Expat Chronicles – A Year in Baja
By Justin Porter Biel
What does one year in Baja look like?
It looks like three different houses. The brick-walled structure with the palapa roof that stayed cool even in summer, the apartment beside the cemetery with the colorful headstones, the house near the Poblano chili farm with the five dogs. It looks like suitcases packed and unpacked, your items hidden inside other people’s closets, homes that were cozy, but only yours for a time. It looks like travelling light, your office consisting of a notebook and a computer inside a worn leather bag.
It looks like a new world. Like a colonial town in the desert built around a brick plaza and a yellow Catholic church. Like walking on cobblestone streets holding onto a Rose, passing pastel-colored buildings draped in Bougainvillea. It looks like pescaderia’s with barrel-chested owners, carneceria’s with hanging beef, restaurants in palm orchards with fruit slices in their drinks. It looks like tacos de pulpo, camarones, carne e pollo, ceviches, tamale’s, margaritas e mescal. It looks like hot sands, spotted woodpeckers nesting in Cardon cactuses and miles of emptiness. It looks life on a rogue peninsula, a dagger of land splitting oceans and seas.
It looks like adventure. Beaches, dirt roads, cliff sides, waterfalls, whale sharks, flying rays, countless waves. A car permanently filled with sand and windows tinted by dirt. A two-man tent under the stars staked beside the glow of a fire. It looks like bioluminescence exploding under your feet, surfboards stacked on the sands of an eastern cape, a coffee-skinned woman swimming beneath a waterfall.
It looks like a new normal. Nights with a shaman. Energy work. Chewing sacred leaves. Tobacco smoke rising from the volcanic coals of a temescal. A man chanting indigenous tones. The sight and sounds of roosters in the morning, a break in the distance, a pack of dogs in the night.
It looks like words on a page painting smiles, laughter and tears.
It looks like slowing down, whether you like it or not, the temperature of always summer lulling you into bouts of contemplation.
It looks like your life’s timeline stretching out over the sea, like thousands of images, there and gone in the green flash of a setting sun.
It looks like that perfect day; like standing inside a mint green chapel, looking across at a woman wearing a veil. A 1950’s Spanish church, open windows, perched on a hill above the Sea of Cortez. It looks like a time without time, on a coastline without limits. Faces seated in pews, listening to the sanctity of vows.
It looks like a moment I’ll never forget. An image frozen in time.
It looks like a kiss.
It looks like all of us gathered at the oceans edge, a line of people holding hands. New faces, old faces, a beautiful human collage.
It looks like a year has gone by and life will never be the same.
It looks like new life too.
A baby girl on blanket of soft, moonlit clouds.