This week is our 6-month Mexiversary, marking half-a-year of explorations through a country that has surprised us both at every turn. After 6 months in Mexico and hundreds of kilometres under our feet, we’re feeling a bit reflective, and are as surprised as anyone to realize that some of the things that irked us and made us shake our heads back when we first arrived, no longer do.
And I suppose that is the point of travel. I’ve written before about some of the life lessons we’ve learned during our two years of full-time travel. Yes, travel changes you. But not all changes are massive, life-changing ones. Sometimes, it’s just learning to be a little more adaptable, and little more open-minded, about different ways of living. And looking back, Mexico has certainly given us that.
With two months to go before we say hasta luego to Mexico, we’re happy to say this country has gotten under our skin in the best way possible, teaching us how to go with the flow a little more than we did before, chillax about schedules, and sit back to enjoy the (numerous) firecrackers.
In celebration of this Mexiversary, I thought I’d put together a fun, in-jest, and tongue-firmly-in-cheek list of what it means to grow a little more Mexican on the inside, at least for us. If you’ve spent time traveling or living in Mexico, you might recognize these 10 signs.
1. We appreciate the genius that is the michelada (and are ashamed you ever questioned its supreme reign over the drink-lovers’ kingdom)
Micheladas took me awhile to warm up to, much in the same way I imagine it takes time for foreigners to warm up to the indisputable genius that is Canada’s Cesar. Beer and lime juice, I’ve always been on-board for, but throw in Clamato, Worcestershire, hot sauce, chicken bullion, Maggi seasoning, salt…well, that’s where I started to question things.
Until I tasted it. If you’ve never had a Michelada, they combine citrus, salt, chilli and umami flavours with beery goodness, and offer a refreshing and borderline restorative experience in the Mexican heat, especially when enjoyed on a rooftop terrace with friends.
Michelada, I’m sorry I ever questioned you.
2. We’ve Given Up On Walking Fast
In the 6 months we’ve been in Mexico, I have been passed by a Mexican person while walking exactly one time. It was such a surprise — such a notable and wholly unexpected event — that I immediately texted Geoff to let him know what had happened.
A generalization, sure, but one we’ve found to be mostly true in all of the places we’ve visited thus far (except, maybe, Mexico City): Mexican people don’t walk very fast. When you combine this with point #3, below, it makes walking anywhere quickly rather challenging.
Best to embrace the slow and steady approach.
3. We’ve Changed Our Definition of “Sidewalk”
Mexico does a lot of things really well: bus travel in this country is comfortable and reliable; the variety, quality and freshness of food, and the depth of flavours across the regional cuisines, never ceases to delight; Mexican people have a delightfully relaxed, festive, and hopeful attitude towards life; and the country itself is drop-dead gorgeous. Those are just a few of the things that Mexicans excel at, and there are many, many more.
One thing Mexico has yet to perfect, however, is sidewalk construction.
Here in Campeche, the sidewalks on our street seem as though they’ve been designed — at best — by a city planner on a weekend-long acid trip. If you told me City Hall let Koko the Gorilla design the sidewalks by signing her preferences to the construction crew, I would be like, “yep, now that you mention it, I can see that.”
It’s not just Campeche, however. Mature trees growing from the middle of a narrow sidewalk; massive holes that threaten to swallow you whole; and sidewalks that stand taller than your average 6-year-old are all actual sidewalk scenarios we’ve faced.
People in Campeche, and Mexico in general, seem to have come to peace with the sidewalk issue, simply risking getting hit by cars rather than using the sidewalks provided. Not ideal, but it seems to work, and after 6 months, we’ve come to see the wisdom in their ways, mostly walking on the road ourselves.
Needless to say, we’ve adjusted our definition of what a “normal” sidewalk is.
4. We’ve Realized That Foreign-Made Tacos Aren’t Even in the Same Category as Mexican Tacos
Before spending time in Mexico, I foolishly thought tacos were made from ground beef, taco spice powder, and hardened El Paso corn tortillas, pre-formed into “taco shape.” That’s 34 years I’ll never get back.
Now that I’ve spent some time eating my way through the local taco offerings, I am confident in my assessment that Tacos al Pastor are the single greatest taco offering in the history of taco offerings, and that al pastor — Mexico’s answer to shawarma, but with pork — is meat of the gods.
Same goes, by the way, for other “Mexican food” we thought we knew before we arrived. There is just so much to eat here, with such unique flavours and textures…suffice it to say I’m rarely left hungry.
5. We’ve Been Stuck in a Parade Jam (& Contributed to the Chaos)
I’ve written before about the fiesta-life we experienced in Oaxaca, and it really and truly is one of the most endearing things about life here, as entire families and communities come together to party, eat, dance, and embrace definitely-outlawed-in-Canada displays of pyrotechnics.
