Friday, October 30, 2020

changing with change

I moved to Mexico to wake up each morning to have no idea how I was going to get through the day.

Life in Salem was far too comfortable -- almost as if I were existing amongst the walking dead. That type of comfortable.

I wanted something more challenging in my life. And I found it in Mexico.

This is usually the point where someone asks me if I wanted life-challenging experiences why didn't I move to Havana -- or Damascus. And the answer to that is easy.

I suppose I could throw up the old F. Scott Fitzgerald trope of holding two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, but that would simply be cheating. Even though I thrive on the notion that death may be lurking around the next corner, I also like to add a bit of nostalgia to the mix. Some people regularly say that Mexico is in about the same social and economic position as the United States was 50 or 70 years ago.

I have no idea how data-driven that observation is, but it has the ring of truth for the Mexican villages where I have lived for the past dozen years. Every day here I am reminded of boys on their Huffies delivering the morning newspaper to houses nestled in oak groves.

Except there are no newspapers. The bicycles are not Huffies. And the oaks are coconut palms.

It is more an attitude than stage setting. Barra de Navidad shares the same small town your-business-is-my-business elan as Powers, the little logging town in southern Oregon where I grew up.

It is not nostalgia. By nature, I enjoy visiting large cities and digging elbow-deep into what they offer. For living, though, I truly enjoy the simple rhythms of small towns. Including San Patricio Melaque and Barra de Navidad with their "where did that come from" variety.

That is why some changes jump out at me when they occur. Like when the Oxxo convenience store was constructed in my neighborhood two blocks from the house. A change that was far more apparent on the surface than in operation. The Oxxo store now peacefully co-exists with the local grocery stores, and customers have more choices.

On Wednesday night I wandered down to Barra de Navidad's malecon. I had not been that far south on the beach for a couple of months. Maybe longer.

Everything looked as it has since the walkway was extensively re-modeled several years ago. But not everything was.

At the northern end of the malecon is a public bathroom that also offers shower facilities for those who wish to rinse the bay's residue out of their swimming suits -- or underwear. A woman sat at the entrance accepting the required 5 pesos to use the facility.

But the woman is gone. Her desk is still there, but admittance is no longer controlled by a woman who gladly shares stories of what is happening in Barra de Navidad. The bathroom has been automated. With one of those coin-operated turnstiles that remind me of my jail days.

I am a big fan of change. So, you are not going to hear me rattling on about how awful it is that the bathroom looks like a set for an Orange is the New Black episode. I am certain that there is a rational (if not good) reason for the new arrangement. Perhaps, to provide more hours of operation.

What struck me as odd was the increase to 7 pesos. Most of us, (at least, those of us in my age group) when we need a bathroom, we really need a bathroom. Under the old system I could dash past the woman and plunk down a 5-peso coin while still in flight. Stopping to dig out the proper combination of coins to order the gate to "open, sesame" has plenty of potential essays aborning.

I saw a similar bathroom setup in the bowels of la parroquia in San Miguel de Allende. Even with the correct coins inserted, the gate would regularly not work. The tourists provided a parade of amusement for the cleaning ladies inside.

The state of Jalisco, where I live, is about to enter a very weird two-week shutdown in the slim hope that the spread of the coronavirus here can be lessened. Because residents are not restricted to their homes, I will be out and about to see how that version of change affects the villages. I think I already know the answer.

But we shall see. If you stop by, I may just have some news that will affect the decision of people who are still undecided about visiting this part of Mexico.

See you then.

Oh, yes, bring plenty of change for your walks on the malecon. 

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