A stranger in a foreign land…

I had quite the day today. It’s kind of a long rambling story, and one that might not mean anything to anyone other than me, but hey — this is why I write this blog anyways 🙂 For that some-day far-away when the early-onset has set in and I can’t remember the funny little days I had in Mexico way back when…

It started out on a good note — we got our genoa up and furled (always a little scary with our ancient furler — that thing looks like it predates the boat), got our new alternator rigged up enough to measure the belt size we’ll need, got my list of hopeful-but-nearly-impossible-things to find in Guaymas ready, and then got my list of Spanish words carefully written out to go with me in to Guaymas. I left Jon sanding the boat 🙂

Then things turned a little rough, as they will… the Carpenteria where I wanted to buy some wood for a battery box was closed, so I continued in to town with that job still on the list, and then when I went to the bank to take out some money (as I’d foolishly ridden in to town with about $0.25 in my pocket), it presented me with a “We cannot communicate with your bank” message.

Not an inspiring thought from an ATM!

At this point I had already been to Home Depot, where they were able to chop up some plywood for me, so I was carrying the equivalent of a sheet of 1/2″ plywood in my backpack — a little heavy, a lot awkward — but I didn’t have enough pesos to make it back to the boat, let alone to continue with my list of things I was trying to find!

So I trudged on down the road, trying ATMs and banks as I went, until after about eight blocks I found one that happily spat out pesos — for an $18 charge. At that point I didn’t really care, I was happy to pay the big bucks just to have some cash in my pocket again!

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Anyways, at this point things started to turn around, in a way that I think can maybe only happen in Mexico 🙂 I was wandering down a side-street, trying to find the store that supposedly sold Lexan (one of my goals for the day). I found the store, but, no luck, it was closed. I decided to keep walking a little, just in case there was another store that was similar nearby (they like to group stores by types around here — if you find one upholstery shop, you’ll find another across the street; find one radiator workshop, you’ll find another down the road, etc) when a man on a bike said “Eh! You’re not from here, are you?” (musta been the plywood in my backpack that gave me away ;)) Turns out he was Pancho, and Pancho spoke English and had a friend who knew someone who once lived in BC. After swapping a few stories about “British Columbians” and agreeing that yes, BC did have mountains that were just like Guaymas (albeit covered in evergreens, not cacti), I asked him if he knew anything about the Lexan place… he suggested that it would probably open in 30 minutes or so, after the Siesta hour, so I asked him if there was a place nearby that he would recommend to get a taco and a drink while I killed some time.

Of course he had a friend who had a tacoria just down the street, and he would take me there, and it would be wonderful. It was a quiet little taco shop, with one plastic table and three plastic chairs. Oscar, the owner, quickly whipped up some tacos while his wife ran around collecting the toppings — tomatoes, onions, limes, salsa — and a “Coca en Vidrio” (somehow Coke in a glass bottle just tastes better) and their adorable children stood in the doorway staring at this funny gringo woman eating tacos in their home.

And then, in one of those funny little twists of life, we got talking about what I was doing, and where was my husband, and what was I looking for (Lexan, 1/4″ brass propane fittings, alternator belts, expanding foam insulation, a propane tank, and groceries — which may not sound like a big list, but in this world is an almost-impossible dream of a task list), and how did I plan to get back to the boat in San Carlos?

I said I was planning to take a taxi. I figured that if I bought enough heavy groceries, I could rationalize the 200 pesos ($16) it would cost.

“Ohhh… 200 pesos you pay?” they asked.

“Si, 200 pesos is a good price I think”, I replied, having paid that amount before and considering it fair for the 35 minute drive.

“EH! Maria! Ajldjflajdflasjdfldjfladjf  (a bunch of Spanish I couldn’t understand)”

and then,

“My wife will run the restaurant. I will be your taxi.”

I considered this for a minute, as I munched on Carne Asada tacos and contemplated huffing around Guaymas with my plywood backpack and lack of Spanish, trying to find my impossible list of things.

“Will you take me to find these things first? And then wait while I grocery shop? And then take me to San Carlos?”

Because really, if you’re alone in a random taco joint on a side street in Guaymas with an impossible list of things to find and feet that are getting sore, and you’re contemplating hopping in a car with two random strangers that you just met, one while he biked down the road and the other while he served you tacos in his restaurant, and you think that the old guy has a pretty trust-worthy face and the younger guy has 3 really cute kids, you might as well just shoot for the moon and go all-in. Ask and ye shall receive, right?

And so ensued maybe the best four hours I’ve spent in Guaymas yet 🙂 I paid for my tacos, threw my backpack in the trunk, and off we went. First back to the Lexan store — still closed — so we went to his brother’s place. That was closed too. Apparently Lexan runs in that family, as there was another brother who had a Lexan store just a little further out of town, so we zipped around until we found his place. Open!

Hustling in to the back of a dimly lit warehouse (requisite pictures of naked women plastered all over the walls, you know the type) there was some chatter about sizes and cutting and “EH! Julio! Rapido, rapido!” because never mind that they were working on some giant window project, this gringo woman needs a piece of Lexan cut, 14″ x 9.5″, and she needs it rapido!

