Tag Archives: personal

A Sudden Turn in the Tide

Firstly, apologies for not writing for the longest period of time since my arrival, the last month has been somewhat eventful. I went on holiday to the Riviera Maya, where my parents met me to share a blissful ten days of rest and relaxation (pretty sure they wouldn’t word it exactly like that); I had my last day at work – boo hoo; and my nephew who wasn’t due to be born until January decided he wasn’t to miss out on a sleigh-full of presents so arrived a month early. All these have made things a bit hectic writing-wise; I have been a terrible blogger and neglected Day of the Revolution, and the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and numerous trips which I will catch up on in due course, but in terms of my life in Mexico, a big shift has occurred. I came back from holiday and everything was different. Suddenly I had only ten days left at work. Suddenly I had passed the 11 month mark – only a month left to go. And suddenly I realised that Puebla had become home.

When I left the UK, I didn’t cry saying goodbye to anyone, not even at the airport. There were moments when a little welling in the ducts threatened to ruin my steely facade, but the ruling emotion was far more casual excitement at the unknown adventures to come than cautious apprehension (you will find the proof in my initial posts!). However, after ten months away, I was obviously ridiculously excited to see my parents. Our holiday was great: it made me realise how adult I’ve been this year (though I manage to hide it quite well), and I had an opportunity to share with them a slither of my experience here. Saying goodbye, however, was awful. Ten days together after so long apart was nothing but a merciless teaser. When I left the UK I knew I’d miss them, but not how much. Now I knew how difficult it was, it was much harder to say goodbye again. Silly really, because I knew I’d be seeing them again in a mere six weeks, but the heart does not always obey the head, and the prospect of a Christmas away from home was a tricky one.

The journey back to Puebla was spent stifling tears through a ragged tissue. As they always do, our holiday had gone far too quickly. But just a few hours later, there were my host mum and dad waiting for me at the bus station in Puebla, and how wonderful it was to see them! I gabbled away all the way back to the house, catching up on everything I’d missed and filling them in on all of our visits. It wasn’t depressing to be arriving back in Puebla rather than in England, but comforting. And that was when it hit me: Puebla really isn’t just a place I’m staying any more, it’s the place I’ve made home. It shouldn’t be surprising – it’s an essential part of minimising homesickness to try and immerse yourself completely and make your new location home as quickly as possible, yet in the back of your mind there are the constant reminders that it isn’t what you’re used to – the language, the people, the traffic, the climate – a subtle but persistent resistance to an unfamiliar culture that isn’t your own. I didn’t realise how normal life in Puebla had become until I left and came back again. And it’s a double edged sword, because now I am not only longing to go home, to be with my loved ones and surrounded by home comforts, but also all too aware that I have loved ones and home comforts here.

Then, all of a sudden, my nephew, due to be born the very day of my arrival back in England, pops his little self out (with some surgical assistance) wayyyyy before we were expecting him! I was already feeling anxious about making it back before he graced us with his presence, and the shock I went into upon hearing of his birth was agonising. Those precious first minutes, hours, days and weeks, I am missing – and will be counting down until the moment I squidge his fleshy little hands in mine. Not to be too dramatic (totally out of character), but it felt like somebody plunging an armoured fist through my chest before slowly and ruthlessly wrenching out my heart not to be comforting my sister through such a simultaneously tremendous and terrifying time. Anybody who has been away from home for any period of time can sympathise with this kind of longing I’m sure. I just had to remind myself to be grateful that it was a joyous event I was missing, and thankful that everyone is okay – surely much easier to deal with than if something tragic had happened while I was away (which was actually my biggest fear about leaving). Nonetheless, I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed, until there was no sob left and I’d given myself a headache. Unfortunately, I fear this may have started a trend which will continue until my departure and quite possibly some time into my arrival…¡más chillona que nunca!

