Two overnight bus rides with a stop for whales and we found ourselves in Baja California Sur about 22 hours from the US border. We’re in La Paz on the eastern coast of Baja. Being a seaside resort town, the sea and sand are wonderful here, as is the culture. The well known adage of ‘me casa es su casa’ is alive and well. Perhaps it is our time in Washington, DC that has jaded us as pedestrians in an automobile dominated world, but the calm with which drivers meet jaywalkers has not yet ceased to amaze us. The constant barrage of ‘buenos dias’ and ‘buenas tardes’ is still catching us off guard. To say the least, Baja California has been a fabulous way to begin our Mexi-cation. We’ve been learning to negotiate daily life, which has been made easier by many bajacaliforianos along the way. Some of this vocabulary you just don’t learn in school.
It will be no surprise to most of you that at this point we are probably more adept at the grocery store than anywhere else. Naturally we expected the peanut butter selection to be replaced with an impressive display of salsas. What I did not expect was needing to understand the difference: salsa casara and salsa chipotle and salsa taqueria and salsa, well you get the drift. Perhaps the most interesting thing at the mercado is the cheese selection. I’d thought I’d died and gone to France there were so many options, except they all had names like Chihuahua and Oaxaca instead of Cheddar, Brie or something French. Our forays into the mercado continue to surprise us. Yesterday at a large chain store, after a feeble attempt at locating the bakery, we crossed paths with a Manischewitz cart. Yes, a full kosher-for-passover display here in Mexico. Just goes to prove, wherever you go you really aren’t that far away from home.
Fortunately, our learning has extended beyond the mercado. Driving in Baja should be scary, dangerous and nerve wracking, but from what we can tell, its only slightly different than driving in D.C., or Chicago (giant potholes anyone?). Most of our travel has been at night via bus so we’ve managed to sleep through the obligatory military checkpoints, although waking up to see a soldier walk up and down the bus is something everyone should add to their bucket list. Now that we’ve been taken under the wing of those with a car (more on them when we write about our time here in La Paz) we’ve learned a few more things about driving in Baja: 1) cattle in the road always has the right of way, 2) a left blinker does not mean turning left but that it is safe to pass…whatever you do, do not turn on your left blinker and then turn left…this will create a major problem, 3) unpaved roads are dangerous in a small sedan, and 4) did we mention cattle always have the right of way?
We’re interested to see what happens when we head to the mainland on Thursday. Hopefully our bajaducation comes in handy.