return of the prodigal daughter…

I guess February 17th is a special day in my existence. Three years ago yesterday, I returned from Mexico. And one year ago yesterday, I started my awesome job.!! Please take a moment to stroll down memory lane with me 🙂

howdoyousaytacoinspanish

chicago chicago

I cannot believe a whole year has passed since I left Playa del Carmen.!! One year ago on February 17th, 2013, I left Mexico and returned to my home in Chicago. The funny thing is that after almost three years living and working in Mexico, Mexico had become my home. In fact, those first few months back in Chicago, I felt like a foreigner in my own country.! I wasn’t familiar with any of the new tv shows. There was a plethora of new restaurants and bars in the city to make me feel like a social outcast.!! And I am always in the know about what’s cool and hip.!

I also felt out of step with the tenor and feel of America in general. Everyone moved faster, talked faster, and was busy with a million and one obligations. The laid back lifestyle I had enjoyed in Mexico dissolved…

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esos ojos

One of my very early blog posts about my visit to a coffee farm in Chiapas.!! Please enjoy while I’m still dealing with personal issues.

howdoyousaytacoinspanish

esos ojos

In March of 2010, I took my last class for my master’s program. Luckily for me, that last class was also a study abroad trip to Chiapas, Mexico. While we were in Chiapas, we learned about sustainable growth, indigenous rights and the history of Mexico. We met with many groups, toured non-profit organizations and visited some villages. And of course, we ate some great food – moles, tacos, chicken, etc. And we drank some wonderful coffee as there are many coffee farms in Chiapas.!

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One of the villages that most stands out for me during that trip is Nuevo Yibeljoj in Chiapas, Mexico. The town is in the highlands of Chiapas and in 2010 had a population of 595 residents. The town’s inhabitants are Tzeltal or Tzotzil speaking indigenous peoples. Many of the residents have small coffee farms in what can only be described as their backyards. The town belongs…

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return of the prodigal daughter…

chicago

chicago

I cannot believe a whole year has passed since I left Playa del Carmen.!! One year ago on February 17th, 2013, I left Mexico and returned to my home in Chicago. The funny thing is that after almost three years living and working in Mexico, Mexico had become my home. In fact, those first few months back in Chicago, I felt like a foreigner in my own country.! I wasn’t familiar with any of the new tv shows. There was a plethora of new restaurants and bars in the city to make me feel like a social outcast.!! And I am always in the know about what’s cool and hip.!

I also felt out of step with the tenor and feel of America in general. Everyone moved faster, talked faster, and was busy with a million and one obligations. The laid back lifestyle I had enjoyed in Mexico dissolved as quickly as the newly fallen snow on my boots when I walked into my heated apartment. It was gone baby gone.!! In the beginning, I resisted. I pined for Mexico. I wept for Mexico. I was homesick for Mexico. Hence, dear reader, the creation of this blog. I needed to write about Mexico if for no other reason than to keep it’s memory alive in my heart and mind and soul. The blog was my catharsis, my anodyne, and my friend.

view from my window

view from my airplane window

And it needed to be all those things because so many changes had occured during my absence. For starters, many people disapproved or did not understand the reasons I moved to Mexico. Some people thought I was going to get killed by the Zapatistas, others by drug kingpins. Other people thought I was moving down there for a boy. And while there was a man, if I had not had the prospect of a job, I would not have gone. Still others didn’t care for my reasons, they just thought it was downright stupid and reckless. Don’t get me wrong, there were many friends who supported me, but they were in the minority.

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there are two main definitions for the word prodigal. The first definition refers to a person who “carelessly and foolishly spends money, time, etc.” The second definition is biblical in nature and references “one who has returned after a long absence.” I am sure depending on who you ask both definitions apply to me. However, I don’t agree. I believe only the latter one describes me albeit minus the regretful part which is included in the British version of the definition.

sun setting over chicago

sun setting over chicago from my airplane window

In the beginning, there were days I wished I had never returned. Usually, that was any day it snowed or it was below thirty degrees.!! Which when I arrived in February was a few too many days.! I also wished I had never returned when interview after interview failed to yield me a job let alone a career.! Job prospect after job prospect amounted to the same possibility as a marriage proposal after a spin at one of those 5 minute speed dating events.! Not gonna happen.! I turned to my blog even more furiously to not only stay sane, but to reconnect with my old pal playa 🙂

Of course, there were also days, I bemoaned that I had ever moved to Mexico in the first place.! Maybe if I hadn’t gone, I would have already found a job. Then I reminded myself, it was my inability to find a job in Chicago in the first place after graduation that prompted my move to Mexico. I was only picking up where I left off, drudgingly and painstakingly applying for salvation. I also lamented over my pillaged belongings at the storage facility. I thought, if I had never left, my possessions would never have been stolen. But there is no good to be found in second guessing yourself. So I reminded myself of several very important learnings and blessings.

