Category Archives: gringos in Mexico

Navidad – Going To Mexico


Our recent annual Posadas Parties gig in downtown Los Angeles ended quietly on December 24th.  As we were setting up several employees asked if the evening would end earlier than the other nights, and Yes, we said. We used less equipment and smaller speakers, and shortened the times between events, so that we ended about 9:15 instead of at 10 p.m.

Some of our equipment, waiting to be stored – up two flights of stairs – the life of a musician!
We trudged up and down stairs and put away our equipment in the storage room. We said our goodbyes to the dancers, the puppeteer and the employees, and drove to our motel for our last night.
In the morning we packed up our equipment and clothing, and went to a local pawn shop to purchase a drum machine we had spotted similar to the one we like to use for recording. We then drove to a cousin’s house near Covina where we enjoyed a wonderful meal with ham as a main dish (thank you, Sylvia!. In spite of all the excellent meats available in Mexico, ham and turkey are two things that just are not of the same quality. I am not embarrassed to say that I had several many servings of ham. I had an extremely enjoyable conversation with Sylvia and her lovely daughter while the daughter made guacamole as Christmas gifts for her friends. They were so attentive I probably talked way too much. I do miss having women friends to talk to, and I probably totally dominated the table talk.
As the afternoon wore on I began to cast glances at the clock and fret a little about leaving on time. Our car was due back at the rental agency in San Diego at 9 p.m., and I hazarded a guess that it would be perhaps a three-hour drive. We left about 6:45 after our goodbyes. While I kept driving at a steady pace for about three hours, Chon napped off and on.
We were on an unfamiliar freeway, and it just didn’t feel like exactly the right direction. When I began seeing signs for San Diego, but not for the airport, I called my sister, who was on the receiving end of a snow-and-ice storm in Arkansas. She speedily looked for directions to the airport (she is really, really good at using the computer), and told me if I saw highway 163 I should take it. As her words came through the phone we were just arriving at the off-ramp, and we zoomed onto it. Her directions were perfect and in a short time we were near the airport; we gassed up the car, checked it in and re-packed our things.
I may not have mentioned that one part of our luggage was a large box (The Box) with digital recording equipment we had purchased in Los Angeles. Chon packed it with clothing for additional protection. It had carrying handles, but it was quite heavy and rather awkward. In addition I was carrying a bag we bought at a thrift shop because it had wheels for ease of movement.
Although we had taken the Volaris shuttle from the Tijuana airport to the San Diego airport, we weren’t exactly sure how to catch it back to the Tijuana airport. Although I was fairly sure of the location, I hadn’t really thought about the lateness of our return, and wondered if it would come. An extremely rude taxi driver tried to convince us that my directions were wrong. We showed up, though, at the Amtrak station, and I got directions for the shuttle stop right outside the door. It would arrive, the attendant told us, at 11 p.m. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:10 a.m., and we were beginning to feel pinched for time. That is to say, this is when both of us were feeling that pinch; I had felt concerned since, say, about 5 p.m. There was one other person besides us at the shuttle stop, a young man who told us HIS flight was leaving at 11:45.
Our luggage under street lights, outside the Metro Station in San Diego, CA. See The Box?
We looked at each other wordlessly. IF the shuttle arrived at the scheduled time, and IF it took zero minutes to officially cross the border, it still would just not be possible for him to make his flight because of the 20-or-so-minute drive to the border. He suspected it, and we knew it. He asked if we would like to share a taxi. There was one parked a half-block away, and before Chon went to ask if it was available, I asked him to make sure the driver wasn’t a complete A. He wasn’t, and it was available. He wanted $50 to drive us to the border, and the other passenger offered to pay half.  That made OUR taxi ride cheaper than taking the shuttle! We got a strong young guy to help carry The Box, and HE got at least a chance to make his flight.
We raced to the border, the cab driver probably in a hurry to harvest more work on this busy Christmas night. The cabbie had lied, however, when he told us that it wasn’t far for us to walk to cross the border; “less than a block”, he said. We tumbled out of the cab and unloaded our gear and began to walk on the new pedestrian path across the border. My bag, the one with wheels, would begin to rock wildly if I walked speedily or held the handle too high, so I brought up the rear.
We sweated our way along the well-lit, smooth sidewalk that led to a small brilliantly lit room where a sleepy-eyed female border agent asked us where we were coming from, and going to. Chon told her that the three of us were a band, and we were making a regular border crossing to play at a party. She waved us past her with a bored smile.
And then we walked, and walked. And walked some more. The sidewalk became a bridge. With many switchbacks. Chon and the young guy made several changes of sides of The Box because their hands hurt. Several times we passed a middle-aged gringo (and he passed us), and one of those times he asked us, panting, if we wanted to share a taxi. Yes, we did. As we finally arrived, panting, at the taxi parking area, we beckoned to him to hurry so he could ride with us. The taxi driver quoted a $20 price (yes, $5 apiece) and amazingly, loaded The Box and some other luggage into the truck and tied the trunk lid down. The four of us piled in, and passed around our smaller bags so that we could fit.
We started off for the airport, and every time we drove across a pot-hole the trunk lid would bang and the gringo with us would mutter “bad shocks”. We made it to the airport in record time, and the young guy and Chon picked up The Box again and carried it to the luggage scanner. We made it through that first hurdle and I had my visa checked. The young guy began to slink away, and Chon called him back to haul The Box to our check-in line, where he promptly and efficiently disappeared. Who could blame him? He DID make his flight, though.
And WE pushed The Box through the lines to the check-in, where we paid for the extra weight. Then we headed with our backpacks to the security check, where we were told that we could not carry our (brand-new, extra-heavy-duty, expensive) instrument cords in our carry-on luggage. (What???? No electrical cables in carry-on? That is not something I have seen listed as being prohibited by the airlines.) I waited while Chon ran back to the check-in counter where the airline workers told him to leave his backpack with them.  As this was simply not an option (great NEW backpack designed for computer, with a fine drum machine inside), he talked them into leaving only the cables with them, and returned cum backpack to the security check-in, and then, finally, we were through, and the rest was easy.
The Volaris flight took off and arrived on time (congratulations, Volaris!), and when we arrived I had my first opportunity (??) to help carry The Box. After only a few seconds I was so relieved that I hadn’t been the one drafted to lug it all the way across the immigration trails!
A friend picked us up at the airport, and as we headed for the highway to take us home, there were hundreds and hundreds of urracas, boat-tailed grackles, in enormous parvadas , flocks, flying overhead.
We got home about 40 minutes later, unloaded our things and went to sleep for four hours.

