Monday, March 20, 2017

Perspective, Perfection and Paranoia

When my daughter was two and my son, a new baby, we bought a minivan for our family. It had a DVD player and the movie Frozen was at the height of its popularity. A friend of mine and I came up with the fun idea to eat frozen yogurt and watch Frozen in the van. We sat in the van in the parking lot, happily devouring our treat while watching the movie. My daughter sat in her car seat and my friend and I sat in the back row, while I nursed the baby. About twenty minutes into the movie there was a discerning knock on the door of the van. I immediately got up (baby on the boob) and opened the door. There stood a police officer. He apologized profusely and said that he had received not one, but two calls that a child was alone in the car.

I think they were about this age when we had Frozen Yogurt while watching Frozen!
DVDs in the car! It was a novelty that we had never had before. We haven't done it again. Maybe we will have to do Frozen yogurt and Frozen in the van again when we are back!
She wore her Frozen dress all day everyday.
Here’s the thing, why didn’t anyone bother to peer into the windows of the back row, or knock on the door or window? I would have answered. Why were people so quick to call the cops without first investigating? Maybe, they just wanted our parking spot? Who knows, but it seems our own safety, along with everyone else’s, is of utmost concern for many Americans today. And it seems that Americans have an opinion and concern for everything.

We recently sold a stroller on craigslist. The potential buyer had a million questions regarding the sale. How many people had owned the stroller? How many times had it been used? Did we have all of the accessories? Did we have the original paperwork? Had we replaced the hinges that had been recalled?

We were like, “ummmm, it’s a stroller not a car, and this is it. Take it, or leave it.” Even after the purchase the buyer emailed us with more questions, citing the safety of his children as his main concern.

Ah safety. Is it the fear of lawsuits or what others will think or do, that cause us to take the precautions and cares that we do? It seems to me that American culture survives within a consumer driven shadow of paranoia. Is it that our society has simply become ingrained to buy the best and safest products and hire the best specialist that we can afford? Has it all become about how to make money, how to spend it, and our status in doing both? We share articles about safety and the best products to buy on our social media pages and buy the best merchandise we can find. All in the name of; what if someone gets hurt, sick, or worse, dies? This is especially true when it comes to our families, we all have the things we pick as our top apprehensions and concerns; be it the best medicine or doctor, the soundest vehicle or the safest car seat. Many of us even hire specialists to baby proof our homes. Why is this so important? Why do we need and want all of this stuff?

This little Pueblo is quite the contrast. The homes of the local people in San Juanico are different. Most people’s businesses are adjacent to where they live, so there are often a combo or work and home related things scattered about. Many of the homes probably wouldn’t be deemed legally safe and likely coined liable disasters by the average American. The yards are full of old junk, rusty pieces of metal, random rope, lobster traps, fishing nets, barrels of water, barrels of oil and numerous other unsafe objects. The kids figure out how to play with or around the junk in the yards and are told not to play with stuff they shouldn’t. Houses aren’t baby proofed, things simply get moved when kids get into them. The thing is, some people get hurt and some don’t and it is what it is. It’s not considered abnormal when accidents occur. And there are certainly not a gaggle of adults or children missing fingers and toes due to recalled stroller hinges. If a child’s finger gets pinched in a stroller, they learn not to put their finger there. Nobody calls the cops because they see a child in a car, they knock on the window and say hello. No...wait, people keep their windows rolled down here.
This is a mechanic/tire shop/someone's home.
I think American culture has come to a space where we judge first and feel entitled to state our opinions to anyone who will listen. Why do we feel the need to be heard? Why are we so offensive? Why are we so disapproving? Even in our closest circles, we are often left defensive and stressed out. When did America become such a community of criticism?

There is a strong Ex-pat community here. Mostly retired surfers. They are all friendly enough. They appear to have found their places within the community and live sort of in the periphery of the local society. The locals here feel a lot of gratitude for the foreign influence, it provides them with jobs and perspective. But several comments were made to me by locals this past week, which left me in a reflective state.

This Pueblo is in the desert. Miles of thick cactus set against a large beautiful bay. The water is piped in from a rancho set against a cliff about twelve miles away. Water is divided between the West and East ends of town every other day. In order to have enough water, on water days, each home fills a Pila “water tank” with water. Many of the Gringos here have built houses outside of the Pueblo’s water grid.  They pay to have water trucked in to fill their Pilas.

We are staying in a beautiful home designed and built by my Father-in-Law. The house is connected to the town’s water source. Unfortunately, and sometimes customary here, we are not getting enough water. I hired Arhenis, a local man in his thirties, to fill our Pila last week. He owns a ranch with water near the town’s source. It took nearly two hours to fill our pila and he and I talked with a couple of other locals while we waited. He said something to me that resonated and left me in deep contemplation over my own perspective and my needs as an American.

“Americanos quiere todo perfecto. Quiere un cuerpo perfecto. Una casa perfecto; quiere todo perfecto. Todo muy limpo y todo nuevo, pero…porque? Porque, no les puedan vivir feliz con lo que tiene?”

