Category Archives: Uncategorized
This Online Documentary course is like a drop of visine into sore, dry, tired eyes. I’m excited.
30th September 2011
Got my hands on a typewriter and couldn’t resist writing you a letter. I’ve been slack with postcards and packages for sometime now, little did I know it’s only because I haven’t had a typewriter in my life.
The sun is out and shining today, my back is injured so I’m in bed again. The upside is, I was here to take the rubbish out, it’s been piling up. I’ll tell you what the deal with the rubbish is…The rubbish guys ring a bell, like an old bell they might have had at your primary school that (if you were good) you might have been allowed to ring. Anyway the rubbish guy rings this bell, letting everyone know that they’ve arrived. Then I, and all my neighbors, have to gather all the rubbish bags, organic rubbish in a separate bag, head downstairs and hand it over to the rubbish guy who then tosses it into the back of his truck. The whole community is out there ridding themselves of their waste. As much as it’s frustrating that you can’t just take the rubbish out whenever you need to, I like it, it makes me feel like a productive community member.
Kelly, my flat mate, has become obsessed with kangaroos. She loves them. She researches them and watches Skippy the Bush Kangaroo whenever she has a spare moment. She says if she was Australian her spirit animal would be a kangaroo, but she says “roo” because she thinks it’s funny that Australian’s refer to kangaroos as roos.
I feel impatient today, I suppose it’s because I’m bedridden and I’ve drunk a fair bit of coffee. I feel impatient for the future. Yeh, I’ve definitely had too much caffeine.
I haven’t decided who this letter is for yet and I wonder if it even matters, maybe it’s just for me… It makes going on a little complicated though. It’s a letter with no questions about how YOU are doing…whoever you are.
I’m going to be celebrating my first Halloween with people from the United States this year. Kelly wants to go as Skippy of course. I’m thinking of going as Flipper. Thought perhaps we could do a fabulous threesome thing, find ourselves a Lassie.
Yesterday there was a homeless guy doing a poo in a garden bed right near my place. I didn’t get a good look at him but Raúl said he was eating leaves off the shrub in front of him at the same time. It really disgusted me but I felt so sorry for him. Imagine how dirty those leaves must have been.
Being bedridden is one sure way to save your pesos, I haven’t spent a single one today.
What luck with the timing that I washed all my bedclothes just the other day for fear of the bed bugs. Imagine if I was bedridden and paranoid about bedbugs at the same time. Last week I was so itchy I felt like getting a plane back to Sydney. It would have saved me injuring my back though I spose. Either way I’m still here, bedridden with a bad back but not at all paranoid about the bed bugs. The itchy spots seem to be improving and I don’t have any new ones coming up.
I wonder if Raúl is on his way over and if he’s bringing the kilo of guavas I asked for.
Even though I’m using the typewriter to write you this, I keep the laptop along side it so that I can see if anyone writes me an email or if it’s my move on words with friends.
Raúl just arrived, not only did he bring the kilo of guavas he also brought me a little brown dog piñata. It reminds me of Natc’s dog Frankie. It makes me laugh just looking at it.
I love you so much and I miss you so much too.
Love Nicky. xxxoooxx
I am standing at yet another massive intersection in the corazon of México City (DF)…it is not the same intersection I battled with eleven months earlier when I wrote about my first impressions of this monstrous city but it may as well be because the grand majority of the intersections here have that same aroma of utter chaos about them, a chaos which is recognisably chilango , a chaos which somehow converts into functioning order. I’m yet to see any cars collide, nobody’s been struck down on my watch, though I’ve witnessed some exceedingly close calls. Am I any less shocked now, after day-to-day dealings with the relentless DF traffic, than I was when I first arrived? I don’t believe so. However I have grown to always expect the unexpected, I’ve become significantly distrustful of anything with four wheels, I am permanently on guard and no matter how good my mood was before stepping out my front door, I can not recall making it through one day in this city without cursing like a sailor at handful of motorists.
