Updated: Aug 17, 2019
I was finally breaking open the cocoon. Finally showing up and spreading my wings! 🦋 And I quickly realized the morning of my first day, that this was going to be a more interesting experience than I had expected.
Nathan, having been used to adjusting to new places and cultures, quickly ordered his food. All in Spanish. Intimidated! But also really attractive at the same time. I didn’t know hearing my boyfriend order coffee, toast and orange juice would be so hot!
I attempted to use an app to translate the menu. It didn’t translate it super easily, but at least it gave me a general idea of what I’d be eating. I ordered a vegetarian omelet without a salad.
Nathan’s co-worker, Paul, ordered a coffee as well. He didn’t realize that the coffee came with milk already in it, so I attempted to order the coffee without milk for him and pointed to his cup of coffee and said “no leche” Which I assumed meant “No milk”. The waiter came back with MORE milk. 🤣🤦♀️ All we really could do was laugh because it was so opposite of what we wanted, but we realized that you have to add a word in there. So instead of “No leche”, it would be “No hoy leche”. Good to know! 😂
After breakfast, I sat in my little corner of the hotel and watched as the maids did their routine, as I edited a blog post and video. A few hours later, and my stomach was growling at me; time for lunch! But first up was getting currency. It was time to find an ATM or Cajero automático. Nathan had sent me instructions on how to get to one, but I felt completely confused as I talked to my friend Erica and walked around looking for it. They hid it in a tiny room off of the street so it wasn’t super apparent which is what threw me off.
With money in hand, I walked to a nearby restaurant and ordered a berry lemonade (which was so good!) and 3 tiny sliders. It was difficult conveying to the waitresses what I needed or wanted, but I used my translator apps to help speak to them which was really helpful! For anyone wondering, I’m using the Translator app on iOS with the green icon, and the google translate app. (Not sponsored!)
I then walked back to the hotel until dinner with Nathan and his co-workers. 😊
The first week I was in Mexico was a blur because everyday I felt like a baby trying to convey to adults what it needed. Although I was able to use my translating app most of the time, sometimes you would put in what you wanted, such as “White toast with butter, please.” And they would look at you confused because your app, although helpful, had translated it as "blanco toastada con mantequilla, por favor" which didn’t make sense for them, so you would have to switch your words a little and say "pan blanco toastada con mantequilla, por favor" which is "bread white toasted with butter, please".
Breakfast every morning was an unintentional adventure where you would order something, assuming you would get scrambled eggs, but then you would end up with scrambled eggs, with fruit, pancakes, coffee, orange juice and shortbread. 😳 And all for about six American dollars on average. I still laugh nearly every day because I never really know what to expect. 😂
I’m actually surprised I didn’t get upset, discouraged or burnt out that first week; but I think it’s because I knew what I was getting myself into.
I had read everything I could about traveling in Mexico. What was safe to eat, wear, say, do? Could I wear shorts? Could I drink the water? Could I walk the streets safely by myself? I really just had no idea what to expect which made it a little nerve wracking before I left.
Many, many people said that they were concerned about me going or they would ask me if I was nervous.
I won’t lie- I was.
But being here now, those nerves are such a distant memory. Yes, there may be parts of this city that I’m not seeing, but the people I’ve met so far have been soooo nice and patient and quick to help me learn, that I really don’t see walking around the streets here as any different than walking down the streets of San Francisco. That may change or not change in the future, but if it does, I’ll handle it when we get there. 😊
Everything felt exciting and new, but also a little overwhelming. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to actually catch-on to the language or be able to even order my food without struggling and embarrassing myself. It was intimidating also, to see Nathan, my boyfriend, ordering his breakfast in complete Spanish and the waiter knowing exactly what he meant, and then Nathan receiving exactly what he wanted. I felt so out-of-place and behind in my learning. My doubt and insecurities started bubbling to the surface. But as I allowed these thoughts to fill my mind, Naketo my guide, kept saying, “Ariel, it’s okay. Remember, he has been here for a whole month before you arrived. He struggled in the beginning too.” And I would relax a bit because he was right. Nathan probably had the same struggles I did in the beginning. Learning Spanish is something that is still in the works for me. It helps that I’m around it all the time now, and I’m hoping that by the time I leave, I’ll be fairly fluent if not able to hold a conversation. At least now, I'm able to order drinks, foods and get the check, in Spanish. 😁
As I was adjusting to being here, I would walk the streets, white knuckled and prepared to fight. My hyperactive awareness from PTSD was in full force as I walked the streets and I was really nervous!
