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Driving in D.F.

Subtle Messages…

We fly out of Mexico City bright and early tomorrow. As sad as we are to leave, I do feel we’ve been getting small, subtle signals from Mexico that our time here is meant to come to an end.

1) We got rear-ended last Thursday, 3 days after having $6000 pesos of car work done to fix up the Maxima from all the ills and suffering of driving in Mexico. We were stopped trying to merge off one major road onto another, as was the car behind us, and someone flew up & slammed into that car which then hit us. The best part was, John didn’t even stop. We just kept on going; it just wasn’t worth talking about it. :)

John mockingly offers the Mexican "thanks" gesture in the area of our bumper where we now have an imprint of a stranger's license plate. Luckily that was the only very minor damage we had. :)

2) The closest I got to seeing the much-heralded Michael Phelps at the Festival Ol铆mpico Bicentenario was in these photos for sale on the street.聽 (But I did read a great quote from another Mexican athlete that it would have been much cheaper for the Mexican government to have hired some strippers to take their shirts off & entertain the crowd instead of Phelps doing the same for roughly 2 hours @ a price of $100,000.)

This was unsatisfying.

3) I unintentionally viewed several middle-age men prancing around wearing what seemed to be baggy leather boy-shorts. To be clear, men who shouldn’t have been wearing leather boy-shorts.

This image is seared into my mind forever. What sport was this anyway?

4) While on our hotel’s 16th-floor lounge/roof deck, we discovered we could still hear an organ grinder on the street level of Zona Rosa. For those who haven’t heard this sound, remove all preconceptions of “precious, old-timey music makers” from your mind. These sound like dying cats.

Stop. Please. Just stop. Learn a real instrument. Or consider having that one tuned. But in the interim, just stop.

5) A bird with serious gastric distress unloaded on our car while it was parked on the street near our hotel. Really, I’m no vet, but this bird *probably* needs some sort of medical care. ASAP.

You know it's bad when you drive around Mexico City for a day & no one volunteers to wash your windshield at a traffic light.

6) I saw an advertisement for food in the subway that almost made me want to throw up a little bit in my mouth. Just because your product has a new image doesn’t make me want to eat your Sphinx-shaped potato substitute.

What is happening here, exactly?

7) And last but not least, I was nearly attacked by a massive owl. I think he felt threatened by me.

This was a narrow miss.

It brought back terrifying memories of that time John was almost eaten by a lizard. I believe this owl attack may have been brought on by me mocking his family earlier this week.

I dropped & broke my camera that could actually take decent night photos, so you will just have to live with this vague image of me using my sweater to simulate owl-wings in front of this horrific movie poster.

All these signs combined make me think it is probably time to go, for now at least.

I’ve been considering continuing with this blog for a few more months, at least while I get through the backload of hundreds of photos I’ve snapped, trips we’ve taken, tasty restaurants we’ve discovered, hot Mexico tips we’ve learned, etc. There are still a variety of posts I’ve been meaning to get around to (Yucatan/Quinanta Roo trip, Huatulco trip, Baja California Sur trip, how to become a luchador, my friends’ witty anecdotes of dating in Mexico, where the mother lode of guayaberas can be found in the Centro, Bicentenario photos, etc.).

So, if y’all still have any interest, I may try to keep doing the occasional post until I run out of Mexico experiences to discuss. :)聽 And I promise to largely avoid the topic of our impending dull, American lives back in Washington D.C. unless something happens that is super-hilarious or Mexico-relevant. What do you think?聽 (And don’t worry; I won’t be offended if you tell me, “Julie, you just posted a photo of bird-doo on your car windshield… maybe it’s time to close-up shop.”) 馃槈

Mexico Driving Hazards

We’re staying in the Marriott Reforma for our last week here in DF, so please forgive the lack of communication– internet in our hotel room costs $250 pesos/day (gag). I’d been having luck standing against the window of our spot on the 14th floor & connecting to “Mexico Ciudad Digital”, the only unsecured network in the area. But after 20 minutes of holding my computer on one hand at shoulder-height and mashing the touchpad with the other hand, I gave in to Marriott’s “much worse of a deal”– $50 pesos for 1 hour– to see if anyone聽 had written back dying to purchase our couch. (No such luck.)

