Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Friday, May 07, 2010
My very first dinner in Mexico, on my own, I can go anywhere I want, and I go get a burger at Carl’s Jr. I need to explain – I really wanted to have Mexican food. I had heard of the infamous tortas ahogadas, or traditional sandwiches “drowned” in a special hot sauce, but when I went to the place nearby that serves them, they were closed.
Then again, it’s not like I have Carl’s Jr. all the time when I’m home. It’s been years since I had Carl’s. They don’t exist where I’ve lived for the past 5 years, and when I go back home to California where those restaurants do exist, paradoxically, I don’t have time for fast food. But let me tell you, my Mexican American fast food experience was not what you’d expect. The restaurant was beautiful. It was chic, trendy fast food atmosphere at its finest. The service was by the book, from the cashier’s sincere words of welcome, to his counting out my exact change. Then there was the pickle, jalapeño, and salsa bar. And when my order was ready, another employee brought my food to me as I lounged on one of their couches and basked in the restaurant’s awesomeness, and asked if I needed anything else besides ketchup. When I got back to my hotel room and opened the bag, I noticed that not only was my food piping hot and fresh-looking, but that not a thing was out of place. Masterfully, the good folks at Carl’s made sure that every single fry of my order stayed obediently in its paper container.
The apple soda alone would have been enough to justify the trip. I need to invent apple soda in the US. I don’t understand why it isn’t prolific in the States. Carl’s Jr. may have originated in the States, but judging by my experience here, Mexico has made it its own.
By the way, the portions are huge. Although the patty isn’t as thick and char-broiled as what I remember from my previous experiences at Carl’s in the US, I ordered the smallest combo and I’m pretty sure it would equate to a normal combo in the US. I’d hate to see what the large combo looks like in Mexico.
It’s funny what becomes obsolete the second you touch down in a foreign land. What was once familiar and necessary becomes, as soon as you pass through customs, a mere annoyance and burden. In my case, I don’t feel quite right in my new surroundings until I get a chance to purge my wallet. I remove the student id card I carry around for movie discounts back home, the grocery store bonus card, redundant credit cards, old receipts, and finally, my own domestic currency, which isn’t exactly rendered worthless but (most likely) isn’t common currency in the new place I’m in.
I relish the moment when I find myself alone in my hotel room, carefully arranging my new currency in monopoly-money piles, learning the shapes, colors, and textures of the bills so when I make my purchases I can tell if I’m getting the correct change without being so slow and obvious about it. I calculate the small change in proportion to the large bills, greedily wishing that my small change pile will only continue to grow and thrive, therefore hesitating to come to the aid of a fellow traveler for fear of squandering my small change due to someone else’s lack of proper planning.
I cannot stress the importance of small bills and coins. Small bills are indispensable for tipping, buying popsicles and other street foods, and purchasing incidentals. If you only have larger bills, you are stuck with a) not tipping a helpful person; b) giving that helpful person a sum incommensurate with the services so kindly rendered; or c) buying a cartful of rapidly melting popsicles.
Once you start collecting the change, it’s hard to stop. You’re making five trips a day to the pharmacy or the convenience store to purchase nominal toiletries and drinks because you know those establishments are the ones that are more likely to have change. Your wallet grows thicker and your pockets heavier and bulkier from the change you accumulate. And then, just when you thought you could never have too many small bills/coins, you find yourself with a severely bloated wallet and bag that digs into your shoulder due to the excessive weight of the ungodly amount of legal tender you have succeeded in hoarding.
While travelling abroad, collecting just the right amount of change and small bills becomes my obsession and my art.