The hardest bit: returning home.

¿Ya casi llegamos? Are we nearly there yet? I named my blog on a whim. But where were we trying to go? When I named the blog I figured we’d be doing a lot of travelling whilst in Mexico and it was likely to be something we’d hear a lot, in English and then in Spanish. I was right. We heard it a lot but generally only on twenty minute car rides through town. Somehow our kids never really asked on the long journeys, saving it instead for every time we put on the brake driving through town. It got annoying to say the least and even the Spanish lost its novelty value eventually.

But where were we trying to go? We knew what we were leaving behind (stress, grime, Brexit, the fast-pace of UK life). I’m not sure we knew where we were going but I think we found it anyway. We found a city we love, we found a group of friends we love, we landed on our feet with a wonderful house and a great school right behind the house. And we were able to explore an incredible region that we hadn’t previously known.

What I’m trying to figure out is whether we achieved all we set out to achieve and if we can make some of the changes long lasting. First off, what did we want to achieve? Well, I guess we wanted to spend more time together, to slow our lives down, to show our kids different cultures and to learn a foreign language.

We certainly spent a lot more time together although we did enrol the kids in school eventually, partly because it felt like the best way to get them learning Spanish and partly because spending six months with two small people, no matter how wonderful they are, would be excruciating. Turns out I am not as patient as I’d like to be.

I learned though that I really do need external company. Col doesn’t particularly seem to need other people but I really do. I was lucky that in all three locations we met great people who had kids of a similar age to ours. In Oaxaca this gave us play dates and access to parks we’d never have found alone. In Tulum we had neighbours in our compound with lovely children who entertained our kids while the adults could sit and chat (ahem and drink beer). And then Merida, oh, Merida. We made such wonderful, wonderful friends there. They were my saving grace when the kids were tricky or I’d had enough of just spending time with my husband (sorry husband). I need people, specifically, wonderful, kind and fun female people who want to laugh, rant and drink with me.

We succeeded in slowing our lives right down although it didn’t always feel that way. Even though we went from two adults working full time jobs in London to neither adult working at all we still had to rush to get the kids to school in the morning and, if anything, it was actually harder in Mexico because school starts at 7.30am. We never quite got ourselves off a UK timetable so the kids were still going to bed around 7.30pm so they could be up at 6am.

It’s so hot in Merida that the hours between midday and 6pm are basically a right-off unless you’re somewhere with a pool or air conditioning. It took us a while to stop bleeting about not being able to go the playground after school but once we did, we had fun meeting friends around 5-6pm for a pre supper play once the heat cooled. We also enjoyed using our luxurious pool almost every day.

We spent our afternoons with friends, or swimming, or doing arts and crafts. We just hung out and enjoyed each other. I watched my kids grow. We were right there beside them, teaching them to swim, seeing them blossom in to far more confident kids than the ones we took from the UK. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to kick back a bit and to stop rushing. (In case that sounds all gushy, we still had to yell at the kids to get a bloody move on every time we did decide to leave the house for school or to go somewhere).

Now we’re back in the UK I doubt we’ll be able to keep our lives slower. I am not sure we learned anything we can replicate here. We could slow down because we’re lucky enough to have had time not working, not because we made significant changes to our lives. We still have to work, go to school/nursery and see friends and family.

 

The kids certainly learned about other cultures, ancient and modern. We spent a lot of our time roaming around Mexico’s incredible ruins. The kids were never happier than when they were leaping up monumental staircases or snacking at the top of them. We celebrated Day of the Dead with their school in Oaxaca and Valentine’s Day in Merida (it’s much more of a thing than in the UK). We learned how to celebrate birthdays Mexican style and the kids took part in the weekly flag ceremony at school. It is with dubious pride that I realise my kids can sing a song in which one line is ‘Yo te doy mi corazon’ (I give you my heart) to a flag. SB has picked up a hearty stereotype from somewhere (ahem) in his ‘Mexicans love that shit’ when anyone talks about sugar or sweeties/candies. I know that right now our kids don’t realise how lucky they are to have had this experience but I really, really hope it colours the rest of their lives and that they do, eventually, realise what a fabulous thing they’ve been lucky enough to do.

And Spanish. Yes. Spanish. Kids arrived in Mexico knowing some colours and not much else. On our last day in Mexico we saw the movie ‘Jefe en Pañales’(Boss Baby) and they understood it and loved it. School worked wonders with them clearly. Since we’ve been home, both kids have spoken more Spanish to us than they ever did when we were in Mexico. I guess they didn’t need to speak it with us there as they could use it all day at school but here they have no one (yet) with whom to use it. I also went with very little Spanish and have returned able to cope with life in Spanish. I know I have plenty of grammatical errors in my language but I’m getting there, I can be understood and I understand about 95% of what goes on around me. Col remains good at Spanish! He has less of a Spanish accent and more of a Mexican one now, which is nice.

All in all, we fell completely in love with our life in Merida. It’s an incredible city; it’s far safer than most Mexican cities and although it does have its downsides it also has many, many factors that made us fall in love with it.

How do we feel now we’re home? Well, a bit gutted if truth be told. I don’t think we were ready to leave at all. A week’s holiday in Oaxaca before we left was a lot of fun but it was also stressful, it wasn’t the UK and it wasn’t Merida: we were in a weird no-person’s land. The kids just couldn’t behave. I can’t even bring myself to list the ridiculous crap they pulled, but they were not a pleasure to be with. I’m sure they were feeling the uncertainty of moving and leaving all their friends behind too but it didn’t make parenting them any easier. It’s nice to see our home and we’re just beginning to catch up with wonderful UK friends and family, which will make the return easier but it just isn’t Merida. I think the issue is that we really found ourselves a proper life in Merida. We weren’t just on an extended holiday, we were living there so to all of us, it feels as if we left our home in October and uprooted ourselves and now we’ve done it again. Leaving Merida was hard. SB today was asked what he missed most about Mexico and his response was ‘school and all my friends’. ‘Nuff said.

So, ¿Ya casi llegamos? Who can say?

If you’re considering a move to Merida or have any general questions about upping sticks and leaving your home, feel free to drop me a line.

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