After spending six weeks in Mexico City I will return to Ohio tomorrow. It will be a long day. I need to be at the airport at 5:30 tomorrow morning. I am flying on Interjet from Mexico City to Chicago, and then after a long layover I will fly on United to Cleveland. It will be 9:00 tomorrow evening before I am back in my house.
I still have quite a bit to write about my stay down here, so be sure to come back to read more. Time now for me to pack my bags.
Mexico City is served by twelve Metro (subway) lines and six (soon to be seven) Metrobus routes. While at certain hours they are jammed with passengers, they are generally quite efficient means of public transportation.
However around sixty percent of the people in Mexico City using public transport rely on the 28,000 little buses known as "peseros"... vehicles which Alejandro calls the worst!
"Peseros" got their name from the fact that the fare used to be one peso. Now it generally costs between four and five pesos to ride a "pesero". The bus driver gets to keep all the fares he collects over the daily quota which goes to the vehicle owner. As a result, the drivers are always in a hurry to make as many runs and to carry as many passengers as possible. I have witnessed "peseros" running red lights a number of times. On the other hand, the fact that the buses are constantly stopping to pick up or drop off passengers anywhere along the street adds to the traffic chaos. The "peseros" also contribute to the city's noise pollution. The drivers love to lay on their horns whenever the traffic in front of them is not moving fast enough to suit them. And, believe me, those little buses have horns that are louder than any big truck.
What is most scary is that there is no regulation of these buses. Many of the vehicles are poorly maintained, and there is no criteria for the hiring of drivers. The buses are notorious for causing accidents... sometimes fatal accidents. (The driver usually runs away from the scene of the accident, never to be seen again.) Until the city government takes some action, regulating the "peseros" or providing better public transport options, those little buses will continue to be a blight on the city.
I am back at the condo for one more night before I leave to go home on Wednesday. Since Alejandro's home is closer to the airport than the condo, and since my luggage is still at his place, it is logical that I go back there tomorrow to pack my bags and spend my last night.
So my dinner today was my last time out at a restaurant for this trip. I was at the "Reforma 222" shopping mall, and I ate at "El Bajío", a chain of restaurants specializing in traditional Mexican cuisine. It is usually a dependable chain, and my meal today was excellent. I ordered a pitcher of melon water to drink, and I started with a plate of "fideo seco"... slightly spicy noodles garnished with cheese, cilantro, sour cream and avocado. For my main course I had pork loin in "mole de Xico". Since there is a town in the state of Veracruz called Xico, and since the supervising chef of "El Bajío" hails from Veracruz, I am assuming that this "mole" is from that state.
The pork was very tender, and the dark, rich "mole" was exceptionally good. Hot, homemade tortillas were served in a basket. (Tortillas are a must for sopping up the remaining "mole"!) For dessert I had "cajeta" (Mexican caramel) cake.
An excellent meal for bringing this stay in Mexico to a close!
Last night I stayed at Alejandro's house. A little before 1:00 this morning, the earthquake siren sounded. All of us... Alejandro, his father, his sister with her 7-year-old in her arms, the dogs, and I... immediately went out to the street. So did everyone else in the neighborhood. None of us felt anything. The utility wires were swaying, but there was a stiff breeze last night. After several minutes we went inside and went back to sleep.
The alarms had been set off by a 5.9 quake in the southern state of Oaxaca (poor Oaxaca!). Even though it was not perceptible in most of the city, when that siren goes off, people react.
As far as last Friday's quake, a decorative façade of a building in the Condesa neighborhood fell off and raised a lot of dust. But that was the only significant damage in Mexico City. In the state of Oaxaca near the epicenter, there were some buildings destroyed, but fortunately there were no deaths or injuries.
An interesting aside... I just read that, unlike Mexico, California does NOT have a seismic alarm system. There are Californians complaining that, instead of building a Wall, the "Pendejo"-in-Chief should spend that money on an alarm system that could potentially save lives.
On Friday I was trying to decide how I should spend the day. I went out for breakfast, and I took a look at the front page of the morning paper for sale by the front door. There was a picture of the Chinese New Year festival that was being held in Mexico City's "Barrio Chino"... Chinatown.
So after breakfast I took the Metrobus downtown and headed to the small Chinatown that is tucked away just a block to the south of busy Juárez Avenue.
A banner advertises the New Year festivities in the ¨Barrio Chino".
I have passed through the area before, and I was aware of the ornate Chinese gate standing along Independencia Avenue.
However, the city government appears to be promoting the little neighborhood as a tourist attraction, and has built a few decorative features that were not there just a few months ago.
Another Chinese gate has been built along Juárez Avenue luring residents and tourists alike to turn down Dolores Street into the "Barrio".
At the corners of Independencia and Dolores Chinese lion statues stand guard.
Farther down Dolores Street are the "CDMX" letters that are seen throughout the city, but here they are in Chinese characters.
Dolores Street is lined with Chinese restaurants and shops.
The street was festooned with lanterns for the festivities.
An open air market had been set up for several blocks along Independencia Avenue with stalls selling Chinese food and souvenirs. Since this is the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar, there plenty of figures of dogs for sale.
Galletas de la Fortuna - Fortune Cookies
Not every stall in the market was related to Chinese culture...
Oaxacan ice cream
In an alley off of Dolores Street, the dragon was waiting for his big moment.
Around two o'clock the dragon came to life...
... and made his way through the streets of Chinatown.
Ironically, on Thursday, just a day before we felt a strong tremor here, I went back to the Condesa neighborhood to see again one of the areas badly hit by last September's quake.
Prior to renting the condo where I stay now, I had rented numerous times an apartment on Amsterdam Avenue in Condesa. The first reports I heard were that the building had been damaged but was repairable. When I passed the building on Thursday, I saw this sign...
Loosely translated it says, "We wish to inform you that the property of Amsterdam 7 does not have an official structural judgement. At this time it is being evaluated to determine its habitability. The use and occupation of this property is AT YOUR OWN RISK."
That does not sound good.
Two doors down the street is another apartment building that was heavily damaged. It now looks completely gutted, but there are men working in the building. One of the workers told me that they are repairing it.
Just a couple blocks away was one of the collapsed buildings that was shown on the news reports at that time. Over 40 people lost their lives here. The last of the rubble is still being cleared away.
I saw this sign in front of a damaged apartment building...
The residents of this building are urging the Civil Defense to inspect it to determine how badly it was affected by the earthquake. "Please do not leave us adrift."
While I am sure that the work to be done by authorities after the earthquake was overwhelming, it seems that after five months people should know whether or not their homes are habitable.
It was 5:40 P.M. today. I was seated at the desk in my apartment. I had just finished and posted my previous blog entry. Then I heard it. The earthquake warning siren.
The apartment made it through last September's earthquake with no damage other than a couple pieces of broken glassware. According to the owner, the building is built on bedrock, and is much safer than those in many parts of the city which are built on former lakebed.
Nevertheless, Alejandro, who is a tad paranoid after living through two serious quakes, determined that the safest part of the apartment is the corner of the living room farthest from the windows. (No sense in trying to head down the stairs from the fourth floor, he said.) When the siren sounded, I went to that corner. The picture hanging on the living room wall was shaking. The pendulum of the wall clock that doesn't work was swinging as if it had come back to life. I could feel the vibration.
It only lasted a minute or two.
When it was over, I checked on the computer to find out about the quake. I found a earthquake tracking website, and sure enough there had been a 7.2 magnitude quake in the southern state of Oaxaca. I doubt that there were any casualties or damage here in Mexico City, but I am fearful for the people in Oaxaca. They have already suffered enough.