Last Day In Puebla – Some Thoughts

Ok, last night in Puebla.  Have to admit I’m REALLY ready to come home.  This has been a VERY interesting and valuable lesson in so many ways.

street1On the good side, it made me appreciate how hard your average Mexican has to work to just get by.  They work between 56 to 72 hours per week.  Typically work for 6 days a week and get by on less than $2,000 PESOS (like $150-$200) per month.  That’s if they can find a steady job.  No real healthcare of any quality, not many rights unless you know someone.  Infrastructure is lacking at best.  Guess there’s a reason stuff is SOOO cheap here.

Also enjoy the leisurely pace here.  No one is in a hurry.  Conversation and taking your time is EVERYTHING.  Everything is about family and friends.  Work and other things have to come in a distant second and third to conversation, family and friends.

On the negative side, it’s shown me how REALLY BAD my Spanish is compared to a native speaker.  street2I count myself at this point as a FUNCTIONAL TOURIST at best …. “where can I find” ….. “can you help me with” ….”can you recommend something” …. “more beer” …. that kind of stuff.  I can usually say it right (and sometimes use the subjunctive properly) but when I get asked a question in the street by a native speaker I can typically only pick up a few works of it.  If you ask me something common, I may be able to answer.  If not,  you get kind of a blank stare from a white haired old guy looking back at you.

street3The big question is WILL I COME AGAIN …. and even WILL I CONTINUE WITH SPANISH.  Just not sure at this point.  Could not have had a better school experience.  SIP is a GREAT immersion experience.  The reality is you can not believe HOW COMPLEX a language is and how hard it is to be even slightly fluent in it if you are trying to learn it from the ground up.  If I continue, I will need to really commit and continue speaking constantly.  If not, it’s been a GREAT opportunity to learn a new culture, experience quite an adventure and try out some really great CHEAP local beers.

Until then.

Ahhh Mexico.

 


Pedestrians – Pharmacists – Luchadors

Pedestrians:  Ok, the only thing worse than being a driver in Mexico is being a pedestrian.  In Texas the underlying truth is if you’re a pedestrian, you’re basically a pain in the ass but unless you do something really stupid most cars will actually stop and yield the right of way.  In Mexico, no.  Basically, you’re the lowest form of life and the reality is “my car will hurt you if you dare to step in front of me even if you have the right of way” ….it’s pretty much “get the “f” out of my way or I’ll hit you and drive on”… that’s the way it works and everybody accepts it.  Figure it out, or risk being a damp stain on the road that future tourists walk over.

Pharmacists:  Apparently the “profession” is a bit less of a profession and a bit more of a circus.  Here’s a quick pick of a local pharmacy’s version of advertising their services I noticed on my way home.

rxMexico passed a law a couple of years ago eliminating the ability to purchase many drugs that normally require a prescription without a physician’s prescription.  Since that really cut in to the drug stores profits, now the pharmacies “sponsor” a physician (typically right next door) for the nominal walk up appointment fee of about $2.00.  You can then get you “prescription” and get it conveniently filled at the drugstore next door.  Still at bargain prices.  Hmmmm, can you say Obamacare?

Luchadores:  AKA Monday night fights.  One of the BIG THINGS here is the Monday night “rasslin matches” between the local favorite wrestlers.  It’s quite a show for about $0.50.  luchadorProblem is you got to wait outside usually in the rain in front of the ultra modern arena (former theater with folding seats) for about 2 hours if you want the $0.50 seats.  This is Mexican tailgating at its finest.

You can go all out for the “sky box” seats for $2.00 and arrive fashionably late for your reserved seat if you fee like going all out.

Anyway.  Life goes on in Puebla.  Minus Fox news and seemingly anything outside the concept of what happened today here in Puebla.

Ahh Mexico.


