When I first started my journey I always thought it would be a single, long trip with no breaks. I didn’t expect to bus back to New Orleans to visit people, even for a few weeks. I definitely didn’t think I would take months-long scouting runs ahead of my bike route.
But that’s exactly what I did after leaving Texas. I decided to bus ahead to central Mexico to improve my Spanish and plan a bicycle route through Narco territory. While it may not be exactly how I envisioned tackling this leg of the trip, I do like the idea of being alive and happy at the end of it.
So far life in Mexico has been calm. I moved into a spare room at my friend Cintain’s house. He’s Mexican by birth, but his years in Canada and abroad mean that his English is better than most native speakers. He gave up translation work a long time ago to focus on building his dream business, a clinic of Chinese medicine.
Like most travelers his time away from home has also given him perspective on his own native country. It’s so weird for me to hear him list everything he hates about Mexico: to me it’s a dream come true. There was a time he would have gladly left it behind forever to live in Canada or even the United States, a country that often makes my skin crawl. Now he’s made his peace with his home, and has established a beautiful house and consultory in San Luis Potosí.
SLP is a nice city. It’s very relaxed compared to Mexico City or, honestly, almost anywhere I’ve been in Mexico. I’ve seen small rural towns, big cities, and beachside tourist centers and they usually have a sense of mild chaos. But the one word I use to describe SLP over and over is tranquilo, tranquil, chill.
But last week the owner of my favorite bar introduced me to a neighbor of his, a 2o-something studying to become a plastic surgeon. He leaned in and asked me, “Don’t you think San Luis Potosí is a little… boring?”
I paused, then answered truthfully. “Yeah, I do.”
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had fun. In the afternoons when I’m done writing I like to walk about 25 minutes to the central historic district. In the old colonial part of town there’s a public market called Tangamanga. I can pick up bundles of chopped veggies for soup, bunches of fresh bananas and a candle or two from the little spiritual shop. Some of the market ladies know me now and recognize me when I come in.
When I need something closer to home I go to a store called Super Frutty [sic]. Most Mexican corner stores sell abarrotes, a gas-station-style selection of soda and junk food. But Super Frutty is more in the style of a Brooklyn corner grocery. The owner, Leonardo, always smiles and is one of the first people who suffered through making conversation with me in Spanish. He has abarrotes but also fresh fruits and veggies, cheese and milk, fresh eggs and locally made tortillas. Even granola! Leonardo works six days a week but he looks happy all the time. He just seems to enjoy life.
Many nights I make my own dinner, but if I feel lazy I’m likely to go to Tequis, the local park, where street food outposts open up as the sun goes down. The back corner of the park is where you can find the absolute best enchiladas potosinas, the signature local dish. They’re just tortillas folded over a bit of pungent cheese, fried and then painted with red sauce. Tacos rojos are their other dish, my favorite, which are more like tacquitos heaped high with a mixture of fresh toppings. Either dish is served with a side of root vegetables and, optionally, molotes: little mystery balls stuffed with fillings like cheese or pepper slices, depending on the night.
The wait can be 40 minutes or longer at peak times so I try to go early.
I haven’t explored only on my own, however. A few weeks after I arrived I got a visit from my friend Ernest White II, aka the Fly Brother. Ernest and I have been friends for a while online and talked a number of times, but all our previous attempts to meet up managed to fall through. This time he made it happen, finagling two days in San Luis Potosí amidst his intercontinental lifestyle.
Rather than running out to tourist spots Ernest and I spent most of our time having excited conversations about travel, spirituality, Vodou, race, writing and adventure. He also introduced me to what is probably the best Disney movie ever made:
Probably the most surreal (and oddly entertaining) part of the stay, however, was when Ernest shared with me his obsessive love of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Surprisingly good show, actually.
The one thing I’ve spent the most time on is writing. Cintain is often away for a week or more at a time on his own travels, leaving me with the solitude I crave to get work done. I’ve mostly been focused on my upcoming fiction series about demons and knights in medieval Spain, a painful process of research, outlining and character sketching which has so far yielded less than 10,000 words of actual book draft.
My time in SLP grows short. This coming Wednesday night/Thursday morning is Beltaine, and after I celebrate that I’ll hop a bus and head on to Guanajuato, which is where I’ll spend the rest of my Spanish immersion sabbatical—this time in a place that’s completely my own.
I’m excited to move on and explore a new city but I’ll also miss my brother here in SLP. I wonder if I’ll make more friends as good as Cintain and the small band of spiritual seekers that I call my tribe. I also wonder how my Spanish will develop and whether I’ll ever be as fluent as I want to be.