Life lessons from a busy week in Guadalajara, Mexico including thieves, Spanish school, and Liberace mariachis.
1. Hablamos Espanol (un poco)
On January 4 we started an intensive Spanish language course at the IMAC school in central Guadalajara. Now our weekdays start at 8 am with a 2 mile (3 km) walk to school followed by four hours of classroom instruction, a quick jaunt to the massive Mercado Independencia to grab a cheap and delicious lunch from one of the hundreds of food vendors, then back to school for individual computer tutorials and more studying before the walk back home around 6 pm to do homework.
Where is home? We are incredibly lucky to be staying with our friend Iliana’s parents at their home in Guadalajara. It’s like having a Mexican madre y padre and we’re working hard to improve our Spanish enough to be able to really thank them for all of their overwhelming generosity and all of the ways they’re enhancing our stay.
2. Gone in 53 seconds
On Tuesday, someone stole both of the side view mirrors off our truck which we stupidly left parked on the street. They just popped the mirrors right out of the housings and (thankfully) left the housings mounted on the truck. In the grander scheme of things this is not a tragedy. After all, it’s the very first time anything has been stolen from the truck in more than three years on the road and the thieves were kind enough to leave the mirror housings intact.
However, since the custom cargo box in the bed of our truck makes it impossible for us to see out the back window, our side view mirrors are more crucial than normal. Also, we don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on replacing them through an authorized Chevy parts dealer. Solution? A street in Guadalajara called Cinco de Febrero, a multi-block-long clearing house for every imaginable part (most of them stolen) for almost any make/model of car.
Most Guadalajarans have made at least one purchase on Cinco de Febrero so we hit the street to see if someone had the mirrors we needed. There was even a good chance we’d end up buying back our own mirrors. The moment we turned onto the street guys began flagging us down trying to entice us to pull over at their “stores.” We ultimately followed a guy to a store stacked to the rafters with bits and pieces: headlights, rims, bumpers, emblems for every make and model under the sun, etc.
It did feel like dealing with the devil (was this the very same guy who stole our mirrors in the first place?) but he had the right mirrors (not ours) so we began haggling over the price. A motorcycle cop cruised by in the midst of the conversation but no one–not even the guys rolling joints on the sidewalk in front of the store–batted an eyelid.
We ultimately settled on 1,500 pesos (about US$130) for both mirrors plus glued-on “security” rims around each mirror which theoretically make it harder (but not impossible) for someone to pop them out again. Some kid who said his name was Juan Carlos (yeah, right) even traveled with us to the nearby lot where our truck is now securely parked and installed the mirrors and made sure they worked properly.
We could tell “Juan” was taking an inventory of our truck (Mile Marker winch and heavy duty bumper, fancy PIAA lights, etc) and then he started pointing out all the ways our truck is incredibly vulnerable to even more catastrophic quick stripping (who knew the tailgate slides right off?). We were tempted to deepen our dealings with the devil and give this kid a few hundred pesos to tell us what we need to do to prevent future pilfering but we’d had enough of the underworld for one night.
3. Humans are doomed
Last week we also went to see Avatar in IMAX 3-D at a Cinepolis theater in a fancy mall in Guadalajara (they truly LOVE their shopping in this town). The movie ticket was cheaper than in the US but the popcorn and soda cost about the same. Like everyone else whose seen this movie we marveled at the visuals and the technology, even if the story (human greed consumes the species after we fail to see the wisdom in other Buddha-like creatures’ ways) was less than fresh (the paralyzed/not paralyzed plot line was clever and unexpected, however). All of the Na’vi language conversations were subtitled in Spanish and we were thrilled that we had learned enough at Spanish school to understand most of them.
At the end of the day Avatar is definitely a movie for your eyeballs not your brain, but after a week that included becoming serious students for the first time in many, many years and negotiating our way through the car parts black market of Guadalajara our brains needed a break anyway.
4. Liberace mariachi
To cap off the week that was, we went out on Friday night with Megan and Barrett, a cool couple that’s also studying at imac. The night culminated with a bottle of tequila at Casa Bariachi, an enormous (and enormously popular) bar in Guadalajara that features live mariachi music and a rotating roster of guest performers. One of the special guests the night we were there was a singer who combined the camp of Liberace with the theatrics of mariachi. And that, friends, is why we didn’t get home until 3:30 am. Hey, Friday isn’t a school night!