Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Just returned to Canada after six months in central Mexico. Is this culture shock? Jet lag? Lack of adjustment? I’m not sure, but it does feel strange. I looked out the window this morning and could see nobody, the only sound that of a lone airplane high above the city. Occasionally someone would emerge from a neighboring house, enter their car and drive quietly away. Where are the church bells? Where are the children? Why does the traffic sound so muted? Where are the signs of life in this community?

The contrast with Mexico is stark. From our Mexican house we hear church bells most of the day, hundreds of school children come and go by our door (often ringing the bell) and the sounds of community life (to say nothing of the dogs and chickens) are present from early in the morning until dark. The neighborhood streets are always crowded as most people walk on errands and old people sit in their doorways watching the world go by.

What does it mean to adjust to life in Canada? We often say that we must get used to things here, we must adjust or get on with things. However, I believe what we must do is disremember Mexico. I begin to wonder if this is what immigrants go through. Eventually they forget what life in the home country was like. Perhaps they pick up on one or two local things and fixate on them as representing previous community - perhaps smells from a local restaurant or sounds of their native language. These small things are of course related to home but only in a distant way and when they do return home they are shocked by how different things are from what they carried in their memories. They have disremembered their native land and cling to a few false images which are more indicative of their new environment than of their home.

Having been back a few days I am also struck by features of the people: they appear so old, new mothers look like they could be grandmothers, young people are so tall.

After a month or two the weather warms and there is indeed street life in Canada. The boardwalks along the waterfront are filled with people - although there are just as many bikes, joggers, skateboards and so on. The area is like a gym rather than a community gathering place. There are many street festivals but they are all associated with business districts and appear to be just another way to sell product. We are given the illusion of it being a community event, and indeed there are opportunities for people to stroll and talk, but many are from outside the area and it is clear that if sales go down the festivals will be canceled. All very different than festivals and plazas in rural Mexico.

Welcome back and get on with forgetting things.

I am posting this after another six month stay in Mexico and the adjustment to “home” seems less dramatic. Not sure why.

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