  

The Friend Connection – San Miguel de Allende

Michael, My Friend, I’m so glad I got a hold of you three days ago! I called Richard but he hadn’t set up his voice mail. THEN I called Beth as you suggested and there was no answer, but I thought maybe she couldn’t get her phone in time. I thought what a bummer it would be to just tell you lamely “Well,we just couldn’t get in touch.” and I called her back, and she picked up!
Richard suggested we meet them in front of the “Parroquia” there in San Miguel, because they would be there in three minutes or so…We had to drive down from an overlook where we were, looking down on the city. We parked where we thought we were within walking distance, and asked directions from two women, obviously from the States. One told us we had about a fifteen-minute walk, but, well, you know us – we were there in about 5 minutes, I think.

Every town and city here has a “parroquia” or two and you must ask the name. But in San Miguel there is only one Parroquia. It is not a modest building. It is directly across from the Jardin, and things were a-hopping when we arrived. There were many, many tourists, and small Indian women selling colorful toys and bracelets and other things from trays they carried.

And we found Richard right away. When we had passed a park earlier on our hike from where we had parked, we saw a tall man with a T-shirt and shorts, and Chon asked “Could that be Richard?”  No, that was not Richard. THIS is Richard! T-shirt and shorts, indeed!


And David and Beth were there, too, very friendly and companionable right away. I felt comfortable after feeling just a little anxious about finding them.