All For The Price of a Latte at Starbucks

Ok, one of the really nice things here a Puebla is it’s soooooo darn cheap to eat or drink  (I keep telling myself there are reasons it’s so cheap but try not to think about that too much)

Beer is like $1.00 per bottle for the local Indio beer.  It’s actually pretty darn good.  Even if you don’t think it’s the best you’ve ever had, how can you beat $1.00 at a local cafe with a nice view of the city square.  It’s actually more expensive to order coffee than it is to have a beer (but not much, it’s still crazy cheap). ChurchAtNight

I can go out for a couple of beers, a ham sandwich and some french fries at a really nice place and the price comes to like $6.50 (with tip).  Last night a small group of us met at the “Hotel Royalty” to check out their rooftop bar at sundown to catch the sunset over the local cathedral.  We had some drinks and appetizers and my total bill for 2 beers, appetizers, a fabulous view and a small band was like $8.00 (and that’s goin BIG TIME here in Puebla)

Yeah you could live like a king “IF” you know how to keep yourself from any gastronomic “surprises” (had one this morning ….. can you say 50 yard dash to the school bathroom!) …. spoke the local language and had a helicopter on call in case you needed quick health care evacuation.

Hmmm.  Why not.


Windows – Buses – Cops

Ok, three more “interesting” things to discuss/describe here in Mexico.  When I say here in Mexico, it’s actually the city of Puebla, but I think it pretty much speaks to all of Mexico.

Windows:  Wow, it’s nice here in Puebla. Like really nice.  Every day it’s between 50 and 75 degrees.  Every day (in summer) it rains really hard for about 30 minutes between 4 and 6 pm.  Meaning it really cools off the town.  Sort of God’s street cleaning service.  windowTemperature drops a bit and it’s REALLY NICE to take a walk in the evening.  Makes pleasant sleeping weather as well …. BUT FOR ONE THING.  Apparently screens have not
been invented yet in Mexico.  All the windows in the area open just fine to let in the pleasant evening breeze that blows in.  Unfortunately it also lets in all the local flies and mosquitos.  Here you have a choice of cool and pleasant in the evening punctuated by the buzzing of various insects in your room …. or a bit toastier but without the extra wildlife.  I’ve opted for the later and spent a few bucks on a fan for my room.

Buses: Mexico is busses and busses are Mexico.  Everyone, everyone, everyone rides a bus.  There is at least one bus per person in Mexico.  They are DIRT CHEAP (like 30 cents) to ride and they go EVERYWHERE.  They rumble up and down the streets endlessly day and night.  They zoom from stop to stop and God help any feeble minded pedestrian that gets in their way.  They are always FULL of people.  Rush hour in New York full of people.  They come in a couple of different flavors.  The larger flavor is the one that holds about 30 people (similar to the “small bus” when we were kids …. autobusThe smaller one is called a “combi” … it’s basically like a VW Microbus packed with about 29 people in it.  These zoom in and out of traffic in an endless pattern, always full of people.combi

Cops:  Actually POLICE CARS.  Many of the police cars drive around in Mexico with their lights flashing.  Not sure why, perhaps so the aformentioned buses zooming in and out of traffic wildly don’t hit them.  I guess the thing I’ve always wondered is how do you know when the cops want to pull you over.  They’re behind you with their lights flasing.  In the U.S. that’s a really bad sign …. here’s it just everyday traffic.  I’ve asked locals how do they know the cops want to “pull them over” and apparently they either yell at you thorough their loud speakers or turn on the siren.  Yes, they do seem to enjoy turning that SIREN ON …. and the later in the evening, the better.  Apparently they give out a lot of tickets at night judging from the number of sirens you hear all night.

That’s it for this observation period.  There is a lot of interesting (and positive) stuff I’ve encounted.  I’ll try to write a more positive side of life in the next blog.


Ahh Mexico

Observations of all things Mexican.

Ok, been here long enough that I feel I can make some obversations about all things Mexican.  Some good, some bad.

Mexico is life in the street.  EveryONE is in the street.  EveryTHING is in the street.  People, cars, shops, dogs, old ladies, kids, trash, cobblestones and more trash.

