As I mentioned in my earlier posts, the Mexican approach to life is very laidback and chilled, an ethos I have easily adapted to. I think it’s the constant heat, which is much appreciated, but this combined with my solid diet of tacos has made even the 10 minute walk to university slightly taxing. The second half of my year abroad is starting to take shape, and I’ve managed to get a 3 month internship starting in January in Buenos Aires, despite every possible thing that could have gone wrong with the interview happening. The only place I could get functioning wifi was on the patio, which led to my topless male housemates featuring in the Skype interview, with one even coming into the camera asking who it was. Luckily my interviewer saw the funny side, and all went smoothly. That just leaves me to find another placement for the remainder of the year. Life after Mexico was very much becoming a reality.
This brings me to the second part of this post. So far in the blog I have written about the ‘glamorous’ aspects per se of living abroad; travelling, new experiences, meeting new people. That’s not to say that these aren’t pivotal parts of a year abroad, but I feel it’s the slightly more harrowing moments that really test your character and strength. Perhaps I’d adapted a bit too much to the laidback lifestyle, and in doing so, momentarily forgot that I was in a very different environment, and until now I hadn’t really seen a negative side to that. My concerns prior to arrival had so far proved unfounded, but naturally such highs are tempered by inevitable lows, and sadly that’s how my last month kind of panned out.
I’ve been pondering for a while how to put this particular experience into words, as it wasn’t one single event of stupidity, but more like a recurring nightmare. I fully accept my culpability in the chain of events, but I do feel like it was one honest mistake that quickly spiralled beyond my control. I had gone to a halloween party with a friend outside my normal circle, and hand on heart I have zero recollection of the party at all apart from seeing a girl. The next thing I remember is being in an uber and then waking up with my housemates telling me that we had been robbed. I was so confused. I then went to my room and my phone was gone, and two of my housemate’s laptops had been taken, a camera, and the house speakers. ‘Who came in the house?’, ‘what happened?’. Understandably angry voices confronted me, and I wish I could have given them some information. But as I wrote earlier I really couldn’t tell you what happened.
Strangely the thief had taken my phone, money, but not my laptop or passport– perhaps because it was in a case. I received an email with an uber receipt from my house to an address on the other side of Guadalajara, a very dodgy area according to Miguel which we would be wise not to go to. We called the police who arrived in a car, and upon explaining what had happened and asking if they could accompany us to the address, they informed us that it would be in breach of the code of human rights. The only course of action we could take was to report it, they kindly accompanied all 9 of us in their SUV to the nearest bus stop to take a bus to the station. We waited for 9 hours in the heat to make a report, and when it came to our place in the queue only one of us could go in. Miguel, being Mexican and probably in a better state than I was to talk, went in and made the report. The police would come round tomorrow to take statements they told us. It was then for the first time I felt homesick, not that I missed home, but for the first time Mexico wasn’t this amazing magical place; it felt hollow, lonely, and unkind. And for that I yearned for the comfort of comfort, England, my home where I could truly escape. Knowing that leaving wasn’t an option made me grow in a way, as even in Bath the notion of home isn’t a distant one; but 30 hours of travelling to run away from anxiety seemed extreme in this case and slightly impossible given I was in the middle of term.
The following days I seldom left my room, only at times when I knew that no one would be around. The police never did come to interview us, and unfortunately my housemates didn’t have insurance, and laptops were integral to their work as architecture students. This made me feel more guilty than I did before. I didn’t know what else to do but apologise, but even hearing my own voice apologise sounded hollow and ineffective; it had no bearing on what had happened. The fact I still had my laptop was almost more annoying, as it was my fault and I just wanted to make things better. There was no quick fix solution, and there really was nothing I could do. I’m not sure that there have been other experiences in my life that have been as formative as this. There were moments where I could have, and initially did, just sit and cry. But Ama told me that things would get better. I really didn’t believe her, there are few times that I’ve felt that low and helpless. But with her and Claire and time, things started to gel together again. I lent my laptop to the boys whenever they needed it, and just kept apologising whenever I could. They were really nice people and I understand fully why they were annoyed. It taught me to not be so reckless and be more aware of the consequences my actions can have.
