Welcome to Mexico!

By Victoria Schmidt

Different Ways

waiting room


Sitting in yet another waiting room at yet another hospital, I await the completion of another medical procedure on my husband. I brought music that I couldn’t listen to, and a book, which I couldn’t read.  Instead I stared at one of the hospital cleaning staff. I looked at the meticulous way in which she went about her work. 

First she swept the floor, and we all raised our feet as she cleaned the floor under our chairs.  She noticed that one man had mud stuck on his tennis shoes, and she got a smaller brush, and brushed the mud from his shoes, and then used her larger broom to clean that up.  Of course the dust and dirt went into the tandem device to the broom—the dust collector.

I examined her cleaning cart. It contained wet floor signs-bilingual; bolsas (bags,) generic cleaning fluid in a generic spray bottle, rags, bucket, mop, cleaning gloves, and a large center container for basura (garbage), all more efficiently organized than my cleaning center at home.

My eyes glazed over as I remembered another hospital in another country, with a more modern cleaning cart.  More modern cleaning tools and chemicals than the one here in Mexico, but the floors were just as clean.  Further down the hallway in the hospital of my memory, there was a man standing over a machine with dual brushes swiveling so fast it seemed it was everything he could do to hold onto that machine. Yet the mop and bucket method here resulted in the same thing—sparkling floors.

I looked at the clock on the wall: time seemed as if it weren’t advancing at all.  But the woman had reached the mop--wringing portion of her task.  I saw the familiar twist, squeeze, and twist method.  I wondered how many times a day she repeated this movement.  Her arms must be strong, I thought.  I tried to remember the mops we used at home.  As a child, I was my mother’s mop.  On my hands and knees, with water bucket and a scrub brush.  My home as an adult had squeegee sponge mops or Swifter’s.

When we moved to Mexico, I was not familiar with working with household help.  I saw the cleaning tools she used, and of course, I went straight out and bought what I thought was a “better” system.  Something that was easier to wring the dirty water from the mop.  I had absolutely no Spanish in which to explain how this newer devise worked, and she was quite tolerant of my attempt to explain how to use it.  She smiled and said “Gracias” … and never used it again.  Well, not as it was made, she did tear out the device in the bucket that would wring out the mop.  She liked that the bucket was on wheels and was easier to maneuver, I suppose.

I was completely confused.  Why would she not want to use this newer, better product? Yet as the years have gone by, I’ve heard other expats share similar experiences.  I came to respect that the people here in Mexico have their own ways of doing things.  They are proud of their ways. It seems almost as if they honor their predecessors by maintaining their ways.  

Watching the hospital worker meticulously go through her ritual, I thought of the things she was thinking about while she worked.  I hope they were happier thoughts than those I had for my mother and the scrub brush!

Again, I glanced at the clock.

victoria color




Column: Editor’s Page




Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007.  She is a graduate of Moorhead State University, Minnesota and graduated Cum Laude  with a BA degree in Radio, Television and Film.  At 23 she was hired at multi-national media corporation, where she worked 10 years as their Director for Operations and Finance. She then ran her own business consulting company.  She has won multiple community service awards. Writing has been a passion of Victoria’s since Junior High.  She has been active in the writing and publishing business for over 40 years and has been a columnist for the Ojo del Lago since 2008.


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