Creative Writing Group
Stories, tall tales and other creative writings submitted by our members and focused on life south of the... View more
Stories, tall tales and other creative writings submitted by our members and focused on life south of the border here in Mexico
Are you sure you want to leave ?
How to explain a love affair?
How to explain a love affair?
The question is one I have answered countless times over the years since making the decision to set anchor here on the Baja California peninsula.
I am sure that many like me who have made the move down here are often asked as well by friends and family north of the border. Some think I am crazy (and they are probably right) but they still keep asking me the question.
What made me move to Mexico?
Living in Mexico is not for everyone but if I were to put a profile together of those who have made their life down here and still believe it was a good decision, it would look something like this:
• Baby Boomers
• Risk Takers
• Easy Going
I seem to find some mixture of those qualities in most of the ex-pats who are generally happy with their lives down here.
Living for years along the California coastline had molded a large part of who I had become and the lifestyle I had worked so hard to enjoy. Unfortunately, it was a lifestyle that was becoming more expensive than my cash flow could afford.
Growing up in Southern California, I had made frequent vacation trips down to the Baja peninsula but living here would be a different experience and each step a story.
House hunting in Rosarito Beach for a place big enough to accommodate all of my furniture and room for Dakota, my big yellow Labrador. Moving all my stuff down and actually getting it across the border was a story in itself.
I’ll save that one for another day…
Figuring out how to get water from my “pila” and engineering a solution to a refrigerator that was too big for the space between my cabinets in the kitchen. I will never forget meeting my neighbors – the local “Señoras” of the neighborhood – for the first time.
They walked in unannounced through the open garage door bringing with them a welcome gift of a large tray of pan dulce.
They found me under the kitchen sink, cursing while attempting to hook up the ice maker, wearing only boxer shorts and a red face.
I remember how proud of myself I was when I had managed to score the best gardener deal ever, only to discover a month later that the gardener had not quoted me a rate in pesos.
Life was a daily adventure it seems in those early months as I slowly learned to acclimate to the local culture and lifestyle. It wasn’t always easy, straight forward or even made sense at times. Somehow I did get through it all, helped by so many people who expected nothing more in return than just a thank you and a smile.
Mexico is what it is and I learned that it was best to leave my American expectations and preconceived notions at the border.
Driving down here you may find that the road is not always straight and there may even be a pothole or two along the way. This is not the USA. This is not endless subdivisions of identical tract houses with strip malls at every stop-light, painstakingly designed by planning engineers who seem to have all graduated from the same school of architectural design.
This is Mexico and with all its troubles and faults, it remains a proud and independent country with a myriad of colors, flavors, designs, tastes, culture, opportunities and adventures. In all of my years here I don’t recall two days ever being the same and when I am away for more than a couple of days, I inevitably find myself longing to come back home.
Life anywhere else just seems plain and bland in comparison.
The stories of our lives are written with memories ranging from the best to the very worst and loss is a price we sometimes pay for risking to love. I will never forget an early morning phone call in April 2004, learning that Olivia – my youngest daughter of 14 – had been found unconscious in her bed and was en route to the emergency room.
I remember countless friends and neighbors from Rosarito Beach, Tijuana and Ensenada calling me every day as I stood vigil over my daughter, praying for a miracle. They were watching over my home, feeding and walking Dakota, watering the plants and even paid my electric bill when it arrived.
They had all come to know Olivia on her frequent trips down to spend time with me and they shared how everyone was praying for her. They reminded me not to worry about anything back home as all would be taken care of.
Ten days later, on a very early spring morning I was a helpless bystander in that hospital room in intensive care, watching as the breathing of my precious baby girl grew labored. I felt as though my own life slipped away as I held Olivia tightly in my arms in her final moments. She took one last breath and everything in my mind and my life just seemed to go dark at that moment.
I honestly don’t remember much about the days that followed or how I even survived.
One thing that I do remember and will always stand out, occurred days after the funeral when I returned home to Mexico. The entire neighborhood came out to receive me as I got out of the taxicab. Right there in the middle of the street, in front of my home we hugged, cried and grieved together. I don’t even remember paying the driver his fare.
Thinking back I’m sure that a neighbor must have taken care of that.
During the weeks that followed they cared for me as if I were a close family member, bringing meals, walking Dakota, spending time with me if only to listen and hold me up as I grieved. The strong sense of family here in Mexico is such an intricate element that makes up the very character of its culture and society. I never really experienced anything like that before in all my years but it felt as soothing as tired muscles slipping into a warm bath at days end.