My own kind of chosen disassociation from my house meant I made slightly more of an effort with other people. One night I had gone out with some friends and when I got home I had a message from my housemate just saying my name. When I asked him about it in the morning he said that it was a very strange story; he and another friend had been up late working on a project when they heard someone try and open the front door with old keys. They opened the door and it was a very tall man who had an old set of house keys (we had changed them after the break-in as the thief had stolen my pair). He told them that he’d seen me that night and I had been assaulted, I’d asked him to come and check on me. He then barged past my housemates and made a beeline for my room. I was still out at the time and his keys didn’t work. He then had a cigarette with my housemates and told them that he had a date with me and so would see me the next day.
This is when I started to get slightly creeped out, I genuinely couldn’t tell you who this guy was if he was standing straight in front of me. Yet, he knew what I looked like, where I lived, and had no qualms making up fictional stories about me. I tried to shake it off, and aligned it to a bizarre experience. Life in other aspects had mostly returned to normality, and we were all enjoying our last month together before we parted ways. It was a Thursday night, and I was going to meet some English friends; when I returned from the night my door was wide open, my wardrobe had been tipped on its head, and my drawers were all opened. It was a sight that was all too familiar. I actually hid my money and valuables meticulously within other items, but they were all gone. Even the police report I’d made the first time had mysteriously disappeared from my drawer, but most importantly my passport had been taken. It was strange as everyone was in the house, but I suppose the thief had figured out the logistics of how to break locks the last time he was in the house; he had permanently damaged the front door by using force to open it.
In order to get a new passport I would have to go to the embassy in Mexico City, this was obviously a priority and to be honest I wanted to get out of Guadalajara. My room felt really unsafe and I couldn’t sleep anymore, Claire was away and said I could stay in hers but despite it being locked every noise incited waves of panic throughout my body. I decided to leave as soon as possible and booked my flight for the day after. It felt very abrupt but luckily the courses I had chosen were coursework based so I didn’t have exams to stay around for. It just meant saying goodbye to the life and people I had met over the last four months.
It’s in times of fear and uncertainty that you see who your real friends are, and I really couldn’t have asked for kinder and sweeter people to have spent my semester in Mexico with (apart from the thief). They organised a despidida, a farewell party, and my final night wasn’t a sad sleepless one, but a really great time with the people I had grown to know and love. It was the perfect note on which to leave Guadalajara, and a memory that I will always look back on.
The next morning I said an emotional goodbye to my housemates, and went to the airport with a fond affection for Guadalajara.
I know this feels like it should be the end of the post, and I truly wish it was. The following morning I had an appointment with the embassy and I woke up to message requests on Facebook. Someone had messaged me saying that he had found my passport and that we should meet in Guadalajara so I could get it back. At first I was so happy, then of course the reality dawned on me; he hadn't 'found' my passport which was locked safely in my room, it was the thief. And he'd found me through my passport. After verifying with my housemates who had met him, I knew for sure it was him. The embassy advised me to block him and forget the situation, there was nothing they could do and all that was important was that I get a new passport and get home. What really frustrated me was just that he could get away with it. I now had his name, address, and the place he worked - he was a chef as it turned out, yet the police still did nothing.
My return flight to the U.K. wasn't until December the 22nd, and so I had three weeks left in which I had planned to travel with Claire. My friends and family told me I was stupid and that I should come home instantly, but I was determined not to let my memories of Mexico be marred by this one stupid decision. In hindsight I think that the last month was maybe my favourite in Mexico, and it reaffirmed my love for it. Despite all that happened in that semester, and all the thoughtless mistakes that I made, I would do it all over again. Viva México.
One of the many beautiful beaches in Mexico