chicago's coastline

chicago’s coastline from my airplane window

For one, belongings are only possessions. They’re nice, but they don’t make you the person you are. I am not defined by my toaster, or my dishes, or even my shoes. Yes, not even my shoes.! I am not defined by my home. Even though several times I have referred to myself as a glorious hobo because I live out of suitcases with no space to call my own. I am also not defined by my job even though I need money to pay my way through this existence. I am still me without those luxuries. Even Tony Stark agrees with me: “You can take away my suits, you can take away my home, but there’s one thing you can never take away from me: I am Iron Man.” Ahuevo

What I am defined by is my willingness to change and grow and take risks. And I believe that I accomplished just that by moving to a foreign country by myself, getting a resident visa, and working there. I also learned the language, at least conversationally and enough to be understood. It’s amazing to me how many times I use Spanish here in Chicago in my current position. Learning a new language is a useful trait for life. And it’s a piece of Mexico that I will always retain especially since my Spanish is beautifully syntaxed Mexican Spanish.!

almost home

almost home from my airplane window

I am also defined by the experiences I had. I have seen the ruins at Palenque, Tulum, and Cobá.! I have swam with turtles in Akumal. I have seen the sunrise over the Caribbean several times.!! I have lived through Hurricane Ernesto.! I have visited small coffee farms in the hills of San Cristóbal de las Casas. I have dipped my feet into the waters at Agua Azul. I have seen the Angel of Independence in Mexico City.! I have learned some Mayan words – ko’ ox otoch (let’s go home).! I have sailed and sailed on the clear waters of the Caribe. I have seen the face of the moon shine so brightly on me that I called out to her to say hello – “hola luna, soy rosa“.

I am also blessed and defined by all the wonderful people I met.! So many good friends have crossed my path and still reside in my heart. We cried together. We laughed together. We worked together. We celebrated holidays together so far from home. We most definitely drank together.! We shared meals, stories, and heartbreak with each other. How could I now say Mexico was not worth it and that I should never have gone. How could I unmark my heart from these amazing souls I have come to know. I have a whole wonderful group of friends in Mexico whom I am sure will forever be part of my life.! Ojala.!

courtesy of chicagohoody.spreadshirt.com

courtesy of chicagohoody.spreadshirt.com

And finally, let’s not forget my blog. My blog which sustained me when I had no hope. My blog which gave me purpose when I had no job. My blog which gave me Mexico while I sat at my counter in Chicago. My blog which brought me so many other opportunities to write. My blog which reconnected me to friends from my past.! My blog which brought so many new people into my existence. How could I have survived without your love and support fellow bloggers.?! Without Mexico, there would have been no blog. No manches.!

So at the end of the day, dear reader, you be the judge. Am I the prodigal daughter as in careless and foolish.? Or the prodigal daughter as in returned from a long absence.? Whichever one I am, Chicago is currently my home. After a year of residing here, I am becoming more comfortable. I am still not thrilled with the snow or the traffic. But there are many more blessings and opportunities that have occured to make the living here possible. But Mexico, and playa specifically, will always be a siren song away from me. Siempre

Tecate takes a holiday 3

walking-away-800x400

Feliz el fin de semana.!! Happy weekend.!! Yes, yes, I know it’s not really a holiday for Tecate to take a break. But I have a three day weekend, so it feels like a holiday to me 🙂 Albeit, a bittersweet one. Why is life always full of ups and downs.? Just when you have one part figured out, another seems to require more mending or tending. This weekend I am looking for an apartment and I have narrowed down the choices to 5 places.!! I am so psyched that any day now I will have my own space again.!! Any day now, I will see my furniture and belongings which I haven’t seen in three years since I left for Mexico. The first night in my new place, I may sit on the floor with my worldly possessions (what’s left of them) and cry…. It has been a long time coming.

It’s a peculiar life to be a wanderer which I have been these last few years. Before I was so rooted, you couldn’t get me to move to a different neighborhood in Chicago. And then Mexico happened, unexpectedly. I became the complete opposite of rooted. Now I am trying to figure out how to combine those two parts of myself. The part that wants to be rooted and surrounded by her belongings and the part that wants to be free and carry only what she needs. The one thing I do know is that I don’t want to do it alone anymore. I am looking for my perfect and unexpected compliment. Someone who is similar to me and yet different enough to be challenging and keeps things spicy.!! muy picante😉 But at the same time, I want honesty and trust and intimacy and deep sharing and understanding on both sides. I want my soulmate.

Am I asking too much.? I don’t think so. It is possible. I know it is. Just like with Kahlúa.! They combined two things that you do not expect to go together – coffee and rum.! And it works beautifully. So on the eve of my finding my new home – I raise a glass to all of you and wish you amor.! Beautiful, hermoso amor. May every coffee find their rum.! And every rum find their coffee.! Unexpectedly 🙂 Besos.! Y salud.!!

Tecate takes a holiday 2

courtesy of tecate.com.mx

courtesy of tecate.com.mx

Hello Everyone.!!! Saludos a todos.!!! I hope everyone’s Christmas was all that they hoped for.! And that Santa came through in the nick of time with all that they desired.! I know that I feel truly blessed from all the lovely messages I received, the pleasant company I kept, and the presents that were bestowed upon me 🙂 This holiday may very well be one of those that reside in my memory for years to come as the year that changed it all for the better.!

