That lost look that crosses my features in the video is the moment in which it dawns on me that I was silly if I expected some kind of world beyond Wal Mart. In this time in history, you can never truly be more than a few miles from The United States. Little colonies seed every land mass — in the form of soda pop, bluejeans, the resounding ghost of Michael Jackson, and the odd ten-year expat who still stubbornly refuses to ever learn the local language. But there are little incongruities, like the mall cops with assault shotguns — and diving a little further beneath the surface or off the main streets, you see the Mexico that is doing its own thing with no regard for the Pop from the North, or which at least transforms it by degrees into something beautiful and different.
Sometimes when I see that Mexico, I have a revelation not about it but about my homeland. It dawned on me that Americans honk their horns exclusively to emulate profanity. It roughly translates to: “Because you forced me to brake just now, you are a terrible person and I hope you die in a fire.” But here in La Paz, though there are many bold traffic maneuvers and many chances for the hate-honk, I have almost never witnessed it. Here people honk to say hello and make polite requests of the traffic around them. They use it in combination with waving and smiling to prove that the honk was not in anger. They all seem to grasp the essential human truth that in this world we are always in somebody’s way, just as somebody else is always in ours, and it’s no big deal. (Can we please appropriate this or something?)
The for sale signs here say “se vende”. It translates more directly to “it is sold”. But, as I understand it, a still rawer translation would be “it sells itself”. And one day I saw a wanted poster in a police station, with the title “Se Busca” — or “He searches for himself”. I wondered if that was why he looked so upset in the photo.
I’m told it usually rains here only once a year, only during a hurricane, but it came down for a few tranquil hours the other morning. The dry ground seems almost totally impermeable and the whole main drag was four inches submerged long after the rain stopped, spewing over everything in the traffic — but in its placid moments, when the sun broke free, it was like riding through a huge blue sky.
Tomorrow I finally cross the sea. I hope my thoughts will be less scattered once I get rolling again on the mainland.