Buses, Metro Trains, and Bicycles

 

Monday we went on an errand with Manuel from the purchasing department. On our way back to the office, he pointed out a restaurant and said it had the best tacos pastor in Mexico City. How could we ignore a claim like that? The restaurant was not far from where we live and along a bus route, so the next afternoon we got on a bus and went to check it out. Our verdict, Manuel just might be right! We told the Wrights about it, and they wanted to try those tacos too, so we took them there for lunch a day or two later. As we walked from where we got off the bus to the restaurant, I forgot one of the cardinal rules of walking along sidewalks in Mexico—watch the ground. The sidewalks here are often uneven and have all kinds of tripping hazards poking up out of them. I found one of those tripping hazards. I’ve tripped a multitude of times before, but this time I went flying and pulled Ron along with me. He was worried he was going to step on me, so he leaped over me and stumbled around but managed to keep from going down himself. I was a bit stiff and sore in a few spots from hitting the sidewalk, but mainly my pride was wounded. As I got up, I realized my slip-on shoes were no longer on my feet. I looked around and they were sitting neatly on the lawn beside the sidewalk as if I had just stepped out of them. That made us all laugh. Later Pat said she wanted to take a photo of them but was worried it would be insensitive. I wish she had. In fact, I wish she’d videoed the whole incident so we could watch it in slow motion and see how my shoes ended up there. Needless to say, I will be watching the ground a little more carefully from now on.


The best tacos pastor in Mexico City

Friday we had a dinner at the manzana in honor of three couples who will be finishing their missions in the next month. Whenever we have an activity at the manzana, we try to go early so we can go to a temple session. We’ve always taken an Uber to the temple, but this time the Wrights invited us to go along with them on the metro, which is the subway. We’ve become pretty good at getting around on the city buses (when I say “we” I mean Ron. I just get on whichever bus he tells me to get on) but we’d only been on the metro one time before. The trip to the temple involved first riding two buses, then taking three different metro trains, and finally a short taxi ride. Between two of the trains, we got off at Palacio de Bellas Artes to buy tickets for a show there next week, so maybe if we hadn’t done that it wouldn’t have been such a complicated process, but I’m not sure of that. Jerry had a map of the metro routes and said he’d give us a copy so we (again, meaning Ron) can study it and get our bearings. One of the benefits of using the metro is that we can ride free with our Inapam cards.

Us sitting on a subway--not something we get many opportunities to do back in Idaho.

The dinner with the other missionaries was great and we had a lovely time. We had the tables set up in two groups, but after we finished eating, we all sat around in a big circle and talked. It is wonderful to be able to associate with such great people. It is sad for me to see the couples leave, but I’m happy for them to be able to return home and be with their families. One of the couples who is leaving is the Cluffs, who host our game nights. They have become dear friends to us, and we will miss them.


The Arguetas (she's in the center with a striped shirt), the Cluffs (she's in a white shirt) and the Manwarings (she's in a black shirt) are all completing their missions in the next month. It's been a joy getting to know them!















Saturday we went with the Wrights on a bike tour. The Cluffs went on one last week when they had family here visiting. I asked Cheryl if they rode in Chapultepec Park or if they actually rode in the streets. She said yes to both, but she said they had two tour guides and one of them had the job of directing traffic to make sure they were safe when they rode along the streets. That reassured me because I was a bit nervous about riding a bike in the Mexico City traffic. I see people doing it all the time, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Well, as it turned out, our tour was not like the Cluff’s. There were just the four of us and one guide, Ishmael. He was nice and fun, but he’d just take off on his bike and we had to follow and keep up. First we rode a short distance to Chapultepec Park. I loved riding in the park. The paths were wide and tree lined, and there weren’t a lot of people there early in the day. If we had spent the entire tour in the park, I would have been happy.

     





In the park, Ishmael took us to a monument to Nezahualcóyotl, an Aztec King. We had been there before, but we didn’t know the story behind it. Nezahualcóyotl was able to join three different nations into what we now call the Aztec empire and ushered in the golden age of the Aztecs. According to Ishmael, once the three nations joined together, they had a different name other than Aztec, but I don’t remember it and people generally refer to them as Aztecs anyway. One of his great accomplishments was building a dike between two lakes. One was salt water and the other fresh water. During the rainy season the two lakes would overflow and run into each other, which contaminated the fresh water, so the dike was vital to maintaining a healthy water supply for his empire. The fountain attached to the monument represents this dike.


