I woke up from my dramamine-induced sleep and looked out the window only to realize we hadn't yet left the United States; the first thing I saw was the Wal-Mart logo. I soon found out that I was wrong. The flight was indeed almost over, and the people of Mexico City love Wal-Mart. This was the first of several things I would see that I was surprised to recognize. Just like in New York, the incessant Starbucks sightings never ceased to amaze me. Of course, my favorite java chip frappucino is made with blended ice, so it's off limits here where I have been told not to trust ice that i can't confirm is made with bottled water.
Other things weren't so similar. In Chapultepec, a crowded green area which has parts just like central park but is also home to several famous museums, I came across a vendor selling fake feces. They were impeccably realistic, sans odor. I'm still not sure to whom he was marketing. Ivan and Amiliano, my newfound Mexican friends, seemed unfazed.
I met Ivan at breakfast in La Casa de Los Amigos, a Quaker service organization that put me up for the weekend. A recent divorcee, he was en route to pick up his three-year-old son from daycare and spend his allotted Saturday with him. When I told him where I was headed, he offered to escort me. As he was anxious to practice his English but slow to understand mine, we each spoke in the other's native language. I was relieved when little Amiliano joined us, as his linguistic skills in Spanish were much more on par with my own. I dodged Ivan's earnest questions regarding how Americans perceive Mexico and its people in favor of more politically neutral albeit interesting topics such as how the brandname on Amiliano's shoes – hush puppies – is also a regional food in the United States.
After a few frustrating minutes of trying to explain exactly what a hush puppy is, Ivan proclaimed that he understood. “Like a bagel.” I gave up then, but at least I learned the word for dough today. La masa.
We payed to ride a paddle boat in a small pond for which chapultepec is famous. I thought at first that Ivan was trying to tell me that he'd once had class on a boat, but eventually realized that he was explaining how the pond was the quintessential destination for high school students in the city who cut class. As Ivan is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Computer Science at the local university (public universities are very academically prestigious in Mexico), it seems unlikely that he spent many of his days feeding the pelicans in Chapultepec. Amiliano and I got a joint lesson from Ivan in the spanish names for various water birds. He outperformed me, but I redeemed myself later that afternoon in the Chapultepec zoo, when we reviewed the noises that animals make. So overall, a good day.