Age Has Its Perks

 

Ron and I are now officially card-carrying old people in Mexico. This past week we went and got INAPAM cards, or as Ron calls them, Jerry Wright savings cards. INAPAM cards are for legal residents of Mexico who are 60 or older. They give the cardholder all kinds of discounts on things from museum tickets to metro fares. The Wrights got theirs several months ago, and Jerry has been crowing about all the savings they’ve been getting. For them, the process was a bit of a hassle, but we learned from their experience and for us it went quite smoothly. We arrived at the INAPAM office with our ID and a form documenting our residence. (INAPAM stands for Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultas Mayores, which basically means the national department for old people.) Although online it says you will need to have two photos of a particular size and copies of the documents we brought, we knew from the Wrights not to bother getting those things ahead. In front of the INAPAM building was a woman with a little business set up to take care of all of that. She had a computer, a scanner, a printer, a paper cutter, and a laminator. My favorite part was how she turned her stand into a photography studio. A white cloth was tucked up into the frame of the umbrella covering her stand. For our photos, she pulled on the cloth, and it dropped down making a white background for us to stand in front of while she took our pictures. She even gave us the form we had to fill out. (A man came into the INAPAM office when we were inside. The clerk asked him if he had one of the forms. He said no, and the clerk told him to go back out and get it from the woman in front of the building, so she may not be a government employee, but she is definitely part of the process.) The cards were free, but we figure between what we paid for Ubers to get there and back and what we paid the woman for photos, copies, and laminating the cards once we got them, they cost us about $10 each.



          

     Merci, who is on the local communications team in Puebla, invited us to her son’s baptism. She said she knew it was probably too far for us to go, but she wanted to invite us anyway. We weren’t extremely busy last week, so we looked at each other and said, “Why not?” However, we did check with Gustavo to make sure there weren’t any events on the weekend—sometimes weekends are when we are busiest. He said no and go have fun, so we did. We told the Wrights and the Alsops we were going, and they came with us. We left Friday morning and took a bus to Puebla. The buses here are very nice. The seats are plush and much roomier than airplane seats, and since it was only a two-hour ride and we didn’t have to arrive two hours early and go through security, it was probably faster to ride a bus than to fly. The cherry on top was that we were able to get our tickets for half price with our INAPAM card. Ka-Ching! The savings have begun.

  

             I booked our hotel online and was a little nervous what it would be like. We wanted to be in the historic district of Puebla. All the hotels in that area are boutique hotels in old buildings. I looked at pictures online and read reviews and chose one called Puebla de Antaño Hotel, which was only half a block from the zocalo (the original town square of Puebla.) It looked good from the pictures, but that can be deceiving, and in those old buildings, you never know what the electricity or plumbing or mattresses are going to be like. In this case, they were happy on all accounts, and it turned out to be a great place to stay.

This is an elevator in the lobby of our hotel.


Ron walking to our room, which is off to the right of the camera.



     


               
Friday afternoon and evening we saw the sites in the historic district of Puebla. We had lunch at El Mural de los Poblanos, which was recommended to us by the staff at our hotel and which turned out to be the same restaurant we ate at when we went to Puebla last November to do training for the local communications leaders. We walked through the streets of quaint old buildings, including the Calle de los Dulces, which means the street of sweets and which was lined with candy shops and bakeries. We stopped in at Basílica Catedral de Puebla, which sits next to the zocalo. The fence around this cathedral has angels on each post. Legend has it that one of the bells for the church was so heavy the locals couldn’t find a way to get it up into the bell tower. They went to bed that night, and in the morning the bell was in the tower, so they said angels put it there.

   

Calle de los Dulces




     

    

   

            We also visited the oldest public library in the Americas, The Biblioteca Palafoxiana. In the 1600s, a Catholic bishop named Juan de Palafox y Mendoza donated 4,000 books to the library on the condition that it be open to the public. Later Catholic leaders added more books to the collection, which now numbers over 45,000. It was amazing to see these books, some of which date back to the 15th century. They are so old that the writing on the covers was done by hand.


The stones between the tiles on this old floor were worn way down.
     



      
         Puebla is home to an innumerable number of cathedrals. Okay, they probably aren’t innumerable, but there were more than we wanted to visit. However, we did want to see the Capilla del Rosario because the pictures of it online looked so stunning. When we got there, we went inside and were disappointed. It was nice, but not near what we thought it would be. The Alsops, Ron, and I only walked part way in, but then went back out. Hanging by the door was a poster which showed what we’d seen online. We thought, wait a minute, that’s not what it looks like. Ron asked one of the people at the gate and he said we had to go clear to the front and that chapel was off to the left. About then the Wrights came out. They had gone clear to the front, and they said it was awesome, so Jessica and I went back in. We were glad we did. Almost every surface in that small chapel was covered with gold leaf, and it practically glowed.



             

       Puebla is known for its Talavera pottery. They have Talavera dishes, pots, vases, tiles, and even jewelry. We went to a store known to have authentic hand formed and hand painted Talavera. It was truly impressive. Many of the buildings in the historic district had tiles on their facades, but this one had the most intricate pattern. Inside we got to see the authentic pieces. I would have loved to buy a whole set of the dishes there, but the authentic pieces come at a high price. Many of the markets in Mexico sell versions which aren’t handmade and which cost a fraction of the real stuff. If I buy any, that’s what I’ll get. If one of my grandkids drops a plate and it breaks, I’ll feel a lot less upset if it cost under $10 versus if it cost over $40.



