Tapachula Mexico … Cant Wait To Go Back

I will definitely go back to southern Mexico. It has been one of my favorite places so far. It is simple beauty.

After taking an overnight bus from Oaxaca to Tapachula, Chiapashttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapachula,_Chiapas

chiapasI got on a village bus to my host’s home in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. The village is called Cacahotán and is such a beautiful and lively hamlet at the bottom of a waterfall. 

This place is full of coffee bean farms. So pretty. Red berries hang full from each branch. Long oblong pans thick with picked beans in various stages of sun drying.

The sun is so much closer there than any other place I’ve been, except the Virgin Islands. Tapachula is the border city to Guatemala, the beginning of Central America.

My host, Ahmet is a great and talented guy. He is a 30 yr. old poet that also happens to co-own a newspaper. As with all my male hosts in this part of the America’s he lives with and helps his entire family. His parents and high school age brother live in the family home and at night lots of family comes over to play guitars and sing.

The family all welcomed me with huge smiles. Only Ameht and his teenage brother spoke any English at all and both wanted me only to speak it so they could practice.

After a cup of coffee (I arrived at their home at about 7am) Ameht and I went with his mom to visit his grandmother, sister and niece.  I love to go into the homes of the locals when I travel. You get a great sense of the people and area that way.  Ameht’s home consists of two stories with an attached garage and patio which his father has turned into a mechanics garage for their income.

An interesting fact I noticed while I was in Mexico and Central America is that for such a huge area for coffee importing they, for the most part, only serve instant coffee in their homes. Weird.

Once I had met the family I went with Ameht and his mom to see his grandmother, aunt, and niece. Again I got to see other local’s homes. I have to say I was quite a novelty for them. Lots of smiles while they looked me over so that was cool. After we left there, Ameht told me he wanted me to go with him to this “little get together” for a friend of his.

What he didn’t say is that it was an event for his friend who happened to be a famous poet there. Ameht was the emcee for the event and a painting was unveiled and dedicated. Ameht is a poet, I have posted one of his poems in the “pages” section of my blog. We went to the event at a place called, Campo experimental Rosario Izapa.

Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center

Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center

It was so much fun. I met so many interesting artist, poets, politicians. I had a wonderful time and would very much get involved in this Center if I lived nearby.

The full day I was in Ameht’s home and Southern Mexico he took me to visit his friend’s Hotel up the mountain. He had to do some work on his newspaper (which is a wonderful online periodical about cultural, political and news events in Chiapas http://periodicoensuma.blogspot.com/ and I recommend reading it and or “liking” the fb page).

I loved the van ride to the Hotel. It was majestic. We went there for Ameht to work on the bio of a famous chronicler (who own’s the hotel), Antonio Valera Saá.

Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá

Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá

Mr Valera Saá and his  family opened their arms up to me. Fed me and asked me many questions. I was part of the family for the day. It is a BEAUTIFUL hotel that overlooks the mountain into Guatemala. The name of the hotel is Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez. 

Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez

Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez

The next morning I said all my goodbyes and followed Ameht through the town to where I could find a ride to the Tapachula, Mexico border with Guatemala. I was leaving Mexico and starting my journey through Central America.

Thankfully Ameht went with me because I never would have found the cheap ride in what looked to me like a WWII tanker. It was fun and the guy gave me a ride for free as long as I taught him some words in English. I was on my way to Guatemala…

OAXACA, MEXICO NOVEMBER 2011

I really loved my time in Southern Mexico. I look forward to going back.

The people are just so kind and happy. In fact this is true throughout Mexico and Central America. I had read and heard so much hype about all the dangers from drug cartels and kidnappers, but found none of that.

I felt as safe there as anywhere I traveled so far and safer than several places I’ve been to in the USA.

I got to Oaxaca late because of the bus issues. At the station stood my new Couch Surfing host and his two other surfers. They were all smiles and I was so touched they came to get me and make sure I got back to the house safely.

