Monthly Archives: October 2010
A series of random events, that began with a friends dad’s suggestion, lead to me being featured in the sports section, check it out.
In english - here
Thanks to the amazing Claribel, my friend and crafty translator.
Una cosa es una cosa, y otra cosa es otra cosa!? / One thing is One thing, and another thing is another thing!?
Things I like about Mexico
the people…. i can only do my best not to generalize here, and will speak only of the people i have come in contact with. Whilst riding my bike across numerous state lines here, on a daily basis i have run into an array of people. I stand out as an obvious gringo,so i have been told (gringo being foreigner in general and not white American) and I found that in the cities people’s limited imagination makes me an American. So as an American here i have received nothing but friendly,welcoming, warm and encouraging people. The first question people usually ask is ‘where are you from?’, and in the smaller towns/villages people are genuinely surprised that an Englishman is all the way out here, on his jack Jones, riding his bike. For the most part, in the rural areas, the idea of an adventure, expedition or just travel, is beyond most people’s reality. They often exclaim in assurance, ‘you must be rich!’ to which I often explain that I have all that I need par food and water and sleep on the road. People then usually see me for the dirt bag that i am ‘wow you sleep wild, its dangerous, the weather, the animals’, and so on. And so as an Englishman people usually wish me the best of luck or extend their encouragement through words that don’t translate well into English. Whilst riding in Baja the roads were under constant repair and thus full of road workers. More often than not they would shout Orale as i slowly rode past, i thought this meant hurry up,(for safety reasons) but later found out it was a call of encouragement, ‘right on’.
Trades, the tradesman still lives on in Mexico, in every town you can find highly skilled people who have made their work into an elegant art.
The land…..the place i reside in at the minute is similar to that of a botanical garden maguay, nopales, edible trees that provide shade as well as tasty leaves for a stir fry, medicinal herbs, numerous species of cacti and wild shrub that i have not had time to familiarize myself with yet. This is also true for the rest of Mexico, if you spend any amount of time in the sticks, you quickly realize that there is life in abundance, everywhere. The many different ecosystems offer a surprising bio diversity, and natural vegetation ranges from cacti to aquatic plants, as well as trees, shrubs and grasses. Mexico has the greatest diversity of cacti in the world, which is unfortunately threatened by illegal traffic. For me, I like to cross state lines and be able to visibly see the difference in the landscape and natural environment.
Lime and chilli, makes everything taste good, at first I was like enough already, chilli ice cream, you can’t be serious, on fresh coconut! chilli on popcorn, really? Then I slowly became used to chilli on EVERYTHING and now I start panicking if there is no limes or chilli within eyesight of anything edible.
parks.…Mexicans certainly appreciate a good park, and I have only visited a few the country has to offer but what i have seen has been pretty impressive. Huge well maintained parks, with a diverse plant and tree life, along with different areas for a wide range of sports/activities. I particularly liked one park that had solar-powered flood lights on the basketball courts, meaning it is never to late to play some ball. It is things like this which make me question the ‘developed’ label that Mexico is given. I have heard that the government has a big budget for federal reserves, which parks come under. The UK could do with taking more than a page or two from Mexico’s book when it comes to parks/gardens/communal areas.
Markets…..diverse and plentiful, you can usually find everything you could ever desire, get full and have fun at the same time, a fiesta for your senses.
benches….Here in Mexico benches are reserved for bums, and there is no prejudice to whom the bum belongs to, as long as there’s a bum on a bench, all is well. The sheer amount of benches here in Mexico shocked me, back home benches are reserved for the homeless and down n outs or ‘bums’. It’s refreshing to see the almighty bench is still alive and kicking, a place to gossip, to take a load off, to socialize, to watch the day go by.
streets…are often pristine with perfectly trimmed trees to provide an intimate place of shade during the heat of the day.
signs…signs are generally painted on the walls, its creative, personal and often funny as the cheesy stencils come out, like a pair of scissors and a mustache, to advertise a barber shop.
Food…i think the food here deserves its own post, but i will say the food in Mexico is delicious and diverse. My favorite things are sweet tamales and mole….also the abundance of street food…
The green man… on the traffic light that starts off walking and then speeds up and eventually sprints, to indicate that you better get your ass off the road before you get hit by a bus.
The VW beetles that plague the cities, they add an old retro feeling to the often modern cities.
The guys in cars with a loud Speakerphone attached to the top, who drive around all day advertising stuff, ‘today only.. 2 for 1.. best tacos in Mexico.
The bike….as is common in a lot of ‘developing’ countries, ( i personally think Mexico is more developed than the ‘world’ portrays) the bike is creatively used and modified to reach its full potential. Street vendors ride around on 3 wheels, with their business on the front of their bike, ready to cook up a storm in just a few minutes. I like to see the old timers cruisin along on their oldskool bikes with an air of confidence that only old age gives.
Bridges with ramps…for cyclist to cross over the highway
Greetings….be It buenos dias/tardes/ or noches, everyone greets each other, I especially like when some random person says ‘provecho’, which is like saying enjoy your meal
ice cream..The ice cream parlors are on every other block, it’s literally insane how many of them there are. The ice cream is delicious, as are the fruit lollies and the flavored milky drinks are refreshing as well. Maybe it’s a comforting feeling to know your never more than a 5 minute walk from an ice cream.
Pan…generally the bakeries are cheap and delicious, as a connoisseur of all things sweet and baked, I can’t help notice an overall theme of mediocre recipes in most bakeries, however I always seek and often find something that has had some thought put in to it, and is unique to that particular baker.
