From bucket showers to bottle service 

In a matter of days, my life did a complete 180. I went from taking showers with a bucket, being dirty and growing my food in a natural garden in Bali to wearing heels and a dress and going to a fancy club with bottle service in Mexico. Yeah, I know right. I went from bucket showers to bottle service in the span of a couple of days. 

I knew going to Mexico would be a culture shock, especially having come basically straight from the farm. I knew that, so I’m not sure why I still wasn’t mentally prepared for it. There were just factors I hadn’t considered yet, like actually being taken care of again. It has been ages since I was looked after in the way Rey (my friend I was visiting) and his family did. 

Rey’s mom is just the sweetest. She gave me Rey’s entire bedroom to myself, gave me fresh flowers in the room, a decanter of water in case I got thirsty in the night, two massive fluffy bath towels, a little basket of fruit and cookies in case I got hungry and a fully-loaded toiletries basket in the bathroom just for me. I was so excited about the toiletries that I immediately went through it and so couldn’t take a picture because my riffling didn’t do it any aesthetic favours. It had everything I could possibly need; she gave me two tiny little sunscreens, a nail file, a razor, moisturizer (which I used almost half of because damn, Mexico is dry), “fragrant spray” (don’t dven know what that is, perfume??), makeup removers, face masks, and two different kinds of toothpaste just in case I had sensitive teeth. And shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower all with the smell of roses. So I literally smell like a basket of roses now. Not a farm. Amazing, right?

The entire family was so good to me, especially when I got sick. Yeahhhhh I got sick, quite sick. Dengue fever to be specific. After my classy night (continue reading for more details), Rey woke me up telling me it was really late. I asked if I wanted to know how late and he said “yeah probably not”. It was 2 pm before I interacted with more of the world than the pillow and blanket; I have never gotten up so late in my entire life. And I definitely could have gone on sleeping too. Once I embraced the real world, we realized I had a gnarly fever. 39.4, we measured it on a thermometer that I just couldn’t seem to read on my own (I blame the dengue). 

I didn’t want to google dengue fever because I didn’t want to go to the hospital and have an IV for a week, which is what happens when you have really bad dengue. But once I got the fever, dengue popped into my head because of Bali. Now I didn’t put this in my last blog post because it wasn’t relevant and I didn’t want to make my family nervous, but dengue was going around in Bali. The hospitals were full, and probably half of the people on the farm either got dengue or felt iffy. But I thought I had managed to come out unscathed by infected mosquitoes. So I just crossed my fingers that my fever was just a combination of jetlag, smog, high altitude, a hangover and general exhaustion, and not dengue. When it didn’t go away, I googled and the symptoms for dengue were a 100% checklist of what I had (the mild one, not the week on an IV one). Actually they were a 90% checklist, I was missing the full-body skin rash which I developed later in the week. Cute, right. Thankfully for my insurance bill there is no cure for dengue fever except rest, fluids and something to bring the fever down (my weapons of choice were Advil, ice straight to the face and Popsicles). So I rested (and had to miss Coldplay in concert, *bawling emoji*) and Rey and his family all checked on me individually numerous times, making sure I had everything I needed and to see if I was sure I didn’t need to go see a doctor. Rey’s father called up his doctor friend in a matter of minutes after I told him I was pretty sure it was dengue to see what to do. Amazing. It was like being home again. And don’t worry, I’m totally fine now (minus my left eye which has been red ever since the dengue, weird right, but that’s no big deal). 

Rey’s house is located about an hour outside of Mexico City with an absolutely amazing view. 

  
When it’s clear out you can see the two volcanoes from his house. Unfortunately there has been a huge smog problem in Mexico so I couldn’t see them until my last day when it cleared up. Though the smog did look quite beautiful from the airplane when I arrived in Mexico. The sun was going down so that combined with the smog gave everything a dusty yellow glow. 

  Story behind the caption of this photo: I met Rey on orientation day at UBC four years ago and he told me and my first-week friend (ehhh first day friend is more accurate) that he was from Mexico and we both went, in unison and completely candid, “Oooooooo Mexicoooooooo”. 

While I’m at it, story behind how Rey and I actually became friends for real: after that orientation day, Rey and I didn’t see each other, you know how first week in uni friends go. Then in January of 4th year, so a year and a half ago, I was at the UBC campus bar, saw him, recognized him and waved without a second thought. The little nugget didn’t wave back, and he definitely saw me, so I did one of those naw-I-wasn’t-waving-I-was-just-taking-the-long-way-to-brush-my-hair-back things and marched across the bar so it would look like I had some friends to go see – I didn’t, my friends were all behind me. Apparently his friend told him I had waved so he chased me down and we chatted and then boom we were friends. A couple months ago, I figured I was already oot and aboot running around the world (that’s a Canadian accent for those who missed my little joke), so why not take a pit stop in Mexico? Plus I saw this photo so basically had to go:
  #preach

A lot of the last two and a half weeks in Mexico was going to museums because Mexico City has so many, like soooooo many. I only went to 3 (yes, only): the museum of anthropology, the Frida Kahlo museum, and the Slimshady art gallery slash museum (it’s actually called sumayo or something like that but it’s owned by Carlos Slim one of the richest men in the world (who is Mexican) who I have started calling Slimshady, seems appropriate). 

