Today I arrived in Morelia, Michoacán, after a 3.5 hour ride from Guadalajara. On the bus I watched two movies: the ridiculous Jumper - on pirate DVD in English with some of the worst subtitling I have ever see -, and Coach Carter in Spanish. It was a Samuel L Jackson double bill. I probably would have prefered to sit in quiet contemplation of leaving my third city (London; Edinburgh; Gdl; Hamburg) and read some Tolstoy, but I couldn't help getting into both movies, and found myself absurdly moved by Coach Carter. The experience was reminiscient of flying out of Mexico City in 2005, when I was almost crying into my airline meal watching Russell Crowe and Renée Zellwegger in Cinderella Man. (I've seen it since and it is nothing special.)
Gdl was not as sad an experience as I was expecting. In particular, it was wonderful to stay with the same family as I did in 2005, to sleep in the same bed, eat at the same table, in the same seat. Some things have changed inexorably, excruciatingly in that city. Some things are exactly the same.
I hung out with Gustavo on Friday and Saturday, the grandson of the woman I lived with. G is about my age and now teaches Italian to uni students and English to school kids. We had a lot to talk about and I managed to drag him along to a match at the Estadio Jalisco, where his father had seen Gordon Banks make THAT save from Pele 38 years ago. It was good to hang out with G and I'm sure we will meet again.
But mainly it was lovely to be with my Mexican "grandma" again, and I reflected on how lucky I am to be close to a person from such a different world as mine. Very Catholic and in her mid-seventies, she gave up on a career in medicine over 50 years ago to devote herself to her husband and her family. She has 8 children, at least 16 grandchildren, of whom I have met roughly half. I feel as if I have learnt a lot from her about another view of life.
Last night she was telling me the sad story of a North American who fell in love with her sister half a century ago, but was rejected because the girl was too devoted to her mother (ie. my granny's mother). The mother died earlier this year, a few months short of her 100th birthday, and the two sisters went to Texas to visit the sister's suitor. The man never married, remaining in constant contact with his "novia" for half a century, even though they never married, never had any children. He became rich working in the pharmaceutical industry, but is now very ill and alone, with no family other than a couple of elderly sisters (one estranged). He is too ill to move to Mexico and marry his love. She refuses to relocate to Texas so soon after her mother's death. He is still waiting.
A remarkable story which seems to make sense of García Márquez's idea that magical realism is only a European term for what real life is actually like in Latin America. This is a theory I have expounded - with limited success - in European classrooms. If it weren't for Señora Guerra de Orea I doubt I would understand it.
But being in Gdl was not all happy. For me there is a huge hole in that city that can't be refilled. I suppose a large part of why I have now travelled over 2000 miles overland from Seattle was to confront the memory of Sandra's death. To "come to terms with it" or "get closure" to use the standard clichés. Of course that hasn't happened. I was sad today to think how I can never see her again, never wish her well and never prevent what happened. And at times in the future I will be sad for exactly those reasons.
But it helped to see Hugo, someone who knew S better than I did and who must have felt her loss more acutely. We reminisced a little; but more than that we acknowledged each other's grief. And we had a fun night together as friends, ending up with Darcy in a low-grade kareoke bar. (Believe it or not - most kareoke bars look classy compared to this place). I dedicated New York, New York to Sandra. It was the song I had sung on my last night out with Sandra, Hugo and others in Gdl in 2005. Singing it again on Friday was fun and funny and sad.
I was also very glad to see Darcy again, who had been in the same school as me in 2005 and lived in the same place as I had initially three years ago. She now lives there as a full-time student. We talked about our old mutual friends and chatted to her boyfriend - probably the most artistic dentistry student I will ever meet.
Even if the 2008 me still envies a lot of the 2005 me, this was a new experince in Guadalajara. And a good one with no regrets at all.