Upon my arrival eleven months ago so many aspects of daily life and Mexican culture sent a powerful and exhilarating shock through my system, rattling my skeletal cage and waking me from the comatosed state that a stint of Sydney living had left me in. I felt alive. Despite having visited and lived in México several times before, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of what living in DF actually implied. Existing in a city that houses around 18 million people was a concept that floated around my mind like a helium balloon cut free from a toddlers wrist, drifting in whichever way the wind determined, aimlessly making its way skyward. It was not long after I had arrived here that it dawned on me, one of the most dangerous attitudes to adopt whilst visiting or living in México’s bustling capital is an aimless one. Whether you know it instinctually, or you learn it further down the track due to some unfortunate incidence, once you hit the streets of DF you’ve got have your wits about you. México City is not for the faint hearted. Those who have lived here all their lives are a distinct race of super humans, they are built to withstand more than the average person. Stomaches of steel, lungs grown and matured on heavily polluted, stagnant air at ultra high altitudes…everything down to the ridiculously uneven, earthquake-affected footpaths, exists to challenge you; emotionally, mentally, and physically…or at least that is how it appears to the extranjeros hypersensitive perception.
One of the first and most prominent aspects of DF daily life that had a significant impact on me was the abundant imagery of death that splatters the front pages of numerous different ‘newspapers’ on every street corner. The ‘newspapers’ are awfully cheap and the content is exhibited in a manner that seemed to suggest to me that the value of a person’s life might have been as well. As a curious newcomer attempting to absorb every waking moment I observed my surroundings with fresh eyes, eyes that were yet to be affected by the alta levels of contaminación! I proposed some questions about what the graphic snapshots of death could possibly suggest about the population’s attitude toward living and dying and how they might value these processes, what affect this brutal reality may have on a persons psyche and what purchasing these publications implies about them as a human. These were my impressions eleven months ago based on personal experience and here is how they’ve evolved.
Mexico City is a geographically small area, home to an undeterminable amount of millions…depending where you find your statistics, the population ranges from 9 to 28 million, in any case there are A LOT of people inhabiting this space. For the grand majority life consists of varying levels of difficulty but, in general, it is a struggle to survive. I do not consider myself to be a particularly naïve or sheltered person, regardless of this, my mind is constantly shot to pieces by the state of things in this country both past and present. Certain elements of the unbelievable occurrences that take place here form the foundations of why I love this surreal, anarchistic, colourful, and culturally rich country…why I’m consistently drawn here and why I can’t seem to imagine leaving here just yet. Other elements, for example; the inequality, the classism, the racism, the sexism, the corrupt political system, the (drug) war that has caused the deaths of more people this year than any year prior, all create a solid basis for understanding that the problems which México faces are complex and run exceedingly deep. As a result of these factors and other unrelated ones many people loose their lives every day and as tragic as it may be, is it really any wonder in a country so big with a political climate so chaotic and with a population so large and so economically disadvantaged? (Hmmm…now who’s sounding blasé about life and death?! And there I was thinking that my opinions on this theme hadn’t changed significantly over this time…) No matter where you’re from, or who you are, everybody’s life is extinguishable, what does vary is that, depending on where you’re from your lifeless body will either make the front page of a B grade newspaper or it may not even make the 6pm news and as the victim, this outcome won’t make any difference to you but it will undoubtedly affect your loved ones deeply.
Being exposed to graphic images of death on a daily basis does not lesson the severity of dying, one does not become numbed by the concept, and it does not help prepare someone for the reality of dealing with death. In fact it may even serve as a means of creating more distance between living and dying. What you see or read in a paper is occurring at a safe distance from your reality. It’s a still photograph capturing a moment in time, reminding you that while anything may be possible you still exist to witness the fate of the deceased, you can still be affected by it and are capable of forming an opinion about it. Therefore you also have a choice as to whether or not you want to glance at that photograph or even consume that type of publication which, I have learnt, is the tactic of many people I have met this year. As we walk the streets, passing newsstands, I continue to be drawn to looking at the horrific scenes presented there and reading the ill humoured headline accompanying the photo, but most of my friends choose not to. They have learned to block these papers out. It’s not that they value life any less than I or that they have seen so much death they are immune to it, it’s just that they know they have a choice, to look, or not to look…to purchase or not to purchase. However, most of my friends are university educated, emerging from varying socio economic backgrounds but currently employed and living, comfortablemente.