           


      In the evening, we ate at a restaurant by the zocalo. I had chiles en nogada, a famous dish from Puebla. Gustavo told us chiles en nogada tastes like “Navidad in tu boca” (Christmas in your mouth.) It is usually only available from July to October, which is when the ingredients are most readily available and which is why we didn’t get it when we were in Puebla last November. I thought we would be a little too early to get it on this trip, but some of the restaurants were already serving it. It is a Poblano chili stuffed with a mixture of fruit and meat, covered in a walnut cream sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. I’d heard people say it’s too sweet, so I was expecting it to be cloyingly sweet. It wasn’t, and I thought it was good. After dinner we got ice cream at a little shop across from our hotel and ate it on the rooftop terrace/bar/restaurant at our hotel.



  

             Saturday we started the day by going on the Turibus, which took us through the historic area but also to other sites in the city. We rode the Teleférico which is a Tram that gives you a great view of the city. Down below the tram was the remains of the fort where the battle of Puebla was fought. That’s the battle which Cinco de Mayo celebrates. Also below the tram was a neighborhood in which all the roofs were painted blue and white in honor of the city’s Talavera. As the Turibus arrived at the complex where the Teleférico was located, the tour guide pointed out a planetarium. I thought, we saw a planetarium somewhere else, and it looked just like that one. As we were walking back to the Turibus stop after our ride on the Teleférico, I noticed the structures around the doors to a large building which were painted with patterns like Talavera. I thought, Hmmm, those look just like the doors at the….then it hit me, the place I remembered those doors and that planetarium from was the fair we went to on Cinco de Mayo in Puebla! We were in the same place, only now it wasn’t covered with booths and carnival rides, so we hadn’t recognized it.



The large structure in the fore ground is the remains of the fort



        

       After the Turibus ride, we spent a little time at a couple of outdoor markets. Then it was time for the Alsops to head to the bus station to go back to Mexico City, for the the Wrights to head to Cholula, which is one of the areas where Jerry served his mission when he was younger, and for Us to go to the baptism.

             

  It was such fun to see Merci and meet her boys. We always love getting to mingle with people in a non-tourist setting. However, when it comes to church settings, I told Ron I always feel a little like a fraud because the people treat us like we are really special, like we’re visiting authorities or something. Merci asked Ron if he would do the confirmation. He told her he would be honored, but if there was a family member who would like to do it, he didn’t want to interfere with that. She insisted that no, they wanted Ron to do it. So he did. After the baptism and confirmation, they were having a birthday party for the boy, and we were invited. I’m not sure if the house it was held at was Merci’s or her brother’s. They had two women who came and performed a show with songs and stories. I couldn’t understand much of it, but they were funny and the whole group was laughing. After that, they fed us tamales (one a mole tamal and one a fruit tamal), cake, and gelatin (which is really popular in Mexico.) They also served a fruit punch and Oaxacan hot chocolate. Ron whispered to me that they would serve us a lot of food and to eat it slowly or they would give us more. I heeded his advice and ate really slowly. He ate his mole tamal quickly and ended up with a second one. Not that they weren’t good, they were, but it was a lot of food! We had such a fun time visiting with the people sitting at the table with us. Beside me was a woman who was in her eighties. Her husband told us she was hard of hearing so she wouldn’t understand what was being said unless we spoke really loudly. Ron told him that was okay because I didn’t know very much Spanish so I wouldn’t understand much either. Everyone laughed over that. I did follow some of the conversation, and Ron translated some for me, so I didn’t feel completely out of it.




   

            Sunday morning we went to a ward that was fairly close to where we were staying. The people there were so warm and friendly. That’s a Mexican trait, but even more so at that ward. The bishop and other leaders came and welcomed us before Sacrament Meeting started, and then they welcomed us by name from the stand when it did. (Like I said, they act like we’re visiting authorities.) It was Father’s Day, which they were celebrating in Mexico too. After the meeting, they had some Young Women and Primary girls standing by the doors to pass out these cute paper cones they’d made which looked like the front of a suit. They were filled with treats. When we got to the door, three little girls who looked to be about ten all came forward, and Ron looked from one to the next, trying to decide which one to accept the gift from, and of course, telling them all how pretty and sweet they looked. Finally the middle one stuck out her hand and he took hers. She then grabbed him around the waist and gave him a big hug. That surprised him, but he told her the hug was more special to him than the treats. After returning from church, we took one last walk around the zocalo. A band was playing, and people were dancing. It was a lovely afternoon and a sweet end to a wonderful weekend. Then we collected our luggage from the hotel and headed for the bus station to return to Mexico City.



               We had an interesting conversation with the Uber driver who drove us back to the hotel Saturday evening after the baptism and birthday party. When he found out we were missionaries, he asked something to the effect of “How can I find God?” Ron talked to him about praying, but he asked, “What if I feel like God doesn’t answer?” Ron told him that sometimes the answer is “wait” and we need to keep praying and be patient. He then asked me what I would tell the guy. I said to tell him to be open to whatever the answer is. A lot of times we are so set on what we want the answer to be or have such a preconceived notion of how it will come, that we miss it when it does. Ron told him that, and then told him to read the Bible. He said, “We also read the Book of Mormon.” The man said he had a copy of the Book of Mormon which a friend had given him twenty years earlier. He said he might try to find it. I hope he does. He truly seemed to be sincere in his desire. I wish I could give him an experience with the Spirit, but that is something each person must get for themselves.

 

 

Comments

  1. This is Shayla's favorite city! She went there for 6 weeks one summer to study Spanish.

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