To most of us, even those who don't speak Spanish, "super padre" has a pretty straightforward meaning: super dad. To the mexicans, however, "super padre" is the equivalent of the New Englander's "wicked cool," the southern CA surfer's "totally awesome," or any other representation of something that just rocks your world. As with any culture, even sub-cultures, there are certain idiomatic expressions that just don't make sense until you live them. "Super padre" is quickly creeping into my regular daily vocabulary, to describe such things as the free zoo and butterfly sanctuary in the Bosque de Chapultepec (think: Central Park x5), the skyline view with the mountain backdrop from the rooftop of our apartment, and the chic artist fair right down the road in the upscale Parque de Mexico surrounded by posh coffee shops that make you forget you're even south of the border.
I've come to realize that speaking Spanish and speaking Mexican are almost two completely different things. A waiter will hover at your table, after taking your drink, appetizer and main course orders, until that key moment when you declare "nada más" (no more) with a gracious smile. And then he will nod, equally amicably, responding "para servirle" (in order to serve you) right before he runs off to fetch your drinks (which arrive 10 minutes later if you're lucky). It seems weird, and it even feels weird, but it's part of the innate formality that is so charming about this country. On the surface it all seems so formal, Usted and Ustedes always (for all the Spanish grammar geeks reading this) and taxi drivers parking their cars, jumping out in traffic and rushing around curbside to open your door, lest a lady have to expend energy. But then your freshest produce comes from the man who rides past every 45 minutes, announcing "aguacates, tomales, chileeeeees" over the loudspeaker bungeed to the roof of his pickup, and your 10-gallon fresh water from the "aguaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" man on a bicycle. Gas comes in a tank that you have to lean out the window to light when you want hot water. The beauty of Mexico is the clash and coexistence of these two norms, which I am continually trying to navigate each day.
Similarly, every expectation or preconception I previously held about Mexico and Mexicans has either been completely destroyed or validated, with no middle ground. Take music as an example. Mexican music = mariachi, true or false? It's at every party, in every cantina, on signs and billboards every couple blocks advertising the neighborhood mariachi band for hire. But right down the road is the Sala de Chopin, and my landlady is a professional opera singer. Today, as the aguacate man drove beneath my window, Beethoven wafted up from downstairs. And in a few weeks, I'm going to one of the main universities here to see Canadian pianist extraordinaire, Angela Hewitt, perform Bach in the classical music series. And the jazz festival at the National Auditorium just recently wrapped up. So, true that mariachi is practically the national anthem, but false that it's the only music valued here. Very, very, VERY true: ALL Mexican men can dance ALL Latin dances and will not hesitate to do so at any moment, opportune or not. I love Mexico.
As you all celebrate Labor Day, and your three-day-weekend (well, not if you're at Lafayette, of course), I will be thinking of you from the Mexican stock exchange where I will undoubtedly be one of the only women, not to mention the youngest, on the floor at 9 AM. Work is going well - fast pace and challenging, just the way I like it. But I do have to wake up in 7 hours to be there, so unfortunately this is adios for now. Stay tuned for more musings on such topics as: the food, the metro, and urban "planning."