Four days in Juchitán and as it turns out, my new roomies are not in the need of eating. Which is why, after having lived here for 6 months, they still haven’t felt the need to invest in things like plates, forks, any type of knife, you know, ANYTHING that makes it possible to stay alive. So today I find myself in the local Soriana, shopping for basic kitchen stuff. Again. Yet again. I don´t want to know how much money I have spent over the years on things like whisks and glasses and bowls and corkscrews, and so I am fairly divided between feeling selfishly grateful that there are supermarkets that exploit enough to be able to get me a fairly complete kitchen set for less than 50USD, and disgusted over both the process behind the products, the depressing products themselves that make Ikea feel like the ultimate luxury, and most of all, the impact that the store has had in the area. Just like any other imposed economic activity in this area, beyond all what consent is worth and with no interest in developing THIS place. Open a Wal-Mart in Juchitán, make a gringo rich. Expand the production of clean energy in Juchtián, make a Spaniard rich and give cheap electricity to the people in DF. But for God´s sake, don´t let profit stay in the zone. It´s like it is impossible not to get political over everything here, so I try to cheer myself up by repeatedly thinking “at least it’s not Wal-Mart”, until I almost believe that I am ok with contributing to the existence of this island of exploitation. I think back upon the first time that I bought my own stuff, in Guadalajara. It was such a rush to take my own-earned money and put into something as adult as towels and detergent, and had I felt so content with managing to build a first step to a grownup life with my Mexican minimum salary. I smile nostalgically at the thought, but coming back to reality: nah, this is definitely not my favorite doing anymore. But at least now I will not have to eat my dinners directly off the cutting board. Not that it hasn’t been interesting, but frankly it freaks me out that some of my friends are buying apartments while I brew coffee in a mixing bowl. Well, not doing that anymore. Approaching your 30´s (slowly, but still), there are a few standards that you need in order to feel at home. For me, the kitchen is crucial, it is PER DEFINITION home to me.
I step outside of the store and the wind immediately catches my seven ridiculously thin shopping bags carrying my new kitchen within them. The plastic flaps hard and aggressively as the Northern wind tears and tears. I have loved this wind since I first came here 6 years ago – it just penetrates any and every thought that you may have, literally blows them all away, and it makes any morning effort to look decent seem like mockery. There is something both symbolically and literally refreshing about the craziness of the strength of this wind, it reminds you how much power there is in this world, and while it maybe should make you feel insignificant and weak, for me it has the opposite effect. I never feel so present as when fighting against the Northern wind, or is it with it, I´m not sure yet. Either way it is all very liberating. This time, however, the wind has gotten a broader meaning for me. Because the truth is that without it, I would have no thesis to write. Without this wind there would be not conflict of interest concerning the vast open spaces surrounding this area: traditionally agricultural land, and at the same time the world’s third best site for wind energy. And I am only juuuuust starting to get to know this conflict. I have a feeling I will have changed quite a bit after I am done with my study here. After all, four-five months is a long time, it really is, and you learn best by living.
I’ve moved around so much by now that I have become pretty good at knowing what I need in order to feel comfortable in new places. This is why I, apart from repeatedly buying a considerable amount of cheap kitchen tools, insist on bringing empty vodka bottles, my really expensive (and not insured) loudspeakers, two types of coffee makers, a ceramic potato peeler, a thermometer, lemon olive oil and a huge ikea bag. Wherever I go. It might not make any sense from the outside that I in Costa Rica insisted looking at my thermometer everyday to establish that oh! it’s 23 degrees today, too. But what can I say, man needs to uphold certain routines, and woman too. And so whenever the airport toll people want to take my precious and senseless things away from me, oh they’re in for a good one. No one will take away this Swede´s portable safe spot just because they woke up with a bad hair day and feel like taking out their frustration on someone else.
No matter how many times you move, each time feels unique, and to a certain extent I really believe they are. But the more I move around the less sympathy people have for the excitement – and fear – that I feel facing a new change. And this time I felt rather resentment than sympathy from my friends “Oh but now you will finally get to your BELOVED Mexico”, and so trying to express doubts has not really been an option. And while every time I move, I feel like it´s scary because “this time it’s different”, this time it’s not even all that different. I have already done a thesis study in Mexico, and I have already half-ways settled down in Juchitán. I have already sat on the chair I am sitting on right now, I don’t get lost looking for the supermarket anymore. I still don’t even know 1% of the area or its people but enough to pretend to be at home. No, the unknown is not what scares me this time. Instead, I think for the first time I am facing a true identity complex. People here in Juchitán have LIVED things, and most of all, many of them have fought for their right to decide over their lives. I gave up that right a long time ago, together with all of us who succumbed under the system we live in, without even knowing that there are options. Maybe for us there are no options. But as I listen to the stories of people here, I can´t help but wondering what I did with my life the last 26 years. What marked me, what made me into ME? And considering my background, will I ever fully understand the people that have lived realities so vastly different to mine, so as to put their experiences into print in a justified manner?