As I stay online at 12:41AM getting my money’s worth of the full hour, here’s my fav pic from today’s drive to Xochimilco (we went to visit the Museo Dolores Olmedo upon recommendation of our good friend Cynthia— totally worth the visit!). I question whether this taxi driver’s peripheral vision is up to recommended standards….

We passed this taxi quickly, trying to avoid conflict...

In other news today, the Festival Ol铆mpico Bicentenario was as random as you might have expected. Favorite sights included:

Hot guys playing sand volleyball

Loads of little kiddos ready for a swim...

....all rapidly diving into the pool at once, which seemed to be functioning quite well after being set up in 24 hours!

There were an impressive number of handicap-accessible events, like this adaptation of soccer for the blind.

Similarly, they had an incredibly impressive dance troupe of young boys/girls, half of whom were in wheelchairs, dancing to traditional Mexican songs. They were precious.

The group festivities were followed by samba dancing in pairs, again equally impressive & not held back by their wheelchairs in the least!

Tomorrow AM we are off to a “Despedida con Arepas” courtesy our good friends from Venezuela, so off to bed to prepare for more cross-cultural farewells!! :)

How Driving in Mexico City Changes You

~ Conversation snippet from inside our car, Tuesday night, 6:30PM ~

What are we going to do with this?

Scene: John & Julie are driving from Polanco to a friend’s house in Condesa for dinner. They are sitting in traffic on Thiers, a street that often requires 2 minutes to drive down, but tonight is requiring about 25 minutes. Traffic is so thick that they both momentarily lose all judgment and purchase a bright blue mini-keg water bottle from one of the dozen street vendors winding their way through traffic.

They are sitting in the far right lane of about 5 lanes, and they see a brown car emerge from a garage & prepare to enter the standstill traffic, roughly one car ahead of them.

Julie: [in a joking tone since this question is totally unrealistic] “Are you going to do your good deed for the day and let that guy in your lane?”

Amazingly, as if God wished to spare John & Julie the moral dilemma, the red car ahead of them lets the brown car into the lane. This is RARE in Mexico City.

Julie: “Wow. That was unexpected.”

They creep ahead another 40 feet, approaching an intersection where numerous cars are in line, waiting forlornly for the gap in traffic that will never come. The red car ahead of them YET AGAIN lets a car enter his lane. This is virtually UNPRECEDENTED in Mexico City.

John: [in a loud, indignant tone] “Who is this ahead of us, The Good Samaritan?!!? What the f is going on here?!!??!”

Julie considers chiding him for his outburst, but realizes she was also wondering “Where is this red car from anyway? Mayberry??”. They chuckle briefly in a moment of self-reflection at what impatient meanies they have become while driving in DF. [Sidenote: lest you think poorly of us, this approach is *required* to survive here. Just trust me.]

Then they move to a middle lane to minimize further confrontations, and distract themselves taking photos out John’s window of a prominent hood ornament.


In summary, I think both of us are going to be banned from driving in the Midwest ever again after our 2.25 years here. Do any training/re-acclimation sessions exist for topics like:

  • Re-adapting to Pedestrians: Our Friends, Not Our Targets
  • How to Gauge Whether Your Fellow Citizens Deserve to Merge in Front of You
  • Car Accidents: Just Because No One’s Bleeding Doesn’t Mean You Didn’t Have One
  • Turn Signals and their Place in Society
  • Red Lights: They Still Serve a Purpose Before 7AM and after 10PM

Please advise if you know anyone who can help us re-integrate into US-style driving. I think we’re going to need it, or DC’s Beltway’s drivers are never going to know what hit ’em. :)

The Mexican winter of 2010

Our friends & family up north (like my parents currently experiencing -29F/-34C windchills in Grand Island, Nebraska) are sure to appreciate the latest weather developments聽from Mexico City. I was slightly amused tonight (Thursday) reading tense articles on www.reforma.com about the impending weather doom expected to hit the city ASAP.

Apparently Mexico City is expecting RECORD BREAKING low temps this weekend, the likes of which have not been seen since 1886. (DF is really聽focused on breaking records these days.)聽It sounds much more dramatic in Celsius: 4C in the city and down to -5C in higher areas. (a.k.a. 39F and 23F for those of us who are Celsius-illiterate)

Late this evening, the Secretary of Public Education announced after much debate that schools would NOT be suspended tomorrow (Friday).聽The subhead on that news article was “Piden a padres de familia que manden a sus hijos a la escuela, pero bien abrigados”— “They ask that parents send their kids to school, but well wrapped up.” (I think the article is subscription-access only on Reforma, but here’s the link just in case it works.)

