Week 1 in Guadalajara
It has been just over one week since arriving in Guadalajara and I’m absolutely loving it. There are so many things that are so different than anything I’ve seen before and I’m loving taking everything in, both the uncomfortable unknown and the familiar. Let’s save the best for last and talk about some of the things I have struggled with during week 1.
After about two days of being in Mexico, I realized that I was really going to struggle with Spanish and so I decided to enroll in a Spanish language school. Thursday was my first full day so I know I’m just beginning, but damn. It is really hard to keep up with strangers talking really fast. In class, I can follow along pretty consistently, a lot of vocab lookup but I know that’s something I will have to do for a long time. I have a much harder time with actually speaking and responding. I know the congugations and I know the tenses. Deciding in a split second not only which word to choose but also which tense…….my brain just goes “aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhggggggg……” But that’s why I’m taking the long classes right?
I am also struggling with getting enough vegetables in my diet and I’m eating WAY more sugar than I’m used to. Friday night I just ate a carrot raw because after going over what I had eaten all day, the list consisted of corn tortilla/corn masa, cheese, avocado, an egg, and beans (I had a sope con requeson y aguacate por desayuno and chilaquiles con queso, un huevo, y frijoles por almuerzo. Beyond delicious, but a girl needs her veggies too. I was also very spoiled in LA having access to water fountains pretty much everywhere I went. I fill up my water bottle in the morning before leaving the house and there is a large water cooler at my language school where I can refill, but if I go out walking around the town for a few hours – which is something I have been doing and want to keep doing – I have to be very aware of how much water I have and where I can buy another bottle. Also, ordering water at a restaurant is not really a thing. Agua fresca and soda is way more common at restaurants than water and I’m so used to ordering water when I go out both to save money and because I don’t need to drink my sugar. But water bottles are super cheap here because water from the tap is not good so it’s not a huge issue, it’s just a matter of adjusting habits while I’m here. It was also interesting figuring out the public bathroom situation. They’re public, but you have to pay for them. People set up tables outside the restroom doors, you pay 5 pesos and then they give you toilet paper. They are always very clean, but I also have yet to go into one where the toilets have toilet seats. A little trick I have realized is to go to a museum. They have all been free to enter and they have clean, free bathrooms with seats on the toilets.
Now let’s talk about all the things that I am loving…..there’s a lot so get ready. Enrolling in the language school was such a good decision and I’m so glad that I did it. I’m taking classes at Guadalajara Language Center in Tlaquepaque which is like a suburb little Pueblo of Guadalajara. It is an adorable place that I probably never would have discovered had I not found this school. I’ve taken two full days of classes so far and meeting all the other individuals in the school has been so fun. Hearing their stories about why they are here now, what they did in their past life, listening to life stories. They come from all over the US and Canada and span a large age range and it’s been so great getting to meet all of them. The school organizes or helps facilitate group activities as well so it’s been really nice having a group to do things with if I want.
I’ve been trying to go to a different place for every meal that I eat…..but I have definitely eaten chilaquiles everyday this week. Chilaquiles for life. I don’t think I have had a bad meal yet, but the food in the mercados is by far the best, the quickest, and the cheapest. On Friday, I went into the Mercado Juarez in Tlaquepaque for lunch and randomly picked a place. Mercados are super intimidating especially when you don’t speak Spanish well. There are lots of people and it’s loud. The workers at the restaurant food stalls are always hustling to serve the people at their counters (in a very small space) and there is a person at each restaurant dedicated to yelling the options at you as you walk by. This was the third mercado I have been to in Guadalajara but the first time I was by myself in a mercado and it was intense.
I almost walked out. But I was hungry and didn’t want to spend a lot of money so I sucked it up. I was near the back corner of the mercado where it was a bit quieter but next to a stall who’s counter was pretty full. My motto has been “if it’s busy, it must be good.” I asked a lady behind the counter if the chilaquiles came with beans (in Spanish) and they did so I ordered them and sat down. Immediately, the guy sitting next to me leaned over and said in English “you picked a good place. Be careful of the salsa though, it’s very spicy. I can’t even eat it.” I laughed. For many reasons. First off, that fact that I only said like 5 words in Spanish and this guy knew I was an English speaker…..maybe it was my little backpack or the fact that I was alone that screamed tourist. Or maybe I just sound so blatantly American even saying foods in Spanish I know how to say super well. I also laughed out of relief. This dude could speak English, and he spoke it well. We talked throughout lunch as we each ate our respective meals. He had a lot of good things to say about Mexico City (which is where I’m going next). We kept switching back and forth between Spanish and English and I’m not gonna lie – I had no idea what he was saying at certain points. But there were other times where I did, so small victories. Hopefully conversations with strangers at mercado meals keep happening because I love hearing people’s stories.
I also found a cafe called La Borra del Cafe near the school that serves matcha lattes and I was on cloud nine. The chilaquiles there were not great. Too much sauce and the chips got soggy very fast. But my té matcha, frío en las rocas con leche de soya was soooooo delicious. I’ve gone there three times this week. They also have great WiFi and an amazing rooftop terrace with a plant wall where I can see the tops of the two nearby churches. It’s a very nice place if I want to quietly sit somewhere out of the sun. I took my watercolor kit (finally remembered to put it in my bag) there on Saturday evening and did my first watercolor painting of one of the plants. Needless to say, I’ll be going back more these next two weeks.
I’ve been staying in Zapopan with my mom’s cousin which is pretty far from Tlaquepaque and the school so I’ve been Ubering everyday. It ends up being about $10 per day but it’s still cheaper than paying for a place in Tlaquepaque. And I kind of like that it makes me see different parts of the city that I probably wouldn’t be seeing otherwise. Driving (being a passenger really) in Guadalajara has been hilarious. Motorcycles regularly have way more people than should be on them – the most I’ve seen so far is 6. People, including infants, are in the back of trucks. Sometimes it seems like there aren’t actually lanes and everyone is just squeezing their car into where ever they can on the road. The crosswalk system is interesting as well. Some places have crosswalk signals where the little person starts to run faster and faster as the time runs out, while other places you just kind of look and go whenever you won’t get hit by oncoming traffic. I love seeing the neighborhoods during these drives. The style of houses is beautiful. Some people at my language school liken them to living in cages because they have large gates separating the sidewalk from the patio/driveway of the house and the front door is further inside the gate. I personally like the way it looks and being inside is really nice as well. At my mom’s godparents place, it was so soothing having the windows open at night with the cool breeze. Yeah, you hear the cars driving by as well but everywhere I have been has been calm at night. A lot of places have nice patios or courtyards of some sort. I’ve always loved the Spanish style homes in Southern California and these houses I’m seeing are just adding on to all the ideas I have for my future house.