Shenanigans in Mexico

My short business trip to Guadalajara last week was exhausting. A few things I learned:

1) Traveling business class with someone who has executive platinum status with American Airlines = awesome. Thank you, Frequently Flying Bossman. It is so wonderful to have extra leg room for this 5’10” frame I inhabit. Also, American Airlines has this thing called the ‘Admiral’s Club.’ I never quite knew what this was, but I have discovered that it involves a private lounge area at domestic airports with free coffee and snacks, a bar, comfy leather chairs and sofas, and even showers for the grimy traveler. I tried lambasting myself with stern diatribes: Do NOT get used to this posh treatment! It’s coach for you the rest of your life, young lady! Don’t start expecting this kind of luxury! But then I decided just to enjoy it and take the pleasure and pain as it comes.

2) Mexican Spanish is full of little English phrases, much more so than the Spain-Spanish (Castilian) that I speak. Our client (always with his hilarious enthusiasm) interjected “Teikidisi,” “camón,” and “idonou” in almost every sentence he spoke. As in “take it easy,” “c’mon,” and “I don’t know.” I wish I could get a recording of this, because I almost split a rib trying not to laugh. We’d be walking around looking at various machines during our tour of his plant, and he’s randomly turn and say “Okei, okei, camón, teikidisi, okei?”

3) Mexico = different culture. I don’t pretend to know it well or understand it, and on this second visit I did a lot of listening and looking, taking in random observations that I hoped would lead to some kind of enlightened epiphany: the tighter than tight jeans that all the girls wear no matter their girth. The bright colored paint and handpainted signs on almost all buildings–oranges, reds, yellows, pinks, electric blues. The piles of random rubble strewn across the landscape both in the city and outside it. The surprising amount of people just walking along the side of the highway. The multitude of prayer chapels scattered among the winding streets. Half-finished and abandoned building projects simply everywhere. The small, dark one-room shops peppering the town, all selling combinations of: candy, hats, boots, plastic toys, fruity sugary beverages. The ability to party long and hard starting at about 2 years of age. The enthusiasm for setting off loud banging firecrackers all night long. The bouts of tearful emotion brought on by mariachi music.

Exhibit A: random pile of rubble.

Exhibit B: a pile of hay and a rustic stone wall

4) Real Mexican food is not the Tex-Mex variety we have here. The freshly made tortillas and birria (a kind of meaty red stew) and frijoles we had at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant were simply incredible. Not to mention our breakfast of sweet empanadas, apple yoghurt and fresh watermelon. Oh, oh, oh.

5) Everyone seems to be flying by the seat of their pants. Somehow stuff happens, but not before a trip through chaos (controlled and uncontrolled, both kinds) and at least a dozen changes in plan. While waiting to board our plane to return to the States, we were in a small room with 3 gates. Instead of bringing the plane up to the gate, we all boarded a bus that took us to the plane. Despite that, they changed our gate from 3 to 1 to 3 and then to 1 again. Gates 1 and 3 were only a few hundred feet apart . . . and we were just walking out a door to get on a bus. My boss (who has a lot of international traveling under his belt) laughed and told me this was typical.

I tried to piece together information about the culture and form some kind of conclusion or larger picture in my head–but I feel like I’m simply connecting dots that are on the perimeter of the issue. The heart of Mexico eludes me, but seems to be the thing that would explain everything else.

I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures on this trip since we spent all the daylight hours with our client, but I did manage to snap a few shots from a moving vehicle before the batteries in my old point-and-shoot gave out. Not fabulous photography, but it’s what I got.

Any of you out there have some insight into this beautiful and complex country?

17 thoughts on “Shenanigans in Mexico

  1. TheKitchenWitch

    You are 5’10? Seriously? I am so jealous!

