Three weeks later, I can finally sit down, catch my breath, and write about my experiences. There’s a lot more to say about Mexico than of Florida, so this and subsequent entries will largely be related to my time south of the Border.
Wednesday, June 22
We got home from the airport in Kansas City about 8 p.m. (from Florida). We had an hour and a half to repack, freshen up, and drive to Oklahoma City, where we were spending the night, before taking a flight at 10 that morning. In all the hubbub, I forget my camera, meh… a pretty bad move. But since I didn’t remember until we arrived in Mexico, there was nothing to be done. I met Kristen’s friend, Miriam, for the first time (Nate had met her while I was at OU). She was nice, but shy— very quiet. We arrived at the hotel around 1:30 a.m.
Thursday, June 23
Fernando, the house dad at the orphanage where we would stay (called Agape), was there to meet us… along with a dozen of the kids from the orphanage. They ranged from 18 or 19 down to Lalo, who was just 10. We went through immigration fairly uneventfully (except for Miriam’s clerk yelling at her when she didn’t understand) and all the kids helped us take our luggage to an elevator. A big, big elevator… big enough to hold at least a dozen people. By American standards. The Mexicans happily stuffed 19 people and their luggage into the elevator. The first, but definitely not the last, time that Mrs. Ducommun would use the term “sardines”.
It took about an hour to drive to the orphanage. Our 12-passenger van still had 19 people in it. Five kids in a three-person seat, kids on the floor, kids up front on the console. Mexicans surely utilize available space well. We arrived around 8 or 9 in the evening, and Marta, Fernando’s wife, was waiting. Her kids fired up the stove and made quesadillas (which were simply corn tortillas with a bit of cheese inside, and guacamole or salsa for sauces), and offered us milk.
Because there’e very little refrigeration in Mexico, milk is ultra-pasteurized and comes in boxes. It’s served room-temperature, or hot; never cold.
A guy came in excitedly: “Hey, how are you guys doing, where are you from, I’m Johnny!” His English was really good, and I told him so. But, that was because he was from Ohio; he was the American intern working with Agape this summer. It was good to have someone who spoke English; the kids spoke varying degrees of Spanglish and although I can understand a lot of Spanish (because it’s so similar to French), my ability to speak it is minimal.
Nate and I got our own room that was positively palatial. We had real beds with sheets, and a toilet, and a shower. Sam, Mexicans one-up you: they sew ALL their sheets to the bed. The effect is similar to slipping into a body bag, but hey, you don’t toss your covers off in the night. The toilet was hooked up to the septic system, which meant that flushing paper was a no-no. A plastic bag was thoughtfully provided. The toilet was dry, so for the first five days we just didn’t flush it :/ later Nate got a cup and filled the back so it would flush. The shower didn’t have much water pressure, so it was more of a dribble than a shower. But it was warm, usually, so that’s all you can ask for. We went to bed that night, but late… and then realized there were no pillows. We made do with blankets rolled up.
Friday, June 24
We woke up early and took the kids on a walk. It was Marta and Fernando’s day off, so the replacement house dad came with us. He took us to a small store a few blocks away from the orphanage. Since water in Mexico isn’t potable, you stock up on drinks whenever you can. Drinks were fairly cheap… 45 cents would get you a liter of various carbonated beverages (all Coke products, Mexico adores Coca-Cola).
The exchange rate from pesos to dollars is about 10.8 pesos to the dollar.
We went to some ruins outside Texcoco, about a 2-mile walk. I was glad I’d been walking so much at OU. The house dad told us some stories, all of which were fairly gory, but they were like children’s fairy tales for American kids. Afterwards, Dan and Tanya, Fernando and Marta’s biological kids, took us into Texcoco proper. We rode the bus, and had to stand up because it was so crowded.
Mexican public transportation is dirt-cheap and ubiquitous. You can find buses, taxis, vans, metros, bicycle rickshaws, etc., going anywhere.
We went to a a comida corrida restaurant for lunch. Comida corrida is Mexican fast food. It’s a sit-down restaurant, but the menu and price are fixed. We were brought sopa, rice, tortillas, and our choice of enchiladas, burritos, chicken, or a few other dishes. Pineapple Jello was the dessert, and the drink was made from a flower, boiled in water. It tasted sort of like cherry juice, and wasn’t bad.
In a restaurant of any caliber, it’s quite rare to find free refills or even free water. Usually, you have to buy bottled water… we paid up to $3 a glass some places.
Dan had to go into Texcoco to pick up his new glasses from the optometrist. While we were waiting for him, I noticed that they had prescription sunglasses. I had been tempted to buy some in the States, but paying $140 was too much for me. I had Mrs. Ducommun ask about pricing for prescription sunglasses…
…$48. For frames, lenses, and tinting. The optometrist was able to look at my existing glasses and copy them, and said the glasses would be ready Sunday. Wow. Beat that, Lenscrafters.
We ran through the Texcoco market quickly, just to look around. Mrs. Ducommun bought some “candy” and gave it to Nate. He wasn’t pleased. It was a sweet doughy ball rolled in chili powder. Not something that American palates enjoy. We tried to get Kristen to ride one of the many moving rides (the kind you’d see at Wal-Mart in the lobby, horses or jeeps or Barney) but she squealed and ran away.
We got back to the orphanage later that night, and I packed for my trip into the mountains. I was going with Dr. Noé to Chapultapec, a mountain village a few hours away, to help him with his monthly visit. Johnny and another intern, Lauren, were coming as well. We made it to Dr. Noé’s around 11 and immediately turned in… we had to be up at 5:30 the next morning.