Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hotter, visitors, and the bus

Well, back in DF I've been getting a little more busy with the teaching stuff and whatnot as well. It's finally getting warmer here so I can shed my sweaters and wear T-shirts during the day. Twice a week I have a pretty busy schedule and end up having to metro and pesero my way around the city quite a bit.

Basically, peseros are Mexico City's bus system and they do a surprisingly good job in my eyes of supplying the other 80 percent of Chilangos who don't own vehicles a way to get around. Let's get one thing straight, it's not Coast Mountain Bus Company. The "system" is totally ad-hoc it seems. There are no machines that check tickets, no definitive routes, and the busses are small, falling apart, have no leg room and lurch and drive like crazy weaving in and out of traffic with some 16 year old at the helm and his buddy from school swamping people in and out of the broken doors. They are also often customized with all manner of subwoofers, mini tvs, dingo balls, fur fringe, Holy Marys and Jesuses, family/girlfriend pictures etc... which makes them pretty cool I think. Usually the bus drivers play music and this can range from classic rock to rap to salsa to banda depending on taste. Despite all this I find people generally accommodating and not too put off by the hassles of bus life. This is not to say that people are greeting eachother with smiles and enjoying the experience. No one likes the bus. No one likes the metro anywhere really. And always, everything is moving too slow, but some people realize the probs that arise when you are either lugging some crazy black plastic bag full of clothing or trying to get across town with three toddlers and a baby and a crazy black plastic bag full of clothing and often help out by giving/making room or at least coping without freaking out and generally realizing that they might be in the same situation tomorrow. All that said, It can drain your nerves and often I end up falling asleep with my backpack in my lap if I'm lucky enough to get a seat. It's nice to have the hot weather back too, but it also makes the streets hotter and more oppressive.

Here's a snapshot of a more modest bi-level through Reforma in Polanco at rush hour. The only plus to this I can think of is that you can sometimes use traffic as an excuse for lateness. The minus is that it's more often than not true.

We've got another couple of friends visiting from out of town which is nice especially since the weather is being cooperative. The day they arrived we all drove out to Tepostlan and went on a gruelling hike up the mountain to a lookout where there are also some ruins and a small pyramid.

The town of Tepostlan.

HIgh eroded bluffs make the valley unique.

The hike was steep and by the time we all got back into town our legs felt like they were going to collapse especially since none of us had had a good nights sleep. The market in town was nice and we had lunch and then drove back into DF with time to spare but we just went back to sleep. We woke up the next day and they went off to Oaxaca, but they will be back later in the week.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Long time, no se...

Well it's been months since I last posted here, which makes me a pretty lazy blogger, but i've been a little bit preoccupied with friends visiting from lands afar once again and Christmas / wedding stuff. Two friends from Vancouver came and visited Mexico City and Oaxaca city which they seemed to like most everything except the dry weather which I have to admit was also a shock for me moving here from the moist Canadian coast . I did manage to go on quite a few holidays over Christmas. I went for an overnighter to Taxco which is not far from Mexico City and just inside the state of Guerrero. It's a nice, small town that clings to a mountainside with super tiny mazelike euro-streets all over the place. The market is so confusing and full of stalls and tarps that it's easy to get lost. It's actually one of my favorite places just outside of Mexico City, plus it was hotter which made me happy as it's been cold and dry here. Unfortunately, I took photos on a camera that I don't have the cable for so I can't give you any photos right now. Read and Imagine.

Then... On to Veracruz where Ale and I went to have New Years with some family friends and their whole extended family in a small ranching town off the tourist map called Juanita.

There is a local Veracusanian custom that involves putting a large amount of hand made fireworks into a stuffed effigy of a "viejo" or old man. You then set him on fire and literally, totally blow him up publicly to usher in the New Year. I'm not completely sure what the symbolism of blowing up the old guy means, but I'm pretty sure it's about renewal and such. It was good fun though.

The gulf coast is beautiful and Veracruz has many interesting things to see. We went to an area called

Catemaco where they have big mangroves and lagoons meeting the sea, and lot's of

bugs and jungly plant life. There are a fair amount of wildlife preserves around here and I'm told the place is known for it's natural beauty and from what my eyes told me, it's true.

It's very different from Mexico City here. The people are maybe more "caribbean?". Anyway, it's hot and the sea food is good. There seems to be a lot of dancing, music and celebrating during festive times. Sea food in Mexico City isn't rare but it's not all over the place like it is on the coasts. In DF it's usually more expensive if you want the high quality fare and not as fresh probably, but I'm no expert.

Coming from Vancouver though I've always been a big fan of fish and clams and all that so it was nice to get a taste. I just realized that if you say, "I'm a big fan of fish and clams.." you sound kind of straight. It's like something a lame neighbor says in order to be funny in a movie or something. Anyway, who cares, next topic-

I've been reading all the news about the Canadian Federal Election. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get it together to vote out of country. I guess you can all blame me and others like me for not "rocking the vote" or whatever. Anyway, it looks like Steven Harper is going to steer the boat in more or less the same direction as per usual. However for those of my friends whose checks have "Government of Canada" written on the upper left hand side - sorry double-time. Mexico is having a vote this year too and it's a pretty heated race. Apparently they were trying to get out of country voters to participate this year as there are an estimated 20 mil or so Mexicans living in the States who generally don't vote. After spending millions registering them etc... there were 5000 or so new voters. Boondoggle city. I guess when you're busting ass picking apples in Bellingham, who gets to sit in the red chair in the Zocalo is a pretty logistical and ideological far away idea and I can concur.

Uh, well after getting back to DF from Veracruz I journeyed with Ale's family to Acapulco for a weekend wedding! Woah. I'd never been and Acapulco's pretty dazzling to say the least. Basically, geographically its a deep bay surrounded by mountains. The temperature, beach and coastline are amazing, if you can overlook the solid wall of 1000 room hotels standing at attention on the beach and gazing, expensively out to sea. There is an "Old Acapulco" which is near the bay, but sort of climbs up the mountainside. This is where most acapulcans live. It's similar to many Mexican cities, but the contrast between the crumbling colonialness and Mexicaness of the old town and the glitz of the hotel strip is pretty intense and it's meaning will not escape the more querying tourist. The wedding actually wasn't in Acapulco proper but a 20 min drive away in a little beach zone called "Pie de la Cuesta".

Here the vibe was much more laid back and the hotels less extravagant. The ocean is not protected by a bay here and the waves were a bit too violent for normal surf fun, but we did some swimming and the wedding was really nice right on the beach and pretty low key, but fun in the end. A lot of people in Mexico don't like Acupulco because it's totally over touristed and over developed and a holidayland in no small way, but the area and the ocean are truly beautiful but as I said before you have to overlook the "Tony Roma's, Planet Hollywoods, malls, and other assorted conglomerates that have descended full-force. One could view Vancouver in the same way IE: new casino conference centre slash cruise ship port of call going up ocean front but it's not like you're going to tell your visiting friends to go down there for Tony Roma's unless you're doing it ironically or something weird like that but there's nothing really that ironic about Tony Romas is there?