So much has changed since my last post. I quit my job with the school (long story) so now I’m only teaching a few private classes a week. The rest of the time is spent working at our café. When we first started the business we only sold “regular” sandwiches (ham, cheese, lettuce & tomato), hot cakes, café de olla and cappuccinos from a nescafé machine. After a little while we added jellos and chili. Eventually we added hot sandwiches and chili dogs. Then we moved next door to the store Alberto’s father had started some 40 years ago. After the move we added salads and continued to expand our menu. We now have over 20 items on our menu, plus things to drink (café de olla, cappuccinos, tea, sodas and juice drinks.)
Starting next week we will have breakfast combos, all of which will include fresh orange juice. Our aim is to offer fresh, inexpensive, healthy food. Alberto says “it’s not fast food, it’s fresh food”. We also want our café to be a place for people to relax and feel welcome. There aren’t any places like ours in the neighborhood. The only place nearby that you can sit down & eat only has a bar, no tables. The places that serve food in the area serve tortas (México’s version of a sub), tamales, tacos, gorditas, pambazos, and hamburgers – all fattening with little or no vegetables.
We are the only place in the area that offers omelets, salads and pasta – plus breakfast all day. There are a few things on our menu that aren’t so good for you. (like the sandwich of french toast, fried egg, ham and manchego) But even that we try to keep as “healthy” as possible by using pam instead of butter (I know, I know, blasphemy!) and turkey ham (since it’s lower in fat and better quality). I really wish I had ingredients from the States! If I could get my hands on pickling spices and kosher salt I’d make corned beef and real ham. I bet the corned beef would knock their socks off!
Life here isn’t easy. Most people here work six days a week, often ten or twelve-hour shifts (while only being paid as if they were working eight hours). Even little ‘luxuries’ are expensive. Right now my only ‘day off’ is Sunday and it’s hard to keep it a day off. The other days are usually spent working 7 AM to 10 PM at our café or going to tianguis (kind of like a traveling flea/farmer’s market) to buy produce. I have no idea how long it will be before I can save enough money to bring my kids here or visit them. That is truly the hardest part of all.
The other difficult thing is that while I can communicate on a basic level, I’m not fluent enough to freely express ideas, tell stories and really have conversations. As a result, I don’t really have any friends here yet – and a year without friends to socialize with leaves me feeling rather isolated. Another thing that doesn’t help is my work hours (and everyone else’s). People don’t have the time to socialize here like they do in the states. Add that to the fact it’s hard to understand just what I’m trying to say (or vice versa) and it’s really not worth it for people to spend their little bit of free time hanging out with me. (don’t get me wrong, there are some very nice people here who have tried to make me feel welcome, but it’s just not the same.) I miss hanging out with my friends, going to karaoke, and a million other little things about the States. I wish there were a way to bring Alberto back sooner, but there doesn’t seem to be any hope of that. (It’s highly doubtful that we could get a Senator or Congressman to pardon him from the punishment of not entering the USA for 10 years. Without that we have to wait to re-start the immigration process.)
The one really great thing about being here is that I’m getting to know Alberto’s family. They are wonderful people and if it weren’t for this situation, I would never have gotten to know them the way I am getting to now. This experience has taught us something else: We had always thought of coming here to retire, but now we know that we DO NOT want to retire here. The healthcare system alone has convinced me that it’s not a good idea. Anyone who complains about corruption, pollution, noise, etc. in the US should really come here and live in D.F. (Distrito Federal otherwise known as México City) for a few months.
There are a lot of interesting things to see here in México and it’s good that I’m getting to learn Spanish hands-on (as frustrating as it can be at times). There are a lot of funny, quirky things about México as well. People have the belief that you should not sweep your business at night because it will sweep away the profits. Somehow if you have a plant that has thorns on it, that’s supposed to mean you have a lot of pain and suffering in your life. If you see one of the very large black moths (especially in the corner of a room) someone you know (or someone in the house) will die very soon. You should put a fountain in your business because it washes away ‘bad influences”. The list goes on & on. It is strange to me that people who are so devoutly Catholic could have such strong superstitions.