Only half way through Mexico and I am loving every minute of it. Well, almost every minute of it, there are some minor issues with the Van/gear that were out of my hands that are causing minor inconveniences. That with a few other things have left me with some decision making to do. Paul and I unfortunately are on different schedules which may mean we go separate ways. If that happens, I am left with 3 options.
The 1st option would be the most ideal or me, though it would mean Paul and I miss out on enjoying Central America together. 1st I can continue to enjoy Mexico a little longer and return home to fix the problems and maybe work until my brothers wedding, delaying Central and South America until Oct 1st. As of now this is my plan, though I have at least 2 weeks to be convinced otherwise. The second option is to rush the rest of Mexico, rush through Central America but not cross the Darien gap as that is the point of no return due to the expense and inconvenience of crossing the gap, and then take my time coming back. This option means I drop Paul off in Panama, but means I spend more money than option 1 with gas, border crossings, etc as I would do them more times obviously. The last option is to go on through both Central and South America as planned, but rush both Central America and South America on the way down to get Paul there by October, leave my Van in SA as I return for my brothers wedding and work until the end of Dec, then returning and continuing the drive back alone when Paul flys to Italy. Hmm, there is nothing easy about those decisions. But 1st….Guadalajarrrrrrrrrrrrra.
So the plan was to be in Guadalajara Sunday as our Spanish classes start Monday, we then decided to try and get there early and head up Saturday to see if we could somehow get our hands on the hottest tickets in town…well of course we couldn’t. But lets not jump ahead, here it was Thursday and suddenly I find myself in Guadalajara…um, what just happened? Well we decided to make a last minute change of plans, and that has worked 0% of the time for us so far, so we figured we were due some change of luck. We were headed to a place which is not far from Guadalajara recommended by one of the people we met in Barra de Navidad, but we either missed a sign, or more likely as is the usual case here in Mexico there wasn’t one. Well once again I am kicking myself. I should have stayed by the waves for a little more surfing. If not that, I should have gone and checked out Parque Nacional Volcan Nevado de Colima for some hiking and camping. Lots of should haves, but I need to let that go, I now find myself in Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is a great city, I wish I could say that I saw more of it, unfortunately our Spanish schedule made it a bit difficult to get into the city without canceling all our meals with our host mom. We had decided to take a week of Spanish classes, which included a home stay with Senora Alicia, in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. We knew this would be a bit more expensive than Guatemala, where we plan to take another week of Spanish, but also knew it would be worth it so that we could converse more with people, rather than just use basic statements. The total was just under 300 US dollars (will update) which included 4 hours of Spanish a day for 5 days, 6 nights at the home stay with 3 meals a day, and also gated parking which is important for us.
The price would have been slightly less (will update) for those of you not driving. Tlaquepaque is a nice area to stay for a week. The bus into Guadalajaras Historico Centro is about 20-30 mins, and Tlaquepaque itself has a nice plaza with a good amount going on. Overall it was a great experience, Alcia was wonderful, but I was left with a few minor things I would have hoped worked out different. 1st the home stay. The place was beautiful, but had its pros and cons. We had a separate building to stay in, with our own rooms and showers which was great, it allowed us to come and go whenever we wanted, and after a month of van living let us get back into normal living mode. The downside to this was we only had 20-25 min of face time with Alicia at breakfast, 45-60 minutes for lunch, and another 30 minutes for dinner. I am not sure if I would have preferred to be in the same house with a family all the time or not, but you should keep this in mind if you sign up at the same school and request Alicia. (I would definitely recommend her, she was fantastic!) The second was that dinner was at 8, which meant the nights we went into the city we either skipped dinner, or couldn’t really go till 9…no big deal, but again keep it in mind. The teachers were great, as well as Wouter who runs the school. My only semi complaint is that you jump into learning…there is no review. I figured we would be loaned text books, or at least get a sheet with a list of common verbs we would use, but you just jump in depending on your Spanish level. I haven’t read, spoke, or listened to Spanish in 12 years, so that was a bit tough! Otherwise it was great, and I would tell anyone considering it to sign up with Wouters school…it was worth every penny. An obvious bonus is that everyone at the school is doing the same thing we are, traveling the world. You will meet some great people who all share that common bond, and most likely find one or two going the same direction as you to meet up with later. In our case, Roel from Belgium, and a dutch girl, Maria. Unlike us travelers, Roel is a brave tourist, he flew into Mexico City, his 1st experience in Mexico…. without knowing a single word of Spanish. We enjoyed some drinks and conversation with him while watching the UEFA Champions League matches Tuesday and Wednesday.
They both joined us for “Lucha Libre”, Mexicos WWF. Lucha Libre was recommended most surprisingly by Senora Alicia. Senora Alicia is a slightly older woman, so it was a bit of a shock when she got so animated talking about what to expect….I think she may have wrestled a bit in her past! Well it was…an experience all right. I think everyone should go once…..only once. But for 60 pesos who can complain, it certainly was entertaining. Its a bit more theatrical than anything…I am not a wrestling fan, but this was more over the top than the WWF stuff if thats even possible. More entertaining was the crowd, though they were more civil than I imagined after all the stories we had heard. Anyway, I won’t ruin it for anyone, if you can, you should go.
Thursday Roel and Maria joined Paul and I for the Atlas-Pumas futbol match. Atlas is Guadalajara’s second most popular team. This was also a great time, also only 60 pesos, and again not what we expected. Atlas is terrible! Pumas is also terrible, but apparently the best team at the moment. Seriously, I have seen better college matches. This was not the level of soccer we thought we would be seeing down here. The game ended 0-0, with the highlights being the lights going out with about 10 minutes left, the crazy girl behind us singing along passionately to every chant/song, and possibly the last 3 minutes of the game when Atlas turned it on trying desperately to score. Paul, Roel, and I have discussed canceling the trip and trying out for the team, we think we could turn their season around.
Of course we did the normal things like walk around Historico Centro, but my highlights were the churro guy in Tlaquepaque, and of course the taco stands Paul had discovered….6 tacos for 15 pesos. Yes, 15 pesos, that is 1.25 US dollars! Now you should know tacos are smaller than what you see in America, but still…6 of them? Well, once again I felt it was my duty to stimulate the economy and went with 12. I wanted 18, but they were closing down, and I wasn’t sure 18 end of the day tacos was a good idea. Too bad too, I was hoping to top the 14 tacos I had in Puerta Vallerta…luckily there is still plenty of Mexico left. From there we met up with Roels friend of a friend at a cool, alternative bar that we never would have found on our own. We hung out in that place for a bit and eventually the girls took us to a local Salsa bar. Let me say one thing about Mexican women, they are dangerous! While I have never had a drink thrown in my face, I have seen it happen a few times in America. You can usually see it coming, the drunk girl slurring words struggling to stand looses her cools and wastes whatever fine beverage is in her hands at the time. Well, some girl at the salsa bar who appeared absolutely sober, tossed her drink in the face of the guy she was with, hitting several other people, myself included…in the process. Now I am fine with a wasted girl doing this I suppose, but you just don’t see it coming from a sober one. On top of that…they continued to argue over in the corner, where she later punched him in the face before people stepped in. All this happened around people who not once broke their salsa groove…which was almost as impressive as the gentleman who appeared to be in his late 70’s salsa’ing like there was no tomorrow….which could have been true for him.
Before we kick the bucket, we are off to Guanajuato, a UNESCO world heritage site. Marie from the Tlaquepaque school also happens to be headed for Guanajuato, so we will be meeting back up with her at some point.