My host, Christopher, is 18 and lives with his wonderful parents.  They Welcomed me with open arms. His dad had been a taxi driver in San Francisco where Christopher had been born. Now he owns and drives what the call a TukTuk. 

He spoke some English. But the mom did not. So we smiled a lot and nodded a lot and I said Si, Si, Si a lot (actually that was my mantra through all of my travels south of San Diego).

We spent a bunch of time in the town square drinking Micheladas (Mexican slang for “my little cold one”). This is one of my new favorite drinks and have made it several times since coming back to the States… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelada

RECIPE:

1 ice cold Mexican beer: Corona or Negra Modela for example

2 tablespoons of course salt

1 tablespoon of chili powder

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

1-2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce

1 dash of soy sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

Ice

Black pepper

Lime wedge for garnish

1. Mix together the salt and chili powder on a small plate. Rim a beer glass with a little lime juice and then dip in the salt and chili mixture to cover the top of the glass.

2. Fill mug with ice (yes, ice in a beer is popular in Mexico and other parts of Latin America).

3. Add lime juice, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of black pepper.

4. Slowly pour in beer. The salt on the rim will cause the beer to foam up, so be careful while adding beer.

5. Stir. Enjoy.

One night all of the Couchsurfers and our host, Christopher, went to see a wonderful outdoor concert. It seemed so magical as the stage was set between two ancient churches on the plaza. The lights came down from the towers and the moon shone so bright.

Even though I cannot speak Spanish like they do south of Mexico City I could follow the beautiful story of Oaxaca that she sang about http://www.susanaharp.com/2010/ . It was a real treat.

I did have a hard time with all the street sellers. On the buses, at the square, on the street, in the bano. There seems to be no where they will not walk up to you and it is hard to get them to leave. Even if you aren’t interested. They exploit children too and this made me very sad.

Oaxaca is a cosmopolitan place. European influenced for sure.

I love Oaxaca and will be back for sure…




My Trip From LAX to Mexico City October 2011…

I have never had an easier time flying as I did on my trip from LAX to Mexico City. I was certain that I would have trouble and I was wrong. My friends, Chris and Amanda, picked me up at my couch surfing place in Long Beach a couple of hours before my flight (had to be there that early because of it being an international flight and all).

Luggage in hand we were off. Fun conversations mostly about my time in Southern California and we were there. Hugs goodbye and a picture or two.


I had bought my ticket on Alaskan Airlines a couple of weeks before for a crazy great price of $74.00 one way. I got to choose my seat when I bought them while still online and then checked in online within the 24 hour time period. With no luggage to check I got to walk straight through to security.

Now I thought since it was LAX and I was going to Mexico which has some pretty high security warnings right now and it would at the very least be slow going through security. I was wrong. I was on the other side of security and headed to my gate literally within 3 minutes. I was shocked.

The only official thing I had to do was show my passport at the gate once I got there so they could make a mark on the ticket that it had been seen. No one was at the gate booth but me and the attendant so that took no time either.

That gave me about an hour and a half to eat something then to call family and say goodbye. I read a bit of my book and it was time to board.

One of the things I did at the airport is change some money. I know it costs more at the airport, but I wanted to at least be able to ask some questions and understand the answers. Those of you that know me know how much I struggle with money amounts anyway, so I know dealing with money in foreign currencies is going to be one of the biggest struggles of this journey. I exchanged $100.00 which was the least I could do with my Visa. She explained that I needed to take one of the zeros off the pesos and that would give me a rough idea on how much it was in American dollars. This actually is on the high-end as the current money exchange rate between  Mexican pesos and US dollar is: 13.20 to 1.

After a couple of mishaps some that actually were to my advantage I am beginning to have a grasp of it.
        
Once on board I was set. I was in the first row behind First Class so I didn’t have to walk down the aisle bumping into everyone. I sat on the aisle with an elderly Mexican woman who, of course, didn’t speak any English. She seemed very thankful for my help in getting her carry-on in the storage area and her comfortable in her seat.

