anxiety, aspergers, autism, changes, culture, education, gangs, ideas, living abroad, philosophy, politics, travel, violence

¡Viva Mexico!

close up of red white and green country flag
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

The Original Intention

Mexico wasn’t my first option of places to live when I left Vietnam. My original plan entailed moving to Chile. I spent several months putting together an Excel spreadsheet with a list of countries. I conducted extensive research. I would give each nation X amount of points in every category. I ranked them with at least forty factors. Among those were cost of living, safety, crime rate, air pollution, universal healthcare, importance of religion; distance from Russia, the Middle East, the United States, China, and North Korea; fragility of state, economic stability, corruption, female-to-male ratio, life expectancy, etc. I was very thorough and went the whole nine yards. At least I thought I did. I’m talking OCD accuracy. I was driving myself mad trying to find the most suitable country. At the end I tallied up the points. Anywhere that ranked lower than Thailand was eliminated. That was where I set the bar. Ukraine, Indonesia, and Bolivia got crushed in no time. The winner was Australia while Uruguay came in second place. Both were over my budget, so Chile came next in line.

Changing the Routine

Mexico was on the shortlist but not in the top five. There was still Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Brazil ahead. I came here under the assumption I would save enough dough to move to Chile eventually. That plan has been at the very least postponed if not kiboshed. Mexico was a backup plan as I couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Chile. It costs more to fly to South America from the United States than it does Asia. At least that’s how it was at the time. This was in the middle of the winter which was summertime in South America. That it was the opposite season might have been a contributing factor. Regardless, I improvised along the way. I moved to Merida, Yucatan, under the recommendation of Jacobo – an old acquaintance. My biggest priority was safety and security. My main complaint is that the weather is the same as Southeast Asia. It’s bloody stinking hot and humid ten months out of the year. It has the exact same climate as Thailand and Vietnam. My other grievances are there’s too many stray animals here. Nobody neuters or spays their pets, and the dating pool seems too slim.

Don’t Blame Jacobo

Merida is a very conservative city and one of the Catholic church’s biggest strongholds. The majority of Yucateca women marry and have at least one child by age 25. That to me was disappointing. Jacobo had no way of knowing I was looking for a significant other, so don’t blame him. I said I wanted to live somewhere inexpensive that isn’t crime ridden, and that’s where Merida popped up. Jacobo meant well when he suggested that. He was being a good friend. It’s my fault for not doing more research or asking which city in Mexico had the best dating pool. Had I known then what I do now, I probably would have gone to Guadalajara. I knew all along Latin America was more amenable towards someone like me. Hispanic cultures tend to be more forgiving and understanding about mental health than East Asian ones. I don’t know about Mexico, but I’m told they’re cool about it in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and other places. I’ve not had any issues with Mexico in that department. All I can tell you is it’s more autism-friendly than the Far East.

The Tour of a Lifetime

I’ve taken advantage of opportunities during my time here. The tour I took during the vernal equinox still gives me goosebumps. I went with a group to Dzibilchaltun and visited the Temple of the Seven Dolls. The aperture to that structure aligns perfectly with the sun during the spring equinox. After that, I explored Izamal – the Yellow City – and climbed the tallest pyramid in Mexico. It reminded me of the time I experienced Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. Never in my life had I seen so many yellow buildings. I was afraid I’d get jaundice had I stayed much longer. The third stop entailed Xcajum Cenote – a natural waterhole. Those things I find mystical. The best and last part was Chichen Itza – an anthropologist’s wet dream. I didn’t realize it was an entire park not just that castle in the middle. Not only was I in awe of the Mayan ruins; I was blown away by the sun shadow forming a snake along the staircase. I got nostalgic because the Mayan artifacts reminded me of Thailand and the time I journeyed through Ancient Siam. The only difference was there were no reclining Buddhas at Chichen Itza. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.

