Travel Essay: The Strange American

Picture of the Mixed American

I’m not your every day, average American Suzie, you know, with the stereotypical blond hair, blue eyes and money to burn. Meet, me. I’m an adopted Filipino-American. And I didn’t really come to Southern Mexico for fiestas, sight-seeing and tourism -although I ended up doing some of that in the end.  My plan was for teaching and travel writing experience. [And to liberate myself from a rut after graduation.] Moreover, I’ve never traveled out of the country before. I was scared. And I didn’t have much of a plan. Nor a back-up plan. Nor an escape route.

Making Every Travel Mistake in Mexico’s Guide Books

The Yummy Mexican Hamburger

The Yummy Mexican Hamburger

I learn about the travel dos and don’ts through trial and error. It’s about two days in Mexico and I’ve already left my debit card in the ATM machine. Can you believe it? Only me, I think. I got lost, more than once. I dived into the vendor food, hooked on hamberguesas, which you’re normally suppose to warm up to. On one particular nonchalant afternoon, half of my undergarments and clothes were stolen by some girls working at the laundry mat. And I also came here to Mexico without knowing Spanish. The worst of the no-nos.

The Quirks of a Wacky Latin American State of Revolutionaries

Still I kept on my my TESOL certification in Chiapa de Corzo. It’s a small colonial town, known for the

Graffiti in Chiapa de Corzo

Spanish conquests in the 1500’s and its Zapatista rebellion in the 1990’s. The locals are friendly, church is open to anyone, mariachi and Merimba music [a music instrument in the percussion family struck by mallets] blare, doors are wide open to the streets and windows gape to catch the hot breeze. You’ll run across the most talented, artistic murals walking on the streets. Roosters crow at any time, animals are vocal, lizards hang out in mobs, and fireworks go off livid at any hour. The sidewalks have extremely irregular characteristics, some cobble-stone and some looking as if they ruptured from previous earth-quakes. Street speed bumps force everyone to drive slower than actual pedestrians.  Bus drives are wild beyond belief. Toilets don’t have seat covers and people openly piss outside. This place is truly one-of-a-kind.

Meeting the Firecrackers of Colonial Civilization

People on the Streets

I fell in love with the people. The locals here are animated and open. Many living in poverty, who work at local markets and businesses earning pesos from tourists, hustling for cents really, just to make ends meet. They’re like real-life cartoons and so passionate. They have ferocious appetites in conversation and jokes and they want to talk to you. Passing them by without a greeting is considered offensive. The dialogue is humorous, lighthearted and exclamatory. They reflect the Mexican music and the Marimba that could be defined as spastic, with ever-changing rhythms, flowing with emotions, and intricate and so compulsive. They feature double-sided temperaments, with jokes that are hot-tempered but harmless as a droplet of water at the same time. The language is just as willful and bold, spoken with bullet target precision. It’s free-form, just like the graffiti here. I’m in awe really.

The Spirit of Mexico Leaks in Cracks of My Exterior

After making this spontaneous leap from the U.S. Mother Ship to this Southern Mexican Zoo, I’m still me at the end of

Overlook Chiapa de Corzo

the day. From this risk I know I’ve changed . I can’t deny the metamorphoses, feeling like I’m being cracked open by a cosmic can opener, as the passionate spirit of Mexico leaks into my shy, conservative yet artistic withstood. The new challenge awakens international awareness and an urge to venture out and explore more than ever.

A New Beginning to a Fearless Way of Life

Who knew such a little, Spanish colonial town could affect me so much. Some days I climb the church tower to spy on the city from above. Other days, I’m sitting on the porch of my hoemstay that overlooks the Grajalva River. I don’t know where I’ll go after TESOL certification, but I think I’ll enjoy this experience while I’m here. A phrase in one of my Spanish booklets on my lap sets the newest philosophy that encourages me onward into this adventure: Amor es vivir, that means, “to love is to live.”