The ride was great. Free drinks and breakfast. I have not been on a plane in almost twenty years under 12 hours that serves free food. For those of you who have read my post on my trip to Denver from Knoxville know that I was in wonder that the plane arrived 25 minutes early. Well so did this one. Cant believe that. Back in the day if it was less than 15 minutes late we thought it was early. Ha.

We all filled out our  paperwork to get into Mexico while inflight.  These included The Migratory Form for Foreign Tourist, people moving to Mexico, business travelers and dignitaries. After the forms are filled out and checked they are stamped by a customs officer. The officers than give it back to the person coming into the country to keep with their passport to be able to leave the country again. This form has a bar code on it and a blue stripe across the top saying “Estados Unidos Mexicanos”.


If this card is lost there is an issue! I was told that if it is lost or misplaced that I would have to go back to the airport in Mexico City (which is a problem since I am not going to be in Mexico City for most of this trip, but much further south) and beg them to let you fill out another form and pay the fine and get another card. It is up to them if they let you do this, but I’m not sure what you would do if they wont. I guess go to the Embassy?

Now for Customs. Lots of trepidation here. Not only is it a bit disconcerting to see all the military everywhere with oozies, but I have no real understanding of Spanish. So I was a bit concerned.

No need to be. Although none of the airport employees or immigration officers spoke any English there were several passengers who had been through this airport many times before and were more than willing to help me through the process.

Again, not having any checked luggage proved a huge advantage. I just walked through a small security metal detector thingy (I am pretty sure that is the technical name for it) and then into a short line for Customs. The first part of line the Customs Officer just checked the paperwork and gave me back the card mentioned above. The second part of the line I put my stuff on a conveyor belt and waited for a green light at the end.

If it is red you have to go to another place and they go through all your things. If it is green you push a large button to reset it and pick up your things and you are out of customs. My light was green and the woman behind the conveyor belt watching the camera gave me a big smile and say “Benvientuto Mexico”. Loved it.

At that point the sights and sounds kind of assaulted me.

My host in Mexico City had given me way too many different directions to get to his house so I was completely confused. I got to the street where the buses are and decided it would just be best to take a taxi. The taxi got me right there in about 20 minutes instead of the hour and half and four buses it would have taken. It only cost me $150  pesos which is about $11 and I was there.

My host’s house was in a neighborhood called, Colonia. There are many many neighborhoods, which they refer to as districts, that make up Mexico City. It was a quaint neighborhood with lots of people on the street all saying hello and asking how you are. Very nice.

It was easy to find the gate that led to the house, but it was locked. I waited and tried to ask in Spanish how to get to my host. I didn’t realize that once the gate was opened there was like a long passageway with several houses touching one another facing  in ward on either side. Not just one person’s home.

Finally a lady pointed out my host’s mom coming down the street. She was with her sister-in-law and they welcomed me with open arms. They spoke very broken English, but enough between all of us that we could have spotty conversations.

My host, Carlos, lives in an apartment above his parents. It truly on the roof. So once his mom had introduced me to his dad (who speaks NO English), she took me upstairs to put my luggage away.

Once she opened up the door there was a note from Carlos saying that he had gone out for the day and would not be back till midnight because he had been invited to a party. He said he would be back at midnight and we could then go to another party. I thought it was rude.

But, his parents and aunt invited me to go to lunch with them. I thought that was very kind and I had such a good time with them. I sat next to the dad and he yelled the menu to me in Spanish. Like people in the USA apparently he thinks if he yells it loud enough I would understand. Not the case, but it was humorous.

The menu was actually written on the table and I spent the meal learning some common dishes in Spanish. The food was really good and not spicy. Although there were tons of chilies and sauces to add to everything.
Back at the house we hung out for a bit and I went to Carlos’ apartment to rest.

He did get home about midnight and I was asleep.