Sunday, August 29, 2010

Promises, Promises (Mexico City)

My good friend A. is back in town. Once we settle into our room (we've opted for quiet, as opposed to light, and we've received the bonus -- at no extra charge -- of an eau de sewer smell that seems to permeate rooms at the back of the hotel), we walk half a block to a restaurant featuring cuisine from the Yucatan. The waiting line is long, and when we are finally seated, we are placed in the smoking section. I refuse this assignment and request a seat in the main, non-smoking area, so we continue to wait.

Our new table is near a window and not too far from the talented musicians who are performing on a small stage in the center of the room. As is the norm, most people are ignoring the music to focus on conversation; A. and I are multi-taskers, able to focus on the entertainment and each other simultaneously, while ignoring the chatter that surrounds us.

We share a couple of the specialties suggested by the waiter: little, thick, round corn tortillas mounded with beans; others with shredded chicken, avocado. I heap on the pickled onions and chili peppers that are delivered to the table. A. orders what turns out to be the world's tiniest margherita; the two miniature straws sticking up out of it dwarf the drink.

While we're munching our savories, I notice that everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE else in the restaurant, is tucking into a turkey leg (not the same one). I promise myself that next year, I will request my very own turkey leg; although, if this is a fad (and how would I know?), next year's must-order might very well be a sheep shank, a manta ray wing, or a cactus flower. I'll have to be more observant.

A. is knocked out from her travels, so she returns to our room, but not before I've extracted her promise to go dancing with me tomorrow. In exchange, she's made me promise that men will ask her to dance. "Of course, they will," I swear. Of this, I am certain.


We are all dolled up, with someplace to go. It's two-for-the-price-of-one night at the dance hall, so men are waiting three deep to find women with whom they can enter. Two guys appear out of somewhere and escort us inside.

A.'s escort asks her to dance as soon as we settle into our seats. We both end up dancing with few breaks over the next couple of hours. All promises should be so easy to fulfill!


There is little that is quite as decadent as churros and chocolate. We eat a light, yogurt-and-fruit breakfast, so we can indulge our sweet teeth.

El Moro features nothing but these long, ridged donut fingers dusted with sugar, and five types of hot chocolate: Mexican, with cinnamon and vanilla; Spanish, dark, thick, and sweet; French, less sweet, less thick, and not dark; another type which the sugar overload has expunged from my head; and the Special, which is higher priced, less sweet than the Spanish, and highly recommended by the woman who waits on us. We both go for the Special, although I still remember fondly the addictive richness of the Spanish drink I practically overdosed on last year.

The frothy chocolate arrives, accompanied by two week's worth of greasy, luscious carbohydrates that we alternate between dunking in our cups and plunking straight into our mouths. The waitress brings over half a cup of Spanish chocolate, so we can taste the difference. I am immensely enjoying what I perceive is my last day as a nondiabetic. I promise myself that I will not do this again until the next time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Pleasant Interlude (Queretero, Mexico) Precedes the Taxi Ride from Hell (Mexico City)

Art and I meet Kim and Guillermo, two of my acquaintances from the US, in a popular downtown Queretero cafe. The couple, she a type A gringa and he, a more laid back Mexican national, live just a few blocks from Art's house. I haven't seen them for about a year and a half, since they left Virginia to spend six months on Guillermo's family's farm in the middle of nowhere (according to Kim) and their subsequent search for the right city in which to build their future. I had heard they'd been living in Queretero from one of my occasional dance partners, but had only just managed to get in touch and arrange our meeting a few weeks ago.
It is a treat to see them.

Guillermo, with Kim's marketing expertise, is starting up a quality house painting service: written estimates, no thinned-down paint, we show up when we say we will, and other things taken for granted, perhaps, in the USA, but not necessarily givens in Mexico.

We eat dinner in a funkily graffitied, grotto-like eatery, where a ladder rises to a loft above our heads and from which a fork falls, tines downward, almost skewering Kim. We enjoy our sandwiches and conversations, and I have the feeling that, in time, my three companions will become good friends.

Art leaves to attend a meeting concerning his work on the upcoming bicentennial celebrations (he's involved in painting a mural and scripting a sound-light-dance-orchestra-theater extravaganza that will run through all of Mexican history in a couple of hours). Guillermo -- tired, after a full day's physical labor -- heads back to the apartment. Kim and I walk back to the center of town, to listen to a band playing jazz in the plaza. We knew each other only superficially in the States, having worked on some community projects together and greeted each other at meetings; tonight we have the opportunity to sit and really talk. I will look forward to seeing her again when she returns to the US and will enjoy catching up again when I'm back in Queretero.

