Reflections on the United States After Visits to Egypt and Mexico

This year, I was blessed to spend two weeks each in Egypt and Mexico. It was the first time in 25 years that I had travelled outside the United States or Canada. My major takeaway from my trips to Mexico and Egypt was a new appreciation for the blessings we enjoy in the United States. The U.S. has its weaknesses, to be sure, but we have a lot of strengths, and our prosperity allows us the resources to work on our weaknesses. What are those strengths?

Before I talk about America’s strengths, let me talk about the strengths of Mexico and Egypt. First, let me talk about Mexico. I knew that Mexico is more prosperous than many Americans think. I went to Cancún and Guadalajara. Guadalajara is right in the heart of Mexico. It is surprisingly prosperous. Its plazas or shopping centers can rival or outdo those of the United States.

One day, an Uber dropped me off near a lower-end plaza. I was waiting for a friend to finish with a meeting. So, I looked for a good place to wait. I was there by the road, and I looked across the street. There was a Starbucks, just one of many that I saw in México. I was actually standing in front of an Autozone. Down the street, there was a Denny’s, because a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam in any language. Walmart and Sam’s Club were everywhere. Mexico is more like the United States and more prosperous than one might suppose.

What is striking about México is the insecurity. Every house seems to have high walls. There is often barbed wire on the top of the walls. Nevertheless, I talked to numerous locals, and they assured me that it was safe to walk in the street during the day in Guadalajara. I had no problems as I did so, though, admittedly, I only did this a couple of times.

In terms of economic conditions, Mexico and Egypt are somewhat similar. The dollar goes a lot further in those countries than it does back home. Egypt did not seem as prosperous as Mexico, though. The conditions seemed more challenging (see this interesting comparison here).

What struck me most about Egypt was the friendliness of people. Everyone was ready to connect with you and be your friend. People would greet you with kindness. For example, I would ask them if they were having a good day. All over, they would say things like, “I am having a good day because I get to see you.” Now, the cynic in me was tempted to think that this was because of American money. However, three things showed me that this was not the case. First, I observed that they always treated each other with the same warmth. Second, when we stayed at a hotel during the celebration of the Feast of Eids, we met numerous upper middle class or upper class people. They were just as friendly as the poorer people had been. They took us under their wing and wanted to be our friends. Third, in Mexico, Melinda and I met two Egyptian women who lived in the United States and were vacationing in Mexico. They were the same way, they wanted to connect with us and were happy to be friends with us. I’ve never been to a place where it was easier to make friends. Continue reading “Reflections on the United States After Visits to Egypt and Mexico”