Tranquil Xochimilco

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Flag of Mexico  , The Federal District,
Monday, August 9, 2010

This was just an afternoon, but it gets its own entry because it was so wonderful, definitely one of the highlights of this trip so far. Xochimilco is known for flower agriculture, a melodramatic 1940s Mexican movie called Maria Candalaria and network of canals that are left over from an ancient lake. You hire a trajinera, one of these colorful flat-bottom boats decorated with girls' names, and it's like Venice, except that it's not just tourists who are going. We saw a whole boatload of Mexican ladies out for the day on their own boat with drinks and mariachis, whole familes with kids and grandkids - you could fit about 20 people on these, but we got our own!
After getting turned around a couple times getting off the highway and lost in a maze of clover leaves, we found the right place, a parking lot ringed with touristy stuff. Not a lot of poeple were around because it was the middle of the week, so right away a big older guy approached us, we paid for two hours, he handed us off to a young guy who was our driver and we were set. The drivers push the boats with long poles, so there's no motor sounds - so quiet and serene after the chaos of Mexico City.

We spread out all our drawing pencils and sat and sketched. There were vendors on other boats selling beer with chili powder in it - Sheila bought two each for her and our driver, who was very happy. I got tequilla with lime. There were boats selling flowers, dolls, tamales, jewelry. A couple times a guy would get on from another boat with a big flat suitcase of silver jewelry. We just wanted to drink and draw, so they'd hang out with the driver, then hitch another ride. There were boats of mariachi bands who we could hire, but we didn't, just enjoyed them circling around us over and over. It was so pretty and peaceful and I felt so zen when we left!

Then we were going to Taxco to stay with Sheila's sister-in-law's family. We'd gotten our rental car that morning to Xochimilco and I just couldn't believe Sheila was going to drive until she actually did. She was really good! And just like all the Mexican drivers around her - really fast! Mostly, I was clenching onto the passenger seat while also being amazed by her driving ability. There's stretches of highway - huge overpasses that criss-cross each other - with no lines for lanes. There's other parts in the neighborhoods where there are intersections with no stop signs. Instead one side has speed bumps, sometimes big speed bumps. We'd bounce over these and hear the whole car squeak and rattle and all our stuff would bounce off the back seat.

There's also people walking up and down the main avenues selling everything to people in their cars - candy, cigarettes, toys. We even saw a kid selling globes - he had a few in a backpack and one in each hand and was walking from car to car asking if anyone wanted to buy one. And people drive fast! But at the same time people weren't really cutting each other off or being rude. It just kind of worked. Sheila loved it - she said it was like driving in a Mario game.
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