When my manager informed me that I would have to travel to Mexico for a month I was very excited. Finally, I can learn a little more Spanish (as if I already knew it) and be in a new place where none of my team mates or even anyone else I know from my Indian division had been. After my trip to Oregon, I had only a few hours after the days work to get ready and by 10, I had only a couple of hours of sleep. I started to the aeropuerto (airport) by 3.30 am and reached there by 4 and was surprised to see that there was no one there @ the international departures. So I waited for another 15 mins and then asked a security guard over there and he guided me towards the domestic departures for United Airlines to LA. I was having trouble doing the checkin as it wasnt allowing me to do without a valid Mexican Visa and people with US visa can go to Mexico for a vist of 180 days. And they opened up the check in by 4.15 or so and there was a huge queue. And this big fat lady who allowed us in turns to the check in terminals would not hear me at all when I told her that I might need a manual check in. After three attempts, finally she heard me and then sent me to another queue for manual checkin. There was a big queue for that too and only one checkin personnel. One gentleman took almost 15 mins in order to get his additional baggages in. Thankfully, one more checkin personnel came and I got my check in done by 5.15 (remember 6 am was my flight) and then again going back to the Big queue for the security checks. Thank fully , it was all done by 5.40 and I got into the plane to LA. Almost slept for all of the trip (just one hour :D)) and got up just in time to click the aerial view of LA.
Disclaimer: This post might be long….
In LA, we moved to another gate (which was under construction) to board the international flight (Continental) flight to Guadalajara. There they took out my I94 (this actually got me worried a little bit) and I was again ready. But this time it stuck me that I am going to a place where they may or may not understand English. In the flight, most of them spoke Spanish. As part of the snacks that was provided .. they gave a cheese wrap sort of thing with egg omelete and I had to remove the omelete and eat the rest. I was damn hungry. There was an old couple who were besides me and while filling the immigration form they had some doubts and asked me in Espan(with ~)ol and all I could say to them was “Sorry”. It was weird. All announcements were in Espanol and English.
In the immigration , they dont ask you anything at all unless they get a suspicion and let me through. After getting my luggage, we had to go through the customs, who asked me how long was I staying there and why I have come.. and then let me through. I had earlier got an email from the manager in Mexico development center about how to take a taxi and I was going through the small airport (It very much looked like Coimbatore Airport, except a tad bigger.. ) insearch of the taxi stand and suddenly I hear my name being called. It was a tuesday and I was very very surprised to see my team mates out there calling me. Wow.. they were there to help me checkin to the hotel. They have always been this generous and welcoming everytime I have met them. I wasnt sure if it was in their nature, or if only these guys were like that.
They helped me check in the hotel and took me to one of the restaurants in the same building of the hotel (Chopstix) for the lunch. The people out there spoke only spanish and they had nothing vegetarian. They were like..we have vegetables, what meat do you like it with.. What!! Dont these guys know who a vegetarian is !!! Gosh!!! this is going to be difficult , I thought. Well finally they managed to explain it to them and got me a vegetable noodles. It was good. After that they left for the office and I went to crash. I was very very tired. But had to check my mails, reply to them, do part of my work and then by 9 I slept off. It doesnt get dark till 8 here. The Sun is high and bright till 8 pm and it is bright by 6 am. They really really have less night hours.
They do not have breakfast free here. We can either order them or take a buffet for 95 – 100 pesos (1 peso is almost 4.5 INR) I preferred to order in room because I can choose a vegetarian dish from the list (rather than going to the buffet and wondering which one is vegetarian and which one is not) and it still costs the same.
Then I went down and asked the reception (recepción) for a taxi. They told me that it would be outside and when I went there, I saw one waiting and asked him if he was coming (obviously in English). He said something and it was completely incomprehensible to me and then he showed the way in. I told him the office address, actually I had it written down and showed him in writing. He shook his head (as if he understood me) and took me through the up and down streets of Guadalajara to Zapopan (part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Municipality) where the office was located. These guys had shown me the building from the hotel (even though it wasnt clearly visible) and I looked for the building name and finally got down in my office. Its a 7/8 floor building , out of which different floors were rented to different IT companies. This area looked very rich with all corporates having offices in huge towers (Torres). Thankfully one of my team mate had give me 100 Pesos the previous day and I gave that to the taxi fellow and he gave me back 20 pesos. I was like.. how much ? and he said something and gave me another 10 pesos.. I was like “What!!” then I tried again “How much” with some signs added to it. He said something in spanish and I just kept quite and walked out. Never mind … He gave me 30 pesos back..that means its 70 from my hotel to office. Does it really cost that much ???