The three figures on the wall behind the statue represent the three nations which Nezahualcóyotl joined together. You can see that Ishmael was checking his phone. He did that a lot during our tour because his wife is expecting their first child, and he said she would be having the baby between then and Monday!
     
The fountain representing Nezahualcóyotl's dike


We also went to Monumento a los Niños Héroes (Monument to the Boy Heroes.) During the Mexican-American War, the U.S. troops attacked the Castillo in Chapultepec, which at that time was a military academy. Six young cadets, ages 13 to 17, fought valiantly to defend the castle, and died in their efforts. The last one is said to have wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and then jumped from the top of the cliff to keep the flag from falling into the hands of the U.S. soldiers. The monument contains six pillars, one for each of the cadets, and each of the pillars contains an urn holding their ashes.


Between the end two pillars you can see the castillo the cadets fought to protect.

Ishmael also took us to the monument to the Mexicans who served in World War II. We went there a few weeks ago, and I wrote about it in my blog then. However, Ishmael showed us something we didn’t see last time. A little path at the side of the monument leads to a gate into a secret area behind the monument. Well, tours go there, so I guess it isn’t that secret. It’s a garden area where they have benches and chairs for relaxing and speakers piping in classical music. A cave there was believed by the Aztecs to be the entry to the next life.

The entrance to the afterlife?

     
Ron chillin' and listening to classical music

After we left Chapultepec, we rode along Reforma, which is a main avenue in Mexico City. It has a dedicated bike lane, so other than at the intersections, riding there wasn’t too bad. We went to the Angel of Independence monument, but Ishmael told us the figure on top of it isn’t really an angel. It’s the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. While we were standing there, a bunch of police in riot gear arrived and lined up around the base of the monument. Ishmael said it looked like something was going on, so we better move on. As we rode further up Reforma, we passed a protest group marching toward the Angel. From their signs, Ron said it looked like they were protesting immigration policies. They were a small group, and we didn’t hear anything on the news about it, so I don’t think it was really a big deal.

To get an idea of how much Mexico City is sinking, look at this picture and then at the next one which was taken in 1910. The monument is built on a solid foundation, so it isn't sinking, but the roads around it are. The roundabout at the base of the monument was originally four lanes wide, but now because of the stairs they've had to add, it's only three lanes wide.
    

     

I took this photo right before we decided we better leave that area.

We next rode to the historic area of the city. We visited the Palacio Bellas Artes and then stopped for lunch. From the street level, the restaurant we went to looked like a little taco stand, but we walked through it and up some stairs and found a big dining room above it. We had tacos and aguas frescas, which is water mixed with fruit puree. I had mango and Ron had Maracuya, which is passion fruit. Both were really good, but we prefer the tacos Manuel told us about over the ones we ate at that restaurant.

This is pastor meat cooking on a turning spit. The guy with the knife shaves off the outside layer.
     
What the restaurant looked like from the outside. This is the kichen. We walked through it to the stairs in the back to get to the dining room.

    
Aguas frescas

       
The view out the restaurant window

The restaurant was in the really old historic center of the city where the streets are narrow and there are no bike lanes, so we had to ride right along with the cars. Then we hit the zocalo, the original center plaza of Mexico City, which is always crowded on Saturdays. I appreciated Ishmael’s explanation of the cathedral, which was built on the ruins of and with the stones of an Aztec temple. I also enjoyed the Mercado San Juan, where we sampled different salsas and flavored salts. But weaving through heavy traffic and crowds of people on a bike is way outside my comfort zone. I was gripping my handlebars so tightly that my hands ached when I finally let go, and if the truth be known, I probably uttered a prayer or two. However, now that it’s over and I know I didn’t die, I can look back on it and think what a great experience it was.

Yes, we rode bikes through that crowd of people
     

     
Fresh churros are always a great way to end an excursion!

I think a lot of things in life are like that—hard when you’re going through them, but great experiences when you look back on them. I think our mission will be a little like that. We’re having a great time, but sometimes it’s hard to be so far away from our home and family. I struggle not being able to speak or understand Spanish, and some days we wonder if we’re doing anything meaningful here. Still, I have no doubt we are making fabulous memories that we will cherish after our mission is over.

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