Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mexico Nowadays a Danger to Travelers

I spent three summers studying in Mexico in the 1950's, when the country was safe enough for me to travel via Trailways bus to the Texas border of Laredo, waiting an hour in a messy bus station, relying on my American-taught Spanish to get me on the Monterrey-bound and later the Mexico City-bound buses. I never gave a thought of danger those summers. Now with trouble exploding in Mexico, I'm glad my students were introduced to the colorful, exciting, historical Mexico in their teen lives that today is difficult to capture as drugs endanger travelers.

I was to repeat that trip several more times for myself, then when I became a teacher of Spanish, knowing the ropes of getting around the country from one point to another, I planned trips for my students. I knew the customs, and I pushed those customs down the throats of my passengers, including the length of the skirts of the female students. The acceptable length in Mexico was below the knee, and we Americans were just beginning to raise the bar to above the knee. Also, no shorts. And no flirting. Now try to convince American girls they didn't flirt! I told them dating Mexican boys was NOT the object of our trip. Well, who listens to an old fogey of a school teacher? That's another story.

On one trip to Mexico City, I expressed to the boys and girls not to get caught with a shadow. There were guys who'd follow them around hoping to be included in meals, day trips, anything where the Mexican didn't have to pay. We weren't in the Capitol 24 hours before I saw a group of my guys with one Mexican youth their age insisting on taking them places "the teacher would never tell you about." He spoke English well and an invitation to go to the red light district of D. F. were enough to convince the students to follow this guy. By the next day I sat the students down and explained that when they least expected it, they would be paying this guy's meal ticket. They smiled, acted like they knew better than I, and proceeded to continue this "friendship."

The seventh and last morning the male students rushed in anxious to sit with us and tell us their latest experience. I never was so relieved to hear the words "You were right, Mrs. N, he seemed never to have any money when we were ready to eat!" Then the Mexican came in, sat down with them, ordered his breakfast and ate his last meal with them. The boys remained cool, laughing with their visitor. The students got up, shook hands in farewell to their "friend" and left. I remained behind to witness the ending of this story. When the Mexican finished his breakfast, he started out the door only to be stopped and asked to pay his bill. He tried to explain that his "friends" had paid, but he got nowhere. The manager took him somewhere out of sight.

You can bet I had the best reputation for being strait-laced about behavior that helped my future Mexico excursions. My trips from the 1950's to 1990's were successful giving beautiful memories for the students. From the first trip of 8 students traveling in two cars driven by moms to the bus loads of 36-40, there was never a situation that couldn't be handled. However, I know some activities occurred without my knowing it (thank goodness!) and I'd love to hear from those students who are now in their mid-fifties in age tell me what they did those Mexican nights that I never knew about.

These photos are from my last two Yucatan trips where the students were few but delightful. By this time we were using air flights to allow for more time for sightseeing.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

We Have Wild Animals, Too

After reading several blogs from folks who live in the East, the authors write much about the animals they see in the woods. Our yard, our neighborhood, our small town are backed by woods and water--and the deer, rabbits, squirrels and probably a few other wild things roam around freely. There's a story that the neighborhood has a wildcat that wanders from one side of the area to the other. Few have seen it. It's not uncommon to come home late nights and find our car headlights startling four grown deer in the back yard. We talk next morning to neighbors who can swear to the number seen crossing the street early that morning.

Madison is gobbling up nature. Because our neighborhood borders the famed Natchez Trace Parkway, where woods are seen on both sides of the road, we can count on a continuous parade of large deer in the future.

There's always an inner thrill to arrive home and see these beautiful beasts visiting--and the thrill disapates when we see our outside plants are . . . no more.