30 November, 2011

the one about the way we do it and the way they do it and the way it ought to be done

i love canada. it is a country that is law-abiding, peaceful, calm and its citizens tend to follow rules and obey signs. all this i like, because it is a reflection of my own obsessive-compulsive, orderly personality*. i always wear a seatbelt and will refuse to drive if you don't put one on. i am that person who will never trespass if there is a "no trespassing" sign. it makes me physically uncomfortable to even stand too close to one much to the amusement and chagrin of certain friends and family.

i love mexico. it is a country that is vibrant, loud, chaotic and its citizens seemingly take their life in their hands every day when they ride in the backs of trucks careening down cobblestone streets or let their children walk to and from school unsupervised or eat food cooked by some guy on the street using his hands (!).

the sidewalks of puerto vallarta, usually patchy, often 1-2 feet above street level, typically narrow and wonky, are a desecration of a thousand and one canadian laws, bylaws and occupational health and safety codes. in north america, a sidewalk like that would simply not be built**. or, if built, it would quickly become embroiled multiple personal injury lawsuits. after all, it is simply an accident waiting to happen. so why do i love it? i love it because in mexico, there is an assumption that we in canada and the US have long since forgotten - the assumption that the citizens have that most precious of unlegislatable commodities called common sense. americans fall and sue. canadians fall and write angry letters to the municipality. mexicans look where they walk, see a potentially unsafe sidewalk and act accordingly.

what i also love in mexico, sadly missing from most canadian and american cities, is a real sense of community. in the evenings, whole families bring out plastic chairs and sit around tiny restaurants, kids run around playing with their friends, parents take their little ones for walks on the oceanside promenade - what a difference from the sterile deserted suburbia where every house is a equipped with every electronic device money can buy to ensure that their children never ever go out to play. we live isolated lives, reaching out to friends and family occasionally and sporadically; they live as an integral part of their neighbourhood, extended family and circle of friends.

as nice as it was to come back to the quiet of our life here in canada, i feel like there's something missing - that street-level engagement with the rest of the human race. and granted, our 6-7 months of ridiculously unreasonable winter has a lot to do with it, there are ways we could get around it: we have malls, pedways, libraries and public spaces, but sadly even there we are most often walking around in our own little bubbles, and, even more sadly, what we're typically doing is shopping, and the acquisition of unnecessary items is not exactly the most social activity out there, now is it?

*my wine-drinking personality is a bit of loophole that we will not discuss, however, let it be known that even drunkedy drunk i will obey most rules of orderly conduct (although i have been known to fall down and spill stuff, but, again, we will not discuss this)

**with the notable exception of new orleans. and other places where poor people live. because who cares about the poor?


Zhoen said...

Everything is a trade off. But I do miss Boston, where jaywalking wasn't a misdemeanor, it was a civil right.

the polish chick said...

you're right, zhoen. and i know that if i lived in PV for any length of time i'd miss my quiet bubble of a life, seeing as i tend towards being antisocial with short intense bursts of being social. still, there's something to be said for being an actual fully active member of the human race, as opposed to an occasional spectator.

Geneviève said...

This is what miss about Sundance. I live it when you go out on your porch and a bunch of neighbours start showing up. It's hard to create that sense of community here.

Geneviève said...

By the way, I laughed out loud at the sidewalk commonsense bit.