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I Give Up (And It Feels Good)

“You got to get it. Got to give it up.” Marvin Gaye

A few weeks before I moved to México, I ordered the book Moon Living Abroad in México by Julie Doherty Meade. As luck (and the US Postal Service) would have it, the book did not arrive before my departure, and I set off for Guadalajara in November 2012 without this libro “packed with…must-have details on setting up daily life.”  

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In March 2013, the book arrived – along with an amazing French Press, coffee, and delicious chocolates (gracias, hermana!) – delayed for 45 days courtesy of FedEx and Customs, who seemed to enjoy “sampling” the organic 72% cocoa bars by the obvious bite marks. I now request that mis amigos y mi familia not send packages, but if they insist, to please use DHL, nunca, nunca FedEx. ¡Que Horible!

I read most of Moon Living Abroad in México in one beach day, and while I found it informative, it didn’t tell me more about living in México than I learned in four short months, mainly the importance of giving up. Not material items – I did that in November and have little left but artwork and papers in the US. I’m referring to to giving up ON things: services, traditions, routines. There’s a difference!

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Scooter toys – one of many items I gifted to friends before leaving.

You might think giving up  is bad – you have no hope left, desperate and sad, but this is a different kind of giving up – this is the kind you LIKE.  This giving up comes as a cultural shift: something that happens without realization – at times abruptly – and then you may only be temporarily confused and instantly laugh. For me, it made me once again thankful to live in México, where every day is still a bit like a dream. In no particular order, here are some things I have recently given up, or given up ON, however it may appear…

A Fancy Cell Phone. For years, I owned “Smart Phones” that did everything – sent emails, allowed Internet access, and even showed me where I was when I felt lost. This changed when my Sprint service plan no longer applied in México. After 14 years, I closed my account and returned my $70 a month calculator. I now have a pay-as-you-go TelCel that only calls and texts. While I may upgrade later to have Internet and the super-popular WhatsApp, I seem to be managing just fine. So, wait, what was the Smart part, again?

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Phone: “One day you will miss me. Me: “Or not!”

Postal Service, FedEx. This is a thorn in my correspondence side. I used to send little packages to Claudia in SF and silly post cards to AB in Sacramento, but lately I can’t even get junk mail delivered. My parents sent me holiday gifts and they never showed up. Somewhere, someone in Zapopán is wearing a nice bracelet (sorry Mom). I give up. No mail, please. Lately I am trying not to cuss out loud when the Correos de México motorcycle delivery whizzes by. As for FedEx, I have nothing left to say but you are horrible. FedUp is more like it. 

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“I Canon believe what you did to my package.”

Change (money). Change is good, I’m living proof. But change as in money, when traveling to México? You will need more than pesos. You will need coins. Lots of coins. And small bills. Many small bills. It seems no matter where I go, no one has change. Not the street vendors, not the Ciel delivery guy, not even the OxxO, where the cashier frowns when I pay with $200 pesos, and they have a register full of small bills. Change is good. It is especially good in México. So when you travel here (and I really hope you do), find a casa de cambio and ask for small bills. You can thank me later (in $10 pesos).

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Oooh  pink money! Wait, don’t you bring that in here.

Lizards, Spiders, Cockroaches y mas. I realize they were here long before me, but does that give crawly, slithery, croaking, scaly critters the advantage? Several times I have seen a gigantic iguana stretched out on the piso of mi casa, 5 feet away. I scream like a girly-girl, then grab my camera to document his visit, which is hilarous and contradictory. Living with no screens on my windows, I realize now that the season is here, and my new campeñeros wil be trying out the cool terra cotta on a regular basis.  I give up (and scream a little).

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Hey there, buddy, look how big you are. **shudder**

Laundry. Ah, this was an easy one to give up, doing laundry. Even when I had a washer and dryer at home, laundry felt tedious. After moving to México and doing laundry by hand, I realized this was a change with which I would have to make peace. The ultimate solution? Drop off service. I have a wonderful Lavanderia near my house where Roberto and Lupita make my laundry feel and smell like a trip to Heaven in one day. I leave a load with them before work and return to pick up fluffy, folded sheets and clothes. Although I still wash a few of my bikinis and chonies at home by hand, nothing beats my Lavanderia. ¡Muy suave!

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I love Lupita! And Roberto, the best Lavanderia ever

Street Signs. When I began teaching in México, I asked my students to write down a few  facts about themselves. I was surprised (and entertained) to find some did not know their own direccíon, and instead wrote “Two blocks from the Tortilleria.” More and more I find people know their way here by places they recognize, businesses and houses. Street signs are hard to find at times, so people just remember where they were last or identify locations by buildings. I give up on actual addresses, but that doesn’t mean I give up on asking how to find some place. As long as “turn left at the Oxxo” means the next one I see, I should be able to find my way there. I hope.

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“Meet me between Panama y Brasil. The calles, not the countries!”

Contracts. As an American, I learned that deals – monetary, time-sensitive, job-related – require a contract signed by both parties, sometimes notarized by someone for $20, and approved by a “signature” (often a garbled stamp in blue). When I moved to México, this all changed. Quickly. Business in México is legit in many ways, but where paper isn’t effective, honor is. Your word is impeccable. Say you will pay an amount and it is expected. Don’t pay it and it is bad. As for me, I have secured apartments and received medical care, both without a contract, just my word and theirs. (Of course in some cases, you may want a contract, like when a FM3 is involved…) Recalling deals soured in the US, I wonder how many signers of contracts even meant their word at all? OK, México, here’s a contract for us: keep making my life great, and I’ll stay here, happy with you. Deal.

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Author: Kate Dana

Teacher, traveler and writer living on the Caribbean coast of South America.

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