Also, good to remember that it’s not all about me, and I’m not the only one missing my family. My host family are missing their son, who is in Germany as part of the exchange programme that allows me to be in Mexico; without their daughter who lives far away up in the north of Mexico; and without their Dad who has gone to spend Christmas with his daughter and her husband’s family. My host mum had to stay behind to look after her elderly mother (and me), so I have as much responsibility to nurture them in this season of love and family as they do me. I’ve enjoyed over 20 years of Christmases not just in England, in my home town, but in the very same house, so I’m excited to see what Christmas here has in store. And Mexico never disappoints on the celebration front. With a seasonal calendar full of fun festivities, my birthday, and a family holiday booked for over the New Year, my last month is sure to fly. What an incredible year it has been and I’m absolutely determined to make the most of every moment until the last.

“There’s no need to rush home now the baby’s been born, stay a bit longer,” say my host family.

“Remember that you’re only on loan and I do want you back,” says my mum.

Suddenly the prospect of going home has become a lot more wrought with emotion than leaving ever was.

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Being British: Through the Looking Glass

From my sun-singed-scalp and freckled cheeks to my pasty little toes, there’s no doubting that I’m as English as a crunchy Cox, and it’s not the first time I’ve written about it. I was (quite rightly, it transpires) terrified of missing English tea. I like order, precision, making lists and reading books. I appreciate it when people are timely, committed, modest and honest. I spend a lot of time observing the weather and (failing at) dressing accordingly. There are things about myself that I knew were very British before I left, and some that have transpired since. At times the line between my Englishness and my personality is far from clear. One thing’s for sure: after six months abroad I’ve learned not only a fair deal about Mexican culture, but through being the foreigner, dealing with people finding me funny and strange, and having the new perspective of looking from the outside in, a lot about my own as well.

I was funnily enough in a second-hand bookshop in Australia when I first came across Kate Fox’s book, Watching the English (2004). I snapped it up and chuckled my way through as she attempted to unearth ‘the rules of English behaviour’. I initially agreed with a lot that she had to say, but now being a Brit away from home with new insight, hindsight and general all-around-sight, I also believe Fox leaves her analysis a few cups short of a teapot. She claims that at the core of being English is social ‘dis-ease’ owing to our obsession with privacy and the home on the one hand, and crippling politeness and restraint on the other. “We do everything in moderation,” and are “the most repressed and inhibited people on earth,” apparently. Maybe so from the outside, but for me it is exactly the contrast between the image and the reality that makes being English so entertaining.

We love more than anyone else to ham up the stereotypes (intentionally or otherwise), but bag yourself an invite to a gathering of friends and you’re just as likely to see complete and uninhibited freedom of expression. Take sex, for example. Of course it’s taboo to talk about it with strangers, in public. But behind closed doors it’s another story altogether, and more often a case of TMI (‘too much for information’ for the over fifties) amongst my friends than evidence of the cautious, embarrassed behaviour we are more famous for. And that’s precisely what makes it so funny when we behave ‘out of character’. Sure, English culture is enigmatic and may seem inaccessible to those outside, but really it’s just like one huge inside joke. Work on getting that invite, it’s worth it.

Despite being English herself (and casting herself and her partner in starring roles), she titles her book Watching the English, and offers a very observation-based, distanced perspective. I, however, am talking about being English, what it is and how it feels. She offers commentary on how baffling our behaviour is to outsiders, but I think it is precisely our odd little ways that make us so intriguing (and, dare I say, enchanting) to foreigners. They don’t want to merely watch the English, but to be the English: every Mexican I meet is dying to get in on the joke. They don’t just want to go to England, but to know the Queen, to talk like James Bond and sing like The Beatles. I can understand why. There’s a lot of debate on ethnocentricity in anthropology, and it’s generally not the done thing to champion your own culture for fear of being perceived not only as self-centred (how horribly un-English), but to be harbouring some secret imperialist, colonialist, supremacist, even racist agenda. I don’t give a hooty toot, I’m not blowing our own trumpet but our Royal Philharmonic ORCHESTRA: being English is bloody hilarious!

