Mexico calling

I realize that I’ve been keeping very quiet lately. Things have been a little crazy around here, and on top of this I am preparing for our long awaited holiday!

Tomorrow morning we will set off towards Chiapas to get a glimpse of the “real” Mexico. But I am not only looking forward to a change of scenery and some cooler weather, but also to spending more time with Mr. R. whom I hardly see anymore. And Mrs. P. is looking forward to a luxurious vacation right by the sea. Ah, a dog’s life…!

I won’t take my laptop (anyway, we wouldn’t have reception, I assume), but I promise to take a lot of pictures of the said to be stunning ruins of Palenque, the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas and the many little pueblos that are famous for their arts and crafts. And who knows, maybe we will make it all the way to our old friend the Pacific Ocean…

Beckoning?

Hasta luego! (Photo credit: mrjoro)

Until then, have a great time and “talk” to you soon! 🙂

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Mrs. P.’s got talent

Mrs. P. has a new hobby: At night when I take her for her last mini walk, she dashes out of the door – 20 seconds later she is back with an opossum in her mouth. It’s pretty impressive. And pretty gross, too.

An urban Opossum found while walking in the st...

An urban Opossum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing that you need to know about Mrs. P. is that she is the slowest and laziest dog in Mexico. You can’t just take her for a walk, you have to beg and please and wait for her to decide which direction she chooses. After having had a couple of dogs before who all attended dog school, I know that this is wrong, of course, but given that she is a very traumatized, abandoned dog, I am just happy that she sometimes dares to leave the house…

But at night, Mrs. P. forgets her fear and turns into SuperP. Clearly, one of her ancestors must have been a scenthound. SuperP. catches the opossum’s odor, moves slowly and absolutely soundless like a cat – and wham! She got it! Then she lays it down in front of our feet and waits for us to give her a treat. Luckily, she never kills the opossum, so after a minute of drooling, its tongue hanging out, and eyes rolling back in its head, it gets up and runs away. Until next day, when Mrs. P. catches it again. Honestly, if I were the opossum, I would have moved away by now, which proves that opossums are not the most intelligent of all animals.

What stuns me is that nobody ever taught our dog how to do this. It is amazing that she catches them so fast! And it is even more amazing that she doesn’t hurt them but brings them to us. Probably, she would be much happier living with a huntsman than with us, but well, she chose us, what can I do?

Casket Brochure 4

I have always wondered what makes people become undertakers. (Photo credit: Ross Griff)

But it got me thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if we were like that? I mean, everybody is born with a certain talent but it takes us sometimes ages to figure that out, right? It would be nice if we were born KNOWING what career to pursue and not having any doubt about it. I know, some little boys say they want to become a pilot, and they become a pilot. Or some little girl wants to become a singer and becomes Taylor Swift. But have you ever heard a child say that he/she wants to become a let’s say accountant? Cashier? Piano builder? Undertaker?Yes, when it comes to the cool jobs, there are always some people who know exactly what they want to be. Unfortunately, they don’t always have talent. Just think of all those really, really bad actors! Wouldn’t it be nice if those untalented, self-centered people were born knowing that they are supposed to be in the insurance industry and nowhere near the show business? On the other hand, what would people be watching then, because clearly, there would be no need for shows then like America’s got talent or American Idol or whatever they are called.

Tiara

That’s what I wanted to wear. Everyday! (Photo credit: Shelley Panzarella)

I myself wanted to become a princess. Of course. I wanted to wear pretty dresses and a tiara every day. That lasted for about a year, I guess, then I decided I’d much rather be a farmer. Which is pretty similar minus the pretty dresses and minus the crown. But you get to wear wellies all year long! Naturally, I wanted to be a vegetarian farmer, so I’d just keep all cows and pigs and chickens as pets and make my living selling vegetables. After a while, though, it became clear to me that being a vet would be what makes me happy. Only that I wouldn’t want to put down any animals. So how about a nurse? Nurse was high up on my list until I decided to become a photographer. Doesn’t make any sense to you? Sure about that? Yeah, to me neither.

Well, what I want to say is that it took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. There were so many different things I was interested in (and still are), that I always found it difficult to make a choice. That’s why I worked in so many different fields, I guess. My parents would have been very happy if I had announced, “I want to become a flight attendant” (or a pastry chef or whatever) the minute I started talking. But no, I had to go through all different kinds of phases.