These B grade newspapers are targeted toward México’s equivalent of a Daily Telegraph reader. They are most likely uneducated, working-class and receiving the daily minimum wage of fifty-five pesos ($4 AUS) or less. They are the majority. The content consists of badly written ‘news’ articles, national death stories, football and naked ladies. Now…Let’s take a short conspiracy theory trip…The market consuming these publications is huge and obviously it is impossible to imagine what each individuals motivations are for being compelled to purchase one but for now it’s not important, the point is that they’re reading them…daily. If the government wanted to send a message of fear to their population, if they wanted to let them know that their life was fragile and that they should be thankful to simply have the strength to get up and work like a donkey everyday, then they might fill the populations ‘news’ intake with horrifying, graphic images of death. Doing so could act as a means of frightening them into submission and ensuring that the possibility of any kind of revolutionary action was never actually a viable option. But for this to be a plausible theory one would have to believe that the people seeing, and reading about, their fellow countrymen’s tragic fates were actually affected by the imagery. And as a human, isn’t everyone? Death in film affects us, death in literature affects us, why wouldn’t death in daily news and photography affect us too? We humans have wild imaginations, with each tragic, beautiful or successful story heard we are able to slot ourselves, or people we know, into each role and be moved accordingly. Without being witness to the events personally we invent the details that surround the scene and create either a positive or a negative narrative to accompany it. But is the Mexican government actually capable of carrying out such a devious scheme? Personally I wouldn’t put it past them. Many profoundly interesting theories exist about who is actually controlling this nation. Some say that an ex President of the Partido Revolucionario Instituciónal – PRI, Carlos Salinas, who came to power via a botched election in 1988 and, though no longer holds an official position of political power, continues to get up to all sorts of unsavoury business but I’m yet to doing any serious research into that matter. One thing that is sure and muy interesante about Salina’s past is that at age 4 he, his brother (5yrs) and their friend (8yrs), tied up, shot and killed their servant with a .22-calibre rifle at their home in DF. How it is possible that anyone with a history like this had the opportunity to become President of a country (and a leader of a party that ruled without a break for 70 years following the dictatorship of Porfrio Díaz which lasted the same length of time)? I’ll leave up to you to decide. I digress, but I think we get the idea…México does have a record of some pretty curious behaviour. The population is large, the majority of them are poor, uneducated and struggling and obviously people are more pliable and easier to control when then they exist in a state of fear. Feeling threatened means the people have less of an opportunity to consider how bad their quality of life is, how deceitful their government is, and what drastic measures they could possible take as a means of improving their difficult situations.
These B grade papers provoke a person emotionally. They demand that you feel something, that you react, that you are thrown into a state of shock or that you’re filled with sorrow. They may allow you to feel for a moment like you appreciate life more, your family or your fellow humans. They might inspire rage at the injustices that are occurring or disgust at what humans are capable of inflicting upon one another. Whichever state you’re compelled to feel when confronted with images such as these, they have been successful in forcing you to feel something and that could be a sufficient enough reason for their existence. We are living in strange times. Technology is pushing us to evolve as more isolated beings while giving the impression that we’re more connected. Sometimes being forced to feel anything can remind us that we’re alive and capable of achieving our dreams.
Everybody is going to shape their own unique perspective on why in some ‘developing’ nations death is a more overtly displayed theme. They will form opinions as to whether not it is a more human or realistic or macabre manera to deal with an inevitable event that will eventually occur in each of our lives. I’m not really sure about any of the theories I’ve developed on this matter and I know that after only eleven months of living in DF I’m in no position come to any conclusions about the population’s attitudes towards dying or the value they place on life. Learning about a new culture and the customs of a country which is not our own can take a person a lifetime and depending on what kind of a person you are, how perceptive, curious and willing you may be to learn about and absorb your new surroundings, one may never feel sure about expressing any solid opinions on anything. Generalising about any nations attitude, even ones own, on themes of varying importance is a task that I believe to be impossible and incorrect. In saying that, I no longer observe those reading these newspapers with confusion and disgust. I don’t edge away from them with an expression of revulsion worn on my face as blatantly as a Lucha Libre mask. Although I do remain to be affected by these images with the same level of emotion as when I arrived I no longer judge the reader to be a sick and twisted creature, instead I just go about my business, thinking in a mixture of Español e Ingles and considering what I might want to eat for whichever meal it is that comes next.