People often ask me what I miss about England, and once I’ve reeled off the obvious, family and food (Marmite, ginger nuts, Branston pickle and cheddar cheese, English breakfast, warm scones and clotted cream, jacket potatoes and Heinz beans, to name but a few), it’s hard to define. But I spend a lot of time alone, pondering and wandering, and I think I’ve cracked it. It’s not the weather itself – of course, like every other Brit, I’ve spent enough light years complaining about it – but the quirky associated rituals. We can boast and laugh about picnics eaten in the car, barbecues cooked under umbrellas, and year after year after year as the nation is crippled by an inch of snow, all normality grounds to a halt and, love it or loathe it, everyone is comparing how much they’ve got, how long they were stuck in traffic for, and how tall their snowman is. I can’t complain about the weather here, but I have to admit, for the first few months I did find the eternal sunshine monotonous. What blasphemy – Brits are desperate to seek the sun! But I know now that it’s not the weather I found boring, but the lack of sunshine-worshipping activities – people in Puebla don’t even wear shorts for goodness’ sake. I missed ridiculing people in the parks flashing their flesh and slathering themselves in suncream, but really I was dying to be one of them and I longed to find companions to join me in my beloved silly English behaviour.

Each year, newspapers are predictably smothered in photos of Brighton beach at the first sign of a ‘heat wave,’ or of scantily clad teens shuffling through the snow in stilettos for their £2 Jaeger bombs, and we are still laughing at THAT faux pas from Michael Fish. Nobody pokes fun at us like we do. Whether we’re huddling around the pub’s open fire scoffing on a steaming pie; emptying our purses for this year’s must-have wellies and rain macs to style out the rain; urgently pulling sickies (aka ‘snowed-in’) to dash out with a sledge; or panic-buying disposable barbecues and sprinting for the beach for what could potentially be the only sunny day of the year, there’s no denying that being British comes with innumerable rites and rituals according to the weather. Our calendars are brimming with annual events we wouldn’t want to miss, rain or shine, heat or hail: it’s not talking about the weather but braving it that is the Great English Tradition. “I’ve heard the weather there is terrible” is something I hear a lot. Yes, it may be terrible, but there’s an associated activity for the best and the worst of it and everything in between. There is a general indifference to the weather here, and that makes me miss home.

Roger Scruton (England: An Elegy, 2000) claims a demise of traditional Englishness and miserably declares that there’s nothing to replace it, while Krishnan Kumar (The Making of English National Identity, 2003) states that the English have never in fact had a strong sense of themselves. And just to twist the knife Kate Fox claims that our rites of passage leave a lot to be desired. You’re telling me between them they don’t own a barbecue, paddling pool, gazebo, sledge, wellington boots or fluffy dressing gown? Poor writers, how silly they must feel, they published their books before the wonderful year of 2012 which saw the United Kingdom celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and host the Olympics. In your face, global recession of 2008, everybody I know celebrated quintessential British living that year. And you know what, the sun even shone (not that it would have mattered).

Disclaimer: yes, I use English and British interchangeably. I know the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish would probably take some issue with this, but for me, I’m both without distinction.

Heart and Soul: The Mexican Family

“I’m writing about women in the Mexican family,” I said to my host mum, “is there anything I need to say?”

“¡Somos incomprendidas!” came the reply – “We are misunderstood!”

Is there any feminist sentiment more universal than that? What separates women from men is the very same principal that unites women across every other boundary: we are something they are not.

Debate rages on in the field of feminist anthropology as to whether there is really any such thing as ‘universal womanhood’, depending on where one sits on the scale from cultural relativism to cultural universalism. I can’t answer that question, but I do know that I have felt a very strong sense of shared womanhood in my time here. This most commonly manifests itself in jokes and sentiments (both explicit and not-so) expressed between myself and my Mexican counterparts where gender provides the glue where there are otherwise crevices in age, class and experience. So I have to admit my gender bias from the outset: the very fact that I am a female (and always have been!)  intrinsically impacts my experience in Mexico and I have a much greater insight to womanhood here than I do to masculinity. I don’t pretend to be impartial – mine is a study of women, by a woman, with all its implications.

It is the worst kept secret in Mexico that women rule the roost. Infamous Latino machismo is alive and well, but you really needn’t scratch far beneath the veneer of masculine dominance to see that social life, particularly with regard to the family, is almost entirely orchestrated by women. Women are the diary-keepers (one tía in my host family dished out an Excel Spreadsheet listing all the family birthdays at our last gathering), cooks and cleaners, they tend to run the household finances and purchasing, and are most importantly the party hosts and organisers. As families are typically large and extended, this involves negotiating between and arranging a lot of people. Catering for forty-plus people ruffles no feathers, and the entire event (which in classically Mexican style starts early and never has a preempted finish time) runs without a glitch, even when this includes moving all of the furniture outside to make space for everyone and conducting numerous seatings to ensure that nobody misses out on what is always a feast worthy of an Aztec emperor.