That line was my聽second favorite聽only to the quotes in the聽article regarding聽how the Government of DF declared a “maximum alert” due to the drop in temperature & expected freezing rain/sleet. The Secretary of Civil Protection did a nice job of working in some commentary regarding climate change, for any skeptics out there:

“‘Por el cambio clim谩tico, existe la posibilidad de un fen贸meno meteorol贸gico in茅dito, dentro de lo que cabe, incluso una nevada en el centro de la Ciudad’, dijo Brizuela.”

“Due to climate change, the possibility exists of an unprecedented meteorological phenomenon, all things considered, includes snowfall in the center of the city.”聽 *

But the one John most enjoyed, after telling me about a few winters he spent running outdoors聽in sub-zero-fahrenheit temperatures in Minnesota & Iowa, was:

“Si la temperatura es por debajo de los 5 grados, se tiene que evitar hacer ejercicio al aire libre, ya que puede haber un enfriamiento, y si se tiene un cuadro de infecci贸n respiratoria, no se debe salir a la calle, pues no s贸lo estar谩 en riesgo su salud, sino la de otras personas, adem谩s de evitar automedicarse.”

If the temperature is below 5C, you have to avoid exercising in the open air, since you could have a cold, and if you have any respiratory infection characteristics, you should not go out to the street; not only will you risk your health but that of other persons, besides avoiding self-medicating.”聽 *

To be clear, I don’t mean to trivialize the valid risks of freezing weather in a city where most homes do not have heaters & plenty of people do not have homes, period. And given the standard day-to-day traffic in Mexico City + my experiences driving in cities that only get freezing precip a few times a year (talking about you, Dallas), I can’t even fathom what new circle of hell would be unleashed on the roads of DF during sleeting rain.

But despite all of that, I will admit to being just slightly bemused since this response to聽a weather forecast聽tops even that of Dallas for wussiness. (Rest assured that when the city is in frozen聽lockdown this weekend, I will post an apology for my smugness.)

* crappy, vague Spanish translations courtesy me

Tunnel art in DF: does it soothe or scare?

We went to Mercado Ciudadela yesterday evening to do a bit of Christmas shopping (FYI, it seems to closes聽by聽about聽7PM). Good spot for both locals or tourists wishing to find a solid selection of Mexican handicrafts at reasonable prices (and for any visitors lacking in Spanish, several vendors speak enough English to answer questions you may have).

We drove home westbound along Avenida Chapultepec, which goes underground for maybe half a mile to avoid the messy intersection with Avenida Insurgentes (the main drag north/south through the city). As we were sitting in traffic, we had ample time to stare at the tunnel walls, painted a lovely ocean-blue. And I do mean “ocean” blue, as they are also adorned with numerous aquatic creatures who appear to be vigorously swimming along in the direction of traffic.

This open lane is a brief anomaly, because normally there is never that much space between 2 cars anywhere in Mexico City...

This open lane is a brief anomaly, because normally there is never that much space between 2 cars anywhere in Mexico City...

Every time I’ve been in this tunnel, I am torn between the following opinions:

  1. Good job you, Mexico City! How forward-thinking of you to support public art installations! Thanks for sprucing up this otherwise-crappy tunnel with these dolphin and tropical fish friends! They are so pleasant! If I stare at them long enough, I can almost imagine myself riding that dolphin to freedom- a freedom that does not involve breathing in copious amounts of exhaust fumes & listening to angry honking!
  2. So of all the options for perking up this tunnel, did simulating being trapped underwater really make the most sense here? If given enough time sitting in traffic underground, one’s mind can’t help but wandering to worst-case scenarios of either聽a) this tunnel collapsing, or b) this tunnel filling with water. Please, dolphin,聽signal the way to escape from this possible watery grave.
Flipper! Wait! Take me with you!

Flipper! Wait! Take me with you!