In the reception again they asked me for some ID card.. and they kept it with themselves. The building has its own ID card for the access and its own parking card (if you use ur car) and then we have to enable the access to our floor too… God.. how many access cards …thala valikudhu.. We have to get the ID card from the reception when we leave the building without fail. I gave them my duplicate driving license I am using. I dont care even if its gets missed. The lady in the reception doesnt speak English…. Hmm… Finally I was in the office and everyone greeted me with so much happiness and gave me a place to start my work. I jumped into the work right away.
The night mare came during the lunch. They dont have a cafetaria or anything in that building, so they go to the mall nearby and have lunch in the food court. So my team mates took me there and now comes the hard part. Apart from Salads, you have very less choices for vegetarian. These guys helped me get a vegetarian dish (I tried Enchilada Suizas, Chilequilas, Sopes for e.g. which are mexican) and a green salad without chicken (even salads have their own share of non-veg.. Murugaa!!!! ). I got to know how to ask for a taxi, how to pronounce the names of the hotel and the office buildings and the street names (Avenue is Avenida, Building is edificio, hotel is hotel but pronounces as o-tel ..h is silent) and inorder to ask for a taxi .. necesito un taxi de sitio por favor (I need a taxi, please).
Here you can get a taxi near the malls, just like what we have for autos in India. They have meters but very few ask for a fixed rate (for e.g. when I travelled from Plaza Patria to my hotel, he asked me to give 30 pesos without the meter..) We should always ask for a receipt (Necesito un recibo, por favor – I need a receipt, please). For the rest of the three days I managed to go and come back in Taxi to and from my office. Very very less people speak english here. so now my sign language is coming into play when the talking becomes difficult.
People in my office advised me to take a taxi instead of renting a car, as it was very very costly. Also they told me of some places to go when I was ready for the weekends. These people out here in my office, have a unique way of saying hi as soon as they come to office. They punch their fists and give a huge hug and then shake hands (thankfully I am spared). Also they have their own natural water which tastes like juice. Every friday, they celebrate the birthdays of the people for that week. They play with darts and keep shooting darts at their friends around. One guy I knew from my California office, who was transferred here, saw me and came @ me (literally) and then at the last moment, held himself (he remembered I was Indian) and greeted me with a handshake.. and said “We guys always welcome with a hug.. I had to restrain myself a lot to not do that to you 🙂 ” I thanked him.. The Director here asked me if I was vegan. I said I am not a full vegan but almost a vegan. He was like.. you might have to struggle hard for your food .. I was like..yeah I know that 🙂
A few words about the city as a first look @ it. It was more or less like Bangalore, except for the right lane and left hand driving. We have the places like Kalasipalayam over here too.. even though not that untidy. We have areas which look very rich like the Zapopan area, the Avenida Americas etc. just like our Brigade road and M.G Road. And its very hot at this point of time of the year. Its like 40 degree celsius. Hot like in Coimbatore. And these people use metric system like we do. Not like the miles or gallons. All are in Kms and liters (or litre) All the roads and routes are in Spanish..of course you can make out the names as they are pronounced the way they are written.
Sunday I tried to walk around near my hotel to see what else was there in the same lane and I saw a Ganesh Casino (Ganesh in a Casino!!! whoever thought of that combination!!) and a Starbucks coffee shop. So I got in to grab a coffee and a cake and panini.. But I wasnt sure if that was vegetarian and to my horror the guys there didnt speak english (oh my god!!!). So I showed him what I want and was asking (or trying to) for the contents in a Panini. In one case, he read me everything and I didnt get one ingredient..and both of the guys couldnt translate it in English and finally the other guy drew me a picture of it. It was a lamb!!! Gosh!!! I said ..no that is not vegetarian.. give me a cake and a coffee.. He was like confused.. And then slowly tried his english.. God it was funny… Similarly in the Plaza Patria, where I got a watch and a headset, they all spoke Spanish and I had to say a few words that I knew and then use the sign language or tell them “No Hable Espanol” (no speak spanish) but I managed to get around, buy what I need and be back at the hotel too. But its terribly hot to roam around. For food I managed to get some potato wedges from McDonalds (that is the only item I knew didnt have non-veg and the girls out there also didnt speak english.. )
This town has a lot way to go to accept people from around the world. Even the international brands have people who can only speak spanish in their stores. That is difficult atleast for me in my first week. Let me see how much I am start learning spanish and use it too.
On Saturday, I managed to go to Downtown Guadalajara to the Catedral de Guadalajara. That comes up in my next post.. This is already too long.. But I guess there are more funny incidents coming up my way. Stay tuned. 😀