I’ve been taking a few days rest in La Paz and also taking some Spanish lessons here. I arranged it through a local language school that also organises ‘homestay’ accommodation. That meant staying with a family and having a couple of meals provided each day. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know some locals and see what kind of cuisine I might find in a typical La Paz household. Of course, I did realise that being a vegan might render the whole concept of ‘local cuisine’ irrelevant. But I knew it would be something different.
The food provided (breakfast & lunch) was only on ‘schooldays’. So the weekend I had to fend for myself, which was no problem. Shortly after my arrival, Vicky, the madre of the household brought up some food when I arrived, and clearly there had been a miscommunication (or none) between herself and the school as I was served tacos with some kind of fish topping. Never mind, we both said, no problem. Tacos with salsa. Easy.
Onto Monday morning and I get a decent fruit salad. Is this what is typically eaten at breakfast? Not unusual, apparently. Back for lunch at 2pm (mealtimes are strict…) and I’m presented with the classic traditional Mexican comida…Chinese takeaway. Vegetables and spring roll, fair enough. Will I be having this every day?
I guess I can put Monday down to learning experience as the rest of the week saw me presented with a ‘variety’ of tortillas and frijoles refritos (refried beans). One day it’s a plate of beans with tortillas on the side, another day tortillas dipped in the beans, another day beans on a toasted botilla (basically beans on toast), another day beans with nachos. I think this is the only kind of recycling I’ve seen in Mexico so far…
Lunch had a little more variety – rice, lopales (cactus), different mixes of vegetables. It was pretty decent and a little more varied. Even the sopes felt different (which is really just a thicker, smaller tortilla cooked up with beans on top and garnished with salad).
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this week. My room had a separate entrance (and stairs – which was a novelty after 2 months of street-level accommodation). Effectively I had my own apartment for the week, which meant little time with the ‘family’ (I ended up talking mostly to the housekeeper). Vicki and her husband both worked and seemed happy enough to leave me to my own devices. It’s hard to say how typical a family they are but are definitely in the upper end of the social scale. However they don’t live in an ‘upper class’ neighbourhood; their house stands unique along the street. It’s very modern with (I would say) a few tacky flourishes like the fountain and palm trees but on either side each neighbouring property seemed half-built (or crumbling into the dust). An upper-scale neighbourhood this is not, but it wasn’t any worse off because of it. People tend to look after whatever they have, and I noticed lots of sweeping and tree-trimming. I learnt quite a bit through the lessons (I hope) and got to see a bit of La Paz. There aren’t many tourists at this time of year but the city centre seemed to be bustling, even during the hot afternoons. Street stalls selling all kinds of clothing, food or cellphone accessories give the streets a lively air. And to get somewhere a little quieter I can walk along the waterfront. I’m not much of a beach person and so didn’t head up the coast to one of the many bigger beaches, but the waterfront has many stretches of little beaches along the way that open out onto the bay and make for a scenic stroll.
La Paz is my final stop in Baja California. It took some getting used to. The heat hasn’t let up but I enjoy this (except when I can’t sleep at night). Next stop is Mazatlan, across the Sea of Cortez by ferry. From there it’ll be a long run down the coast towards the south of the country, Oaxaca and Chiapas. That’s where I’ll be making my first Fair Trade visits, and although that’s still another 3+ weeks away, I’m really looking forward to it.