Just imagine a world where everybody was born knowing what their (professional) destiny would be. And we wouldn’t need training, we would just know what and how to do it – just like Mrs. P. There would be no need for career counseling anymore, no more unsuccessful job interviews – because hey, if this guy applies for the position, that’s exactly what he is good at.

And I believe that in a way, we are born this way. If I think back to what I loved doing when I was little and what I love to do now, it’s basically the same. I was always a dreamer, coming up with some fantasy stories (or princess stories!) that I wrote down and illustrated, I was always very fond of all kinds of animals, I always loved to do things with my hands like cooking and baking, and even then, I did a lot of yogic things without knowing it. We just get very distracted and maybe influenced by media and friends and family, and all of a sudden, we are not sure anymore. Sometimes, when somebody asks me for advice as to what career to choose, I always recommend to reminisce about his/her hobbies or favourite subjects as a child. There is a fair chance that this actually might still be the right path!

So how about you? Did you really become a race driver or a top model? How much does your career differ from what you dreamt about when you were little?

How to embarrass myself

Recently, I wrote about livability of cities, and when studying the international top 10 lists, I also came across the city of Vienna. Now, as I told you, as much as I love Vienna, I wouldn’t somehow like to live there. Strange, huh? I love Vienna’s morbid charme, all those beautiful, beautiful buildings, its picturesque setting, and at last but not at least its delicious food. So why not live there?

Well, it might have something to do with a most embarrassing experience that I once had there on one of my business travels. Which brought me back to a post of one of my favourite expat bloggers The Traveling Times called “Embarrassing Moments in Travel“. You should check it out, Tara’s drugged out in London, screaming in Brasil and struggling with language moments are hilarious!

I didn’t award her the Inspiring Blog Award for no reason, and that post amongst others did inspire me. Probably, everybody who travels a lot can tell quite some stories… So what’s with my Vienna experience? Well, I was working for a prestigious cosmetics company at that time and had to visit one of our employees. She is the nicest lady you can imagine and she always took time to show me around and entertain me. That one evening, she had arranged for a dinner at one of Vienna’s at that time most fashionable and poshest Italian restaurants.

A glass of champagne

No, this was not the reason for my mishap… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We both had dressed up for this occasion and were prepared to paint the town red. The restaurant was beautiful, and my consultant was excited to see some famous people. After sharing a glass of champagne, I felt strangely lightheaded (at that time, I was still used to drinking LOTS of bubbles, so this wasn’t my normal reaction, believe me!), and by the time the starters arrived, I even felt very nauseous. However, not wanting to spoil this special evening, I digged in – and had to RUN outside where I threw up right in front of the entrance where everybody inside could see me through the glass door. Needless to say that for me the evening was over. I spent a lousy night in my hotel room praying to die right then and there. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and I could swear that some Viennese still point fingers when they see me…

I had a similar accident of “spitting it all out” on a flight to England with my mum. I was 13 at that time and terribly nervous for I was supposed to be a bridesmaid – a tradition fairly unknown in Germany. On our flight back to avoid another mishap, our friends gave me a full load of Dramamine which already knocked me out on the way to the airport. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. So there I was on the train to Heathrow, drooling, my head resting on my mum’s shoulder rolling off every now and then and upon arrival, I was barely capable of standing on my two feet. My poor mum had to drag our 2 suitcases on her own, and since probably everybody just thought that she had a misbehaved drugged out teenage daughter, nobody was willing to help. On my flight back home, I had a clear head again. And a revolting stomach. Oh well…

I also had a funny incident in Prague: Our company had a beautiful office there in a very old building right downtown. However, the lifts were kind of small, and since we had a lot of stuff to carry, we had to take it in turns. I got into the lift first and shared it with an elderly gentleman. The doors closed, and we started chatting. After 30 seconds the doors opened again – and there were still my colleagues waiting outside and we hadn’t gone anywhere. I told my colleague to wait a little longer to press the button since apparently, this was a very slow lift. The doors closed again, we continued our little conversation, the doors opened – same scenario. It happened three times, we just couldn’t make our way up, but each time I failed to notice! At the fourth time, I couldn’t help but hiss at my poor colleague what she thought she was doing. As it turned out, it wasn’t her fault. The lift only could be operated from upstairs, they had to get me up as a security measure. My “What are you DOING???” and my lift romance clearly made me the laughing stock for the duration of our stay…

Boeing 747-400 takes off from London Heathrow ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At another conference, we had been staying in Southampton, and I had decided to travel further to London to spend the weekend. When our taxis arrived to take us to our various destinations, we were all fluttering around, hugging, blowing kisses – we must have looked like a flock of colourful doves. Heel wearing doves. Of course. After I had said good-bye to everybody, I grabbed my two suitcases (there’s a lot of pressure to look stylish during a conference, two suitcases were the minimum amount of luggage you could bring for a week) and scuttled towards my cab. However, I tripped and came down really hard – elephant like. My trousers tore, my knees were bleeding like mad and that’s how I arrived at my very chic hotel in London! Luckily, the British are much too polite to comment on those things, but if the Queen had seen me – she wouldn’t have been amused!

