La Paz, BCS

Day 5

Home: Emmanuel’s AirBNB

Attending a baseball game during our stay in La Paz didn’t work out, but we could still go to the movies! Rett needed to see the third installment of the “Animales Fantasticos” (Fantastic Beasts) series in a theater, so can we make that happen? La Paz is big enough to host several movie theaters, so we picked the closest location of the Cinépolis chain. Online, some showings are listed as “ESP”, and some as “SUB”. I think we want “SUB”, which would mean the audio is in English, but it has Spanish subtitles? Or is “ESP” the version with Spanish audio and no subtitles, and “SUB” is also Spanish audio but with English subtitles? Either way, I guess “SUB” seems like the safest choice.

The theater is two miles away, which normally isn’t a big walk for us, but it wouldn’t be a lot of fun in the 90degF afternoon heat. I briefly considered trying our luck at a “Colectivo”, one of the old, brown, mini-school-buses that come by frequently. They’re apparently run by independent operators, don’t exactly have a schedule, and have the list of destinations for that particular vehicle (like grocery stores, banks) written on the front window in grease pencil. And they are really cheap. So my understanding is that you just stand around for a bit, wait for one to come by, hop aboard, and hope it takes you where you want to go. It sounded kind of fun, but since we had to be at the movie at a certain time, we decided to skip the adventure, and instead take an Uber, because that’s also something that exists in this big city. It took a long time to get a driver, but the ride was less than $3, and he took us straight to the door.

Which was a mall, that hosted another Sears location in addition to the theater. I convinced Rett to take a quick walk with me through the mall, and it felt fairly familiar, except for the big Target-like grocery store whose checkout aisles just dumped directly into the mall corridor.

But that walk led to a load of stress, because the line to buy snacks ended up being deceptively long and slow-moving, bringing us dangerously close to showtime. The queue was arranged as a snaking pathway like at an amusement park ride or TSA security checkpoint, except that there were no actual ropes. The path was simply marked by tape on the floor. Yet everyone obediently acted as if the ropes existed. It was just more proof of weird American prejudices painting Mexico as a chaotic and lawless place. I’m quite sure that Americans would be much more disrespectful of the invisible ropes than these Mexicans were!

In line at the movie theater snack counter.

Jules (Samuel L. Jackson): So besides that, what’s the funniest thing about Mexico?

Vincent (John Travolta): It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there, we got here, but it’s just there’s a little difference. No, you can’t walk into a movie theater in La Paz and buy a beer, not in no paper cup and sure as hell not a glass of beer. They still overcharge for snacks, that’s the same. But movie tickets themselves cost three dollars and seventy-five cents. US dollars.

Jules: $3.75? Oh, man — I’m goin’, that’s all there is to it. I’m fuckin’ goin’.

Vincent: But, you know what they put on popcorn in La Paz instead of butter?

Jules: What?

Vincent: Doritos.

Jules: Goddamn!

Vincent: I seen ’em do it, man. They fuckin’ drown ’em in this shit.

(ok Jules, that honestly sounds pretty good, but they also do butter so we just wimped out and went with that).

Los Secretos de Dumbledore! (we chose correctly, and got English audio with Spanish subtitles).

Observing the other people at the theater/mall drove home a realization that had been percolating for a while: the cultural distance we’ve felt between ourselves and most of the Mexicans we’ve interacted with in Baja actually has surprisingly little to do with the fact that they’re Mexican and we’re American, and far more to do with the fact that they’ve largely been rural, small-town people, and we’re (at least formerly) urban, big-city people. Because in this not-even-very-big city of La Paz, the fashions, hairstyles, and even basic body-language of a young man on a date with his new girlfriend felt much more familiar and “American” than anything we’ve witnessed in quite some time.

Which makes me wonder: as a society becomes more urbanized and wealthier, does it inevitably lose the flavors of its local culture, and evolve towards an American-influenced, globalized, homogenized culture? Or, do the common cultural elements of wealthier, urbanized societies spring forth from features inherent in that wealth, without actually taking substantial influence from other, similar societies?

Anyway! The movie had some better moments than the previous ones, but was also a weird jumble of things happening or not happening for no good reason. Still, I’m glad we had the experience, because even if they movie itself didn’t inspire any deeper thoughts in me, the act of going to the movie did!

Institute of Sports, South California (just an interesting-looking place we passed on the walk back home in the cooler evening sunset).

Day 6

Home: Marine Waterfront Hotel

It’s time to start our 9-day tour circumnavigating Espiritu Santo Island via kayak! Well, except it’s really a 7-day kayaking trip, which the tour company (Baja Outdoor Activities) pads out with a night in a La Paz hotel on each end. Maybe that’s nice for people flying in on a tight schedule, but it actually made it more difficult for us, since it meant we had to make the move from a perfectly-nice accommodation that we were already set up in. At least our AirBNB host was nice enough to let us check out a couple hours late at 1pm, so we only had to kill a couple hours hanging out on the Malecon before we could check into our room at the Marine Waterfront Hotel.

And while the bill for this tour is an amount difficult for me to stomach, the two-TV fanciness of our hotel room made me at least felt a little better that the money isn’t being entirely pocketed by the tour company while they stick us in a US$20 cold-water-only motel. Though that $20 motel along with a $150 reduction in our tour cost would have of course been my preference!

A new winner for “largest hotel room in Baja”, even though all hotel rooms in Baja are really huge.

In a probably-failed attempt to show how I’ve come to peace with not-caring-about-expenses for this vacation-from-our-vacation, we went to dinner at the hotel’s marina-front restaurant. Once again, the results at least made me feel like we weren’t simply lighting our money on fire: my seafood pasta was one of the best dinners I’ve had in Baja, and absolutely packed with a menagerie of seafood (my theory was that, as the only party eating in the restaurant, the cook said “well, if I’m opening up the bags of shrimp, and scallops, and mussels, and…, I might as well dump a bunch in here!”)

My beautiful sunset-glowing wife enjoying wine-glass Negra Modelos.
Reviews of places on the La Paz Malecon frequently mention the sunset views, which seemed a bit silly since the sun doesn’t even set completely over water from La Paz. But I guess if they’re all like this, that’s not bad!
Moonrise over La Paz.

At 8:45pm (nearly Baja midnight!) our kayak tour guide, Chino, picked us up to bring us to the Catedral hotel, meet the rest of our group, and go over some basics to have us ready to go in the morning. There would be nine of us, the now-expected mix of Canadians and Americans, but also one Mexican. On the drive back, Chino told us that Jorge was the first Mexican he’d had in a tour group in his 18 years working for BOA. I found that nearly impossible to believe, but, maybe? For Elizabeth from Calgary, this was her fourth time doing this trip over a number of years, which is an encouraging endorsement! Now all we had left to do was finish up re-sorting the entirety of our gear into the 4 panniers that we wanted to take to the island with us. Easy! No?

Holy Saturday services at Catedral de la Paz.


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