X-Type: Email; Outmail
Subject: From Ed and Edith Part VII
THE REAL MEXICO AS WE SEE IT!
We have tried to get a real sense of what Mexico is like. Things seem very safe here and I think other than a few areas this is true. There still is some corruption but it is a lot better under the new government. We have walked several miles of the back streets. We observed a lot of people taking life easy and kids playing in the street or yards.There is lots of music in Mexico from radios, CD's tapes and bands on the street. We see quite a few beggars and people asking for money for organizations. Because it is hot a lot of people have their windows and doors open. The houses often look better, much better inside than on the outside. Air conditioning is basically non-existant. The shops are basically hole in the walls. For instance hardware stores or other supply places may be very narrow say 10 or 20 feet and go way back in. If you want something you have to ask for it and they will go find it and bring it up for you to look at. Shops can be most anywhere someone decides to set one up and often they set up on the street. Everything is walled with gates and doors with locks on them. Sometimes it is a fence with bars where you can see in but would be difficult to get over it. There are some squares with shops and sometimes in the square or on the more main streets where outside spaces are set up the same as flea market boothes/tents.
One thing we have seen is that there are a lot of animals in Mexico and right here in town, several times we can see through a crack in a gate and there stands a Holstein cow. It is very common to see chickens running around and some goats. Lots of horses on the strees and bicycles that people use for transportation rather than cars. We see a few motor cycles but not that many. We also have seen them herding some Holsteins down toward the river for grazing. One was a herd of about 40
head counting calves. There were two Holtein bulls with them which made me a little nervous as they walked by. There was a herder with them. Speaking of bulls there is a bull ring here in town and we seen several on the way down here. Soccer is real popular down here and we see lots of kids playing soccer. There are also quite a few tennis courts. In the bars as you walk by you see a lot of people playing what I believe are called fousball (don't know how to spell). They really get into it. Lots and lots and lots of beer is drank down here. We are in the tequela region and they have tours. We seen a lot of the plants as we came in.
It appears that a lot of the locals get supplies at the local weekly open market. We have went to four open markets and find very, very little English is spoken and about 99% of the shoppers are Mexican and 1% Gringo's. I think the most striking thing to us was the way meat is marketed. Basically it is out in the open and not refrigerated.. Often with fish they are gutting them right there. With poultry they are quite often cutting it up.With beef it is sometimes in wholesale cuts and other times retail cuts. I did not see any lamb, goat or pork in the open market but did see some in shops where I did see refrigeration. Sometimes they have cooked meat. They cut a piece off and hand it to you to sample. Obviously with a bare hand. Maybe 5% of the places used a plastic glove. The fish certainly smell and they are usually waving a feather type fan over the meat of all types to keep the flies away.
The vegetables and fruit seemed like a bargin to me. We got a 3 kilo of bananas for 10 peso's so multiply 9 cents x 10 peso's for 90 cents. So 3 kilo x 2.2 lbs. would by 6.4 lbs for 90 cents or just over 14 cents a lb. We got 5 kilo's of Oranges for 10 peso's. There are a large selection of vegetables, root crops and fruit. A bottle of Coke cost 6 Peso's. When it came to other items I thought they were basically Walmart type prices. Really no great bargins. Some jewelry and leather were some cheaper. You can bargin a little on some items but it is not like the border towns at all that way! There is everything at the open market if you go to them all, but each is somewhat different. They just set up on a street for quite a long ways on the day of the open market.
If you do not know any Spanish at all I think it would be tough to buy things; however they are very honest and will give you the correct change. If you do not understand the numbers you can get them to write it down and then cienta trienta which you would not know is 130 peso's and the money is marked in numbers so you can figure it out. If you handed them some money or laid some money out they would show you what it cost. At this point I pretty well have the numbers figured out but the first few days if it was a bigger number I had to have them write it down for me. I know how to ask several things in Spanish such as what does it cost please, etc. which really helps.
Some restaurants have English and Spanish menu's others you have a waiter that understands none or very little English and the menu is in Spanish. We ate out twice with our limited budget! It is reasonable but not cheap!
Edith is just doing great, not scared to walk around the streets, attempting to speak Spanish and doing great at it, handling the traffic real well and meeting a lot of people in the park. She has ran out of yarn. We have bought quite a bit of food at the open market. So far neither one of us has had even a touch of stomach problems, let alone not feel well. We watch each other so we don't do something stupid on what we eat or drink. We are starting to run low on drinking water as we drink a lot of water with the heat, ie 85 degrees during the day for a few hours so today we boiled some water to get our supply up for the return trip. We have only heard of one bad incident where a couple from Canada(lots of Canadians here) were robbed by the police on the way down on the bypass for San Luis P... on the way down here from Texas. They only wanted Peso's and made trumped up charges at to speeding. They did turn the incident in when they got here. The Mexican government is pursuing these reports with vigor. The problem is in that area they have cracked down on bribes but have not raised the wages. That is the only problem and we have talked to scores and scores of people. This couple said they had been down here for 20 years and it is the first time they have every had any trouble.