Mercados can wear you out…

Susan & I are clearly totally prepared for the holiday season

Susan & I are clearly totally prepared for the holiday season

After a weekend of MBA classes, I needed to get out of the house yesterday afternoon before resuming panicked studying for finals coming up Dec 11-12. John, Susan, and I first stopped by a market in Roma where female Mexican artists were selling their wares. Christmas decor is out in full force, as shown to the right.

Our thought was to drive from there on to Mercado Lagunilla, about 10 blocks north of the Zocalo, where there is allegedly an antiques market on Sundays. Unfortunately in our excitement over potential faux-antique Christmas prezzies for all our family & friends, we forgot Rule #1 of sightseeing around Mexico City: don’t drive your own car if you don’t have to.

So there are about 3 functional lanes of one way traffic on this street, + a right lane where cars are constantly stopped dropping off/picking up folks or loading up purchases. But the best is the far left lane moving in the "wrong" direction, here depicted with a dude pulling a handcart stacked with more boxes than I ever thought could fit on your average dolly + multiple big-ass peseros trying to weave through the traffic.

So there are about 3 functional lanes of one way traffic on this street, + a right lane where cars are constantly stopped dropping off/picking up folks or loading up purchases. But the best is the far left lane moving in the "wrong" direction, here depicted with a dude pulling a handcart stacked with more boxes than I ever thought could fit on your average dolly + multiple big-ass peseros trying to weave through the traffic.

I think we spent about an hour traversing the ~2 miles to Lagunilla, with the bulk of that sitting in traffic on the main street through the market area, lined with stands on either side. Calle Ray贸n is one of the many curious multiple-lane, one-way streets in Mexico City whose far left lane is dedicated to large buses driving in the opposite direction. (because what could possibly go wrong??) We observed numerous contestants playing a fun game called “How long can I drive into oncoming traffic in the far left lane before I am mowed down by a bus?”

Anyway, we decided we’d made an error in judgement, agreed to give up our antiques-quest for the day, and聽finally managed to turn off of this mess of a street. On our way out of the Lagunilla area, we passed this man who was clearly one step ahead of us in knowing how to handle spending time in this mercado:

This guy definitely has the right idea for taking a break from the frenzy at your average weekend market in Mexico... :)

This guy definitely has the right idea for taking a break from the frenzy at your average weekend market in Mexico... :)

Cars to Avoid in Mexico

Acquiring a driver’s license in Mexico City can be done with a concerning level of ease. You just bring your passport & your visa (showing you’re in the country legally) to the Secretaria de Transportes y Vialidad, and after an hour- you are good to go! No written exams, no driving test, no nothing.

This level of rigor is duly reflected in the skill levels of drivers around here, as I have alluded to previously. Mastering the unwritten rules of the road definitely took me a few weeks, but now I have learned to drive as crazily as the rest of ’em. Some key tips include:

  • Never use your turn signal (sign of weakness & alerts others to your secret desires, i.e. to be in the left lane)
  • Never make eye contact (also sign of weakness)
  • When you see a car at an intersection聽a block ahead of you debating whether to pull out in front of you, give your horn a few rapid honks. This聽translates as “If you dare pull out in front of me I will slam into your car with the wrath of a thousand angry burros”
  • If their car is crappier than yours, they will win when it comes to who gets to merge first. (they have less to lose)
  • Never drive in the far right lane, as it is constantly littered with peseros stopping to pick up/drop off passengers, cars parked with their hazard lights on, and guys riding 3-wheeled carts selling water jugs/breakfast breads/other tasty morsels.

Anyway, I often wonder how the more timid among us manage to get up the nerve to start driving in this city. The answer is right here:

I think the phrase I'm looking for is "cruising for a bruising"...

I think the phrase I'm looking for is "cruising for a bruising"...

Of all the cars on the road, I fear these the most– with the “Auto School– Caution” warning emblazoned on their rear. I guess I should be appreciative of the fraction of the percentage of DF residents who actually try to learn how to drive from a professional. Unfortunately, these instead strike me as聽both accident magnets and聽weaklings who are just waiting to be naturally selected. God bless those Auto School instructors who put their lives on the line daily to try and teach a subject that really can’t be taught… it can only be learned through experience. :)

As for me, I am steering clear of these bright-eyed pupils…outside of giving them the quadruple warning honk if they even consider venturing near my lane while clipping along at 15mph… :)

What really constitutes a “car accident” in Mexico City anyway?

