I eased into work slowly, with a few days to adjust and enjoy Colima. I was highly disappointed to find out that the famous Volcano here only produces lava in the winters, although I imagine my mother is pleased by this discovery. It does, however, randomly emit puffs of smoke throughout the day, and its snow-covered point is a spectacle in a place as hot (let me really stress how hot it is here) as Colima. It hasn't fully erupted in about ten years; earthquakes, while less exciting, are much more common here. The last major quake was in 2003, and it was breaking news (no pun intended) when many of the walls in older houses nearby crumbled to reveal stashes of gold.
On Wednesday I accompanied Beto to Tortilleria for a meeting, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. "Eria” or is a suffix here that can be used to denote a factory town, and many villages are named after the factory around which they have grown. In Tortilleria, they produce tortillas, in Queseria, they produce cheese, etc. It is amazing how quickly the landscape can shift here. It took less than 30 minutes for the steep mountains around Casa Amiga to flatten into forests of coconut trees. After Beto's meeting, we ate at an ocean-side restaurant with its own swimming pool, something apparently common in touristy areas. He asked me if there was anything about Mexico that surprised me. I told him that before arriving, I had been unsure whether to expect things to be similar to the United States, or to look like pictures I'd seen of Central America. In a way, both are true. Mexico City could have been a Spanish-speaking region of Los Angeles, but when we first drove through the rural areas here on the west coast I felt like I'd opted to spend my summer on another planet. This is less the case in Colima's (few) rich areas, where the big houses look much more like America's big houses than the housing projects here look like America's housing projects. It reminded me of Tolstoy's sentiment that “happy families are all alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The more socioeconomic variety I witness here, the more strongly I feel that wealth seems all alike, but that there are infinite manifestations of poverty. Beto, who has visited the United States once, agreed with me. I also told him that I was struck by the tendency of such modest houses, which usually lack electricity and running water, to have such elegant decorations on their outsides. Many of the houses here have makeshift walls that look like patchwork quilts of scrap metal, but as often as not they're adorned with ornate mosaics. Similarly beautiful tiles are randomly embedded in the sidewalks here, too. Now that I've realized this, I tend to walk a little more slowly past unassuming places, in hopes of sighting whatever might be hidden there. I think it's good for me.