First Time Storytelling With Carol Stratton: Living Aboard in Mexico

In this episode, Ann spoke with guest Carol G. Stratton. She is an author of inspirational fiction and a speaker to women’s groups. Her story is about her first time living abroad in Mexico when she was a little girl.

Carol’s story begins in California in the year 1963. Growing up, her parents suggested that she try living with a Mexican family. They wanted her to have a cultural experience and learn Spanish. Although the normal exchange student options weren’t available, they knew some people and made the arrangements. Carol was only 12-years-old at the time, but was adventurous enough to try it out.

Living Abroad in Mexico

Her family took a road trip to drive Carol to Mexico. She was greeted by her host family as soon as she arrived. She was going to be staying in Mexico City for six months with a widowed mother and her three children. The family were friends of friends to Carol, so it was a rather comfortable shift. Carol enrolled in a Jewish private school while she was there. It was a quality institution for middle class families, but most of the teaching was in Spanish. This made it challenging for her to learn, so she focused on trying to learn Spanish. She would return home for lunch which is the largest meal of the day in Mexico, so adjusting to the meal schedule was difficult as well. They generally ate rice, soup, beef, and warm tortillas before heading back to finish the school day.

Mexico City, Mexico

Unfortunately, the adults of the house worked long hours. This meant that Carol spent a lot of time alone trying to keep herself busy. She found the TV to be her best friend, and the kids’ shows helped her pick up Spanish quickly. One of the daughters of the house, Irene, was close to Carol’s age. Together, they would both take guitar lessons as a hobby. The house itself did not have a yard, but the decor was very modern. There were tile floors and a small courtyard which were very simple and had few embellishments. Three maids did most of the cooking and cleaning because of the mother’s busy work schedule. However, one of the maids showed curiosity in Carol’s American clothes and ended up stealing and running away with them.

Looking Back On The Experience

Although the six months of living abroad in Mexico were not very eventful, Carol claims it was overall a wonderful experience. She loved trying new foods such as Cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), attended her first Mexican wedding, and watched a mariachi band serenade one of the daughters at night. One of her favorite parts of her trip was visiting the family’s ranch out in rural Mexico. It had many beautiful banana trees and goats in a pen. They held a barbacoa (barbecue) and made Carol try goat’s brain soup, except she did not know that it was made of goat brains until she was halfway done with the bowl. Of course, she remembers getting homesick as well. Luckily, her late father wrote letters to her quite often. They hold sentimental value to her because he took the time out of his busy day to write to her and she got to know him better this way.

“I look back now, and I would not have had that correspondence or the ability to hear my dad’s thoughts if I had been home.”

-Carol Stratton

When she returned home, she felt much more independent than she did before. However, she remembers it being difficult to adjust to 8th grade back in America. Most of Carol’s acquaintances were not very open to being friends because they had not seen her in months. Even fashion changed during those six months; socks went out of style for girls and Carol had no idea. She did not keep in touch with her host family other than Irene who came to visit, but it was overall a great experience. Carol looks back fondly on her trip and is happy that she got the opportunity to live life independently in Mexico. She is no longer afraid of living in new cities and looks forward to adventures in new places. You can learn more about Carol Stratton by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.

Interested in being a guest? Find out more here.

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