Esto no es un adios; sino hasta luego! Translated to English: This is not goodbye, but see you later...
While I am excited to get back to my comfortable bed, little old car and the normal life I live at home; I am also muy triste about leaving such a wonderful place. I have experienced so much in the last six weeks that I feel as if I am a part of this beautiful culture. The people treat me as if I am as well - and they are such beautiful people inside and out. I just cannot get over the things I see every day, and what is even more mind boggling is that this is the "normal" day for them!
This morning I woke up and just laid in bed for twenty minutes looking out of the window at the city that was eye level with the bottom pane. The sun was shining through the sheer curtains and it made the room glow like a soft touched photo. I struggle to get out of bed; the warm beams of sun laying across my body is so comforting I feel like I could stay in bed all day. I finally get up and shuffle to the coffee pot and make some coffee. I get ready and meet my team outside of the hotel to head to work. While we are walking, there are construction workers on our left that are re-doing the sidewalks to expand them; which will accommodate a city this large with so much foot traffic. - You would think that seeing construction workers is a normal every day expectation; but it's not how it is in the USA. What I am seeing are men very hard at work, so dedicated and such quality going into what they are doing. There is almost an assembly line happening. They have the area blocked off with fluorescent orange netting held up by steel poles, and the only way for the workers to get in is by walking all the way around to the other side. There are two men inside the area with flat metal tools that I can only describe as looking like a pie serving knife. There are three other men on the outside of this net that are mixing the cement by hand. Yes, by hand...they have a mini cement mixer, which has a wheel on the other side that looks like a steering wheel and they crank it by hand. There are two other men that use wheel barrels to wheel back and forth the cement mixture to the men inside the netting using the pie servers. Each man will dump the mixture and the other ones will work quickly to smooth out the area that was just dumped. This repeats and repeats, and all I do is stare in awe. True hard labor.
We arrive at the office and I go through my normal routine of saying hello to all the agents that are already there and setting up my mobile office for the day. As I am sipping on my coffee and reviewing the cases from the night before, an agent comes to me and asks if I enjoyed my time in Mexico. I literally grinned from ear to ear and tears started to well in my eyes. I answered and told her that yes, I have enjoyed my time, and reason being because of people like her. She vows that the next time I come - because there just has to be a next time, she is going to take me to get the most amazing hot chocolate and churro I've ever had. I am definitely looking forward to that :) Lunch time arrives and generally the Hartford team and I go out together, but let me tell you that if I had to look at the inside of another McDonald's someone was going to get a french fry to the nostril! So three of the agents invited myself and whom I will call Uncle Sam out to a local place to eat. We ended up at this small taco stand about a block from the office. The last trip I was on in Mexico City, I walked by this little quaint stand every day. It smelled divine every time, but said I would NEVER eat there. Well, well, well...look where I ended up! So as we approach you can smell the meat cooking; the aroma that spills over the glass counter fills your entire nose. It's mixed with the sweet stinging smell of chopped raw onions, ripened tomatoes and fresh cut parsley. The cook is standing behind this glass counter patting down what look like mini pitas; but it's made from corn. The little puffed taco shells are then cut in half and the mix of skillet fried pork and the onion, tomato, parsley mixture is stuffed in. They are served on this pink plastic plate. The agents advise Uncle Sam and I that we need to put on the verde sauce that was sitting in front of me. Although very wary, I put it on. I take a bite: SO DELICIOUS. It has to be at the top of the best foods I have ever eaten. This is the culture, this is what they wanted us to experience all along. This is them. We all huddle in the little taco stand, some of us standing at the mini metal bar, some sitting on the large red, plastic stool all enjoying the gordita carnitas. I couldn't get over how much flavor these had to them; the best part of it all? It was about twelve pesos for two of these...that is about $1.20. Quality food for less than you could imagine...why? Because they believe in preserving their culture. I had only wished that I was brave enough to try these before.
