After a few gorgeous & hot days in Acapulco, Belen and I set off east for Puebla, where she lives now. It was a lovely drive, with the exception of getting splashed directly in the eyeball with water from a puddle by a passing car in one of the towns. At least, I really hope it was water.
On the way we stopped off at a little city called Taxco.
It's a very charming place with houses covering the hillside.
The people are also very friendly and somewhat pushy with the merchandise they're trying to sell. I saw one tourist, a middle-aged blonde woman looking upset & confused as she swatted away a sombrero that one of the tiny, smiling local women was putting on her head.
Also, random fact: In Mexico, you tip everyone. Including the guy who helps you back out of your parking spot at the Walmart (yes they have several there). Even these men, who hang out in the parking lot and guard your car without you having asked them to do it, get a tip.
This country is full of Beetles, just ask that guy in the photo, not the crunchy when you step on them kind but the cars. Mexicans call them "vochos." I loved seeing them everywhere.
We made it to Puebla in the evening and immediately I met Belen's younger sister and also a friend from her job. And we were off again. We went out to eat. In my head I was thinking "please God let it be somewhere where I can eat something light, because my stomach is going to kill me." Days worth of tacos, chalupas, enchiladas and MORE make you think these thoughts. We arrived to a pizza place/bar. They immediately ordered 2 pizzas and a round of beer for all of us. I smiled politely but my stomach was shaking its little fist angrily. It doesn't end there, though. Mexicans don't like their food bland, in fact they like it spicy enough to make you bleed from the inside. Spices and chiles go on everything from fresh fruit to chocolate, I mean it. So, of course, when they brought the beer, out came 4 glasses filled with a liquor mixed with chile spices. You pour the beer into the glasses to combine it with the liquor and chiles. Then, drink & wince accordingly. Bottoms up indeed. My stomach and I are still not on speaking terms.
The next day we traveled a short 30 minute distance to where Belen grew up to meet the rest of her family. Two sweet parents, one fun-size and adorable abuelita, 3 dogs & 1 cat. After we sat and got to know one another a bit more and I charmed the pants off the cat, we left for a birthday party.
Mexicans take certain birthdays very seriously. When a girl turns 15 it's a very special thing. When a boy turns 3 it's also a very special thing. We went to a family friend's son's 3rd birthday party. It was a big to-do. Even Belen's older sister Estrella & her boyfriend Ariel made it down from Mexico City to be there. (Yes, Ariel like from the Little Mermaid, we addressed that fact together the next day) At this huge party they had dancing clowns and games, even a mini-play involving the characters from the Lion King. They sang Hakuna Matata in Spanish and I almost burst into tears thinking about how alike we can all be when you really get down to it. I know, weird, but if you had been there you would've seen it was very touching!
That night we returned to Puebla for a concert - Mexican pop artist Paty Cantu.
She was beautiful, but maybe not quite as gorgeous as Belen and her sisters.
The following day we had a big lunch to celebrate Estrella's birthday. Belen's parents & grandmother came over and the cooking began. We sat down to a delicious meal that started with a bowl full of fresh papaya. Next came a chickpea soup to which you add lime juice and - you guessed it - peppers for extra flavor. Next it was lamb's meat, onions, cilantro & salsa in tortillas. (these detailed descriptions are for you Meagan & Dusty) Finally, if you were still breathing, and I was, there was a huge tiramasu cake.
After they stuffed me silly I answered questions and they chatted away with me. I understood most of it, but there came a time when they didn't understand me. Belen's mother was describing this beautiful low-cut blouse that she saw being sold in Chiapas on a family vacation they recently took. She asked if I'd like that type of shirt. I laughed and tried to tell her in Spanish that I can't wear a blouse like that because of what I lack upstairs on the chest level. Her parents just stared at me in confusion, her sisters were beginning to laugh. They asked me to explain it in English. So I did with hand gestures and everything. When I finished her dad looked like he was going to faint but luckily they all cracked up.
Finally, before I took off with Estrella & Ariel for Mexico City, the family gave me a gift of a beautiful lamb's wool sweater they bought in Tlxacala. I was so touched. What an incredible group of people to take this little dandelion in as their own. I can't express how grateful I am to them for giving me such an amazing time. I almost cried when I drove away from Belen, but I'm sure I'll see her at some point again.