It has been quite an emotional experience in my 3-month stay at Mexico. Before arriving to this beautiful country, I had my fair share of doubts about this place, whether it is related to some of the typical stereotypes or the danger of drug cartels. However, after meeting amazing people in Mexico, I have completely changed my perspective and my view about this country. This country offers much more than I had imagined. The people, the food, the culture and the weather have all exceeded my expectations.
There are two things that many Mexicans don’t believe about me: I am 26 and I am Canadian. Some can understand that there are Chinese Canadians exist in this planet, but most don’t believe my age. I still get my ID checked when I go to clubs, and sometimes I think that the person checking my ID card is probably younger than me.
Monterrey is a beautiful city. When I first arrived at Mexico City DF, my impression was that Mexico is very crowded, busy, disorganized and chaotic. I clearly remember the scene at DF when a bus stopped in the middle of a highway (dangerous!), and passengers got out to the highway and others hopped on the bus. To me, that was an unbelievable scene. At Mexico City, I have also been on a taxi where the taxi driver was driving on the opposite lane just to cut in line of a long traffic jam.
Anyway, Monterrey is not like that. Despite my Monterrey friends complaining about traffic in this city, it is nothing like Mexico City DF. DF is another level and you can easily be stuck in traffic for 2+ hours. Monterrey is a lot more organized and places are tidier and cleaner. Because all the commercial buildings are not located in downtown Monterrey, the city centre is less busy.
At the beginning of August, Monterrey weather can be quite unbearable, when temperature soared as high as 43 Celsius degrees. However, by October, Monterrey has the best weather when temperature hovers around a moderate 20-25 Celsius degrees.
Despite all that, it doesn’t mean Monterrey always has the perfect weather. Due to its surrounding mountains, Monterrey can have some crazy rain storms. My friend Dinorah says that Monterrey’s rain is like raining tequila because drivers suddenly forget how to drive and cause accidents. It is also said that if there is a rain, just wait for 5 minutes and the rain will be gone. I have personally witnessed this a few times and it works like magic!
Did I mention that Monterrey has crazy mountains? When I first arrived in Monterrey, I was shocked and impressed with the surrounding mountains. The mountains here are huge and overlook the entire city. I have been to many cities around the world and I have never seen such gorgeous mountains surrounding a city. The most famous mountain here is called “Cerro de la Silla”, which is “the Saddle” in English. Yes, Monterrey is in a valley.
The culture in Mexico is very different from Canada. I have experienced some things here that I would not do in Canada. First, I was introduced with Carro Sardina, which the English literal translation is Car Sardina. I have been squished to a car with 6-7 people on a sedan. In Mexico, this is quite common. Another thing that I was introduced is called Semana Gitana, [English: Gypsy Week]. One of the most important elements in Mexico is that people here love to enjoy your life and have parties. Semana Gitana means that if you drink alcohol on Monday, you have to drink alcohol every day for the rest of the week. Mexicans even have words to describe the alcoholic day of the week. For example: Wednesday is Miercolitros and Thursday is Juebebes.
During my stay in Mexico, I noticed that there is some kind of rivalry between regions of the country. People in Monterrey, or Regios, have told me that the north of the country makes the money, the middle manages it and the south spends it all. This is a common theme in many countries in the world. For example: Catalonia from Spain makes the money, Madrid manages it and other parts of the country spends it. Even Canada has this kind of rivalry too.
As mentioned above, the different regions of Mexico are very different from each other. The north of Mexico (like Monterrey) is more Americanized, where I see Sears, Bestbuy, HEB and Walmart. People from the north listen to America’s Top 40 music, though the north also has its own distinctive Mexican music, most notably with an accordion. The middle region of Mexico has many colonial cities, such as Guanajuato City and San Miguel. The south region of Mexico is more tropical and jungle-like. I’m glad that during my 3-month stay in Mexico that I was able to travel to different parts of the country and see the big cities, the colonial towns and the jungle. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to check out any resorts or beaches. Nonetheless, shout out to all my travel buddies Adriana, Aaron, Mamta, Kirsty, Matias, Ollie, Gunay, Silvio, Pablo and Elena.
Food and drinks: One of my best experience here is to be able to try Mexican food and drinks. I could hardly count the different kinds of Mexican food that I was introduced to by my friends. The list goes from a billion types of taco/tostada/gordita, to carne asada from the north, to chapulines from the south, to Tosi-locos from the west. For drinks, I was introduced to Agua de Horchata (thanks Natie), Michelada (Mamta’s favourite), Mezcal and Jackie Chan (thanks Natie again). I was also taught how to do reversa (which is drinking from the bottom of the glass by reversing it upside down).
I have done many things in Mexico that I did not expect to do before I arrive. This is all thanks to everyone who has given me the opportunity. For example, I have been to a soccer stadium and watched a live soccer match (thanks Arnoldo and Brenda). I have been to multiple carne asadas and house parties. I have cheered for my friend’s soccer team (CUCAS). I have taught at a class in a University in Monterrey. I have been to a Mexican wedding (thanks Brenda). I have volunteered at a hospital (thanks Ana). I have been introduced to Reggaeton (thanks Adry). I have watched a challenger tennis match and played tennis (thanks Monica, Jorge and Dinorah for making this happen). I have tried Mexican food in a billion restaurants (thanks to everyone who is willing to drive me at late hours, especially Aaron and Arnoldo).