I kept thinking that around every corner, there was a new danger and I just wasn’t seeing it yet. I was afraid to trust the town, people and streets. Everything was a danger.
I would come back to the hotel after being out for a few hours, and my ankles would be so swollen and sore and my muscles were tense and achy. I was afraid to acknowledge the swelling. Thinking that if I did, I would make it worse by giving into the fact that something actually was, happening. Maybe it was my thyroid. Maybe it was a blood clot. Maybe I had sprained my ankle without knowing it!
Nekato (poor thing has to deal with me! Lol) so kindly just stood there and waited. He never actually gives advice unless I consciously or subconsciously ask. So I did. And he simply replied, “There is no need to worry. The solution is simple. You’re afraid to be here. And your pants are too tight.” …what?? My pants are too tight??? WTH Nekato. This is no time to be judging my PANTS. 😓
And then I realized that I was wearing my leggings. My brand new, American Eagle leggings. (I literally only spent that much on leggings because they have pockets and they’re long enough for me!) I sighed and texted my friend Erica. I took some photos of my ankles and asked her what she thought was happening. She thought it might be that I wasn’t drinking enough water (which was probably a contributing factor since I was so nervous to drink any of the water!) and because I was exercising more (walking), I needed to be drinking more water and that it might also be energetic.
The next day, I wore my rolled up jeans and tennis shoes. I had read online that having more supportive shoes may help with swelling. I walked into town again, but not as far and came back. No swelling! The next day I did the same; then I tried different shoes. No more swelling! And then I realized; it WAS the pants! UGGGHHHHH NOOO! But Nekato was right so, thanks dude! So ankle catastrophe averted!
Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept the opinion of my blue star-being friend. 👽 He’s so wise and caring, and yet I’m always doubting his input. 😬 Sorry, dude!
Let’s skip ahead to my first Sunday here. I arrived on a Sunday, but with the passport fiasco and the 2 hour drive back to the hotel, I didn’t actually get into town until 9:30pm. So it was a quick dinner and then off to bed!
But the following Sunday, Nathan introduced me to his routine. Get breakfast across the street, walk into downtown and shop around the market, stop by a small café and get some coffee, then head back to the hotel to work on some stuff and/or take a nap before heading to dinner later.
I forgot to mention that along with Nathan and I, are also 7 of his co-workers. This number fluctuates depending on who’s arriving or leaving. But essentially, we look like a herd of English people, walking down the streets of the town. 😂
We walked towards downtown as I admired the town around me. There's a main church in town that's incredible. The size of it isn't well portrayed in the photo I have here, but it's gorgeous. I'll try and do a blog post just about this church because oh my goodness. For being so hurt by the Christian religion, it still surprises me how much I adore big, elaborate churches. There's something so magically sacred about the spaces. It's literally a whole building that someone built to house the spirits we so lovingly ask assistance from.
Anyhow, back to the streets! There are a lot of vendor booths set-up in the city squares and surrounding streets. The streets become these colorful mazes of booths containing DVDs, clothing, souvenirs, belts, boots, hats, donuts, churros, fresh fruit, plants, etc. I bought a postcard because I collect them, while Nathan looked for a belt.
We walked the streets while I was trying to take it all in. It felt so familiar and yet so different to street vendors that you would see in America. After shopping around for a bit, we headed to the café. I ordered a crepe and bottled water, while Nathan ordered a coffee and his co-worker ordered a coffee Frappuccino. The crepe was amazing!
Afterwards, we walked down to the fruit shop Nathan goes to. We picked up some apples, plum-y nectarine-y things (that are so good!) and then some chili peanuts and some chocolates for the week.
As we walked around, I noticed myself bouncing around a bit and being silly and excited.
I wasn’t scared anymore. I had come to place of comfort and peace with the town and the people and the culture. I was still cautious, but not white knuckled all the time and more in a sense of wonder rather than fear.
I can make this story whatever I wish it to be. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure and I’m the author and reader and eager to see what waits for me, but able to create it too. I have the power to create or deconstruct anything I wish in my life and this life, adventure and story, is mine.
I am here.
I have arrived, and I’m ready to explore!