  This was something I didn’t realize was on my bucket list until I saw it. The “Aztec Calendar”, apparently mislabeled but I forget what it’s actually called so I’ll use the airbunnies instead. 
   
 From the Frida Kahlo museum which is the house she and her muralist hubby lived in in Mexico. 

  This is what the Slimshady museum looks like from the outside. Yeah. Mexico City is filled with odd buildings like this. There’s one that looks like a massive glass Dorito, I’m not even kidding. One mall (that’s filled with the fanciest stores you could imagine: Burberry, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, and lots that I can’t think of anymore – one purse was $2,000 and that wasn’t even on a high shelf or in a glass case it was just chilling on a regular low shelf) looks like a piece of Swiss cheese, though Rey’s friend Andres quite vehemently disagreed with me on that. Anyway, Mexico City is filled with bizarre glass buildings where the part of me that’s seen too many bad action movies wonders what it would look like of Godzilla or some giant alien went crashing through it. 

Inside the Slimshady museum is 6 stories of art and articles, largely collected by his wife. An entire floor is dedicated to elephant tusk carvings. Now, having come from the wildlife rescue centre it’s really hard for me to get on board these things, but the carvings are beautiful if I ignore the medium. 

  
  
And there was this. I think it’s a carving of wood paper? I’m not sure what that means but look how beautiful it is. It is so intricate, there is a tiny little man walking his dog somewhere in here. 100 arbitrary Rachel points to whoever can find the man and his dog. 

 

In my last couple of days, Rey and I went to the famous castle and Teotihuacan, the famous pyramids outside the city. 

  

  
From the castle, built by an “emperor” because he could   
  
  This emperor picked a sweet spot for his castle, right? (Also yes, this is Rey my Mexican friend. Yes, he’s ginger. Yes, he’s fully Mexican.)
  

As a vegetarian, eating real Mexican food was tough. Street tacos are meat with some toppings. Rey’s brother was all about trying to get me to try this Mexican food that is deep fried pig skin. Pigskin chips, essentially. Needless to say I wasn’t so into that idea. And my classic “I just don’t like meat” argument didn’t quite work because I haven’t tried pigskin chips or cow tongue or ant egg tacos. After curbing Rey’s brothers enthusiasm for me trying exotic Mexican meats, Rey and I managed to find a vegan taco stand, and by find it I mean we were walking to get pizza and walked right by it so had to try them. And that was on my last day, how serendipitous. I thought they were good but Rey has tried the real deal so he was quite ambivalent about them. 

It wasn’t going to museums or galleries that felt like a 180 in my life. It was going out. Apart from a dress I had tailored in Hoi An, Vietnam (the city famous for its custom made clothing, especially suits), I have nothing remotely fancy. Mexico is a fancy country in the upper ranks. They dress up to go to the airport. I wear the loosest, comfiest clothes I own. On the first night out I used my fancy dress, along with a pair of shoes purchased for the evening (though I did take the shoes with me when I left, shoving them into my turd coloured backpack, like a glaring juxtaposition that I kept laughing at). And yeah, shoes needed to be purchased for the evening because let’s be honest my chucks aren’t fancy enough to get into any place nicer than a Burger King. And those were the fanciest shoes I had. And we weren’t going dancing in a Burger King (though that could be quite fun actually). 

It was in the mall that I realized that funny feeling in my stomach was some combination of culture shock and stress. Stressing over looking decent was the culture shock; I haven’t had to bother about my physical appearance in 6 months. I didn’t wash my hair properly for a month before coming to Mexico then I suddenly needed to look presentable. I think that was the bit I was mentally unprepared for. But I nailed it (not to toot my own horn or anything) and was actually one of the fanciest people in the group (that evening, let’s not mention the lunch where I had to wear a sweater of Rey’s because I had nothing left that wasn’t a band tshirt or in the wash). But this reminded me that I can be a gunge bag AND a classy lady. I’m basically the paperbag princess. 

  
  This was the classy night of bottle service
  (Not my fancy dress, this was from a more casual evening out where my chucks were welcome and not alone) 
So instead of Mexico being the gentle transition back into normal, clean, decent-looking society that I thought it would be, I was thrown  back into it. But actually that was just fine for me. This trip has been all about breaking down my comfort zone, and I am completely comfortable in dirt and bugs now, so I needed a lesson in being comfortable in class and fancy (well, fancier…) clothes. 

Now onto the last leg of my journey: Arizona, where I will be reunited with my sister, mom and step dad after many, many months. 

Until Next Time,

Rachel Coulter

P.S. Look how they arrange their vegetables in the grocery store in Mexico! I was amazed and Rey couldn’t stop laughing at me when I took a photo. But look how pretty

  What happens if you want a pepper on the bottom…


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