The honeymoon is over. Let me put on my rose-colored glasses for a moment. It's not a bad thing, per se. It means I'm moving through some predictable phases on my way to adjusting to my new life in SMA.
When I decided to move here, I didn't think a lot about what it would take for me to feel settled and content in a new environment. Of course I would have to get used to a different lifestyle and culture, but I assumed everything would work out fine because I'm pretty adaptable. And, after all, I'd visited three times before and had great experiences. It was only after I relocated that I came across articles about the "Expat Lifecycle/Adjustment Cycle" and the four phases that people move through when adapting to a new culture. The names of the phases may differ slightly depending on which site you visit (I chose information from Wayne State University).
During the Excitement or Honeymoon Phase everything is new and interesting.
During the Problem Phase everything feels harder: a new language, making new friends, learning new customs. This is the phase when people have the most complaints about their new country.
During the Recovery Phase you've gotten used to, and have a better understanding of, the different customs and traditions. Things that previously stressed you don't feel so overwhelming.
During the Stability Phase you now find humor in situations that once left you feeling unhappy or frustrated.
I was fortunate to meet a fellow dog owner soon after I arrived. He invited me to come to Parque Juarez, where a group of owners and their dogs meet early each morning. I also connected with an artist, whose work I admire, that I met the first time I came to SMA, as well as the couple who ran an Airbnb where I stayed each time I visited.
I miss family and friends, but I don't feel alone. I've established a pleasant routine. After Jack and I leave the park, we go to the Rosewood Hotel to sit on the terrace in the morning sun. They have a Starbucks counter. I've gotten to know the staff, so now I can poke my head inside the doorway, smile and nod and say "Buenos dias" and "mismo," and they bring out a Cafe Americano and a vanilla concha, and lucky dog Jack gets a bowl of water and two "cookies." Doesn't this sound idyllic?
When we are finished, we head back home to our casita with it's high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto a plant-filled patio, a large fireplace, and a loft, and cockroaches, rats, and an abnormal number of flies, both dead and alive. Huh. Somehow this wasn't part of my dream. All the pretty dresses and earrings, beautiful art and sunsets, cannot distract me from the fact that I am so not comfortable in this place and I signed a year-long lease! Oh, did I mention the worm under my pillow?
It wasn't that I ran around complaining about all of this. It's that I began to conduct regular surveys among friends and acquaintances. "So, do you have cockroaches in your house? How many? How big? How often?" Until someone blithely replied, "Oh, get used to it, it's Mexico" But I discovered that it wasn't normal to have as many cockroaches as I had in that house. I could have survived this, but then there were the rats....The final straw was when Jack came up with a big, fat one in his mouth one morning. I'd had enough.
Well, fortunately, I had become friends with a wonderful couple who were living in a much newer apartment, but were soon to be moving to a different neighborhood in SMA. They'd had their names on a list for a few years and they received a call out of the blue that there was a vacancy. So fate smiled upon each of us. They're happy, I'm happy. No more cockroaches, rats, or fly infestations. But wait --what's that at the bottom of my staircase? The dreaded scorpion! Smoosh. No mercy.
When creepy-crawly things enter my home, I don't retreat to a safe corner whimpering. No, it makes me angry and indignant. "How dare they intrude?" I will stomp them, spray them with whatever is handy, flush them, or, with a steady hand and a determination that should be reserved for a more worthwhile cause, get out a vacuum cleaner, calmly attach the hose and suck them up.
The other evening when I opened a drawer to pull out my toothpaste and toothbrush, I heard a funny noise and I saw something darting around. OMG, another scorpion! It's one thing when they are on the floor, but quite another when they are scurrying over my personal items. I was horrified at the thought that my fingers could have touched it. What did I do? I ran to my neighbors next door in a panic and their sixteen year-old son came running with a glass. I couldn't believe that he was going to capture it and set it free. I let out a sigh of relief when he told me he was going to drown it in Mezcal. My hero.
I'm sure there will be many more opportunities in the coming days and months ahead to test my patience and resilience. I have a feeling I may be in the "Problem Phase" for awhile. Fortunately, laughter truly is the best medicine. Good friends and family, and a sense of humor, have carried me far in life. That's on good days.
On the days I find challenging, I want to retreat from the world and contemplate the meaning of life and wallow, just a tiny bit, in my so-called misfortune. I'm definitely not close to the Stability Phase where I can toss my head with a smile, roll my eyes slightly, and exclaim, "That's Mexico!"