Its been entirely way too long since I wrote here. I suck. I wish I had a good excuse, but its not like I can say I've been too busy, even if I wanted to say i was - my fellow remotes are cranking out blog posts at a prodigious rate and I can barely get an Instagram post up let alone sit down and write something about this trip lately. However, new year, new me.....well until I break whatever this resolution is that I've made to myself on January 10th* sitting in Beer Lounge in Bogota's Zona T neighborhood while listening to the 3rd Bieber song of the night (LOVE this bar already). Anyway enough with the excuses we're getting right into a review of my month...errr 3ish weeks in Mexico City in the form of a power ranking - who or what excelled this past December and what needs work. Here we go.
1. Street tacos - its tough to have cooked meat, salsa, hot sauce and tortillas beat out our amazing city manager but street tacos were there for me at breakfast, lunch, 2nd lunch and dinner and drunk dinner. That type of consistency can't go unnoticed and is deserving of the top spot. Special shout out to the "guacamole lady" who made the hottest salsa you've ever had but kept telling gringos that it was guacamole....good on you ma'am - keep that delicious sauce and those campechanos tacos coming (Pro tip - if you ever find yourself living at 214 Puebla in Juarez take a right out your door, walk to the 7-11, its the 3rd taco stand down)
2. Paulina - What can I say about this amazing city manager that she hasn't already said about her self!? (credit every corny roast for that "joke") Paulina was the perfect addition to our Darien family. After six months traveling things can get pretty routine but the energy she brought to the group was a welcome shot of adrenaline. She was always there to help facilitate events, answer questions, ensure we had a great time at our track events, be our group's abuela and counselor...also an insane ability to party. I'm so thankfully that we were the first group to introduce her to the Remote Year city manger experience and as a result her and Darien are forever inextricably tied.
3. Alex - several breakfasts prepared for me while in various hangover dazes, making sure I didn't miss the flight to Bogota after we stayed out until like 2am and some solid Macgyver skills involving a plastic bottle and knife. Your next barley wine is on me!
4. Lucha Libre - god damn this power ranking is full of heavy hitters, the third night back in Remote Year we decided to go to our first ever Lucha Libre match for Euston's birthday and holy shit that was one of the best nights of remote year. Think a Univision telenovela meets Eyes Wide Shut meets countless nut smashes and float it all on a sea of massive cups of beer and you have 30ish remotes screaming and crying laughing. 12/10 must do again.
Probably pointing at Gamble as he tries to get the Degeneration-X "Suck It" chant going
5. Christmas in Mexico - I'm not a HUGE Christmas fan only because I get way too nervous trying to buy gifts and I hate shopping in general but I definitely missed not being around my family and our Christmas Eve and Day traditions - mainly drinking, eating, yelling and a touch of church. However Mexico came through in a big way and made me miss home a little bit less - Pozadas / Christmas parties with a range of new Mexican friends who welcomed me in with open arms as the huérfano gringo (white orphan), helping to bake christmas cookies while watching Harry Potter with the Remote Year crew (5% helped, 95% beers and movies) and drank an obscene amount of tequila for charity that night (sorry Eddie). Mexican Christmas was a success.
They played secret santa where if you guessed who gave you the gift you could give out a shot to anyone....they always picked me as that person. Feliz Navidad!
6. Mud Brothers - we spent a day out in a remote area of Mexico City's Xochimilco neighborhood where a local scientist and some farmers took us out to a Chinimpa, an ancient Meso-American farms that used to float on the canals of Mexico City (I didn't even know Mexico City had canals...I'm dumb). They taught us their natural, ancient methods and we spent a day working the farm. While we had to transport seedlings, gather compost and till the soil - the "best" job was by far the mud crew who were responsible for mixing and transporting the key ingredient fertilizer...in particular some horrific smelling canal mud fertilizer. The mud crew was lead by Danny and Rob, the Mud Brothers, who had to get into a traineras (think wide canoe) FULL of mud, wade in it and scoop up buckets to pass to me on the shore. The smell of that canoe alone means they need a spot at the top.
