Toto, We’re Not in Kentucky Anymore

31 Jan

You know you’re not in Kentucky anymore when you wake up to find your coffeemaker colonized by some tiny species of ant. It had been ant-free the night before, and, as usual, I’d put in the water and coffee so I could press the button and go back to bed while my magical elixir brewed itself (oh happy day, this electricity thing!). Alas, dead ants were swimming in my coffee. Live ants were swarming the machine. Ants were struggling to survive in the water part in the back. It was just another day in Puerto Escondido. These things just didn’t happen to me in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lots of other havoc and mini-disasters did happen in Kentucky, though (like when I moved into an apartment with fleas. Bleck!) There’s no perfect place, just like there’s no perfect relationship, no perfect person. Here, I don’t worry about tornadoes every time it storms (and it rarely even storms), which is a great relief. There are no watches and warnings to keep updated on, no tornado sirens to fuel a panic attack. Instead, however, I keep abreast of the hurricane forecast from May to November (the rainy season). Earthquakes are also more frequent here than in my hometown, and don’t even talk to me about the possibility of tsunamis (terrifying!).

Mostly I love the two-season system (rainy and dry), although I miss the leaves changing in the fall. I miss the excitement of taking the plastic off of my windows in the spring (cheap insulation), but you don’t have to get excited about a warmish day when you haven’t been bummed out and trapped inside for 3 or 4 months.

What’s funny, though, is how some countries’ seasonal status quo becomes the dominant, normalized thing worldwide, even when it’s not the slightest bit relevant. Take snow on Christmas as an example. Pretty much every single image about Christmas shows snow or snowflakes or Santa in his winter outfit or whatever. Yet snow is only even possible in half of the world, since the other half is in the hemisphere where it’s summer in December. Then there are all the other places without those kinds of seasons- like here. Whenever things like spring come up in my classroom activities I have to not only translate it but also describe what it actually means, because the four seasons mean diddly squat to my students. Needless to say, it’s never going to snow here for Christmas. There are no chimneys, either, so I guess Santa just has to break in. Perhaps that’s why so few people get excited about Christmas around here.

It got me to thinking about all the things that are and will be so different for my kids growing up here, different from how things were for me in Kentucky. Not just seasonal things, but cultural and political things, like the lack of emergency vehicles. The only time we hear sirens is when some religious pilgrim group has taken charge of an ambulance and is using it to parade through the town.

I knew my kids were living a totally different reality when I rode a wild-ish ride at a fair with a 7 year old. Not only are there no official rules about how tall you have to be to ride rides, there is essentially no regard for safety (which, you know, tends to be more fun, until someone gets seriously injured). We were on this ride pictured below and the apparently teenaged boys controlling the ride are jumping up onto the ride and manually spinning us around so we go faster. It was fantastically fun, and it would never, ever, ever happen in Louisville, Kentucky. If it did there’d be a big public outcry and possibly lawsuits and everything would get shut down after the first time it happened.

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I rode this ride with a 7 year old who was not at all impressed.

Or there’s the way people in Kentucky assume that we must live out in the country (we don’t!). Perhaps it’s because all the animals in our “farm animals” book roam around our neighborhood (except pigs). Really, different neighbors boast sheep, goats, tons of chickens, and now a couple cows, in addition to the mean old dogs. And yet we live right behind the biggest public university in town, inside what’s more or less a small city.

Of course, it doesn’t help convince people we live in a city when I tell them about the lack of sidewalks, and the dirt road we live on. And yes, I hate that Lucia can’t just go outside to the sidewalk to practice on her roller skates or her bike. I hate that using a stroller is an extreme sport. It’s not like that in all neighborhoods in Puerto; lots of areas have at least paved roads if not sidewalks, but it is part of our family’s reality.

Then there’s much more stuff that’s neither good nor bad, just different from how I grew up. Like not leaving the house without mosquito repellant, but shoes being optional. Yes, I know, there’s that image of us Kentucky folks with no shoes, and indeed, I spent summers running around barefoot sometimes. But you can’t go inside ANYWHERE without shoes in Louisville. Here, it’s no problem if your flip flop blows out or your heel comes unglued from the heat or you just didn’t feel like fighting with the kid to get their shoes on. You can go to restaurants, supermarkets, just about any damn where without shoes and nobody cares.

Here, we check our shoes for scorpions before we put them on. We take showers with cold water (so much better for your skin!). Fresh coconut is a routine part of our diet. There’s no fast food but there are lots of street vendors with bicycle carts to sell you all kinds of junk food. There are so many differences that seem so normal to me now, three and a half years since our move. I’m looking forward to comparing notes with my kids when they’re older- their childhood versus mine. Assuming, that is, that we don’t get blown away by any hurricanes or devoured by ants before then!

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Ice cream carts like these even make it to the most remote neighborhoods, to the beach, wherever! All kinds of junk food vendors LOVE to post up outside of schools, of course.

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These kinds of carts are the common (and cool, in my humble opinion). 

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Homemade street food can include healthy options like fruit, jicama, popcorn, or super fried (and yummy) crap like chicharrines or pork rinds

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