Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Comfort Zone

There I was, sitting alone at night, knitting and starting my third season of Project Runway since I've arrived in Mexico. It's not that these aren't activities that I love--and while everyone else seems to be in the middle of midterms or finals I shouldn't be complaining at all--but I was slightly disappointed at my own boredom. It's my one semester abroad and I'm doing what I could be doing anywhere else in the world. But while I am frustrated with this, it makes me realize how hard it is to start my life anew in a foreign place.

Over the past few weeks I have been busy busy with emails, applications and interviews, setting things up for my year ahead in Berkeley. I wonder why I can't have that same commitment here: why don't I find a place to volunteer, take that salsa class, make some girlfriends? But I realized that all of the things I am setting up back home have taken a long time for me to establish. The leadership application is for the place where I have been volunteering since freshman year. My tutoring job is the result of a long history of working with children. Even my internship, which is an exciting new opportunity for me, was achieved through three years of work in my major.

The point, I am realizing, is that things don't come quickly for me. As my kindergarten teacher noted, I didn't speak at all until I could say whole sentences in Spanish. And I think I may like it better this way: my long-term, big decisions and goals are the result of years worth of labor.

But this slow nature of mine also makes it hard to simply pick up where I left off in a new place. I don't yet understand the school structure well enough to realize when I'll have time off. I am not the type of person to walk right up to someone and start a conversation. And after getting a student visa, the thought of pursuing a work permit makes my stomach churn (the process is so demanding that my friend literally threw up in the embassy). But above all, jumping right into a long-term commitment is just not in my nature.

Slowly, very slowly, I am starting to make some progress here in Mexico. Just last weekend I made my first Mexican friends who don't hit on me. I went to a futbol game. And I have been more liberated to get out of my house every other weekend and travel like never before. I have now officially been to more states in Mexico than I have in the United States, and I think for the first time, if only it were safe, I could travel alone. 

This process gives me a new appreciation for the immigrant families who have to just pick up and leave and settle in a new place. It was hard enough for me to say goodbye to all of my loved ones this January, and it's been quite a new experience to set up a life for myself in a completely unfamiliar environment. More so than finding the grocery store or learning how to debate agro-economics in Spanish, establishing myself socially has been a challenge. Because in the end, having a busy life full of good things is what I aim for.

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