Unos días en Guadalajara

I will always be amazed at how you can fly on a plane for just a few hours and land in a completely different world. Sometimes it feels like everything is different – different people, different language, different customs, different food, different interests, different houses, different streets and traffic laws, different vehicles, different money, and much more. But of course, deep down all of us people are pretty much the same in that we want to be happy, healthy, wealthy, safe, and loved.

I’m staying in a very dated condo that I believe has 3 bedrooms and one space converted to a 4th bedroom. Normally, mom and dad (about 70 years old) live here with their near 40 something year-old daughter, but they recently made space for the son (and eldest) to live here temporarily with his wife, 5 year-old boy, and one month-old daughter. And oh, there are also two wiener dogs in the house as well as one big German Shepherd who (thankfully) is only in the house briefly when he is escorted through to the street in front to go for a walk. When the daughter’s boyfriend visits, that makes 9 of us plus 3 dogs, and honestly living with all these bodies has been an adjustment for me. I don’t really want to be a hermit and hide out in my room, but I do that often to have some peace. Fortunately, everyone is very nice.

Not only have I explored the immediate area extensively, but I have also taken several trips on public transportation into the center of town to visit the main market, cathedral, another church, money changers, some language schools, a university, the wealthy touristy area, etc. And yesterday on my way home, I went on a long and inadvertant adventure out to the far reaches of the city. Let me tell you about my long adventure.

Figuring out the bus system is usually one of the toughest tasks when travelling, and I still have not found a printed or online system map for Guadalajara to help me. But even with a map in hand, many of the streets are not marked with street signs, so you have to rely on landmarks to find your way around. In fact, knowing the names of streets is not very common here. I cannot tell you how many times that I have walked up to someone on the job, and asked them to confirm what street we were on, only to have them tell me they had no clue what street it was. I’ve often thought, “You work here and you don’t know what street this is?!” But alas, this is very common and so I just keep asking until I find someone who knows where the heck we are (or at least what street we are on). I any case, yesterday I got off on the bus too soon, and after exploring that area for awhile, I caught what I thought was the same bus number heading in the same direction as the bus I had exited. As it turns out, I was wrong. This new bus kept going … and going … and going … and each time I thought we were at the end of the city and could go no further, it turned down another alley and found another pothole-filled semi-dirt road to continue down. Finally, after at least half an hour, me and the few remaining riders got to the very end of the road (or dirt pack), and the bus driver stopped the bus, opened the doors, turned off the engine, and started to exit the bus. Not knowing what to say, I just blurted out, “Eso es todo?” (That is all?). To which he replied with a smirk and a nod … and then he left. He’s not the first bus driver I’ve had in Latin America who took me somewhere that I did not necessarily want to go … in fact, some of them get a kick out of delivering you lost. But just as many other bus drivers are sincerely helpful and try to help the lost gringo find his way. Fortunately, there were about 4 other buses in this same place, and I correctly assumed that one of them would eventually start a journey back to the center of town. As soon as I heard an engine start, I jumped on the bus and presented my bus fare, and he took my pesos with the same smirk and nod as the previous bus driver. So I tried to at least endear myself to him somewhat by saying, “Estoy perdido” (I’m lost), but leaving the dirt-pack-road-bus-station-with-the-hole-in-the-wall-office/café, he just had to use his cell phone to call his buddy (perhaps the other bus driver) to have a big laugh over (presumably) me and my predicament. Oh well, when you’re new in town in a foreign land, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be willing to be the butt of jokes. I’ve learned that taking offense can only make matters worse … and besides, it’s all an adventure that you can find ways to enjoy and use to your advantage. As I see it, I got me a 14 peso (76 cent) complete tour all the way to the far west side of Guadalajara and back!