In the morning, Art drives me to the bus station. In several hours, I'll be back in D.F.

The bus ride goes smoothly. I purchase my cab ride into downtown, historic D.F. and get in line for a "secure" taxi. The cab driver grabs my two bags, places them in the trunk, and gets into the vehicle. I am already seated in the back, digging for the seat belt, which I never manage to unearth.

We take off and drive a little ways off, when the cabbie requests my ticket. I hand it to him and tell him the address of my hotel. He swivels all the way around, looks me in the eye, and says, "Senora, do you speak Spanish?"

When I say yes, he tells me that, due to the demonstrations taking place downtown, there is no way he can drive me to my hotel. He can drop me at any of four locations which I've never heard of, but I'm likely to be attacked and robbed, once the demonstrators notice that I'm a foreigner with luggage.

I ask why they didn't inform me of the problem when I was purchasing my ticket and he says that the people there don't know anything and wouldn't say anything if they did. I point out that I've paid to go downtown, and that he needs to take me somewhere I know and from which I can safely reach my hotel.

The driver starts arguing about the impossibility of my request. In the meantime, I dial my hotel and ask the clerk if the streets are closed off. She tells me that there's no problem getting there, and I relay that information to the driver.

He is becoming increasingly irate. At every red light, he mumbles under his breath. If a car passes in front of us, he leans on his horn and curses. He weaves in and out of traffic, dangerously close to nearby vehicles and pedestrians. His back becomes stiffer with every passing second, and I am becoming more and more concerned about his sanity and my safety.

Although traffic appears no worse than at any other time I've taxied in from airports or bus stations, the driver has started ranting. "Who will pay me for my time? Who will pay me for my gas?" He shoots angry looks at me via the rear-view mirror. These are obviously not rhetorical questions. "Are YOU going to pay me for this?" he yells.

"I've already paid to be taken to my hotel," I tell him.

"I only get part of that money!" he screams and seethes.

"It is your job to take me to my hotel," I insist, but I am scared. "You can drop me off right here," I say when we've reached familiar territory. "I'll just walk the rest of the way."

"It won't make any difference!" he shouts.

When we pull up, across the street from the hotel, I am wondering if he will drive off with my belongings. I hop out of the vehicle and stand next to the trunk. He opens it but doesn't make a move to help. I pull out my bags, as he stands over me, glaring.

I am shaking but I am safe.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Margheritaville (Guadalajara, Mexico)

Day One.

I am staying in the nicest hotel I will experience in Mexico. That's because I am being treated to the accommodations and a per diem, in exchange for accompanying a colleague to meetings in virtually every department and with every employee of the impressive and enormous University of Guadalajara. The hotel boasts an exercise room (a closet, really, with two stationery bikes that I could bend and break by merely staring at them) and a kidney-shaped pool about the size of 1,372 bloated kidneys. My room is actually a suite, with a large living area and a good sized bedroom with a working TV and my very own bathroom. There is a door leading to a kitchen, but it is locked and unavailable to me. I am not upset by the thought that I won't be cooking or washing dishes.

After settling in, I go outside to scout out a restaurant in which I can enjoy a leisurely and delicious late lunch. Ambling around the residential neighborhood, I discover several interesting possibilities. Unfortunately, none is still offering eats at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.

I wind up at a Chinese buffet that looks like it will either kill me or make me stronger. The food tastes better than it looks, although I am unable to identify half of what I eat as either Chinese or food.

I retire early. Actually, I'll probably retire 20 years after my death, but in the meantime, I go back to my room, watch movies and music videos (the closest I get to the mariachis for which Guadalajara is famous), am foiled in my attempt to swim in the pool -- which has closed for the evening, read, and go to bed early.

My colleague and friend, McK will arrive sometime this evening, and I anticipate a full day tomorrow and during the rest of our stay.


Day Two.

I am up and about at the pre-crack of dawn. (I can't sleep late unless I'm deathly ill or just plain deathly.) After bathing and dressing, I go downstairs to partake of breakfast in the lobby.

