Sometimes, in order to move forward, you need to take a step back.
I’m about to board a flight to Mexico City where I will, with any luck, connect with my father for a few days and then embark on a months-long journey across Central America, mostly all by myself. In many ways, I expect to be going back in time. Not telephone-booth-time-machine style, although that would be A-MAZING, but in terms of tracing a gnarly little section of my roots and family history in Mexico and, I suppose, even Spain. Right now, I’m sitting in a waiting room full of mostly Mexicans and, more than anything, I wish I looked like them or sounded like them, even just a little. My hope is that a few months in latin America will help me feel like I fit into that culture, my culture, in some sort of authentic and deserving way.
If I can do it while surfing, doing yoga on the beach and taking siestas in a hammock, even better. (If I can do all of those things without bragging or being totally smug upon my return to Canada, check my pulse and give me a medal.)
Of course, my Mexican heritage is only half the story. I am born and raised a Maritimer, and pleased as punch about it. But the East Coast has been like an only child in terms of its freehold on my cultural identity and I feel like it’s probably a good thing that we all broaden our horizons a little bit and make room for a new addition. I never have to convince anyone I’m from New Brunswick – my potty mouth and pirate accent give me away without fail. But I have a much tougher time selling my Mexican lineage. The first proof I fail to provide is an ability to speak the language. I can ask for beer and go to the bathroom, which is a handy combination, but not enough to build a case for my being 50% Mexican. So, priority uno (uno = not even Spanish) is to get me some speaking skills. I’m enrolled in a language school for a week of intensive Spanish training, which sounds way more hardcore than I imagine it will actually be, and am staying with cousins who, I hope, will have some magical ability to impart 35 years worth of culture and family history in 14 days. Stay tuned.
Goal #2 is to get a tan. It will make me look more Mexican, I think. And then, for maintenance purposes, I’ll just have to either move to a place where it’s always sunny or invest in a tour bus with a tanning bed inside, like Britney Spears. (In case you’re not sure, here are a few things you can judge me for, based on the previous sentence: my alleged pro-tanning bed stance, the fact that I know how to spell Britney’s name and that she has a tanning bed in her tour bus, my initial instinct to write ‘tourbus’ as all one word and the fact that I’m anal enough to re-read and edit a blog post 3 times before publishing.)
Third on the agenda is to learn to surf. Well, learn to surf better. Like, so I don’t have to use a board made of packing foam that’s twice as big a a limosine. I know, technically, this won’t make me more Mexican, but it will make me cooler, probably, and that’s close enough.
If I add more items to my Cultural Integration Plan (CIP) I will be sure to keep you all posted. In the meantime, hasta la vista, baby! (Translation: The only Spanish I speak, I learned from an Austrian bodybuilder/American politician, or: This learning curve had better be steep.)