Families are not only large, but also very close-knit – it’s not unusual for children to live with grandparents, aunties or uncles for a time for one reason or another, there are frequent reunions, and they place great emphasis on togetherness. Anything goes as a reason for a fiesta, and ‘the more the merrier’ applies as a general rule. This, paired with the prevalent lack of gardens, culminates in the ‘party in the garage’ phenomenon. It’s an actual thing – it must be because there are Internet forums headed with titles like “why do Mexicans do everything in their front yard?” Well, let me enlighten you. Often there isn’t that much space inside, and for security the cars are normally parked in a gated forecourt, so it makes sense, doesn’t it? Whip out the trestle tables, plonk a tarpaulin overhead and wire up some badass speakers, and you’ve got your very own party venue completely gratis!

Mexicans love to have their family around them, and also don’t like to see people without family, so invitations are always extended and lots of people who aren’t technically family are affectionately referred to with family-like nicknames. This makes Mexico a fantastic place to be as an outsider, because even if I hadn’t been welcomed so warmly by my own host family I would almost certainly have been adopted by another.

The importance of family isn’t only celebrated within families but is also recognised nationally (as it is in many countries) with celebration days. But tellingly, Mother’s Day is a really big deal here, whereas Father’s Day passed almost unnoticed. At my old school we spent weeks in preparation for Mother’s Day, making gifts, preparing songs, dances, and poems, and a whole day was dedicated to their performance. Father’s Day was ignored. I asked why this was, and the teacher told me it was because almost all of the children have mothers, whereas there are a lot of children with absent fathers. This made me really sad. What kind of lessons does this teach little boys and girls? Aren’t you just perpetuating the problem by normalising the father’s absence and sending out a message that dads don’t matter? To my relief, at my new job they hadn’t celebrated Mother’s Day or Father’s Day but created Family Day to celebrate family in all of its forms, which in a very poor area where traditional nuclear family is the exception and not the rule seems like a good idea to me.

Mexico also celebrates Children’s Day on the 30th of April, to demonstrate how much they are loved and appreciated. From the celebration of Children’s Day to the constant string of family parties, there is a huge culture of care in the Mexican family, and the extension of love, warmth and appreciation is most noticeably demonstrated through food and giving, usually simultaneously.

The notion of ‘independence’ just isn’t assigned the same value or meaning here, it is not something to be achieved but more likely to be interpreted as a by-product of neglect. Those poor people all alone, why don’t their families look after them? They’re really independent? What a shame, why do they push their families away? Our 20s in the UK is a decade cherished for establishing independence, for getting away from home, achieving things by ourselves and exploring things we probably wouldn’t want our parents to know about. In Mexico, you are very much a child until you have children yourself, at whatever age this happens. In the UK there is huge stigma attached to young people living with their parents past their mid-twenties, and they rarely wish to do so apart from out of financial necessity and benefit. Here, on the other hand, there is far less desire, financial nor emotional, to move out of home.

On the plus side of independence is the freedom and sense of personal achievement it offers, but the flip side of the coin is the feeling of burden – there is a far greater sense of embarrassment or even shame when we need help from family, either in our youth, mid-life, or ageing. Moving back in with family is often perceived as a kind of regression, a personal failure of some sort or the result of a lack of financial resources. It is widely accepted that care homes aren’t ideal but more suitable in terms of convenience when relatives are busy either working or just with their ‘own’ lives. Here it is very common that when a grandparent (or in fact anybody’s spouse) dies, the person left alone moves in with the rest of the family to a part of their house or an adjacent one. There is no sense of shame or embarrassment in asking for help from the family, on the contrary it is more likely for family members to fight over who can offer more assistance.