Without even a word being spoken on the matter I was unconditionally accepted and incorporated into membership into each one of their families – to some as a brother and into others as a son.
The months passed and I learned to deal with the pain by immersing myself into my work, more and more.
I suppose that we all deal with loss in different ways and I just did what seemed to come naturally to me. It was probably just self-preservation. My routine developed into what those close to me called “workaholic avoidance”.
At least that was the official diagnosis of the Señoras of the neighborhood.
As stereotypical Latino culture dictates and in true democratic fashion, a vote was taken. And it was unanimous. This long single Gringo was going to get a wife. He may not know it yet, but he needed a wife, whether he liked it or not.
The Señoras would see to that and a parade of dinner invitations soon followed and surprisingly, there would always be a single female friend who they just “happened” to invite over. I always tried to act surprised.
Not that I wasn’t open to the idea, mind you. It was just that I had only chuckled at such scenarios in movies and sitcoms and never actually imagined myself playing the role of an “eligible bachelor”. What the Señoras didn’t know was that their husbands sabotaged their well laid out plans each time with a preemptive strike, providing me with detailed reconnaissance of what awaited me that night in the dinner date rotation.
I would get the complete profile, including her education, prior relationships, number of kids if any, her family, her job and income potential, medical history, natural hair color, what kind of car she drove, how much weight she had lost, status of her biological clock and a few other details that I’m probably not allowed to print here in keeping with forum rules and good manners.
Oh, and they would always divulge her “REAL” age – they were quite sure that I would never get an accurate count from the candidate or our matchmaker / dinner host that night.
The following morning the Señora would always find an excuse to stop by, bringing fresh cut flowers or homemade tortillas. What she really wanted was to get the complete report.
Did I think she was nice?
Did I think she was pretty?
Did I ask her for her number?
Did she give me her number?
And when am I going to call her???
It almost became a competition between the Señoras of the neighborhood as to who was going to be the winning matchmaker. I also think that some of the husbands were secretly running a pool on how long before the Gringo was finally going down.
I started keeping my blinds closed and looked out the peephole before answering the front door as life as a single Gringo in this neighborhood run by the Señoras Cartel was becoming a bit dangerous.
But as typically happens in life, love is a very difficult commodity to manipulate or manufacture, and in spite of the best efforts of those well meaning Señoras of the neighborhood, cupid was not to find his mark with this Gringo at an arranged family dinner date. To their disappointment and my great surprise it would happen when least expected…
In a cooking class in Tijuana.
A very good friend in Tijuana told me about a class to be given by a well known gourmet chef on Saturday mornings and I thought it would be fun to try something new. On that very first day of class I was trying to duplicate the flair with which Master Chef Noe Cortez worked his knife on the vegetables laid out in front of us.
Selecting an onion as a worthy opponent, I effortlessly diced it up in record time. I looked at my work with great pride but before I could impress the rest of the class with my conquest, I heard a sniffle come from across the counter top where I worked. All of my slicing and dicing had brought tears to the eyes of a lovely young woman who had been overcome by the volatile sulfur released by the mutilated onion.
Offering her my handkerchief (yes, I still carry one) I knew little at the time that my life was to change forever that day. In the months that followed, Cristina would become my constant companion and two years later to the day, my wife.
Today, our family has grown to include a menagerie of four footed children and we moved south into a home we built on the beach at la Chorera, outside of San Quintin. These days, walking together on the sandy beach below, hand in hand with Cristina I am reminded what a rich, emotional and colorful experience my life on the Baja California peninsula has been.
Cristina loves to remind me that I made her cry the first time we met.
As I look back on all my years here in Baja, it overwhelms me at times just thinking how much I have changed; somehow and without warning, I found myself blending into the very fabric of this community, society, culture and lifestyle that this wonderful slice of Mexico offered me.
I spent the majority of my life as a professional nomad of sorts, traveling and working abroad in many countries on different continents. Each destination had its own unique qualities and attraction but I always felt like an outsider in one way or another.
I probably came to Mexico with the same attitude but my life and experiences here on the peninsula changed my course forever as I woke up one day to discover how Baja had adopted and transformed me.
Here I found great kindness and acceptance from strangers after suffering an unspeakable loss. But in the face of that loss, I also found the love of my lifetime. Cristina is now my life and Olivia will forever be in my heart. La Chorera is my home and where I hope to spend the rest of my days, God willing.
Occasionally, friends back north still ask me what brought me down to Baja, all those years ago? I tell them it was the “Love affair of a lifetime”.
Open your heart and see if Baja doesn’t invite you to find true love too…