Saturday, May 19, 2007

Back in The 'Kan EWA from the rain forests and beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Interesting week. It's very, very seldom that I do not connect with a people; this week I ruefully was reminded, again, of how Northern European I apparently am. Despite any language barrier anywhere, I never fail to feel a spark and be warmed by mothers with their children, teenagers waiting for the bus, waiters working hard, grandmothers on a walk. I always have all kinds of interesting, joyful, gracious encounters with people and their town, no matter what country.

Not this week. I was seen, unilaterally, as a money bearing, overbearing, irksome source of existence/subsistence not to be trusted or respected. I couldn't spend enough money in a shop; I couldn't smile wide enough or speak softly enough. Everything is negotiable. Anything is negotiable. They name their price, you name yours and the antagonism begins. All in the name of cultural merchantability, of course. When you hold your line, they say Don't play games and become sullen. Nothing is fair in Mexico. Everything is fair in Mexico. Game, that is.

And yet there is no industry, there is no commerce, there is virtually nothing in the lives of these people that isn't American-driven. Puerto Vallarta, like my hometown, is a beachtown and the business is tourism. I heard no French, German nor British English on the dusty streets of town this week; but I did hear six different dialects of American English. And the Americans were eating, drinking (Worst t-shirt: Maybe of all time: I AM SHY But I Have A Big Dick), shopping and soaking up the sun in the most gleeful of manners. And while I saw no ugly Americans this week I did see lots and lots of ugly souvenirs and cheaply made goods. Maybe the contrast was made all the more stark by the most exquisite of beaches--the North Shore of Oahu has nothing on Puerto Vallarta.

So it was a puzzling, confusing week. The bright exception was the professional, extremely competent guides in the rain forest, who expertly sent tourists flying 560 feet above the ground. I just can't think they are different people that all the other natives of Puerto Vallarta, but somehow the commonalities and similarities are lost on me.

The 'Kan EWA


Phil said...

And that is why I'll never set foot in Mexico again.

There are too many other wonderful corners of this planet to visit.

Who needs Mexico?!

mamaJD said...

Phil - I need Mexico. Even the schmarmiest of shop owners and beach peddlers can be fun. To walk through the back alleys in PV and peek into the homes of large families with very little material goods but bellow with huge laughter. To hear of a guitar maker up in Gringo Gulch who holds late night jam sessions with whomever stops by and then go hunt him down only to get home early the next morning after an evening of great music. I need places like Mexico to humble myself and get real with the blessings I have.

JBelle - Tis true of the rumors you have heard. Some people like to threaten to "out" me and it is just puffery. No big deal. As I said to them, I don't know who they think I am but never the less, I am entitled to hold an opinion. I realize that in the big scheme of things, my opinion doesn't matter much and I am not pompous enough to believe otherwise. I am important to those that matter and not important to those who don't. I relish this fact.

Glad to hear you are back in the Kan. I have missed you --- ok, I was jealous.

JBelle said...

Phil, Apparently, we should go with MamaJ. She can show us the ropes! Had a wonderful moment at Mass Sunday night. Mime is full costume and make up came in and sat down next to us. Sang at the top of his lungs in Spanish. Worked all day on the beach and in the square and hit church before he went home. :)

Is it that you are an educated woman that makes you so fascinating? so dangerous? Or a lawyer who doesn't practice that makes you notable? At any glance, you scare the living daylights out of them. Keep up the good work, MamaJ! And yeah, those that know, know. Those that don't, most likely never will. It is what it is.

Phil said...

I look at it this way... Our travel budget is limited. We can take one ginormous trip (anything over $2K) every couple of years. This year we took a big trip to Disneyland and did it up right with a stay at the mega-expensive Disneyland Hotel.

Anyway, every year we take one or two small-to-medium trips, like Yellowstone, Seattle, Vancouver, Denver. Basically, anywhere we can drive to relatively easily.

And then there are the daytrips... We take dozens of those every year. I just can't get enough of the Inland Northwest. So much to see and do.

What I'm saying is... My own experience in Mexico has put it waaaay down the list of places I want to go for our BIG TRIPS. Considering we only have enough resources for maybe 6 or 7 more of those while the kids are still kids, I'd rather avoid places where I'll be made to feel uncomfortable by ungrateful locals.

By the way, my visits to that country down south were in Mazatlan, Acapulco, and the ever-inspiring Tijuana. All a big "Meh" in my book.

JBelle said...

Phil, you have just nailed it.

There is the Yo Factor, articulated by the ubitqutous Randy Jackson and now its polar, the Meh Factor, id'd by IDAHO's Phil Corliss.



JBelle said...

And by the way, it's true: you can tell everyone. 'Awesome' is the 'far-out' of the new millenium.

The Fool said...

Okay Cheechacko, I'm the Cheech here...what's a meh? And what's a Yo Factor?

I've never been to Mexico.

Anonymous said...

