Sometime early in 2023, inshallah, I’ll be moving into my new apartment and savoring this glorious view every day — and night — from then on. Right now, though, the apartment building is still a construction site. So my first lesson for the New Year is: I need much more patience.
I’ve used the qualifier inshallah here advisedly, out of habit. In my years in Mali, a predominately Muslim country, I observed that no one speaks of future plans without adding this important word, meaning “if God wills it.” The Koran, in fact, requires its use, teaching: “Never say of anything, ‘I will do so-and-so tomorrow’ without inshallah.”
Like the English term “Lord willing,” or the Spanish, “ojala” (which borrows from the Arabic “inshallah”), the sense is that the future is wholly in God’s hands. We can go ahead and make our grand plans — as though we were in fact the sole captains of our ships — but whether or not those plans come to fruition is entirely up to God.
So I wait on the impressively strong and industrious Mexican construction workers to do God’s will, whether they’re aware of this mission or not. I visit the site once a week, praise the men’s progress (“buen trabajo!” [good job!]), bring them cookies (though I’m sure they’d prefer Coke or beer), and stand on my terrace-to-be admiring the view and dreaming of my new life in the coming years there.
I’m reminded of one of the first books I read about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2014, before deciding to emigrate here. It was the bestseller by American writer Tony Cohan, On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel (Broadway Books, 1999).
As the Amazon blurb so concisely puts it, “On Mexican Time is Cohan’s evocatively written memoir of how he and his wife absorb the town’s sensual ambiance, eventually find and refurbish a crumbling 250-year-old house, and become entwined in the endless drama of Mexican life.”
It’s Cohan’s vivid (hair-pulling) tales about refurbishing that old SMA casa on a Mexican timetable that come back to me now. At the time, I thought, How could anyone put themselves through that? Now that I’ve been living in Mexico for seven-plus years, I’m beginning to understand. And especially now that I’m waiting for my new apartment to be finished so that I can move in.
I’m starting to think of Hope and Patience – oh, and Faith in this apartment’s completion pronto– as scaffolding. They are what’s holding me up as I move from one temporary home (with friends) to another. I’m ineffably grateful that I’m not homeless, that I have such kind and hospitable friends here, and that I live in Mexico, where Time is an ever-moving target, which requires a broader view.