Richard had Plans. He suggested an exploring sort of walk around a few blocks, and it was quite enjoyable, including an art gallery with a friendly artist – “No photos, please! I’ll have to charge you $500!” Richard obediently deleted the pictures from his camera. Chon was looking for information about legal matters, and went into an office and Richard accomodatingly said not to worry, that they would wait in a local restaurant/bar. We took only a couple of minutes, though – most things were closed because of Holy Week – ane we met up with them right away, and had a margarita (two for the price of one – 80 pesos, less than 7 dollars!) And they were delicious, and seemed pretty strong on empty stomachs, so we had some laughs and got to know each other a little bit. I was comfortable with Beth right away – a different kind of artist, a classical ballerina, and teacher.

Soon we pushed on, and visited the local library, well-supported, Richard informed us, by the local gringo population. It was quite attractive, and busy for its small size. There were English lessons happening, and lots of posters announcing upcoming events of music, reading, and book sales.

The streets were old, of stone, and it seemed like everywhere you looked there were beautiful colors and images. Old doors, colorful houses and shops, stones, brick, and lots and lots of people in vacation mode for Holy Week.


Richard knew “a nice spot right around the corner” and we went to order the house specialty, chiles rellenos nogados. They were stuffed chiles with a lovely sauce of walnut cream. They were wonderful – sweetish, stuffed with spiced, ground meat with a few raisins. Chon and Richard ordered the “hotter” version, which reportedly was not hot. The sauce topping the chile was almond and cream. Goodness! A lovely meal, with crunchy French rolls and butter, and a bottle each of the house red and white. The conversation was wonderful, which I enjoyed nearly as much as the wonderful meal, having spoken English almost exclusively with Chon for more than a year or so…

We needed to head home by that time, a pleasant two-hour drive, having said we would return the next day. The business we needed to see to was not completed, the American consulate having closed only a few minutes before we arrived.

The next day we left a little earlier, and arrived at the consulate around 10:30 in the morning. The consul assistant spoke with us only very briefly, saying “No, you do not need ANYTHING from the consul. Stop by the ministerio publico who will give you a list, and then go to the Officina de Migracion, which will give you a different list of requirements. Since it was Holy Week, the ministerio publico was closed. The immigration office was open, but the line was too long for me to wait for the list after I took a number and analyzed the number of people before me, each with a thick sheaf of papers.

We went instead to meet Richard, Beth and David at La Terraza, right next to La Parroquia. They had margaritas in front of them, and Chon ordered a coffee, heavily spiked with rum, with a name, nearly forgotten, “Tarugillo”, like “For Dummies” in Spanish. We heard about the trio’s morning walking tour, given by a woman who had written a lovely book about San Miguel with wonderful photos.

View of La Parroquia from La Terrazza

And for lunch? Richard knew of a very pleasant restaurant right around the corner, owned by a Frenchman. Everything was beautifully served, and delicious: Milanesa steak, salad, with a beet salad as well, chicken in almond sauce, tacos. The young waitresses were pleasant and attentive. And Richard introduced us (well, me, anyway) to a lovely drink, kir, that I had heard about before, but never had the opportunity to sample.

We continued our visit in the lovely and comfortable jewel of a house where our trio of friends were staying – the home of a designer who rents it by the week to lucky travelers. Each space had natural light from above, from skylights (tragaluzes). The furniture and color and art was very beautiful and comfortable.

We needed to leave at 3, but we stayed until nearly 5:30, relaxed and happy from the wine and conversation.

About San Miguel de Allende: it is every bit as lovely as I had heard – flowers, stone streets and sidewalks, gorgeous colors and friendly faces. Everywhere you look there are beautiful vistas. Because of the large gringo population there are shops with different types of clothing and fabrics than can normally be found in Mexico, wonderful food, and thanks to Richard and our new friends David and Beth, comfort and relaxed enjoyment. When we travel to places it is nearly always because of some kind of business, and we don’t take the time to explore. Our two afternoons were like a vacation for us. Thank you, Friend Connection!!