Breakfast is served on the latest in stryro-ware. There's yogurt, in flavors ranging from nut to prune; cereal; juice; toast; and airline-approved coffee (read: weak). I read a newspaper, eat my carb allotment for the day, and chat with a young Mexican American, who invites me to join him for a walk to a nearby mall. I turn down his offer, because I am uninterested in malls and because I am sure that my colleague and friend, McK, who arrived at the hotel sometime last night, will be appearing at any moment.

Two hours later, my new friend returns from his walk, surprised to see me in practically the same position as when he departed. He tells me that they've closed off the major thoroughfare to allow people to bike, skateboard, and walk for miles and how the whole of Guadalajara appears to be taking advantage of the beautiful weather to do so.

In the interim, I have read the last month's newspapers and every brochure for every restaurant and tourist attraction in Guadalajara, checked to make sure that McK actually arrived (he did), and flooded my body with dishwater (read: coffee).

New friend goes up to his room, but I continue to wait. At noon, I have reached the outer limits of my patience, and insist that the desk clerk ring McK's room. He's either dead or unconscious, and I want to know what to do next. McK doesn't respond to the call, so I am beside myself.

"He could be in the shower," the clerk suggests.

We wait 45 minutes before calling again. No answer.

"He could have gone out," the clerk says.

I am ready to do the same, when McK comes in the door. He'd sent me an email to say he'd meet me at around 2pm for lunch, but as I had no access to a computer, I hadn't received the message. Up even earlier than I, he'd gone for a run, along with the rest of the population. I am relieved that he is alive, well, and back.

McK goes up to his room to clean off and re-dress. Within half an hour we are outside, joining the masses, and on our way to downtown.

We debate taking a bus or a cab, but we're so engaged in conversation that we don't catch a ride until we're two blocks away from our destination. We pop in and out of every historic building in the centro, including the theater, museums, and the sites of murals from all the famed muralist native sons of Guadalajara.

Having worked up both a sweat and an appetite, we start scoping out likely lunch spots. We end up asking someone for a recommendation, and we have a satisfactory experience at La Chata. Afterward, we grab a cab to visit just one more museum before we head back to the hotel, but it's already past museum-closing time. Instead, we go to the "Shoe Mall," where we drown our sorrows by buying Flexis, a Mexican brand of comfortable footware.

We return to the hotel with plenty of time to swim before the rain hits.


Day Three.

Our driver, Ismael -- with his background in hotel hospitality -- is an intelligent and interesting character who gets us where we need to go by the skin of his and our teeth, and relates funny stories well, in Spanish and/or English. Our schedule is tighter than a pair of size 2 jeans; every hour we find ourselves at a different Facultad. There are speeches of welcome and tours. A highlight is a meeting with the heads of pediatric and adult emergency services at the university's hospital and a look at the isolation unit in which victims of failed suicide attempts, exuding poisonous vapors that would kill anyone coming into contact with them, are hosed down and the oxygen in the room exchanged every couple of minutes.

We are taken out to lunch -- at La Chata. As Guadalajara is known for its tequila, I am easily convinced to down a Margherita. I am a cheap drunk, but I hold my own, to the best of my knowledge. After more meetings, we are treated to a lovely dinner, where I drink a tamarind Margherita and finish the tequila-infused sorbet that is served at the end of the meal. I do not have any memory of the rest of the day...


Day Four.

See Day Three. Skip the hospital visit, add more welcoming speeches. After a while, I tell McK that I finally understand why he invited me along on this trip; he has been giving me small boxes to store in my purse, which he requests whenever we meet with people he's known from previous trips or with new, important folks (like the Rector of the University or the Director of Directors). I then pass him the package, without ever discovering what is contained therein. "I am the mule," I say.

Sometimes McK and I are given our own packages. I get a key chain, a pen, and three books that I "mistakenly" leave in my hotel room. To the best of my recollection, the titles are: Feminist Writings in Early 18th Century Mexican Letters to the Editor; Rural Road Construction in Places You Still Cannot Access; and The World's Most Beloved Bedtime Readings About Educational Topics.

We end our meetings early. McK reunes with one of his colleagues, while I go to lunch with a Cuernavaca friend's partner. He offers me a choice of venues, including Chili's, which I give the cold shoulder to. In a lovely, non-US, non- chain restaurant, we dine on fish, and I don't drink anything stronger than lemonade.

When I return to the hotel, McK suggests that I join him as guest of a friend and some colleagues for dinner. "There should be some interesting conversation," he tells me, plus there will be another woman there who will probably welcome my presence.

