22 September 2011

Lily goes to the swapmeet


Along for the recent trek to La Mesa and Mercado de Todos swapmeets was Lily, a 24-year-old first-timer to not only Turista Libre but to Tijuana and San Diego as well. Her visit coincided with a stopover on the way back to her home in London after having spent the past year or so traveling and working in New York and Sydney.

She had no intention of going to Mexico as part of her travels, but she happened to hear about Turista Libre's swapmeet trek via the kind folks at Hosteling International. The first time she'd actually heard about Tijuana was from another English girl she met during a tour of Los Angeles, who told her that on her previous night out in San Diego she met a guy in bar around closing time who suggested taking a taxi to the border to Tijuana where the bars were open 'til 6 a.m.

"From what this girl told me, I then expected Tijuana to be a place for American youths to indulge in what would be underage drinking in America," she says. "I heard it’s a popular destination for spring break, so (I) also expected a tacky resort vibe with tons of trashy bars playing cheesy music."

Yeah, there's that. Less than once upon a time, for sure. But it's still here. Like any touristy area, she says. Streets lined with tacky junk for sale. Waitstaff and tchotchke vendors hassling her to come into shops and restaurants. All she could hear, she says, was, "Hello, hello, come inside, speak English!"

That all changed as she traveled farther into the city and away from Revolucion.

"On route to the first swapmeet, the craziness started to die down a bit, compared to hustle and bustle, the streets were less crowded and I finally had a chance to soak in what was really going on, watching locals dine at open-style restaurants, fixing there cars on the sidewalk, just everyday life."

Lily used a 35-milimeter Olympus she bought for a dollar at some Australian thrift store to document her transborder experience: catching the trolley from her hostel in the Gaslamp, her walk across the bridge into downtown Tijuana, the bus ride east along Boulevard Agua Caliente, the Jai Alai building on Revolucion and the armies of ceramic junk that line it, her adobada, her churros, her pozole and her Pe├▒afiel. These are her photos. They already look like they're from another decade, but not because of some overused iPhone app.

I'd say the photos one takes while experiencing Tijuana for the first time are often the most sincere portraits of the city, even it arguably cliche. You're not necessarily processing the geopolitical, economic and ecological complications embedded in every street corner. Rather, you're just taking it all in as randomly as it throws itself at you.

And this is what you see.

More about her day, in her own words:

As an outsider to the entire region who visited both sides of the border, how do you see the relationship between San Diego and Tijuana?

I was surprised at how easy it was getting into Mexico, a matter of catching a trolley for 20 minutes and walking through two turnstiles and although it was easy to access Mexico I was disappointed at how little border crossing was promoted to tourists visiting San Diego, and how locals in San Diego gave me the impression that Tijuana was a dangerous and violent place and was advised to not go there.

For someone who's neither Mexican nor American, what immediately felt different after crossing the border? And what felt the same?

Compared to past experiences of crossing borders in Europe, I felt a gradual merging of cultures. For example, the border of Italy and Switzerland. The locals on each side can speak the same language, there is a merge of foods and you don’t really feel like you’re in another country. Whereas when I went through the turnstiles into Mexico I got overwhelming sense of, “Wow, I’m in Mexico." From riding a quiet trolley for half an hour to crazy traffic, hustle and bustle, horns honking, smells coming from the food carts, colorful stores everywhere, my senses felt like they were on overdrive.

Your favorite three specific moments of the day?

1. Eating cactus flowers laced with salt, chilli and lime. I never even knew cactus grew flowers? Also, mixing sweet with savoury normally makes me cringe, but this surprisingly tasted really good.

2. Trying pozole for the first time in an authentic Mexican restaurant. Next time I’ll think twice about ordering my usual two chicken tacos and soda.

3. Eating fresh churros from a street vendor. These things were $13 for two pieces in Australia, so I was really stoked and took no time in wolfing them down.

One of the goals of Turista Libre is to give outsiders a chance to feel like a local for a few hours. How did your experience compare to that?

Going to the swapmeet where the locals didn’t speak any English made me think, "Oh, I’m gonna get ripped off," when in fact the day turned out to be the complete opposite. The best part was getting there on the rickety, old bus, sitting amongst the locals. Nobody looked at us like we were a bunch of Americans on a tour.


1 comment:

Maximo Ginez III Blogpage said...

Hello there,
Just would like to share these success quotes.

"Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand."
-- Bruce Barton

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that?s where you will find success."
- Thomas J. Watson

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.
William Feather

Formula for success: under promise and over deliver.
Tom Peters

The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.
Henry Ford

"The successful always has a number of projects planned, to which he looks forward. Anyone of them could change the course of his life overnight."
-Mark Caine

"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore."
-Dale Carnegie