Cute Row House or Crazy Cactus Trees? Lord, I Don’t Know

About 7 1/2 months ago we arrived in Mexico City. In a week or so, we’re headed back to whence we came, New York City, for a week-long trip.

When I first moved to Mexico, I didn’t miss New York. I’d lived there for about 5 years, and I spent a lot of time in self-imposed austerity mode (renting apartments in questionable neighborhoods, eating lots of home-cooked meals in the world’s best restaurant city, shopping at Old Navy while surrounded by fashionably dressed people). The goal of this was saving for a home, perhaps a modest row house in Astoria, Queens, with a small backyard and within walking distance to the train. That didn’t seem like too much to ask out of life, especially for two people who have worked long and hard, even if their industry happens to be editing and writing, which doesn’t make many people rich. A house is what a lot of people plan for. We would have planted lots of flowers and fed the squirrels.

We came close to buying once, but backed off at the last minute after we thought about what life would be like paying that much for a home — pretty much living without hardly any disposable income whatsoever. Because we weren’t tied down to a barely affordable property, we were able to jump at the chance to move to Mexico City when it came up. We had had great times as tourists here, loved the culture, loved the food, and knew it would be a great adventure. And so far it has.

But I’m still kind of bitter about the New York real estate situation, while also bitterly missing New York, too. And I feel guilty about being angry, because as living in Mexico will teach you, I wasn’t suffering, and I’ve got nothing to complain about compared with people who have to worry about the price of tortillas climbing along with the cost for just about every other basic subsistence food.

Every once in a while, we think about where we might go after our Mexico City time is up. I know that if we had family in New York, I’d be far more convinced of going back, despite never owning a charming one-family house. It’d almost be a no-brainer. But being in New York, when your family is in Texas and Minnesota (or a stone’s throw from those states), is a lot like being in Mexico – it’s a long flight, it’s an expensive trip, and it’s terrible to travel during the holidays. You spend a big chunk of yearly vacation seeing family. And being away from family, you never feel as though you belong, at least not quite like your co-workers or friends who have parents or siblings a quick train ride away.

So, I still don’t know where I want to go next — New York, or Somewhere Else. It’s a perpetually moving see-saw, New York: Yes!, New York: No!

I probably wouldn’t be thinking so much about going home to the U.S. if circumstances here were slightly different. It’s obvious I won’t ever get very good at Spanish, our families are still far away, I’ve gotten terrible bouts of food poisoning three times already and I can only do this work-at-home thing for so long. It’s a lot of various forms of social isolation, on so many levels, and while most of the time I cope quite well, sometimes it seems like too much.

That said, I’m not quite ready to leave, either, especially if I had more time to travel. Being able to explore Mexico is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that I’m wholeheartedly enjoying as I watch Huapango dancers swirl around the dance floor, or stare at exotic, enormous cactus trees from the bus window.

5 thoughts on “Cute Row House or Crazy Cactus Trees? Lord, I Don’t Know

  1. dregina says:

    Well, first of all, let me put in a vote for TEXAS, if I may.

    I can only imagine how hard it must be to feel unsettled in Mexico and not know what the future will bring. I’m such a planner, my anxiety just creeps up and up when I don’t know what’s coming next. Or at least *think* I know, because Plan A hardly ever happens. Anyways.

    Social isolation is tough! When I lived out on Navajo Nation for six months with Ida, who was 70 and deaf, I thought it was the mundane repetitive chores that drove me so nuts. Looking back, I don’t think the mundane parts of day-to-day life out there would have bothered me at all if I had had some people on hand to share camaraderie.

    Insane real estate prices also make me angry. Cristian’s a teacher, I have a mid-level job at one of the best funded non-profits in the world, and 90% of the houses in the U.S, are out of our price range. It doesn’t seem right.

    And all of this pales profoundly when you consider how privileged we are to be not just Americans but middle-class Americans.

    So, yeah, I feel you. I wish we could go out for a beer!

  2. Tee says:

    I’m envious of what you’ve done and the spirit in which you’ve done it. I wish I could be that spontaneous and just move to another country.

    My husband is from El Salvador and I speak Spanish, so moving to a Latin American country wouldn’t be so difficult, but all my family is here and we have 2 kids who would miss their aunts and grandparents (plus their Spanish isn’t good enough to start school in another country – though I’m sure they’d pick it up – it would be scary for them.)

    Anyway – enjoy where you are at this phase of life. It’s pretty special.

  3. nashely says:

    Ok I know this is an kind of a year later, but I’ve been reading your blogs lately and it’s very interesting. Thanks

    Well I have a little suggestion, just in case you have not picked where to live yet, I live in the Rio Grande Valley. McAllen – Brownsville Texas
    We are on the Texas/Tamaulipas border. Just an hour away from south padre, 2 1/2 from Corpus, 20 minutes from the Mexican border 🙂 fun !

    And I know how you get about people talking about violence in DF and its the same for the border cities. Believe me, I’ve been there alone.
    Four hours to Monterrey !!
    Ok I guess I’m just in love with this place and also the FOOD ! Not exactly the same as DF but still very good !

    McAllen is not New York City but would be interesting

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