Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery. – Amy Chua
He approached us as we stood on the corner studying Google Maps on my husband’s phone and asked, “Can I help you find something?”
I glanced up and there he stood with a garbage bag of empty cans slung over his shoulder, wearing pants with flared legs that ended about six inches above his well-worn Crocs, and a stained linen shirt. Many of the teeth were missing from his sunny smile and as he smiled, his deeply-creased face wrinkled a little more making his eyes shine even brighter.
“Yes,” we answered, “We’re looking for the basilica. Which direction do we need to go?”
He pointed back the way we came and we laughed. “Guess we got turned around.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “You don’t want to be on these streets. They’re not that safe.”
To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world. – Chinese Proverb
No, this wasn’t another tale of dangerous Mexico, not another dire warning. He went on to explain, “The sidewalks are steep and uneven, and there’s lots of traffic with not much room to drive.” The kind stranger was right. We’d gone the opposite direction of the main square in Mazatlán and made our way into a neighbourhood with a mixture of beautiful homes and rundown villas. The curbs were treacherously high and the narrow sidewalks often ended at a driveway in a steep drop of two or three feet. We had wandered out of tourista-land.
He gave us further directions, “Just head back, cross the main street but be careful. It’s very busy. The main square is where City Hall is, too, along with the church. Just turn left after you cross that main street.” We thanked him and eventually stumbled into the main square, two happy tourists.
All of this exchange was in his perfect English and some of our short Spanish phrases. I don’t expect people from Mexico to speak perfect English because Mexico is not an English-speaking country, and yet I often hear criticisms about Mexican nationals’ lack of English. This irritates me.
Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things. ‒ Flora Lewis
We watch a lot of YouTube videos about travel in Mexico. The other day, one YouTuber was recounting his adventure of leaving Mexico to return to Canada for the duration of the pandemic. He encountered some confusion at the airport, conflicting information posted on the flight boards, so he approached airport staff for help.
“The problem was, her English wasn’t very good,” he explained to which I responded out loud, “No, the problem was that your Spanish wasn’t good enough.” With apps like Google Translate easily available on our cell phones, we can make the effort to communicate with folks in their own language.
This interaction was one of the many pleasant surprises that Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, held for us. We were so lucky to visit there before the world changed so quickly! I wish you and yours all the best.
Thanks for reading and take care of each other. ~ Lori