Oh, MexicoI love the 4th of July, but for me it isn't because of the fireworks, cookouts or celebrating our nation's independence. All of those things are nice, but because my employer gives me 3 days off for the 4th of July that means that it is a time I associate with a big trip. Four years ago it was to Lakeside, Ohio. Three years ago I visited some good friends in Seattle. Two years ago it was a trip to see M's brother and sister-in-law get married in Wilmington, North Carolina. Last year was our honeymoon to Spain.
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun's so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I'll have to go now -James Taylor
This year M and I picked Mexico as our destination of choice for our 4th of July trip. M's father works and lives in Mexico, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to visit him. Here is the timeline from our trip:
Friday, July 1st
One of the nice things about going to Mexico was the temperature change. On the day we left Minneapolis the temperature was in the high 90s. On the walk from where we parked our car to the light rail to get to the airport it looked as if we had run a 5K. We had sweat so much that we ended up changing shirts before our flight. By the time we had arrived in Mexico City at 11pm we were comfortably in 60s-70s weather. It is strange going 2000 miles south and getting cooler temperature.
Saturday, July 2nd
We left Pachuca to go to a small (and by small I mean at one point we were the only patrons there) campsite on the Gulf of Mexico. On the way to this campsite, I was able to get a long introduction into a new sport called driving in Mexico. This was a constant theme of the trip as driving in Mexico was one of those things that you just had to take on faith. You had to have faith that you were going to be in a horrific accident because 4 lanes suddenly turned into 2 lanes and then back in to 5. You had to have faith that the car next to you that was closest enough to touch with your elbow was going to not move any closer. Driving in Mexico is one of those things that is best viewed as a movie, where you already know the ending is going to be happy. If you look at is as one of those "I know everything is going to work out" moments, then it makes the experience that much more tolerable.The good news is that everything did work out and our drivers for the trip were more than capable with the unique nature of driving in Mexico.
Sunday, July 3rd
We had another day at the beach, which meant I had time to play with our adopted dog (we named him Mac) and read The Big Short by Michael Lewis. What a great book. I would place it closer to Moneyball (maybe my favorite book of all time) than Liar's Poker (a disappointment for me). I loved reading about a financial crisis that I lived through and was close enough in time to remember vividly. Lewis did a great job of explaining why the subprime mortgages that led to the crash, but did an ever better job of describing some key people who predicted the disaster. If you have any interest in why your house might be worth 30% less, why you had to go on furlough or why unemployment is current over 9% then it is a great book to read.
Monday, July 4th
After a breakfast of huevos y jamon it was back to Pachuca. On the drive back (and on all the drives in Mexico) it was noteworthy to see how many people work on or near the roads. There were many Mexicans who sold random things near the toll roads and even more people who had set up taco, baracoa or pollo stands. The pollo stands in particular were particularly enticing, but for fear of food poisoning we didn't stop at any of those stands.
Tuesday, July 5th
After returning to Pachuca, it was back on the road on Tuesday as we decided to go to Mexico City. Mexico City is most notable in how large it is. From most reports it is the biggest city in the Western Hemisphere and according to Wikipedia the 5th largest agglomerations in the world behind Tokyo, Dehli, Sao Paulo and Mumbai. It is a large city, but one without the skyscrapers you would see in a place like Chicago or New York. That highlighted another big thing I noticed about Mexico in general. The lack of infrastructure and buildings as compared to what you see in the United States was striking. Here is a place that is paradise in terms of weather and just aesthetic appeal of the mountains and beaches, but because of the lack of money just isn't as nice. Is this an example of the Resource Curse? I have no idea. I do know that if every country's roads and buildings were wiped out and there was a draft of countries that Mexico would be one of the top picks.
Wednesday, July 6th
This was probably my favorite day in Mexico because we went to go see the pyramids of Teotihuacan. I will let my Dad take it from here with his description:
I thought you would would probably see Teotiquacan and the pyramids. The first time I visited, I was a student and our tour guide had a Ph.D. in archaeology fromThursday, July 7th . As we listened to the interesting stories the other tour guides told, we frequently asked Dr. Paddock if that was true. His response was generally that it could be. The pyramid of the sun has that name because at the equinox one side is illuminated at sunrise and the opposite side at sunset. The smaller pyramid is called the pyramid of the moon because it is smaller and the other one is the pyramid of the sun. As I remember, in 800 AD, Teotiquacan had a minimum population of 100,000 people which made it one of the largest cities in the world at that time. There is a mystery as to why it ceased to exist as city.
On Thursday we headed out of Pachuca to go to the Real Del Monte to do a little shopping. I found the town to be a really nice place to visit. The shops and the layout of the city reminded me of a European city combined with a beach town in Florida. I didn't buy too much, and instead took the time to hang out with our Mexican driver and have a beer. It was nice to see that we shared some of the same common interests; drinking, gambling and PlayStation 3. All of the interests were of course in moderation and only at the appropriate times.
Friday, July 8th
With nothing to do on Friday, I was given a chance to relax and enjoy Pachuca. The day started off with breakfast across the street at a modest, but still relatively nice restaurant. I was the only white person in the place, and apparently stuck out to one of the waiters. He came over to join my normal waiter and starting asking me questions. Where was I from? (Minnesota) Why was I there? (On vacation to visit my in-laws) Do I want to go clubbing? (No, thank you). Anyway, as we were talking I complemented him on his English and asked how he learned it. He told me that he didn't have any English classes in school, and just learned English by watching the TV show Two and a Half Men. I thought this was really funny and made me think of him as the Mexican Charlie Sheen.This highlighted how prevalent American entertainment is in Mexico. Besides talking to this guy about Two and a Half Men, I heard Can You Feel The Love Tonight (I know Elton John is British, but I still consider this to be American, because of the Lion King) at the restaurant. Also, the previous day in Real Del Monte, I saw Hannah Montana on the tv at one of the pastry shops in the city. It was clear that American entertainment was a part of life in Mexico.
Saturday, July 9th
We left Mexico after a wonderful week with M's family. The weather and the cost of living definitely makes it a desirable place to retire. I don't know if I could live without some of the creature comforts that I was used to in America (namely speaking the language), but still there are a lot of advantages to living in Mexico.