Wednesday, May 16, 2007 

End of the Line

I don’t want to write this. I’ve put it off for almost two weeks as I’ve been struggled to find my words. But how do you sum up 15 amazing months? I don’t think you do. You admit they were the best 15 of your life and that you’ve never been happier and you move on.

So let’s hit some of the basics -
I’m home, in California.
Marisol is coming in July to hone her culinary skills in San Francisco with some more schooling. I’m currently looking for a job. We are living with my parents until I find a job at which time we plan to move to San Francisco.

I imagined I would want to share my final thoughts after almost a year and a half in the mountains of Mexico but now that I’ve come to it, it just doesn’t feel right. So I’m going to save that for more personal conversations that I hope to have with each of you when we have the chance.

I will say that it’s good to be home but I miss Marisol more than I thought possible.

I’ve also decided this will be the last Probadita. It was incredibly fun writing this blog but now is the right time to wrap it up. Thanks to all of you who have read my stories and shared your comments.

Before I go, here are the last photos I have from Mexico. The weekend before I came home, we took a trip to Ixtapa on the west coast of Mexico. As some of you may recall, Marisol took me to Ixtapa for my first weekend in Mexico, making this a fitting end.

Mexican sand and surf

The best of friends

The good life revisited one last time

What it's all about
See you soon!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 


I've waited too long to introduce you to the world of Combis.

Combi - From the German "Kombi," is the Mexican name for a Volkswagen bus. Here in Mexico, Combi is also synonymous with a form of public transportation made up of VW buses. Most towns have some form of Combi-based public transportation. Morelia is no exception.

Combis and Me
Riding in a Combi is a hot, sweaty, cramped, neon lit, bad music filled, yet extremely friendly experience. I have developed a love/hate relationship withCombis more complicated and nuanced than any relationship with a fleet of buses should ever be. For most people, the Combi isn't something you contemplate. It is just one of those constants without which life wouldn't quite be the same. Morelia has hundreds of Combis driving dozens of routes that will take you almost anywhere for 5 pesos ($0.50).

Most Combis are still VW buses although new, more comfortable, yet totally vapid Nissan vans claim an increasingly large presence in the fleet. All Combis have a U-shaped bench lining the walls of the passenger area thus leaving the middle open for the unfortunate standers. 99.9% of Combis pack a super fancy, color changing, huge display having, mp3 playing, satellite ready CD player hooked up to between 1 and 4 speakers that appear to be 40-100 years old. A classic generational mismatch that results in a unique aural experience. 50% are equipped with neon or black lights and customized interior trim packages. 2% have TV screens and about half of those are functional.

Getting On Board

Actually getting on board a Combi can be challenging. There are many reasons why a Combi will simply pass you by including overcrowded combi, distracted driver, or super-sonic ground speed, although the most likely reason is that you are standing in the wrong place. There is no map nor any marked stops. There are, however, strictly defined routes and official places where theCombi will stop if there is someone standing there. Like lots of things here, you just have to ask someone who already knows.

It is customary, upon boarding a Combi, to say the appropriate pleasantry. Most of the time this is "good afternoon" or "buenas tardes" to which everyone in the Combi replies "buenas tardes." No on likes a passenger who forgets the pleasantries, they bring everyone down a little. It is also common to offer to hold the bag of anyone not lucky enough to have a seat. An amazing display of courtesy I doubt you will ever find in any US or European city of 1 million people.

There are only two types of Combi drivers: fast and slow. Most drivers are in their thirties and although some are very young, none are old. This is a young man's game. The best drivers race around the city in a boredom induced, dream state, pretending they are racing at Daytona. These drivers typically have a broken, over-sized racing tachometer bolted to their dashboards and modified, extra loud exhaust. Despite the risk of personal harm, these drivers are still preferable to their turtle-powered cousins. As their hazard lights blink away, these drivers drift from stop to stop, seemingly propelled by nothing more than the sighs of their desperate passengers. You can easily loose your mind at the hands of these dawdling devils as the entire Combi fleet passes you by, the other drivers slowing down just long enough to ensure you have time to take in their scorn. Yelling at the man behind the wheel for more speed is not advised.

The Come From Behind Victory
The worst part about riding the Combi is standing.
The best part about riding the Combi is also standing. But this time, three stops into your misery, you hear the sweetest sound in the Combi riding world, the click of the front door. The dramatic change of fortune is heady. To good to be true. The best seat in the house, up with the driver, is being vacated and being the last one on board, you are the lucky soul who gets the free upgrade. It's the come from behind victory that's guaranteed to make your day.

Combis in Real Life

The Classic VW Combi

A new style, Nissan Combi

A rare, inside view during non-crowded conditions

A Combi driving down the main street
in town with the cathedral in the distance

Sunday, April 01, 2007 

Birthday Kicks

As some of you know, I have a bit of a tennis shoe habit. So you can imagine my delight when Marisol gave me these bad boys for my birthday.

They say "Mexico 70" on the sides.
(My respect to any non-Mexican who knows why.)

New tennies and me in the office

Friday, March 23, 2007 

Something Special

There's just something about the light in Mexico.
It's different. Softer. Warmer. Deeper maybe. But definitely different. Like a gentle filter added to life to make it more inviting, more friendly, and a little less urgent.

Although I imagine descriptions of color and light are best left to poets, I doubt even the pros could capture the enveloping glow that pervades every dawn and each dusk. My camera, equally impotent in this regard, must be incapable of processing Mexican colors with its cold aluminum body and Japanese eye.

Marisol first pointed it out, this issue of the Mexican light and its indescribable character. Few days have passed since that haven't found me stopped for a brief second, pondering its special quality. And now, when asked what I'll miss, my response is almost universally met with confused stares. Like I said, it's indescribable.

Saturday, February 10, 2007 

Birthday Fun

I turned 29 at the end of January. We went up to Javier's cabin for a little Mexican style BBQ and relaxation.

Alfonso and Marisol

Howdy partner

Sherlock Holmes at your service


Mexican style BBQ

Javier showing off his twirling light ball skills

Sunday, February 04, 2007 

One Year

On February 2, 2006 I boarded a plane with all the essential worldly possessions I could carry, and moved to Mexico. Last Friday marked my one year anniversary.

I remember thinking that for the first time in my life I had absolutely no idea what lay in store for me. There were no older friends or siblings to give me some idea of what to expect. Moving to the middle of Mexico was uncharted territory and by most accounts, downright crazy. I was excited and terrified at the same time.

Looking back over the last year I quickly come to one unavoidable conclusion: this is the best thing I've ever done.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 

Carne Asada Nirvana

Four steps to Carne Asada Nirvana...

1. Stoke the fire

2. Season your beef

3. Toss on the grill

4. Devour

Dedicated to J.G.

About me

  • I'm Nate
  • From Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
  • I used to live in California. Then I met the girl you see here in this photo. The next thing I knew I was in Mexico swinging a frying pan at a scorpion and chasing after phantom trucks. You will find pictures and stories about my life in the pages that follow.
My profile

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