I don't have a pic of the mud brothers since we were, well, covered in mud so here is the random farm dog who rode with us on the river
7. Remote Year Tracks - Remote Year ramped it up a notch with their new track program, basically we sign up for a themed track (for example the history of the city, local people, work-life balance, etc.) that aim to structure our monthly experience around topics that interest us. My events included a dinner with local entrepreneurs to share our unique experiences, an evening to discuss the passion that drives the work of local, artists, learn about sustainable living from Siembra Merced, an in-depth tour of the city's major markets (definitely recommend the Santeria Market) and a spiritual night in a traditional Temezcal (large sweat lodge) jammed in in the best way with like 15 other remotes.
8. Xohimilco - same region while we spent a day on the farms of the region but our going away party was in a nearby sub-section of the area known for its boat parties. Basically you get on a tricked out version of the same traineras mentioned above to drink tequila and cervezas. On your way down the river, you encounter food boats, where you can get street corn, tacos, flautas, etc. and mariachi boats where you can tie them up to y our boat for some musical accompaniment. Its a fun, memorable experience but it kind of hurts the local ecosystem given the pollution that comes from the increased visitors sooooo here you go at number 8.
9. Pyramids of Teotihuacan - these stunning ancient pyramids stand a surprisingly short Uber ride from the masssive, hectic center of Mexico City. We got to hike both pyramids, ate lunch in a cafe (food was...eehhh), took in a centuries of history and I bought an annoying jaguar whistle. What a day!
These views were made even better when I finally bought a jaguar whistle that Sara will love next month as roommates
Coyoacán - A little south of Mexico City is a quaint little town where I was able to explore through the lens of a local friend - visited Frida Kahlo's house, ate street corn, sat in an unassuming but beautiful church, discovered fried ants aren't that bad and drank my first Mezcal. I was so drawn to this district that I came back with the ashes for my mother and placed her in one of their peaceful plazas so she could enjoy the energy and character of a place I fell in love with. For the last point here I gave it an honorable mention since it would obviously go number 1 overall otherwise.
View from the bench in front of where my mother's ashes are placed - more about why I picked this place here
1. Altitude - fuuuuuck being that high above sea level, Mexico City do better. I had just spent a week in NYC and before that Amsterdam and Valencia...all very places close to the sea. Once I got to Mexico my lungs were a mess, first thing I did was hike a mountain to La Piramide del Tepozteco and I sweated through my shirt in life two seconds and had to stop every 5 minutes since it felt like an anvil was on my chest and I contemplated how much more I actually wanted to live (but the hike was awesome FYI). Every time I'd walk up a flight of stairs in the office I was breathing like I'd just run a marathon....okay a mile. So Mexico City I know you're sinking about 3 feet a year (actually a HUGE problem) but like hurry it up already.
I may be smiling on the outside but I'm dying on the inside
2. My Spanish - Yikes! After taking a full week off to go back to NYC for work my Spanish quickly devolved into a pile of basura. After some refresher classes it got back to passable in that I can say the first two sentences of any conversation, wait for a response I don't understand, apologize and ask for it to be repeated...again...and again. However, at least I used numbers to describe how old I am vs. a day of the week....tip of the cap to Kelly!
3. Food Born Stomach Viruses or whatever - not nearly as bad a situation as Morocco but I could do with less of this, always. That being said I'll keep eating random street food regardless of what it does to me later since I've got the memory of a hummingbird.
4. Wings Army - Okay so to be honest I loved their wings but I ate here too much for being in Mexico City when I should have been enjoying the local cuisine so screw this place for having good wings....I think I'm going to Bogota Hooter's for lunch...
5. Mezcal - again another your so good your bad nominee. I drank entirely way too much of this stuff and every time I did I wondered if I really, really liked it or if I was convincing myself I did. Still not sure, but definitely recommend having it just maybe not as much as me.
*Editors Notes: notice the publication date of this...i suck...
The year isn't over yet but I think Mexico City has vaulted to the top of my list of Remote Year cities - its at least a 1a vs. 1b battle with Lisbon. Its beautiful weather, never-ending street food, welcoming people, history around every corner, only an hour behind the east coast and an extremely forgiving visa policy make it a perfect candidate for a future visit - thinking next October or November in anyone is interested in joining?
Adios Ciudad de Mexico, te extranere y te amo!