Local busDay 1 of our Puerto Vallarta trip: Nov 13, 2007.

In some ways, Puerto Vallarta (PV) reminds me of Jakarta. When we were visiting PV just recently, I found some similarities between the two. For a starter [it was so obvious on our first day coming into town from the airport], I noticed that Mexicans also drive on the shoulder of the road. Indonesians do this quite often, especially the minibus drivers (sopir angkot). When I was in one of angkot, I’d go, “Woo hoo… yeah… go angkot, go angkot!” These drivers have no fear at all (and no patience for waiting in line), they’d zip through the shoulder, even go in the ditch, just to get to the front of the line. The Mexicans are not as extreme, but definitely have the same lack of patience like Indonesians. And being in an opposite position, to be in a car properly waiting in line and seeing these cars pass us by, I was not very happy.

Dried shrimpOther similarity was the use of meat. Like Indonesians, Mexicans also use it all up. For instance, the use of beef. Other than the meaty part, we both also cook the intestines, foot and even brain. If the Mexicans have Menudo Soup, Indonesia has Soto Babat. When we’re dining in the town of PV, we didn’t encounter any ‘local’ dish in any restaurant. Maybe because PV is considered as a touristy destination; the food business tends to cater for the tourists. But when we were at the remote Mexcaltitlan (I will write a different post about this place), I tried on their local dish, dried shrimp. Doug, the kids, and my father-in-law can not eat it, but it tasted just fine to me. Just like eating the good ol’ rempeyek with a strong dried shrimpy taste to it.

A typical local houseWe did a lot of driving around when we were in PV; even to other cities/towns. Since we’re not staying in an all inclusive resort (eek!), we were able to get out and do a lot of different things. Everday we’re on the road, either to explore or to go out for dinner, I noticed a lot of road constructions were going on. And just like in Jakarta, the work is done mostly by hard labor instead of machines. Not safely-dressed workers beating up rocks by hand using hammers, with some of them were just wearing sandals. Related to constructions, I noticed that the way they build houses are very similar to Indonesians. Tall black rods sticking out in houses that were being built. The use of bricks was noticeable like us Indonesians too.

When we were driving long haul to reach Mexcaltitan, we were in desperate need for a bathroom for the kids. We stopped at a house that sells soft drinks. I’m glad Doug speaks better Spanish than me, we were okayed to use their bathroom in their house. We had to walk through a bedroom and I noticed an elderly woman watching the TV. Obviously she lives there with her daughter, son in law and grandchildren. In some other occasion when we had to walk very close to someone’s house -human nature- I glanced inside the house and saw elderly people who appear to be living in the household. Indonesians don’t really believe in nursing homes. Elderly people live and being taken care of in their children’s house, even until they die. Sometimes, this is the root of a family feud.

Cheerleaders on a paradeMexican schoolchildren wear uniform like Indonesians. White tops, and different color for the bottom part depends on the level of education )elementary, junior high, or high school). The difference [for the teenage girls] is the length of the skirt. In Indonesia, it’s mostly about knee length; even longer if you attend an Islamic school. All the teenage schoolgirls -and no, I’m not exaggerating- in PV and around wear mini skirts [with long socks]. I’m not sure if the school requires it or what. After all, it’s a uniform.

Mexicans and Indonesians are hard workers. Working long hours with minimum wage. Unlike Americans who live to work, Mexicans and Indonesians work to live.