In 2009 my family moved to Mexico, and after graduating very recently, I stopped living there. Looking back at this I can now see how much fun I had with the expatriate community in my adoptive city of Queretaro. In Mexico there are a multitude of various flavors of foreigner. The Americans and Canadians make up the majority of them, with a fair number of Koreans, English, and Irish as well, and a sprinkling of assorted other diaspora to make things interesting. Every international I met viewed their stay a little differently. They really were separated into two basic categories, those who were there for what amounted to an extended vacation and those that were staying for the long haul, like my family
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Those that were there short term spent most of the time commenting on the differences between wherever they were from and Mexico, and when not occupied with that pursuit, generally playing the tourist in the "safe" areas of Mexico. By "safe" I mean the parts of Mexico that aren't too foreign, where everyone speaks English and you can get chicken fingers in the restaurants. They would frequently marvel at the daring people from the long term crowd who would risk life and limb with such fantastical feats as taking the bus to the next town over, or going to one of the mercados in the city center.
Needless to say, I mostly hung out with the long term people. People like my Mexican "tia" and her German partner, or our Turk-British friend, a BBC correspondent, who seems to have been everywhere, and met just about everyone who was ever involved with the BBC. My family and our friends were the types that were perfectly comfortable to go gallivanting off into the mountains to go and see a waterfall like Cascada Chuveje in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro, or a town of artisans like Tocuaro near Patzcuaro, Michoacan where they make amazing masks, or San Martin Tilcajete, near Oaxaca, Oaxaca where the best alebrije artists are found. We went out and saw what was known amongst us adventurers as the real Mexico, which even with its warts, is massively more fun than the spoon-fed, not- too-exotic, resort Mexico that you find in the resorts and tourist traps. To me, the real Mexico is chaotic and noisy, full of the smell of roasting meat and chiles, it doesn't come in a pamphlet or out of a tour guide, it has to be what you can go out and find for yourself.
Many of what I would consider as my most memorable experiences in Mexico are those that can only be found by going off the beaten path or by making friends with a local. One of the most fun nights I ever had was with my school, who had been invited by the Ñañu tribe to come and try their "border experience" at Camp EcoAlberto in the state of Hidalgo. The idea of the activity is to discourage young Mexicans from immigrating illegally by showing them some of the perils and just how easy it is to be caught, through a combination of lectures and an evening spent running through the woods from the "border patrol", in this case played by the local police. The irony of the fact that I was a gringo pretending to be a Mexican being chased by Mexicans pretending to be gringos became a running joke among my friends about how the evening was real, and I had become an illegal alien in their country.
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