Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Odds and Ends

One cultural behavior I've noticed in dining rooms is an example of Mexican politeness. At our hotel, where meals were included, when a couple entered the dining room, they said "good evening" to all the other diners. And, upon leaving, the wished the remaining diners, "Buen provecho." (enjoy your meal).

One kind of vendor that stops me in my tracks, wherever I am in Mexico is the handmade potato chip seller. I first experienced this in Oaxaca last Christmastime. Here, I've seen in in the markets, even sold on buses by "ambulantes" or roving sellers. There is nothing to compare to fresh potatoes, hand cut, fried immediately, eating them from a small plastic container while still warm. Yum!

A "Third Place"

Starbucks' founder had the idea of a "third place," not home, and not work. He first saw how people enjoyed hanging out in similar places in Italy. I think he was really on to something. This "third place" idea is the same idea behind the town square in Mexico. Whole families hang out, not necessarily doing anything. Sitting a talking, bumping into friends, catching up on gossip, grabbing a taco. In my mind, it's a far more social way to lie than sitting at home watching TV. Don't get me wrong, I like TV. It's just that it gives you an illusion of being with people or in a social setting. One of the things I really like about Mexico is how people use its public spaces--parks, town square zocolo, sidewalks, the steps of a church. It reminds me of life at college. If you wanted to be alone, go back to your dorm room. If you want socialization, just open you door. It makes more sense to me to open the door.