That impossible task crossed off the list (I’d already been many places looking for Lexan with zip-nada-zilch luck), we started the hunt for an alternator belt. 38″ please. Strike one at the first place (“how do you say strike in Spanish?” I asked. “Strike” they replied :P), but they made a few phone calls and found a potential store that might have it.

Off we zipped to this place, another dimly lit and poorly signed store that I never would have found alone, and although he did not have the 38″ belt I so desired, he did have the propane fittings I needed. Miraculous! Much discussion over what I needed this for (how to explain a solenoid in Spanish??) and 70 pesos later, we were off again on the hunt for the alternator belt.

Some giant car-mechanical-things-I-don’t-often-look-for-store appeared to be our answer… we walked in, me and Pancho and Oscar, and I swear to you there were probably 25 people — well 25 men — packed in to this small little waiting area, all holding numbers and waiting for their turn, and all dead silent when they saw me and my funny little trio walk in. What does she want here?? But they recovered and success they had the belts I needed, so off we went again.

We were on the hunt for a propane tank. Pancho and Oscar seemed to think that a pawn shop would be our best bet, and they were right; the first one had a couple tanks. “Cuanto cuesta” (how much?) we asked. “450 pesos,” the man replied. They were outraged —  “450!? Chingarle!” (literally, “fuck-it!”) as they hustled me out of this pawn shop and back into the car. “It’s a gringo price. It’s because he saw you. Next time, you stay in the car”.

And so I did. At the next pawn shop, I sat in the back of the car while both of these grown men rifled through pawn shops, occasionally finding possibilities and running across the street to show me. “What do you think?” asked Oscar, holding up some strange looking round tank, “they want 300 pesos. But I think it’s too much, no?”. I agreed, so he ran back to the pawn shop with the tank, and the hunt continued 🙂 Up and down streets, occasionally yelling out at shops “tienes tanque propano?” and continuing on when the answer was a negative. Eventually we decided to put this item on hold, and continue with the list 🙂

This time the destination was Ley, the big grocery store where I was determined to buy as much as I could to minimize the provisioning needed later (much easier to drive a car right up to the boat and load stuff on than to bring it by dinghy!) and to make the most of my new taxi. As I got out of the car to start my grocery shopping, Pancho and Oscar started to follow; I realised that they meant to accompany me on my grocery shopping, so I suggested that they meet me in an hour — enough time for me to pack a cart, but not so much that it would be dark by the time I’d be back to Jon 🙂

I started my grocery shopping quandary (“how many salsas will we need?” “do we want boxed milk or powdered?” “is it the canned corn that’s terrible, or the canned peas?” (peas!!) “can we afford to buy the good maple syrup, or I should cheap out for the crappy stuff?”) and after 50 minutes headed for the register.

They have this nice little system where young kids bag your groceries for you (generally for a small tip — $0.10 or $0.20 a kid), but when I noticed that the kids had started to fill a second cart, I tried desperately to explain that I was alone and I could not possibly maneuver two cart (my Spanish tends to fail miserably when it’s anything remotely important haha).

They looked at me like I was crazy — “Pero (but)… tu amigos?” they motioned.

Not understanding, I spun around, and lo-and-behold, who could it be but Pancho and Oscar, grinning happily as they collected my grocery carts for me. “We be your — how you say? — body guards! Can’t leave your side!”. And so they carried my groceries out for me, loaded them in to the trunk, and off we went for San Carlos.

The 25 minute drive to San Carlos was fairly uneventful — a few phone calls from some pissed off wives (“Mexican women are the most jealous!” Pancho explained), some tales of the Mask of Zorro (“We were both extras. Both of us! We met Antonio Banderas and everything”) a few quick stops to see if we could find the still missing propane tank (the only item still on my impossible list), and a nice sunset in the distance.

Now when I left the boat at 10:30 this morning, I told Jon (only semi-seriously) that I’d be home by 6:00 (dark). And when we rolled in to the work yard, Pancho and Oscar in the front, me grinning and waving happily from the back seat, it was 5:55. The boat was sanded, the list was (mostly) complete, and I had had a wonderful day riding around with two complete strangers, tracking down all the crazy things boats seem to need.

And Pancho, being quite upset that we never found that propane tank, has told us to come back to Oscar’s taco shop on Sunday. He wants us to have some tacos, and then Oscar will drive us to Pancho’s house where we can meet his wife, and then if we still need one, we can buy the propane tank he has in his backyard. Apparently it was part of his hot-water system, but he doesn’t really use it anymore and he knows we’ll need it, so we can have it.

These are the kind of strangers I could get used to 🙂

Oh and as a random mom note — I would never in a million years get into a car with strangers in Vancouver. But in Mexico, on a hot day with a heavy backpack and the right combination of funny little events… not to mention some delicious tacos… instinct wins out 🙂 I do keep my cell phone with me and stay aware of where we are, just in case I need to make a jump for it!




A stranger in a foreign land… — 5 Comments

  1. Now how did you know that was what your Mom was thinking! The generosity of strangers. Amazing and always happening while cruising. Glad you are keeping your instincts about you though, and remember to always have cash with you next time! Love you.

  2. I suspect Jon wouldn’t have had that good a day if he had been doing the shopping. Sounds like a fine day was had.————D

  3. Pingback: THAT’s what’s up | With Brio

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