Two thousand miles away lives most of my father’s side of the family, including nine of his eleven siblings. It is a difficult blessing to have family that lives far away from me while so many of my friends in my small hometown simply have family down the road. As tough as it is, I am fortunate that having family in all kinds of places allows me to travel and appreciate the details of each visit to a greater extent.
At the beginning of this month I had the opportunity to travel with my mother and father to Guadalajara for a week long visit before my spring semester began. As soon as we were off the plane, the transition into the distinctly different Mexican culture hit. The city is filled with four and a half million people and at no point in time could you doubt that. Every time I visit, it feels more crowded. However, one great contrast that I appreciate is that even though my blonde mother and I stick out like outsiders, it always feels like a safe piece of home in my heart. The news does a great job at instilling an image of danger around every corner for visitors (and even natives) within the country’s borders, yet with each visit I feel as if I am proving the news very wrong. Of course, I do take precautions to look like less of a tourist (which sadly meant hiding my camera a lot more than usual on this trip), yet the attitudes of people prove to be no less than inviting.
An unignorable thing that sticks out about Mexico is that everyone is so much more HAPPY than in American culture. Even with the everyday bustle of a crowded metropolis, there is always music playing (incredibly loud, might I add) and someone is always smiling. It seems like the constant worry that Americans seem to feel is skipped by these people. The leading news story is not how a conversation is started which results in a much more personal experiece with everyone whom you encounter. Everyone is much more present with one another than is frequently seen at home, and a visit still begins with acknowledging every individual upon arrival. A kiss on the cheek for women and children and a handshake for men assures that everyone knows their importance, and I wish I could take that norm home.
As excited as I am to see what is to come of Mexican culture, I pray wholeheartedly that the simple happiness that is ever present never fades. The value of a family and friends is important and never goes ignored. I am always reminded through my visits to Mexico that having material objects in my life and spending money in my pocket is a great privilege, but it is not necessary for a happy life. As long as I have my family and friends, I am rich. I am thankful every day that I wake up and know that my family is happy, healthy, and by my side. I owe so much of this appreciation to this beautiful culture, and I look forward to the next time that I may visit with excitement.