I mean don’t get me wrong, I am loving how I am living my life, traveling and exploring and getting mad over injustices in the world. I have come to understand that my studies make me seem like an altruist hippie communist plotting a world revolution against the capitalist system (a collection of the things people have told me over the years), which is kind of funny if I think about who I was 10 years ago. I am not saying that this current description is in any way accurate, but I also believe that stereotypes are born out of some level of truth, although blended with a good portion of misunderstandings and misconceptions. I have never been a revolutionary type, not even ideologically, but the world as it is pisses me off, and I admire those who stand up for their rights – and standing between these positions I am now wondering what fruits I am expecting to see out of my work here. I can´t seem to visualize the goal. All in all I am stuck somewhere between extreme emotion and will to get started with my study, paralyzing fear of failing, and frustration over having to take the first step myself. If someone would just pull me over the starting line, I promise, I will do the rest all by myself!
For over two years, working as a volunteering coordinator, I have been telling people to step out of their comfort zones and I am proud to say that I haven’t been a hypocrite in this aspect at least. But I sometimes feel like I am taking this advice a little too seriously. There´s this voice in my head, ever louder, saying SETTLE THE F*CK DOWN, WOMAN. But at the same time this lifestyle feels like a calling: explore while you can, learn while you can, widen your views before you rust together and only manage to see whatever is around you. To a great extent I believe that we are a sum of our experiences, but also – and more importantly – how we manage to interpret our experiences, and I think one of my greatest fears is to be ignorant. I mean, we are all ignorant to a certain extent, you can never understand or know everything, but there is so much to this world that is worth learning about, and so much you learn about yourself when you face what you do not yet know.
In my adult life I have only briefly known tranquility, and God knows I wasn’t good at it. But at the same time I am longing, yearning for it. 6 years ago I got to randomly pick a post card with a message on it, it was a late, cold night in Guadalajara, I was sitting on the sidewalk with some friends, and a guy with a zillion post cards who wanted to spread some inspiration to the world, passed by. He stopped to chat, offered us a card in exchange for a story. I wrote down the story of an impossible love that I was struggling with at the moment, and I picked a card. I picked the right card.
Deja que el corazón te elija el mundo. Let your heart choose your world.
Since then this post card has never left my wallet, it goes with me everywhere I go. I have picked it up and read it so many times that I don’t only know the message by heart, I know what every letter looks like. As stupid as it may sound I think I have leaned back on this card written by a stranger, many times in my decisions. I am romantic enough to believe that, yes, the heart should choose your reality because the brain does not feel. And when you stop listening to what you feel, you die. Tiny bits at the time, but you die. I don´t know how many times I have locked myself into situations that seem perfect from the outside and there I have SUFFERED because it didn´t go with who I am. Talking about what you “want” is too superficial because you can want both with your heart and your head, and I believe that it is important to listen to both. But for me, that card let me understand why I at times felt miserable when there was no apparent reason to. Now, this sounds all categorical and nice, but this time – and here it goes – it´s different. I swear, by now I have over-thought my choice of lifestyle so much that I can’t separate what I want from what I should want from my life. I am longing for a stable, shallow life, buying things to decorate an apartment, having been dinner at the “usual place”, spending time at the stove experimenting with new forms and flavors. But at the same time I’m not sure I could pull it off. Maybe I need to drag my vodka bottles and ceramic peelers around for a while longer, and fill my life with stories and experiences that makes my heart want to explode.
I stare out the window and see the mango trees bend for the wind. This wind that has come to define the realities of so many people here, and to which I will dedicate the coming four or five months of their lives and mine. And all of a sudden I realize that I can spare myself some of the worrying for now. I have a task to do here, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from people that I admire even before I have gotten to know them. And so I´ll go out and let the wind blow my hair in all directions and slap my face, I will leave my clothes for washing as you do when you live somewhere, and then I will get this investigation party started. And it will be kick-ass.