“But, what are you doing down there?” I’ve been asked a couple times. Sometimes directly, often indirectly. And by indirectly, I mean with the subtle American judgement and air of superiority reserved for someone who isn’t participating in the system. It mostly comes from me though- for the first couple weeks, I struggled with justifying my experience down here, which I do by saying I’m participating in a language immersion program as well as the chef de cuisine and personal assistant to expatriate nonagenarians. But as I move from the compulsion of doing and settle into the way of being, I have become comfortable. I’m living. Living with my grandparents at their beautiful home in Cuernavaca, the capital city of Morelos, Mexico. Not visiting, living. Expanding beyond the beautiful, yet shallow conversations shared between temporary cohabitants towards meaningful stories of past and future lives. It is a unique experience that I am profoundly grateful for- getting to know their deeper selves, and sharing with them my own. And holy shit do we see the world differently, but instead of glossing these things over like we would over the holidays, we’re engaging with each other in a healthy debate and dialogue…well, healthy’ish.
Cuernavaca, Wikipedia will tell you, is known as the City of Eternal Spring. Granted, spring is a bit warmer here, but it really is beautiful. It’s a small city, with the center of a small town. It’s not super walkable, and even less bikeable, but I’m learning the bus system. The population is older and younger- lots of retirees, families, and college kids. I think most folks my age are in Mexico City, about an hour and a half north of here, which makes sense as it really is a pretty quiet town with a limited nightlife. The town center, Centro, surrounds a zocalo, or town square. There are young people swallowing each other’s faces with the intense vigor of youth, impoverished people selling everything under the sun, and old people willing away death and loneliness with the sense of community that sitting on a bench can bring. The market is energizing, energy-sucking mayhem, and my happy place down here. I don’t have all that much to say about Cuernavaca yet because I haven’t done all that much; but for me, right now, it’s perfect. Studying Spanish, practicing sunrise yoga on the roof, going to the market and filling my backpack with mangoes and avocados, and sharing a home with my grandparents is all incredibly fulfilling.
Having a visitor really helped me expand my comfort zone and start exploring though. My brother arrived in Cuernavaca last week. We went into town on the eve of Independence Day and found an old hotel plaza off the beaten path, the courtyard of which housed various little bars and food stands. It was a really young, cool vibe and felt very familiar. After sipping on mescal and washing it down with Tecate, we ended the night early and watched fireworks from the roof as we were explicitly warned about gunshots ripping through the air (false) and other terrifying night monsters that would surely kidnap and kill us (also false). Needless to say, I’m seeking other authorities on the area outside of my grandma. We visited a cool town called Tepoztlan on Friday, and Saturday headed to Mexico City. We met some new friends, went to the bars, danced and drank, and fell in love with the town. The food is incredible, the people are beautiful, the architecture is amazing, and the history is rich and deep. I’m going to be spending a lot of weekends there.
But now I’m settling back into Cuernavaca. I have a gloriously sentimental case of runny belly, which has given me the time and patience to write again. I’m looking for a place to volunteer a couple times a week. I’m also spending a lot of time thinking about the blog as a medium for communication. It feels like I’m talking at people instead of talking with them, which I suppose is natural as the purpose thus far has been to share my experience. But next week, I’m going to approach more complex topics that require a shared engagement to unpack authentically- I have questions about race, racism, and how to have uncomfortable conversations on these issues with people we love. As a majority of my readers are friends and family, and most of my friends and family are middle to upper class white folks from the U.S., I believe we owe it to our black and brown brothers and sisters to have conversations that challenge racism by confronting our priviledge. There’s just too much happening right now, and too much at stake, to go on living our lives without first acknowledging and then dismantling these horribly oppressive systems which we subconsciously benefit from every day. If you’re interested in participating in this conversation, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on the next post.