Hmmm, I think my attempts not to be too slushy ended in people thinking I’m dreadfully unhappy here. Not so. Also mentioned wanting to go home, by which I actually meant to my little house on Río Lerma, to listen to the radio swing between 80’s classics, unidentifiable Mexican music and The Beatles and read strange American books, lent to me by a friendly American in my Spanish class. They refer to Africa as a country, and rely on a knowledge of the geography of the United States, but since the library here is rather less stocked than I thought it would be (Ulysses in Spanish anyone?), and I unloaded all my books on Nora in Costa Rica, I’m rather dependent on Beth’s goodwill and library.
This weekend was lovely, knackering and rather impressive, and seemed to be a lesson in not being so lazy, not going home too early.
Having been a student for the last few years, the daily rise and shine for leaving the house at 8.30am has been rather difficult, and over the last couple of weeks, my attempts to get myself and the correct paperwork to immigration have been constantly thwarted by the need for more photocopies, the life of the coordinator here, Lupita, which seems full of events that prevent her taking me to immigration. I have suggested I’ll go alone (I’ve done it before. I took the list of paperwork we were told we needed in Mexico City. The muchacho at the desk took great pleasure in snorting derisively at the small amount of paper, ‘casi nunca’, and gave me a much longer one with which to return). However, the university seem to want me to go with someone, namely Lupita, in case there is a problem, or something needs explaining. This is a little ironic, since I find her more difficult to understand than almost anyone else I’ve met. She says a lot and quickly, so that I’ve found myself in the past flailing – unable to work out even if she wants me to follow her to a class or stay where I am.
Friday morning felt like the last straw. Friday is my day off, designed so I can go on lots of weekend trips away. I have been trying for a couple of weeks to get to immigration, and Friday was definitely meant to be it. I could have done with a lie-in, washing clothes, boring, mundane, pottering alone time, which I’m rather short of since Amandine moved in (no offense to her, she’s very nice). However, the promise of a car trip to immigration was just too tempting and dragged my carcass out of bed to make it into Uni for 9am as usual. Needless to say I wasn’t best pleased to learn that some event or other had unfolded, and I wouldn’t be going to immigration. If it wasn’t for cake and orange juice in my Spanish lesson, I think I would have wept with frustration. I was not in a good mood. It was lucky they only mentioned the possibility of me teaching Lupita’s one and a half hour class on my day off in passing, or my British roots would have been forgotten, and I might have, God forbid, made a scene.
But the weekend changed all that. Friday afternoon was spent in the cool quiet of MARCO, the modern art gallery, in a Frieda Kahlo exhibition. It was absolutely fantastic. How do you describe an art exhibition? Not only did I fall in love with some of her paintings, but her old letters and postcards had been sealed in plastic, hung from the ceiling so that you could move among them and read. There’s nothing I love more than old letters, and the reading equivalent of eavesdropping. Lovely jubbly.
On Saturday, I took an unexpected road trip. Went to the Grutas of Garcia - a cave system. (And Anna, after watching The Descent, I’m very proud I managed to stay calm). Yet again highly impressive, and indescribable. One of the best things about it, was the way in which some chap had gone around trying to shapes in the rock, and named them. As we walked around the system, every so often, there would be a neon arrow and title, lit up and gaudy, telling you what that piece of cave looked like. There was a donkey, that looked sort of like a donkey, a ‘finger of death’, which looked slightly like a finger, although more like a long piece of rock, and of course Jesus and Mary, neither of which looked anything like them. In fact, the strangest thing was, that right next to what they suggested was the suffering face of Jesus, was a shape that looked very much like a man on a cross. But they didn’t choose that. Strange and mysterious.
After the Grutas and a big lunch, we (Becky, Amandine, Amy & Tony) drove across some amazing countryside, to find some hot springs (aguas termales). Becky had seen reference to them in a leaflet from the tourist office, that said they were close to the Grutas. We started on one of those drives that unfolds further and further, asking every now and again for directions from people on the roadside. The road was curved round, through plains surrounded by mountains. I am in the land of the Western, although with more vegetation and less cacti. I was perfectly content – incredible scenery, a road trip, music, people, all of the above. This was only bettered on the way back, by going through a ‘servi-car’, or Mexican drive thru, my new favourite thing – it looks likes a barn or a warehouse with a road through, and at one side sits a person, waiting to sell you crisps, water, drinks, or, as we bought, cold beer. On the way home, we had car, music, beer, people, speeding through a clear road through the mountains.
Before that, however, we did finally make it the hot springs. I had imagined them, open-aired, very natural, bubbling out of rocks. What we actually found was an isolated and luxurious hotel. If the writer from The Shining ever wants to write a sequel, it would be the perfect place. We paid about 150 pesos, about 7 pounds to go in, which is a lot, but it was definitely worth it. In a room covered in beautiful tiles, between arches, there was an pool of water, of about 40-45 degrees – the temperature of a hot bath – so that with your feet it feels a little too hot, but to swim in it was gorgeous. Felt rather roman lying at the side of the pool, if only there had been a servant to feed me grapes. Well, nowt’s perfect. The other slight problem with the baths was the strong smell of sulphur they gave off, which somewhat stuck to the skin, and also something in the water reacted with any silver jewellery, turning it a shade of blackish, brackish bronze. I could have stayed there all day, swimming in the hot water and showering in the warm, reading and snoozing gently at the side of the pool.
P.S - more on the weekend later, and have found my new cafe 1001, although it's a little more chilled.