(Random entries from my notebook)
Well, the trip has officially started. Boy, not speaking the language complicates things. However, each minor activity becomes a major accomplishment and source of pride. Now I can safely boast "I can buy a bottle of water *completely* in espaņol." Actually, I've done surprisingly well given my poor Spanish, though not without very helpful strangers and patient merchants along the way. In the process, I've learned a few useful lessons:
- Credit cards are *not* widely accepted, no matter what the books say.
- Mexican busses are so much better than Greyhound. The typical mid-range bus here is like the luxury busses back in the US.
- Mexico City is actually called "Mexico DF" (no idea what that stands for), or just "Mexico". It's more like New York than Oaklahoma City.
- Mexican chicks are hot! I had the pleasure of having a long conversation with a very pretty girl on an even longer bus ride. She spoke no English so we made do with my wimpy dictionary and pen and paper (I can read and write it much better than I can speak or hear). Her name, in addition to being the name of a top-secret US military aircraft, is the name of the beautiful lights that bless the northern skies: Aurora.
Last night I braved my first Mexican food: cinco tacos con un Coca Cola. I skipped the salsa stuff out of cullinary fear, though am happy to report having tried squeezing the supplied lime over my carne asado. Muy bien!
Today I went to some cafeteria for lunch. I tried a bit of everything that looked cooked: spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas, some stew-like beef with green peppers and onions, and something that may or may not have been bits of pork, all washed down with clear, cool agua. From a bottle.
I was tempted both times by the oh-so-familiar Kentucky Fried Chicken (aparently the most successful fast-food joint down here as I see them more than any others), but I instead decided to take a chance. My stomach hasn't complained yet, so let's hope my luck holds.
Every Mexican bus I've been in so far has TVs that play movies. From Dallas to Laredo, TX I watched Vertical Limits -- it was so bad I'm glad it wasn't in English. From Laredo to Monterey, Mexico it was a Richard Prior flick, this time in English with Spanish subtitles. Now, from Montery to Poza Rico we've started AI. You think that kid is creepy? You should hear him in espaņol. Ok, now that's over, but what's next? Planet of the Apes? Kill me now...
So Montery, my first Mexican city was.. big. So big I didn't know where to start. Where I did start was at the bus station at nine in the evening. It was dark, overcast, slightly drizzly, and it would have been muggy were it not for the slight chill. The bus station -- the biggest I've ever seen -- is in an urban district not unlike as would be found in Blade Runner, though fewer replicants and no sushi.
My first order of business was to find a map. I walked amongst the street vendors and into Gigante, a local supermarket, to no avail. Eventually I found my map in a little corner store. It's name: 7-11. Globalization 1, Diversity 0.
After finding the map and exploring a bit more, the whole "hey, I'm in a foreign country in which I don't speak the language" thing started to freak me out so I found a hotel, hung out on the balcony, and then turned in early.
And thus ends the fifth week. This week I hope to stay here in Vera Cruz, but we'll see where the winds blow me.