My mother-in-law admires the fruit for sale at a market in Malinalco while dining on Mexican gelato. That's my out-of-focus ear on the right.
Joy and her husband Brendan moved to Mexico City in October 2007, or, about a year and a half ago. We last spoke to her in October of 2008, when she was still enjoying life in Mexico City but admitting she had pretty much given up on formal study of Spanish (“Soy floja, muy floja,” she admitted to us, after the interview was over). Let’s she how’s she doing now…
Q: Joy! So good to see you again. How are things these days?
A: Good, but stressful. I’m working two jobs these days and my poor sweet Mom is grappling with an ongoing health problem — but getting better day by day! Entonces, tengo mucha prisa.
Q: No joke. So, we’re guessing the lax attitude about Spanish continues?
A: Yes, indeed. It’s not something I worry about most days, although I do spend a lot of time mentally flogging myself about it. Example: I realized, por ejemplo, that our clothes dryer is backed up with lint, and I have no idea how to translate that nor the confidence to make phone calls to get that problem solved. (Google Translate is an enormous help, though.)
Perhaps at some point I’ll reach a point where I can start taking classes again, for right now, it’s not a priority.
Mexico is nothing if not photogenic. My mother-in-law and I stand with some Judas sculptures, at the Museo de Arte Popular. (We're the ones with purse straps.)
Q: We can tell you’ve thought a lot about it, and that’s really all that matters to us (*hugs given all around*). So, on to some of your more favorite topics: How’s the traveling these days?
A: Pretty awesome, as always. I think since we last spoke, I’ve been to Oaxaca, the Yucatan, Texas, New York City and the Estado de Mexico — twice. For a while there, I was definitely traveling only on fumes, so right now I’m taking a travel hiatus, because I’m gearing up for a trip to San Francisco with Brendan! I’m hoping to feel rested once we leave for that trip, and even more rested when we get back.
I always manage to find the strays.
Q: Oooo…..San Francisco! We’ve always thought you’d like it there. It’s a “Joy sort of place” no?
A: I know. Two days in the city, and two days north of the city, with the Redwoods and the Pacific. We’re both really excited, plus we get to see our old friend, Jason, who recently finished up his time with the U.S. Marines.
Jason, Brendan and me on a road trip in '06, outside a poorly named restaurant in Uvalde, Texas.
Q: How is your homeland, Tejas, these days?
A: Same as it ever was — and that’s what I love about it. I spent several weeks in February and March in Corpus Christi, helping my Mom out and enjoying the quieter pace of life there. Last time I also got to spend some real quality time with one of my oldest friend in the world, Jenny. She’s on kidney dialysis, waiting for a transplant. We played bingo and got pedicures! A very Corpus way of having “girls’ night out” I guess. I also hung out with her while was in dialysis — my third time to do that with her, and it’s always eye opening to watch her blood get filtered by a giant machine. I’ll be back in May to hang out with my Mom on Mother’s Day.
Q: We’re keeping both Jenny and your Mom in our thoughts, by the way. We’re curious: Did you say you visited Oaxaca?
A: Yes! In this case, a picture says a mil palabras. (Joy takes out photo):
Beach perfection in Oaxaca.
Q: Oh wow, that looks incredible.
A: It was. The water was the perfect temperature, and the coral reef is right offshore. I’d throw on my snorkel — no need for fins — and float around for hours, checking out the incredible array of fish. On a basically private beach surrounded by rocky cliffs.
Q: You’re such a beach girl. How are you liking non-beachy Mexico City these days?
A: You know, today I was out running errands — and with the exception of the drunk man who made smoochy noises at me — I can’t help but think I live a sophisticated life, even though I may dress like a country bumpkin. Today I was thinking to myself “Am I the only woman left in Mexico City who doesn’t own gladiator sandals?”
Q: What? Really? Sophisticated?
A: Yes, one of the great myths about Mexico City is that it is a sprawling hellhole (check out how terrible it sounds in this USA Today article — the reporter sounds like he’s holding a grudge, no?) It’s far more accurate to say it’s too big of a city to generalize (other than it’s big).
I don’t own a car nor want one. I walk to the grocery store, I walk to the bakeries, I walk my dog down a lovely leafy path three times a day. I pass dozens of sidewalk cafes, street musicians, children having fun. It’s the sort of idealized big city life we fantasize about growing up in a vastly horizontal Texas city.
But….there are also frequent car alarms and lots of traffic/batshit insane drivers, and the people sometimes get on my nerves (especially the rich people, who would sooner die than scoot over the on the sidewalk to let other people walk by…)
And while we still haven’t experienced any crime personally, we hear terrible stories everyday.
The view from our apartment.
Q: Does it still remind you of New York?
A: Often. Although my lifestyle here is more “upper class” than it was in NYC. We rent a three-bedroom apartment with wall-to-wall windows that overlooks Parque Mexico. To have that experience in NYC — a big apartment overlooking Central Park — well, as they say here, no mames. And IF we wanted to, we could rent a big house with a big garden.
Q: But you look a little perplexed right now? Do you want to move?
A: Well, the longer I’m here, the more I realize I want to live in the U.S. again — or that’s at least how I feel right now. Whenever the weather warms up in NYC, I start to crave it like it’s a slice of chocolate cake served with a fresh cup of hot coffee. I miss my friends there, I miss taking fiction classes and I miss not ever worrying about my personal safety.
I also reallllly want a garden.
Q: So you’ll move back to NYC? And have a cool urban garden?
A: There are worse things that could happen. But at this point, we have no idea. We’re in no huge rush to leave Mexico. We’re planning a trip to a coffee plantation slash resort in Chiapas next month, and I love having that sort of travel experience at my fingertips. Chiapas! Coffee plantation! Wow. But in terms of long-range what-the-hell-are-we-going-to-do-next, we’re constantly ruminating our options — constantly.
When I start to seriously consider New York again, I remember the tiny apartments, the mice, the dirt-covered snow and the overpriced everything. So, it’s a “I have no fracking clue” sort of answer.
Q: Well, that’s OK. It’s been great catching up, by the way. And we look forward to speaking with you in October of this year — your two-year anniversary in Mexico!
A: Me too. I’ll bring you back some Chiapas coffee.
Q: You’re awesome!