We head back to the office, ride out the rest of day - and then it's time to say goodbye. I received many many many hugs and kisses and "Can you just stay another week," "We are going to kidnap you," and other little things that wear just so endearing. Two agents drew me pictures to hang at my desk at home and another gave me an apple covered with chili and tamarind. I felt like a teacher on the last day of school. So appreciated. It was very difficult for me to say see you later, to these agents. They are incredibly receptive, and so willing to learn. They want to learn, and it makes me want to teach. As I am going around, saying bye, I can't help but start to get teary eyed. I have grown to love some of these people and I don't know if or when I will see them again. I start to get really sad and my body feels so heavy. I find it hard to walk. Uncle Sam - who has been such a savior on this trip understands exactly how I feel and tries to cheer me up. We start to walk out of the call center, and one of the agents calls out my name. I turn and they are all standing giving me the peace sign and hand hearts. I almost lost it!
Intent on making the most out of my last night in Mexico, I really absorb what is going on around me. We walk out of the large building that houses our office, and standing at the door is a man with a machine gun, cocked and ready to use. I make it a point to walk out of the other door, just to look directly in front of me and see another armed security guard. This is not something you see everyday; at least not in the USA. Whenever it comes to money in this country, you know you will see at least three men staring you down with machine guns in hand, old in style, but very much efficient. You can tell just by looking at them that they have been used. I literally shudder at the thought. We turn the corner near the magazine stand and I get that sad empty feeling again, like I am leaving something precious behind. I am. Such mixed emotions as we continue forward. We head to Cafe Tecuba for our last dinner in Mexico before heading home. I ordered de caldo de pollocon arroz - which is chicken broth with rice and I added some freshly squeezed lime juice and a teaspoon of chipotle sauce.
We set out taking a different path to the hotel. We have driven this path in the tour bus, but on foot it is a completely different experience. We walk by the Ingeniería de Edificio. This is one of the first Engineering schools built in Mexico. The building is gigantic and the architecture is absolutely breathtaking. There is a steel structure on the opposite side of the road of a man riding a horse. It's beautiful! There is a building that is just off slightly to the right. This building is so unique. There is a noticeable crack right in the middle of it and you can see that the side of the building is detaching from the other building it is connected to. What a lot of people don't know is that Mexico City was built in a valley on top of a lake. It is literally sinking. And you can see it in these old buildings - which give this city so much character. Instead of walking forward, we decide to cut through traffic and walk down an alley that I would never give a second glance if it were two hours later. Walking through you see tables and tables of books. There are new books and old books and very very old books. If any of it were in English, the group would have been hard pressed to pull me out of there. It was just so amazing. The smell of the leather bindings and old paper reminded me of my Nana. I could have stayed there. We end up on the infamous Madero pedestrian road and Uncle Sam and I wonder into one of the Cathedrals. There aren't any words that I can say to describe the beauty. We walk inside and I shiver. Every single hair on my body stands up. There is silence except for the faint ceremonious mass going on in the room in front of us. We take a step up into the room and it's just awe inspiring. The alter where the priest is sitting is made up of all brass; every detail. The stained glass on the windows is so incredibly beautiful, and the carved statues look so realistic. The feeling I have standing inside in indescribable.
We head back down the road toward the hotel. The light turns red for the pedestrians and is still red for the automobile traffic. We decide to make a run for it! We cross the main road and Uncle Sam and I talk and walk. We get closer to the hotel and those construction men are still so hard at work. They have accomplished so much in the short time that we were gone. I can only imagine how this sidewalk is going to look once it's finished. Uncle Sam stops to get his shoes shined on the side of the street and the rest of us continue on for one sweet indulgent goody before we close in for the night. Again, we walk and can smell the fried dough of the decadent churro. I order one for me and one for my buddy. I take a bite; the outside is sweet from the sugar and crispy from being fried, while the inside is so chewy and warm from the leche. The combination makes your taste buds dance and it just makes you happy.
Getting off each floor at the hotel, we all say our goodbyes. It's a bittersweet time - Uncle Sam has a special place in my heart just like the agents here. I will miss them both so dearly. Esto no es un adios; sino hasta luego.