Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Estamos en Mexico.

We’re here.

We arrived at O’Hare around 7:30am, were informed that our checked baggage was overweight, hurriedly repacked it, made our way to the gate, and successfully boarded United Flight 819 to Mexico City. Actually, I only successfully boarded Flight 819 thanks to my mom, who took a day and a half off of work to accompany us on the flight in order to make sure that I, as a standby passenger, made it onto the airplane. I’ve said it before here, but what our families have done for us these last few days has been way above and beyond.

Anyway, as we descended through the clouds down to Benito Juarez International Airport, a few familiar but forgotten Mexican sights were on display. The mountains, seemingly dotting the landscape at random, apart from any discernable range (though I’m sure there is one), not as green the Appalachians nor as numerous as the Rockies, yet with an air of ancientness and mystery all their own. Then, as you get closer to the ground, the buildings, so different from the steel and glass canyons of Chicago, with Chicago’s orderly grids and palettes in shades of silver and gray and black, no, here in Mexico the buildings are bright and boisterously colorful (even if those colors are a little faded, the paint peeling and cracked sometimes), looking like they were made out of clay and arranged in a sprawling mess of winding streets and alleys and avenidas that would make Daniel Burnham, Chicago’s grid planner, apopletic.

Our taxi ride through Mexico City bore this home, as our driver flew around turns of the winding streets at rollercoaster speed, honking at anyone who threatened to slow him down. We watched the city whiz past. The first thing that stands out at taxi level are the billboards. Imagine the billboards you might see on the highway. Now, multiply that by a billion. Chris says it always makes her think of the “city of the future,” like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, what those of us who have never been to Tokyo imagine Tokyo might be like. Some billboards are similar to those we’ve seen in the U.S. all summer, just slightly different; instead of “The Dark Knight,” ads here trumpet the return of “El Caballero de la Noche.”

[above: Look, it's a Mexican version of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption! (actually called here "Chronometro" i.e. "Stopwatch"). Can you tell which one is the Mexican Mike Wilbon?]

A half-hour taxi ride got us to the Lutheran Center, where Kim Erno, resident pastor and director of the center, greeted us, helped us get our excess luggage situated, chatted with us for awhile, and then saw us off to our next destination. We’ll return to the Lutheran Center in about two weeks.

Exhausted, mostly from the travel but ever so slightly from the much-increased altitude here in Mexico City, we opted to stay in a nice, midrange hotel, the first one we came upon, near the bus station that we’ll depart from tomorrow morning. The hotel has free and mostly reliable Wi-Fi, allowing us to check in with family and post this little report. We ate dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, where we felt a little too much like awkward tourists.

No matter. Today has been a good start to our adventure, and tomorrow… No, I think I’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. It’s time, finally, for some rest.

I hope this finds everyone at home well. We miss you all.

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