These were the first words we heard when our Boeing 747 gracefully glided itself onto Mexican land, naturally ‘Welcome to Mexico’ would be the words heard when one lands into Mexico city airport, we just didn’t know at this point that this was the start of a very frustrating Spanish exam where the grade determined our lives.
Okay, bit of an exaggeration there, the grade eg the length of our Spanish skills wouldn’t determine our lives but it did determine our bravery and a wee bit of sanity.
Filling out the arrival card wasn’t even in English nor was the customs declaration card, oh s***. Test number one for my Spanish memory.
Waiting for a taxi to our hostel we had no idea that no one around would speak English at all and that it was the busiest night in history to be getting around the city. We arrived on the 15th of September, Mexico’s 200th anniversary of independence, the biggest Mexican festival.
Extremely jetlagged we rusted up some Spanish words to tell the taxi driver that we wanted to go as near as possible to hostel amigo.
Suddenly it’s 10pm. Roads are closed off everywhere. No one speaks English, I frantically raid my memory bank for words, I know I made a deposit in their a year ago but the Spanish word cheques are not clearing. f*** how do I say, no I do not want to walk down the dark streets of the capital city with all our luggage near midnight. I think I got my point across in broken espanol but the answer was still the same, no… there is no other option than to walk to our hostel. We had to man up.
Police are everywhere, that’s a good sign.. right? We stay to the middle of the road, getting all sorts of looks by the locals, many laugh. We start getting close when we get to a road block, people are bunched behind barriers to our street while police tell them to back off. We try push our way to the front only to get a shaken no by the officers head. Unsure what to do we spy a white guy in a backpack… follow him, follow him. We line up behind him and when he was let through we strolled on in behind him.
The long concrete street is now pretty deserted, a massive flashing corona sign hangs at the very end of it, like a red carpet leading to a famous statue.
There it is,Hostel Amigo. WE MADE IT!
Everyones loose and we walk in exhausted, two guys run up to us.. hand us a drink.. WELCOME!
It was a complete coincidence that the day we arrived the city was pretty much shut down for it’s largest festival ever. It was both awesome to see but very inconvenient when we arrived in the darkness of the night. We checked out the parade and strolled the streets. The parade was huge, with policeman on guard, federal police marching on massive trucks, army guys on tanks, cowboys with lassos and the entire zocalo (courtyard plaza) was decorated with lights, the Mexican colours and flags and a big 1810-2010.
Everyone in the parade would salute the president who was in a high concrete building, just like a king.
Walking around the courtyard locals would stare and take photos of us, then a couple came up and asked to have a photo taken with them and hold their baby. It was out of it.
The Mexican food in the city is traditional and not what I expected. I was thinking of munching down some nachos, burritos, enchiladas etc but none of this we could find. The traditional food is more a plate made out of a taco with all sorts of sauces and salad on top. There are also these crazy small flat tacos we found on the street and quesadillas with vegetable mince and mushrooms. It is so delicious.
Everywhere we ventured to on our first day we had to struggle to speak Spanish, it is crazy how English is not prominent over here at all. My brain was fried at the end of the day, they talk so fast! But I have to admit it was f***ing fun, especially if I had a small conversation and actually understood; well I think I knew what he was talking about?
The one disturbing thing we found on our first day was a dead guy on our street. We watched the army take his pulse and walk away. He lay there for most of the day, it was pretty heavy.
Our first experience with Mexican tequila was the bartender at our hostel standing on the bar pouring it down our oesophagus, yum! Its very different to imported tequila at home, this stuff is nice, it takes generally delicious but is just as lethal!