The evening consists of long waits for the other people to show up; long, drawn-out speeches; long, drawn-out monologues; and a longing to return to our respective rooms. I am actually amused, but McK's eyeballs have been rolling for several hours, and he is tired.


Day Five.

A fond goodbye to McK. Taxi to the bus station. Back to Queretero.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fewer than Two Short Days (Guanajuato, Mexico)

K's directions from the bus station are quite clear. I instruct the cabbie to drive straight through a tunnel, turn left, pass two sleeping policemen, then let me out. I am atop a hill and must enter a passageway tucked behind a storefront and wend my way down steep steps and slippery inclines, until I finally locate her house.

I ring the bell and wait; I am earlier than expected, so K is not yet home, and the Australian woman who is renting the apartment on the lower level opens the gate, lets me in, leads me through the lovely patio (filled with blooming container plants, a bench, chairs and a cafe table), and serves me pineapple juice. We relax in her living area. Chatty and nice, she fills me in on the essentials: where to go for salsa lessons and coffee.

K arrives and takes me upstairs to where I'll be staying. A designer, she bought her house in a working class neighborhood. Despite the appeals of her friends to save her time and her money, she renovated the space. And did a lovely job of it.

My bedroom is located immediately off the kitchen, where K leaves a bowl of lychees (!), a croissant and a sweet bread, and tea bags for my breakfast and snacks. A counter separates kitchen from dining area. A door leads to another bedroom. All rooms are simply furnished and uncluttered, with beautiful, jewel-toned linens, cushions, and fabrics.

Next to the dining area are a shower room and a (separate) half bath in which the toilet is topped by a Japanese style sink. Every time you flush the john, clean water exits the tap, allowing you to wash your hands before the water recycles into the tank. Brilliant!

The dining area's arched windows offer a view of the the surrounding rooftops and of the colorful houses situated on various hilltops, but it's even better to exit onto the cool, sheltered terrace to chat and enjoy a glass of wine. That's just what we do.

I never have a chance to see the upper floor, where K has her bedroom, a living room, and an even better view of the city and surrounding mountains.

Unfortunately, I have little time to spend with K, who has just returned from her own travels and whose schedule is full. But the Australian woman shows me the path into downtown, past the fetid river, over cobblestones, always wending downward. She leads me to the place where I will take a dance lesson, and that's where she leaves me.

Approximately 50 people populate the room. All the women are American students. The men comprise an even mix of Mexicans and Americans. The average age is probably 25, but that's only because I'm pulling it up.

After a warm-up, beginners are asked to move to the left, where they will work on the basics. As the teacher doesn't know me, he dances me for a minute to see which group I should be assigned to. I pass the test, remaining with the intermediate group. We learn a series of steps, which we practice for the rest of the hour, the men rotating so that we women always dance with different partners.

On my way back to the house, I stop at a little corner seafood place and order two tacos, one of shrimp and another of fish. I'm disappointed by the tastelessness of the uninspired and indistinguishable doughy blobs with which I am presented. I eat them because I am hungry, but I have the queasy feeling that I've stumbled into the hideout where exiled "Master Chefs" of Captain D's and Shoney's continue to churn out faux food, everything bland, breaded, and fried.

My stomach laden and leaden, I leave. It is raining, and the ground is slick and mossy. I lose my bearings amongst the sloping steps and high walls in the winding darkness leading up to K's house. Nobody else is out and about in this weather, in this warren, and I can't read the street signs or the house numbers. I am weary, sopping, and increasingly desperate, when finally I find the tiled step, the gate that I've been looking for. I slip my key in the lock, and after several tries, am home away-from-home.


Waking up to my full day here, I shower, polish off the lychees and a croissant, and head down the steps to town, searching for the recommended best cafe and hoping to be there sipping coffee, before a caffeine headache catches up with me. It's pouring.

I'm parked at a table overlooking the street. The coffee is strong enough to lure a parade of expats into the doorway. An American retiree searches for the baseball cap he might have left behind the last time he stopped here; he realizes that it's in his car, but he forgets the canvas bag he's brought with him. A Canadian student I strike up a conversation with an Australian couple, he a nurse, she an adult and art educator. She sits at another table and works at her laptop, while he joins me and spins some salty tales.

The rain lets up, so I get up and go.

