Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Poverty Does To People

What you are fixing to read may make you brand me as unsympathetic, callused, and cold-hearted.
But I just can't help that. So if you wish to always view me as a sweet, angelic, missionary's daughter - DO NOT READ THIS!
Because I just have to write about this! :D

Now for my introduction.

I have basically grown up in Mexico. I say that because, although I was eleven when we moved here, I do not really remember much from "our life before Mexico."
Honestly, I do not even remember much about our move down here either. I suppose I was in a daze or something. 'Cause all I remember is getting to the border and thinking, "Wow, this is the border?" See, I had imagined it completely different.
This is more how I imagined it:

Except that I imagined this bridge wide enough for a vehicle (yes, just one), stretching over a canyon, with a huge river.
Imagine my surprise when we got to the border and it was a real bridge over this little river. I was like, "Wow, no wonder it's so easy for the Mexicans to cross over illegally!

(If I were a Mexican trying to cross, I would get some scuba diving equipment! One of these days I am going to try to cross just to see if I get caught. And if I do then I will pull out my ID and say, "Hey, get your grubby paws off me! I'm an American! I just wanted to see how well y'all we're doing y'alls job!")

Anyways, so then we crossed the border. And immediately the difference just struck me in the face. It was ugly, dirty, and very poor looking. The buildings were flat and made of concrete, and they were all different colors (like bright green, orange, blue, and pink).

People were walking around everywhere. And, well, I actually used to be scared of Mexicans (I'm embarrassed to admit that now). And so I was just terrified. They all just looked like bad people (but, I mean, we were in Nuevo Laredo. Or is it Laredo? After all these years I still don't know. And that town seems pretty evil to me. It was as if a dark spirit was hanging over the place). They all looked strung out on drugs!

And I remember we walked around on the Mexican side of the border waiting for the man who was supposed to be there to bring us to Toluca.
What I don't remember is meeting the man, getting in the van, and driving about twenty hours to Toluca. It's as if that part is missing from my brain. I must have slept the whole way or something.
Next thing I remember is waking up and being told that we had arrived. I looked out the window of the Plymouth, Voyager, and to my dismay saw a dirt road. It was a bumpy ride. The "road" was full of huge holes.

We came to this place surrounded by four walls. And built into the front wall was a gate. The gate was opened and Pancho (the man who brought us here) drove our van inside. We were greeted by several different people. And the people who had been in our church in KY, but had returned, were there. I was relieved to see them.

We were ushered inside an orange house, with pink walls inside, to eat.
It was some sweet bread and some hot milk with cinnamon in it. I had never tasted anything so disgusting in my entire life. I started gagging (nobody saw me, of course). And I asked dad if I had to eat it because I didn't like it (and in our house we've never been forced to eat something we don't like). Well, he made us eat it because he said they'd get offended if we didn't. (Because of my memories of that first meal, I have yet to try that bread again, so I don't know if I'd like it nowadays).

Everything was just different. The water tasted different. The milk (in a carton) tasted different, and nasty. All of the food made me want to barf. Everything even smelled different!
And I didn't understand a single word that anyone said. If I were to show you the diary that I had from back then it said, "I want to go home! This is NOT my home. Kentucky is my home!" (Well, I feel different about that now! Hehe).

I was homesick. I was very sad. And most of all, I just hated the food! I mean, my dad may be Hispanic, but I grew up eating white people's food! Haha! And so I had never even eaten stuff like "mole" before.

(I remember there was this lady from KY that we always loved. Sis. Maria. She was French. Well, my mum told her that us kids just couldn't stand the food down here, and so she sent us a box of things from the US. I don't think I had ever been so happy before that in my life!)  :D

Anyways, I saw all of this through a child's eyes, a child's perspective. Nobody around here really liked me when I was younger. Because I was very withdrawn. I refused to speak Spanish (after I began to understand it). Mexico wasn't my home and they weren't my people.

Now here I am nine years later and this is like home to me. They feel like my people. I feel more at ease here than I do in the US. I know the people, and they know me. I still don't really care for the food, but I can at least eat it now without gagging (most of it anyways), and sometimes even enjoy it. And Mexico doesn't smell funny to me anymore! :D

But my whole story has brought me to this one point, which will lead us into what this post is really about.
The point: I have lived here a long time, so I am used to it.