Another time that I thoroughly embarrassed myself during a conference was when my luggage went missing. I had been doing a makeup installation in Switzerland and got a call that I had to attend a conference in England last minute. Not a problem of course for a tough world traveller. Since I didn’t have much time, I didn’t bother to change but got on the plane in my dirty installation clothes. When I arrived at London Heathrow, there was no sign of my luggage. Never mind, it would probably get there the next day. Fingers crossed. I got to the hotel, exhausted, sweaty and dirty, grabbed a Gin & Tonic with my beautifully dressed colleagues and went to bed. The next morning, I had no choice but to put on the same clothes again and walk into our conference room full of well rested, chic ladies. I felt so embarrassed that I didn’t dare to speak up, let alone walk to the front, and my luggage only showed up one week later!

Amsterdam

I didn’t care much for Amsterdam’s beauty that day. (Photo credit: maurobrock)

And my last incident that I am going to share with you happened in Amsterdam. It had been a long, tiresome day. I had flown in the very same morning on the red eye from Hamburg and was eager to get home to unwind. So I made my way to the gate, sat down and waited. Apparently, the flight was delayed since there was not boarding announcement but I was so tired, I didn’t mind, I just kept staring ahead of me trying not to fall asleep. Finally after about 90 minutes, the boarding call came, I grabbed my stuff and went to the gate where the friendly ticket lady told me that my ticket was for another airline. “So?” I asked dumbly. She said, “You must be mistaken, this is not your flight.” upon which I asked, “But where is my flight?” That lady must have thought I was the thickest person on the planet, but she very friendly suggested I should check the departure information. I pulled myself together in an attempt to make my last brain cells work and checked the display – only to find out that my gate had already closed. Nevertheless, I started running towards it and luckily, there were still people queueing up. Relieved, I got into the queue – and finally saw that this was the line for Milano! My flight to Hamburg had long left, and since there was no other flight, no train, no nothing, I had to check in at the Hilton to take the first flight the next morning. Yep, travelling is such a glamorous business!

Mexican Mythology: Duendes and Aluxes

Mexico is a country full of old myths and tales, and although more than 80% of the people are Catholics, most of them seem to believe in the supernatural. I find it fascinating and comforting to see how old Mayan believes live on, and how some traditions are being passed on from generation to generation.

Recently, somebody told me about duendes, little elves in the Latin American mythology similar to leprechauns or Scandinavian trolls. Duendes are about 20 inches (50 cm) tall and run around naked. Both male and female duendes have very long hair, and the males also grow long beards. They live in large clans in the jungle and feed mostly on fruits like figs.

English: Shoe, supposedly from a duende, at th...

English: Shoe, supposedly from a duende, at the Museo de los Duendes in Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only few grown-ups can see them – unless duendes get drunk, then they seem to lose all caution. If you catch a duende in that moment, you can keep him and have him do all kinds of chores for you. However, you have to treat him nicely and always offer him the first bite of your food in that you throw it over your shoulder. If you don’t, the duende will get angry and spoil your food. In former times, people used to have a much closer relationship with duendes and offer them food and licquor. Nowadays, with the destruction of large parts of the jungle, duendes have retreated farther away from the people.

A small relief figure on a Classic Period Maya...

A small relief figure on a Classic Period Maya Civilization olla (water) jar in Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, Belize. The figure lacks thumbs and was described by a tour guide as a mythological Duende, though this is hyperbole due to the probable Spanish origin for the Duende myth in the Americas; this figure dates to at least 800 years before the conquest and may depict a monkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, we merely sense them in the wind, sometimes we catch an unfamiliar smell or hear them whispering. But since duende language is different from ours, we cannot understand what they are saying. That doesn’t seem to bother the little children, though, to whom they are visible. Being a little mischievous and childlike, duendes enjoy playing with them. Our housekeeper A. who is always my most reliable source for all questions on Mexican everyday life, told me that her little daughter used to chat with them a lot until A. told her to stop. Apparently, children can easily become enchanted by duendes and follow them into the woods. The duendes don’t harm them, they just play with them for a while and finally let them return to their homes, but which mother fancies a supernatural playdate that might go on for days?