Tales from the Dark Side

Day in and day out, I hear horror stories about Latin America. I don’t live in Juarez or Tijuana for crying out loud. Yes, I’ve seen Scarface, Traffic, Miami Vice, El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Man on Fire, and other crime dramas. I’ve watched every episode of Breaking Bad, Narcos, and El Chapo, too. Most of those incidents occurred during the 80’s and 90’s. Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993. Chapo Guzman got convicted and placed in a prison from which he can’t escape. What the skeptics don’t know is those tall tales you hear about Latin America regarding the drugs, kidnappings, and whatnot also happen in Southeast Asia where I lived three years. They don’t call them cartels in that region because there’s no cocaine. They do however have heroin, opium, and methamphetamines. Those organizations are labeled merely drug rings, but it’s all the same in the end. There’s several reasons why nobody knows or hears about the Asian underworld. The obvious being they’re far removed from the United States across the globe. Another is they’re not flamboyant like Medellin and Sinaloa were. They do their activities surreptitiously and fly below the radar like the Cali cartel did.

Mexico Doesn’t Scare Me

I’m not afraid of Mexico City, either. I’ve been battle-tested after living in Thailand in Vietnam. Bangkok is one of the dodgiest cities on Earth. Mexico City can’t be any worse than Bangkok I tell myself. There are significant Russian and Ukrainian communities there and Saigon, and I’m certain they bring heavy hitters from Moscow and Kiev. Many Japanese expats live in both locales much of whom I suspect are Yakuza. I’ve stated I watch the same movies all the ‘experts’ have. I’ve even seen American Gangster based on a true story. Denzel Washington played Frank Lucas, an African-American kingpin in New York City during the 60’s and 70’s. Lucas smuggled heroin into the United States through coffins of fallen Vietnam War soldiers. There’s a street in Saigon called Bui Vien where people get zapped out of their minds on drugs. The police are there facilitating it making sure nothing gets out of hand. Thailand is one of the worst places on the planet when it comes to child sex trafficking. Many child predators travel to Southeast Asia as sex tourists because they know the governments are so corrupt, and there’s nothing anyone can do. I lived there when they busted Jared Fogel, the pitchman for Subway. I was also there during the bombing at Erawan Shrine. My inbox was flooded over the next day because my family and friends worried I might have been blown to smithereens.

Same Song, Different Dance

There’s nothing terrible I’ve heard about Mexico that I haven’t already about Thailand or Vietnam. The only things I’m worried about are crooked landlords, pickpockets, shady expats, and petty scams. I know how to handle those folks after living in Southeast Asia. I was robbed by the traffic police at gunpoint in Vietnam. My passport was stolen there without further ado. I’m better equipped to act accordingly. Mexico doesn’t seem that bad to me because I came mentally prepared. The second time the police tried to shake me down in Vietnam, I knew what to do. I took a semester of German in college. Many of the corrupt cops speak English, but I’ll bet none know German. That’s what I deduced how to handle them. I know they’re after my money, that they think all the expats are rich, and that they can intimidate me. They’re not going to waste their time seeking an interpreter and risk getting exposed. Most criminals aren’t as slick as they think they are. Nine times out of ten, they take the quickest and easiest route to get what they want with minimal exposure. I’ve studied a lot about criminal psychology during my off-time. I’ve read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. One of the main tenets of that piece is know your enemies. That’s why I now take off my shoes and hide my money in my socks whenever I travel with lots of cash and put only a small amount in different pockets. I might even get two wallets; one with a trifle of notes and throw it the opposite direction should I be mugged and give myself enough time to run away in zigzag patterns so the thug’s bullet won’t hit me should he/she decide to shoot. I may even walk around with my hands in my pocket. I’d rather the ladies and others think me shy and insecure than vulnerable.