If there’s one thing we can learn from the Mexicans, it’s that there’s enough love for everyone. My absolute favourite thing about the culture here is its inclusiveness. The young and the old socialise together, and care together, and coming from a culture where we are so fiercely independent and defensively self-sufficient, it’s very touching. Right from the start it was the people’s warmth that I noticed, and time and time again people’s kindness and generosity has exceeded my expectations, from doors opened to hands shaken and food offered. Who is to praise for this culture of love and care that is the social cement of the Mexican family? The women.

Feeling, Falling, Fell

I have fallen in love: truly, madly, deeply.

Four months since we were introduced in person, and what an intoxicating time it has been. We have come to know each other’s most publicised perks and darkest secrets. My love brings out the best in me: I am a happier and more relaxed person, and everybody I care about is supportive, and relieved, to see me in a blossoming, fruitful relationship.

Our time together is a perfectly heady mix of shared experiences, lessons learned, and challenges overcome; all of the romance a girl could desire, plenty of adventure, and a little bit of danger too. As time goes on, my feelings only intensify. We worked through those tricky initial stages full of doubts and difficulties, where our commitment was tested. In true cliché fashion, we came out stronger. I know the path ahead will be far from a doddle, but we understand our differences and endeavour to embrace our flaws: we are a team now.

It’s not the kind of love of family, friends and homeland that develops naturally and gradually over time, but an altogether more intense and passionate affair. Rationality and logical thinking out of the window: this love is all-consuming. It is gentle and kind, but also relentlessly demands my attention in every waking moment. There is no getting away from it, no time spent apart: for now, this is all there is. And as is the way with true love, at some point the conscious decision is made to push the fear aside and stop fighting it. One hopes it can last forever, but awareness of potential heartbreak lurks in the depths of cognition. Who knows what the future holds? What is there to do but let go of expectations and enjoy the moment in its entirety?

In conversation I find myself defending my native England like a loyal old friend slightly jealous of my newfound romance. Mexico, I have fallen hopelessly and dangerously in love with you. Go easy on me, please.

Before I left England I was feeling fed up and frustrated. After what had been a deeply traumatic year, I was ok, but I was coasting. I was not fulfilling any of my heart’s desires. And more than anything I had this profound sense that I owed something – to myself, to the people who care about me, and in an admittedly airy-fairy sense, to the wider world. I had a life so precious and brimming with opportunity, but time was passing, and the niggling sense that I was wasting it was slowly but surely chipping away at my conscience. Without really realising it at the time, only something dramatic could have turned that around: time makes sense of many things.

So here I am in Mexico: probably the only decision I have ever made completely for myself. A great big leap of faith into the unknown. Of course I knew it would be an adventure, but I could not have foreseen the ways it would affect me emotionally. I’m an emotional person. I know this. Everybody I know knows this. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, a bit of both I suppose. And of course I can’t compare myself with anybody else. Do I feel things deeper? I can’t say – I only know that I feel things deeply. Or perhaps I don’t feel things any more but just scrutinise obsessively, a kind of OCD of the heart. Either way, as much as it makes pain excruciating, it also means that I feel happiness like euphoria. That can’t be a bad thing.

There are not words to express the love that I feel in Mexico. From so many angles. I came here to help children, but now I feel a tiny bit guilty as it has become apparent that they help me much more than I could have hoped or imagined. Every day their easy joy fills my soul; their beaming little faces and the appreciation they show me means more to me than they will ever know. The bond we have made in these past few months is one that the many teachers I know will empathise with. It’s incredibly special: they, like every breathing child on this planet, are absolute treasures to this world.

There is also the love I feel from Mexico the nation, and its biggest asset – its people. I won’t go on about this as I have done a lot of gushing already, but it makes me so sad to think that foreigners in England might not get as warm a reception. We have this astounding sense of national superiority, and what shocked me most is that a lot of Mexicans seem to have it too. They hold the United Kingdom in incredibly high esteem, and just because I’m from there, me too. It has made me feel shocked and even uncomfortable at times. Sure, I’m proud to be British, but I don’t assume that it allows me to hold myself in higher regard than anybody else. The young Mexicans I meet are incredibly talented, spirited and ambitious; they pursue a wide range of interests and have a great thirst to learn. I think the superiority complex of Britons has caused a complacency epidemic, and a nation of moaners, and that is a great shame. (That’s why I’m so happy to be here on an inter-cultural exchange programme, and I will write in more depth on that another time.)

