goodbye, curiosities

Today I’m at home in Wisconsin, reflecting from a place of extreeeeeme cold on my time in Mexico. I already said my goodbyes to the people and the place, but I know it will be a long time before I stop dreaming of Guanajuato. I remember a lot (and will probably be talking incessantly of the place for awhile). I hope to keep seeing the world with the fresh eyes of an outsider in an unknown place, and to keep looking for the curiosities that can be found anywhere, because the following list describes just a few.

we speak english

“You’re beauty.” “Carpe that fucking diem.” “Keep shining, you crazy diamond.” It’s popular in Guanajuato to wear t-shirts with English phrases, although they’re not always the best translations. Sort of like how in the U.S. we like our t-shirts with French words and our tattoos with Chinese characters, regardless of whether we can read those languages. But I did see some t-shirts in Guanajuato that got a lot more philosophical, like “THINK – It’s not illegal yet,” “Fear Builds Walls,” and “Nothing is new.” That last one is either an overly formal response to the question “What’s up?” or a critical reflection on the recent boom in movie reboots.

The gym with the giant sign: “MOVE OUT NOW.” I think it’s an unfortunate combination of “Move it” and “Work out,” that accidentally comes across as an eviction notice.

The brand of peanuts called “Hot Nuts.” I’m not kidding.

Phrases that sound creepy when translated to English. As seen on the back of a delivery truck – “Próxima Parada – Tu Casa,” meaning, “Next Stop – Your House.” So that would also be fitting as horror movie tagline. Or the sign for ice cream that said “¿Buscas Placer?” Maybe it’s intended to have a sexual ring to it, but it translates to: “Looking for pleasure?”

food and cooking

Corn magic: My host mom insisted that corn contains protein (pretty sure doesn’t) and calcium, so I had better eat my tortillas for strong bones. Also corn is in/on everything – crab salad, pizza, ice cream. If you take your corn straight, you can get corn on the cob any night of the week from a street vendor.

It’s common for meals to go on forever and food to get cold because people talk so much – at restaurants, waiters will ask if you want your plate heated again.

Chilaquiles, which are basically chips cooked in salsa, are an acceptable breakfast food. As is Jello. Or a Coke, as evidenced by The Guy with the 8:15 AM Coke.

You can get a slice of pizza for 15 pesos! (That’s 75 cents USD). But… it basically tastes how you’d expect.

And nobody uses their ovens. Only the stovetop. But they like using the oven for the storage of Tupperware, placemats, cooking pans, etc. I told my Mexican friend that in the U.S., you can buy just the stovetop. He didn’t seem to believe me. He said he figured that hadn’t gotten to Mexico yet.

all the young dudes

How should you cut a hedge? With a machete, clearly.

In your vintage VW bug, how should you listen to music? As loudly and with as much bass as possible, because nothing says “I’m sexy” like jamming out while hunched over the steering wheel of your itty-bitty car.

Can three fully-grown men fit on one motorcycle? For sure. And they will ride through the whole city like that, with no fear of winding roads, speed bumps or cobblestones.

Is it a good idea to wade through a public fountain at the entrance to the city? Okay – at this point you should already know the answer. These are all things seen in Guanajuato, and more, like the time I saw a man with a tattoo of the Virgen of Guadalupe on his face. If nothing else, Catholics are dedicated.

the store

Hair salons like to use attractive American celebrities as window advertisements. Ex-Disney Channel stars seem to be popular choices, like Zac Efron or Selena Gomez.

If you’re looking to save money, check out the everything-6-pesos-store (that’s 30 cents USD!) or the pharmacy with the slogan “Lo mismo pero más barato.” The same, but cheaper.

At the party store, they sell piñatas shaped like lots of characters, from the Simpsons family to Disney princesses, but the worst ever was a Chucky doll. It had “Hola Amigo” printed on its chest. *Shudders*

The word for dollars sounds a lot like the word for pain. If you mispronounce “dólares” you get “dolores.” Seems suspicious to me – down with capitalism!

habits

It got down to 60 degrees one day and people had on puffer vests and neck warmers.

There are stores that look like wifi cafes, but actually they’re just for guy ages 8 to 38 to play video games.

People use broken glass bottles on top of walls as anti-burglar defenses. Resourceful. (See photo).

Dogs bark, stretch and sleep on the flat roofs of houses.

People set off fireworks all the time, for example, at 11 am on a Saturday. This is totally normal even though it may sound like gunshots. That’s apparently the point, because the “fireworks” don’t involve any light displays, just noise. On the bright side, average citizens aren’t allowed to own guns, so you know you’re not hearing gunshots. That’s only for police (and cartels…). To a lot of Mexicans it’s really surprising that basically anyone in the U.S. can own a gun.

the more they stay the same

Construction requires one guy to work the shovel and three more to stand around with hands on hips to supervise.

People leave keys under flowerpots. (Why do we all do that? It’s not fooling anybody – we might as well leave the keys in the lock.)

Teenagers play Pokémon Go on the bus. (Is that still cool in the U.S.?)

Young adult fiction is still ridiculous. I saw a guy reading “Cazadores de las Sombras” (the Mortal Instruments series). I’ll translate back to English one bad line, just enough to give you an idea of what I’m talking about: “He never paid attention to me before,” Clary said. People read bad fantasy in every language, I guess.

One time at the weekly family brunch, one of the kids got his hands on a whoopee cushion. He put it on everybody’s chairs, so then the adults would pretend not to see it and sit down. Some practical jokes are funny wherever you go.

I’m so impressed that I managed to end my last blog post with an anecdote about farts.

Thanks for reading, and keep your eyes open for the possibility of a new blog in 2017!

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