It’s awkward being almost penniless in a second/third world country.
Final day in Mexico, and after having paid for a kayaking tour and my final night’s accommodation this morning I found myself down to 12 pesos ($1 equivalent) with a tattered plastic bag filled with four tortillas, half an avocado, a banana, tomato and a can of cheap rum and coke. And no, I wasn’t walking down a dusty road clad in oversized sombrero with the aforementioned items wrapped in a red bindle.
But as the sun went down I grew hungry and desperately scrounged in my bag for more coinage. With glee I found another precious 11 pesos, almost doubling my spending power! First stop supermarket, where I bought two bakery items for the long flight tomorrow. With $15 left, I walked into a Chinese food court style restaurant – my first time in Mexico despite enormous pressure from my tour guide, who had an unhealthy obsession with bad sweet and sour pork.
Only problem was the chap with the spoon was the Mexi-Asian version of the Soup Nazi. After a little heated confusion in which he dished some chicken onto a styrofoam container then tipped it out in disgust, his wife came past and explained in rudimentary English, “everything 15!” Waving my 15 pesos in the air, I tried to make it clear how hellbent I was on putting that oily lemon chicken into my mouth. But no chow for me.
Those of you who have traveled to both Mexico and China would know how skewed their concept of service is. The combination of the two is begging to be in an episode of “An Idiot Abroad”. As I left, an American guy mentioned that to get the chicken I’d need a minimum of two spoons – which I could only enjoy if I scrubbed dishes in the back for an hour. And I know what you’re thinking – $3 for delicious Asian food and I was too cheap to go to an ATM? That’s what happens in a cash based society.
Suddenly a lady with a big tray of baked goods walked out of a store and confronted me with a tempting offer – $10 pesos for one of her sugar powdered cookies. It was a ripoff but I wanted one, though with a bag of of pastries already in hand I held up my money and said, “quince pesos – it’s all i have!” She looked confused so I made a motion of turning out my pockets. “Si senor.”
Close to the Chinese joint was a fast food style quesadilla joint. The kind where they leave the ingredients out on the counter on a scorching day and the cooking lady arranges the meat and cheese on the tortilla with her hands. But it cost 13 pesos. Sold! It tasted like crap, and now I’m hoping I don’t wake up in the night with a case of karmic diarrhoea. But proud at myself for achieving so much with so little.
Looking forward to a smooth flight. And yes, I have Canadian dollars tucked away in my wallet.
At the time of posting, I’m able to report that the writer did indeed arrive in Quebec City in a hale and hearty condition. Days later, a sushi bowl ordered from a dubious Korean restaurateur in Niagara led to his deserved downfall.