Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hitchhikers are Optimists

Whenever I try to pretend I´m not doing something I shouldn´t be - like peeing in the bushes, trying to climb buildings, holding my socks out the window like they don´t smell, or drinking on the street - I have to check myself again.  Nobody cares.  Traffic signs are suggestive at best, along with firecodes, immigration laws & common sense.  Why?  This is Mexico.  Everyone does whatever the hell they want.

Roberto, Jose Luis & I were recovering from futbol, drinking Italian coffee at the hostel.  (The only thing that makes coffee Italian apparently is adding brandy.)  I never drink coffee, & I should stop cause it takes me a full hour to make my heart not feel like it´s going to climb up my throat.  Gabriel, who works the front desk came & said someone was looking for me....

At the front door is a tall scruffy guy I do not recognize.  This is Chris Dyson.  I had messaged him in December, because we had mutual interests in travelling the same direction & by which means (hitchhiking, sailing, ridesharing).  He´s in town learning Spanish & eventually travelling to Peru where something is waiting for him there.  We kept everyone awake at the hostel chatting until midnight.

The next day I spent attending to some fictional important business I had created for myself.  I spent so long on the internet, when I walked outside I forgot I was in Mexico, and also that I had been drinking.  My friends & I only communicate via the timeless grade 6 method - leaving each other notes at each other´s hotels.  I wandered magnetically towards the only saxophone in the city, a jazz band playing at Revolucion, & stumbled into 2 people I never thought I´d see again.  Basilio had left me note inviting me to dinner at Revolucion, to make up for ditching me the day before.  It´s super cool talking with this guy, because I can ask what different words are in Spanish & him likewise in English.  He calls me a butterfly, cause I´m free to do whatever I want.  He taught me about Mexican graveyards & how Mexicans seem to like to mourn.  They will go there after a night of drinking to play their friend/family´s favourite music, drink their favourite drinks & reminisce.  (Mexican graves are fantastic by the way.  Colourful castles.)  He also told me about Cortez & how the Aztecs thought he was their snake god with wings because he had arrived in a boat.  After I saw him off, hopefully to meet someday in Culiacan, I parked myself at a tea party downstairs where Chris was off his head.  He really shows that Spanish is all inflection, & we chat till 3:30am again.

On the road, I have been able to pick & choose which rides I want.  Sometimes the first car I thumb down will stop.  I get alot of attention - Preciosa is only what people who like pain call me.  It was a long day of hitching & I only made it 300km, to Juchitan.  My last ride of the day offered me a beer, but I didn´t realize I was encouraging him to drink & drive.  In front of cops no less.  No worries.  Until further down the road he offered me some coke...  I am alright in awkward situations, this one included, but if there´s ANYTHING I want nothing to do with in Mexico...  That´s what I get I guess.  I was on my toes, making sure he was watching the road & not drinking.  He offered to pay for my hotel room, dinner & bus ticket the rest of the way the next morning.  He has a sister up north & wouldn´t want anything to happen to her, he told me in a far-too-long monologue in Spanish.  We agreed to meet in the morning & I sat on my grandiose double bed for about 2 hours shaking my head thinking What the hell just happened?  I met some hitchhikers - Jonathan (Monterrey Mx) & Cinthia (Honduras) who were doing poi for money at the stop light in front of my hotel.  We started chatting & I invited them to share my free room for the night, to pay it forward.  It felt good trying to explain the strange situation I had been in.  They said I came across some good luck, because he paid for my room & dinner.  Hitchhikers are optimists, myself included.  I felt smarter when I was a cynical bastard.  Still, I am one state further & somehow made money that day.
I slept in the next day & never saw him again, luckily.

It is with Mexican shamelessness & the spirit of misadventure I write this cautionary tale.  If you are passing this on, especially to certain family members who might freak out, maybe you want to think twice about this one.  I did.

Back on the road.  Standard day of hitching.  Lots of people talk with their hands, or repeat things like I don´t understand.  Not sure if it´s because I´m a white, or a woman, or both (a gringa), but sometimes I have to say ¨Listen, I´m not an idiot.¨  (Yo no estoy idiota.)  A truck stopped & some familiar faces jumped out - Jonathan & Cinthia!  They stopped the truck for me!  An hour later, I caught a different truck headed through the Sierra Madres at about 40km/h.  (By the amount of hours I will have clocked in, at the end of this trip I will be able to apply for truckdrivers´ pension.)  Through Mezcale country & the mountains.  It is still kind of surreal living the life I do.  Beautiful scenery, and the colour of agave takes over.  We stopped in the armpit of the road for lunch - my best meal of the year so far.  Señora made me scrambled eggs with cheese, poquito picante salsa, with black beans, instant coffee & sipping Mezcale on the side.  Mezcale is a type of tequila that comes from the state of Oaxaca that has a smoky flavour.  I prefer it.  The driver could point out, within 20 feet of each other, the different types of trees - papaya, mango, banana, pistachio & coffee.  Coffee beans are sweet when you pick them.

I have notes in my pocket of Spanish words I´ve learned, or English words I want to learn.  I can follow the newspaper.  Someone had told me you know you´ve mastered the language when you understand their humour.  I can joke around & make people laugh well enough, but it true that some things don´t translate.  I can at least pronounce Coatzacoalcos, Xul-Ha, Tehuantepec & the city I´m in now, Oaxaca (Wa-ha-ka).  It kind of smells like Brooklyn.

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