First stop: the lovely, ornate Teatro Juarez, known as one of Mexico's most beautiful theaters. The highly embellished facade features angels, muses, lyres, garlands, and Doric columns, guarded by stone lions who might be related to those in front of the New York Public Library. The Art Nouveau foyer leads to the smoking room, populated with sculpted (dead)writers and musicians, among them Dante and Mozart, and an impressive staircase leading to the various levels of seating.

In the lobby, I talk with a Mexican man, a sports doctor from Monterey, and end up joining him, his psychologist wife, and their two high-school aged daughters, for the walk and a self (selves?) tour of the Diego Rivera House Museum. The muralist's birthplace and childhood home, it now showcases some of his artwork and other exhibits.

Taking my leave of this lovely family, I move on to the Mercado Hidalgo. I pass by the displays of vegetables and fruits, cheeses, spices, and animal innards and outards. I sit at a market stall and eat a 40-peso lunch of chicken sauteed with onions, green peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos, salad, and rice and beans, washing it all down with horchata.

I wander the charming streets and peek into a few churches. I spend about an hour in the museum dedicated to all things Don Quixote, home to sculptures, paintings, and decorative items based on the errant knight, his squire, and windmills, as interpreted by artists and artisans from many countries. I think about how little time I have to see this charming city and its treasures. My Mexican students will be crestfallen that I did not make time for the mummies.

The rain persists. The smell of my moldy shoes percolates up to my nose. Stopping into a shop that I passed on my way into the historic area, I buy a pair of black canvas shoes for under four dollars. They will not be mistaken for designer wear and will probably not last very long, but they will give my feet a fresh, new start. When I get back to K's house, I double-bag the old shoes and throw them into the trash.


The only way I can think to thank K. for her hospitality is to invite her out to breakfast on the day of my departure. We end up at the Holiday Inn buffet, on the road to the bus station.

When we enter, the host asks us for our room number. We have none, I say.

He asks if we're with a group. No, I tell him. We just want to eat breakfast.

He looks puzzled, as if I had ordered a turducken or a veinti skinny, double-shot frappuchino with no whipped cream.

"We'll pay," I say.

"It's 70 pesos each," he responds, looking less puzzled and rather pleased.

We help ourselves to chilaquiles, scrambled eggs in salsa, and papaya, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.

The host comes over to me and whispers, conspiratorially, "If anyone should ask, can you tell them that you're with a group?"

"Which group?" I ask.

"Los alabastros." I don't know if I've heard him correctly or who they are or what they do, but I shake my head yes. Are we part of a group working with alabaster or albatrosses? K, a charming redhead and I, a sometimes charming but never a redhead, will willingly and proudly be alabastras, if that's what it takes to eat breakfast.

When we finish eating and pretending to be alabastras, I pay the host with a 500-peso note. He disappears for about half an hour, apparently trying to dig up change without churning up suspicions that he has allowed two women to crash breakfast for a price that will go directly into his pocket. K. leaves him a healthy tip; if we ever do this again, the wheels will certainly run more smoothly.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hanging Out with Art (Queretero, Mexico)

The cabbie wants to charge me extra because Art´s place, where I´ll be spending the night, is two blocks outside of the Historic District, on the other side of the river that forms the boundary between a $3.40 and $4.50 ride. I call Art to confirm the location, and he says that he does, indeed, live in the district.

I forget to turn my cell phone off, so Art overhears the conversation. He´s shouting, "Don´t pay him any more! Don´t pay him any more!" but I don´t hear what he´s saying, because I´ve stuffed the phone back in my purse. And even if I did hear him, I probably would assume that the voice was just one of many in my head.

The phone must be tired of the whole argument because it hangs itself up. Art calls and instructs me to tell the cabbie to stop on the $3.40 side of the street. By the time we pull in, I see him there, already waiting.

As we walk to his beautiful little house, Art explains that all is not well in his corner of River City. His neighbor to the left is an ugly man who invites young drug addicts to his house and bed; lately the youngsters have been jumping the fence between the two houses and helping themselves to items in Art's patio. Meanwhile, the neighbor to the right allows (encourages?) her little dog to poop all over the street, leaving piles of steaming doggie doo-dads at Art's doorway. Fed up with the mess, Alex boomeranged some of its own caca into doggie doo's face, in the hopes that doggie won't anymore. The animal seems to have learned its lesson, but the owner is furious.

