Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Mexican Wave - My experiences in Mexico

There hardly was any gap between when I came to know I have to travel to Mexico and the travel. With US visa being sufficient for travel to Mexico, there weren’t any formalities involved either except for the Lufthansa ground handling staff at Pune, who were not convinced about the visa requirements. Neither the immigration officers in India or Mexico nor the staff in Frankfurt bothered. Mexico is possibly not the place to be and hence immigration is least bothered about who enters and who exits. After all, they must be thinking, why would somebody illegally migrate to a country which itself is known for illegally migrating somewhere else!

I spent my time in Mexico in its third largest metropolitan area – Monterrey, located in the Nuevo Leon state, which borders Texas. While there is significant debate on who invented the Mexican Wave, the locals believe that it was invented in Monterrey in 1970s during a football match. I found some reference to this story on Wikipedia page for Mexican Wave. Hence the name of this post!

The immigration officer at Mexico just asked the reason for being in Mexico and stamped the passport along with writing something illegibly. The options that were available were vague – either stamp it for 180 days or for 30 days in which one has to report to nearest immigration office. It took a day to understand that my immigration card was stamped for 180 days!

Mexico City is one of the largest metropolises in the world and so it looks from the air, unfortunately I could not find time to roam around the place. The second day while I was enroute Monterrey. the airport security staff kept saying something to me, and when I said “English English”, all he said was Welcome and let me go!

After reading all travel advisories and security issues across Mexico, we were careful at every step to an extent of not using public transport, since many a time the busses and trains are looted at gun point.

The security situation in Monterrey, is precarious due to the closeness to the border with USA and the drug trade. It is uncommon to not spot an army/police jeep with armed soldiers at any time of the day. This city has offices of Infosys and Wipro and around 60 Indians reside as per some estimates.

Pictures clicked from my room

 The first thug we found was at a Telcel shop, who sold us a used Sim Card, which could not be activated. Luckily for us, we had a local along who spoke and got it replaced. He told us that machine is not working and hence he will give an old bill/receipt and opened the card and gave. Thankfully we did not have an unpleasant experience again, more so because we did not go out except on one occasion to see the only place to visit in the city.

The office we visited, welcomed us with a safety demo and what to do in case of emergency and all the public and as well as private areas in hotel have boards or fire extinguisher and evacuation routes in red and green respectively.

One strange habit that I noticed across the stay was how much Mexicans love to brush their teeth, every now and then. Almost everybody carries a tooth paste and brush with them and would brush teeth two or three times a day in office!

People tend to go out for lunch from office and if they figure out that somebody else is going to pay, they will order extra food and parcel it for the evening! We saw this happening almost every day.

One similarity with USA - large quantity

What looked like fruit yogurt turned out to be some desert - served for breakfast!
Paratha & Chapati - how tortillas look like

Uncommon in the USA, common in Mexico - Alcohol with snacks
Language is a problem in Mexico, with only 20% people knowing English and none in super markets, public transport or taxi. The same holds true for hotels. One morning, my excitement knew no bounds when I read Leche on a metal jar, I like Lychee a lot, & I thought its going to be Lychee juice. Pouring it into the glass, I thought something was amiss, and the first sip, tasted like Milk. A little research and I realized it was non-fat milk.
Left: View from my hotel room, before I requested the room be changed. Right: View from new room
Actual Mexican food is different than what is sold in USA and you will hardly find any of those in Mexico – which is a heavy Beef & Pork eating country. At times getting dishes containing Chicken (Pollo – pronounced as Poyyo) is a challenge. Burritos – made famous by chains like Taco Bell or Chipotle in the USA, is not something which Mexicans even make! Reminded me or American Chopsuey and Hakka Noodles! The Chinese which Indians eat. When asked for a burger without beef or pork, we were refused, because it would then come with only lettuce!

Curry Sultan: Never met the chef, the staff claimed he is Indian. Infosys has office in one of those buildings. Seeing this car made me feel I am in Cuba!
I was on a lookout for a miniature Mexican hat, and every time I asked for one, they would give me a key chain of something completely unrelated to what I asked for.

None the less, it was a visit to remember, more so because its rare that one gets to go to a country like – Mexico !

Well - Just Spanish for Do Not Disturb

Abnormal size for Cola cans and so was the case for bottled water. A trip to Mexico - not complete without Tequila shots

Definite disaster in India if you name something Donkey

They say there are four words you should know in Spanish to survive in Mexico. Hola! Meaning Hello, Cerveza meaning Beer, Bano, meaning toilet and I leave you with the last one which everybody in Mexico keeps saying day in day out, Gracias meaning Thank you! – for reading this.

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