A.’s sister had an encounter with duendes on her wedding day: The morning they were to be married, all their papers had gone missing. Both, bride and groom, asked everybody, but nobody had seen the papers. Desperate, A.’s sister went up to her bedroom to cry and noticed a very unusual smell of mango although there was no mango tree near the house. It dawned on her, that some cheeky duende might have played a trick on her, and she started to search the bedroom. And there under the mattress were all the papers they needed to get married!

And then my student A. told me that her uncle once met a duende on his way back home from work. He was riding his bicycle through a forest, and there was this little guy standing on the side of the road, holding bunches of fish in both hands. He asked A.’s uncle whether he could mount the bike and ride with him for a while, and the uncle being a little scared said yes. The little duende was sitting behind him, clutching hard on his shoulders, but after a while he just disappeared. Some might say that a little too much tequila after a long day at work might have easily taken the shape of a duende that evening, but A.’s uncle still insists on this incident to be true. However, I am not sure whether that wasn’t rather an alux.

This is what a female alux would be wearing.

Very often, people get confused with duendes and aluxes, a Mayan spirit. Aluxes look like miniature maya people wearing the same kind of costume but are only knee high. Aluxes are visible but can take any shape and form if it serves their purpose. It is said that aluxes often stop farmers or travellers and ask for an offering. If you don’t oblige, the alux will spread illness and wreak havoc, but if you do, they will bring you good luck and protect you from any harm.

So in case one of those little guys stops you during your next trip around Mexico, you better be nice!

How livable is your city?

Recently, I was talking about livabilities of cities with my class, and to give them some more in-depth information, I did some research prior to class. (Dear students, see: Teachers actually do work.) The more research I did, though, the more confusing it became.

Those little tuck boats might contribute to Vancouver’s high quality of living, what do you think?

There are various sources analyzing pros and cons of international cities and all of them come up with different top 10. The Huffington Post e.g. declares that Vancouver is the most livable city worldwide. I can see that. Though not my personal favourite city of all, I think Vancouver is very attractive, offers beautiful housing areas, lots of fun stuff to do – and it has a Zara store which made it a highly desirable venue as long as we were living in Washington State. On the other hand, taxes are pretty high in Canada, maybe that would be a point to consider? Amongst Huffington Post’s top 10 are mostly Australian and Canadian cities apart from Vienna and Helsinki. Now as much as I like both towns, I have no idea what makes them more livable than let’s say London or Rome or Geneva.

The Economist on the other hand, didn’t even include Vancouver, instead they came up with Hong Kong being No. 1. I have never been to Hong Kong, but I would consider living there as pretty exciting, and I am sure the town has an awful lot to offer. But I also heard that pollution is a big issue, which I don’t find so terribly attractive. My fellow expats could maybe explain what is so special about Hong Kong? Apart from Hong Kong, The Economist lists 2 other Asian cities: Osaka ranks 3, Tokyo 10. And while the Huffington Post ignores all Asian cities and concentrates mostly on Australia, The Economist only includes Sydney in their top 10 as No. 5.

 

English: Stephansplatz and Graben street in th...

Without a doubt: Vienna is one of the most beautiful European cities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mercer Human Resource Consultant focuses mainly on European cities claiming that Vienna was the most livable city in 2011. Apparently, the Austrians are doing something right. Might be their delicious desserts that let people believe they’ve already gone to heaven. Would I like to live in Vienna, though? Not really, as beautiful as I find the city, I don’t quite know what makes it better than let’s say Paris or London. (No offense, dear Austrians, but after all, you are not too keen on having us Germans anyway, are you?)

To determine whether a city is a desirable place to live or not, those research companies came up with plenty of criterias. Amongst those are:

– infrastructure

– weather

– job market

– culture

– education

– international accessibility

– health system

– safety

– political and economical stability

– recreation

– public services

– housing

– natural environment

This all makes sense to me. What I don’t understand is how you can rate them. Even in my little English group, everybody had a very different idea of what was important to them. After letting them rank the criterias, the only point we all agreed upon was that safety came as no. 1. Apart from that, everybody had very different priorities.

