I am sitting at an internet cafe in San Cristobal, Chiapas, scratching my toes from numerous ant bites and typing these words while trying to navigate the Mexican keyboard. Please excuse in advance the terrible punctuation (I cant find the apostrophe key! But look, heres this cool upside down exclamation point, which lets me say cool stuff like ”¡Ay, que bueno!” The honeymoon has been going great, and weve only nearly killed each other a couple of times, mainly when we are grouchy from heat and humidy. When the Mexican sun is out, its like a sauna, and the littlest thing could start a fight, e.g., “Really? You just haaaad to eat the last of our tamales?! Why did I even marry you?!”
Overall, we love Mexico, and only have trouble finding vegetarian food. The national vegetable seems to be chicken. Like nomads, we have been navigating the country, scavenging for the rare plain tamale or risk defaulting to a miserable meal of arroz con frijoles (rice and beans), scorned and pitied by the locals.
The people here are very friendly. I like the ancient Mayan ruins and other touristy things we have seen, but my favorite part is talking to the locals and hearing their stories. In the quiet city of Chetumal, we met a taxi driver named Andres, a 46 year-old who, besides being homophobic and anti-semitic, is a great person. For two nights we hung out with him, fascinated by his crazy sayings in broken English, “I am part Jewish,” he said, “¡I hate that part of me! Do you know, the Jewish take Hollywood and try make everyone gay?” He was shocked to find out we were vegetarians. “I say to you one nasty thing,” he said, “I dont want you offended.” Go ahead, we said. “OK, here is the nasty thing I say: If your heart is good, you no need to be vegetarian.” He tried to convert us into Christians.
There are not many Asians in Mexico, which is too bad, considering how beautiful and diverse this part of the world is. To the people we have met, there is only one kind of Asian, and that is Chinese. At a bus station, I met three girls who were fascinated to have met a real Chino. “I am not Chino,” I said, “I am Vietnamita.” They looked puzzled. “So,” asked one, “Is China beautiful? Does everyone have chinky eyes? How do you say ‘hello’ in Chinese?” For the next thirty minutes, I taught them some basic Mandarin, while they taught me stuff in Mayan, and we had a great time. Apparently the Maya had a very advanced language. ”And this gesture,” the girls demonstrated, sliding one hand briskly up the elbow to the wrist, ”means screw you.”
On the beautiful and laid back Belizean island of San Pedro, we stared at the beautiful Caribbean ocean from our 25-dollar hotel room patio, dodged torrential rain while eating green mango on the streets, and danced at the swanky nightclub. At 3am, after dancing for several hours to hip-hop and reggaeton, I left Jameelah for some fresh air. Sitting on the bench at the central plaza, I could imagine us raising kids in this part of world, where time seems to pass slower and children could walk barefoot on the streets and stay up playing on the beach until midnight. “¡Hey Chino!” My reverie was interrupted by a woman who approached me. “Could you buy me a wristband so I can get into the club?” She sat down next to me, her wavy black hair partly obscurred her eyes. I told her my wife had all the money. We talked a while, exchanging countries of origin and philosophies about life. As she left to find a better sugar daddy, I wished her good luck. “Hey Chino,” she said, “you speak really good Spanish.” She turned and like a charming drunken hurricane, she disappeared into the night.
The streets of San Cristobal, with its colonial feel, cool mountain air, and hot Mayan chocolate drinks flavored with chili peppers, are calling. Only five days left. This Chino and his wife are going to miss this place.
Hungry for more Noodles? Visit Huy’s blog at jaggednoodles.wordpress.com.