Foreign Accents

So I’m back in Ohio for the holidays. In a coffee shop.

There is a table to my right, with two older women and an Amish man seated. They are speaking. I cannot understand them.


The women are not dressed as Amish, and it would be odd for them to be speaking Amish Dutch.

Iba fume ieeheh. Shon shanganiz if albenen on ten. Thurrsde if lar eh iz bizzeh. Auff en war mar der car crashen.

What the hell is this? I try to focus.

It is – surprisingly – English. Is this the accent I grew up with? It sounds like these women are from Minnesota. Are they rolling their r’s? Where are these z’s coming from? Where are the “th” sounds? Why do all vowels sound like a soft “i”?

This has happened before, where English sounds foreign to me. I can zone out and unfocus to a point where it just sounds like phonetic noise. As if I were watching TV in Chechloslovakia. Meaningless combinations of consonants and vowels with an occasional understood proper noun… “Bleh nartio ard funfo par kun Wal Mart der hur friewenhsha bata da hunse bata subitastar.”

What it boils down to, is that we sound pretty funny speaking English.

Café Tacuba [Chilanga Banda]

Tonight I went to see Café Tacuba live at La Zona Rosa. They opened for themselves, playing a total of two and a quarter hours with just a five minute break or so at the end of the first hour. It was a long, but very entertaining performance.

They were supposed to start their set at 8:00pm, but naturally ran 40 minutes late. When they began to enter the stage, the crowd went wild, and the lead singer, Rubén Albarrán, stepped front stage wearing a large black velvet tophat, his hair in pigtails, and some slight facial hair. I couldn’t help but see Jamiroquai on stage, or perhaps the lead singer of Ghostland Observatory. Rubén can match the stage presence and energy of either.

As one could imagine, the crowd was mostly Mexican. They certainly knew how to pump up the venue full of energy. At one point, the crowd was in this pseudo-mosh state, where the whole mass of people was behaving like particles in a fluid, waving back and forth like the tide on a beach. I don’t mean slow swaying holding lighters up in the air singing Hey Jude style, I mean a gentle yet distant 4 steps forward, and a harsh undercurrent feeling that would rip you quickly 4 steps back. Repeat. It was strange, but at the same time relaxing.

Out of all of the songs that they played, many of which came from their new album, Sino, I only recognized maybe 5 or so songs. It turns out that the crowd’s favorite songs (2/4 timing which allows for happy jumping music) seldom aligned with my favorite songs by the band.

My only disappointment came when they played Dejate Caer, which is probably my favorite song of theirs. For whatever reason, they just didn’t seem in sync, and at times it fell apart. Up until that point, they had performed quite amazingly. Oh well, their little dance routine interlude was still campy and fun (as much as I anticipated it to be).

Apparently I have a lot more of their music to continue discovering.

Mexico [Sinking] City

I realized during what was my fourth trip to Mexico since moving to Texas that I had not written even a word regarding my visits and adventures. That is a shame, really, as there is really quite a bit that I should have shared about my travels to Monterrey, Playa del Carmen, and Akumal. This post, however, is about my most recent trip to Mexico City, DF.

Ciudad De Mexico [Distrito Federal]

After being forced to take vacation for the entire week of Thanksgiving, I made a somewhat quick and spontaneous decision to travel to Mexico City to see what it was about. The enticing airfare from Austin to DF made the decision even easier, as AeroMexico was offering a promotional rate for their new direct flight. It actually cost less for me to fly internationally to Mexico for the week that to fly back home to Ohio. And, to seal the deal, my friend, Gaby, who I had met in Barcelona last year, is a native-born Chilango from Mexico City, and had invited me to visit.

The People

Next step was to get some friends involved. Of course I would be visiting Gaby, but it took a bit of convincing to get my Mexico travel buddy, Alex, to come along. Eventually, he, as well as his friend, Chris, agreed to come. All of us had studied in Spain and at least have some basic levels of Spanish, with (according to them) mine being the best.

Day 1 [The Arrival]

My eyes open. I am on a plane. I look out of the window for a sense of orientation, and there lies the vast expanse of seemingly infinite housing that is Mexico City. My jaw dropped- partially out of awe, and partially to equalize the pressure in my ears. We certainly didn’t have to descend as much as I am accustomed to, as Mexico City’s altitude is nearly 7350ft. After landing a bit late, the passengers were forced to sit on the plane for what felt like twenty five minutes as we waited for a bus to pick us up. Really, it felt quite unorganized and unprofessional. There is no reason they shouldn’t have expected us and had a bus there ready to go. I’m going to give them slack, though, solely because the airport was under heavy construction and the clearly new terminal was vacant of any docked airplanes. Certainly they were running low on resources until the new terminal was ready.

After going through immigration and grabbing my backpack, I waited in line to pass through customs. Over the crowd I saw a smiling face accompanied by a waving hand. Gaby. It was so good to see her smile again, and after customs was sure that I was not trafficking any illegal materials, I ran out and gave her a hug. The smell of the airport reminded me of Venezuela, the site of Gaby reminded me of Spain, and yet I was in a new place all together.

Gaby was kind enough to offer to pick me up at the airport and take her to her family’s home in northern Mexico City. I had been in cars in Mexico before. Nothing, though, had prepared me for the chaos that is driving in Mexico City. Luckily, I was not the one doing it, or I certainly would have crashed Gaby’s brand-new Renault Clio within minutes of starting it. I was amazed at how simply unorganized the driving was, yet how, beneath the surface, it all worked out and people got to their destinations anyways. It is simply a different mindset than what I am accustomed to, and even what I had seen in Venezuela, Europe, and the rest of Mexico.

We arrived at her home, where I was greeted by her mother and shown to their guest room which was in a separate building in the back of their house.


It reminded me of the house that Emily had lived in in Venezuela, which had a completely separate house containing the guest bedroom, bathroom, etc. I left my bags and talked for a bit with my hosts, after which we left to grab dinner at a vegetarian-friendly restaurant back towards downtown, called Buena Tierra [good land]. It just so happens that this was exactly the same restaurant chain that Natalie, my cousin, had taken me to when I first arrived to Playa del Carmen. Apparently this is the best place to take vegetarians on their first day in Mexico.

We then went out to a bar/club called SkyBar, which was quite fun. They played some of the good old dance songs that she and I had danced to in Barcelona, and it brought back some fun memories. My Spanish, by this point, was nearly back up to full speed as if I had never stopped speaking it for over a year.

A ride home, a jump in the cold shower water to get the smoke smell off, and a bit of arranging of my luggage, I was asleep.

Day 2 [Exploration and Reunion]

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