Since I have lived here I have seen lots of poverty. Some people around here live in cardboard shacks. Some people live on garbage sites, just waiting to hit the jack pot from something someone threw away. People beg on street corners. And there are tons of people around with only one leg, or they're supposedly blind. You see little kids who look grungy and you know that they're poor.
Well, after a long time of seeing this it just becomes the norm. You don't really think anything about it anymore (and, besides, some people aren't really that poor, they are just lazy. And some are even out there faking an injury just to get money. So you never really know who's for real and who isn't).

The reason I am saying this is because today I went to the store with my dad. Well, we get out of the store and walk to the car. And that's when I saw this little, old, lady. She looked really shabby. Well, she's always at that store. And she always walks around outside. She's not a beggar, per se. But she walks around to everyone who walks out of the store, trying to sell them these cloth thingies that people use to wrap their tortillas in around here.
This lady always comes up to me to ask me every single time we go to that store. And, well, after awhile it starts to get old.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike "poor people" or anything. But, seriously, there's a way to "beg" and a way not to "beg" (at least in my head there is). And that also applies to selling.

So today when I saw her out there I said, "Oh no!" And I ran to go get in the car so that she wouldn't be able to ask me (and totally ignored the fact that I should help my dad put the groceries in the car). Well, that didn't deter her at all. You know what she did? She walked over to my window and starts saying, "Senorita, please, won't you buy one of these?" 

Well, the first rule of Mexico is: NEVER look at anyone who's selling anything, unless you want them to think you are interested. That means that anywhere you go you divert your eyes and act like you don't even see them. So, basically, you just ignore everyone around you (And if you go to the Central de Abastos, a big market, you walk through without caring and bump into people. Because, if not, you will never get through the crowd of people). Hehe!

So my first mistake was that I looked out my window at the lady (but I felt like she would think I was a rude, better-than-you, person if I didn't look ... and I hate feeling that way because, well, I am supposed to be a loving Christian. LOL). So I looked. She was using that "pitiful eyes" look, staring at me with missing teeth and a craggy face.

And, well, the sad truth is that after you've lived in Mexico for awhile you learn not to be moved by that sad look. Because if you gave money to everyone ... you would be living under a bridge, starving. You might feel a little twinge of guilt about it, but, I mean, it really can't be helped.

Anyways, to be polite, I looked at her. I smiled and I shook my head no, thus, indicating that, no, I did not want to buy one. Well, this is where the bad selling part comes in.
She asked me again. And I shook my head no, again. So that was when she should've walked away. But she just kept asking so then it was time for phase two. That's where if the person keeps asking after you said "no," you just turn your head away and ignore them. So I did just that. And you know what?! She just stood there and stared at me.

I could feel her unfaltering stare. I was starting to get really uncomfortable. But she just kept standing there. Well, then my dad, my saviour, came back (he was returning the cart) and said, "She doesn't have any money." Whew! Got out of that one!

Does it mean that I am evil for not feeling bad for not buying something from someone who's obviously poor? Give me your opinion! I mean, I think you would freak out too if some old lady was staring at you through your window, trying to pressure you into buying something. Hahaha!

But I suppose that is what poverty will do to you. It will make people do crazy things! It will make them stare you down in your car just so you'll give them a couple of pesos! :D

Anyways, so that was just my day. And the experience I had today. I thought I'd share it. Because I just want to write about things that happen quite often to me (ONLY IN MEXICO).

Peace, Love, & Mexico!

P.S. Some people have asked if this was the official place to get news from the Loa's in Mexico. And, no, it is not. Because if it were it would be way more boring! I just started my blog to sort of document the things that happen to me here. Because I figure that someday I will enjoy re-reading/remembering it all. And I figured it wouldn't hurt to let people see it in the meantime!

P.P.S. Everything I write on this blog is the way I see Mexico (my point-of-view, as they call it). So if you think I am rude, evil, violent, mean, judgemental, uncompassionate, unduly harsh, picky, radical, controversial, weird, or a lunatic ... I am very sorry!

Man, I hate that I always have to write a disclaimer! Hehe.  ;)


Elias said...

Great post, I think everyone can respect your sincere honesty...
"so you never know who's for real and who isn't" It's true, you just don't know...Sometimes I give when I can, out of compassion..Over here tho, they usually just use it for drugs, alcohol, etc. Your not a bad person, you were polite. You don't have to buy it.

Have a good day!


Dacia Loa said...

Okay, thanks for not thinking I'm a bad person! Hehe! But you are right, a lot of people do use the money you give them for things that we do not agree with!

Mary Frances said...

Of course your NOT a bad would be easy for people to judge you when they are HERE and you are THERE!!! :)

Dacia Loa said...

I suppose so! :D