Mexico is not high on my list either, although my husband loved it. Perhaps because there is a Maxims in Mexico City. I do not enjoy being treated like a walking wallet. There are so many places in this world to see and experience. And "experience" is the key word. I don't want to be just a tourist, I want to make the effort to understand and learn.

I also like to meet the locals and chat. I feel that they learn friendliness from me, just as I learn from them. I talk to people on the bus and the Tube. Waiting in lines at Paddington and laughingly when the race for seats or taxis begins. Whenever possible, we shared taxis. Thus, I was not an American tourist, I was a person. Make sense? When we first started regular trips to England, we rented a lovely house in the Cotswolds (where we eventually settled). We always went in January. Very cold and gray. Thus I was always lovingly teased as being that crazy American who came in the winter and took long walks. But you know, they really appreciated that and I made lifelong friends.

MamaJD...ignore the "outists". Jealousy and fear of intelligence. I do not always agree with you, but I always agree with your making measured responses. I don't even understand this outing if who we are is a bad thing. Ehhh!

InlandEmpireGirl said...

I am such an inland empire/inland northwest girl. The only time I have been out of the country is to visit Canada which is only 30 miles away! I am like Phil. I can't get enough of the Inland Northwest. In recent years we have discovered beautiful places just by focusing our travel on the inland northwest. But alas, with gas prices the travel may be a luxury this summer.): It sounded like the rain forest excursion made your trip worthwhile. Welcome home. I loved the picture of your children posted on Huckleberries. What an exceptional Mother's Day gift. They are a beautiful trio!

Phil said...

Oh no... Today my son asked if we could visit some Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Maybe I'll have to move it up my list.

JBelle said...

Ford: sigh. You don't watch American Idol do you? "Dude, just keeping it real. Didn't have the Yo! for me, Dawg." And Phil just signaled his indifference to Mexico in his second post with 'meh'. :) It's phoenetic.

Wondering, read a 4000 word piece in today's New York Times about development in Jalisco, which is where PV is. It's the same call that's being made everywhere in the world, including Coeur d'Alene. Irony of Mexico is that save for Americans tourists and American business, Mexico would be DEAD in the water. If they don't like us, they should kick us out of their country and ban further American business interests.

GG, thanks for the nice words about my children. I hit the Trifecta on that one. :) lucky, lucky, lucky. I am quite worried about gas prices, funny you should mention it. With health care and gas, it is going to be a very difficult year this year for people.

mamaJD said...

Phil - I admit I have a natural affinity to Puerto Vallarta and all other tourist stops in Mexico are too commercial. By the sounds of JBelle, perhaps PV will be heading that way as well. I agree on the border towns like Tijuana - go there and you are just asking/begging/pleading to get ripped off or worse.

I can see why certain people may not like Mexico in general. All the sales pressure, the con games, things never being what it may seem at first. The "local markets" that really aren't but instead are just marked up junk to sell to gringos. That can happen anywhere outside the US, though. It can be similar to markets in Roma or Firenze, too, right JBelle?

I am not sure when I will get to return to PV but can't wait. Usually, we hire a boat, head south down the coast, hit a small place called Yelapa (a beach enclave of American hippie expats) and hike up to the waterfall where there is a little bar (in the middle of no where).

The Fool said...

Hi Cheech. I'm totally clueless on American Idol. I really need to start watching TV to keep up with the Joneses. Thanks for helping the TV illiterate.


Gail said...

How depressing. I would love to visit the Mayan ruins but I want to be treated nicely too.

Carla said...

I have had similar experiences but still love my travels...although sometimes, just sometimes, it does get to be a bit much.

The Fool said...

Happy Easter, Cheechako. You must be in the garden...

JBelle said...

it's me again. much more weary and world worn that when I posted this a week ago. sigh. what a week that was. I have not been in the garden, but in the office. Soon I will be on vacation. Keep you fingers crossed I make it out of here with my mind intact.

susan said...

Growing up in Texas in a 99% Mexican neighborhood (me being the 1%)I used to feel more comfortable among Mexican families than I did with White families. There is a warmness and openess there, less pretention, less stress. I bet it is easier to get to know the Mexican culture in a regular neighborhood than in a tourist trap. Of course that would be difficult and would take time. Probably the guys in the rainforest were just normal guys. I bet you got more of a sense of what real Mexico is like from those guys than from anywhere else.
Also, I am very jealous of your tree flying experience. I have wanted to do that for years.

toadman said...

I grew up in Texas, and lived for a year within 100 yards of the Rio Grand. We had a sweeping view of old Mexico from our back porch.

Let me ask you this, JBelle, how many third world countries have you visited in all your travels? I've found that, in Mexico, Paraguay, Kenya and Tanzania (all third world countries), Americans are generally disliked and seen only as walking ATM machines. Why? We're rich. We're privileged. We're free. But we keep a lot of that to ourselves.

Sure, we prop up their economies, but for our own ends most of the time, not theirs. We let their governments falter, fail and corrupt because it's easier that way.

Is that a cynical view? Probably so. But, that's been my experience...

Thom George said...

May 19th? May 19th! Come on now.