Saturday, November 22, 2008

One Word Says It All

This shot is of the local bus line: Sociedad de Autobuses Urbanos de Xalapa, or SUX!

This has been another of those lessons I've learned on the trip--places I was SURE I'd like it, I don't. Other places I didn't even want to visit, I like a lot. That speaks to the relative futility of evaluating places based on Internet research. It's like an inside joke--you had to be there to appreciate it. The best analogy is online computer dating. The profile reads great; he or she sounds just perfect! Wow! All the same interests. Check 'em off the list. You're excited about meeting the perfect person. Until you meet face to face. Ouch! She never said anything about that wart on the nose or the prison record.....

I was certain I'd like Xalapa. Everything I've read off the Internet is positive. It's a university town, home to University of Veracruz. Lots of arts and culture going on. Tons of bookstores. What I didn't count on was how hilly the city is. My knees are just killing me. How's that for getting old, complaining about arthritis? If I can't navigate the place at 57...will I want to at 65 or 70? Something to consider. Also, the weather is cloudy, rainy, and often overcast. I might be able to deal with that, but the layout of the city, no. You can't change geography. Also, it's very spread out. Just getting to the symphony concert in the State Theater last night was a journey. Taxi both ways. I would prefer a town that's more compact. Where at least you can do the downtown area on foot, since I don't plan to have a car.

Today, I went out to Coatepec, which is about 20 minutes out of town. There are a number of Americans living there. I went out at midday and had lunch. There's not much to write about. It was a pretty basic Mexican small town. Lots of graffiti everywhere. Not much attractive architecture. The zocolo (town square) was just the main church and a small park. Glimpses of town: on a street corner....out in the street, a 3-piece marimba band, just playing away for no one in particular. And coming back into Xalapa....I first heard the sounds, then noticed the guy walking toward me with 5 bird cages strapped together in a tall stack on his back...filled with parakeets!

So, what's next? I'm not in any hurry; and that's nice. I'm very grateful to be able to do this....wandering around the country and enjoying many very different parts. Most people don't want to or can't. I did meet a guy in Patzcuaro about my age. He and his wife took 7 months and backpacked around the whole country looking at towns for retirement. I thought I was the only one nuts enough to do that!

I may head down to Cordoba next week. It's in the middle of coffee plantations and supposedly very pretty. I'm also intrigued by San Cristobal de Casas, which is way down in Chiapas. Maybe I spend just spin the bottle? A Ouiji board maybe? I'm actually enjoying the process of traveling. Bus travel is super comfortable, and it's exciting to see new places.