Fiesta life, however, is not without its inconveniences: enter the parade jam.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a traffic jam in this country, you know that Mexicans aren’t shy about using their horn to express impatience.
A parade jam is like a traffic jam, but it’s caused by unabashed partying, dancing, and revelling in the streets, rather than something so prosaic as cars. Wedding processions, funeral processions, and national holiday processions, such as day of the dead, are all common causes of parade jams, bringing traffic to a complete stop, for blocks, and blocks, and blocks, and….
The most surprising thing about parade jams, however, is not that they happen, but that no one gets annoyed. When there’s a street party or parade up ahead, the entire city just shrugs their shoulders, settles in for a long wait, or joins in on the party.
It’s kind of awesome.
6. We’d Way Rather Take a Collectivo
When we first arrived in Mexico, the private taxis seemed so cheap…until we discovered collectivo prices.
Collectivos, for the uninitiated, are shared transportation that sit in between bus and private taxi in terms of cost and convenience. They drive around town, with destinations written on the windshield so you know which one to catch. They also go between towns, sometimes in the form of special taxis, and sometimes minibuses.
Collectivos are cheap as chips, mighty convenient, and a great way to meet locals. In Oaxaca, we visited friends in the village of San Augustin Etla a few times, spending $12 pesos each for the 40-minute ride. Another time, we spent $20 pesos each for a one-hour ride to the artisan village of San Martin Tilcajete.
After 6 months in Mexico, we now pretty much look for the collectivo option above all else when it comes to shorter trips.
7. We Eat Chilaquiles for Breakfast (and It Doesn’t Seem Weird)
If you don’t know what chilaquiles are, you are seriously missing out. I might even go so far as to say you’re failing at life…that’s how much you need to taste these things…right now.
I describe chilaquiles as “breakfast nachos” to the uninitiated. Like nachos, they consist of a plate of tortilla chips covered in sauce and other stuff. Also like nachos, they are time sensitive: if you leave them too long, they get soggy. The final nacho similarity is the inarguable deliciousness of both dishes.
Unlike nachos, however, are the toppings: in the parts of Mexico we’ve been to, chilaquiles consist of the tortilla chips and either red or green sauce slathered with pulled chicken, a fried egg, fresh onion, fresh cream and shredded cheese.
And while, when you first arrive in Mexico, it may seem like chilaquiles aren’t a breakfast food, that’s where you’d be wrong…oh so wrong. I’ve come to learn they are in fact a glorious way to start the day. My mouth is now watering.
8. We’ve Made Peace with the Fact that in Mexico, Louder Equals Better
One of the things we noticed – and complained about – when we first came to Mexico was the sheer volume of the country.
Dogs bark and howl throughout the night.
There are firecrackers and fireworks at all times of the day, every day.
Various delivery trucks use loudspeakers to announce their arrival…to the entire neighbourhood, and then blast music when they’re not announcing.
And don’t even get me started on the small tiendas that seem to believe ear-drum-splitting music, no matter how horribly mismatched to whatever they’re selling, is the best way to attract customers. Case in point: A Valentine’s Day pop-up shop that played expletive-laden gangster rap — at a window-shaking volume, no less — to entice customers to buy gigantic heart-holding teddy bears.
If you love long stretches of silence, you may want to give Mexico a pass, or be open to having your mind changed. While we don’t love the noise, we have come to accept it, and the underlying cause, which is a genuine love of music and joie de vivre that permeates the culture.
We’ve also stocked up on ear plugs.
9. We’re A Little Less Politically Correct
Mexicans are rather frank in their speech, and don’t have the same hang-ups as Canadians and Americans about pointing out the obvious.
The first time I met our Spanish teacher in Oaxaca, she described herself as short, fat and brown, and pointed out that I was a short guera (white lady).
We’ve lived and traveled in a lot of places where English-speakers’ penchant for being PC is not the same, and I suppose it prepared us for our Mexican travels. In Taiwan, kids pointed out that Geoff was hairy, like a cat. In Japan, when I was probably the skinniest I’ve ever been, some Japanese students asked me if I was pregnant.
Here in Mexico, I am a short white lady, which while factually accurate, still took a little getting used to.
10. We Can’t Wait for Our Next Pueblo Magico
Mexico’s tourism board came up with the Pueblo Magico (magical town) program 15 years ago, and despite it being mostly a marketing gimmick, we’re hooked after visiting only 2 of them: Izamal and Valladolid.
While there’s no chance we’ll get to all 83 of them, we have adjusted our travel plans to see a few more, because in our experience, there is something to these magical towns.
Mexico is so much more than beaches and resorts, and we really consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to have spent so much time in a country so rich with culture, food, traditions and architecture.
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