Friendships that have been established here scare me. They’re more than friendships because I’m away from everything I know and love, and I depend on them for everything. Leaving England was easy because I knew I’d be going home. Leaving Mexico won’t be as straightforward.

But more than anything, is the love I feel towards the people I already loved, at home. I use the word ‘love’ far too much, but I can’t say I abuse it because I really mean it. I use it every day, in contact with the ones I hold dear who are so far away, but I honestly feel it now, despite the distance, more than ever. Just thinking about how much I value these people for a moment too long brings me to tears. When I left England I had nothing to lose, now it’s almost like I have too much to live for. With all the love here and all the love there it’s sometimes a bit overwhelming to comprehend, and my heart is absolutely bursting.

The photo above was taken by my dear friend Georgina Piper. You can see more of her wonderful work here:

http://www.georginapiperphotography.com

The quote is from one of my favourite songs, Nature Boy, which chronicles “a strange enchanted boy…who wandered very far” only to discover that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

 

Paddy Juárez

“Why do the Mexicans have a public holiday for St Patrick’s Day?” I thought. Obviously, they don’t. Today’s bank holiday is actually to celebrate the birthday of Mexican hero Benito Juárez which is on the 21st of March, but the Mexicans, loving to party as they do (not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Mexicans do love to party), move the ‘bridge’ to make it a long weekend. It’s no surprise that people generally behave more patriotically towards their home nation when they’re away from home, but I couldn’t tell you when St. George’s Day is, or anyone English who celebrates it abroad. St. Patrick’s Day, however, is celebrated all over the world: perhaps because of the incredibly high emigration rate, but perhaps just as much because people love paddies and paddies love to get pissed, so  St. Patrick’s Day has become an ode to good times and Guinness.

Despite being in many ways about as English as they come, I have long considered Ireland as my spiritual home. Like about 70% of the English population (or so it would seem) I am half Irish, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in County Cork in the last twenty five years – the entirety of my lifetime. There’s a majestic beauty in the sweeping landscape of Cork and Kerry, and it just feels like everything I love about Ireland is soaked deep into the mountains.

Local tradition states that St. Finbarr walked from the Top of the Rock in Drimoleague to Gougane Barra in the 6th century, and people have continued to follow this pilgrim path ever since. As well as the spiritual aspect of this ancient route, it boasts spectacular views over Bantry Bay and the West Cork coastline. It offers an immense sense of restfulness, and whatever your religion or nationality,  and wherever you are, I strongly believe that spending a little time every now and again in simple contemplation works wonders for the soul. Living far away from home in a completely different culture gives a great opportunity to reflect on life from a new perspective: on our customs, thoughts, values and actions, by looking from the outside in and all around. This is what anthropologists like to call ‘reflexivity’.

I would like to share my favourite poem that helps me to feel at peace with the present, something that I have found the Mexicans to place great emphasis on. It is short and powerful, and I never tire of reading it, often over and over again in one sitting.

St Finbarr’s Hermitage – Gougane Barra

The peace of God enfolds it

And he who tarries there

Shall find a heaven for his eyes,

And in his heart, a prayer.

But he who hurries onwards

May search the world in vain

And never find before he dies,

Such peace on earth again.

After reading it I close my eyes, visualise what peace feels and looks like, and simply breathe. I’m not religious, and for me it’s not the peace of God that I feel but the beauty of life and the natural world. Sometimes it comes more easily than others. Living in Mexico brings frequent waves of joy; it’s an incredible experience and I have so much to be grateful for. So for today I’ll be swapping salud for sláinte in a toast to St. Finbarr, and enjoying this moment of absolute contentment.

Pined, pining, pines

Weaning didn’t work. Gosh I miss my fluffy.

Darcey

This is:

A: Because I love her.

But B: Probably in large part because she symbolises home comforts and fondest memories of snuggling up in my dressing gown and slippers, cat on lap, sat on the sofa next to a roaring fire, a good book in one hand and a G & T in the other, in my cosy house with my lovely parents.

