Silence is one of the ironies I have come across this year. Mexico is a hostile environment to those who seek quiet. Music is blasted from cars, houses, stores, and cell phones, with little regard for the surrounding community. Advertisers use bullhorns attached to cars with monotonous voices intoning the types of scrap they haul away, or the selection of ice creams available. Birds are ever present, due to the environment and the normalcy of keeping chickens. Houses are built up right next to highways and major arteries, leading to a proliferation of traffic noise. Also, the majority of houses and walls are poured concrete or cinder block, which reflects almost all sound. The best way to get someones attention is to shout their name repeatedly, even if they are not present. My host brother once shouted for his mothers attention before asking anyone if she had gone out (she had). Even out on the farm, the main thoroughfare between two towns passes close by, the approach path for the local airport passes directly overhead, the sheep constantly bleat whenever anyone is spotted, the town across the way has morning announcements over their loudspeaker system, and the nearby school inspires it’s students to learn by playing terribly out of tune trumpets on a schedule I still haven’t figured out yet. Life in Mexico is noisy.
Silence is more than just the lack of ambient noises, though. One of the things I have not done much of this year is talk. I have been a listener, asking questions only to keep the stories flowing and the conversation carried on. It’s been interesting and difficult, not to comment, not to voice my feelings and thoughts. It’s partly because of my poor Spanish. Expressing myself is still difficult, at least when I need to say something more than “I’m tired because I couldn’t sleep”. Partly it has been from choice, to try to really listen to the people around me, not just be thinking of the next comment to make. You learn a lot about people from paying attention to people, to the words they choose, how they say them, and their body language. I feel that I know a lot about my family here in Mexico, and my co-workers, maybe more than some of my friends and co-workers in Texas. Not because I care for them any more (or less), but because I have taken the time to truly listen. I could say I have become comfortable with being silent. Also, I have become more comfortable around silent people. I may not be very loquacious myself, but silence within a group, or between two people, can still be strange sometimes. This year has made me appreciate those silences more, moments when people don’t need to constantly fill the air to feel that they are with someone. It allows you to actually be with the person, with what you are doing, they are doing, what is happening. People should allow these silences to happen more often, and I have a new appreciation for those who do.
On a different note, I will be returning home in about a week. It feels odd, not having much time left here, caught between wishing I had more time and wishing I was on the plane already. It’s a transitional period and awkward, like silence. It doesn’t help much that I hate saying goodbye and having going away parties, but these things will happen none the less. Living in the moment is hard when the moment makes you feel terrible. Anyways, thanks to all of you who read this, and all of you who helped me be able to come here for this amazing year! I will be around soon, so you can ask me all the questions you want! Or we can be silent, your choice.