Monday, March 28, 2005

MEXICO, DAY 1: Monterrey

Our first meal in Mexico! Posted by Hello

¡Hemos llegado! We’ve finally arrived in Mexico! We crossed the border on Monday, March 21. With Rob’s masterful navigation skills and trusty road atlas, plus Carley’s rusty but solid Spanish skills, things have been going smoothly. We’re definitely starting to tap in to the rhythm of life here, and we’re getting more comfortable in our lily-white skin.

After crossing the border through Laredo, Texas, we made our way down to Monterrey, about a 2 hour drive south of the border. Monterrey is decidedly a “NAFTA” city – big, industrial, and full of trucks & pollution – not really the Mexico we were looking for, despite the picturesque backdrop of high, craggy desert peaks. Nevertheless, here we had our first meal in Mexico – at El Restaurante Vegetariano Superbom – a vegetarian restaurant! (This was short-lived bliss for Carley, who has since been eating lots of rice, beans, cheese and tortillas.) Since it was late in the day, we also spent our first night here in Monterrey. With our one special need in consideration – the hotel must be pet-friendly – we settled on a rather crappy (but cheap) hotel near the bus station, where Carley sweet talked the manager into letting Kina stay with us. (This has definitely been a motif, but despite lots of rejections, Kina has stayed in the room with us every night so far).

After we checked in, it was off to celebrate our arrival with some cervezas. We enjoyed a couple of beers at a dive bar near our hotel, where a local came over to our table to show us some photos in his wallet – the first one being a photo of President George Bush! When we gave him a hearty thumbs down, he turned to the next photo and asked (in Spanish), “So, you like him better?”, showing us a photo of an Arab man in traditional checkered head-scarf. We all enjoyed a good laugh over that. I suppose we should expect that most Mexicans don’t really understand U.S. politics.

Soon we decided to find another bar. We passed up a bunch of seedy joints until we were lured inside a promising establishment by a man outside who assured us there was great live music inside. It turns out that “great” is a relative term, as we should have expected. The “band” consisted of a man and a woman: the woman singing, and the guy playing a synthesizer contraption that produced cheesy renditions of a variety of instruments, including programmed “drums”. (kind of like a karaoke machine) The songs this duo churned out are best described as Mexican romance music, if you can imagine that. Despite the nauseating effect of the music, we decided to endure for one round of cervezas. Then Carley made the fatal mistake of politely applauding after one of the songs, catching the keyboardist’s attention. Suddenly, Carley was the center of the whole room’s attention as he pleaded with her to come up on stage and sing with him. Shortly, the soundtrack to Eric Clapton’s 90’s ballad “Tears in Heaven” started up, and with some more prodding, Carley finally conceded and took the stage to sing the second verse. (Rob is still kicking himself for having left the camera in the hotel room!) Carley offers Mexico Lesson #1: Under no circumstances should you applaud or make eye contact with cheesy musicians unless you want to stay for longer than you’d like!

On to DAYS 2-3: Guanajuato