Yesterday marked my first car accident (if you can even call it that) in Mexico City. Frankly, I am somewhat amazed that it took this long for my car to come in contact with another car. Before anyone gets concerned (Mom), know that my car was moving at roughly 0.5 mph, as was the other party’s, through one of the crappiest intersections in Polanco. Rather than attempt to describe said intersection, I will set the stage through this truly-lifelike, high-res聽drawing done in Powerpoint, graphic design tool of the world’s finest illustrators… (click to make it semi-legible).
Intersection of Ejercito Nacional & Cuernavaca in Polanco. Left-turn lanes do not exist here (it's more of a pile-on approach), and the thought "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't go because the light will definitely turn red & I will be blocking 4 lanes of traffic" has never crossed anyone's mind.

Intersection of Ejercito Nacional & Cuernavaca in Polanco. Left-turn lanes do not exist here (it's more of a pile-on approach), and the thought "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't go because the light will definitely turn red & I will be blocking 4 lanes of traffic" has never crossed anyone's mind.

Here’s a quick loosely-recalled run-down of the incident for those of you perched on the edges of your seats with suspense:
(For realism, translate all statements said aloud into Spanish. Garbled letters/numbers/symbols signifies where I did not understand actual Spanish; does not signify obscenities.)

Julie, to self: I am never going to get through this goddamn light. ADELANTE, you rat bastards! Please, feel free to continue streaming in front of me despite ME having the green light.

[Inches forward more into intersection. Slight scrape-y sounds causes her to realize she聽has underestimated length of husband’s car]

Julie, to self: Crap. Great, he seems to have noticed & is聽waving at me. What does he want me to do, get out in the middle聽of the intersection? This surely is not an uncommon occurence. Do people even stop in Mexico when someone touches your rear bumper at 0.5 mph?

Dude聽with bushy hair:聽3C(js93!. Do you have your license? Let’s go over to that street to look at the damage.

Julie: Yes, of course

Dude: Give your license to me so I know you will follow me over there. Otherwise how do I know you will follow me [repeat 3 times]

Julie:聽I WILL FOLLOW YOU. Trust me.聽聽 [we drive to street on other side of intersection]

Dude: See, there is a scratch. This is not my car, it’s my bosses. j2(S*@@ DK#$kaei@聽8i2 12MVNnw0. This will cost money to repair. Do you have insurance? Do you want to wait?

Julie: Of course I have insurance. Note that you were cutting in front of me when I had a green light. That intersection is crap. It looks like a minor scratch. I am FINE waiting for insurance. Do you want to wait for it over this scratch?

Dude: That is how things work at that intersection. 290DJK@0!)!聽 ehw%20s聽 &* 239Sbm 30S*@.

Julie: Hey, whatever, I am happy to call my insurance.

[Policeman arrives onto the scene]

Copper: What happened?

Julie: I barely touched his car while he was cutting in front of me when I had a green light. [essentially true, only detail left out was 0.5mph speed]

Copper: [looks at scratch on his car, looks at me as if to say “WTF? Is this really worth dealing with?”, asks Dude:] Is this really worth the trouble? The scratch is blue, her car is gray.

Julie: [wrings hands & rolls eyes supportively in agreement of cop’s assessment of frivolity]

Dude: sd##) sklQPO!)!! @*K聽 @()@*KJDA!#>.聽 This will cost money to fix, it’s not my car etc. etc. etc. You are just taking the side of the pretty lady instead of me. She’s going to call insurance. See, look how this rear portion of my car frame moves [when I vigorously聽pull it back & forth with my hands].

Julie: I imagine the other side moves the same way if you tried it on that side. Also, the scratch is blue. [ignores blue lettering on her license plate]

[Dude is not convinced, continues whining about how it is his boss’s car]

Copper: [sigh] Fine, call insurance.聽 [exits stage left]

Julie: [Calls insurance, who is surprisingly easy to interact with in Spanish. Apparently they will call back shortly to advise who is coming to assess & when assessor will arrive. Perfect!聽Informs Dude of status of waiting for impending call. Asks him if he has called his insurance; apparently not, just hers is enough. Julie is uncertain of validity of this statement, but whatever; it’s his problem if her insurance is mean to him.]聽 Sidenote: according to John’s similar experience, you in fact need BOTH parties’ insurance adjustors there to resolve the issue at the scene.

