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First week in Mexico
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-10-15 17:22:36 | Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
Keywords: beginning, Itinerary, preparation
I have now been in Mexico for a bit more than a week and I'm slowly getting over the cultural shock. I'm not talking about the language but about the mentality of people. It's the first time I'm out of my comfort zone for a whole society. Most of my points of reference are out in the window here. Most of the 'standards' I'm used to are absent. I'm taking it the zen way, but it will take me some time to get used to it. Of course, the language hurdle isn't helping either of course... but since I have basic Spanish skills, I can communicate most of my needs properly.

I was expecting it to be quite different, and it is. I didn't know exactly what to expect though. My only experience out of the 'over developed' world (countries of the G8 countries menality) was New Caledonia... which belongs to France. Yes, it was way different than what I was used to... but it was in a tropical society, at the other side of the world (literally!), I was staying in a nice hotel and was accompanied by a local guide all the time.

Part of the shock is probably the fact I'm travelling by ground. When you arrive by plane, your mind is prepared to be transplanted into a whole different environment, since you're travelling a very long distance. To my brain, going from El Paso to Nuevo Casas Grandes is the same as going from San Francisco to Los Angeles; it doesn't expect much of a difference in environment with only a 4-hour bus ride. But believe me, it's not the same at all!

I'm used to a very organized society with rules, schedules, etc. This isn't really the case here. I mean, of course there rules but I'm not familiar to them, yet, and they're from a whole different book. First thing I had to learn, and quickly!, was how to cross the street. Most of the intersections in Nuevo Casas Grandes don't have traffic lights, and when they do they don't have pedestrian lights. So, you basically have to behave like if you were another car on a 4-stop crossing: you wait your turn in rotation... and you walk across.

The sidewalks in Nuevo Casas Grandes were also quite a challenge... they're not done to carry a luggage! I'm used to have regular flat sidewalks and I don't always have to look down where I place my feet, I expect the sidewalk to be there, and it usually is. In Nuevo Casas Grandes, the sidewalks were quite irregular, uneven, with sudden changes in height and sudden drops for car entrances. Sometimes, they were are the same level as the street, at other times they were more than a foot above it, including on street corners.  At other times, there are huge holes in them.

I'll see how are the sidewalks in the other cities, but what I've seen so far in my first 4 cities might be what I need to convince myself to go for a backpack... forcing me to lighten up my load at the same time. I don't know yet how or when but it will have to happen somehow. Also, the street names aren't indicated to every street corner. There are many cases where you have no indication on which streets are at a given crossing.

But not all is as destabilizing. One of the few things I saw running on a good schedule is the inter-city buses. They were sometimes a bit late, but that's okay... that's part of the deal with any long-distance bus service, in any country. Of course, I've taken only first-class buses for now, those mostly made for tourists, not the common local people. Although in Northern Mexico tourists are rare since they're mostly concentrated in Central Mexico. But the buses are cleaner than many I've took in the US, they have much more leg room, curtains to block the sun and they present movies on the TV screens. Having distractions is a good thing because so far my travels were done through the desert.... so the scenery can become boring. In the USA, most bus stops outside big cities were at a convenience store or a fast food restaurant. Here in Mexico, they have more formal bus terminal with a little snack bar.... and they have someone coming on the bus offering snacks, and drinks, including ice cream and hot food! There's another class above first class (called Plus in the company I used) for about 10% more than the first class service. In this luxury class you get free light snacks (like chips, peanuts, cola and bottled water) as well as coffee and Internet service. Once I'm more fluent in Spanish and in the local culture, I'll definitely want to try the 'colectivos'... which are basically old American school buses serving as inter-city transport, that are used by the local people. I checked the prices and they're roughly half-price compared to the tourist buses. For shorter trips, I'll definitely look into these.

The money is still a bit confusing. Yes, they're using the '$' sign to indicate the prices in pesos, same way we use for the dollars in Canada and USA. The value is much different however. To be precise, you get about 13 pesos for each US$. I began by calculating all the correct conversion to dollars to have an idea of the prices. Now, I decided just to round it off at 10 pesos per dollar... it's more convenient and much faster this way... to give me an idea of the value.

I'm still a bit in a shock and will need some time to adapt to this environment, but that was expected and that's why I planned to spend more time at each location. I've done my first 9 days in Mexico in a 'rush' mode, visiting 3 locations... mostly because I'm in Northern Mexico, and it's not a very safe location. In fact, according to the Canadian Foreign Affairs, I shouldn't be here... they discourage any non-essential travel in this region. I'm now along the Pacific coast and will begin my pace of 1 week per location... will try that until Mexico City and see how it goes.


Related posts:
Two months on the road
Five weeks on the road
3rd week on the road
Getting closer...
Itinerary and finances

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