Life in a foreign land becomes infinitely more fun once your car arrives. Not just because it means you no longer have to walk to Wal-Mart, but also because you are now able to visit all of those local haunts you've been hearing so much about. We visited one such place this past weekend:
Tonalá, one of Guadalajara's eight municipalities, plays host to a giant street market every Thursday and Sunday. If you visit the bustling town on one such day, you will find yourself drowning in a sea of ceramics, pottery, glassware, and more handcrafted works of art than you can shake a stick at. There are lots of permanent shops that you can patronize throughout the week, but market days are where all the action is.
The glass shop was one of our first stops. Although we were
just browsing this time around, I see a purchase or 12 in the
near future (Click here for more glass blowing photos from the
Texas Renaissance Festival).
Outdoor vs. Indoor shopping...
Candy, pastries, and authentic Mexican food aplenty. Didn't get any shots
of the real food, as people were eating. It would have been rude. I promise
that I will eat next time, so I can share better visuals. Yes, it's true, no
sacrifice is too big for my readers.
Templo del Santuario del Sagrado Corazón - "The Sacred Heart Church"
-Located in Plaza Cihualpilli
Doesn't Tonalá sound (and look) like an amazing place to visit?
Good. Because it is. But what you have seen so far is nothing more than what any tourist could stumble across. One of the most important things a Foreign Service family (or any American traveller, really) can do is to refrain from taking the easy route and only befriending similar folks - i.e. other Americans. Interact with the locals. They can show you things that a tourist wouldn't even think to think about.
Take this door for instance. It's pretty, yes. But as I worked my way through the crowds, gawking at all of the homemade crafts, I doubt I would have noticed it at all, let alone wondered what was behind it.
But because we have taken the time to befriend locals, we now know that, behind the chaos of the marketplace, you might find beautiful courtyards like this one:
...and wearing fancy clothes...like...these?!?
Don't freak out people, it was a party. People do weird stuff during parties. The point is, get out there and meet people. Learn about another culture. Find out what the locals do, not just what the tourists like to see. Remember: If you're living abroad, you're not just a tourist anymore. You need to find out what's behind that giant door.