[Fill in waiting time with awkward chatter that I barely understand. Eventually resort to pretending something super-important is happening on my cell phone screen.]

[Insurance calls back! Yipee, someone will be here in 5 minutes! Que suerte!!聽 Julie informs Dude of impending arrival. 2 minutes later, Dude makes call to someone. 30 seconds after hanging up, Dude slowly ambles over to where Julie has retreated to sitting in passenger seat of car, to avoid angry honks of traffic who is hating us for blocking 1 of 3 lanes of traffic.]

Dude: Did you already call your insurance?

Julie: Um, did I stutter during the聽10 updates I gave you about me calling them & them calling me back & someone being 5 minutes away?

Dude: Well, the thing is, I called my boss & told him the situation, and he doesn’t really care. So, I don’t know if you want to wait for the insurance, or if you can cancel it or what…

Julie: WAIT, you’re saying this DOESN’T have to be an official accident anymore? Um, YEAH I can cancel the insurance guy. Don’t give聽it a second thought. I can DEFINITELY cancel it. [tries hard to be polite and friendly during window of hope, despite wanting to yell “See I TOLD YOU it was just a stupid little scratch; we live in MEXICO CITY, pal! If part of your car isn’t dragging along the聽ground, it’s聽not worth even stopping聽for!聽And why did you wait for 30 minutes to call your boss??”]

Dude: Ok then, I will go.

Julie: [awkwardly offers handshake while seated in car. Dude shakes hand & drives off. Calls insurance to share the good news.]

After this interaction, I was able to see one of the many internal cultural shifts I have experienced after a year in Mexico. If my car had聽touched someone else’s car in any way in the US, I probably would have been slightly panicked &聽had my phone poised to call insurance ASAP.聽Unless the other party聽immediately waved it off, I聽definitely would have called insurance just to avoid any unknown drama. I would have been 100% up-front with any cops that had arrived on the scene. I never would have blocked 1/3 of a very busy street for聽45 minutes.

In Mexico City, my first reaction was literally surprise that he wanted to get out and look at the scratch. Once we saw the scratch, I was just聽annoyed that we would have to do the insurance-calling dance. While getting death-glares for blocking a key lane of traffic, my primary thought was “I will be pissed if someone hits my car while I am sitting here.” I barely went聽around to look at my front left bumper, knowing that any damage retained from a 0.5 mph collision would likely be overshadowed by the next large-sheep-sized pothole that we hit.

The cultural evolution continues… 馃槈

Your own…personal…taxista…

I have a regular taxista who I call to get a ride home on days that I work out of the office. Her name is Guadalupe, and she is a lovely, middle-aged Mexican with a son who lives in Cancun. She became my go-to taxista after I broke up with my prior taxista, Carlos, when he stopped answering my calls. (what is this, “he’s just not that into you”, taxi-style???)聽 Anyway, Guadalupe and I get along well because she a) is nice and amusing but doesn’t take any crap from anyone, b) doesn’t drive like a crazy person, and c) has a car with enough leg room for me and no funny-scented air fresheners. Our conversations are generally fairly smooth because I can practice my Spanish and at times, she her English, so we usually can figure things out between the two of us.

So today, Guadalupe & I were driving home when she suddenly remembered something to ask me. (below conversation all in Spanish)

G: “Oh! I have something I need help on from an English speaker and you speak English. Obviously!!
J: “Uh, yes…?”
G: “I have a song that I really like, but I don’t know what it means. Maybe if I play it for you, you can tell me what it is about?”聽 [proceeds to roll up car windows to create the proper listening environment] “Maybe you have heard it?”
J: [now filled with curiosity of what this magical song could possibly be] “Of course! Or at least I will try!”

G: [proceeds to carefully select song from CD player]

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Car Audio System: “bumm bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Your own…bup bumm bup Personal…bup bumm bup Jesus…bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares…

J: “Ahhh siiii, es una canci贸n muy buena!!” I crowed in reinforcement, thrilled to learn that this most favorite song of hers was a classic Depeche Mode hit from the ’80s.聽 I wasn’t quite sure whether she was looking for a literal translation or greater meaning, so I started loosely translating…

J: “Alguien quien oye tus… pues, como se dice cuando hablas con Dios?”聽聽聽 (Someone who hears your… well, how do you say when you talk with God?)
G: “Oraciones.”聽 (Prayers.)
J: “Si! Est谩 hablando sobre alguien quien oye tus oraciones y te cuida.”聽 (Yes! It’s talking about someone who hears your prayers and cares for you.)