“Americans want everything perfect. They want a perfect body. They want a perfect house; they want everything perfect. Everything has to be clean and new, but why? Why can’t they live happy with what they have?”

Why indeed? Why are we so concerned about spending money to make everything perfect? Why are we so image driven? Why do we think attaining stuff will make us happier? Why are we so focused on making it appear that we have it all? I think in doing so, we sometimes fail to live and be in the moment. At least, that’s one of my struggles. Living in this community is changing my perspective in many ways. I feel that I have so much to learn. It was a good question. Why are we striving for perfection and why do we have to label everything?

For example, people co-sleep here, but it’s not called co-sleeping…it’s just called living together. They squish their beds together and sleep in the same room (often the same bed) until a child turns about twelve years old. The people here are just living with the resources that they have and seem happy doing it. Nobody calls it co-sleeping and nobody is telling you how you should be doing it.

In the States there is great debate over co-sleeping and many other things. One of the first things people ask after you have a baby is, “is the baby sleeping through the night?” And, “are you co-sleeping?” Then they offer you opinion on what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. Why are we, as Americans, so quick to voice our opinions about people’s living choices and why are we so terrified of the results of potential danger and risk? Why are we so afraid?
A water pila.
I want to make clear, that I am certainly not exempt from any of these observations that I am making about American perspective.

Another local here asked me the other day, “¿Porque los Grings son tan críticos?”

“Why are gringos so critical?” I didn’t have an answer.

What I do know, is that I really feel the locals in this town enjoy their lives. After spending so many years of my life striving to keep up with the fast pace expectations of Southern California living and my own expectations of myself…I am truly enjoying slowing down, looking within and investigating who I am.  It’s really wonderful to have an opportunity to live and parent in a community that views the world from such a different standpoint than I do. And I’ll be honest, it’s refreshing to not be hearing so many opinions about how everyone should be living their lives and what products we should use to do it. It’s also revitalizing to quiet my own opinion, observe and learn how other people live.

I want to take risks. And I don’t mean big risks, I mean small ones. I am talking about letting my kid play in not so liable areas and being okay with it. I want to spend less time worrying about how they “might” get hurt and more time watching them creatively play with old tires, rusted lobster traps and half-broken worn-out toys. I want to practice letting go.

The four of us taking a risk and riding on one motor cycle around the block. 
My husband jokingly made a comment to me recently, “you just want to be Mexican!” And I say, maybe I do, for now. I want to travel the world and understand how many people live. I want to step outside of my worldview and see things with an open mind. To find the perfection in imperfection and understand what happiness means within many different cultures. Hopefully in doing so, I can understand people better and be less critical.

Preparations for the Festival De La Primavera.
I can’t wait to write about La Festival De La Primavera that’s coming up this week and share about a five-year-old birthday party we are attending on Saturday. Thanks so much for reading and sharing this experience with me! I invite you to leave a comment if you have any thoughts and "opinions" regarding the questions that I presented!

Hasta entonces, mas tarde.



  1. Sarah! So happy for you guys to be living down in Baja. A little jealous too! What a great experience for you all. I love this post and especially the photo of you four on the moto.

    Can't agree with you more about the fear of taking risks in our culture. Both living in Mexico and Guatemala definitely changed my perspective on what's dangerous and how I deal with fear. I often feel out of place here and sometimes judged for not being "careful" enough with my kids. I love your sense of adventure and your questions about risks!!


    1. Why are we so afraid of getting hurt, sick or death? I mean, I know they aren't ideal..but aren't they part of life and living?

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Barbara. Am so very grateful to have this opportunity to reevaluate my life and perspective. Am also grateful that Jesse is encouraging the kids and I to embrace motos!

      Can't wait to adventure with you guys again! Beau talks about Eli almost daily and brings up Max about once a week. They certainly left an impression on him in Punta Final!

  2. Sarah, so stoked for you guys. What an awesome experience you and Jesse are giving the ninos. Hopefully, one day I'll get down there (soon) so Taj and Dax can enjoy all that Baja has to offer.

    By the way, I ran into John the other day and he was telling me that you're definitely earning your keep. There's always work to be done in Baja right? I'm sure the place looks amazing.

    Can't wait for the next post. Until then, have a fish taco and say hi to Chino for me.


  3. Thanks for reminding me, Sarah, so eloquently, how much I love San Juanico. I enjoyed living there for many years. Since moving back to Ca. 10 years ago, it has been difficult to be satisfied with the way people exist here. Thankfully I am semi- retired & live in beautiful Mendocino but for those doing the daily grind, life is exhausting! I worry my grown children & grandkids don't have enough fun! It's true that people there are content with little because that's what they know. I am constantly sickened by the fact that here everything is about selling things. How did our nation lose sight of the importance of the best things in life are not things or the best things in life are free? I live for hanging out with my friends & family but sadly folks are too busy to get together much. Hope to get back down there someday & hang out with you & family. Say hi to Dana Luckey for me! Kate Cope

  4. awww. look at the faces of these little cute toddlers. these are looking so sweet and full of energy. thanks for sharing such a nice post.Preparations for the Festival De La Primavera were excellent.