Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 26, 2014
After a fairly uneventful journey (it is disconcerting to hear the pilot complaining about the condition of the plane’s tires before the flight…) we arrived in Mexico City. My very friendly and competent tour manager, Pablo, met us there at the airport and we put ourselves in his hands. We hied ourselves to the hotel Milan where Karen and Carolyn and I squeezed ourselves into a cozy matchbox of a room. We were anxious to get on our feet after all that sitting so we all set off down the street from the hotel. We didn’t make it far. Two doors down we found the café of our dreams:
a cafebreria, which is to say a café/bookstore. With plenty of vegetarian options. What luck! (probably the result of my many years of fasting, prayer and meditation). Ate, walked some more and crashed secure in the knowledge that we had plenty of time to sleep, what with the time change and all. Today was the day of interminable travel. A bus trip to Guadalajara that should only have taken 6 hours took 9. Ay de mi, we were ready to get off that bus. Quick taxi ride to a rather forbidding looking door. But “open sesame” and hey! Some pretty nice digs.
Wish we were staying here longer! Carolyn, Karen and I walked down the street to the Sunday night market on the plaza next to a lovely gothic church. Services were in full swing and so was the market. Got dinner, bought breakfast and returned to our apartment for a good night’s sleep and blessedly good internet!

October 27, 2014
First day of work: We got an early start using the same cabby we used to get here last night. He, as it turned out, had kept working after dropping us off. The school, actually a German immersion school with classes in English, was in a “private area,” discernible by the heavily armed guard that was stopping all incoming traffic. This was no gated community with a modest wall around it. This particular “private area” is three school district large, a suburb basically. Three shows on a campus that resembled a small private college. The third show was a tough one. Older kids, not much English. A bad combination that I did not read correctly.

Afterwards Pablo and I met up with Carolyn and Karen who had been discovering Guadalajara’s many wonderful tourist sites that are closed on Mondays. We visited a government office with impressive ceiling art by the famous artist Jose Orozco,
had a terrific lunch and made our way home, stopping to admire some street musicians and dancers doing “Dansa del Viejos,” getting a terrific percussive sound, like clogging out of shoes that looked like flip-flops split in half.

Tonight we visit plaza del Mariachis, Guadalajara being the birthplace of mariachi music!

October 28, 2014
 Well, we had a great evening’s walk, anyway. Spent a little time in a truly labyrinthine market place at the cusp of closing time. Aisle after wandering aisle of stalls, and kiosks selling shoes, belts, toys, food, videos, books and knickknacks. Circuitously, we made our way to La Plaza del Mariachi. Still a bit early, only 7:00 pm. There was an empty stage and rows and rows of empty tables along an outdoor plaza, lined on either side by shops. The deal was you paid 100 pesos (roughly $7.50) and they would play a song. When there’s a crowd you get to hear stuff paid for by others as well the ones you pay for.  (Or you could just mooch.) But, since we were the only action in the square, there wasn’t going to be any music unless we coughed up the dinero. And there seemed to be a little vagueness about where exactly the musicians were at this early hour. We opted to walk around a little and see if the crowd would get any bigger. We did see the musicians eventually, at the end of the plaza, in their flashy mariachi uniforms, shooting the breeze at a table near a food concession. They didn’t look to be in any danger of performing soon, so we gave up and went home.

Today, our last in Guadalajara (man, this trip is going fast!), Pablo said we were heading for Ines Hidalgo School. Got into the taxi with Miguel, who has been shepherding us in the mornings. (I should note here, that taking a cab in Mexico is not for the faint of heart. The sudden accelerations and stops, the noisy gear shifts and squeaky brakes… traffic signals become mere suggestions – bad advice given to you by a clueless friend…  animated conversations, complete with passionate gestures using both hands whilst the steering wheel is left to intuit the drivers momentarily forgotten intentions… all of these combine to nourish a sense of, shall we say, aliveness in the face of sudden death.) I asked Miguel if he knew who Inez Hidalgo was and he said she was a famous teacher. Turns out the name of the school is Ingles Hidalgo School. (No relation to Ines Hidalgo, whoever she is.)

Our search for the school was becoming desperate enough to ask directions so we pulled over to inquire from an innocent bystander. Did they know Ingles Hidalgo School? No. How about Hector Berlioz St. wherein the school was ensconced? Ah, quoth our informant. We were in the wrong section of town. This was the visual artists section. Composers could be found a few blocks over. There are also barrios where streets are named after architects and bullfighters. As we were wandering around town trying to find the school I noticed a billboard ad for a steakhouse, featuring a cow and the copy: “Ya respira”.* I guess they like their meat rare.

Pablo and I had a great time at the school and afterwards came back to pick up Karen and Carolyn for our next bus ride to Querétera, where we’ll stay for the next three nights. I’m on the bus now, passing fields of Agave (tequila!), Amaranth, corn, and tomatoes. The water for all of the houses around here comes from a cistern which you can see dotting the roofs everywhere. Another reminder how lucky we are to live in an area with such abundant water.

* "It's still breathing"

What a charming, if somewhat quirky motel! Situated in the historic district of downtown Querétaro, El Burro Azul

is the perfect place for us, with charming rooms opening out into a courtyard filled with fountains and plenty of seating to hang in. And here’s a special hats off to the well decorated sinks. The ones we’ve had so far have been lovely.
It was a long bus ride so we were anxious to get out and walk around a bit. Even though it was late, all of Mexico is gearing up for Dia de Muertos, a major holiday down here that’s kind of a combination between Memorial Day, Halloween and Christmas. There are decorations all over the place and our first glimpse of them is in the dark. We’ll see more tomorrow.