My heart thudded as we approached the city…My first impression of Monterrey, Mexico was the beautiful array of lights blinking a “Bienvenidos!” to me as my plane cruised down the landing strip that night. The staff of the airport were very nice and made an effort to overcome the language barrier to help me get through security. Once I’d met up with my mentors from Mission to the World (http://www2.mtw.org/home/site/templates/splash.asp) and gotten on the highway, my heart finally slowed to its normal rhythm and I relaxed in my seat. Startled, I craned my neck to get a good look out the window. An open jeep carrying a group of intimidating men, federales, with automatic machine guns sped by…I was definitely not in Kansas any more.
After I’d overcome the initial shock of being in a different country, I settled down into a routine. Meet an incoming team from the U.S. on Saturday, church and a tourist trap on Sunday, volunteer work and intern responsibilities Monday through Friday and move to a different house on Saturday. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
My days were not so cut and dried as the simple routine I described to friends and family. There were days (many of them) when it was a struggle to get out of bed and start another day. There were nights (many of them) when I returned to my “home” only to discover that some other creature was calling it his home. Unfortunately, cockroaches were not uncommon, and they had an annoying habit of popping out at inopportune times, namely, in the shower.
Living in Mexico did occasionally have its perks however. As an intern, I was able to visit many places with the U.S. teams that came each week. Looking back, each is a snapshot in my mind.
“Whoosh!” My breath escaped me as I slid down the concrete slide in Chipinque on my piece of borrowed cardboard. The scenery around me was distracting as I tried to control my momentum…
“Drip.” a droplet of sweat slid off the end of my nose as I strolled down the boardwalk at the Paseo de Santa Lucia or as we gringos called it, The River walk. I marveled how a place like this could exist in a desert.
“Lick.” I swiped my tongue across my lips as I tried yet another new food. Many people love this delicacy of Monterrey, cabrito, or baby goat, but I didn’t care for the taste of it, or the price tag that accompanied it.
“Hmmm.” the pesos were burning a hole in my pocket as I mulled over the price of a colorful hand woven blanket in the market near the board walk.
“Shiver.” the cooler temperatures of the caves just outside of town were a welcome break from the scorching heat of the day.
Yes, the summer had its good times, and a lot of hard times, but I grew in leadership and faith and learned so much. For instance, tortilla presses are considered a weapon and should not be placed in carry-on bags. Flexibility is a virtue when stuck in an airport —it’s generally not a great idea to whine at people who are (or pretend to be) trying to help you. Bottled water is a great thing, and when you feel that it isn’t, Pepto-Bismol is your best friend. Monterrey is a great place to live for two months; it’s a place of wonder, excitement, and discovery. And above all: laughter is necessary to survive and thrive.
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