I learned to count to twenty, I did grocery shopping, and I joined a gym. These are three achievements I feel most. They’re small things, I know, but they make me feel like I am starting to reach some kind of normality and learning to function as part of the environment I am in. Becoming a part of my surroundings, I feel, will make everything seem a lot easier. Not fitting in was giving me teenage levels of self-consciousness. I’m pretty sure I unconsciously started listening to Greenday again.
I learned to count to twenty on my walk to Bosque de Chapultepec, which is a sprawling city park covering almost 1,700 acres. It plays host to zoos, museums, a castle, galleries, and a man-made lake. I figured I would find something I fancied there. The walk was about an hour, I grabbed myself some juice and a quesadilla along the way. I realized I hadn’t eaten any vegetables since I had landed unless you count the onions and salsa they throw on the tacos. I vowed to remedy this before it became an issue.
The walk was dedicated to learning numbers. It’s weird that Spanish words like onion and cement stay in my brain but the numbers dribbled out. Either way, twenty has been achieved and tomorrow I might try to forty, I don’t want to overload my tiny brain though. God knows it needs all the space it can get to write 60,000 words a month on sit-on-top kayaks.
The park was full of, you guessed it, market stalls. These ones sold sweets, hats shaped like monkeys that pissed water out of their tails, and knock off Jordans. The stalls had a hustle. In the street markets, they rarely hassle you or sing their wares, these ones were cacophonous. Whistles, megaphones, shouting, and even a drum or two filled the park. I made my way through and tried to find the Frida Carlo Museum. It was closed.
I could see a castle at the top of a hill, this was perfect. A view, a bit of history, and a way to get away from this nightmare orchestra. The entrance was about $40 so I paid my fare and made my way up the hill.
About halfway up I regretted not bringing a bottle of water. My mouth was dry, and what was worse was so were my eyes. My contacts had already been having a bad time in the hot, dry, heat of Mexico, but today they weren’t playing. The views as I ascended were stunning, the enormous metropolis surrounded by domineering mountains on all sides, CDMX really was built in a bowl. All this was a joy to see until one of my contacts decided it wanted to see what the retina was up to. I made my way up to the castle praying they had a bathroom with a mirror.
Ignoring the weird looks as I rolled my eyes and poked at my poor pink eyeball, I managed to fish the thing out and reinstall it. Sometimes they come out really dry and putting them back in is like sandblasting your eyeball. This one was forgiving on that front at least.
The castle was stunning, and the views were far-reaching and showed off the entire city. There was an entire history of the revolution and beyond to enjoy and plenty of historic pieces. I’m sure you’ve been to a castle before, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Great views, great history, well done. I could still hear the market below.
Leaving the park on the way to a bar (of course) I caught that sweet smell of the devil’s lettuce. Parked just outside of the gates was a stall with maybe 70 to 100 people all smoking away. I’d say the atmosphere was lively, but they were all pretty monged out. I took a closer look.
It turned out to be a pro-liberation of cannabis movement. The law in Mexico states that you can have up to five grams of the Astroturf legally, and these guys were here to facilitate it. I found one of the people who spoke English and he explained the deal. I put money on the table as a donation to the cause, I tell them whether I would like pre-rolled spliffs or grams of weed and what strength I would like, the most expensive costing $60. I got a gram and two pre-rolled and paid about £4. A good day for me. I’m sure I’ll enjoy whiteying on that at some point, I’m not the JokaSmoka I once was.
I popped into a bar in what appears to be a big club and drinking district, finally got myself a mezcal, and decided it was time to start finding meet-up groups. I was socially starved. A short visit to Facebook found me a WhatsApp group filled with other, displaced people, making the most of western income in developing countries. They’re all as lonely as me, which is always good to know, and within a few beers I had a date to meet up. This will hopefully be an in to a social life, I’ll just have to try not to be myself, at least for the first few days.
Writing, another beer and mezcal with my book, and bed awaited after the walk back. I felt accomplished.
I started the next day with an email for work finally, a few thousand words on inflatable fishing kayaks. I think it pushed numbers fifteen through to twenty out of my head. Whatever. The company I’m working with has implemented a new bot ironically, that checks for AI-written content. I never have used AI but I checked my scores, and they came in quite low, much lower than my editor said they would allow. I think their new technology doesn’t work.
With only the last bits remaining on my work, I headed into the market for food. I was feeling confident and I wanted to try out my new numbers to see if I could order some bananas and meat. Armed with a fistful of dinero and my shoes tied up tight I went on a quest for vegetables.
The market was bustling. It has space for about two people side by side, and the path breaks and splits constantly. It defies the actual width of the pavement beneath it completely and houses a huge amount of covered stalls. There can be meat sellers on one side, a bustling kitchen with tables in the middle, and a recessed t-shirt selling stall on the roadside, they all have plenty of space. It seems impossible, but somehow it works.
The stall owners were lovely. I expected the Spanish approach to my broken, and terrible attempts to speak but they laughed along with me, wrote things down, and gave me a lot of patience. The markets are fast-moving and loud, yet they took the time to ask me what I wanted, check the produce with me, and not rip me off. When buying my veg, she asked when I wanted to use my avocados, ¿Para hoy o mañana o más tarde? Then gave me the correct ripeness. She asked how firm I wanted my tomatoes and helped me pick out the best ones.
I bought sausage designed to be squeezed out of the casing, grapes as big as eyeballs, and some tiny habaneros that I could smell before I saw. I left the dizzying market into the warm sunshine feeling accomplished and with a healthy weight of groceries on my back. Armed with food I made my way over the road to Coloso Gym.
It took a little while to figure out but for $400 I could become a member of a pretty solid, three-floored, heavy boii gym. The units in there are huge, shoulders as broad as they are tall, fashionable gear that lets you know they spend hours a day in there. There is a supplement shop attached to the gym that will mix you up a cardiac arrest in a glass for only a few Mexican dollars. This wasn’t the gym I was used to but it was the gym I needed. If I’m going to continue living on street meat, I have to keep on top of it.
I nipped home, cooked up a meal, finished my work, and returned to the sweet sounds of metal on metal and grunting men. Leg day in Spanish is just as bad as it is in English. At least now it’s out of the way and I won’t have to do it again till 2024. Back day tomorrow, can’t wait. The pharmacy next door sells steroids over the counter too might try to get uber jacked. Who needs big balls when you can have huge biceps?
Good food, good exercise, and a sense of achievement go a long way to removing anxiousness. I recommend it to anyone. I feel much more at home knowing I have the things I need around me, I know how to get them, and I can tackle tasks, even if they do seem small. Next up is meeting some new folk, that’s a whole new ball game.