May 18, 2010

If the fish stink. . .

I live in Mexico. I married a Mexican man and have been here for over a decade. What's interesting is, though I've adopted much of the culture and become so much a mixture of what is Mexican and American, there are still some things that give me a bit of culture stress (used to be called shock but I guess that word is not politically correct anymore). One example of this is the contrast between people on the street and people in their cars. It reminds me of Jekyll and Hyde. The ones on the street are excessively friendly and helpful. The ones in their cars, well not so much. It's like they're in a video game winning points for cutting people off, flipping people off and getting to every traffic light in first place.

This, I think, will never stop bothering me. But some things are more vague and just harder to explain. They make me feel uncomfortable but I don't always notice why. Take for example our two new pet fish. They stink. They're in fish bowls that get dirty five minutes after they were cleaned and they smell pretty awful. So yesterday my husband looked at them, looked at my two sons and said, "These fish stink, I'm gonna dump them in the toilet." Now, since this bothered me in a way I couldn't express completely at the moment, I said nothing and waited for my sons' reaction. They said, "Ok Papi." (Dramatic Pause)

Now, I am not your typical pet-loving American. Let me rephrase that. I like dogs and think they are great but I don't think I would let one sleep in my bed or have his own recliner in my living room. Anyway, I am definitely not an animal rights activist. But, with that being said, I was really shocked by the reaction my kids had toward their fish. And I wondered, did they have that reaction because of the way they've seen animals treated here, or because their dad said it or is it some sort of disposable mentality they have toward animals, and if so why? And one thing that has bothered me but has been hard to explain somehow is the way I have seen pets treated here in general. I mean, one thing is our American over-pampering of pets; pet spas, pet therapists, pet designer food, clothes and on and on. Those things strike me as frivolous. But on the other end of the spectrum, why have a pet if you don't plan to give it what it needs? I am purposefully leaving out details of the things I've seen. If you have lived here you know and I don't want to make responsible pet owners look bad. Also I think this speaks about taking the responsbility to follow through with something you started and that isn't so much cultural as it is personal. And, like I said, there are all kinds of pet owners, as much in the U.S. as in Mexico. Not everybody is mistreating their pets. And just so you know, my husband would never flush a dog.
In the end the fish didn't get flushed but I was called exagerada for objecting to the original plan. What do you think?


  1. We are alike on this subject. I am not a over the top pet lover but I couldn't have flushed them either.

  2. Hi Karen, I am new to your blog so started reading here. I live in El Salvador and the same thing happens driving here, too! Are the same people who never forget to saludarte with a buenas tardes on the street the same ones who won't let you into their lane on the highway during rush hour? I can totally picture the sinky fish scene with you outnumbered and called exagerada.