Monday, April 19, 2010

An Earth Shaking Memory

On Friday night there was a small earthquake here in Adelaide.  It was the first time that the earth moved here since 1954, and even though the quake only measured 3.5 it was the topic of discussion on Saturday.  I slept through the excitement, but the following stories brought back memories of some time I spent in Mexico City.
In 1995 I found myself floundering and jobless.  I had recently returned from teaching English in Spain, and wasn't sure what to do next.  My Aunt had a connection in Mexico City, who just happened to be looking for someone to teach English at her school.  I decided that I had nothing to loose and jumped at the opportunity.
In exchange for my working at the school, the family would provide me with a place to live and all meals.  This worked well for me since, even though I had lived alone in a foreign country, I was intimidated by the size of Mexico City.
My accommodations included a shared room with the family's daughter.  Annie and I, both in our mid 20's, hit it off well enough.  However, when I saw our room, I couldn't help but feel I had been transported back to my teenage days.  The walls were covered with posters of Pop Star Pretty Boys.  Hmmm, I would have preferred a more sophisticated decor, perhaps more in line with the rest of the house.
My new home was centrally located in Polanco, right across from Chapultapec Park.  For those of you unfamiliar with Mexico Cities neighborhoods, Polanco is on the ritzy side.  Our building may have been dull and grey on the outside, but looks can be deceiving.  I was reminded of that each time I entered the apartment from the elevator (yep, the elevator opened right into the apartment) to be faced with an original 1930's David Siqueiros painting--no posters here!
The flat reflected the rest of the life that I was to live in Mexico: maids, chauffeurs, doormen, nannies, and all of the other people that make it possible for a "household to keep running."
As much as I tried, I had a hard time adapting and assimilating to my new found riches.  I couldn't help but cringe when at dinner I was consistently reminded that Mexico has no poverty.  It was as though the people I was living with had encapsulated themselves in a glass bubble and were unable to see the world around them.  The protective barriers that had been placed around me began to suffocate me.  My only escape from my prison was when I would have the driver "take me to Church." In reality I would slip him a few bills to allow me to wander the streets of the magnificent, though poverty ridden, city.  Each time I returned from one of my secret excursions I would thank the Virgen de Guadalupe, not for delivering me safely, but for allowing me to use her as an escape.
After a probationary two months I had to make a decision.  Would I continue to live in the oppressive confinements of Mexico City, or perhaps I should say of the glass house, or was it time to leave?  I had the weekend to make my decision.  On Saturday night, I decided to stay at home and weigh my options.  Except for the maid, I was alone in the condo.  I sat on the bed listing pros and cons, when Mother Nature abruptly provided some input.  The 10 story building started to sway back and forth.  The plate glass windows began to vibrate and rumble.  A paper mache clown riding a high wheel bicycle on a trapeze strung across the room, swayed spastically from side to side.   I froze in fear as visions of the collapsed buildings of 1985 filled my eyes.  There had been a lot of recent coverage of that tragic event  since the city was currently "celebrating" the 10 year anniversary of the "big one." The visions were fresh in my memory.  I was brought back to the present as the maid ran into my room and dropped to the floor on her knees, screaming and frantically crossing herself.  I'm sure that rather than visions, she was recalling vivid memories.  When the rocking ceased, I picked up the phone and booked a plane ticket home.


  1. I guess it was just meant to be!!! Great story.

  2. WOW! - Great story - Perhaps you were being sent a strong sign from above (actually below!) - sure beats flipping a coin!

  3. Expat Traveler, thanks for stopping in. I think I made the right choice.

    Quickroute, glad you enjoyed the story. I take Mother Nature's input seriously.

  4. It was fate or destiny as my MIL would say. Your story reminds me a bit of the movie Et Tu Tambien Mama. I know the movie's main theme is something different but the movie does show how the wealthy lives in Mexico and the wide gap between economic classes.