Month: October 2015

Simon’s Brightest – Coffee With Milk

For this jubilee thirties post on this blog I have decided to open a new category. I’m naming it “Simon’s Brightest” and it is intended to immortalise some of my particularly brilliant moments on my travels (this one and also earlier ones). There are a few in stock, but considering my unquestionable talent and giftedness, I have no doubt there will be enough material for this category.

For this first entry I will travel back for about three months when I was still battling the heat and humidity of August in Mississippi. In contrast with other days when the sun was scorching down and the humidity after 9h was so unbearable that one was soaked in sweat just walking out on the street, on this day it was raining pleasantly all morning. Since it was one of my off days, I was able to treat myself with a slow awakening into life and wandering outside little before noon for a coffee. Just for pleasure!
Based on the recommendation of my local host I ventured on the main street where there was a nice little café with good coffee. A nice young woman in her mid-twenties is there behind the counter. With a charming smile on her face she asks me: “What can I get for you sir?” Since it is only befitting and above all it feels appropriate I smile back and I reply “One coffee latte please!” I’m all about kindness but this does not stop me from further specifying my order. Coffee is, after all, something sacred in my world and when I have the chance to drink a proper coffee, I want to drink it the way I like, with milk. So I add “And can I have some milk with it!” She looks at me confused. As she is not entirely sure and to avoid any misunderstanding, she asks me “Coffee latte with milk?!” And now is my turn to be confused for a moment. Well at least until it hits me. I have ordered coffee LATTE. The name itself suggests there will be milk with my coffee.
I turn red and a dumb smile comes across my face! Fuck it, sometimes I just do manage to pull one off!

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Mexican Latte
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Simon’s Brightest

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Fiesta De Papas

Those of you who regularly check my progress on Where Is Simon have probably notice that my progress here in Mexico has seriously slowed down. Besides the obvious reason that I have ventured into the mountainous region where the roads are more like a roller coaster ride in an amusement park with their endless ups and downs, meanderings through the narrow river valleys or mountain ridges, there is another reason. In Creel I came in contact with Gina, an anthropologist who works, through some project, with communities of local Indians, the Tarahumaras. And Gina mentioned to me that on Sunday, October 11th there will be a fiesta in a village of Norogachi. Potato fiesta (Fiesta De Papas)!
To me this information was like an invitation to an unforgettable experience and obviously I have immediately invited myself to accompany her on her visit to the village. And since she agreed, I had to adjust the speed of my progress to the timing of this fiesta.
Since in words I can hardly describe this overflow of colours, impressions and uniqueness that have awaited me there, here I’m offering you some photos instead.

What is missing from these photos are the relaxed smiles (only on this occasion I managed to Tarahumaras smile) that emerged in the later hours after there has been lots of tesguino (traditional drink made of fermented corn (and who knows what else)) drunk and also spilled. Also there are no photos of the morning after when those who have fought tesguino most zealously had to admit defeat and had found various spots around the village to sleep it over. This part of a party is the same all over the world.
Oh, and why there are no photos? Well, I did it again. I managed to pull off something typically me. I have run out of batteries for my camera!

