For the longest time, I’ve wanted to live somewhere in Latin America,” says Sydney native Cathy Crossing. “I always loved the music of that region and wanted to have the opportunity to learn more by living there.
“I have played the clarinet since I was a child and have performed as part of a quartet in England, Scotland, France and Belgium as well as Australia.
“I love to travel but there was never enough time in any one location to really get to know the culture and the people. Instead of being a tourist, I wanted to put down roots”, Cathy says.
Saying goodbye to a successful, international performance career, Cathy now lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico, but getting there was an interesting journey and a bit of an adventure.
Cathy spent four years teaching music in Shanghai before following her Latin American dream.
“I love Mexico City. It’s the largest city in the world and it’s always moving. I love big cities! For me, even the heavy traffic is exciting and the crowds are invigorating. There are always theatre performances or concerts happening. And the museums are fabulous. In fact, on Sundays they are free so I like to visit the Museo Rufino Tamayo. It always has a number of interesting international and local exhibitions, plus the modern architecture of the museum makes it fascinating to walk around.
“My evenings are filled with flamenco dancing, playing my Jarana (a smallish, traditional guitar-like instrument) and on Fridays, I sing with friends,” she says. “When the weekend comes, I’m never at a loss for things to do. It could be anything from catching up with friends, going to concerts, doing something touristy or simply chilling out in my home or the local area.”
Cathy readily admits to her love of good coffee and Mexico produces some of the best in the world.
“For me, coffee is the elixir of life and I’m always looking for a new place to frequent. When I first found great coffee in Mexico City it was like a taste of home. I often grab a book and go to Cardinal Café in Roma for my Latte. It’s only 40 pesos ($2.86) and it’s a perfect place to sit and read”, she says.
Cathy also enjoys the city’s large selection of international restaurants.
“My latest favourite international restaurant is Alexis Gyrosin Roma Sur. I was there last Sunday for a fabulous Greek meal with my Australian girlfriends. Souvlaki de Cordero (lamb souvlaki —grilled skewers of lamb and vegetables) in a pita wrap was only 105 pesos ($7.50). Highly recommended!”, she says.
Cathy rents a studio apartment for under $670 monthly. “I really love my apartment. It’s about 40 square metres in a restored art deco building. It’s only one block from a large and beautiful park, Parque Mexico. It’s a very quiet spot but I’m only a two-minute walk from lovely cafés and restaurants.
“Most things I need are walking distance (supermarket, bank, transportation) and nearby Condesa is a cosmopolitan area full of restaurants and art deco buildings.”
Cathy’s total expenses run between $1,300 and $2,000 per month. She was granted a temporary residence visa which allowed her to obtain a work permit in Mexico.
Mexican work permits can only be issued to holders of residence visas and there are several paths to acquire a residence visa. In Cathy’s case, her employer sponsored her visa and assisted with the necessary permitting process.
Cathy continues to travel and has amassed an impressive list of destinations. She has visited Patagonia and Guatemala, taken a cross-country trip across the U.S. and found her way to Cuba a couple of times. She’s also visited a dozen or so Mexican cities, towns and villages.
“Mexico City has an enormous international airport so flying in and out of the country is easy, but it can be crowded. You can literally go anywhere from here but you have to allow plenty of time to get through security”, Cathy advises.
Cathy has some advice for those who may want to try a life overseas. She says, “It’s crucial to move out of your comfort zone; get involved with the locals and their activities and culture. Assimilate.
“Breaking down the cultural barriers is really worth it.
“Every year when it’s time to renew my teaching contract, I think about what else might I want to do. But for now, this feels right. I suspect I’ll be here for a while.”