Leaving your home in Mexico City automatically puts you in serious danger of getting hit by a rapidly moving vehicle, or simply a ‘soccer mum’ style, city dwelling 4WD reversing out of the car park of a 7/11. Which is precisely what I witnessed yesterday, when a slight framed, elderly woman got violently knocked to the ground. The man driving emerged with his mobile phone earpiece in place and hair slicked to perfection. Despite having reversed with a lead foot, I was surprised at the impact the large car had on the tiny lady. She fell like a histrionic soccer player angling to get the ref to award his opponent a yellow card, but this was no act. The shaken woman rubbed fiercely at the spot on her head where she’d passionately kissed the very well trodden slice of Mexico City pavement. The man was twice her size, nearly half her age and was mumbling like a defamed adolescent; “lo siento mucho señora, la cosa es que no le vi, I’m so sorry maam, the thing is I didn’t see you”. BULLSHIT! The thing is, he just wasn’t looking! The value of your life, as a pedestrian in Mexico City, is worth little to nothing, you’re invisible or you’re simply a moving target.
Just down the road from my apartment is a huge intersection. Eight lanes of traffic travelling one direction on one side, and eight lanes which intercept this section perpendicularly, plus an additional two lanes dedicated exclusively to the Metro Bus, an elongated bendy bus which traverses the city via two separate routes, north to south and east to west. It has an exclusive lane and runs just as efficiently as the incredible Mexico City underground metro system. At my intersection there are three separate sets of lights and three corresponding signals which alert those on foot when they have been allocated time to cross the street, officially, legally. It gives the pedestrian a time indication, counting down from a number, in this case forty-nine seconds. These signals inform the walker that they have precisely that amount of time until their right to cross the street “safely” has ceased and the right of way is returned to those with motorised vehicles.
This intersection is reliably busy. In a city of 28 million you’re hard pressed to find an intersection that isn’t crawling with people; on foot, in cars, on buses of varying sizes, motorcycles and even the odd pushbike. Every single time I am presented with the scene that unfolds at the changing of the lights I involuntarily mutter a colourful tirade of abuse, which ranges from utter disbelief to the most pure anger. The scene goes a little something like this…
After an extremely generous period of time, the lights change from green to flashing green where they pulse for around five seconds, sending a clear warning to the driver that an orange light will soon follow. The traffic continues to stream through at high speed. The lights eventually switch from flashing green to orange and yet the tide carries on without showing any signs of slowing down. Orange becomes red, yet somehow no one seems to notice. The green man has sprung to life! The pedestrian countdown has commenced! The river of metal flows forth and does not cease for around 10 seconds; you can time it on the pedestrian countdown clock.
49, 48, 47…
Horns from the opposing team of traffic begin to sound, they edge forward, slowly, persistently, with stifled urgency, no one wanting to be out there in front, in the firing line, alone, for there is strength in numbers.
46, 45, 44…
They’re centimetres from colliding now but the red light runners just keep cruising through. I observe this scene with a mixture of astonishment and glee, frustration and nervous excitement. My eyeballs bulge, my chin drops. It’s as if I want them to crash, it would teach them a lesson, but in reality witnessing the scene both aurally and visually completely horrifies me.
43, 42, 41…
The thing that baffles me throughout this scene of absolute un-choreographed chaos is the ability of these humans to act so selfishly. It’s as if 50 different people, in 50 different vehicles, think to themselves, “just me, just little old insignificant me, I’ll sneak through this intersection, even though the light has been red for seconds now. No one will notice if I just quickly duck through.” But each “little insignificant one” of them is having the same thought, at the same moment, and they cruise through, eating into the opposing traffics time of green light, forward motion and taking a hearty chunk out of the pedestrians allocated 49 second cross slot. How can they be so selfish? So inconsiderate? So willing to risk their own lives, the lives of those in their vehicles AND the lives of those they don’t even know who solely desire to reach the other side of the street or their destination, which happens to lie in a different direction? It’s unbelievable, and yet, you can be sure that time and time again, each side continues to inflict it upon the other…
As I stand there anxiously on the rim of the footpath, eager to burst forth and express my right as a pedestrian I contemplate another question; is it possible that the people of Mexico City just value their lives, and the lives of others that they may or may not know, differently? After all, the Mexican perception of death is definitely “different”. I say this for many reasons, one being that among the biggest selling “newspapers” in Mexico City is “El Grafico” and to purchase it will cost you only 3 pesos, which is around 25 cents. Each day this paper, and many others just like it, boldly exhibits on its front cover, and throughout the pages that follow, graphic (albeit occasionally incredibly artistic) photographs of mutilated, bloodied, lifeless human bodies. People who prior to the photograph being captured had mothers and fathers, sons or daughters, pets, a job, whatever! They were living, breathing, walking, talking human beings and then…
CRASH! POP! SLASH! BANG!