Despite neighborhood quarrels, Art´s house is as peaceful as it was when I stayed there last year. The orange tree in the patio is heavy with fruit. A glorious, almost neon-purple bourgainvilla cascades over a fence. A tree with huge purple leaves and agray trunk stands out among the the others in its unnamed beauty.

Inside, the light flows through two-story high windows and through a large porthole cut into the living/dining area. Sparsely furnished, the room brims with original artwork. One part of the wall sports caricatures of the staff of a museum where Art exhibited last summer. His abstract oils march along a short wall, while another in the series rests on an easel. The back wall features several life-sized astronauts. Drawings and paintings by other artists fill in some of the blanks. There is a small, sheet-covered love seat, a rocking chair, a TV, a long dining room table and chairs, and, behind the circular stairs leading up to the loft where I sleep (and below several miniature airplane replicas, sits a table covered with fossils and a large, eclectic selection of music tapes.

The kitchen is small, but functional, with its junior-sized fridge and sink. Art displays a bunch of cow-kitch, creamers and the like, but it seems that he's not responsible; people see his collection and think he likes cows, so they keep gifting him more.

As soon as I drop off my luggage, we leave the house. We walk half a block to the home of a neighbor. The front of her house is a restaurant. The food is simple, filling, and inexpensive; today we dine on chicken in salsa verde (green sauce), preceded by soup, accompanied by salad, and followed by a bite of dessert.

We wander around town. Every time we dart across a street, avoiding the speeding -- often careening cars -- Art yells, "Run, run for your life!" The few times when we don´t encounter near-death experiences, I shout, "Walk, walk for your life!" We laugh hysterically, as if we were actually saying things that were funny or even half witty.

Art points out the preparations being made for the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration (of Mexico's independence). Telephone cables and other wires have been rerouted underground, which makes this city, full of beautiful, colonial architecture, even more appealing.

At an outside table in a bustling cafe, we share coffee and conversation with one of Art's friends. The man bicycles up and down a mountain to and from work each day -- over a two-hour commute each way. Our discussions cover concerns about the environment, the possibility that downtown Queretero will lose its UNESCO designation (and economic support) as a protected historic site (because people have to actually live in the designated area, and the residential population has plummeted), recipes for ketchup, and the Slow Food movement (i.e., a return to natural, organic, and native foods). Art and friend talk about the possibility of opening a shop that would sell seasonal Mexican fruits and vegetables that are becoming increasingly rare, in the interest of spurring demand and preventing the produce from disappearing altogether. Friend shows me photos of his beautiful computer-generated depictions of flowers. We share a beautiful afternoon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rain Drops are Falling on My Head and Everywhere Else (Mexico City)

There´s a museum that I´ve been wanting to visit for years. Located about three blocks away from my hotel, the Museo de Estanquillas is unexpectedly fascinating.

Two and one half stories of a gorgeous building are chock full of political cartoons dealing with Mexican history, particularly social causes ranging from fights for independence to women´s rights and the Communist movement. I spend two hours and don't see all the exhibits.

I can´t stay any longer because I´m meeting an American soon-to-be friend at the Spanish Cultural Center. Over the course of several coffees, juices, and hours, G. (name has been abbreviated to protect a fellow CouchSurfer -- not to be confused with couch potato)and I find common and uncommon ground.

G. was a journalist. Among his interesting adventures was his time embedded with American troops in Iraq. (I will leave his stories for him to tell.) He lives in Mexico City now, working part-time from home in the financial sector.

We briefly tour the exhibits at the Cutural Center. One features images of immigrants, the other displays disturbing photos of various countries´ "disappeared ones" -- or what is left of them.

After this, we run errands. G. has to find a part, which doesn´t seem to exist, for his two-year-old cell phone. I buy more minutes for the one I purchased in Cuernavaca. We then walk, in the ever-increasing rain, towards someplace else that G. has to go. Despite the good company and conversation, I decide that I had better head back to my hotel; G. continues on his way alone.

It takes me about two hours and thirty ducks into doorways to get back to my neighborhood. Apparently, all I don´t have all my ducks in a row because I am completely soggy, despite the "protection" of my $2.00 rain poncho.

What can I do? It is, after all, the rainy season, and Mexico needs the water. I peruse books in several used bookstores and end up camping out (sans tent) at a Chinese restaurant that offers a buffet. I´m there for at least an hour and a half, chatting with the wait staff and eating much too much. I slog back to the hotel. The rain continues, but I´ll stop here.