It is obvious that, regardless of our modesty, in the eyes of the hosts we looked like two big bags , filled with booty, with dollar signs on each side. In the face of difficulties that these people were struggling, poverty in which they lived, failed hopes and lack of opportunities, you could not escape the consciousness of this situation, you could not control the visible anxiety. It was not the fear of theft or assault, but the embarrassment caused only by our presence. Just because we were there – so relaxed, so laid back – was a kind of an insult. When I wandered through these mountains in my strange-looking outfit and face of an alien, initially I felt a shiver of shyness every time when we approached a new village and were flogged by assessing looks of inhabitants. But my embarrassment soon disappeared, as natural politeness of almost every encountered human being caused that I would forget about the serious differences lying between us. Tony Anderson, Bread and ashes.
I met Mrs Lili in the park, in the city of Puebla. I was just about to move on, but my stomach, filled to the brim with food, demanded an extension of siesta. An hour before I ate a huge papaya, followed by the equally big cemita – a Mexican hamburger. In the evening, sitting at the dinner at the house of Mrs Lili (whom the oldest of four sons will present me as Peggy Sue) I will find out that my burger was called cemita de milaneza, a sandwich filled with persea, onion, cheese, meat and some hot spices.
It’s hard to say, actually, to what or to whom I owe the fact that I was invited to the house to stay overnight. I presume it was because of my Polish origins, cause when I answered a standard, frequently asked question: De donde viene? (Where do you come from?), it turned out that the family Munive Alcaide for almost a year accommodated a Pole, Italian philology student, Samuel Sulkowski.
I followed the taxi and half an hour later I was lying on a comfortable bed, clean and tidy, overlooking a Polish flag hung on a wooden shelf. In the evening I met the rest of the family: papa Marco Antonio and his four sons: Julian, Abraham, David and Tono, with whom I shared a room. I took the bed of David, who came home just in time, when I was leaving the shower, tied with a tiny towel. Mom did not manage to let him know before about my arrival, but he didn’t seem to be surprised at all, as if he was accustomed every so often to meet an almost naked stranger in his room, lying on his bed, covered in a fresh, clean, new bedding.
The next day we went for a family reunion, where most of the participants took me as a long time unseen Samuel. By the way, I was able to participate in the children’s game called piñata, during which blindfolded children, using a stick, try to break a paper star. When it’s done, sweets and toys are ..
The traditional piñata was shaped like a seven star with tassels at its ends, symbolizing the seven deadly sins. Breaking piñata symbolized and represented the will power to overcome the temptation to commit sins.
In the evening we went to Cholula to watch voladores – Pole Flying. Five men climb up the tall, narrow pole. Except for a waist cord, there is nothing to protect them. One of them remains at the top of the column, playing drums and the flute, while the rest, with their outstretched arms, jump down and, balancing their bodies in the air, lauch themselves to descend to the ground. Men turn thirteen times, which multiplied by four participants, gives fifty two revolutions, which constituted one cycle in the Mayan calendar, as well as the number of weeks in a year of “our” calendar.
Hospitality of Munive Alcaide family was exceptional. Each day someone bothers me, but it rarely ends up to be invited home. However, the Mexicans still seem to me incredibly kind and hospitable. Wherever I stop to take some rest, someone instantly comes to talk. Even for a moment, just to share a word.
People are curious about everything. I am disarmed questions like: What do you do when it rains? What do you eat? Where do you sleep? What do you do when you have a flat tire? As for eating, I usually ask the same question: And what do you eat? I eat exactly the same things, and Mexico is simply flooded with food that you can buy on the streets, so you do not have to carry inventory in panniers. As for patching punctures: exactly two days ago, it happened for the first time, and it has been the first puncture since I left Alaska last year.
In the capital I stopped to have a chat with road workers. They had yellow suits, which blended into the orange wall. I leant on it, pulled up the legs, and twine tired knee with my dirty, sticky hands. Only after a while I noticed a little girl, sitting on the side. A few older men, two women, and a teenage girl, Lupe. She smiles a lot, but does not want to say anything. Men speak for her. That she is not as young as she seems, she has a child, a boy, and she must work for him because his father is an ordinary cabron and does not help in any way.
I get a mango for a road, in a bright colour of Lupe’s suit. I feel bad. I feel ashamed. I want to share something, but I do not know what. I would like to leave something, but I do not know what and for whom. Mango is sweet and leaves sticky hands. Juice trickles down my chin, stains shirt. I want to pay. I take out the money, but Jose Angel Alvarez tells me to hid it and stop fooling around, because the God looksfrom above and sees everything and that it is enough for everything, and that I should be careful on the way.
The workers return to work, and I’m back on the highway. In the evening, I stop close to the gas station. There is no problem with putting up my tent nearby, nobody is surprised by the question. Nothing has changed. In Mexico, no one has ever refused that I can stay for a night in my tent. I cook dinner, bury in the sleeping bag, and watch the stars with a longing look through the night. And then I dream of your hands, twined with warm fingers, sticking of mango fruit.