Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Paradise Regained

For the second time this month I am in a place where I don't speak the language. This time I am in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It is about an hour and a half from Mexico City (or about the time it takes to see the new Herbie movie that stars Lindsay Lohan because, in Mexico, the intercity buses show movies and serve you food. In fact, a Mexican bus is a far more comfortable journey than, say, an Scandanavian Airways flight from London to Oslo. Who would have thought that? And... I wasn't even in first class. The movie was slightly longer than the journey, which I am sure is a shame for some people, but for me, this was less of an issue. The movie was dubbed into Mexican but I am sure I could tell what was going on).

Being in Mexico is much like it was for me when I visited Banjar, Indonesia. I find it very humbling to be here. I love the busyness of the people here and the suave and confident nature of those I see.

So, Cuernavaca. It is higher in Altitude than Snowdon, and about a kilometer lower than Mexico City. This is a mind warp. It is a lovely wee town, from what I have seen of it. I am teaching and staying at IMTA, the local hydraulic authority. The grass is greener here. The only place I have worked that is more pretty was the summer spent calibrating piezometers in the Hunua Ranges. Photos to come later, suffice to say that there are lots of green trees, lots of birds, (both varieties) and a surprising tranquility. It is hot in the day, cool in the evening. The people I am staying with, Esteban from my company, and David who is my translator, are lovely and give me constant grief about how much I like the Mexican women and how Salma Hayek is ordinary in the context of other Mexican women. I cannot disagree.

Last night was spent playing tennis with Esteban against some locals. We won the first set, they won the second, through myn fatigue, my desire to belt every ball and their cunning use of their rackuets to deflect the ball to where I wasn't. It was flood lit and all was peaceful.

Tonight some indian kids have been invited to play basketball on the IMTA court.

Tonight I also went down the IMTA offices where one of the admin girls had a machine that generates authentic air tickets. I wonder where I can get one of those.

It makes me think that more often than not, the western way of doing things is, as Esteban would say, garbage.

Mexico has been a wonderful place to visit. I guess the company helps. And I haven't touched a single drop of tequila.

Yet.

It distresses me that in this country I am scared to drink the water. It distresses me a great deal more that for the vast majority of the people they don't have that choice. I think I have learnt somewhat from my experiences in Banjar last December in that I am doing as the locals do and the consequences be damned. But it makes me very angry that we let the status quo here exist. Give more money to wateraid, please. And give your governments hell about preventing people from reliable access to drinkable water. Grrrr.

To cap the environmental thing off, I am reading the book 'The Weather Makers' by some guy I think is called Tim Flannery. I haven't finished the book, but as a counterpart to Michael Crichtons 'State of Fear' it makes for an interesting balance. Where MC sees Global Warming as scare mongering, TF pretty much regards the earth as close to being cream crackered. It has made for pretty miserable reading and probably not the best thing to study while sitting on an aeroplane. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Or perhaps I'm not.

A final random observation about the US. I spent two days there with Grant Rebecca, enjoying their wonderful hospitality in Dallas. I enjoyed being back in the US, things were pretty much as I remembered. G and R talked about transplants. This confused me till it came clear that they were talking about people forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. It seemed all rather like Judge Dread. Very sterile and impersonal. Or is that simply because to call them refugees be too much of a blow to US pride?

4 comments:

Rhys Lewis said...

I believe that the word for the Mexican language is 'Spanish'

I also thought it was interesting that straight after you'd related the observation regarding the western way of doing things being rubbish you mentioned that no-one in Mexico has clean drinking water on tap, and most people don't have an option about that. The western way of living may not be fantastic, but it's certainly good at keeping its citizens alive into old age.

Chris said...

...at the expense of non-western citizens which they don't ever have to see or interact with.

richard said...

Rhys,
At the risk of sounding defensive, Mexican and Spanish are, according to my colleague Idris, two distinct languages. Idris would know, having spent a lot of time travelling in Mexico and having spent a large chunk of his life living in Spain. He speaks Spanish fluently but occasionally gets stuck when talking to Mexicans I would therefore bow to his experience.

You'll also note that I didn't say the western way of doing things was worse, but sometimes it seems that the mexican method has its distinct advantages. Maybe I got carried away with 'more often than not', but hell, it was late and I am allowed license.

With regards to your comment about cold weather in my czech republic posts, have you too been reading the weather makers book? There is a very similar observation to what you made about humans being adverse to the cold in that. if not, uncanny.

Congratulations on siring yet another child.

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