Having become a hermit after Christmas, I finally ventured out on January 7th to replenish my food supplies. I really didn’t feel like going out. I was so much in hermit mode that I had not even bother gone out to enjoy the New Year’s festivities. I didn’t even go to the roof. All I did was stick my head out the front door and watch a few rockets going off, hoping that they didn’t light the neighborhood on fire. I was feeling very out of sorts, thinking about the high hopes I had for the New Year in December 2016, and comparing it to how badly things had gone in the past 24 months.
Despite my sour attitude toward Guanajuato and the new year, I had a nice time holding up in my pretty little apartment, playing games on my iPad and watching old TV shows on the same devices. Sometimes all I want to do is be a hermit. I feel a little guilty about it occasionally, thinking that I should be acting more like a tourist here. I have to remind myself that it is a lot cheaper to be a hermit and an nomad than it was being a hermit in Honolulu.
The only thing that happened interesting while I was hold up, was that the young woman up stairs moved out after having been here for four months, leaving me with her leftover groceries. She was heading to Ecuador and didn’t know about their using the US dollar. I gave her the ones I had so she would have some to tide her over until she found an ATM. A few days later I was waiting for the son of the apartment’s owner to come and set up the TV. When he showed up he was also meeting the new couple who was moving in upstairs. Since I was already waiting for the young man, I was looking out my door when they arrived. We had a nice talk. They had just come from Canada, and will be here for two months.
You might wonder how someone like me, who loves to walk, and walk, and walk, can stand to hold up in a small apartment for days on end without going out. I have learned how to walk in very small spaces. It started in my condo in Honolulu, when the weather was too wet for biking or walking. I would open all the doors in my place, which would let me walk through the bathrooms and make a circle through the living room, hall, and bedrooms. Though my place in Cuenca was smaller, I was still pace the length of the place when I needed to walk. My apartment here is smaller still, and I often find myself walking in circles around the dining table, but that works.
I am not sure how the apple watch calculates exercise minutes, but for me, I have to walk an hour or more vigorously to get in 30 minutes of exercise. I was finding it aggravating that I couldn’t walk as fast as I liked on the crowded sidewalks around town. Yesterday I was thinking about my indoor walking and realized that I didn’t have to walk fast outside to get my exercise in. I could just slow down and go with the flow as I walked around town, and at the end of the day, if I didn’t get enough exercise in, I could walk around my place until my watch gave me credit for meeting my day’s goal.
Knowing that I didn’t have to reach all my goals out and about, I headed out yesterday making a concerted attempt to slow down. No such luck. I got home with my groceries well aware that I had dashed to the Mega market and back in a near record speed.
When I was at the market, I was still feeling a little out of sorts and made it home without any local food. Since the supermarket here is not much different from the typical US supermarket, I found myself buying only comfort food. Part of my comfort food would be recognizable to most, but the rest is just an odd taste I picked up in college. When I am feeling put out about anything, I like to get a six pack of beer and drink it with anchovy canapes. I made the canapes with saltine crackers, smeared with cream cheese, topped with one third part of an anchovy filet.
Today, I was determined to go out and enjoy the town for what it is, and to stop comparing it to Honolulu or Cuenca. I left the apartment hours earlier than I normally do, to see if perhaps the crowds are thinner before lunch. The crowds were different. Maybe there were fewer people, but the sidewalks were just as congested because people were lined up to buy food from various hot food vendors. I noted that there were many more food vendors than there are later in the day. Maybe the street vendors service people going to work more than people on lunch breaks.
In spite of my vow to reduce my speed, I found myself charging down the sidewalk, when I saw a woman selling cups of something from a large stew pot. I remembered that I really had nowhere I had to be and that I was supposed to be enjoying myself on my walk.
I dodged over to her and asked, “Que es eso?”, pointing into the pot.
“Es Champurrado,” she answered. “Es maiz y chocolate.”
“Cuánto cuesta?” I inquired.
“Son diez pesos, pero no hace calor!” she informed me with a worried look.
I looked into the pot, thinking that the rich frothy brown looked okay to me.
She must have figured out what I was thinking and said, “Hace frío.”
Getting her drift, I placed a hand on the pot and felt that it was still lukewarm, and assured her it was fine.
I gave her 10 pesos in exchange for a nice sized cup and headed to find a place to sit and enjoy it. Normally I would have kept walking, drinking, as I dodged through the crowd. This time I wandered up a small side street and was pleased to find a tiny plaza with three benches.
Now when all this started, I had been talking to my ex via Viber, using my wireless earbuds. He is used to me talking to people on the street and in stores, and just stops talking and waits for me to let him know I am back with him. This time when I said, I was back, he told me that my spanish seemed to be getting better. I guess it is.
The drink was thick and rich. I was helping my ex set up his new iPad, while I sat enjoying the drink. It was a residential area not very far off the main street. The few people walking past nodded and smiled at me, saying, “Buenos días.” It seems to me that here, if no more than two people encounter no more than two people, greetings are exchanged. Any more people and every one passes with no more than an occasional smile.
