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?