I See Your True Colors Shining Through

That said, I no longer use taxicabs but only Uber. I don’t trust the former after living in Bangkok. The majority of scams the Viets have tried to fool me with I caught onto living in Thailand. Many hucksters at Ben Thanh Market got offended whenever I called them out. They thought I was stupid and didn’t know what they were doing. Little did they know, they would try the same shtick at Pat Pong Market in Bangkok. I wasn’t afraid to tell them I could see through them. I may be overstating things, but I imagine the same is true about Mexico City and other megacities in underdeveloped countries. I’ve learned how to mind my surroundings and always have my guard up. Therefore, I’m not afraid of Mexico City, Medellin, or anywhere else.  My bullshit detectors have been amplified ten-fold after living in Southeast Asia. I never buy things on the street unless they have price tags. I figure they’re knockoffs or the vendors want to play me for a sucker and overcharge me. As far as the organized crime goes, I suspect those guys are smart enough not to do their business in the open. As long as you use common sense and exercise caution, you should be safe. I don’t plan to go looking for them.

Much Ado About Nothing

I’m not worried about being kidnapped when I visit Cancun or anyplace else, either. Do you really think I’d be here if I felt someone might abduct me? First of all, the US State Department would ban all travel to Mexico if it was that unsafe. Secondly, I’d notify the embassy consulate before I do that. Third, I’d post a status on social media letting everyone know where I’m headed. Fourth, I don’t come from a wealthy family like Natalie Holloway, so my captors wouldn’t gain much from the ransom. Fifth, most of those take place up north near the border not down south where I am. Sixth and finally, I’d give my family, friends, or whomever specific instructions to contact the embassy and every news outlet they can if I’m not seen or heard from within a week. I have a game plan for events like this. Imagine how it would look if all over CNN or FOX News the headlines said, “Autistic American Male Missing in Mexico.” You think Donald Trump won’t heat up the propaganda machine and try to start a war with Mexico to beef up his campaign for the 2020 election or use that as a wild card to convince voters in swing states Mexico is full of murderers and rapists to divert everyone’s attention away from another recession? For all we know, his administration may use the ICE detainees as collateral damage in retaliation. Knowing Trump, I wouldn’t put it past him. Most smart criminals don’t want to draw that kind of attention.

They’re Not All Bad

The only bad things that happened since I’ve been here were my watch getting ruined in Xcajum Cenote, and I lost my ATM card. I know my debit card wasn’t stolen because my account wasn’t emptied when I checked my bank statement online. I reported it lost, ordered another one, and had my mom send me money through Western Union. Also, there’ve been a few power surges caused by storms. Other than that, everything has gone smoothly. Mexico turned out to be an excellent fit. I’d describe it the same way I would Michael Keaton, Daniel Craig, Charlize Theron, and Harrison Ford playing Batman, James Bond, Aileen Wuornos, and Indiana Jones or Albert Brooks portraying a mafia kingpin in Drive. None of those mentioned were the directors’ first selections. Some were last minute replacements like Ford. The movie critics were skeptical at first because they worried the roles might not match the actors’ skill sets, but those people caught everyone by surprise and wound up killing those parts.

A Successful Failure

Now most moviegoers can’t imagine Tom Selleck (the original choice) as Indiana Jones. Daniel Craig is arguably the best Bond ever behind Sean Connery. Some fans like my mother think the former was better than the latter. Charlize Theron landed herself an Academy Award for her performance. You can even compare my circumstance to Christopher Plummer replacing Kevin Spacey to portray J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. Ridley Scott scrapped Spacey from the project at the last minute when the Hollywood sex abuse scandal emerged and had Plummer fill the void six weeks before that film was released. They had to re-shoot all scenes involving Spacey with Plummer. Not only did Plummer pull it off within a three-week span; he knocked it out of the park and got an Oscar nomination. Now many people can’t envision Spacey in that role. If I were to correlate my time in Mexico to a movie, this turned out to be a sleeper hit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Napoleon Dynamite. It might even win Best Picture like Slumdog Millionaire which was also a surprise hit. Now I can’t envision myself moving back to Southeast Asia after living here. I perceive Mexico the same way historians did the Apollo 13 mission, a successful failure.

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