It’s noisy, really noisy and takes a toll on a North American trying to walk around casually.  Ain’t no casual strolls along the streets in Mexico.  You keep your eyes, ears and wits about you when you’re going somewhere or the next thing that happens is you stumble in the sidewalks that haven’t been touched in 500 years, get chased out of the street by a speeding taxi with horn blaring, or bumped into by other people trying to get through their day.

Everything is noisy.  Houses are built on the street with windows that open directly to the streets.  You get to know your neighbors very well whether you want to or not.  Businesses are on the street (and in some cases actually IN the street).  Dogs bark everywhere.  Sirens blare from police cars and ambulances
constantly cruzing the streets.

On the good side, everything is VERY social.  Everyone is cordial.  I would not describe as friendly in U.S. terms but generally cordial and kind when spoken to.  People take their time walking to and from events.  There is a LOT of walking.  People walk to the parks.  People walk to the Zocolo (downtown
square).  People talk A LOT.  Everyone kisses each other to say hello (even if it’s in the middle of the street and blocks traffic)  Saying hello seems to trump all other activities surrounding you and make you immune to speeding cars and other people in the streets trying to get by.

streetscene

People work very hard and get paid very little.  They don’t seem to complain.  It’s the way it is and probably beats what their parents went through.  They tolerate LOUSY infrastructure and never seem to complain.  In fact, they are delighted when something works.  They tolerate incredible corruption
and terrible public service.  To illustrate, yesterday on my way home, I passed a parked MARKED police car with a policeman inside the car totally laid back and sleeping in the car.  Really wanted to take a picture but didn’t want to end up being able to discuss Puebla’s jail system if I pissed the guy off.  Everyone just walked by as if this is the way is it everyday (and it is the way it is everyday)

Can’t say I EVER want to live here but has been an incredible cultural learning experience for me and really makes me appreciate how hard it would be to leave friends and family to start a new life, with a new language and new customs.  Wow, have great respect for anyone that succeeds in that effort.

Also makes me realize HOW HARD mastering (or even being able to speak like a 1st grader) is in a different language.  Trust me, Duolingo doesn’t count (even if you’ve completed the “whole course”)

All for now.  Dogs barking, sirens blaring and horns honking outside as I write this.

Ahhh Mexico.


Wednesday in Tlaxcala

So on Wednesday you can take a nice little afternoon journey to a small city about 40 km from puebla. It’s called Tlaxcala (kind of sounds like La Scala). 
So you hop on a small bus and head out in the afternoon. Takes about an hour to get there. Pretty little town with apparently a ton of history behind it. Great city square, beautiful church, couple of cool museums. The coolest thing in town is a mural that displays the history of the city from precolonial time to current day. It’s a huge mural painted on the inside of the walls in what used to be the local palace. Really brilliant colors and amazing. Will try to load a picture or two but between my dog ass slow site and Mexican Wi-Fi it’s a crap shout if anything will load. 
Can’t say I’m feeling better about my Spanish. Still struggle to say basic stuff and even then it’s so wrong. Can read and understand simple to mid-range simple stuff but can’t speak for crap. Pretty discouraged but trying to press on.  
Hope to have some pics load but please understand if not there.


Day Three Wearing Down or Learning… Not Sure

Ok made it to day three.  Spend seven to eight hours a day listening to and trying to understand Spanish.  Wish I could tell you it comes easy but it doesn’t.  Takes lots of concentration and I seem to learn at as fairly slow pace.  Puebla is a really pretty downtown and seems pretty safe.  Spent the last couple of nights walking around downtown kind of taking it in.  

Internet is pretty bad so can’t load many (any) pictures….. Keeps failing.  

So for now that’s the update. Not coming any easier yet but perhaps will soon.


Finding Puebla

So what part of hopping on a plane to a strange county, then finding a bus, then riding a bus for two hours in to the mountains, then walking around the streets of puebla trying to find your new family sounds vaguely strange.

