Back to Chicago winter
The most traumatic moment of my reentry from my time studying in Mexico into the United States (thus far) hit me during my first step off of the plane in Chicago. FRIO! And then, after realizing I was now in an English speaking country, COLD!
The next day there was a hail storm.
I think Chicago winter is my penance for studying abroad in Mexico, a tropical paradise, the last four months. But I’ve piled on the layers of sweaters, a heavy down winter coat and mittens, and it’s starting to look like I’ll survive. Now I expect the real adjustment to begin.
I expect to miss Merida. I made wonderful friends with whom I shared great and frequent adventures: weekend excursions to cenotes, dancing salsa in city streets as well as family restaurants, ordering the thing on the menu we couldn’t translate, getting on wrong buses, snorkeling, hitchhiking and sleeping in hammocks. I also had a host family I love. From the typical extended-family Sunday gatherings to my one-time appearance singing the Titanic Song at a garage karaoke party, I enjoyed being a part of it. I think living by myself again might be something that takes me a while to get used to.
I also expect to have trouble keeping up with American pace. Something about my life in Merida that was hard for me to adapt to at first was that nobody in it seemed too concerned with getting things done. In a way, this lifestyle makes sense. What does it matter if you get there now or in ten minutes? Why stress out about finishing a paper when ultimately it won’t change your life if you turn it in now or a week late? And, if lunch is the time of day when you see your family, why shouldn’t it take three hours? In fact, you should follow it with a nap! Unfortunately, this is most definitely not the attitude of my university in the United States, and it could be difficult to get back up to speed.
I’ve picked up a few other habits that might die hard. “Besitos,” for instance. I love the custom of kissing everybody in the room when entering or exiting. It makes everybody feel included, or at the very least, acknowledged. I have already, however, found several people in the United States who, when I habitually tried to kiss their cheeks upon first meeting, found it more awkward than wonderful. I must unfortunately also say goodbye to my cone-a-day ice cream habit. While it’s justifiable as a “cultural experience” in a place where you can’t read the scales because they’re in kilos, it’s hard to justify in a place where ice falls from the sky and ice cream is three times more expensive.
Not every day I spent in Merida was amazing. Not every aspect of the culture was lovable or even tolerable. But living in Merida changed the way I will now live in the United States. And whether the changes will be large, such as valuing my family more, or as simple as eating more ice cream cones, I think the majority will be positive.