I’ve been in Mexico for nearly five weeks. And as my time here winds down I thought I’d jot a few observations. You’d think with so much time in this great country that I’d have a good handle on the culture, language and geography. I’ve passed through cities and villages large and small. Feast my eyes on colonial architecture older than anything I’ve seen in the United States. Wandered through cobblestone streets and quenched my thirst on good beer in cafés reminiscent of Europe. I’ve braved the hottest deserts challenging endurance of man and machine over difficult terrain.
I’ve cast my eyes on beautiful vistas of mountains, beaches and cactus filled deserts and experienced some of the finest sunsets ever. Sure, I’ve had frustrating experiences. Hobbled me and my bike some 500 miles with a broken shock and waited seemingly endless days for a replacement to be shipped. I’ve been pelted with hail stones and carefully winded and twisted myself through scary curves with precipitous drops while raining. I’ve flirted with disaster riding my bike into unknown cities as the sun dipped behind scenic mountain backdrops.
I’ve rounded around blind corners only to find a dilapidated and dead car in my lane and cars speeding past it in the opposite lane. I’ve watched diesel oil drain from the tanks of tractor trailers climbing the steep mountains of the Sierra Madre. But nowhere have I felt more welcomed.
As a stranger in a strange place it’s often the kindness of strangers that sets the tone and frames the experience of visiting foreign lands. In Mexico I was overwhelmed with the kindness of these people. To be sure, I wasn’t kidnapped. Nobody held me at knife or gunpoint. Never was I pick-pocketed. And nobody tried to rip me off, save the PEMEX attendant in Ciudad Obregon who tried to short me 10 pesos (about $1) in change.
There have been other interesting observations, too:
Carrying babies. rarely saw a baby carriage. Mothers and fathers carry their offspring. I wonder the long-term effect on the parent-child relationships. But I saw no more than 3 baby carriages in my five week sojourn through this Latin American country.
What’s with the rebar? Virtually ever city and town sports buildings that appear half=completed with 5-15 feet of rebar jutting from the rooftops of cinder block or stucco covered buildings. Did they run out of money? No tools to cut the rebar and finish the job?
Noise pollution. In many cities and towns businesses are under the impression that the louder the music the more customers they’ll attract. In one town two cafés next to each other competed with volume, driving this customer far away. Still another in Guanajuato, insisted on drowning out the soothing live acoustic music from a soul-filled duo pouring their hearts out. Macho men in cars compensate for inadequacies in their anatomy, I guess, by installing and playing the loudest music to the point of distortion. And the advertising trucks and cars. Speakers and bull horns jerry-rigged to the top of cars that must have failed safety inspections in the states play prerecorded distorted advertisements for movies, restaurants and political candidates.
Bad coffee. From a country that grows fine coffee in the south, what’s up with the Nescafe? In most cases coffee is served as a hot cup of water with a spoon and a jar of instant coffee. Though I did find great coffee, too. But this is reserved to the areas largely frequented by tourists. I don’t think most Mexicans appreciate a fine cup of coffee. I’ve reduced my dependency and that’s not a bad thing.
Young mothers. My god the women are beautiful. But they must get knocked up at 15 years old. Girls barely in their teens to this writer’s eye are baby making machines.
Speed spanish. I’m sure our English sounds fast to them, but the Mexicans must be running a contest to see who can speak the fastest. Words run together and to my ear it’s hard to distinguish the words. I find myself requesting them to repeat “mas despacio, por favor”.
Corn. Corn. And more corn.
The food is excellent. But it’s never the most healthy. In those areas frequented by international travelers I noticed organic foods, vegetarian restaurants and diversity of cuisine. Though when in Rome… rarely did I veer from local cuisine and the terrible Italian dinner in Oaxaca at Rustic Pizzeria (avoid at all costs) was proof this was a good strategy.
Broken windshields. I still kick myself for not taking photos of this glass art practiced on the cars and trucks of Mexico. I think there’s a perfect opportunity for one of those quick windshield replacement franchises here because I was blown away how many people ride in cars with spider webbed cracks running through their windshields. I’m sure it’s a terrific opportunity for someone else’s photo essay.
Taxi Horns. Taxis honk at you whether you’re looking for a ride or not. It’s annoying, but it gets you to turn around. That is, until you are numbed.
Service in restaurants. Once your food has been delivered, you are rarely visited by your server. Requesting your bill is always a challenge.
Wireless service. Surprisingly for my laptop in the larger cities there always seemed to be a coffee shop or restaurant offering free wireless. Few internet cafés had wireless, though. Many offered ethernet access.
Napkins. Everything seems wrapped in a napkin. Requesting a fork or spoon, the server won’t bring it to you unless it’s wrapped in a napkin. A bottle of beer? Wrapped in a napkin. A glass? Wrapped in a napkin. My budget doesn’t allow for more upscale restaurants, I usually ogle as I go by thinking damn, I bet they’ve got some good wine, but I haven’t found too many cloth napkins. You get the idea.
I’m sure others will come to mind and I’d have to guess that the above may be consistent throughout Latin America. I’ll keep you posted.