Adventures start with an upshot feeling of unease. Did I really think this was a good idea? Now that I’m here, I’m kinda scared. This doesn’t seem to be how I pictured things going.
Our plane touched down in CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) late afternoon and customs was how you’d expect. The baggage claim exit is peppered with a few kiosks type stores all along the same wall. Money exchange kiosks with a 7-11 and a Circle-K peppered in. When two exchange places have different rates and are direct neightbors, why would anyone pick the less advantageous rate? A fukn idot.
Turns out I was the idiot when I went for the $1 to $17.75 MXN rate because right around the corner was a half mile stretch of these little kiosks, some offering as much as $18.30 MXN.
My couchsurfer suggested public transport, my friend in the city said uber, and everyone at the airport said taxi. I went with taxi and paid $350 MXN for an hour ride to the extreme south of city.
Luis was my driver and through coincidences of the universe he had lived in Denver for 10 years. He’d also been a roofer and worked in restaurants, two past jobs of mine. He got deported back to Mexico in 2010 and reminisces about living back in Aurora. You make more money there, he said. But everything costs more there, I said. Life is safer there, he said. I agreed with that, but we came to an agreement that life is still very good in Mexico. You just have to work a lot more to get less. His taxi shifts are 24 hours long.
Why don’t you go back? His daughters are too grown, his family is here, and getting smuggled into the US costs $7k, which he says he’d rather spend here. I asked why he didn’t do what my mom and I did - “go on a vacation to Disney World” which happens to have no return. You need a visa for that he said, and since he got deported he’s on a blacklist.
Our conversation was sprinkled with my outbursts “Whoa what’s that?” “How about that big building over there?”. El Palacio De Los Deportes. El Estadio Olympico. When I brought up that I wanted to see local music and art he seemed a bit interested. When I mentioned Lucha Libre his face lit right up. I like to think my enthusiasm for Mexican culture made him reconsider some of his longing for Aurora CO. At one point he bragged about the richness of Mexican history and its lands and it made me happy.
The problem is this long string of powerful corrupt people in power, says Luis. Obrero (the new president) is really turning that around though, at least as much as any one man can. Obrero reduced the very high pay of Mexican congresspeople, while at the same time raising pensions and giving more scholarships. Instead of living in the posch and stately Los Pinos palace, he opened it up to the public as a museum, and he doesn’t even hire security guards for himself. I don’t know anything on the subject, but Luis is a big fan.
Ixchtel messaged me quite a few times on the ride. She’s the couchsurfer I’m staying with for the first 4 nights. I have no idea where I’ll be sleeping the 9 nights after that.
First night in Mexico and I don’t have a single plan made yet, just a few ideas. After an hour of LA traffic through the heart of CDMX we get to the shopping mall where Ixchel is buying a few things with her sister Iris and mom Luisa. I get a big smile, hug, and kiss on the cheek from each of them. Ah, Latino culture.
They almost laughed me out of the car when I tried to tell them about my hitchhiking trip across the US. I used the phrase “pidiendo cola” which is Venezuelan for hitchhiking, and Mexican for asking for sex. I said I was pidiendo cola for a year across the whole US.
They have a nice cozy home at the extreme south of the city where they rent out a room to Pamela from Chile and her dog Snoopy. They also have resident stray animals that they rescue and then put up for adoption. Ixchel works for the government helping children and women who are victims of violence. Ixchel and her family are truly amazing, I’m so lucky to have found a truly great place to land.