Podcast #223 – Observations on Returning to a Pandemic Recovering Austin
This week will be a different kind of episode. My wife and I arrived back in Austin a little less than a week ago. We have a lot of things to do while we are here to get properly vaccinated. You should read my blog post from last week where I compared the COVID-19 response in Mexico and the US.
We will be in Austin for a month to get both vaccination shots of the Pfizer vaccine. This is the longest we have been in the US in 2 and half years. I claim you learn more about your own culture when you go someplace else.
That is so true returning to my home town of 40 + years and finding it is not the same place anymore. Some of this is due to the pandemic and changes in people’s behaviors. Some of this is due to a huge influx of people moving to the city. Some of this is I can view the city from a different perspective. I am not the same person who left Austin in June of 2018 and can look at it in a different light.
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Now on to the podcast…
This is the longest we’ve been in the U.S. in the last 2 1/2 years.
And, upon our return, we realized how much we learn about our own home culture when we live somewhere else.
It’s just not the same when we come back.
Some difference is due to the pandemic and some are due to the large number of people that are moving to the city.
I can view the city from a different perspective now.
We left Aiijic on April 27 and drove to Saltillo, Mexico – 4 1/5 hours from the border.
We didn’t cross near Loredo because of the cartel. And, yes, the cartel has been affected by the pandemic as well. They’ve just modified their business model.
We stayed in Saltillo for the night.
We left the next morning and arrived at the border around 12 pm on 4/28.
I noticed a couple of things while driving.
Most of the roads in Mexico were not toll roads. The ones that were toll roads were built with concrete because that’s all that they have on hand.
Asphalt, on the other hand, isn’t quite as expensive as oil. And, even though Mexico produces a lot of oil it all goes to the U.S.
As a friend often says, it goes to the U.S. as cheap oil and comes back as expensive gasoline and other products.
(By the way, prior to NAFTA, Mexico produced a lot of their own petroleum products.)
The first thing we noticed as soon as we crossed back into the U.S. was the quality of the roads in the U.S.
The U.S. maintains the roads because they have more money and it shows.
This is true throughout much of Mexico.
Some of the roads are maintained and others are not – depends on the taxes.
The second thing I noticed was compared to the average Mexican, people in the U.S. are pretty damn rude.
When I first drove over to Guadalajara, I was nervous but really there aren’t a lot of cars, and people were pretty damn polite.
People in Mexico let you in when pulling out from somewhere and the drivers are not very aggressive. The average Mexican doesn’t even own a car.
You will, however, find a lot of motorcycles of all sizes in Mexico, and like in the rest of the world, they don’t always behave well. But otherwise, Mexican drivers are much more polite.
That’s one of the first things we noticed. The U.S. drivers are very aggressive.
We pulled into a local hamburger place and I couldn’t even get out. No one would let me in.
In Mexico, they would definitely let you in.
I have heard that the driving habits have gotten worse in the pandemic. I would tend to agree.
The second thing I noticed was how expensive everything is.
I’m used to very very inexpensive fruits and vegetables that are far fresher than what we can get here in the U.S.
I can get fresh fruit for $.50 in Mexico.
It was a real shock going into Whole Foods. I picked up a salmon sushi plate out of the deli section and it was $19.
It cost half of that a year ago.
We are planning to sell our condo in South Austin and we’re watching the explosion of prices. We are waiting until summer after our renter’s lease expires.
I moved to Austin in 1978 when it was the most affordable city in the country.
Now, that’s no longer true.
The Public Procedures
I got my driver’s license renewed and it was similar to my past experience in Austin.
I’ve been impressed with state and local governments and can be in and out in 30 minutes because it’s run so efficiently.
However, there are other things I’m observing as well.
There is real inconsistency in the U.S. compared to Jalisco relating to the COVID response when you walk into a business.
In Mexico, there is always a mat out when you enter a store. You will always wear a mast, and you will use hand sanitizer.
In Austin, the COVID procedures are all over the place.
When I entered one store, the hand sanitizers were empty.
I was blown away.
I also noticed the number of folks walking their dogs.
In Mexico, there is a whole industry of people taking dogs off the streets, rehabilitating them, and shipping them to the U.S. for adoption.
It looked different to me.
Looking around, Austin is not the place I lived for all those years.
Many years ago, everyone said, “hello” when you walked by.
It’s not that way now.
Austin lifted a homeless camping ban a while back and I think they made a mistake with having no plan in place.
Because so many people have been camping in parks and in underpasses, the ban was reinstated last weekend.
The homeless population has been a problem for a long time.
In Mexico, a friend visited from L.A. He wondered where all the homeless people were.
Society largely puts the responsibility on the families to take care of their homeless in Mexico.
For the pandemic, this was particularly not good because there are so many multi-generational families in one home. When one member of the family got sick, they all got sick.
Coming back to Austin and seeing the homeless everywhere is a real shock. Now I understand the angst in the city over the issue. Austin has become more and more unaffordable.
This is a very striking difference. And, I was taken back by how bad it was in Austin.
While having coffee with a dear friend in Austin, he asked if I missed anything from the U.S.
After thinking for a moment, I realized that I did not miss anything.
I can buy stuff more easily in Austin and some products I can’t get in Mexico (like gu for my bike) but otherwise, I don’t miss it.
I have weaned myself off of T.V.
I don’t watch sports anymore (not the Superbowl nor NCAA basketball) and don’t miss it.
I’m not the same person.
My life is much simpler.
What’s important has changed.
And, now… I’m far less “stuff” interested.
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