With that thought in mind, one more holiday awaits us this season.! The New Year is just around the corner. This year has been a tumultuous and eventful year for me.!! For starters, I returned from Mexico.!! And I started this blog.!! This blog which brought so many new people in to my life, dear fellow bloggers, and opened up a whole new world to me. I thank you for your readership and your support.!! Moreover, this blog also brought friends from my past back into my life.! And for that I am truly grateful as well 🙂 Life altering experiences abound everywhere if you know where to look and when to accept them.!!

One of my former life altering experiences, condensed into blog form, is my time living in Mexico. And of course, all the trials and tribulations of learning the language.!! Or at least trying to 🙂 jajajaja…. One of the reasons I love Spanish is everything does sound better in Spanish.!! And if you don’t believe me, please watch the Kahlúa commercial featuring Ana de la Reguera below.! Since it’s the holidays, Tecate is taking a day off and returning next week. Plus Kahlúa was made for the holidays.!! Enjoy dear reader.! Y Salud.!!

mexico via starbucks

starbucks

I apologize for the tardiness of my blog post. I was not only very busy during my trip to Playa del Carmen, but very emotional as well.!! I stayed away much too long. I will not make that mistake again.! I have much to tell you about my trip. But I will keep it brief for this post. As you know I love coffee. Really it’s a toss up between what I love more coffee or Mexico.! They are inextricably entwined in my life. Which is one of the reasons besides visiting loved ones that I returned to Mexico.!

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I am busy working on two projects (besides the blogging) that will allow me to at least work regularly in Mexico. Thereby, allowing much more frequent visits. As well as, making a decent wage. I cannot divulge my secrets just yet, but I will give you a hint – coffee.!! 😀 I promise as soon as either project becomes more official- you my dear readers and fellow bloggers will be the first to know.!!

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For now, I just want to take you through my daily coffee salutations. I have included four pictures of my morning coffee.! There are three Starbucks cafes in Playa del Carmen and one in Playacar. Pretty much every barista knows me by name and drink (iced grande latte with vanilla). In Spanish, its helado grande latte con vainilla. If you recall from one of my earlier posts called Smoke and Mirrors, https://howdoyousaytacoinspanish.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/smoke-and-mirrors/, I almost worked for Starbucks Mexico. And even though I did not get the job due to miscommunications and downsizing, I still frequented the Starbucks cafes.

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I continued that ritual upon my return to Playa del Carmen. As you know, I was very happy to be back. It was a joyous occasion to be reunited with dear friends who have become my family, colleagues, and, of course, mi amor 🙂 I heard the phrase, “Que milagro“, on a number of occasions and was greeted with many hugs and kisses. Several times as I was walking down Quinta Avenida, I would hear someone shout my name. Only to turn around and see a friend or colleague. It was nice to be remembered.!!

0[3]

Fortunately and unfortunately due to prior commitments, I was only able to visit for a week. But I jampacked a lot of visiting, talking, catching up, laughing, and just enjoying myself that I may need to sleep for a full week.!! I will serenade you with more stories in the coming posts. Tecate will be one day late, but it’s coming.!! As you can see from my morning coffee greetings, the love goes both ways 🙂

fungus and mushrooms – it’s whats for breakfast

coffee at "el hongo"

coffee at “el hongo”

One of the most memorable meals I had in Chiapas, Mexico was in Ocosingo, Chiapas. After my study abroad class, a few of us ventured on to Agua Azul waterfalls and the ruins at Palenque. Last week, I shared those photos and stories with you.! On our way, we stopped for breakfast at this wonderful roadside diner or comedor.

Ocosingo comedor "el hongo"

Ocosingo comedor “el hongo”

It was literally just on the side of the road in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere to me..!! The name of the comedor was El Hongo or the mushroom. Hahaha.. What a great name.! Though I have also heard it translated as fungus which is even funnier.! Usually, naming your restaurant after a mushroom or fungus is not considered inviting or appetizing.!

breakfast at "el hongo"

breakfast at “el hongo”

And I have to admit I was initally skeptical. But, I followed everyone else’s lead when ordering and was more than pleasantly surprised when my food arrived. The coffee was brought to me in an adorable mug. The fragrance itself woke me up and got me excited about the day. When the meal arrived, I couldn’t wait to dig in. I had ordered quesadillas with melted cheese and, of course, mushrooms..!! There was avocado on the side and fresh orange juice. There was also a slice of melon, but I ate it before I thought to take the photo above 🙂 It was one of the best meals I have had far from ‘civilization’.

garden at Ocosingo "el hongo"

garden at Ocosingo “el hongo”

After the delicious meal, I naturally had to go to the restroom. Trepidatiously, I made my way to the back where the restroom was located. Once again, I was surprised to find this lovely garden on the way to el baño. And the bathroom turned out to be just fine too (though I don’t have a photo to show you)..!! After so many strange and scary restrooms at rest stops in the States, I was grateful to find such well kept facilities. Eventually, we had to get our belongings together and be on our way to the waterfalls and ruins which turned out to be breathtaking.! But this little slice of breakfast on a road in Chiapas was no less spectacular.!