Things We’ll Miss About Mexico

Another international move is on our horizon (and fast approaching), so, of course, I find myself reminiscing and thinking about what an amazing 2+ years we’ve had en México. As I did with both China and Poland, I felt the urge to record some of our favorite things about living here in the form of an A-Z list of what we think we’ll miss most when we leave. Things like:

Amigos – Without a doubt, the hardest part of any move is leaving behind our friends, and I don’t know if it’s because we were here longer or because we found our friendship medias naranjas (soulmates), but this time it’s even harder. 🥹

Bebidas – Where do I even begin with all the drinks we’ll miss! Cantaritos, cazuelas, carajillos…hey, maybe this should have been “c”! Pre-Mexico, I didn’t think I was a fan of fruity drinks or coffee, but I clearly had no idea what I was missing!

Comida – Fittingly, right after bebidas is another, equally important category: la comida or the food. Even before we stepped foot into Mexico, I knew this was my favorite cuisine. Tacos are life as far as I’m concerned, and it should be no surprise that by far the best tacos (and every other Mexican dish) I’ve had has been right here.

Day of the Dead – I’m not into creepy or scary things, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Día de Muertos, but after celebrating it in both GDL and Oaxaca, I absolutely love it! I’m taking my Day of the Dead decorations with me to Canada, so let the celebrations continue!

Español – This is another big one. I put so much time and energy into learning Spanish over the past three years that it really pains me knowing it’s already starting to deteriorate. I also know I’m really going to miss all the friendly “buen día”s and general ease and openness that comes with español.

Futbol – Tucker loves his sports, particularly local sports, so we had amazing luck moving to GDL, choosing to support Atlas, and then watching them win back-to-back championships! But really, you don’t have to win or even like soccer to enjoy the excitement you can hear literally everywhere in the city when someone scores a ¡GOOOOLLLL!

Guadalajara – Of course, “g” is for the city itself. We chose Guadalajara specifically, which was new for us. I wasn’t assigned to a posting here, we personally decided that GDL had the vibes we wanted (and maybe needed) in the uncertain pandemic times. And honestly, I don’t think we could have possibly made a better choice. In another life, we were definitely Tapatíos.

Handicrafts – I thought China had the handicraft market cornered, but I was so wrong! Mexico also has an incredibly vibrant and varied collection of things ranging from jaguar whistles to braided bags. I will, of course, be bringing many things with me when I go, but I’ll also miss seeing what all is out there!

Ice cream – Or more specifically, nieves de garrafa, is one of the main sweet treats we know we’ll miss (especially Tucker). I mean, ice cream is always good, but when it’s tequila or Ferrero Rocher flavored, that’s really something special.

Jacarandas – I’ll likely never have my own garden (for so many reasons, worms being just one of them), and maybe this is why I was completely entranced by the flowers of Mexico. Even in the cities, there are tons and tons of flowers all year round, my favorite of which are undoubtedly the absolutely gorgeous jacarandas.

Knife sharpeners – This one really represents all the sounds we’ll miss when we leave Mexico. The pan flute whistle of the knife sharpeners, the garbagemen and their cow bells, and the daily shouts of “AGUA” just to name a few.

Limones – Tucker thinks I have a limón problem. If they’re offered as a food or drink accompaniment, I usually take several and douse whatever I have. I have absolutely become a limón convert during our time here, and I know I’ll miss having them as often as I’d like.

Molletes – A dish I had never heard of quickly became one of my favorites in Mexico, the humble mollete. Toasted bread covered in a variety of amazing combinations from the more traditional: melted cheese, refried beans, and salsa Mexicana (my favorite), to the more modern, eggs Benedict, not to mention all the dulce options like lechera or cajeta and fruit, all of which I miss already!

Nature – Stereotypes have a way of getting into your head without you even realizing it, and for me, one that I had prior to our time in Mexico was that it was all deserts down here, which is absolutely not the case. I rarely saw the deserts of the North, but I will certainly miss the agave fields, the waterfalls, the forests, the beaches, and really all the amazing nature Mexico has to offer.

