As my second week begins here in hot and humid Campeche, my plans are solidifying for the rest of my adventure in Mexico. Next week, there are several days of no school, so Paco and I will go to Veracruz and check out the sites there. I think it will be an overnight bus ride. We will also explore more local sites like Edzna, Ciudad Carmen and Uxmal. There are many Mayan ruins in this area and Paco has not seen many of them except around Xphil. Those will most likely be day trips, with maybe an overnight around Uxmal. When I leave Campeche, I will go south and then across the peninsula then up to Isla Mujeres for a week there. I'll fly out from Cancun to Oaxaca for a week then back to Seattle for Paco's daughter's wedding for a week, then off to Wisconsin for 3 weeks or so. This travel bug is infectious! I am enjoying my languid life here. It has achieved a comfortable rhythm of school, study, several walks during the day, siestas, cervazas, comida, etc....
The other day, Paco took me to his "eglise", his "Cheers" bar. Paco is a jovial soul. He enjoys life to its fullest - especially the gustatorial delights. He loves to eat and drink and does it quite well. One of my Spanish teachers here said he is a testimony to the good Campechano food! He is also very adventurous.
I have no idea where he will take me next. I just allow the experience to happen. I know it will be interesting....
The bar was no exception. Walking in - the floor is littered with peanut shells, the place is packed with Friday afternoon post-work working men. There is a din of animated chatter, and a guy with a guitar strumming and singing in the back. There are no tables available. The place is small - only a bar with stools, and four or five tables. The "Madre Grande" presides, seated behind the bar taking the money. There is a small wiry fellow behind the bar popping beer tops and making drinks as fast as he can. There are "botanas" - snacks given free with drinks (little plates of tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, frijoles, mango, tomato and lime) flying across the countertop. And beer. Did I say Paco likes his beer?
I was the only woman in the place except for La Madre Grande. I am a curiosity in this city. My blue eyes, fair skin and white hair are definitely different than the locals. I get a lot of stares wherever I go. I have made it a policy for myself to greet everyone with a genuine smile and a Spanish greeting. It does work wonders. Paco had advised me that they won't initiate a greeting, but they will happily return it. I have received nothing but warm greetings in return - from everyone. In the Bar, I was greeted as the only woman AND a curiosity - and she doesn't speak much Spanish! Mas curioso! So, I sit on my stool next to Paco - the only gringos in the place - and this guy next to me starts a conversation. I understand a bit more than half of what is said to me most of the time, but my mouth feels like Papageno with a padlock on it. This guy was trying to have a conversation with me and looks hopefully to Paco for some help, but realizes he needs another tack. Paco is wearing a "Pirates" shirt - the local baseball team here. So, the topic is about the Pirates.
There is an interesting custom here: people ask where are you from and then how old are you. In the US, it would be considered rude, but here, it is the custom and a bit of a surprise at first. Well, this guy first tells me he is 44, is married with 3 kids and a wife that he indicates with his hands as a bit wide and then slashes his throat with his finger. I get the picture. Then, he asks me how old I am. I tell him, but he doesn't believe me. I guess the climate agrees with me! He does the usual chit chat and we get along in my stumbling Spanish and his few words of English. He clearly does not want to go home. He bought a pirated cd from a kid who brought in a pile of copied cd's and wants to take Paco and me for a ride in his car to listen to it. It is thankfully time to leave.
I went out walking, looking for adventure Friday night. In my neighborhood, there is a concert shell in a park. That night, there was live music. I stopped to listen a bit. It was one of those up-beat, a bit hokey
religious services - unmistakable in its preacher style and go-go dancers for Jesus. I walked on. I heard music coming from one of the casas and peeked in the open door. There was some kind of religious service going on. About 15-20 women were sitting, singing facing a doll dressed in red velvet Mary garb. A man was sitting outside on the sidewalk waiting for it all to end....
Mexico is a culture of babies and young children. They are everywhere and totally doted upon. I figured out that they have so many to extend the experience of babies as long as possible - the wonder, the preciousness, the beauty of these babies, the excitement and the unconditional of them and for them. It is truly amazing and beautiful to watch extended families openly caring and affectionate for each family member. We could learn a lot from them. However, when it comes to church, that seems to remain the
women's domain. Many men go to the services, but quite a number just hang out outside the churches, waiting for it all to end....
I have started my private lessons. They are good - and challenging. At the first class I was given worksheet as homework. I struggled through a little more than half of it. It seemed it was a final exam for College Spanish 2B without the benefit of the class! It is truly a humbling experience to learn how little I know!
It is also interesting, as I get further into it, that language is simply a code. The basic patterns of the code are universal. It just requires inserting the new vocabulary and some unique structures, but then voila! – all languages are similar! I find my brain coming out with quite a bit of French and a little Italian here and there, which is confusing to the unaware to say the least! We should all be programmable, as in The Matrix, with discrete packets of info we can just tap into at will. Life would be easier! Or at least communication would be. Now, if we could only de-program violence and stupidity…..
I got a call yesterday from my last custom client before I left for Mexico. He finally received his jacket and was thrilled. His order created a new market for me. He wanted an ivory brocade smoking jacket to wear for his wedding. He painstakingly matched his fiancé’s fabric to his and then waited. I saw it when it was partially completed – it was partially completed – it was gorgeous then. When he called me, he could not contain his excitement. He is a tall black man with beautiful caramel colored skin (he e-mailed me pictures so I could get an idea of fit). I knew this would be a very special piece for him as well as an opportunity to tap into the wedding market. His wedding is May 12. He has not shown the jacket to many people yet, not even to his fiancé. He is going to wait for the surprise on his wedding day. He said they both may faint from the sheer beauty of each of them, but he said his mother is a nurse and that’s ok. He was really over the top in his gushing about his jacket. He has promised pictures that I can put on my website.
It is truly amazing to be here in languid Campeche, studying Spanish and taking siestas, and still have business coming in.
I can live with this!