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

A Day in a Village Store

Soon after my arrival in Creel, which is some sort of a base camp for exploring Copper Canyon, I have realized that I’m not the kind of a masochist that would, out of pure pleasure, go and descend on a gravel road 1.800m in to the valley to a town called Urique. And this descend would be only to ascend again for about the same height difference on a road that most maps don’t even show it exists. From the top the road goes down again and again for about 1.800m to a town called Batopilas. From this town, there is only one road out and yes, uphill. And since I have already mentioned twice 1.800m, I will use the same number here again. It’s not exactly accurate but you get the picture.
Instead I have decided to skip Urique and head for Batopilas on the main road. Obviously climbs and descends are not limited to the previously mentioned route. The main road has it as well, they are just not that extreme. Nor are they innocent either. On my second day out of Creel I made only 36km of progress. Average speed was around 8,5 km/h and most of the afternoon I have spent slowly climbing on a twisting and steep road leading out of a canyon of the upstream Urique river. On top (well, a bit further and to the side) is a village called Samachique which was my goal for the day. In Creel I got a contact in this village, Ruben and Monse, a couple in their early sixties. After I have asked two kind ladies for directions I found myself in front of a house not unlike any other in the village. It’s just that this one was “hiding” a store in the main room together with some sort of a communal area with two tables, some chairs and a wood-stove (after all we are at 2.000m above sea level). Quickly we managed to agree that I will stay here for the night and in the morning I will leave Lou and the rest of my gear here and head into the valley by bus.
After a two-day trip to Batopilas where I have enjoyed once again temperatures well above 20°C and indulged myself into doing nothing, I went back to pick up Lou and continue on my way.
The bus left me all wrinkled (I got up at 3:30) at the beginning of the village and after a half an hour walk through the high mountain morning chill I had arrived to the store. Ruben opened the door and Monse had made coffee and served me breakfast. Comfortably I had sat into a chair next to just lit wood-stove and arranged to stay another day here. I’m in no rush, here it’s nice and warm and I’m interested to find out how everyday life looks around here.
Little after 8 (opening hours are obviously not fixed) the store officially opens. It’s not that there is a crowd of customers outside (actually there is none), it’s just that the main doors remain unlocked and that the curtains on both windows are pulled aside. Besides the two windows, the room is lit by two energy-efficient light bulbs and a TV in the corner set to the morning show. I have no idea what it’s about.
The store is comprised of two counters and some shelves next to two walls. They are full of various goods. From toilet paper, instant noodles, fish cans, pasta to menstrual pads, toothpaste, batteries and sandals. A good portion of the room is occupied by fizzy drinks and crisps can also be found. Vegetables on offer are limited to a box of tomatoes, few onions, bag of potatoes and a bag of beans. My special status of a temporary resident enables me access to the back room, which is where my bed is, and so I know that the meet is stored in a freezer in the corner.
Slowly a few people show up in the store. It turns out that one of them is a worker laying tiles in the back room, another (member of the Tarahumaras, the famous long endurance runner Indians) is Ruben’s helper, the woman, also a Tarahumara, is Monse’s assistant. All are served coffee (Monse’s assistant serves herself one). Outside the day is slowly breaking while we’re heating ourselves next to the wood stove and the time is passing by in a gentle small talk (my basic Spanish is limiting my participation). All apart from me slowly attend to their business while I watch rare customers coming into the store. Some just for a quick purchase while others stay longer after Monse invites them for a cup of coffee. There are also two deliveries of new stock during the day. Also the delivery men are invited for a coffee and a chat.
Purchases are mainly cash only with a few exceptions. In this part of the world a cashless purchase means that Monse in her big, blue notebook writes down the amount of purchase. Buyers will pay their debt later when they will have money. Cards (debit or credit) are absolutely useless here. Not only there is no internet for POS terminals (or anything else for that matter), there is also no mobile phone network.
Monse and her assistant also take care of regular daily meals. At 11h it’s time for a second, slightly heavier breakfast, at 15h lunch is served. Around 17h it’s time for an afternoon snack. These meals are served also to some visitors like a mute Tarahumara that came into the store at around 17h. He did not buy anything but that did not stop Monse from giving him a meal.
At around 19h the flow of customers stops. It’s already dark outside. The store is still officially open but Monse is more focused on preparing dinner while watching one of the many Mexican soap operas that have been showing all day long on the TV in the corner.
Little after 10h Ruben comes back and dinner is served. After we eat and chat for a while, I go into the back room where I sneak into my sleeping bag, happy that I was able to share this day with everyone here. Happy that I have spent it in a place where a store is in the service of the community. A place where people come to chat and sip coffee, a place where people still trust each other and the storekeeper will write down your purchase for you to pay when you will have money, a place where, if you are hungry, you are fed.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

PS
Next post will have photos 🙂