2015 MAY – MX REFLECTIONS

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It was the end of April and getting too hot in Mexico, so I decided to return to the cool temperatures of California for the Summer.  On the advice of a long time boater in La Cruz, I moved my boat from its end tie near the entrance to the marina, to far inside the marina where I had a full dock rather than an end tie. I had help securing FastAlley in the middle of her new slip and tied her securely to both fingers.   I am hoping that in high winds she will sit tight.

On Monday 4/27 Francisco returned to Mazatlan and I left the next day on 4/28 for California.

THE PEOPLE

The Mexican people are unfailingly polite, so very helpful, and incredibly generous.  Over and over I saw old people get on the bus with just one peso in their palm.  They would walk down the aisle and the people on the bus would place pesos in his or her hand.  When the old person had enough, they would return to the driver and pay their fare.  I have never seen such care and concern in other countries.

And they are not afraid to ask directions!  Francisco would stop and ask where such and such a museum is, and they would stand and chat for 5 minutes!  Then Francisco would say “he says its that way”.  But you chatted for 5 minutes??  Yes, he wanted to know where we came from and where we are going. During the exchange Francisco would also be privy to private information like… that man lives in Guadalahara and has 4 children and an ex-wife… or some such tidbit.  Francisco didn’t know them  but he always seemed to land up having long conversations with strangers.  Mexicans are incurably curious, it seems.

I am fascinated with Mexico. The people are so enterprising with everyone just trying to make a buck. As we sat on the La Cruz municipal bus a young woman came on board, stood in front of the bus, and declared in a loud voice what she was selling. It was 100 kid stickers for just 10 pesos (60 cents). Francisco thought it was a good deal and so did half the bus because she did a thriving trade. Then she got off.

These vendors dont pay for the bus ride! The drivers stop and let them on, they sell their wares to the passengers, then climb off – and get on the next bus. We have bought coconut biscuits, banana bread, and oatmeal water from these vendors. I just love the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in Mexico.

Singer got on a student bus and was outta luck - students dont have spare cash for tips!

Singer got on a bus with a lot of students and was outta luck – students dont have spare cash for tips!

 

A little further on a band got on; they had a guitar, drums, and calabash with seeds to rattle. They stood in the aisle and started playing and singing. Francisco explained that they had gotten on the bus and told the driver they didnt have the money for the fare to the malecon, about 30 minutes away. They asked if they could get on anyway and sing. The driver agreed.  I was rather pleased thinking I would be entertained for the next 30 minutes.  The band played 2 songs and then asked for tips. I tipped generously, and along with the other tips collected, they had enough to pay their bus fare. So they did. And sat down. And stopped playing!  I felt rather cheated. I thought they would play all the way to the malecon but they only played the 2 songs then they had enough for their fare.  Maybe next time I won’t tip so generously.

Mango on a stick !!

Mango on a stick !!

Also the vendors stroll into restaurants selling their goods. If the restaurant doesn’t provide it – flans, cookies, muffins – then the vendors walk in and sell to the patrons. It’s quite an unusual business practice, to say the least.

The vendors also park their food carts outside the restaurants. So if you don’t like the menu of the restaurant, you don’t have far to walk to the vendor selling tacos.  I have stopped asking Francisco what he is eating, especially if he says “I’ll tell you later” which usually signifies something like cows cheeks or sheep intestines. Fortunately he never orders anything but regular beef for me. Well, I hope it’s beef and not dog!

Except the one time when he accepted a sample of what I thought were chili peanuts.  Francisco ate a few and with a naughty grin offered some to me. They were little grilled crickets!  Francisco recommended I try them declaring them delicious, but while my taste buds might have agreed they tasted like chili peanuts, my brain was yelling – Hell No, that’s a Cricket.

Lots and lots of shoe shiners in Mexico City where everyone seems to be dressed in Corporate clothes

Lots and lots of shoe shiners in Mexico City where everyone seems to be dressed in Corporate clothes – except her

Another thing that fascinates me are the Police. They dress all in black and wear a black mask over their faces to prevent identification by the drug lords. They look like Darth Vader with their black clothes.

Cop's face is covered to prevent identification

Cop’s face is covered to prevent identification

Also the traffic cops are not allowed to sneak up on you in unmarked cars. They have to drive around with all their lights flashing, and only if they activate their sirens does it mean you are in trouble. But coming up behind you with all flashing lights, is normal.

 

Babysitting at its easiest...!

Babysitting at its easiest…!

 

One time I wanted a tamarind drink from a street vendor.  I ordered the small size and Francisco order the Grande.  The vendor poured the drink into a large cup and handed it to Francisco.  Then the vendor snapped a small plastic baggie off a roll, filled it with juice, and handed it to me with a straw.  Francisco saw my bemused expression and questioned the vendor.  Apparently his Grande drink had sufficient profit margin to warrant a cup.  My Small did not have the profit margin for a cup, so I got the drink in a baggie.  I was highly amused.

