The bus stopped. I was finally arrived at Morelia, a city I’ve never been to, in the center of Mexico. I haven’t checked on any map where the bus station was. I haven’t booked any hotel. It was 6 pm, I have arrived in the unknown…
I got back my bag from the bus and disoriented, I stayed there, looking at the people collecting their luggage. The smell of the last rain was mixed with the fragrance of oil, one of my favorite scent because it reminds me of my home country, Vietnam.
He was standing among the crowd when I saw him. I didn’t know him. Sometimes, I speak to strangers, some people look kind. When I see these people, I have an inner voice telling me “this is a good guy, talk to him”.
“Hi! I am Thuan. Do you know where is the city center? I’d like to visit it.” I started with my basic Spanish.
“Hi! Yes, you can take the combi over there and with the line 52 you directly arrive at the city center.” He answered pointing at the exit.
As he realized I wasn’t sure about where to go, he continued:
“You can come with me, I am going there too.”
I was relieved. It’s always a struggle to find your way through public transport in a foreign city.
We walked to the bus stop and waited the combi. I have never heard this word before so I asked him what it was.
“It’s like a small bus or a big car. Look, it’s coming…” He explained me.
What a surprise to see a hippie van from the 70s coming toward us.
As we entered in the combi my new friend started to question me:
“Where are you from?”
“I am from France.”
“Really ? But you don’t look like French.” He said probably referring to my tanned face and small eyes.
“I was born in Vietnam but I grew up in France.” I completed.
We continued introducing ourselves while the small bus was finding its way in the busy streets of Morelia.
“Look! This is the cathedral, and here you can see the arches!” He exclaimed enthusiastic to show me the monuments of the town. “You can get out here if you want, so you can walk and have more time to enjoy the sights.” He continued.
“I didn’t book any hotel. Do you think your family would agree to let me sleep in their house? I have a sleeping bag, so I just need a space, not much…” I asked with an unsure voice.
“Yes, of course. I am sure my uncle will agree, he is very kind, muy buena onda.”
About a kilometer after the church, we arrived at his uncle’s house and get down of the bus. Even if he reassured me about the kindness of his relatives, I was still anxious when we enter the house.
“Tío! It’s me, Pedro, I just arrived from Guadalajara.” Shouted my friend to make his family aware of his arrival.
A small man appeared and welcomed us with a large smile.
“Look tío, it’s Thuan my friend from France. He would like to sleep here tonight.” Explained Pedro to his uncle.
-”Nice to meet you, of course there is no problem, you can stay over for the night. We have a sofa in the garage where you coud sleep comfortably.”
I was delighted! I warmfully thank him and we went to the kitchen to meet the rest of the family.
Pedro visited his uncle and aunt to help them prepare his sister’s birthday. It’s an important birthday because it’s the 15th. For Mexican girls, the 15th year is the first step to womanhood.
“There is a mass with all the family and then there is a big party. You should come!” He proposed me excited.
“Yes, I’d love to come! Tomorrow I plan to go in the highland to see the butterfly but I should be back on time to join you at your sister’s birthday.”
After a quick dinner, we went to the center of Morelia on foot. Pedro wanted to buy formal outfits for him and his two brothers. The quinceñera, the 15th birthday of a girl, is a formal ceremony in Mexico.
While he was looking at different suits in a fancy store, I wandered around the plaza, admiring the Christmas lights and the ancient architecture. It’s fun to listen to Mexican who are proud to show you their very old building from the 18th century. As a European, I can see building from the 13th or 14th century everyday.
In the street of Morelia, I also enjoyed the scent of the variety of food sold on the street and music played by some guitarist. Mexican people like to go out in the evening to enjoy this nice environment.
Pedro finally bought a grey, shiny and formal outfit. We came back home and slept well.
In the morning, I left the family to go to see the butterfly in the Sanctuario, a protected biosphere where butterflies hibernate every year. It’s impressive to see quiet clusters of butterflies sleeping on pine trees. Branches are even bending under the weight of so many insects.
In the evening, I took a bus and arrived late at Pedro’s sister quinceñera. However being late in Mexico is rarely a big deal.
As I said earlier, the quinceñera is a formal ceremony, everybody wears fancy clothes. I was easily spotted with my very informal shirt, tee-shirt and backpack, but people are tolerant with foreigners. I was served delicious “carnitas” with tortillas, and then the dance started.
Pedro’s sister was wearing a large robe and took the floor to perform a dance repeated hundreds times during the last months. She is joined by five boys, her classmates, to dance with her. They are her chambelanes. It’s a lot of fun to share the joy of the entire family at Lily’s birthday.
The party finished late, around 3 or 4 a.m. I slept at Pedro’s house, his parents were happy to welcome me. In the morning I had the chance the meet literally all the relatives. They were welcoming and kind.
In the following days, I shared the life of the family and even went on a short trip to the lake Janitzio with Pedro’s relatives. It’s a lovely island you should definitely visit.
I really felt like I was part of a family. People I didn’t know before were now like my family. I could spend entire weeks with them, sleeping and eating without them asking for any money.
They were genuinely curious about my life, about where I was from and what I was doing in Mexico. They even invited me to come back to their house or to go to other festivities few month later. They accepted me without hidden feeling or side motivation. Thanks to Pedro who showed me the way to Morelia city center, I have now a Mexican family where I could go back anytime I want in my life.
He became my Mexican best friend and all his family became my beloved Mexican family.
Kindness is all around when you travel, just ask for it.