I explained that although I had heard this song many times, I had never really thought about what it means… We agreed it was best to restart the song. After a full run through, I made a valiant attempt to explain the meaning of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in Spanish聽 (sounds like a bad dream from a Spanish lit class),聽focusing on the fact that despite the frequent use of the word “Jesus”, “prayer” and “faith”, Depeche Mode should not be classified as a religious band. :)

J: “Pienso que la canci贸n聽sea sobre otra opci贸n en vez de Jesus para ayudarte cuando est谩s solo y necesitas soporte… otra opci贸n como m煤sica u otra persona…? Que puedes tener algo personal para “reach out”…?”聽聽(I think the song is about another option instead of Jesus to help you when you are alone & need support…another option like music or another person? That you can have something personal to reach out to?)

I realized that even in English, I did not have a lot of insight into Depeche Mode’s thought processes. However, Guadalupe seemed to be pleased with my vague ideas, and we briefly discussed the differences between religious things and spiritual things, as evidenced by this “Personal Jesus” that one might have…

I reckon at this rate, it is only a matter of time before I am teaching a comparative religion class in Spanish聽at the local community college… 馃槈

Mario Kart D.F.

Last night, I left my safety blanket in the glove box.聽In a聽burst of confidence, I drove home in Mexico City without using my GPS, and I didn’t get lost.聽 Yes, so maybe it was less than 10 miles, and it was from the school that I had already been to 2 times, but you will just have to trust me that it merited a feeling of pride.

As I was driving,聽the thought of my high-school friends Todd & Matt leapt into my mind, and how they probably have no idea of the part they played in preparing me for this point in my life. And how did they help prepare me? Many hours of playing Mario Kart on Nintendo (or Super聽Nintendo, or whatever derivative it was in the mid-90’s).

A graphical representation of your average Mexico City traffic interaction

A graphical representation of your average Mexico City traffic interaction

To highlight the parallels:

  • Incredibly narrow lanes of traffic through which one must tightly maneuver. The ‘main’ road I take through neighborhoods聽out towards my school in the burbs has 3 lanes, but, as one of my friends commented, if you had 3 cars stopped abreast, I don’t think you could open any of the car doors.
  • Numerous sharp curves requiring rapid steering-wheel spins, with various obstacles ranging from traffic barrels in your lane, to people selling gum and/or phone cards, to mammoth buses.
  • Exciting off-roading options like navigating potholes the size of a small goat, to speed bumps (a.k.a. topes) that seem to be formed from only-partially-submerged watermelons.
  • I fit in amongst these drivers (with my blonde hair & Virginia license plates) about as much as the Princess fits in with the other Mario Kart contestants. Initially I thought there was a greater similarity, but after a few weeks of driving now, I realize that Princess Peach was NEVER able to drive as aggressively as I have already learned how to do here.
  • Bumping other drivers was always a favorite Mario Kart move for the lower-skilled players (i.e. if I can’t win, I’m at least going to make it as hard for you as possible). While I have yet to be sideswiped here, I figure it is only a matter of time.
  • The best way to drive here is聽to closely tailgate another local driver. This a) lends towards your credibility as an aggressive, crazy driver who other drivers should not mess with, and b) since they invariably know the roads better than you, they will know when to swerve to miss the goat-sized potholes, so you can mirror them & do the same. Conveniently, most of my Mario Kart time was spent in 2nd place (or lower), driving behind someone else’s car, so I am well-prepared for this.

Anyway, let me take this opportunity to officially thank Todd & Matt for the hours they spent mocking me because I am so crap at video games.聽Although their words seemed聽harsh at the time, without that training period, today I would clearly lack the nerve to fight erratic taxis, intimidating buses, and your average truck whose bed is filled with dead chickens on ice:

To me, this screams "we have mastered the concepts of proper poultry refrigeration"

To me, this screams "we have mastered the concepts of proper poultry refrigeration"

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