Did manage to find my way here and made it through the first night.  Took some pictures but can’t seem to get them to load due to bandwidth limitations.

Made it to first day of class.  Will update with next post.


The Mustang Saga

So the first car I ever owned was a 1966 mustang.  It was a 6 cylinder version and was the not so popular color of satuerne gold aka baby poop gold. 
Fast forward almost fifty years. After quite a while of looking we finally found the same original year and color except in a more desirable 289 v-8 model.

The owner lived in California so we called him and asked about buying it.  Came to an agreed upon price and shipped it to Texas.

It was sound in terms of body and interior but needed a lot of work mechanically.  Thanks to Dan and the guys at Mid Cities Mustang and several thousand dollars “goldie” is now back on the road in Texas.

Fun to drive but gosh I am so amazed at differences in quality and safety in 50 years. Love it anyway so look up on Saturday and Sunday mornings when you hear that throaty v-8 rumbling by in suburbia.  It just may be goldie on a Starbucks run.


Thoughts on all things Cuba

DSC00458In May of 2015 Bob and Dee took a week long trip to Cuba.  We did this primarily to see Cuba before all the cruise ships hit and Cuba turned in to an Americanized version of what it is now.

What it is now turns out to be a bigger mess than we expected.  Basically nothing with regards to infrastructure seems to have been touched since communism took over around 1959.  Cuba seems locked in 1959 by it’s own actions.  Buildings literally falling down around you in major cities because there is no money to repair them and since no one owns the property there does not seem to be any driving “capitalistic” urge to preserve one’s own properly.  You just move on down the street and find some other building that has not fallen down yet.

DSC00703 Good things we found in Cuba were it’s various social programs.  They take care of their kids, they educate their kids, they take care of their elderly, they provide free public healthcare.

The bad side to this is these functions take up the lions share of their GDP leaving virtually no money for infrastructure or planning (ergo the earlier rant on infrastructure).

DSC00478There is a LOT of art and music in Cuba.  The culture is very oriented towards music and art.  Music is everywhere …. streetside, in restaurants, in hotels.  Everyone is talented … and everyone has a CD they would love to sell you.

The art is more eclectic.  We saw a variety of “community” based art from a local Havana based art project called “El Tangue” which took its inspiration from an abandoned water tank in an old Havana neighborhood to an eccentric ceramic based artist named “Fuster” that turned his neighborhood in to a Spanish version of Dr. Seuess’s WhooVilleDSC00690.

The car situation is fascinating.  Only about 15% of the populace owns a car.  It’s very difficult for Cuban’s to purchase a car.  It has to be allowed by the government and the car has to be purchased totally in CASH.

The stereotype of the old American cars in Cuba is very much alive and well.  Most of these cares are kept alive with diesel engines and are passed down from father to son.  There are around 100,000 of these “pre 1959” American cars roaming the streets of Cuba.  They vary from showroom quality to a daily driver that’s seen better days.  Either way, it’s fascinating to see these old beauties roaming the streets at all hours of the day and night.DSC00608

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Final Thoughts On The Trip

Cuba is still in a semi Third World status.  If you want to see what socialism/communism does to a civilization, please travel to Cuba.  It has a LONG way to go to get its infrastructure to the point that it could support tourism in any large capacity.

They people are very warm, honest and seem very interested in growing their economy through tourism with the US.  The current rate limiting step is the Cuban central government is going to have to decide how fast it wishes to allow Cuba to grow in to the 21st century.  Without their “permission” Cuba will continue to flounder in its current situation.

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Before we went, we were convinced that full blown tourism was just months away from being a reality for Cuba.  After the visit, we are more pessimistic that this could possibly take place that rapidly.  There’s just too much to do and too many government bureaucrats to work through to make this happen at any rapid rate.

Cuba will likely continue to migrate towards a more tourist and private enterprise type economy but it could be years before they are ready to take on any major influx of tourist expecting a Disney like experience and ending up with a more “Escape From New York” type experience.

All things considered, it was well worth the education.