We have now reached the end of my time in Mexico, bar one small town of interest I didn't discuss. In planning my ingenious proposal of marriage to Naomi, I had done my research, including staking out several locations. One which proved impractically far, and which I doubted we would get to have to ourselves, was Malinalco
. In fact, Pavel, some Czech friends of his and I travelled here on the same day as Teotenango
, catching a coach to Malinalco before getting a combi to Teotenango.
The 'modern' town is a gem, though we didn't get to see much of it. It sits in a green valley and has narrow streets of stuccoed houses. We visited one church, which might or might not have been San Pedro. Either way, it's the one below the archaeological zone. Yes, this is another archaeological zone post, but the last for Mexico. Anyway, we arrived, it seemed, the day after the festival for the saint of this church, and they were taking down the decorations and dismantling the fair attractions out the front. Interesting for me was the conversation we had here with the Czechs – Pavel, as with myself, is quite earnestly non-religious, and indeed the Czech Republic is the most atheist nation on Earth. His friends, however, were born-again, and as a result, married quite young. I was told that the groom's father attended the wedding, but refused to enter the church for the ceremony. While I share his beliefs, not entering the church is somewhat against my beliefs regarding being (too) obnoxious. For me, making hissing noises each time I take a step, like the consecrated ground rejects my presence, is enough.
Out the front of the church was a weekend market, selling all manner of interesting things. I had tried my hand at bartering down a traditional Aztec drum made from a hollowed out section of tree branch, with an H cut in the top to make the characteristic sounds, but failed. Now that I know Mexican woodworks are not stopped by customs in Australia, I will try again in the future. (I returned once with a wooden dragonfly, and the customs girl said “I don't know... do you think it's safe?” Fearing it was a trick question, I squinted and replied “... Yeeeessss?” and she let me through).
However, the draw is the medium-sized archaeological zone. This was an Aztec barracks for Eagle Knights, the special forces of the empire. Some of the pyramids were standard, but some, uniquely, were carved into the living rock (I've always wanted to use that silly phrase), steps, layers, temple and all. It is perched on a ledge that looks out over the valley, which was of strategic importance. I know, after writing about uncountably many pre-Colombian ruins, the writing must blur together and become less than thrilling, but each has its own unique aspects and charm, each is worth visiting, and almost each is distinctly memorable two years on.
Now, barring any small items in Mexico City that I've missed, and many small cultural foibles that I never thought to write about, I'm finished with my account of Mexico. I won't belabour the closing remarks, except to say that when I first started travelling abroad I came across someone who told me her brother had travelled as a tourist extensively, but was ready to live somewhere permanently to really immerse themselves in a culture. This is what Mexico was for me, and it was a delight. Though I could never become Mexican, as to Mexicans being Mexican means more than just holding a passport, I felt accepted. My boss Peter enjoyed telling me, when I spoke of my weekends with my close friends, that he too had a second “Mexican family”, and really, that is the level of kinship you can reach with these subtle, generous, sophisticated, bureaucratic, humble, honest, chaotic, sometimes slightly suspicious, ungovernable, joyful people. I believe that Naomi and I will look back on our Mexican time as some of the best experiences of our lives.
Now, James, who had complained he wasn't reading this until I finished with Mexico, can start reading again. Or bite his own bum.