Of course, first you need to examine whether you prefer city or country living or whether you are more the suburb type. Then it depends on your life situation: Do you have children? Pets? Are you single wanting to have a good time? My friend Miss T. e.g. finds living in Italy very desirable, since she has a soft spot for Italian men. Based on that criteria, I on the other hand would rather pick a Scandinavian city – yes, I am allowed to say that, part of my husband’s family is from Norway. However, I would always prefer the Italian cuisine to the Scandinavian… Where you enjoy to live, largely depends on both your life situation, and of course on your personality.

Café Noir Morning.

This is what makes Miss N. happy on a rainy day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me e.g. the cultural offerings of a city are vital. For my students, however, they are not. Public transport on the other hand seemed to be an issue for everybody in my group. If I asked Americans, they might not even think about public transport, since many would love to live in their cars. My friend Miss N. would probably rank weather as no. 1 on her list. She could be in the most amazing of cities – if it was raining, she’d be miserable as hell. Unless there was a very good French patisserie, that would definitely sweeten the deal for her! For me, weather is not that important. As long as I have the opportunity to put on my rainboots and go for nice long walk, I am perfectly happy.

At the end of the class, I asked my students to define the livability of Playa del Carmen. This actually is something that had been on my mind for quite some time as there seem to be 2 types of people here: Some LOVE living here and never want to leave again, and some say it’s “quite ok” for a period of time, but then it is time to move on. I fall into the latter category, as I miss all things cultural (amongst other things). I don’t love living here, but I see it as a nice change – one I need to get away from on a regular basis in order not to go completely loopy. A student of mine, a very young girl from Buenos Aires, on the other hand, wants to grow old here which came as a surprise to me, as I always considered Buenos Aires to be far more interesting than this small town.

Who wouldn’t love this Caribbean flair – at least for a certain period of time?

In short, my students found the livability of Playa del Carmen moderately to very high. They’ve got the beach, they’ve got summer all year long, there are plenty of bars and restaurants – for them, that’s perfect. A friend who moved here from Europe ranks the livability pretty low. She has two children and isn’t too thrilled about the school system, and like me, she misses cultural attractions. Then I also asked some Mexicans who came here from other parts of Mexico. They all told me that they would go back to their homes in a heartbeat. They are not very happy here, they all find it too hot, too expensive (which is a very valid point, life is expensive at the Riviera Maya), but unemployment is almost non-existent in comparison to other regions of Mexico. That’s why so many come here and get work in the tourist industry.

Taking all this into account, I believe that there is no valid solution as to how determine an international ranking. Fact is, that people who are well-off, are more likely to enjoy living in whatever city, and people who don’t have a lot of money, will always find it a little duller and are more dependent on public services. And of course, there is this unexplainable criteria: the homely feeling. Very often, you don’t know why you feel very much at home in one city, and another one leaves you rather indifferent despite its attractiveness. Luckily, we don’t all want to live in the same cities!

So how about you? Have you ever thought what makes a city livable? What makes YOUR city livable? Which criterias are most important for you?

Nominated for the Inspiring Blog Award

I was very excited to learn that Zhongguo Jumble  has nominated me for the Inspiring Blog Award – thank you so much! I can only return the compliment by saying that you, too, have truly inspired me over the past months.

Like with other awards, the nominees are being asked to share some personal information about themselves. However, having been nominated for 2 other awards earlier this year (The Versatile Blogger Award and the Sunshine Award) and therefore, having shared quite a bit with you already, I will follow  Zhongguo Jumble’s lead and instead share what inspires me.

Pippi Longstocking -The TV Series (1969)

Pippi Longstocking -The TV Series (1969) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children’s books inspire me, since they let me dive into my fantasy world once more. Especially the Astrid Lindgren books like Emil from Loenneberga or Pippi Longstocking are a treat I regularly indulge in.

Yoga. Doing yoga always gives me a new perspective as it is a wonderful parallel to life. And nothing feels more healing than seeing the world upside down for a while!

This e.g. is one of my motorcycle pictures that became a xmas card.

Motorcycle trips. We used to do those looong motorcycle trips in the Pacific Northwest, and seeing the magnificent landscape always gave me plenty of inspiration for children’s stories and also themes for my next drawings.

The arts. Painting, writing, music… I wouldn’t know what to do without them!

Cooking. I am hopeless at following recipes. Instead, I always create my own which gives me a lot of joy.

This is my hometown. Plenty of water!

Water. Sitting by a lake or river or by the sea always gives me a feeling of tranquility. I’d definitely say that water has healing qualities.

