March 30, 2017

Part 3: Five Skills Every Foreigner Should Master While Living in Mexico City

This is Part 3 of a 5 part series...

Part 1:  Interpersonal Communication Skills (see previous post here)
Part 2:  Risk Management (see previous post here)

#3 Minimizing Distractions
Here we highlight the critical skill of blocking out the cacophony that emanates from the local streets at all hours of the day. 

A quick side note before I dive head first into the importance of mastering this skill…part of what makes Mexico City special is not just the fact that there is ongoing local street commotion (as most big cities have their fair share of it) but the kind of commotion which is an integral part of the cultural drum beat that makes Mexico truly unique. The truth - it’s pretty great!  So this is by no means a complaint about the local sounds - simply a shout out to the skill needed to sometimes contend with these sounds that often start at, oh, 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings.  

I’m referring to the roving mobile street vendors which typically fall into three categories… 

1) The trucks that want to take unwanted old appliances and mattresses off your hands…
The first time I heard this sound drifting through the neighborhood I thought it was a small child looking for his mother.  So imagine a large truck roving the streets with several men hanging off the back with a megaphone blaring a recording of a small child in a sing-songy voice asking for “estufas (stoves), colchones (mattresses), etc.” It’s quite genius, really.  No need to cart your old items to Good Will - these guys will do the hauling for you!  

Coincidentally, I almost got decapitated walking down the sidewalk the other day when a woman tossed her old mattress over the side of her terrace, from 5 floors up.  Apparently no need to send a warning shot to pedestrians below. The most amazing thing - the same recording of this small child’s voice is used by the thousands of “Good Will” trucks in every neighborhood throughout Mexico City.  When you hear it - believe me, you know what it is.  I now give a quick glance up to dodge what might be tossed down on me from the apartments above. 

2) The Mexican version of the “ice cream man”…
Again, pure genius. So tamale vendors on bicycles ride up and down the streets blaring the same recording hawking “Tamales Oaxaquenos!” referring to tamales from Oaxaca - pronounced Wa-ha-ca.  (Side note - Oaxaca is about a 6 hour drive south of Mexico City and known for its culinary delights to the tune of grasshoppers, worms and ants…but more on that later!).  This urges people to run out of their homes to make a hot tamale purchase.  By the way, tamales are to die for - wrapped in banana leaves and filled with mole.  Ummm, heaven!

3) The sweet potato vendors...
Behold the camote.  So this guy works a rolling cart up and down the street of the neighborhood but in unique fashion, his presence is made known by the blowing sound of a pressure cooker, heated by a small fire.  Image a very, very loud, high pitched whistle sound that lasts for, ohhh, a good 10 seconds at a time.  I always think a freight train is pulling into our apartment.  The camote is more of a dessert - served hot with a heavy drizzling of condensed mile, cream and a side of berry marmalade. To die!

Stay tuned for Part 4...coming soon!

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