When we got here we found one tire on the 5th was showing wire so today was the day to put on my two new spares. I also found one tire that was wearing on the inside but the rest was real good so I needed it turned around. Well I found the rim I bought in Inuvik in the North West Territories was a 6 hole rim which I need BUT the hole for the hub was not big enough. Well this means I need it changed to another rim. Well I head for the tire shop down the street and it is just a traffic jam in front of the place as there is actually a small super market next to it that a lot of Gringo's shop at and some other shops. Well a F-350 does not fit in very gracefully but I do my best. I witness a shouting match between ladies, gringo's in one car and the other to Mexican ladies. They were front bumper to front bumper and neither one wanted to back up. Finally the Mexican lady got out and swore some and told the Gringo ladies if they would just back up a little all they wanted to do was pull into a parking slot and then they could go by so finally they did and the fight was over. I went into what I thought was a garage. I though tirya meant tire but actually it means don't throw out basera (trash) but anyway I found what appeared to be someone in charge and asks habla english and he say no and then takes of to try and get rid of a traffic jam in front of his place. Eventually he gets back and gets something settled with someone else and I test my Spanish and get it across that I want the tire changed from one rim to the other and that it will cost 40 peso's which is $3.60 cents so in Spanish I have him go ahead. I get CRAZY and decide to see what a new tire will cost. I am not sure how to say new so I look it up in my dictionary and say quanto questa nueavie es peso's. This is phonetically and not the correct spelling which is basically how much does it cost new in Peso's and he says something which I could not get so I motion to my pen and give it to him and he writes 800 Peso's. I don't know the big numbers yet. I then try and get him to buy the rim that was no good to me but he does not want to but for 70 Peso's he will cut the hole bigger in the center so it will fit. I say i will think about it in Spanish. I then talk to another fellow who I think was another customer waiting and find out tire is llantera so now we are making progess.. That would sound like yantera! With the accent on the ter.
I leave and go back to the 5th and mount the tires and then decide to take another tire of and have it turned around since it had great tread except on the inside. I decide to roll it about 1/8 mile down to the garage on the cobble stone and some places asphalt and some places concrete and do that. This time it is the son and he can speak some English so I learn yano for full, repairacion for repair, refractionary for garage or place that fixes; repairs things and head home. I am tired by the time I get home as the heat and high altitude is really taking it's toll. I get the last tire mounted and sit in the shade and drink lots of water! I do a lot of reflecting on how one can communicate and decide the answer is I HAVE TO LEARN the sounds of all the letters and the exceptions. I have a pretty good book on it and I decided I would ask George N9VIU my ham friend who lives in the RV park if he would help me. George speaks excellent Spanish and has been down here for 15 years. This afternoon I spent about two hours with George and it is like 3rd grade phonetics where George says it correctly and then I repeat and repeat and repeat.
There is good and bad. The good is that the letters in Spanish mostly have one sound and a few have two sounds with some rules and exceptions to the rules. The bad part is they have about 4 letters we don't have and these and some of the letters have sounds we DO NOT MAKE IN ENGLISH. There is just nothing like it! You are like a two year old trying to talk. It is a very humbling experience! Anyway now I have a pretty good idea as to how the letters sound and I wrote it all out and then I can use the computer and listen to the letters in various words and get more familiar with them and get so I can say them. George says some of them will take a long, long time and in fact you will always sound like a Gringo! The point of all this is that I am well on the road to be able to look up a word in the Spanish/English ... English/Spanish section of the dictionary and ask something. If they are having trouble understanding me I can show them the word in the dictionary although if someone can only speak and not read which happens quite a bit then that won't work. Understanding is tough as they talk fast and can use many, many words you don't know and the accent is different in parts of the country and of course they have SLANG as well.
Anyway if you have not experienced it you need to get into a situation where you are trying to communicate and you only know a few words and there is no one to bail you out! It will give you a whole new perspective!!!
George also spent a lot of time explaining about the Mexican culture and how it differs from us and what you need to be really careful about as a number of things we consider very normal would be considered very rude here in Mexico. There attitude about a lot of things are different than ours Well tomorrow will be our last day here at PAL RV park. Everybody is very friendly and everybody gets out and exercises several times a day. From about 4 pm on until after dark it is just like our most beautiful spring days at about 65 to 70 degrees. This time of the year it is a little hot in the day time; although if you are in the shade it is not bad. The nights get nice and cool about about 55 degrees. Very little wind other than some mountain created breezes some nights around 9 pm. Once in a while they can be pretty hard and have ripped up a few awning in the park. BTW the past several days despite a lot of local fires the smoke has cleared out and it is clear and the sky is extremely blue with absolutely no clouds! The lake is way down which is really a shame. It is still very large but it sure had to have been a beautiful lake 15 years ago when it was full and there was not the pollution in it as of today. They are working on that and if they could get into a wet cycle it would fill up a lot anyway.
There seem to be about three attitudes among the Gringo's down here. One is to mainly associate with Gringo's and go to places that cater to Gringo's ie speak English, etc. The second group learns some Spanish to help them get by. The third group which unfortunately is a small percentage learn to get along quite well with Spanish and have lots of Mexican friends that only speak Spanish and they have really tried to learn and fit into the Spanish culture. I now better understand why we get the UGLY AMERICAN tag in that we often are seen as rude and we don't realize we are rude because we don't understand there culture.
The vehicle accident rate is much lower in Mexico than the US but to me they drive a lot more aggressively. I think the difference is because of all the speed bumps, (topes) and rough roads, pot holes and miles and miles of cobblestone and uneven brick the speeds are held down so I think that is why the accident rate is lower. The mechanical condition is certainly much worse on average. One other thing that may help is the amount of driving at night is a lot less but on the other hand I am convinced DUI is more common.
I hope you can get a glimpse of deep, deep Mexico through my eyes. I am told the big difference from 15 years ago is the roads are a lot better and things are more expensive and of course there are more cars, electronics and INTERNET but in many other ways it is still the same! I admire people who had the guts to go here 15 years ago. Then bribery was much more a way of life than today!
I expect there will be one more travelogue in regards to the trip back to the USA. When I get back I will put some pictures on the web page. I will send out an e-mail when they are on the web site.
Ed and Edith
[MID: 1317_W0SD Sent Via: KA6IQA Date: 2002/03/26 14:49:23]