After I finished my drink and lost connection to my ex, I texted him to look up what he needed on the internet and told him I would be back in touch when I got home. I wasn’t sure were the street behind the little plaza lead to. I was afraid that it would just go deeper into to the residential area, so I doubled back to main road, and made another attempt to slow down and go with the flow. I had mixed results.
My goal that day was to take the funicular up to the statue of El Pipila, which stands high above Guanajuato. It commemorates the city’s hero, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro. His actions in the first victory of the Mexican War for independence earned his place as a folk hero. I read that there was a funicular, which takes you up to the statue, but that the walk down as easy.
After walking across town, I arrived at the ticket booth to get my ticket for the funicular. No one was at the ticket office, but there was a sign indicating that someone would return soon. A lady mopping the floor nearby. I stepped out onto the street indicating that she could continue mopping the tiny space while I waited. I was gazing off into space when she called me back pointing at the ticket window. I remembered to ask for a one way ticket … I only had a 500 peso note, which the ticket lady could not break. I dug around in my purse and found several coins to make up the fare of 25 pesos.
The wait was short, and the ride up was rather fun. At the top I walked out to the street before doubling back to examine the statue. The road behind the state was swamped in tacky tourist joints. It reminded me of scenes of Mexican markets, which I had seen in movies and TV shows. It was nothing like the places I had wandered through in the city. Lucky the vendors were kept out of the monument area itself.
I circled around the statue taking several photos from various angles. In front of the statue is a wide open terraced area with plenty of space to wonder around. I enjoyed looking out over the city, and getting a close up look at the monument.
I spoke at some length to a couple from Australia, who were visiting with their adult kids. As I was moving away from them, a young couple from Guadalajara asked me to take their photo. I took several and had them check to see it they were good. Then they asked me to take some with their phone held up high, so that I got more of the city behind them. They were very pleased, and we exchanged a few pleasantries before I moved on.
Once I was tired of looking at the city, I found what looked like the way down. I headed that way, walking very carefully because of the slope and the randomly placed steps, which broke up the slope from time to time. Then I saw cats. I really love cats, but the next thing I realized was that the cats had been using the walk as a litter pan. Since the walk was stone and there was nothing to cover with, I suspect the cats don’t care for the crowds of tourist passing by all the time.
As I was making my way down I saw some people making the walk up. (I might try that next time.) I pointed at the droppings that littered the area where they were heading and said, “Cuidado, los gatos.” They smiled and indicated that they understood. I hope they did. When I got home I looked it up and saw that I should have said, “Cuidado mierda de gato.”
As I continued on, each time I came to a bifurcation, I took the one that seemed to angle down more than the other. Eventually I came to a fork where each side had the same grade. Two girls had been walking a few meters behind me. I had gathered that they were locals, so I turned and asked, “Donde esta el centro?” pointing from one to the other alley. The pointed to the one on the left. They went to the right, and I soon found myself at the Plaza de Los Angeles.
I stopped at bank next to the Plaza, and said to the guard in front, “Perdón señor, me gusta dinero más pequeños,” and showed him the 500 peso note. (I know, I should have said, “Perdóneme señor, me gustaría billetes más pequeños.”) He took my 500 peso note and went to a teller to change it. He was so nice, I folded the money and put it away without counting it. I thought that was the best way I could thank him for going out of his way to help. Of course, I counted it once I was out of his sight.
Now that I was armed with small bills, I could go get something to eat. On my way to the ticket office I had seen an ice cream store that had been recommended by another blogger. Once I got back into Centro I found my way back to where I had seen it.
The it was a very small shop, with the door blocked by the serving counter, so you have to stand on the sidewalk to order your ice cream. The young woman manning the shop seemed to be put out that I disturbed her texting to order something. She would fit in well in the US.
I bought a cup of marzipan ice cream, which was 25 pesos for medio grande size. The shop had a shelf where the various size cups were displayed. The medio grande seemed to be the right size. After she handed me the cup and took my money, I realized that the shelf had a deep lip on it, making me think the cup was much smaller than it was.
Very near to the ice cream shop was a small park, that was so small its name didn’t show up on the map. It was my intention to sit there and enjoy my treat, but that park smelt of mierda de perro. I continued on down the street an soon found another larger park, Jdn. de la Unión.
Second park was nice. I found a bench near the empty band stand and sat listening to Rick Steves podcast. enjoyed the trees, which were cut hedge style to make a continuous box at the top. Looking up from where I sat, I saw the statue of El Pipila from below.
My next stop was at the Universidad de Guanajuato Steps. As I made my way toward my goal, I realized that the ice cream shop was a chain. I could have gone straight towards the Steps and passed several. When I got to the steps I climbed to the top, since I wanted to take some photos from on high. As I made my way up, I saw a man who was going up and down the steps for exercise. There was also a young boy who seemed to be dashing up and down for the fun of it, basically running laps around his mother and sister.
Feeling that I had had enough walking for one day I walked home. On a hunch I cut through on a street I hadn’t walked before and found that it led to the small plaza where I had sate that morning drinking and talking to my ex.