My mum. Despite having had a pretty tough and literally painful life so far, she is the most cheerful and the strongest person I know.

My dad. When he came to Germany at the age of 18, he “only” spoke Latvian, Russian and Polish – no German, no English. And although his parents couldn’t afford a fancy education, he learned fast and became a very successful business man who now speaks 5 languages! (And in Mexico, he talks in a weird freestyle Spanish that everybody understands!)

People who follow their dreams. I believe that we can do anything as long as we WANT it and are fully commited. The only boundaries we face are the ones, we create ourselves.

My initial thought was to only nominate bloggers whom I hadn’t picked before. But clearly, this is about who inpired me the most during the past few months, so I have to include some of my previous nominees:

Little Grey Box – An Australian living in London writing about everything from the joys of flying to finding your own path in the world.

American TaiTai – Always, always love her posts, no matter whether she blogs about the recent Nordstrom Sale which got my mouth watery or about finding her Mr. Rabbit.

Expat Lingo – Another expat blog of an American currently living in Hong Kong who although on the other side of the globe surprisingly seems to face very similar challenges.

Expat Alien – a truly global citizen who recently launched her first book! Congratulations! Now how is this for inspiration, huh?

The Traveling Times – An expat in good old Germany whose travels around Europe sometimes make me a little nostalgic.

But then we have Wie sagt man…? who while fighting evil German bureaucracy reminds me of why I am not so keen on going back, haha!

Clotilda Jamcracker – A hilarious blogger who regularly manages to crack me up (might be in the name) with her very unique view of the world.

Awakening – A very inspiring blog about finding your pupose in life and following your calling.

Thank you all for providing me with every day inspiration!

What children teach me at school

Recently, upon entering our school, I heard one of our kids’ groups singing the nursery song “If you’re happy and you know it”. Probably, most of you know this song but I found a very cute version on YouTube in case you don’t (and it’s worth watching anyway, the kids are so cute!).

The first line goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and when I saw and heard all children enthusiastically clapping their hands, it hit me: If you asked a group of adults that those who were happy clap their hands – do you think everybody would clap? Anybody? I believe, only a minority would clap their hands, because not many claim to be hands-clappingly, feet-stompingly happy. (It would probably be different if you asked those who want a new car or new shoes to clap – I certainly would join in!)

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors. (Photo credit: Lighttruth)

However, when I was watching the children with their bright smiles, I could tell they were really, really happy, because they were just living in that very moment. Yes, children too have their worries, and as small as they might seem to us grown-ups, they can be pretty haunting for a child. Nevertheless, when they get the opportunity to sing and dance and draw and play, they forget everything around them and are just happy. It is a shame that we forget how to do that!

Here in Mexico, most families don’t live a luxury life. From an early age on, many need to support their families in that they sell newspapers or bag groceries. You would think that therefore, European or US kids would be a lot happier but I doubt it. In our highly developed world, there is a lot of pressure, both on children and on their parents. Children attend special schools to learn a second language from an early age on, toys have to be educational, and at school they learn to be strongly competitive – everything in order to succeed later in life. Of course, we all have the best of intentions, all parents just want what’s best for their children. But whatever we do, we think about the future before we think about the present, and somewhere along the line, the carefree gaiety gets lost.

Most Mexicans (at least that’s what I experienced in Yucatan) don’t worry much about the future. They hardly think further than from morning till night. Maybe that’s their secret, because they never stop giggling and laughing, and very often it seems to me that they are much happier than we are in our spoilt lives.

To them, family is everything. Whenever they get a day off, they all get together, they pack their baskets, go to the beach, play some ball games (many get drunk, that might be the downside) and just have a good time. And they know that when something bad happens, the family will stick up for them. I for myself haven’t seen my family in a looong time, and experience taught me that in bad times, there are only very few in my family whom I can rely on. Everybody is just so busy shaping their lives to perfection without ever getting there. It seems to me that the better people are off, the more absorbed in their lives and the more isolated they become.

if you're happy and you know it

if you’re happy and you know it (Photo credit: l e o j)

If I had to name one thing that I learned here, it would be to really seize the moment. I don’t mean that we should stop paying into our retirement funds or do whatever comes to our mind no matter the consequences but I wish that sometimes, I could also become so absorbed by the moment that nothing else matters. As my wise friend Miss N. put it, we all have to find that inner child to be happy.

On a totally different note: Did I just give you a catchy song? For I for sure have one!