Tuesday, February 22, 2011

24 million people in the subway at rush hour

Is it true that the population of Mexico City is 24 million? At rush hour you could believe it. The subway system is extensive and cheap (25 cents). We've taken it to get to far-flung areas of the city to see the Diego Rivera Museum, to the bus terminal to travel to the pyramids at Teotihuacan, to visit Frida Kahlo's blue house. Today we joined the crowds heading into the underground maw at rush hour. Wow. At rush hour there is a designated section of the subway platform and cars for single women only. That means that the few women who happen to be travelling with a man have to get on the cars packed solid, body to body, with men. Makes you wonder what must have happened to have brought in those kind of stringent rules. Security men with batons making sure the men stay out of the women's only section. So, okay, I clung to R. Actually didn't have much choice since we stood clammed up against each other. Strangers clammed up against me all around. Have I ever stood so close to so many other people at the same time? Watching the sweat glisten on faces and necks and arms. Human slow cooker. Everyone has to mind their manners--allowing for the shove of people having to get through six dozen bodies tight as salami slices clutching knapsacks and gym bags in the doorway. Luckily everyone was wearing deodorant.
We're having a great time exploring Mexico City. I don't care if it's a cliche, I've become an ardent Frida Kahlo fan. My thigh muscles ache from climbing the steps at the pyramids--and I didn't even DO the pyramids. They were too high for my yammering heart at this high altitude to attempt. R couldn't go up to the top either because the severe steepness of the steps made him dizzy. He was seriously worried that he'd get partway up and they'd need to call in a helicopter to lift him down. No matter. There were thousands of steps to climb up and down just to walk the grounds. To get to the frescoes. Look at carvings.
Food has been great, though we don't always know what we're ordering. Even when we tell people that we don't speak Spanish, they resolutely speak whole sentences at us. No pidgin Spanish or baby talk for the tourists. Yesterday R got a soup for starter followed by a larger bowl of soup for his main meal. Oh well. I was hungry and wanted a woman at an enchilada stall to make me something. I could only tell her that I didn't want chicken. No pollo (pronounced poyo). Si, quesa (or is it queso for cheese?). I wanted beans and tried the word refritos. Si, she assured me, the enchiladas would be fried. Oh lord, I moaned out loud, what's the word for beans? A passing stranger threw out frijoles. Of course, frijoles! But the woman had no frijoles. Jugo, she asked me? I thought jugo was juice. I had an idea it might be tomatoe sauce. No I said. She looked really puzzled. I did my best to assure her that I was ravenous and would adorato anything she would make me. And I did--probaby the best meal I had yet. Enchiladas, cheese, sour cream, hot green sauce (which a friend in Montreal once told me was made from tomatillos), guacamole.
I had a really good mole sauce with chicken and tortillas the first evening we arrived. I let the waiter decide to bring me what he wanted. I now want to make a mole sauce which, made properly, is only delicately flavoured with chocolate.
I can't begin to write about Frida Kahlo except to say that I wish I had the time not only to write fiction, but also to model amusing clay figurines, paint pottery, embroider colourful tunics, make papier mache skeletons. It's possible that I've become so enamoured of her work and personna that my taste in jewellery is going to get very gaudy.
It is so thoroughly wonderful to wear short sleeves and open necks and sandals in February! To sip a beer on a convivial patio that looks onto a park with palm trees and flowering bushes.
Music and traffic is loud. Music from the 60s and 70s. That restaurant where the waiter brought me chicken with mole sauce? In front of me was a video screen blasting Saturday Night Fever. John Travolta doing up the zipper of his tight pink bellbottoms.
Okay, I still haven't had the shower I need after my rush hour in the subway experience.
It's a bit frustrating to be writing this and not be able to include any pictures.
Last comment... Hair gel is a growth industry here. Some men have so much slicked through their hair that at first glance they could be wearing bicycle helmets.

1 comment:

  1. Alice,
    How wonderful it is to go vicariously through all these colours, sounds and sights with you. Enjoy the warmth, the mole sauce, and Frida - yes, she must be quite an inspiration. Thanks for this post, and don't worry about pictures - your reader can see every helmet head, every step of the pyramids, every amusing clay figurine.