Our neighborhood – As much as I love GDL, what I love most is probably our neighborhood: Colonia Americana. It was recently voted as one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world, and we couldn’t agree more.

Pueblos mágicos – Someone had an amazing idea to boost tourism in some of the random smaller towns across Mexico by creating a pueblos mágicos (or magic towns) list. Visiting these places felt a little like collecting Pokémon, but it also allowed us to see so many different sides to this beautiful country.

Queso fundido – Another pleasant surprise for us came in the form of queso fundido. We knew we loved the queso you get at Mexican restaurants in the US, but real queso is so much better. Thick and eaten with warm tortillas, why has this version not made it north of the border?!

Rainy season – I am so happy that we already got the first storm of rainy season 2023 (a bit early as they usually start in June) because I LOVE RAINY SEASON. The clouds rolling in, the smell of a storm coming, the ridiculous amounts of rain and lightning and thunder, and even the adrenaline-inducing inundaciones that follow.

Spontaneity – If China taught us to expect the unexpected, Mexico has taught us to stop planning ahead so much. It’s far more fun to just wing it, and trust me, that’s actually much easier to do when literally everyone else is doing it too.

Tacos y Tequila – I couldn’t pick just one! Tacos are my favorite food, and learning the true art of the taco has been a dream come true for me, but tasting the best tequilas in the world from the city where they originate is something I’ll also miss dearly.

Usar esto… and by “esto” I mean the Mexico-specific finger gestures used to indicate “sí” or “no”. After being confused by these finger nods for months, we finally asked what they meant, and then quickly adopted them ourselves. I can’t wait to attempt them in Quebec and see the reactions!

Viajar – Of course, one of the things I always miss when we leave a country is the easy access to domestic travel options. I LOVE seeing parts of a country that usually only locals see, and in Mexico, although it was a bit harder to accomplish, I felt equally if not more excited when I was successful.

Weather – Surprisingly, one of the things we’ll miss most is el clima de GDL. Even though it’s so far south, the high elevation means that it doesn’t get super hot, there’s minimal humidity, and the seasons are the most consistent I’ve ever experienced. We almost forgot that in most places (like Canada), you have to check the weather every day before going out – how weird!

Xolos – Seeing a xolo (or Xoloitzcuintle) in the wild, or you know, just walking down the street with its owner was something like a game for us. “Xolo spotting” we called it, and we’ll definitely miss it as well as the regal, hairless dogs themselves.

Yolo vibes – I didn’t know how else to put this, but one of the things I’ll miss most about our Mexico lives are the “yolo” vibes we’ve experienced. “Social Thursdays”, staying up late and eating tacos well into the madrugada, the calm, good-humored or tranquilo way of handling life’s problems; it felt mentally healthier and at the same time, so much fun!

Zócalos – or plazas, are a bit of a stand-in for all the incredible architecture and history that make up each of Mexico’s many beautiful city-centers. Being from a country that loves to knock things down and build anew, I’ll forever be enamored by pre-1700s buildings, of which Mexico has its fair share.

So that’s our list! As always, I’m excited to see which of these really end up being the things we crave in a year or two, but for the time being, I’m happy to spend our last week here relishing these and many more aspects of Mexican Life as we try to gather the courage to leave it all behind. Thanks again, Mexico, what an amazing experience it has been!

English is Weird

In the past, I’ve written about my struggles with learning Polish…and then Mandarin…and now Spanish, but this month, I thought I’d honor my students’ struggle instead. Just in case you’re not a linguistics freak (or language teacher) like me, I’d like to share just a few of the many reasons English can seem extremely weird (read: difficult) from a non-native speaker’s perspective. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things (and definitely my students’ least favorite things) about my native tongue.  