    You’re right about the “flying by the seat of their pants” thing. I’m always aghast at the way they never really plan anything…the German side of me cannot deal.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    sounds like fun. i’ve only been to mexico once but i can relate about the food (it’s so fresh and almost light….not like our mexican) and the laid-back nature of everyone! i went for a mission trip in HS…way back in 2000….i’m really dating myself here :)

    Reply
  3. Erica

    Hmmm. I think it eludes me, too. I’m glad you didn;t have to ride any public buses, Kiddo. That was a super crazy experience. Vendors off and on, people jammed into the aisle of a coach bus for 4 hours, smashed together, people eating popcorn and squirting spicy sauce on it….Craziness.

    Reply
  4. Jen

    Tiendas, tortillas, and firecrackers! How I miss them! (But Guatemalan-styled, of course.) The small amount I know of Mexico — you’re right on with your observations.

    Reply
  5. Veronica

    It is really different, but I’ve only been two hours in before we ran back out. Actually, my sister and I were kicked out b/c apparently you need something called a passport to drive through. LOL! What we saw terrified me. Abject poverty, beggars/window washers everywhere, hovels, horses and chickens running loose. But when we returned in a tour bus, we got to see the pretty parts that weren’t so scary. I don’t feel that I fully experienced it but I’m too scared to try again.

    Reply
  6. Holly

    Is it sad that I got a little homesick while I read this post? Sounds a lot like Guatemala. Also, your transcriptions of the Mexi-english were hilarious and reminded me a lot of Nacho Libre. I might just have to go watch that when I get home.

    Reply
  7. Heidi

    Wow. I didn’t know you went to Mexico the first time around! And I agree about the mixi-english… hilarious! I can’t wait to hear you do an imitation :)

    Reply
    1. Jenna

      I’ll definitely do an impression for you! =) As soon as you get your butt down here again from the far off lands in which you live . . .
      And the previous time I went was over a year ago–I’m surprised I never told you the hilarious stories from that visit.

      Reply
  8. Twinky Satterthwaite

    “Mexico lindo y querido….” Can’t say I can really give you any definitive answers. My 8 month time in Mexico 35 years ago helps, but then that was Mexico City and with an upper class family in an upper class neighborhood. Part of falling in love with Mexico was accepting it as it was, rubble heaps included. The class I took on Customs and Culture was very helpful in understanding the broad swath of culture/s that is Mexico. However, that did make it hard moving to Spain where I expected it to be more “clean European”… and it took a while to get over my disappointment that Spain was rubbley, too! When I decided that, if I could handle it in Mexico, I could handle it in Spain, then I was fine.

    You grew up in a varied-culture Spain: just change the flavor, and you are not far off from Mexico… all the way to 2 year-olds festejando hasta las tantas!!

    Besos!

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  9. Julie M.

    It sounds like you had good experience. And, of course, your description of the food has me wanting to run out immediately and book a flight just in time for this afternoon’s lunch. I enjoy Laura’s blog, http://gringationcancun.wordpress.com. She’s an expat living in Mexico and has a lot of great information. She’s done a few posts about Mexican culture and how it differs from American and I find it really interesting. Hope you’re having a great week!

    Reply
  10. sweetridgesisters

    I imagine my mother in law, who lived in Mazatlan till she was 35, could shed lots of light on the matter. Interestingly, she is one of the most organized people I know. I always find it fascinating to drive from California into Mexico. The sharp contrast of rich America and poor Mexico and their respective effects on the landscape (emerald green in Orange County vs lone burros stumbling over rubble) is fascinating. Thanks for a great post and I am so impressed that you just had a business trip to Mexico! -Kate

    Reply
  11. Amy

    Jenna-

    That little pais (excuse the lack of proper accents as I am working from a less-than-awesome lap top at the moment) won my heart about 10 years ago. Something I learned very early- much like regions of our country have different characteristics (think deep South, East Coast, West Coast etc…), Mexico does as well. I’ve spent almost all of my time in the Yucatan- there you’ll find an amazing connection to the Mayan culture- their heritage. Fishing villages, bikes, soda, and candy wrappers. Something I’ve heard that transcends the regions though- their commitment to family, their flexible approach to time, and their really really tasty food. :)

    From what I’ve heard, though GDL is particularly “Western” – in that a lot of industry and new development often starts in that part of the country.

    Me encanta la cultura de Mexico :)

    Reply

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