On Saturday, July 17th, we had a day out with all the Casa staff and volunteers, a day to hang out together and (more or less) get out of the city. We went to Xochimilco, kind of at the edge of Mexico City, where you can take boat rides through canals and gardens. There were more than 20 of us, but we managed to fit on one boat. We ate a picnic lunch, lay out on the boat, listened to music, and watched the other boats and the gardens as they passed.
Xochimilco was wonderful because of the people I was with, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. You hear stories- “oh, the floating gardens, they’re so beautiful, you have to see them while you’re there.” It supposedly recreates what Mexico used to be like, before all of Lake Texcoco was filled in. Mexico City was built on a lake, and people used boats and an elaborate canal system to get from one piece of land to the other. Over time, the lake was drained and filled in, but Mexico City still sinks a little every year since it’s built on a lake bed. Pretty cool. But I thought Xochimilco would be… tranquil. Silly me- no part of Mexico City is tranquil.
You can’t even escape the informal economy on the water. We weren’t on the water five minutes before a woman climbed onto our boat (uninvited) with a basket of sweets and went around to each person selling them. There were little boats that would come right up next to us selling corn on the cob (elotes), tacky souvenir trinkets, woven blankets, and perhaps most popular of all, the services of mariachi bands, in full costume and ready to serenade you for the right price. The water was absolutely crammed with boats carrying Mexican families and tourists of all varieties. Like all of Mexico City, it was noisy, crowded, colorful, and a bit chaotic. But very festive.
It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was a fantastic day! It was a chance to hang out and talk about nothing in particular, or have conversations you don’t normally get to have in the busy-ness of everyday life at the Casa. It did occur to me as we were floating along that we (the four Haverford interns) are so lucky to be part of this community at the Casa, to be welcomed so completely and in just a few weeks feel like we’d known these people for months, maybe years. And it also occurred to me that there were no 20 other people I would rather spend the afternoon with.
Oh, and for those of you who know me well and know that riding horses is my passion (and can imagine how much it was killing me not to ride for 10 weeks), we got to ride horses in a park in the town that afternoon. The horses were a little bit sad- the kind that tourists who have no idea what they’re doing are thrown onto regularly, who do the same circles around the park day after day. But it felt so good to ride! Samantha, one of the volunteers, and I discovered early on that we share a love of riding and a childhood growing up in the barn. So we went off cantering, and the horses got into it after a while.
Overall, an amazing day with amazing people.