Thank you to everyone who has been patient with me in Mexico. Despite my slightly improved Spanish, I still had trouble communicating with people outside of work, such as the bank, Telcel and inquiry about my Ecovale card. Until this day, I still don’t know how to make a phone call in Mexico, because of the complicated rules here. (For example: mobile to mobile dial is different from landline to mobile dial). Even though I can navigate to places via Uber in Monterrey, you guys still take the time to pick me up at my hotel and drive me to places. The only thing I can offer you back is my friendship, and my future gracious hospitality in Canada! :D
I have no regrets coming to Mexico and I would like to give a shout-out to my friends I met here.
Aaron – thanks for taking me to so many different bars and restaurants. You introduced me to the spiciest food that I’ve ever had – Jalapeño. Also, on the 3rd day you met me, without hesitation you took me to Grutas de Garcia. I am still thankful for that. Also, thanks for taking me to Guanajuato and San Miguel. I really enjoyed the trip there.
Arnoldo – Also, thank you for taking me to many different restaurants. I really enjoyed our late night dinner at the various open-air food stall style restaurants. Remember, in Cantonese we call them “dai pai dong”. Thank you for being my lunch buddy for many days here. Thank you for taking me to the first live soccer match of my life and also to Las Estanzuela for the hike. Also, do not worry about Mr. Brown :D
Natalia – Natie, thank you for getting me tipsy in Monterrey, you almost had me there with Jackie Chan. It was such a pleasure to get to know you. I really enjoyed the time when you took me to Los Migueles and El Takiro. I hope you really enjoy the meal I made and the sauce that I gave you!
Brenda – Thank you for introducing me to Juebebes. I’m not sure if I would continue to do it in Canada, but I will definitely keep that in mind. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a guest at your friend’s wedding, that was really nice. Also, thank you for taking me to a live soccer game, I will cheer for Rayados from Canada! (sorry for all Tigres fans).
Jorge – Coke My seat buddy! Such a pleasure to have you as my seat buddy so I could bother you with all my ridiculous requests and translation services. It was great playing golf and tennis with you (my two favourite sports). Just remember the day that you beat me in tennis. Keep that intensity and mentality and you’ll win in future matches. Thank you for telling me everything about Monterrey as well. Remember, keep clashing. I hope you can be at a clash tournament one day haha.
Dinorah – Thank you for being in my team! Honestly, without you I would be so lost with all the tasks that I had to do here in the office. I remember the first day you told me that we would cook each other food from our own culture. Although it took us after 3 months to do it, I’m glad I gave you a flavor of Chinese food and that you introduced me to food from Sorona. Keep playing tennis and do not forget the love of your sport.
Adriana – Adry, It was great having you as my travel buddy in Guanajuato and San Miguel. I learned a lot about you during my stay in Mexico. Thank you for also introducing me to Reggaeton. I have already downloaded some of the music. :D
Monica – Moni! It was great to have you as one of my tennis buddies. I really enjoyed both of our singles and doubles matches. Hope you enjoyed the challenger match that we watched together. If you have the chance, come check out our Toronto ATP 1000 match during August!
Cecilia – Ana, I was so impressed about you when I learned that you played the guitar. I also admire how you continue to volunteer for the church. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to volunteer with you at the hospital. It was a tremendous experience and I will not forget about it.
Karen – Thank you for taking me to one of your friend’s place for carne asada. I really enjoyed that day. Also, thanks for taking me to cheer your soccer team CUCAS. I know you introduced me to Matacanes. Too bad I couldn’t go this year because of the rainy season, maybe next time!
Augustin – Marcelo! Thanks for taking me to your birthday party. It was a lot of fun. Also, thanks for taking me to my first club here at Bar-rio. Also, thank you for being patient with me about geocaching at Puente de la Unidad. Too bad we couldn’t find anything. Remember, watch Game of Thrones!
Majo – Thanks for telling me about your stories in Chiapas. I could almost live vicariously through you about your stories. After going to Chiapas, I truly understand that side of the country. It is completely different from Monterrey!
Rebecca – Thanks for being my new seat buddy! It was nice to know the stories that you told me about you. I hope I can understand French and Spanish just as well as you in the future.
Carlos – Thanks for all your translation help. I think during my first few weeks in Monterrey, I was pretty lost with how all the systems work, such as telephone, banking and reservations. Too bad we couldn’t play golf together. Maybe next time!
Catalina – Caty, I know that I have been bothering you all the time about the piggy banks. I have even almost given up on them. Until, you suddenly surprised me with a piggy bank by convincing Mauricio to give up his! Thanks!
Mamta – Obviously, I can’t end this post without saying anything to my Tax Trek buddy here! It was a pleasure meeting you here in Mexico. I find it quite fascinating to meet a foreigner in a different country. It must be fate that we met each other in Mexico. Thank you for traveling with me to Guanajuato and San Miguel. Thanks for putting up with me all the random jokes that I crack on you. Thanks for taking care of me when I was sick in Monterrey. Your cooking was delicious! I hope you are going to enjoy the rest of your time here in Mexico!
Sanjeong – SJ, Shin - Thank you for being my only other south east Asian friends in Monterrey. Your cooked meal reminded me a lot of my food back home. Oh, the white rice…
Tax trekkers – Special shout-out to my travel buddies in Mexico who have travelled with me to Guadalajara, Oaxaca and Chiapas (Kirsty, Matias, Lena, Silvio, Gunay, Olli, Pablo, Agatha). Those were definitely amazing adventures. As one may say, sometimes it is not the destination that impresses you, but the journey and the people you go along with that makes the trip awesome. You guys made the trip awesome! Also, to Isabella and Boss, it was great meeting you at DF. Too bad, we can’t travel together in other parts of Mexico. But I’m sure we may have an opportunity to travel elsewhere in the future!