And C: Almost certainly exaggerated by the fact that, as a general rule, Mexicans don’t like cats.

This passage from C.M.Mayo’s Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California: the Other Mexico just sums it up perfectly:

“A small, white poodlelike mutt nuzzled our legs. Palomito was his name, the cook said. A calico cat slunk up as well, meowing loudly. And her name? “Gato,” she said. Cat. She broke out laughing at me, that I would ask.”

My host family have three dogs, also ‘poodlelike mutts’, called Gwendy, Cindy (after Lauper, no less!) and Lila. They have also ‘adopted’ a cat from some neighbours who moved away and left it, whom they feed but don’t let into the house. As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t have a name. I call it Gammy, because it’s got gammy eyes. Cute.

It’s a very strange feeling having been here over a month now and having eleven months left. I’m settled but not settled. The highly concentrated mix of unfamiliarity dragging along with the joys and continuous new experiences whizzing by make the passing of time feel very surreal. More than anything, I just keep forgetting it’s February. This is not February weather. After 25 years of highly changeable weather, the wall to wall sunshine and predictable heat plays havoc with my reckoning of time. Every morning my default thought  process is still to observe the weather as I would do in England, consider how it differs from the day before, how it compares with the forecast, and how typical it is of the month or season.

Every day here the weather is the same and, therefore, simply not worth mentioning. A month of 25 degree blue-sky scorchers. Not a drop of rain, nor hint of a breeze. Gone without comment…can you imagine??? They don’t even care! Nobody wears shorts or flip flops or mentions the GLORIOUS SUNSHINE. In the park, people flock to the shade; the complete reverse of what you’d find on a sunny day in England. Especially hearing about the awful weather and terrible misfortunes in the UK from the other side of the world, it’s so very strange not to discuss it at all. It’s just another daily reminder of how English I am, and at this point I feel like my enthusiasm for analysing culture probably exacerbates the differences. And so I vow, henceforth, to adore dogs, neglect cats, and ignore the weather.

Weaned, weaning, weans

Weaning. Such a funny word.

So in just over a week I’m leaving the dreary storm-battered land of In-ger-land to live and work in Mexico. For a year. Some days it feels like a big deal, some days it doesn’t at all. I’m sure there are lots of serious and sensible things I ought to be doing in preparation, but for the minute there seem to be only two important factors to consider: missing tea and missing my cat.

Twinings English Breakfast is the diuretic equivalent of a soundtrack to my life. It’s been there through good times, dark times, hard times, fun times, bored times and busy times, lonely times and social times, and quite honestly I’m dreading living without it. So this is my first weaning programme: drink less tea. There is simply nothing as glorious as a warm milky brew (I don’t care what you say, you’re wrong), therefore, the weaning programme must commence tomorrow. I don’t want to (won’t cope to) go cold turkey so I’m going to cut down to one cup every hour as opposed to every half hour. And upon my arrival in Mexico, I intend to replace my love of tea with a love of tequila.

Second weaning programme: cut affection from pet cat. It’s only fair…on me. I totally sympathise with people who don’t like my cat, but she’s not (quite) as evil as she looks. Named Darcey after Darcey Bussell because of her little white ballet shoes, aka paws, she’s the complete personification of every anti-cat joke ever to adorn a tea towel. She’s not that nice, and she’s not that friendly, but she is incredibly fluffy. After all, isn’t that what pets are for? If it isn’t fluffy, I just don’t get the point. Anyway, enough of the description, you either like cats or you don’t, the point is, she won’t even remember me. The more I love her, the more she hates me (who says cats aren’t clever?) so maybe my premature detachment will be best for the both of us. From tomorrow, the aloofness/aloftity/aloofaying is mutual. On my return from Mexico we can start afresh, she might even fall in love with me…

So there you go – a life without tea or the fluffy sheep-cat, that’s about as far as my thoughts about moving abroad have gotten so far.  Oh and also, “yippee, I’m going to Mexico!”.

P.S. I wrote the whole of this with the spelling ‘ween’ before checking it. I’m no writer, please forgive and feel free to laugh at my expense, you’ll find no pretence here.