When people find out I go to Mexico periodically, they generally ask me one of two questions. ‘Why?’ and ‘Do you speak Spanish?’
When they ask me if I speak Spanish, I tell them, "No, but it’s not a problem, because there are plenty of people in Mexico who speak Spanish." Actually, I do speak a little of it. All you really have to know to get by in Mexico is how to say, "Donde esta banyo?" which means ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and "Cuantos dinero?" which means ‘How much is this going to cost me?’ And often you have to ask both questions during the same transaction.
When people ask me why I go to Mexico, I tell them that, despite the numerous cultural and economic advantages available in the United States, we are eating Mexico’s dust in certain areas. One of these is the fact that you just can’t get the quality of diarrhea here that is common down there. And that’s all I got to say about that.
My youngest son, Leret, and I spent a month in Mexico last week, along with a group of people from Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. We helped these folks, and a bunch of Mexican people, work on three different church buildings in Ciudad Victoria, which is about four hours south of Brownsville, Texas, and about 100 miles west of the Caribbean coast. And a million miles from home.
Leret and I met the chartered bus for the trip in Conroe, just north of Houston, on Saturday morning, and settled in with about 40 people we’d never met. Most of these people were adults, but there were about eight kids close to Leret’s age. They all seemed like normal, rational folks. In other words, not the kind of people with so little upstairs that they would voluntarily travel to Mexico.
The trip down was long but uneventful. Once there, Leret and I spent three and a half days helping to pour concrete, and learned a lot about construction in Mexico. Ciudad Victoria is located close enough to the coast, and gets enough really bad weather, that they build everything out of concrete. There is not a frame building in the whole city. They pour a concrete slab, lay concrete block walls, pour concrete columns and beams, and then pour a concrete roof, usually a flat one. They leave rebar poking up into the sky above all the concrete columns, so if they can afford it later on they can build another story onto the house.
The problem with this is that all the concrete has to be poured into the forms for the columns, beams, and roof from the top, and there are evidently no pumper trucks in Mexico. We never saw one, anyway. The way we did it was we mixed the concrete in a mixer, dumped it into a wheelbarrow, and then a bucket brigade passed it up to people on scaffolds so they could pour it into the forms. It was basically the kind of work we hire illegal aliens to do here.
But we didn’t work all the time, and we had some time in the evenings to check out Ciudad Victoria, at least the part within walking distance of our hotel. One evening a group of us went to a restaurant nearby for supper. We had fajitas.
The place we went to was a typical, stucco Mexican food restaurant, but it had sayings painted on the walls in places. They were in Spanish, but we tried to figure out what some of them said. One of them was "Women who have no luck with men don’t know the luck they have."
Another one said, "Well dressed men look for women . . ." and then I couldn’t translate the rest. It said "no se la quite" I think. So if anyone knows enough Spanish to tell what ‘no se la quite’ means, for goodness sake please send me a note and let me know. I’m dying to find out what kind of women well dressed men look for.
We went to a market area our last day and bought some typical Mexican items to bring home to prove we’d been to Mexico. And we passed one store that had, on display, the largest pair of women’s underpants I’ve ever seen. We all had to have our picture taken with these underpants. You’d have to be there.
We finally made it home, which was sort of unexpected by a lot of the people who knew we were going. The first thing we did was eat some hamburgers at Whataburger. And then we went to the banyo, which surprisingly didn’t cost us any dinero, even though it was fairly clean and had actual seats on the toilets.
I highly recommend a trip to Mexico if you want to improve your Spanish and clean out your bowels at the same time, and I have one word of advice if you decide to go down there – Charmin . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never goes anywhere without Charmin 2-ply. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org