Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS

Today, I got up early after a much deserved 8 hours of sleep. I woke to an overwhelming smell, so powerful I cannot sleep. It smells like the fruitish dessert I ate my first night here. The heater only counteracted the drafts a little last night. The blankets are fuzzy with overuse, and the fuzziness feel like dirt to me.

The room has yellow and dark orange stucco on the walls like a pumpkin. The doors are heavy wood, stained dark. A grey rug. The phone is off-white and it's a rotary phone! I haven't used one of those in perhaps 15 years! (Well, maybe occasionally.)

Birds are cheeping outside. They sound like the squeak of a chair against the floor. The pitch goes down a bit and swoops all the way up. "erk erk" then a deeper "erk erk".

At 6:30 I heard the distant clank clank of the church bell. Then at 7am a new bell rings.. some other church? A more melodic clanking.

I leave at 11am, so I have some time to kill, and unfortunately no tour guide. Children are selling goods in the main square as usual. They use a whining, pleading voice with a phony inflection. They really ham it up.

There's a mostly dark grey pigeon here, touching its beak to the pavement and moving in sudden, jabbing motions. I can smell my suntan lotion, which I've been diligently putting on every day. Only minor problems with sunburn, in areas where I've missed putting the lotion on. The cool is lifting off the town as the sun edges its way over the buildings.

Even at 8:30 the plaza is already going in a small way. A student walks through with backpack, sweater, black hair past her shoulders and spread wide. She holds herself confidently and strides quickly. A clean white sweater, hair well-cared for, and just a little wavy. From her skin color, she's a coleto, but clearly she is well-off -- probably a tourist.

There are tourists here, dressed as though to clash with the environment. Sneakers, backpacks, jeans. One woman has a jacket wrapped around her waist and a huge white barrette. A tall coleto in a leather jacket & dress slacks & shoes wears sunglasses.

An Indian woman wears a baby on her back, in a pouch slung over her left shoulder. She has a colorful top blouse, embroidered with flowers and stripes. Her hair is one long braid. She wears a simple black skirt, pure black, just below her knee, and sandals.

There's a brown Mexican student & his white girlfriend. They walk through the square looking lost. After only a couple of days, I already feel like I know this place. I'm secure and comfortable and the area doesn't frighten me now -- at least, not during the day.

There's a young man with a shabby black t-shirt and dress pants. A conflict -- his last clean clothing? White and obviously a tourist. He has two extra bags with him: garbage bags with rugs and dirty clothes tossed together. (Wait, that's me!)

"Securidad Privada" a private security guard with a white shirt and red pockets. Brown pants & a night stick, a brown cap, leans against a door. There's a police car, dark blue, with lights on the top. It says "Estada de Chiapas", "Direccion de Seguridad Publica". All that text is in a yellow logo with sun rays streaming out of it, and a four-digit number in yellow.

Because I can't find a tour guide, and have some time to kill, I walk downhill to the bus station. As I start getting out of the main area of 10 blocks or so, things become more and more shabby. There's dirt and sand on the sidewalk. I see the same big black plastic containers I'm told hold purified water delivered by truck.

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