DIY attitude...simply put, people do things, in terms of commerce, this makes for a diverse marketplace. The streets are full of people selling, buying and trading every possible thing you could want and in accordance to the nature of consumerism many things you simply don’t need, but people buy nonetheless. From the high street stores, the hole in the wall shops, the markets, the bike peddlers and the car peddlers, you are never too far away from the opportunity to lighten ones wallet. Now I don’t think consumerism is progress, but people make a living by whatever means are available to them, and in Mexico the results are often creative. A friend raised an interesting point, saying that ‘in Mexico people have too much freedom’, the rules and regulations here are just a pinch compared to say, the UK, and it was said that ‘the laws that do exist are readily broken’. I personally find it refreshing to see a guy walking around with a wheelbarrow selling nuts and sweets, try that in the UK and you will get slapped in the face with a permit application before you can lift the barrow of the ground. Another example is that of a Woman who converts her home into an eatery by simply opening the front door to the street, placing a big frying pan and cooker in the doorway, and voilà. It definitely brings a new meaning to ‘eating in’ as you eat your tacos in the front room of someone’s house, with all the family pictures and memorabilia dotted around the room. Maybe all the rules and regulations we live with are good as guide lines, for those who need to be guided. However, what about the person who wants to choose their own path? It certainly would be nice to have the freedom to walk that path without having to first clear the way, and maybe even change direction if the powers that be block the way. The blocks will ultimately block ones creativity and compromises will no doubt be made, and before you know it, your vision has slipped away, and you are walking on the same path as the majority. I have heard many a dream that ends with ‘I was going to…’ ‘I tried to, but…’ ‘If only I could…’. I think this is partly why you can observe the ‘sameness’ wherever you go, and anything different is labeled ‘alternative’. Of course, it would also be nice if the path forged, was treaded on lightly.
Things I dont like about Mexico
coke...Here in Mexico Coke is king, and according to Coke, Mexico is the number one consumer of this world-wide popular beverage, and maybe just soda in general. Coke also conducted a survey in which Mexico came out in number one place for overall happiness. Signs are everywhere, double-decker trucks speed along on the highways, sometimes in convoys, their driving is aggressive, they are on a mission to deliver the nations favorite fizz and whoever gets in the way shall surely perish. Whilst riding through tiny villages where the residents were evidently poor, I was surprised to see people power walking home with a 2L bottle of cold coke, and wondered whether they had a fridge at home for the coke. Relatively coke is not cheap either, you could buy maybe a kg of tortillas and a dozen eggs for the same price as a big bottle. And then you have the chicita coke, tiny bottles of maybe 200ml. Now I can appreciate a bit of fizz once in a while, but when fizz over takes fresh juice and healthy drinks in price and availability, then it just feels wrong. The fresh juice places are awesome, but unfortunately much less popular than soda and so much less common.
Obesity…Mexico apparently has the highest rate of obesity in the world, not sure if this is true, but generally there are a lot of fat people around. Did I mention soda and ice cream?
Dogs…I will keep this one short as I feel a rant coming on, let me just say that there are way to many street dogs, and just dogs in general and everyone goes crazy when they see me.
topes…AKA speed bumps are literally everywhere, I’m talking in moronic proportions and placements. In Jamaica they are appropriately known as ‘sleeping policemen’. Apparently if the speed limit indicates 50, most people read it as 80, but that happens in most parts of the world. Maybe it’s because a lot of people drink and drive, maybe not. I am still bamboozled by the illogical number of topes, many not even marked and invisible, in totally unnecessary places. The closest I have got to an answer to my simple question, why so many topes? Is that years back, the police force was limited in numbers and there were a lot of accidents near schools, so they introduced the tope. At the time, tire repairmen used to set up shop right beside the tope as inevitably peoples tires took a hammering. This could also be true of anywhere and does’t explain why i have encountered unmarked topes on a straight road, in the middle of the mountains with nothing for miles. Nowadays usually the outskirts of most cities/towns are congested with broken down cars and tire repair shops. Just the other day I went flying off my bike and luckily i managed to hop around on one foot to prevent falling flat on my face. Even Luckier, the bus was 3 minutes behind me and after gathering my stuff and bike off the road, I was relieved to see it zoom by without me under it. Why the fall you ask, I’m doing 35km ish and out of nowhere a bloody tope, it was unmarked so I only saw it at the last-minute and unbeknown to me, perfectly placed just before the tope was a nice layer of gravelish sand, which i happily applied my brakes on, and went flying...Things I have lost to the tope . fork, toothbrush, 2 pop tarts..gutted, a few peanut bars, nuts galore, cereal galore and much more, an unexpected bump just launches stuff out of my handlebar bag, never to be seen again. Most embarrassing tope moment, toilet paper in front basket goes flying out on the road and rolls out in slapstick fashion for what seems like forever, While I find a place to park up, the wind continues to give the TP a tour of the city. One thing remains certain, I would prefer it if the majority of the police here, stay awake..
the need for waterproof money…
cobblestone… how charming you say, to look at maybe, to walk, drive and if you are crazy enough to ride a fully loaded bike on, then the cobblestone is a nightmare. Walkers trip, drivers rattle at a steady 10mph and I look for the nearest exit out-of-town. It’s totally cheap and impractical, get some big stones, chuck them on the floor and wait for the road fairy to come and level the road out. Oh, what’s that you say? The road fairy tripped and broke her neck….charming.
I had an amazing few days celebrating the Mexican independence day with newly made friends. On the menu was lake Chapala, Sierra de Quilla, Rio grande, Guadalajara, Ameca and of course BBQ.