Friday, November 7, 2008
Hard to Spell
Today, Friday, I'm in another little town in the state of Queretaro called "Tequisquiapan." Hard to spell, huh? It's easy. Try this: B.O.R.I.N.G. I had high hopes for the town from my research before I left, and--indeed--it IS a charming colonial town sit around a large center square (like many in Mexico). The periphery is ringed with "portales," or covered, arched walkways, home to restaurants and shops. It's pretty. It's nicely preserved. It's cheaper. But it's just plain dull. Especially after San Miguel, where there's always something going on. Knowing myself, I'd go stir-crazy in about a month living here. So.......on to Morelia tomorrow. It's about a 3-hour bus ride south and west.
Remember the corner grocery? Chicago...in the city....used to have them on every other block. When I was selling real estate there, I think I showed clients a few of them for conversion to residential property. Well, those corner groceries are alive and well in Mexico. I find it delightful. These are small places...often the back of someone's home. They carry a limited selection, often behind the counter. It's like stepping back to the 1940's or something (not that I'd remember!). And then there is the neighborhood bakery (once the rolls are gone in the morning....that's it). And the neighborhood ice cream store, and shoe store. Along with these stores comes personal service, someone who actually greets you (no, not like Walmart), and who gives the customer some attention. I could get used to this.
Buses. Nope, not the old "chicken coop" buses of old. I've been traveling on deluxe and first class buses....all Mercedes Benz or Volvo manufacture. The deluxe ones, on longer journeys, come with 2 bathrooms on board and color movies! Most Mexicans travel by buses instead of by air. The first class bus service means that it stops a lot. If someone standing along the road...anywhere...in a cornfield, I've seen...the bus stops and picks them up, and along we go. Sort of commuter service, of a sort.
The money is making sense now. Instead of that furtive little calculation at every purchase, "let's see, that's REALLY $17.50 in U.S. money"..... Now, I know that a 400 peso hotel room is very nice, and a 250 peso hotel room is plenty OK for my needs. And all those strange little coins? I can hand 'em over without looking to see what denomination each is.
How weird is taking a trip like this, going from town to town? Yeah, it's methodical. Well, having worked as an academic for the last several years, I recognize the power of silly minutae and the limits of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Of course, I researched each town before I left Phoenix. In fact, I created a 3-ring binder with facts and collected comments on each town on my "potential" list. So, look at it like this: would you buy the first car you saw in the car showroom without first looking it over carefully, taking a test drive, looking it up on the Internet?
The other day at the fancy shopping center outside San Miguel, they were putting up Christmas decorations in the mall and in all the stores. I had nightmares of Marshall Field's all over again. Retail is retail, wherever you live. But do realize how funny it is to hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in Spanish?