Scratching For Grub
By Ana Rasgo
“Cluck, cluck, cluuuuck!” The chicken’s stress mirrored my own. I could hear her while in the RV’s bathroom as she chose to nest under the black tank for warmth. I can’t blame her, if I was a loose chicken I would look for the warm spot to battle the Texas winter too.
When I returned the egg crates to the next-door neighbor, he scoffed, “There are no eggs. It’s too cold for them to be laying.” I didn’t mind. I still threw my vegetable scraps out the door to them while they scratched in my yard for grubs.
When my husband pulled our RV out of the yard a few days later, we learned why the little chicken sounded so stressed that morning. She laid a nest of eggs right under the black tank and there was one exceptionally large egg in the nest.
These chickens remind me of the expats here in Mexico. Some learned to find warmth and continue producing despite harsh conditions. Others, having reached the autumn of their lives are no longer producing but still have enough weight to last through the winter.
It is the third group of chickens that concern me. These birds don’t have the weight to carry them through the winter and the ground is too hard, so they don’t know where the next grub will be found.
I traveled to town for the Lake Chapala Writer’s Conference in March. I arrived on Wednesday and realized I forgot a few key items. Knowing it would be hard to find things in my size, I headed to Walmart hoping for the best.
As predicted I could not find what I needed and had to improvise. The men’s department had socks that could work, and no one would ever know the difference. Except now you know.
After getting everything together, I headed to the checkout line. Three gringas stood in line and one gringo fell in behind me. Each of the ladies bypassed a package of hotdogs that were left at the end of the conveyor belt, just enough of the package left on the stationary part to keep from sliding along with everything else. I must admit, I did not pay the nitrate laden meats much attention either. I was concerned with getting back to my hotel room and preparing for the opening reception.
The gentleman behind me asked if the hot dogs were mine, which I answered in the negative. He was distressed these packages were left behind and would get warm. I was becoming distressed too as his attitude was a bit gruff.
He grabbed the hotdogs and reached past me to put them beside the register. He commented the hot dogs should not be wasted. I said he did a good thing and turned back to the register, perhaps a little too indifferent towards his concern.
By this time two gringas had moved through and the last one was trying to pay for her groceries. Her card was declined.
The clerk tried three times, all three times the card was declined. The gringa was clearly distress. I glanced at her items, mostly food. She asked the clerk to try one more card, and it was declined, too.
Defeated she turned away. The look on her face showed herd is tress ran deeper than the embarrassment of having her cards declined.
I called her back and paid for the groceries, a little over 600 pesos.
“How will I ever pay you back?” she asked in disbelief.
“You won’t pay it forward to the next person in need when you are able.”
“I meant to go to the bank on the way here, but thought it would be okay. I should have gone to the bank,” this time she spoke without her eyes meeting mine.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “It has happened to all of us.” She left with hope and a little food.
What would happen to this lady if she didn’t have help in her moment of need? How many retirees are having a hard time scraping enough money together for food each month? I began to understand the gringo’s concern with saving the hot dogs. Food should not go to waste when there are people who are hungry.
As I meet more expats, I am again reminded of the neighbor’s chickens. Many are here because the season of life where eggs are abundant has ended. It is the time when resources are limited, grubs are scarce.
When I chat with expats the conversation usually turns to why Mexico? The typical answer is, “I cannot afford to live in the US or Canada anymore. My pension does not cover my expenses.”
This is also true for many expats who live here full time. The money just does not cover all the expenses, even in Mexico. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that pensions are much smaller than what is needed to live comfortably.
I reached out to several charities lakeside and found no mission in place to feed expat seniors. That is not to say no one is helping. Carol Curtis, President of Operation Feed in San Juan Cosala told me she witnessed a restaurant giving extra food to a man in need. He did not have enough money to pay for the meal he ordered. Instead of turning him away, the servers said they forgot to put something in his takeout and scooped more food into the containers.
When I approached Indian Curry, located at Plaza Centro Laguna, about this story the servers confirmed this is a regular occurrence. Shockingly, one man said 20-30% of their customers do not have enough money to buy food but they are never turned away.