Random and Bizarre.
Those are all words that characterize my recent six-day trip to Mexico City.
What led to this trip?
After my 3-month training program in the ER ended, I made a goal to go on one trip per month. Why? Because I can. That’s the beauty of working in the ER. While there is no paid time off, there is substantial schedule flexibility. I can take a week off no problem, as long as I plan ahead two months or more.
So along with my other recent trips (Atlanta, Carson City, Denver) and an upcoming one to Knoxville, I planned one to Mexico City. Why Mexico City? Because I love traveling in Latin America and speaking Spanish, because I’ve only been to Mexico once before (a non-touristy part in the Northwest), because Mexico isn’t that far away, because I like Mexican food, and because the airfare is relatively cheap (compared to other countries and compared to other parts of Mexico). Also because a random Irish guy I sat next to on my last flight to Guatemala said it’s a really nice place to visit. Additionally, why not?
|Eating tacos with Sandra (left) and Ninely|
I prefer to travel places where I know someone, for the many obvious advantages (or have work pay for the trip, as was the case with Carson City). The problem was, I didn’t really know anyone in Mexico City. But I kinda sorta did. A little tiny bit. You see, there were a couple people whom I had randomly connected with on Facebook a few months earlier, but never met in person. One of those was Ninely Contreras, with whom I had exchanged a few messages beginning in March. I told her of my upcoming trip, and she said I could stay at her house if I didn’t mind sleeping on the couch. I called her a couple days before the trip to touch base and go over the details (and to feel out if she seemed like a murderous criminal or not :) ), during which conversation she suggested a friend of hers might be better suited to host me as she lives closer to downtown, and has more free time because she’s not currently working.
That friend, Sandra, who had never met me or ever talked to me before, not only hosted me at her apartment, but took time out of her schedule to meet me at the airport so she could accompany me on the Subway back to her home. And from that moment on she acted like we were longtime friends, and was extremely helpful with anything I needed during my stay.
I stayed at Sandra’s apartment every night except one (on the weekend when I stayed at Ninely’s house
because she was accompanying me to visit some of the more
peripheral locations). Sandra and Ninely
were both exceptionally generous, kind, and helpful, and I had a great time
hanging out with them and learning from them.
Really, that was the most remarkable thing about the trip—how far out of
their way two strangers went to make sure my experience in Mexico City went
smoothly. Well, as smoothly as you can
expect anything to go in Mexico City. :)
Ninely said she’s traveled around Mexico a lot and been helped by other
strangers, so she likes to pay it forward.
Sandra just said “I’m awesome, so I do stuff like that.” She didn’t really say that, but it would be
true if she did. :)
Other observations and experiences from the trip, in no particular order:
- My favorite place in Mexico City was Plaza Garibaldi, a big park where a bunch of Mariachi bands (and some not-quite-as-Mariachi bands) congregate every evening to play songs for visitors. I went there three times because I loved it! The only song I requested (and paid for) was “Bésame Mucho”, just because it’s hilarious. The singer was ridiculously off-key….but most of the groups sounded better than that.
- Somehow, some way, I didn’t get sick on this trip, despite trying all sorts of different foods. That makes four consecutive foreign trips with no sickness. I hope I’m not jinxing myself. My secret? I always carry hand sanitizer and a bottle of clean water. But mostly I’ve just been lucky.
- I love speaking Spanish, and this was a great opportunity to practice and learn (or relearn) new words. It was also a reminder that as good as one may be speaking a second language, discussing complex topics or communicating subtleties is an ongoing challenge, but also part of the fun. It was likewise instructive about how much practice and repetition is required to master any language, something we likely take for granted in our native tongues.
- I learned how to find my way around alone on the Mexican subway, which was satisfying.
- Traveling on that same subway during rush hour can be intense. One of the nights I was packed hilariously tightly with all the other people heading home from work. I wasn’t holding onto anything but there was no way I could have fallen down. And at each stop more people would cram in, packing more and more tightly. I chuckled intermittently at the hilarity of the scene, and got some funny looks from the Mexican passengers.
- Thanks to busses, subways, and guidance from friends, I didn’t use a single taxi during the whole trip!
- My three primary goals for the trip were to 1) Don't get killed, 2) Don't get kidnapped, and 3) Don't get mugged. Success!
- As an adult, I’ve developed allergies that plague me in certain places, which unfortunately include Central America, and now Mexico. Ugh.
electric company randomly came and disconnected Sandra’s power my last night in
Mexico, so we got to bust out lots of candles, and I couldn’t charge my phone
or check email. Last I checked she is
still without power. Something to do
with an illegal connection that was placed by
Panuchos - yum!
- The food was great! I didn’t see a single burrito or nacho while I was there (apparently those are more common in Northern Mexico), but plenty of tacos, quesadillas, and some new (to me) stuff like panuchos, sopes, and huaraches. Which are all sort of similar but it still presented a learning curve. And we ate lots of cacti (napales)…
- There are a lot of museums in Mexico City! In case you were wondering.
- Yogurtland in downtown was a great place to study food vocab, cuz all the 50 or so toppings were labeled with placards.
correct way to refer to Mexico City in Spanish is “el DF”, which is short for
the Federal District (much like DC).
Some of the places I visited:
|Heart and Soul in the rain|
- Teotihuacan – the apparently-not-Aztec pyramids 30km Northeast of the city. Great views, lots of stairs!
- Xochimilco – in the Southern part of the city there are several canals, and colorful boats you can ride on in said canals.
- El Zócalo – The central plaza of the city which is surrounded by government buildings and the main Cathedral, and connected to a touristy walkable street that is much like Calle Conde in Santo Domingo, DR, or the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas.
- Chapultepec – an urban park and “forest” intermingled with various museums and at least one body of water. Also where I found a random outdoor piano which I played for about two hours (in two sittings) to the delight (or horror?) of passers-by, got one offer to join a band, and taught two people how to play heart and soul.
And others. Don’t those places have awesome names that are easy to memorize? :)
What a great trip. And it didn’t even cost that much (less than $1,000 total for everything). The best thing about it was the people I met (especially Sandra and Ninely, but also a lot of friendly strangers on the streets or elsewhere), followed closely by the music, food, language, and incredible sights. It left me with great memories and good feelings, and I hope to go back soon!
|Palacio de Bellas Artes|
More pictures from the trip can be seen here.