Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Yes, we know that we're a bit slow in posting Thanksgiving Thoughts since everyone in the U.S. was thankful over a week ago and the Canadians are way past that.  But hey -- we're retired.  Which, of course, is one of the things we're thankful for.  But this post is about some things that we became more aware of - and thankful for - as a result of our recent holiday trip to El Norte.  Such as:

  • Family:  So, okay, this is the time of year everyone is supposed to be thankful for family because so sayeth every television sitcom and Wal-Mart ad.  But we just spent a week with Molly's brother Rob, his husband, Tom Reynolds and everybody's favorite standard poodle Bravo during one of the most stressful events in anyone's life: a move to a new house.  And as a result, we're really thankful that they are part of our family because even during a house move - including a massive computer crash, a refrigerator that the movers couldn't fit into the kitchen and ceiling light fixtures with impossible-to-find bulbs -- they were hospitable.  And that's the best kind of family to have: kind, thoughtful and generous New York Times subscribers that serve Peet's Coffee and watch Turner Classic Movies. 
A Restaurant Thanksgiving Dinner -- 
No One Was Brave Enough To Try Roasting A Turkey In The New Stove!
  • Abracadabra:  As we arrived, the mover was leaving.  After a week of trying to find cereal bowls and toilet paper and the right light switch . . . we felt pretty good about returning to Abracadabra.  As a "house" she's really small -- but we know where the light switches are!
  • Friends:  We joined friends from Molly's university days for tea at a tea shop with a daunting sixty-some page menu of teas.  Fortunately a nice waiter helped guide us through it -- but really, it's all about the scones and the people that you like to sharehem with.  Thanks for hosting us, and being our "hub", Judy!  
  • And Helpful Friends:  Because we were afraid to ask Rob and Tom to undertake their usual chore of acting as the package depot for our internet orders of boat bits -- even people that can remain hospitable during a move have their limits -- we imposed on friends Anne and Jim Coleman to act as our mail drop.  And they even fed us when we came to pick up our nine packages!  It doesn't get much friendlier than that.  We will think of you all when our newly strengthened bimini holds firm in high winds! 
  • Living in Mexico:  We often stock up on things that are either difficult to find or very expensive in Mexico when we return to the States (see above re: nine internet orders).  For example, this trip we bought a new camera (watch for - we hope - better blog pictures), a solar panel, some stainless steel bracket thingies and a 5-inch chef's knife.  And because our time in the States was short we ended up shopping on Black Friday.  Being among our countrymen and women at their best made it much easier to return to shopping in the smaller choice marketplace of Mexico!  
  • Car-less-ness:  We sold our car this year which puts us in a small minority of U.S. residents.  Yes, we are car-less.  And a week of driving a rented SUV around the LA area has relieved us of any concern we may have had about the social stigma of car-less-ness.  True, trips to government offices in Puerto Vallarta (a one-hour bus ride on what are at times sketchy buses) and big grocery shops (a half an hour ride on the same bus line) are difficult without a car.  But walking from the marina into the village to pick up vegetables at the local market or for a late-night taco is a joy compared to driving to the mall. 
  • Spanish Language Skills:  Bryce frequently complains that the service people we meet in coastal Mexico prefer to speak English and ignore the fact that he speaks Spanish quite well.  Fortunately, Spanish speakers in LA County are quite proud of their ability to speak Spanish!   During The Brothers' Great Move Bryce spent a day working with a local handyman, disassembling and reassembling two refrigerators and moving the newer one into the house and the older one into the garage -- all transacted in Spanish. 

So, here we are - back in La Cruz and, though we miss our family and friends in the States, happy to be here.  Soon we'll post on how our boat projects are going and what our plans are for heading south this season. 

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Random Unsolicited Thoughts on Learning Spanish:  On  more than one occasion English speakers have congratulated us on trying to learn Spanish, and have added that they think it's sad that so many people that immigrate to the U.S. / Canada never learn to speak English.  We appreciate their support of our attempts to improve our Spanish.  And after struggling for two months to improve our Spanish skills we have some thoughts about why some immigrants have difficulty learning the language of their new country:
  • First - it's really hard to learn a new language!  Bryce speaks Spanish well, but he has been studying Spanish for decades.  Molly can barely make a full sentence after two months of study.  See our posts from Guanajuato about how hard it was, as mature students, to go to school for three hours a day.  And . . . we're not also busy working multiple jobs to make ends meet and/or raising children.
  • Language school or tutoring can be expensive.  We are able to pay for first-rate language instruction.  Some immigrants may not be able to.  And even if they find free instruction it may be difficult for them to travel to class (see above re: car-less-ness and buses and such).
  • We'll all use the language that's easiest when that option is available.  Immigrants often settle among people from their home country - and like the snowbirds that migrate together to the Mexican beach they can often get by using their home language.  We know Canadians and people from the U.S. that have lived in Mexico part-time for years who can't speak Spanish.  
  • Not everyone is kind to someone struggling with a new language.  Molly is constantly amazed that (for the most part) Mexicans remain polite as they listen to her butcher their language.  But it's still embarrassing to feel sub-adult when trying to communicate.  And our experience is that English speakers are not always so kind to people that butcher our language.  
In sum, we have found learning a different language to be intellectually interesting - but also, very humbling.  Our request is that anyone that has not mastered a second language refrain from judging anyone else who has not been able to.  And add to your thankful list:  the I-Translate app and the ability to buy the product that runs that app! 

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