The day before I was a desperate housewife, but I accomplished: order in my room, washing, creating my blog, empyting garbage in the communal bin, leaving the house for my first walk alone along the motorway, sitting to dream by the pool, and starting to read ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Ruben – I even made notes (too much too soon?).
This day I decide to extend myself by walking downtown. In preparation, I cook and eat a two course brunch (tri- fruit salad (banana, pear and guava) with prune yogurt, and three tostadas de maiz with beans and panela cheese, toasted. I research a route downtown on google maps. I talk to my sister on Skype. I fold my clothes. I write an email. Then it is time to go on my adventure, 5 km to downtown.
A nice gent outside the PeMex I can see from the complex gate gives me my first direction. Downtown? ‘Lejos’ (far away) ‘Si, si’, I grin. ‘Camino’ (I thought this meant ‘I walk’, but apparently it means ‘road’).
The sun is searing, but the light is hazy. My impression is of maintenance and care within a domain, but outside, of disrepair. I get lost in some back streets half way, and the road might be dusty and broken, but in the low dark windows a bed would be fastidiously made and the surfaces spare of dust. A university garden is green and swept, but the median strip before it is dry and weedy.
The directions I’d copied down from google maps require 24 or 34 turns, depending on which route I choose and the streets don’t seem to be marked with the names I have written, so I begin to take a liking to asking for directions in poor Spanish. The only person as interested as my Pemex gent is a smiley, maternal lady outside a school who points me in the right direction, and drives up behind me a few minutes later indicating I should get in to make my journey ‘rapido’. I think Bill would have got in, but I don’t think Bill’s ever written a book about Mexico before. ‘Quiero caminar’ I smile gamely, ‘muchas gracias’. I didn’t want to offend her, she seemed nice, it probably would have been ok.
Eventually after several more needy exchanges in poor Spanish (although it helps to remove sunglasses and smile first), I arrive downtown. In a deserted bookstore a young man removing books from boxes gives me a brochure, which allows me to find the tourist information centre, and a map of the greater district, which ensures I can get home without getting lost again.
To celebrate, I have at a restaurant a quesadilla con queso y verde (with cheese and green salsa), and a ‘natural agua’ of strawberry, coconut and something else. The thing I love most about food in Mexico is the texture of corn tortillas, soft and granular at the same time, substantial but not heavy or thick seeming like wheat, shape-holding in liquid. The waiter brings a wheel of salsas and I try them all.
By this time it is twilight and my feet are sore. I set off, conscious of being tall and odd looking, thinking about my feet and the present moment. But I am straining for home and ready to lie down.