valley below… All avocado trees. Miles and miles of avocados. As far as you could see.
We stood there taking in the view for a moment, then she motioned for us to follow her, and she began descending the cliff. I hesitated for a moment, baby in my rebozo, holding tight to my two year olds hand, then started down. One misplaced step could send you all the way to the bottom… I felt the dirt slide out from beneath my feet a few times. Luckily we were not going far. She stopped in the well of an avocado tree, a small, flat, shaded area terraced into the hill side, and set down her bags. Her husband appeared, he had been working nearby, we were bringing him lunch. She quickly unpacked everything…
It was there- sitting at the top of an avocado orchard, clinging to the cliff eating hot tortillas with chicken feet and boiled squash, drinking fresh guava juice, taking in the view and the sounds and the smells- that I had my first, amazing, “I have arrived!” moment. Finally. THIS! I felt the stress of the past several weeks drain out of me. An indescribable sense of lightness filled me and I fully realized exactly where I am… And that this was just a normal part of her day that we happened to tag along for.
Say yes. Even if you’re not sure what you’re saying yes to… Just go. You never know where the day will take you…
“Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore…” – Jerry Garcia