Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big city life

Guadalajara...."What are the people like?" I have been asked. To this I say how the heck can I sum up an entire city of people with one generalization? It seems pretty unfair. Yet, generalizations can be useful to provide a sense of things, so I suppose I'll attempt an analysis anyway. The people are quite Catholic, but there also exists a stark aversion to the conservatism that the religion demands. You are just as likely to see someone making the sign on the cross across their face as the bus huffs and puffs past a church as you are to see a couple making out against a storefront window.

The people are also very fun-loving. My taxi drivers, teachers, and other random people have been quick to compliment and eager to converse. I went to a little bar near my house called Purgatorio tonight to play pool. The smiles were instant with everyone--the bartender, the two women I played pool with. And everyone was open to conversation, quick to laugh, and quick to tell me about their favorite music, soccer teams, food, and sites.

The city is supposedly very conservative, according to my teacher. It is known in the state of Jalisco for its conservatism. Yet my host mom would not stop raving about how many homosexuals there are in Guadalajara. Eight in ten are gay in these parts, she says. I laughed hysterically at the idea, told her that statistically one in ten people are gay. called her a liar. That just made her rave more. She said that in Mexico, if you are gay, you move to Guadalajara. I said that must be because they are more accepted here. There must be some climate of acceptance that attracts them here. She said no, most definitely not. That is not why they come. They just come because Guadalajara is the city of gay people. Como intersante, I said.

As far as I know, Guadalajara is a city of begging pedesrians. Getting a bus to stop takes a certain amount of seduction. I'm not quite sure what the trick is, but I don't think many people have figured out how to ensure that their bus stops where it's supposed to. What you're supposed to do, as a bus-goer, is stand at the stop and pay close attention to the numbers on the approaching buses. When your bus approaches, you step close to the street and point one finger in the air in a Micheal Jackson-esque pose, minus the grabbing your croch part. At this point, the bus driver will stop if he (yes, they're all male) feels like it. Sometimes when it gets late, however, and you are particularly desperate for a ride home, the bus drivers don't really feel like stopping. Maybe its all the loud American pop music. It can really make you feel like a bad-ass, listening to it as the bus grumbles and grunts its way through the traffic, and I think maybe that goes to their heads. I've also heard, and this is most likely the real reason, that the bus drivers get paid according to how many people they pick up per day. This means that if there aren't enough people who stick their hands in the air, the time it takes to stop is just not worth it to the driver.

I think that if I don't start seeing the bus system as a fun little game I get to play, I'm going to get pretty frustrated whenever I want to go anywhere. Sunday night I had big plans to go see this literature exhibition. My host mom told me that I could take any bus--they all passed the stop I needed--except one, number 249. Well, I did avoid bus 249, but I also managed to avoid my stop. I wound up taking something like four buses, as I went too far in each and every direction possible, before finaly zeroing in on the Expo. The streets were interestingly deserted, the bus drivers srangely unhelpful in estimating where exactly the Expo was. In the end, I did make it, and I took to my old habit of reading as many titles and book covers as I can soak in. There, amidst the wealth of complex language, I came to grips with my limitations as a Spanish speaker. I felt like a diabetic in a bakery, getting whifs of the sweet treats, but unable to taste them.

In between these outings, I've got some more serious things to consider, such as whether I'll take a job in the city or in a smaller town...fate will tell.

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