In the people’s market, a ten-minute walk away, food stalls line the ‘walls’ under a temporary tent structure of wooden pallets and tarpaulin. They stretch at least two long Canadian city blocks. We shop here for local fresh fruit and vegetables. Although we only speak Spanglish, we enjoy the verbal exchanges.
The vendors probably find us --- and other visiting gringos --- amusing. Or a huge bother. They watch with much curiosity. What we buy. How we pinch-test the avocados. Or ask the name of a weird looking food that looks like oversized kiwi fruit. (zapote, they reply, muy dulce…very sweet).
There is one problem with shopping at the market, though. These vendors cannot change large denominations of pesos. Their produce costs small amounts. And often we forget that.
No problemo, we said, indicating he should keep the extra money.
This would not do for the old fellow. He looked at his table, picking up one tomato after another. Finally, he chose a larger tomato to make up for our overpayment. Handed it to us with a missing tooth smile.
The tomato was heart-shaped.
Lesson One: when walking in many Latino cities, keep your eyes on the ground otherwise you will break a leg: broken sidewalks, sudden sink holes and dips, mysterious liquids, strewn garbage, low hanging signs on which to hit your head. It’s all part of the walking obstacle course.
And then, there are the roof dogs.
In Valladolid, and elsewhere in Mexico, most cement casas are flat-roofed. This in case the owner decides to add another floor when there is enough money to do so. Many people use that flat roof as another ‘living’ room. Some have chairs on the roof. Others have plants. Makes sense to increase your living space when you don’t have much.
However, while concentrating on navigating the broken sidewalk, remember these flat roofs are sometimes home to the owners’ dogs. Recently, while walking, we heard a low menacing growl. Our instincts snapped to attention. Looking up, we gasped in fear at the sight of open canine jaws: the many-fanged mouth of a drooling roof dog! Ready to pounce on us!
He is the Guard Dog from Hell. He follows alongside us from atop the roof --- not far from the street --- and snarls and snaps and pants and bares his fangs, threatening to leap and attack us. A most intimidating, terrifying experience. Especially when this aerial attack is an unexpected shock.
Although excellent guard dogs for their owners, they spell instant heart attack for the unaware pedestrian below. After our breathless recovery, we quickly snapped a photo of the attack dog. Can you find Fang on the roof ? Almost hidden by the blinding sun.
One particularly groggy, I mean me --- I was groggy --- morning in Valladolid, I struggled to tell my brain it was time to exercise.
The morning was already hot (24 degrees) and I hadn’t slept well because of the heat and well, staying in bed seemed a far better idea than hauling out my exercise mat and attempting half-hearted yoga poses.
In somewhat of a trance, I grabbed my exercise mat to unroll along the tiled floor.
That’s when I did a double-take. It looked like a dead leaf --- a curled rusty-coloured vegetation at first glance --- clinging to my exercise mat.
I went to touch it, fling it off, and proceed with my floor exercises. For some reason, I thought to inspect it more closely.
That’s when I realized that was no plant hanging on my mat.
“Norm,” I clamoured –-- not too hysterically --- “I think there’s a scorpion on my exercise mat.”
He dropped his weights. Hurried over. Confirmed my worst fears. “That’s a red scorpion,” he agreed. (We later learned the red scorpion sting is more severe than the black or brown species.)
Quickly he lifted my rolled-up exercise mat at arm's length, rushed outside, shook the mat until the small but dangerous demon dropped off. Then he stepped on it with one of his running shoes. Dead.
We watched for signs of life. Nada.
And then, fascinated, we watched at the sudden arrival of an army of tiny red ants. As if practicing military manoeuvres, they surrounded the scorpion carcass and as one, began moving it into the grass where they could munch on their unexpected delicacy.
No more groggy me. Suddenly I was wide awake.
Scorpions on your exercise mat will do that for you. A jolt of instant adrenaline.
We knew we were accepted into this middle-class neighbourhood because of Tigré. So-called because of faint tiger-like stripes lining his black fur coat, Tigré belongs to the family across the street. When we first arrived, he barked lustily and long. At us. And in front of us. We were strangers in his territory. His message was clear: Get Out!
It didn’t take long, though, until he realized we fell under his heading of added responsibilities.
Now he lies along the front of our shaded driveway, surveying his neighbourhood from this vantage point. If anyone --- like the garbageman --- approaches our territory, he barks mercilessly. He does not stop barking until he perceives any danger to us has passed. Or we tell him the visitors are okay (like the pizza delivery man).
Our three-month stay here ends shortly. We are going to miss Tigré. I wish he could understand.
How do you say goodbye to a sweet dawg who’s captured your heart?