La Ciudad de Mèxico, Districto Federal
Hi hi hi there, my little droogies! ¡Hola desde la Ciudad de México!
Manuel and I spent our last day in León doing normal things; we shopped for cereal, cameras, and tequila with our friend Cynthia, and gorged ourselves on more tacos a pastor, my favorite.
Manuel and I headed for Mexcio City late Wednesday night, around 0200. I thought that we would be driving, but Manuel informed me that we would be taking the bus. Which was fine with me, though I’m not the biggest fan in the world of the bus, as it is smelly and uncomfortable.
I was expecting the bus system in México to be even worse than the deploreable Greyhound system in the USA, but I was pleasantly suprised. For less than 350 pesos, we recived a very enjoyable five hour ride to México. Upon boarding the bus, we were given a free sandwich, free peanuts, and your choice of either free juice or free water. I took the juice.
To anybody who has ever ridden the Greyhound in USA: you know that the seats barely recline at all, and are very hard and uncomfortable. In México, the seats recline almost all the way back, you have a cushy footrest, and pillows and blankets are supplied (also for free.) I was more comfortable than if I would have been flying on a trans-Atlantic coach flight. So off we rode, in comfort. The only unpleasant thing about the ride was a man two rows behind me that was snoring like a chainsaw, though a chainsaw was probably quieter. I had my (free) music turned all the way up, and I could still hear his obscene nasal rattlings. ¡Cállete, pinche hoto pendajo!
So we arrived in México around six. We then took a series of public transportation medians (the subway, and a couple different buses) to the place that we would be staying. One thing you should know about the subway in Mexico City: 90% of the time, it is literally packed like sardines. You feel the need to suit up in shoulder pads and make a running start just to board the train. And once your on it, your pressed up against six or seven sweaty people you don’t know.
I’ve figured out one thing: the best way to keep people from rubbing up against you on the subway is to pretend you have the swine flu. All you have to do is cough a lot and mutter, “Pinche influenza,” and before you know it you’ll have enough elbow room to break dance. This works especially well on the people who go around wearing surgical masks, as they are obviously the hypochondriacs.
Fun fact about the Mexico City Metro: it handles twice as many passengers per year as the New York City subway.
A note about buses in Mexico: there are no bus stops. You have to flag them down like they’re a cab.
So after about an hour and a half of riding the public transits, we finally arrive to the place we will be staying. It is an orphanage owned by Manuel’s uncle, and he also has a very plesant lady from Venezuela named Annamaria working there.
Upon our arrival, I was instantly surrounded by about thrity wide eyed children, all jabbering away at a hundred miles in hour in Spanish. For the first couple of days I was here, I was simply known as “gringo,” until they finally started calling me by my name yesterday.
So I´m fed a delicious breakfast, meet everyone, and then go and take a much needed nap. I awake refreshed a few hours later, and it is insisted that I eat again. After this, me, Manuel, and a cool guy named Eddie go to the Central (downtown) of Mexico city. It is a MASS of people. No matter what part of the sidewalk you walk on, you are always within six inches of three or four other people. And there are street venders of all kinds everywhere you look. There’s people selling strange and unusual foods, trinkets, gum, batteries, individual cigarettes (3 pesos each) garbage bags full of who knows what, pipes, magazines, live turtles and fish, even roadside medical services. Seriously, there was a guy standing behind a little desk wearing a lab coat and a stethascope, with a sign that said, “Medicó, $20.” I will eat my boots if that guy has anything close to a medical licence.
So we walk around for awhile, see the sights. Towords the end of the night, we stop for chicken burritos and beer. Afterwards, we decide it’s time to call it a night. So it’s back to the subway again. We finish our beers enroute, and then decide that we need more. So we stop at Mexican Wal-mart (it’s pretty much the same wherever you go) and get another six pack. We drink it on the train and the bus (nobody seemed to care) and finish them once we get back to the orphanage. Then, we sleep…
Next day I sleep till about noon. It was nice. As soon as I wake up, I am fed another breakfast, and then Eddie whisks me off to another party. This party is pretty cool, except for the fact that I don’t have Manuel, my human translator with me. I can do all right talking Spanish in a normal setting, but at a party where there’s loud music it’s very hard. Plus, the drunker they get the faster they talk, and the drunker I get, the slower I hear.
I crash at Eddie’s house that night, which is deep in the neighborhoods of the city. The streets of Mexico City are like random lines drawn by a two year old with a crayon. They criss cross, zig-zag, and twist around to make the most confusing place I’ve ever been. And there are many hills in Mexico City, so when you’re on top of one, you can see nothing but more and more and more streets and houses and apartments for as far as the eye can see. It’s truly a metropolis. Oh, and no matter where you are in the city, you can always hear a dog barking. Somewhere.
I wake up the next morning, and me and Eddie slowly make our way back to the orphanage. We stop for some more wierd but delicious roadside food, and get back around ten. Then Eddie has to go and pack, as he is leaving for Oxaca the next day, so I bid him farewell. Meanwhile, Manuel and I get some more tasty roadside food.
That afternoon, Manuel and I meet his friend in the downtown for some shopping. His friend is whiter than I am, though apparently still a Mexican. We shop for USB drives. In Mexico city, there are entire city blocks of mazes of little shops on the first floor of all the buildings. Each block specializes in something different, be it electronics, food, or just random stuff. In one block, there is literally hundreds of little stands, all selling pretty much the same thing. If your in the electronics block, they all sell computers, iPods, and stuff like that.
Later, we went just walked around for awhile. We saw the palace of fine arts, and yet more people selling yet more stuff, camped out pretty much anywhere there was space. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from visiting the city, it’s that you can find pretty much anything you want being sold in random places like street corners, intersections, and sidewalks. Even on the subway there’s people walking around with backpacks full of speakers playing music and selling burned CD’s for ten pesos.
That night, after leaving Manuel’s friend, we went downtown again, this time with a bunch of people from the orphanage. There was an opera playing in honor of Christmas, and I got to see the biggest Christmas tree in the world. Plus, I had about eight curious people following me around like chihuahuas and laughing uproariously at pretty much everything I said.
The next day, we went to Xochimilco and visited what is left of the ancient Aztec lake of Texcoco. We got to ride around in this cool little boat (which was propelled by a guy with a big stick) and we got to watch some fireworks. Apparently, not even the lake is immune to the vendors of Mexico City; they have their own little boats and they paddle around selling flowers, food, and blankets. There’s even floating mariachi bands, who will serenade you for only ten pesos (that seems to be the price of everything in Mexico.)
Next day we just lounged around the orphanage, except I went to the market, where a guy tried to convince me that his goldfish was from Ireland in an attempt to sell it to me.
And yesterday, we went back to Leòn. I bid farewell to my new friends, and now I’m getting all packed up and am ready to spend my Christmas Eve tomorrow hitch-hiking. Could think of a lot worse ways to spend it, though I do miss my family and friends :)
I’ll try to post another update in Acapulco, or perhaps Guatemala City. Until then, my friends….
The Modern Nomad