The Baja Citizen is a wonderful English language magazine distributed free of charge in the La Paz area. The article below first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue, and we thank its editor, Gari-Ellen Donohoe, and the article’s author, Flavia Faustini, for allowing us to reprint it here on our blog.
That moment you know…
The days are long but the years are short. I have no idea where the time went, or how I could have been so oblivious as I find myself inching towards my soon-to-come fifth anniversary as a resident of La Paz. I first drove down here for what I naively thought would be a sabbatical of six months. As they say, if you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans.
The Baja Citizen magazine may find you as a tourist, visiting ex-pat friends or family (or no one!); maybe holding a fresh-off-the-press copy; or maybe flipping through a 10-year-old one (Heaven knows I keep my collection of beautiful glossy past issues on my coffee table). That’s the thing about La Paz: while visiting, you could be scouting your next hometown without knowing it. I do not have an agenda to convince anyone to make the same move I did, nor do I intend to provide a decision-making guide, pro or con, to take the plunge (although I have no idea what my family is still doing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). I just would love to extend an invitation, to the resident or seasoned visitor to La Paz reading this, to reflect back to the moment your time spent in La Paz changed colors, so to speak. And hopefully you’ll find a warm feeling and remember that moment when you knew…
Those of us who at any level established ourselves here went through that moment. “What if…?” whether or not our motives were known, and the move carefully planned. One reason had to be the biggest among all: your quest for more joy, or better health, physical, mental or financial. I am sure it didn’t hurt that the beauty of the ocean captivated you in a hopeless way that you just couldn’t picture yourself being back somewhere else, counting T minus 289 days (if you still were stuck in a grind) to coming back. Maybe it helped that your livelihood somehow allows you to indulge in a lifestyle in which you’re allowed to change your pace and surroundings, and teach yourself adaptation maybe for the second, third, or enth time in your life.
I caught myself reflecting on what I once thought would be an unlikely milestone in La Paz, and was reminded of several things that turned a vacation, or what I thought was a temporary residency on paper or in my head, into HOME.
Without a doubt, the longer you spend and live at any given place, the more ingrained it becomes in you. But there’s always that one moment, that one experience that holds a certain quality, a specific flip of the switch. That landmark, that trigger set off.
A few months before I found my first address in La Paz, I was visiting with a friend. It was the height of summer, with its scorching temperatures and late sunsets. At about 9 PM, we were grabbing a paleta at La Fuente on the Malecón, and I couldn’t help but notice what I then thought was nothing less than Love personified —the dedication of young parents keeping a watchful eye on their children and a supporting arm to their elderly, at the playground just across Alvaro Obregón. This alone would warm anyone’s heart, but it did mine to an extent that I still can’t explain, and it was that moment I started regarding La Paz as serious Home material.
A resident develops several parameters. It took me a good 15—20 visits to Rancho Viejo to truly grasp the essence of their taco (even though I fell in love with their molcajete at first bite). Be what may your dish of choice, your palate will add different tastes to your library of foods that assuredly will come to your lively memory in the shape of a midnight assault the next time you find yourself away from home.
And then there’s the time, which perhaps begins while you are in your own discovery phase, when friends from back home start planning their visit. My second-year visiting friends got a way better deal than those who unsuspectingly (but not any more than myself) believed my prediction that I would not be here for long, and they got a much more seasoned and educated cicerone. I now see the Baja year go by as a north wind season, a whale shark and whale watching season, a sea lion baby season, a sports fishing season and a super-clear blue water season.
At a certain moment, you start defining your support system. Friends-become-family is common knowledge to anyone planting their roots in a new area of the world. However, in La Paz your sense of community gets enriched year after year by the people you start developing steady relationships with. This has nothing to do with seasonality. I don’t care how many times you turn around the earth, you’ll come back to people who provide you with a good organic chicken, people who share a holiday celebration, people who play music at your favorite venue, people who look after your health, and people who share their stories of the time they haven’t seen you.
Life happens, here, there, anywhere. Life in this town has a way of picking up where you left off, with more texture, color, details, as years go by swiftly and you become more fond of it. The spirit of a place is always there, and so is yours. And, from that magical first moment when you pinpointed the excitement of a connection between spirits, you’ll look up from what you were doing and realize time didn’t wait, as it was never supposed to. And with its help, La Paz did to you what it does best: made you a paceño.
NB: paleta (frozen fruit or ice cream treat); molcajete (a molten stew served in a stone bowl used to grind corn); paceño (a person who lives in La Paz)
Flavia Faustini (NOT Claudia) is an adventure experience curator with a degree in economics and a career in the visual arts and translations. Currently she is on an extended sabbatical, on a mission to gather as many stories as possible for her Book of Good Memories. Yes, she is Brazilian and no, she can’t dance.
You can pick up your free copy of The Baja Citizen at local shops, restaurants and offices OR you can read all issues online at http://www.bajacitizen.com/