Drink in a baggie

Drink in a baggie

 

I just love the Mexican vegetable called JICAMA.  Its kind of like the turnip but sweeter and juicier.  Like the turnip, you peel the outside skin off the jicama and reveal the flesh beneath.

I was walking along the sidewalk and this vendor was selling jicama on a stick..!  He had various powders that he could use to decorate your jicama.  He had blueberry powder, stawberry powder, something yellow and something green.  He offered to draw a picture on my jicama with the powders but I like the jicama plain, so I declined.  He was rather put out that I took a photo of just my plain ungarnshed unpainted jicama.

Jicama on a stick

Jicama on a stick

 

Another vendor had thousands (it seemed) of tiny charms that were for sale for about US$0.50cents each.  It was such fun digging thru her inventory examining all the various charms available.  You could also buy a chain to hang them around your neck, or a short chain to use as a bracelet.

It was such a cute idea…. like digging for treasure!

Piles and piles of tiny charms

Piles and piles of tiny charms

Close up of the charms

Close up of the charms

Si-si the Stutterer

We found this fabulous home restaurant in an alley in the little city of Bucerias.   A home restaurant is exactly what it sounds like. They live in the house and just put tables and chairs on their sidewalk and they’re open for business. El Toto is a fabulous chef and had the most divine garlic shrimp so we went there for lunch as often as possible.  The last time we were there a taxi disgorged 5 women that had travelled for forty minutes just to eat at El Toto.

The owner/chef of the Bucerias sidewalk restaurant

The owner/chef of the Bucerias sidewalk restaurant

One day the chef/owner was arguing with his cousin across the alley.  The argument ended when the chef said “Ah ta-ta-ta-ta….” and his cousin turned away in disgust.  So we were told the story of Si-si, his stuttering cousin.

There are 2 words in Spanish that sound similar: “Si” which means Yes, and “sin” which means Without.

The cousin was approached by a street vendor selling tacos.  He bought one from the little girl and she asked in Spanish – Would you like chili on it?

He did not.  So he replied “Si-si…”  so she liberally added chili.

“More?”, she asked.

“Si-si…”, he stuttered.  So she added more chili.

Finally he got out his sentence…” Si-si.. si-sin chili”.

The family howled with laughter when he regaled them with his misfortune, and they have called him Si-si ever since!

Francisco

I am truly grateful that my path crossed with Francisco’s, albeit briefly.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 months I had with him. He had the naughtiest eyes, a mischievous sense of humor, and he kept me in stitches of laughter.  We would spend hours browsing museums, sitting quietly in churches admiring the ornateness, or just chilling in a plaza or sidewalk cafe.  His intelligence was countered with a delightful sense of fun and I never tired of chatting with him on a variety of subjects.

I know people stared at us intrigued with our obvious camaraderie – despite the huge difference in our ages – as we sat in a restaurant for hours, chatting and laughing and enjoying a respite from the hot sun with a series of long cool drinks.

I know we stood out… one time we bought a yoghurt ice cream from a store in the Walmart mall.  About 10 days later we returned to that mall and went back to the ice cream store.  The server chatted with Francisco and glanced at me.  He said “She wants to know if you want the raspberry yoghurt again like last time?”.   So she not only remembered us 10 days later, she even remembered what we ordered.

The Mexican culture ensured that he took care of me as though I were a child, which I found endearing.  He monitored me as we walked along and I usually lagged behind a few steps.   He quickly realized that I was mostly distracted, always lost, and fairly oblivious of what was 2 steps ahead; so he pushed me away from dog poo, guided me around mud puddles and obstructions, and stopped me from crossing the road with traffic.  He was always saying “be careful”, “wait”, “follow me”, and “stop”.

As I walked a few steps behind him – with his vigorous pace and long legs – he turned every few steps to check that I was still close behind him, and stopped and waited if I was lagging.  I had hurt my back and one time as I walked behind him I reached behind me to rub the sore spot and Francisco turned and said – Is your back still hurting you?   I realized he had been watching my shadow and saw my movement via my shadow on the ground.

His Mexican culture also ensured that he opened every door for me, and made sure I always preceded him through them, including bus and taxi doors, and he gave up his seat to me on busses and trains.

I found it enchanting that Mexicans always hold hands!  Dad holds Mom’s hand and all kids hands are firmly held.  They never walk along without holding firmly to their family members.

Francisco always carried the backpack and in lieu of holding hands, I would hold onto the strap of the backpack.  That way I got towed along and Francisco could feel me back there instead of having to turn and look every few steps.  And if he stopped suddenly I would crash into the back of him.  However the minute I let go of the backpack, he stopped and turned to find out why.

Mexican men take care of their women and children and fuss over them constantly.  I was lucky to have Francisco extend his natural culture to taking care of me.   I always introduced him as my Guardian Angel.

I really did have a blast down there in Mexico and I am already missing the country. I expect to return in November and continue my journey south to Panama and visit the Panamanian San Blas islands. Francisco will probably not join me again because he is waiting for his U.S.A. Permanent Entry papers to arrive and then he intends to return to Indiana where his two daughters are living. I will find new crew when I return in Novemiber.

 

 

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