Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Being There

Anyone who spends longer than a week or two vacation in Mexico knows that it's not what you do with your time that's important, it's who you do it with. Connecting with people is what is most important in this country, being there, definitely, for life's big events, but even more important, being present for the small daily stuff that ultimately determines the quality of human life. The guy who shows up each morning to sweep the main plaza in La Penita, Oscar who comes regularly to service the pool and water the plants, Josefina and Marta who arrive like clockwork to mop the floors and keep the cobwebs and dust under control, the man who runs out with the dolly to help the fishing boats over the sandbar into the ocean -- every last one is needed, and if they don't show up, they're missed.

"No one will miss me," is not an acceptable excuse for missing one of life's big events, either. Even if wedding receptions appear to be little more than "sitting around," you can bet that if you're not there, notice will be taken. Far from being a social pressure thing, there's something precious in the importance imputed to each individual. It's nice to know you're valued, an essential part of the social fabric, and there would be a hole if you weren't there. A party at Thomas Bartlett's Hacienda La Penita a few weeks ago is a good example.

The occasion was wishing a friend Godspeed on a healing journey -- to let her know we loved and supported her through the challenge she's facing. A large group gathered under the palm trees, shared pot luck finger food, and circled together for prayers and affirmations for our friend. But most of all, we just "sat around."
The important thing for our friend was for us to be there.

On a more mundane level, a group of us needing an excuse to get out of the house on a regular basis, have started meeting for breakfast Tuesday mornings at La Casita, a local restaurant in La Penita. When the weather gets hot, I for one tend to go into hermit mode. It's good to emerge and make contact with real live people from time to time.

La Casita is run by recently-divorced Irma and her daughter Ceci, and our morning gatherings offer a good opportunity to support these women in their new enterprise. They're always surrounded by brothers, grandchildren, and other family members who drop by.
Irma's ex-husband got the restaurant they used to run together. It was situated in a prominent location at the end of the main avenue right next to the market place. It did a bang up business and was always crowded. Irma's new place is out of the way on a side street. You have to know where it is to find it, but it's slowly being discovered. It's worth the hunt! The standard breakfast of two eggs, beans, tortillas, bacon (or ham or "winis") is 25 pesos. A tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice will set you back another 15 pesos. But I've grown very fond of an avocado sandwich on whole wheat that's not on the menu. They make it up specially. I told Ceci last week they HAD to start charging more than 15 pesos for that sandwich, especially when they add bacon to it. She was protesting the size of the tip the five of us had left, which basically equalled the amount of the whole check. But we want these women to stay in business! We want them to be there.

Besides, you never can tell who will drop in to La Casita for breakfast. This morning there was a Green Angel.
These are the guys who are dedicated to helping distressed motorists on the highways and toll roads all over Mexico. They aren't volunteers; the program is federally funded. They carry water, motor oil, extra gasoline, jumper cables, and all are trained for medical emergencies. The service is free, aside from the cost of oil and gas the traveller may need to replenish his vehicle. Tips are probably welcome, but always optional. Those of us at breakfast agreed, Los Angeles Verdes are just one more example of a society where watching out for each other gets a high priority, where being there is the most important thing of all.

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