Crazy Spelling System

First up, unsurprisingly, is English spelling. Even if English is your first language you probably still have a bone or two to pick with whatever drunk group of academics decided “ph” looked way cooler than “f” or even with those thoughtful teachers who recited “I before E except after C, and when sounding like A as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’” …nice little rhyme, but what about “weird”, “glacier”, “albeit”, and “seize”? Of course, there are about a thousand reasons both historical and linguistic to account for this mess, but students (and most speakers) just don’t care. They’re too busy trying to work out why we still have a “b” in words like “thumb” and “debt” or why “knight” isn’t spelled “nite”. One of my favorite linguistic observations demonstrating the absurdity of English spelling is the made-up word “ghoti”. If you take the “gh” from “rough” add the “o” from “women” and finally the “ti” from “nation”, “ghoti” should be pronounced as “fish”. WTF, English.

Gender and Case in Pronouns

One of my biggest complaints with Polish was the abundance of grammatical gender and case. It blew my mind that there might be a possible 21 versions of the same word, something you don’t have to worry about so much with English. That is until you get to the pronouns. “I, me, my, mine, myself”, “you, your, yours, yourself”, “he, him, his, himself”, “she, her, hers, herself” and that’s not even mentioning retired classics like “ye” and “thou” or more modern-day usages like the singular “they/their”. It’s really a mess of various elements of gender and number with a glimpse into a defunct case system and, of course, a plethora of exceptions to any sort of pattern. And when we throw in the contractions we use (such as “he’s” and “you’re”, which can sound an awful lot like “his” and “your”), I can understand why students get a little frustrated with the inconsistency.

Easy-peasy…

All the Vowels

However, even if we put spelling and word forms aside, English is still extremely bizarre when it comes to pronunciation. Bizarre and incredibly difficult. One of the hardest things about English pronunciation is the mastering of all the vowel sounds. We all know that English has 5-6 vowels: A E I O U (and sometimes Y), but interestingly, we have between 15-20 different vowel sounds, depending on dialect. That’s why we have all the strange combinations like “ee”, “ou”, “ea”, “oi”, etc. and a bit of a crazy pronunciation game with minimal pair lists like “beet, bit, bet, but, bat, bot, boot, and boat” (go ahead and read those out loud if you didn’t already – it’s so fun!). It’s no wonder my students are worried that with a slight change in the position of their mouths they might be asking to take an extra shit rather than an extra sheet or maybe heading to the bitch instead of the beach.  >_<  

I ❤ IPA

Phrasal Verbs

Another odd feature of English is our love of function words, particularly prepositions. I remember happily memorizing a song of about 50 of them in elementary school, but as a teacher, I cringe when students ask me how they can memorize not only the prepositions of English, but the phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are the multi-word verbs that native English speakers love to (over)use: “go on”, “give up”, “find out”, “calm down”, etc. Of course, we could use “continue”, “quit”, “discover”, and “relax” instead (much to the delight of other Indo-European language speakers), but that would be way too easy! Imagine if you broke up with your significant other after breaking into their house because your car broke down all while your skin was breaking out. Phrasal verbs like “break up”, “break into”, “break down”, and “break out” are so arbitrary and annoyingly similar that many learners of English often know every word in a sentence yet still struggle to piece together the meaning – it’s almost like we’re talking in code.

All the Englishes

Finally, a bit like Spanish, there are so many varieties of English to choose from, and if you’re going for proper World English mastery, you’ll have to be aware of the many dialectal differences in grammatical features, vocabulary, and pronunciation. For example, if chatting with a Brit, you might want to avoid referring to your “pants”. When speaking to those from the US, you’d better call it “soccer” and not “football” or you’ll definitely have them confused. Canadians use the “washroom”, Australians eat “brekkie”, and even the vast majority of native speakers need subtitles to understand Scots, so good luck with that! There’s an incredible amount of regional and socioeconomic dialects in English, and it’s only getting more diverse with the vast number of international varieties and accents being added to our ever-globalizing society.

Ultimately, English (like every language on the planet) is chock-full of oddities which make learning and speaking it quite the challenge. Of course, as this has kept me employed for the last decade, I wouldn’t want it any other way! Haha! Just remember, while English can be tough, it can definitely be mastered through thorough thought, though. Cheers!