Travel Journal: Mexico
Relaying the fact that I had a lot of work to catch up on, I told my host mom I would most likely stay at school and finish some homework due that afternoon, and grab a banana and granola bar from the gas station for my lunch. Dismayed by my disrespect for the sacred “comida” (the Mexican phrase for the largest meal of the day—lunch), she proceeded to ask if all Americans gave up mealtime to complete more work. Perplexed by her question, I stopped shoveling food into my mouth, looked at her, and perhaps shamefully, said, “yeah...I guess we do...”
I’ll speak for myself when I say I’ve been raised to have (and appreciate) a good, solid work ethic. Promised that pushing yourself to work harder and longer...to care for your time wisely...to be more efficient with your money and resources...will bring you “success” and the “American Dream.” And there’s nothing wrong with that; but it comes at a cost.
I’m an economics major—and arguably the most important concept in economics is the notion that in order to obtain one entity, you usually, if not always, have to give up another. It’s called opportunity cost. For example, to go to college, you pay tuition, room and board, books, food, etc. That’s your accounting cost—the cost out-of-pocket. But your opportunity cost consists of the all the things you could have purchased if you didn’t go to college. And trust me, with the cost of college you could buy a lot of things.
So what’s the cost of efficiency and organizing our lives into 15-minute increments? It occurred to me at that moment at breakfast that what I was giving up was the chance to sit down and talk to my mamá, to strengthen our relationship, and to enjoy each other’s company. So what if I didn’t arrive fifteen minutes early to class? So what if I didn’t leave my house exactly on time? In the long run, does it matter?
Short answer—no. The quote at the beginning of this entry is a line from a class reading aptly named “Mexican Time and American Time: There’s a Place for Both.” I feel that it’s pretty self-explanatory. The essay relates the Mexican concept of time to that of an Irish proverb: “The man who made time made plenty of it.”
When I look back 20 years (or even a couple of months) from now and reflect on my time in México, it’s not going to matter how early I arrived for class or how much I could accomplish in an hour. If that’s all I wanted to get out of this term, I could have saved my money and stayed in Danville. No, what I’m going to remember is the night I taught my host mom how to make homemade Derby Pie, and the many meals we shared talking about so many random topics. And because of this amazing opportunity and the wonderful relationships I’m forming because of it, I don’t have to worry about making the American dream...I’m already living it.
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