Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Listen to your gut

The apartment looked like it had served as the set of the toilet scene in Trainspotting. (For those Gringa Culichi readers who have not seen Trainspotting and, thus, have just been spared a very disturbing visual, suffice to say that the apartment was less than pleasant). But for a mere $400 USD a month, it could have be mine, in all of its cockroach-infested, urine-fragranced, windowless glory.

I was apartment shopping because I was contemplating a move. And I was contemplating a move because I had temporarily been wooed by the bright lights of the big city that is Mexico City (and that’s big with a capital B-I-G as Mexico City is the third-largest urban sprawl on the planet). Even a cursory glance at my past blog entries will reveal that I’m a city girl at heart, and deeper investigation into the number of times I’ve referenced my homesickness for Chicago or my frustrations with my $38-dollar-a-day-job and country-bumpkin living here in the small mountain-top town of Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca offer further explanation as to why I’d consider such a relocation in the first place.

So when the job offer rolled in -- and when the job offer included couple more zeros at the end of the number on the paycheck than what I currently see here in Oaxaca -- I could hardly control my enthusiasm. I bought my bus ticket to Mexico City. I’d go to check out apartments and to meet my future co-workers. I’d go to feel out what my new life would be in El Distrito Federal (that’s DF locally, for what translates to Federal District in English, which is what people-in-the-know call Mexico City).

I’d be a city girl again. One of those hip chicas who call the place DF instead of one of the schmoes who call it Mexico City.

My mind was humming with the possibilities and my heart was pounding with excitement. But my gut was less than convinced. And because I refused to listen, it was forced to scream: YOU'RE SELLING OUT! All that noise stirred me out of what semblance of sleep I was able to garner on the seven-hour overnight bus trip. But I blocked my gut's message by turning up my iPod, chalking up the unsettled feeling to carsickness.

Luckily, when a girl isn’t smart enough to listen to her gut, the universe steps in to steer her in the right direction. Despite the fact that I spent the entire weekend trying to fall in love with DF, I kept bumping into Oaxaca in the strangest of places.

There was the gardener who greeted me at the door at the fancy-pants apartment buildings I’d made an appointment to see on Saturday. Waiting for the realtor to show me the place, I struck up a friendly “where ya from?” conversation with him. He wasn’t just from Oaxaca -- nope, I never would have caught a sign that subtle from the universe -- he was from La Mixteca, the region where I live, from a town that’s right next door to Huajuapan, as if such proximity were possible in a place where mountains place two-hour barriers between “neighborhing” communities. I asked him how he liked DF. He shrugged as he looked down shyly -- or maybe it was sadly? -- and poked at the dirt with his shovel. After ten years, he said, he “was still getting used to it.”

Later that day, en route to a coffee date with a future co-worker, I got lost in the maze of streets that criss-crossed the metro stop I’d stumbled off at. All of the streets were named for delicious, glamorous big cities: Londrés (London), Tokio (Tokyo), Praga (Prauge). But I was unable to find my desired address on the swanky Hamburgo (Hamburg) because I was lost, wondering around on -- you guessed it -- Oaxaca Avenue. I’d take the wrong exit out of the subway. Or had I?

The final straw came when I stopped to buy a pair of earrings from a street vendor I came across when I finally found my way to Hamburgo. The earrings consisted of colorful turquoise shapes painted on some sort of natural material -- not quite wood, not quite shell -- so I asked about their origin. The material, of course, was from Oaxaca, which, though unsolicited from yours truly, prompted the vendor to tell me how much he loves Oaxaca. That he thinks Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful places in the country. That he would leave DF in a second if he could find work in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca. Oaxaca. Oaxaca.

Listen, amigo. I’ve just come from Oaxaca. I’ve been wondering around on it for the past hour. Or, rather, I’ve been wondering around IN IT for the past year. There’s nothing for me there! Please, please. PLEASE, just let the city girl come home.

I wanted to shake him and yell at him and attempt to reason with him. But the earring vendor had spoken. And so had the universe.

Lest this blog entry begin to eerily resemble the super-cheesy plot line from Serendipity or sound like it was ghostwritten by Paulo Coelho or those new-agey people from The Secret, let me get back to my Trainspotting experience. The next day, Sunday, I marched -- my newly-acquired Oaxacan earrings dutifully dangling from my lobes -- into the aforementioned so-disgusting-it-provoked-my-gag-reflex-upon-walking-in-the-door apartment located off a busy intersection in downtown DF. This apartment represented what my DF life would be: dank, dark and dirty, full of 6-day workweeks and 90-minute subway commutes to teach English to spoiled rich kids and corporate suits. DF may wine and dine you under its sparkling bright lights, but this apartment, dimly lit by a single, naked light bulb flickering from the cracked ceiling, revealed its dark underbelly.

It’s ironic that I had to go all the way to Mexico City to buy earrings I could have just as easily bought in Oaxaca. And it’s also ironic that I had to go all the way to Mexico City to realize that the good life was actually back in Oaxaca.

I won’t be moving to DF, and, therefore, I won't be chic enough to call the city "DF." So, correction: I won't be moving to Mexico City. Call me a schmoe. But at least my gut will finally shut up.


Laura Bellido said...

I understand you so much Sara!!What you felt in Mexico City is similar to what I feel in mu city since I came back,...
Hope you´re OK :)

Quinto Sol said...

And now you cannot become a "Chilanga." I actually would like to experience "living" (vs. visiting) "el DF," but I am afraid the crime rate is way too high there for me to live in peace... the higher income would have been nice though, but with a price tag attached to it...

I am not sure you made the right decision but I support you 100% (not that you're seeking support :-))

Frank said...

This is a very real and very sad face of Mexico City. I agree with your gut, DF (I do get to call it that) might be very interesting and busy and fun, but at the end of the day, we all seek peace of mind. Congratulations!