Canals, taxi drivers and transvestites
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett
Once a year or more, in the Melaque, Mexico and surrounding towns receive a massive amount of rain. When a hurricane goes through it is even worse. As a result, the canals and streets overflow causing a lot of damage and months of clean up.
This year, the government decided to fix this problem by building up the canals with rocks. This massive project is labor-intensive. The workers are probably paid minimum wage which I believe is 84 pesos a day, approximately 5.75 Canadian. Many of them do not wear protective shoes. Most wear flipflops. Those working in the murky canal water are given white rubber boots. Many workers do not wear gloves or any other type of protective gear. Rock-filled trucks dump their loads at the designated locations, and the men manually move them into place into the “cages.” If smaller rocks are needed, one man will use a sledgehammer to break up the rocks.
The canal system section that they are currently working on is approximately three km long. I am not sure about the completion date, but I would imagine they would want it finished before the rainy season in the fall. I am constantly amazed at the amount of manual labor that is done in Mexico. What better way to provide jobs by not using machinery.
I love the Mexican taxi drivers. Some are not talkative, perhaps because of the language barrier, while others provide free Spanish lessons or history and information about the area. One taxi driver, in particular, quoted scenes from Star Trek and other shows. He was hilarious. I almost hired him to drive us to Melaque from Manzanillo, a one hour drive so that I could listen to more of his stories.
One of my favorites is Miguel. I had hired him to pick me up and take me to the airport. I needed to meet my daughter and her husband who were flying in for a visit. Miguel was to wait for us until they had cleared customs. On the way, I mentioned the rows of bananas and jokingly suggested that we stop and pick some. He then informed me that if we picked green ones, we would be arrested but if we picked ripe ones, then it was okay. The ripe ones were already past the maturity date and would be considered waste. Hence no jail time. The same goes for other fruits. Good to know!
His English is excellent. He said that he learned English from watching Sesame Street and then later one of the daytime shows like General Hospital or As The World Turns.
We discussed politics, both local and worldwide. We talked about family. We talked about the economy in Mexico. We talked about the purchase of the bananas in which the U.S. did not want to pay the amount asked so Canada agreed to buy them for more. I learned so much.
In Melaque, there is a local establishment, Sibony’s, that caters to, well, different types of people. On Fridays and Saturdays, the club has a show for Gringos or Westerners. It is very well done and provides a unique type of entertainment.
The bathrooms leave a lot to be desired, especially the women’s. There is a curtain for the door, and from what I understand it is not the cleanest or the most fragrant. I make sure that a walk to “Las Damas (the ladies)” is not necessary for me.
When drinks are ordered, free food is provided. Daniella, who owns the club and does a lot of the entertaining, does a very poignant number at the end in which she slowly starts to remove her costume and makeup to the song of “This is my Life.” It is very moving as she slowly transcends back to her everyday persona.
The music is very loud so wear your earplugs.