Monthly Archives: February 2010

he’s a cat person.

The rubbish that Italian Coffee Company pedals resembles the agua which remains in my sink after washing a weeks worth of México City off my clothes.

With a heavy heart, a few hours to kill and a craving for a decent coffee, I set off to find a little place I’d visited once before with a very special person. I was on a mission, partly to satisfy my caffeine addiction, partly to relive that beautiful moment which had well and truly passed a year and a half before.

Upon my nostalgic arrival, un chavo, selling cd’s caught my eye and we exchanged a smile. I found a table and sat down. He wandered slowly over, his manitos clutching a stack of CD’s in plastic sleeves, analysing me with each step closer. He must have noticed the heart on my sleeve because he seemed to recognise that I had some time to give him. He inquired as to whether or not I might like to purchase un disco, I shook my head and smiled, “no gracias amigo”. He persisted, planting a knee on the chair opposite me in a gesture that whispered, “I’m not leaving just yet”. As he shuffled through his selection my attention was eventually snagged by a sexy, scantily dressed Latina on the front cover of pirate a reggaton CD. I asked him what his stance on that particular genre was. He was more of a hiphop slash romantic slash norteña kind of a kid. We joked about the male pop singer’s fashion and overly made up appearance and finally I decided to purchase a Café Ta Cuba disc…more like a CD of every Café Ta Cuba song every recorded, and probably even some that have never been released, there are 136 tracks on this disc! I handed him his asking price of 10 pesos and he quietly asked if I wanted to buy him a coffee, “me regalas un café?”

“I’d be happy to, sit down, what do you feel like?”

“A hot chocolate, sin espuma…”

“You don’t like froth?!” I guess this kid wasn’t brought up on babychinos. “I love froth, sometimes I ask for extra”

The waiter found his way over to our table, he took my order but didn’t acknowledge that my small friend might also have had thirst, so I pointed out that his craving was for a hot chocolate, hold the froth.

“On the same bill?” he inquired?

“Yep sure, that’s fine.”

“Para llavar?”

“You want it to take away?” I asked my friend.

“Yeh…because I like those cups better.”

This kid surely knew what he wanted.

So we sat, waiting for our hot drinks and began to talk.

He doesn’t like froth because you get less drink. He lives in a small town an hour and a half out of Puebla. He’s ten and works everyday from 5am until he returns home at 10pm. He works alone and on a good day might make 100 pesos, minus the 5 each way on public transport. Everything he earns goes straight to his padre. He hates eating breakfast, it makes him feel sick and he pretty much exists on one meal a day, dinner, if he feels like it when he gets home. I tell him, “you’ve got to eat, si no, no crecerás!” He sigs and tells me, if he’s hungry, he’ll eat! He doesn’t go to school and is the middle child of five. He doesn’t get along with the kids in his pueblo, they play too rough. His dad’s a welder, he makes bridles for horses and his mum…she does everything else.

It wasn’t one of my regular interviews mind you, he had plenty of questions for me too and his ability to grasp the pronunciation of Australian phrases was astounding. “Gimmie anutha warda”, “Que cool”, “See ya layda may-TE”.

And so we sat for about an hour, chatting, exchanging, learning, jigging work, absorbing the caffeine and the sweet, hot milk.

My new digital camera lay on the table between us.

Once our cups were emptied and the traces of milk were beginning to harden and dry, creating a memory of time sequences down the interior, he asked how I was going to spend the rest of my day.

“I’ve got a couple of hours, I suppose I might wander around, take some photos while the sunlight is creating such beautiful colours…then maybe I’ll go check out un museo.”

He was curious about my photos so I begun to show him some glimpses of Australia, my dog, mi familia. He was glued to the small LCD screen like a kid that doesn’t have a telly becomes paralysed by whatever’s on when they’re over at a friends place.

“How much did that camera cost?”

I didn’t hesitate to answer, but I knocked a couple of hundred bucks of the price I actually paid and winced slightly as I waited for his reaction.

“cinco mil pesos..?!” His eyes widened, “about the same price you paid to get here?”

“Noooo…” I shook my head slowly “to arrive here, costs at least double…más!”

What kind of world must he imagine I come from? How is it possible that two humans, sharing coffee y palabras, can be dealt such wildly different cards? What was I expecting? A flood of resentment from him? But, with the blink of an eye, the beat of a heart, his face lit up, and he moved on,

“I’d like to take a photo!”

“Orale, vamos! I’ll pay and we can go take some.”  I paid the four bucks and went to the toilet, when I returned he remained at the table, veiled in an expression of tentative hope.

“Come on, let’s go”

“Did you pay?”

“Sí, vamos”

“For me?”

“Sí”

“En serio?!”

“Ahuevo!”

