Wednesday, August 18, 2004

M1 Musing Numero Uno

Musings on Mexico
Musing Numero Uno
Dia 2

I am sitting on the balcony outside my room in a casa grande in Cuernvaca Mexico. The neighborhood doesn't look like much, but behind the foreboding stonewalls and iron clad archway is a beautiful, albeit private, world that the best-to-do Mexicans enjoy. Homes here conceal wealth rather than advertise it. I am a guest here privy to this world as part of my two-week language immersion program sponsored by my company's year abroad program of which I am creator and sole enrollee.

I thought the difficult part of moving to another country was supposed to be acclimating to a new language, culture and home. Thus far the most trying part of my move has been extracting myself from the place I've called home since I was a teenager; Washington, DC.

Everything from my own doubts, to my girlfriend's, to last minute house renting snafus have made the process of leaving more stressful than I could possibly anticipate. Sometimes I was excited when I wasn't worried about renting my house, which is still half vacant, or rented depending upon my mood of optimism. When I was worried, sometimes it would be a low-level of anxiety whilst at other times it would come in a deeply manifested physical pang of fear and regret.

I worried that I would either be totally psyched and then come down from the initial high and be depressed or even worse, just be regretful as soon as I got to Mexico. Truth be told, it's still too early to tell, but at least I am not anticipating anything anymore.

I am here and it feels good.

Yesterday, my driver picked me up at the airport with a placard that said "Brian Kemler" making me feel more important than I actually consider myself to be. We lugged my year's worth of stuff to the garage and waded through rush hour Mexico City traffic for countless hours. Think L.A. with smaller roads and three times the cars. I long ago concluded that not bringing my car was the most fabulous decision I've ever made. The urban planners here are pushing for a "segundo piso" (double decker) highway while they still have yet to invent the concept of HOV lanes here.

We dropped the belongings I won't need for the next two weeks with the familia I will call my own for the next year and then headed toward Cuernavaca in what still seemed to be rush hour though it was approaching 9pm.

Edgar, the driver pulled the car over entirely unfazed as he indicated that there was something wrong with the tire. What could be wrong with a tire other than a flat and wouldn't that be cause for alarm?! Well, he took it in stride and I did too perhaps feeding off his calm, laid back Mexican demeanor.

Rather than change tire with the spare, we pulled into a roadside tire repair joint a quarter the size of the average DC efficiency apartment. How convenient. With haste, the Tire Doctor pulled the tire off the car, filled it with air anew (what's he doing?), and placed it in a giant sink filled with water to determine where the punctures were. With the skill of a surgeon, the Tire Whisperer marked the critical leaks with chalk - there were four. He muttered Spanish to Edgar and then proceeded to repair the tire as though it were a bicycle tire.

But it's a car tire.

He affixed massive tire levers between the tire and the rim just like I do on my bicycle and then pried it off the rim while applying force with his entire body. Once half of the tire was off the rim, he felt up the inside of the tire oh so gently. With his pliers he plucked the offending nails carefully like a dentist removing a rotted tooth and then added it to his collection jar as though the nail fairy was going to come and leave him a peso under his pillow tonight.

Then - most surprisingly of all - he pulled out a tube - yes - an inner tube - for a freaking car tire! He carefully laced it within the tire, put the tire back on the rim, filled it with air, refastened the rim on the car and we were ready to go again! All this, in less than15 minutes for less than $10USD.

Contrast this to my most recent tire repair experience at Costco with the new Michelin tires I bought for my car when I was taking care of all of the fun errands I had to run before I left the country. Of course I only had one flat, but I had to buy four tires due to the intricacies of tread wear on four-wheel drive vehicles. This cost me nearly $600.

After catching some delicious sleep in Edgar's car, I arrived at my home for the next two weeks. The house is massive, has a lush garden filled with songbirds and mariposas (butterflies). The balcony outside my room sports a view of trees and the thick wall that surrounds my house and the archway that is the entrance to this place. Before I went to sleep last night, the silhouette of a cat walked silently over the arch and into the trees…

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