I just got my new copy of International Living in the mail and eagerly flipped to page 8, where there’s an article of mine on a (not at all cheap) safari trip in Botswana. Complete with a photo of a nasty looking lion baring his teeth. I kind of wish I could claim that photo, but then again I’m not sure I would have wanted to be close enough to take it.
There’s also a great piece that just completely slams Panama–and then gives it a stomp in the face for good measure. Whether you agree or not, it’s kind of nice to see a travel publication piece that doesn’t gush on about how wonderful everything is somewhere.
The real nugget of gold though is a rundown of “What we’ve learned in four years,” from two editors who have traveled and lived in Mexico. If you’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico, most of this won’t be a big shock, but it’s all good, insightful stuff. Here are a few highlights:
- The world is a big place and the vast majority of it doesn’t work or think remotely like the U.S. Get used to it.
- Personal initiative on the part of bureaucrats, clerks, and other functionaries in Latin America is a rare commodity for a variety of reasons. Their job is to correctly fill out paperwork, period.
- Many people in Latin America have no concept of the value of their own time. They know the value of labor, they know the value of products, but they will not complain if they’ve been waiting in line all day to file a form with a government office only to be told that the office is closing and to come back tomorrow. They will wander away quietly and come back tomorrow.
- You and your problems are not nearly as important as your Mexican friend’s family, community, and religion. The fact that you may be paying them big money for something will not change this.
- Mañana does not mean tomorrow. When someone tells you they will do something for you mañana, they mean they will do it as soon after today as they conveniently can. Which could be tomorrow. Or next week. Or never.
To get a real inside track on Mexican culture, there’s a great book called, There’s a Word for it in Mexico. Depressing sometimes (especially if you’re Catholic), but really enlightening.