Chihuahua, Chih., Mexico

Trip Start Sep 26, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, October 6, 2006

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

I rode the bus from Juarez to Chihuahua, a 4 hour ride to the central station and another 45 minutes to the center of town. Carmen's father picked me up and drove up to the gate that surrounds their lavish home and holds their 3 cars. I was surprised by the cleanliness of this city compared to Juarez, which he explained is due to Juarez being an immigration point. People come from central america and get stuck in Juarez because they can't get into the U.S.

The Villa Mariel's had a huge 50" flat screen plasma TV, a beautiful kitchen with plates from many travel destinations all over the world, and a large barking German shephard that didn't look at all friendly. Eduardo explained that his "bravo" dog caused him to have a limp by tearing a dog toy from his hands too ferociously. Eduardo then showed me to my own room, with the couch already folded out. Carmen Sr. called me into the kitchen, and prepared me a quesadilla and a chicken breast drenched in a sweet creamy mushroom sauce that is to die for. Bread is served on the side instead of typical tortillas. They both spoke very clear spanish, and we had little trouble communicating. Carmen explained the recent presidential election and why here in the more wealthy north they voted for the winner. The other candidate did not go to college and did not speak english, and in order to become more modernized and less third world, they voted for the more progressive Fox. Then she explained the poverty in the south of Mexico, which she said is due to laziness on their part--that they don't want to work. In places like Cuba on the other hand, they have no choice, because of the corruption, she said.

Carmen Jr. finally arrived, petite and very smiley. We met her friends at a café and head to the Plaza Mayor to see an Italian play, but arrived just as it is ending. Luckily, another event called "Jarocho" was just beginning. It was phenomenal! From mariachi music and traditional Mexican dances, to fiery flamenco and cuban salsa. In between acts we somehow managed to find 6 front row seats.

The next morning Carmen's mother made a traditional breakfast of egg, ham, and onion scramble, with refried beans, a fried chile, and a warm tortilla. She then took me to the tourist office and there they recommended that I go to the Museo de la Revolucion, featuring the story of Pancho Villa and his success in overthrowing Porfirio Diaz' dictatorship. The most interesting relic was the black buggy that Villa was killed in, which was riddled with bullet holes. That evening Carmen and her friends took me to a Brasilian music concert, and we actually managed to arrive on time, but at the entrance they informed us that the artist's equipment was still at the airport in Peru and the concert was cancelled. We decided to go instead to the Plaza Mayor where there was a musica ranchera concert, or traditional Mexican mariachi love songs. We endulged in some chocolate filled churros, chicharrones (fried pork skins), pan de nata (sweet milk bread), and freshly made potato chips. Then we browsed the Tarahumara indian market, filled with hand made baskets, sarandas, carved boxes, curative herbs, etc. The girls got really excited in the Oaxacan market, and each one bought herself a colorful dress. We spoke with a Oaxacan artisan and she explained that the colorful wood carvings are carved while the wood is green, and then sanded as they dry over several months. One piece had so much detail that it is only 7 inches tall yet costs about $150 dollars. The Oaxacan lady had a very peaceful presence and is very pleasant to talk to.

We all decided to go to a bar to keep the dancing going. Micheladas became my new favorite drink--a mix of beer, salt and chile sauce over ice. After a couple beer buckets we were having a lot of fun and dancing, not a bad situation for a single traveling guy to be in. Afterwards we went for hot dogs in two separate cars, having a dance off at each stoplight. The hot dogs were delicious, with nacho cheese and of course, chiles. I asked for a small amount of chile and some drunk dudes poke fun at me having a "small chile." Jealous, perhaps.

Friday, October 6, 2006

In the morning it was huevos rancheros for breakfast, or a fried egg served on a lightly fried tortilla and covered with salsa ranchera, spicy tomato sauce with lots of green chiles. I was surprised my stomach was handling all of the spicy food so well. Carmen's mom offered to launder all my clothes as I was asking her if I can help with something around the house. She had me wash all the wooden furniture in the house, which took about an hour. I gave a very bittersweet goodbye hug to Carmen, and told her that thanks to her, my expectations of Chihuahua were far exceeded. Eduardo was going to take me to the bus station to go to Cuauhtemoc, about an hour closer to the Copper Canyon, but it turned out that Eduardo had some business to take care of in Cuauhtemoc, so his friend drove us both there. Carmen and I agreed that the best is always unexpected and that too much planning will inevitably fail. She proudly added that in Mexico all the planets are always aligned. So far, I couldn't have agreed more. But I think it also has a lot to do with traveling, expectations, and opening yourself up to people.

In Cuauhtemoc I saw a few "menonitas" on the street, who are an amish people that settled nearby and are known for the best cheese in the state of Chihuahua. I heard that they originally come from either Germany, Sweden, or Prussia, depending on who I asked. I hopped on a bus to Creel, which stopped three times and arrived 2 hours late because of engine trouble. On the way I saw a couple of Tarahumaran caves in the side of a cliff, the native tribes that still live in the area. I left the desert that predominates in Chihuahua and entered the sierras of Western Chihuahua.
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