And just like that, their red stained, limp bodies, faces and full names are splattered all over this 25 cent “newspaper”, displayed at every street stand, just below the porno mags, at a height which is visible to tall people and short people alike…and just so as we’re all on the same page here, by ‘short people’ I am referring to children!
What effect must this daily sighting of death have on the mentalities of a population? I know that although I find their presence extremely confronting I am consistently drawn to sneaking a glimpse at them. How do the families of these freshly deceased humans cope with seeing their loved one captured in high definition colour print, beneath the words of some tacky headline? What might the desire to purchase these “newspapers” say about the beliefs, the culture, the religion, the brutal past and the future of the inhabitants of this extraordinary city? Is it an indication of the value they place on living and dying? And what, for that matter, might it suggest about their attitude toward driving and their utter lack of consideration for other drivers and commuters alike?!!
For some time, I have found that traditional westernized death ceremonies and the ways in which death is approached, treated and mourned to be impersonal, highly sanitised and largely unsatisfying. For those left behind it does not provide a solid platform to come to terms with their loss or to grieve properly. Some funerals may be better than others, yet a massive, physical separation remains between the living and the dead. A person is not given a great deal of time nor space in order to process the severity of the situation. Or is the “severity of the situation” one of the defining factors here? Is the concept of death and dying less “severe” among some cultures? If dying doesn’t signify ‘the end’ then it’s not like that person has been removed from your life altogether…
In my experience it is unusual, once the funeral and the wake have ended, that events are held, over the days, months or years that follow, as a means of remembering the dead or celebrating the life they led. Although this may sound like a huge generalisation it is a reflection of my personal, and thankfully quite limited, experiences with death. However events of this flavour occur in Mexico every year during the Day of the Dead celebrations, when families and friends of deceased loved ones gather to remember and commemorate the lives they lived. Obviously other forms of religious ceremony and death rituals exist within Australia also. Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu cultures, Indigenous Australians etc, have intricate rituals and ceremonies that they practice when the necessity to deal with a death arises. Is it possible that ceremonies such as these help the family and friends of the dead to make a more realistic evaluation of the situation? To mourn and to properly come to terms with their loss? Perhaps the idea of having lost the person becomes less surreal…
Through our channels of communication in Australia we are rarely, if ever, presented with graphic images of death. What a person looks like or feels like once they have ceased to live remains a mystery. Our ideas are constructed from a distance via the scenes we observe in film, read in books, or hear via retold stories, as well as our vivid imaginations. None of which, in my opinion, would prepare one for the reality of losing someone. But what could possibly prepare you for that?
Reading the daily newspaper in Australia, you might come across a story about the death of a human but generally that’s only if the circumstances under which they lost their life are shocking, unusual, mysterious or a combination of all three. Certainly the actual numbers of people that die in a day are not reported, therefore we’re not really aware of the amount of people who are affected by death daily. And even if we were, would it feel more real? Would it touch us personally in some way? Would it cause us to reflect on how we value our own lives and the lives of those around us? Would it change the way we lived each day or our behaviour toward one another?
During the holiday season there are news reports about ‘road toll’ statistics, numerical comparisons between states, on how many people have been killed on the roads. These figures just don’t seem to have the same impact on me that the brutal, raw, photographic evidence exhibited in the Mexican ‘death papers’ have. I don’t pretend to believe that by being inundated with images of countless dead strangers on a daily basis helps people to come to terms with losing loved ones but I do find the fascination for consuming and reviewing these papers intriguing and I do believe it could be a reflection of some aspect of Mexican life and culture.
The traffic finally begins to slow.
My eyeballs are fixed on our clock counting down the seconds and as the first brave walker steps off the curb, the human behind the wheel in the first lane of traffic appears to be surprised by their presence. I silently give a victorious cheer and massive respect to the courageous pedestrian front line. “YES!! Go you legends, take the power back! Whose streets?! OUR STREETS! Yeh that’s right, you car driving pendejos, it’s OUR turn to cross! See that little green flashing man up there?!? He’s ours! He says! IT’S OUR TURN!!” I imagine myself running across the street, to and fro, taunting the traffic. My very own victory lap. Us pedestrians huddle together as we cross the wide stretch of road. We are a rapidly moving mound of clothed flesh and bones. We take refuge on the other side and I suppress a burning desire to hi five my fellow pedestrian warrior. We survived! You won’t be seeing any of our faces on any front pages, not today pal.
That’s one section tackled, now to battle the next…and then the next.
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.”
“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?”
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?!