It’s hard to believe that it has already been about three weeks since the gas shortage first started. At the beginning of the shortage, speculation about why it was happening and what caused it ran wild through the news media, Facebook, and the WhatsApp groups of the expats and my Mexican friends, which naturally spilled over into the awareness of our children. It has definitely been a challenge to remain positive and not help the spread of rumors and panic that this incident has incited. But with the bombardment of all of that information, speculation, and panic, how do I show my family that our life here is still great, despite the challenges? How do I communicate to my children that this situation is not terrible, even though it changes the way we think about making trips to the store or school or how we spend our weekends?
As expats, we live on the fringe of Mexican society in a way that is difficult to explain and define. While the gas shortage continues to be a huge problem in terms of safety and security for the Mexican people that need gas to support their families, for my family and other expats, it is simply an inconvenience or a minor disruption in our daily routine. It’s an opportunity for us, as expats, to reevaluate what we need in life versus what we don’t really need; to determine what kinds of things provide us with long-term happiness and make good memories versus the things that just distract us from what’s really important; and to experience our new country from a different perspective, instead of driving past it quickly and never really seeing it. Access to a reliable source of gas is important for many things, but it’s not the end of the world if we do not have it, especially if it’s only a temporary loss. Having to skip a book club meeting, a breakfast, or going out with friends is not anything to get upset about. Reorganizing life to make room for new friends and activities within walking distance is an excellent alternative, especially if it enables us to see more of the country and culture around us that was previously missed because we were moving too fast to see it.
Despite the difficulties that arose as a result of the gas shortage, there were several positive things that did happen. One of those positive things is that we changed some of our daily and weekly habits, and I can’t help but think it was time to change those habits anyways. For example, we have spent more time together as a family, exploring our neighborhood in a way that we did not take the time to do previously because we always drove through and never stopped. In addition, the company arranged for a bus to transport people to and from work. Now my husband has been arriving home from work earlier than normal so we get to see more of him in the evenings. Plus, my children have been able to continue going to school because we have been carpooling with a couple of other families, which has led to some creative seating situations in the cars that do not have enough seats for everyone, and above all, it shares the burden of driving among more of us.
Because we do not have easy access to gas, we have to walk, which provides more opportunities for exercise and family time together. Walking up the mountain, of which we live near the bottom, is really good exercise, and there are many really interesting things to see along the way (the leafcutter ants are a good example).
In our neighborhood, there are a couple of grocery stores and carnicerias (butcher shops) that are located near the summit of the mountain where I frequently shop for meat and vegetables. There are also two liquor stores that sell beer and wine, as well as plenty of tequilas. There is a pharmacy, a convenience store, and, most importantly, there is an ice cream shop. At this ice cream shop, they make their ice cream, popsicles, and agua frescas (iced fruit drinks) themselves. They have numerous flavors and when I bite into them, I can tell they were made with real fruits and/or real cream. They have the best ice creams and popsicles I have ever tasted. I happily treat my children to an ice cream cone on the way home whenever we go exploring in our neighborhood. According to my children, this was the best discovery that we made during the gas shortage.
As we wrap up this third week of the gas shortage, things seem to be normalizing in other parts of the country, the news and speculation has calmed down, and I am hopeful that in another week, we will not have anymore lines at the gas stations.
But the thing that I hope for above all, is that this part of our Mexican Adventure was a happy memory for my family, not a negative one.
I really hope I have accomplished that.