Dogs, fish, and no tacos

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Mexico City has been an overdose for the senses, from the very first moment I saw it framed in off-white through the aeroplane window. I peered out, bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed after a long flight, at the seemingly endless array of lights stretching away almost as far as I could see, until abruptly quenched by the dark, rearing shapes of mountains in the distance. It is incredibly hard to convey just how enormous this city is, how irrelevant the concept of being in the same city as someone can be when to cross the metropolis seems like it could take as long as the drive from Bristol to London.

On my second visit to Mexico City, the city seems to me to be defined, formed and filled by noise and smells. Before coming, everyone warned me about the smog, the pollution etc, but the overwhelming smell is of food; street carts frying meat, the tang and slight burn of esquites, but predominantly the smell of cooked cornflour, of tacos, tortillas, tostadas – ‘Vitamin T’ genuinely fills the air, and I can’t now disassociate this particular scent from everything I think of as ‘Mexican’.

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The only time this hasn’t been the case was on my Saturday morning visit to La Nueva Viga, the biggest fish market in the city. A wonderful place to spend a surprisingly small amount of money on a large amount of delicious fish and seafood. I came away with squid, shrimps, red snapper and sea bass, and the shrimp and avocado empanadas cooked in front of me rivaled the scallop and bacon sandwiches of Billingsgate Market, without the 5am start. The mild downside was that the hour-long bus journey home with a bag of fish on my lap meant that the powerful aroma of fish, appropriate and evocative as it was in the market, lingered with me, my clothes, and my very being for a good 24 hours afterwards.

The other defining feature of El D.F. is the constant background soundtrack of the street, a soundscape of bells, horns, whistles and pre-recorded songs and announcements. The bin man rings a handbell as he moves through the neighbourhood. The camote vendor announces themselves with what seems to be a steamboat whistle, which still makes me jump. Tamales Oaxaquenos are announced with an almost muezzin-like dirge, and the pre-recorded announcement for the truck that buys old mattresses, fridges, ovens etc is famous, or rather infamous – disliked with almost comical hatred by all of Myriam’s friends. I find it quite reassuring.

I wasn’t expecting cricket to feature heavily in my first few days in Mexico, but a combination of jetlag, an excellent Indian stream, and a wonderfully fluctuating Test match meant that my mornings have been filled with updates from Southampton. I hope there is a data analyst in Mumbai who has been tremendously excited by the apparent extra interest in Test cricket coming from the DF. One tremendously disappointing discovery has been that BBC Radio is not available online in Mexico, so TMS remains elusive, until I can find a long wave radio and fully tap in to my cliched expat.

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Myriam’s two dogs, Archie and Lola, are an ever present threat. Lola is the elder, and the more cunning of the two. She eschews the jump, kiss and smother tactics of Archie, and awaits an opportunity to sneak into the house, and steal as many individual shoes, socks and unsecured items as possible, exiting swiftly and nonchalantly with her spoils. They are both, despite my firmly held opinions on this topic, actually rather sweet, and we have, I think, come quite quickly to an understanding of how we can live together in peace, harmony, and ideally for me, without too much slobber.

My one complaint so far – three days and I’ve eaten precisely zero tacos. This will have to be remedied swiftly.

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