The disbelief was substituted for relief as he skipped toward the door. We wandered up the street and he confirmed for the last time that I had actually paid for his hot chocolate as well as my coffee. Every now and then as we walked and talked I was forced to bend forward in order to hear what he had to say.

“Anytime you see something you find beautiful or interesting, that you’d like to take a photo of, me dices, va?!”

“Oh…so many things” he sighed. Eventually he decided one of the thousands of Poblano church spires was worth capturing…that or the time had come for him to go back to work. We stopped, I gave him a brief lesson and SNAP! We got it. He was pleased, nailed it first go.

“Well then…I guess I’ll go check out that museo..” I suggested “you?”

His expression kindly mocked me, “I’ll go back to work, pero mañana? What will you do? More photos?”

“I’ll probably go to the antique markets, wander around, and yeh, i’ll probably take some more photos.”

He told me he might see me in the morning, pulled out his mobile and suggested we exchange numbers. I was feeling self conscious, the conservative eyes of Puebla were upon me, “What the hell do you think you’re doing guera?!”

“Ok, well, suerte amigo, cuidate mucho, you take care of yourself, maybe we’ll see each other tomorrow.” I affectionately roughled his head with my hand, messing up his thick dark hair, “Adios”. I turned and walked away, instantly chastising myself for concluding our interaction with such a patronizing gesture. This was no regular 10 year old kid, I was not dealing with a child here. A hand shake or a high five at the very least would have been a far more appropriate way of saying goodbye, respect and good luck!

I shook my head, embarrassed by my ignorance…when was I going to wise up?!


INXS plays over the sound system at a cafe in La Condessa…and the coffee is overpriced.

In an attempt to come up with a topic for my first research project (a 2000 word ‘cultural report – a reflective piece of writing in which i must discuss and evaluate an aspect of local culture’) I began a stream of consciousness style piece based on a variety of themes of life in Mexico City which I have found interesting since my arrival. I consequently decided that one idea was fit for my first blog deposit.

The topic is Language – It’s uses, and abuses, here in Districto Federal.

The language used here in the streets of el DF is insanely creative, fluid and turbulent. It is forever changing, words and phrases are toyed with, recycled and reinvented. If one was to grow up in el DF and at some point during their young adulthood, leave and spend a solid period of time afuera, upon their return to the motherland the language they grew up with and departed with would be…not obsolete but drastically different to how los jovenes are currently communicating with one another. The language of the street changes rapidly…to say the least.

When I began living with Estelita, I was utterly confused as to why it was that I could go out for an evening of beers and dancing, suffercating in ultra loud music, and could still manage to follow the varying conversations, even contribute to them quite comfortably  AND crack a funny every now and then YET in the comfort of my own home, abundant light to read lips and hand gestures, sin ruido, I could understand very little of what Estela was saying.

At first, of course, I blamed my poor Spanish skills, then, following a few more nights out and satisfying, full bodied conversations, I came to blame the booze, filling me full of confidence and enhancing my abilities. Eventually I arrived at the possible conclusion that perhaps, due to her status as a professor of anthropology, she spoke in a very proper, highly academic manera in which I was not effectively armed with the skills required to decipher her intellectual speak. That MUST be it, I supposed.

One evening, out with some friends, I received a text message from her and as per usual, I had great difficulty interpreting what she was expressing. Being lucky enough to have some pure bred Chilangos at my very table I had the opportunity to get to the bottom of this language issue I had been quietly suffering. I showed mis amigos the message and the expressions which painted their faces illustrated and reflected exactly that which I had been experiencing during my conversations con ella. “Dime..What is with it?” I pleaded, “She speaks weird right?!” My friend began to give me his explanation. “She speaks very literally, using lots of metaphors and flowery figures of speech, for example, instead of saying “I was worried about you last night.” She might choose to say, “Last night my heart beat rapidly inside my chest as I was unsure of your whereabouts.”   Hijole!!! Finally I had some insight, some answers to my growing insecurity about my sub-standard language skills, the doorway to improvement had been nudged open and the beautiful, bright, glowing light of reassurance and knowledge was beginning to pour through.

Not too many days later, mientras sitting at the dining table, sharing a coffee and a broken conversation, Estelita told me of her history, su vida and her experiences. I discovered that in the 1970’s she had lived at Zipolite, a small beach side town on the Oaxacan coast. During the 1970’s the place was crawling with hippies, gente who were searching for a different way of existing in the world and experimenting with living their lives. The language used in a coastal Mexican hippy community during the 70’s would be wildly different to that which is used by the kids on the streets of Mexico City in 2010, would it not?!

Slowly I was beginning to understand…the beautiful, worldly, wizardy woman, with whom I share my life at this point, uses the language of a free loving hippy of the late 1970’s! No wonder I was having such a hard time, I am a modern living, fast paced, filthy city rat afterall…I may wear patchouli, but I sure as hell ain’t no hippy!