Part of my planning for living abroad yet being frugal was to rent a room with locals. This, I figured, would be perfect: I get to save money, and improve my Spanish by speaking with the people I live with on a regular basis. So, through my school I arranged to be hosted by a local Mexican family, and breakfast would be included each day. I could stay as long or as short as I like because I’ll be paying by the week. Also, unlike staying at a hotel which can be around $150 – $200 or more per day, this would be $200 per WEEK, with breakfast! Sounds perfect, no?
So, let’s check in with reality, shall we?
First off, my concerns before arriving were principally:
- Will the home have WiFi?
Upon leaving the comfortable and excellent hotel, I realized I had another problem:
- Most buildings here don’t have addresses.
To get around in Mexico, you get an address like the following: “calle 34 entre ave 25 y 30”. This translates roughly to: “on 34th street, between 25th ave and 30th ave”. That’s how my school was noted, and I had no problems finding it, because it has a huge bloody sign out and looks like a vacation in the middle of the city. How will I find the house I’m to stay at?
Well, luckily, this house seems to have modernized: they have a “casa 6” added to their address, so all I have to do is get between ave 25 and 30, and find a house with a 6 on it. Simple. Also: the avenues increment by 5’s here, so it’s just one block between 25 and 30.
So, I leave school, pick up my luggage from the hotel, and begin my trek from 6th street to 34th street. It’s about 2pm, and the sun is in full force, as is the humidity. I have wisely chosen to pack my backpack with everything I could ever need for Mexico, Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Norway. So it weighs, roughly, 400 pounds.
Do you remember those tourist stores I lambasted when I discussed 5th ave? Turns out they have AC on full blast. Each store along the way was visited by a large foreigner, sweating so profusely that his pores were basically spraying sweat at strangers, who stood for several minutes under the blasting AC and sweat egregiously at their clientele. Thank you trinket shops, I will never speak ill of you again.
Long story short: I found the house, dropped my back and knocked on the door, practicing in my head: “Hola, me llamo Korey” and “Encantada”, which I’m told is roughly “my name is Korey” and “Pleased to meet you”, but could actually mean “My dog’s name is Korey” and “A Jihad on your family!”. So I’m a bit nervous, and I’m quite aware that since it looks like I took a swim fully clothed while carrying a backpack, I’m not the most presentable of guests.
I knocked again, trying to knock “politely”, wondering what to say if the person who answers just glares at me and says “que pasa?”. I sure don’t have the words for “Hi, I’m going to stay at your house and you’ll make be breakfast” yet.
Still no answer.
Panic rising, realizing I have no place to stay, and nobody really to ask if I’ve been given wrong directions, I knock again, a little more forcefully. Still nothing.
So I give up and go across the street to get some water to replace the 40% body mass I have exuded through my pores. Looking back across the street, I see two young foreigners walking toward the house. I track them, and sure enough, they head to the very door I was knocking on. I’m saved!
After intercepting them, they handle everything, showing me that I should have gone up the stairs to knock (I had no idea that was the same place), and they introduce me to my host, Alma, and they all have some laugh in Spanish about the sweaty doofus with the giant backpack.
So, fast forward a bit: the last couple days have been quite a change from staying at the hotel, laying on the beach, and consuming everything 5th ave has to offer with the Elder. Now I wake every morning in a panic about how to say basic things:
“May I fill my water bottle?” (Puedo servirme agua?)
“Thank you for breakfast, the food was great” (estuvo muy rica el desayuno, muchas gracias)
“I think I may have left a lake of sweat back in my room, do you have a mop?” (su aplicación de traducción es inútil en esta situación)
So, I’m forced to actually use what little Spanish I have, which is good. Alma and her family are super friendly and patient, which is quite a relief as well. I constantly wonder what social faux pas I’m enacting every day, but I’ll learn over time I guess.
A quick tour of my new place. Very different from the Hotel. This is the street entrance. You can see the stairs on the left that lead to the family’s area. The lit doorway leads to the student rooms:
The only thing I’m missing now is AC. Notice that the bed has no blanket? That’s because only a suicidal person would try to put something over themselves here. I might just trade my leg for a bit of AC. Maybe I can sleep in one of the tourist shops?