30 November 2009

Pitillal & Piñatas

The guy at the tequila shop had told me I could take a short bus ride out to Pitillal to visit a tequila factory. He said it wasn’t really a factory, but a place set up for tourists to get an idea of how things work and also to sell the final product. My friend said there was no charge, so today off I went on the green bus. The driver alerted me when we got to the main square, and I stepped off the bus and into Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta has enough small streets for me to wander through, and plenty of locals to can talk to, yet this place is overrun with North American tourists and retirees. I am also a tourist, so try not to wish they weren’t all here. But I do. I am in the loveliest of little neighborhoods, but on every other block there is an ex-pat bar or coffee shop or something else non-Mexican. You walk by and hear loud Americans whooping it up. They stroll by with their dogs in tow, or nearly run you over in their cars.

Pitillal has the requisite main square with massive church on one side. The rest of the area is small streets lined with little shops. On my way to find the tequila factory, I browsed through several stores and bought a cheap purple tank-top in one of them.

I was so happy being in a real Mexican town, that I didn’t care if I found the tequila shop or not. My friend had told me that people in the town don’t even know it exists. I was within two blocks and kept asking and no one had a clue. About to give up and head back to the t-shirt shop, I ran smack into it.

This was at about 11:00am, and a tour by a group of old folks was just ending. They sat around tables in a courtyard sipping margaritas and eating chips and salsa. As I stood in the entryway, the manager came up to me and asked if I already had a ticket. I said I thought that it was a free tour. He told me that tickets were 70 pesos, ($5), and that included a folkloric dance show and that margarita and chips.

This was not what I had anticipated. I told him I would come back another time with friends. He told me that there would be no charge and he would get a tour guide for me. It took some convincing, but he finally told me I could just walk around sans guide. He offered me a Maggie on the house. I declined.

It is a small place and I stopped to talk to the older gentleman who was hand-tooling a saddle, then quickly past some machinery. In the last room was a man giving the tequila 101 course to a group of five tourists in their 60’s. These folks were tasting everything. I checked my watch; not yet noon. Oh well, they were on vacation.

Soon after I had arrived in town, it had started to drizzle which I hear it is not supposed to do this time of year. Several times in the past week I could have sworn it was about to rain but was assured that wouldn’t happen. So when it finally did rain today, (and it still is sprinkling), I was surprised.

Heading back towards the town square, I passed a large store with piñatas hanging from the ceiling. I walked in and asked if they would mind if I took some photos. It was then that I realized that this was the fiesta shop of the century. The aisles were packed with bags of every piñata-stuffing candy imaginable. I have been looking for hard candies since arriving and finally I had found not just one type, but at least fifteen. There was gum and suckers and candy I have never seen. The other aisles had party bags and balloons and porcelain princesses. It was the most fun I’d had all day.

Back to the saga of the internet connection: every time I think I have a clear understanding as to how this pre-pay kit works, I find I am wrong. I was so proud of myself when I telephoned the manager on Saturday, and spoke entirely in Spanish, trying to find out why I had no balance left on my account. That evening, I went to the Oxxo, (the 7-11 equivalent that is on every corner), to add another 150 pesos to my account. My math said that that would last me at least 5 days. By Sunday evening I couldn’t connect which meant I was back down to zero. I had decided to go in this morning, hand in the stupid piece of costly equipment, and get my money back.

José finally got me to understand. I can pay as much money as I want, but still must “buy” a unit of air-time every 24 hours, which is done by sending a text message through the internet site. What I have been doing is sending the message once, and after 24 hours I can still connect, so haven’t sent another. Bad move on my part. Even though it is either 14 or 39 pesos per 24 hours, if you neglect to send the text message, the clock starts running and your leftover 100 pesos are gone by the next day.

When I finally understood this insanity, I referred to the company as banditos. José laughed. Had I clearly understood that I would only be able to use the internet for about an hour or two a day, I probably would not have bothered with this. I am hoping I can get some sort of credit for all the money I have stupidly lost on this adventure. Oh, and there is no return policy on the USB I purchased.

It also turns out that in Mexico, there is no such thing as a flat, monthly internet charge, even in your own home.

Tonight I will try a new method for posting this. First I will go on line with my connection to do the written part. Then I will disconnect and walk down to the 2nd floor hall to upload pictures, since that is what is using up all my KB’s or MB’s or whatever it is that calculate usage by.

I am hoping this rain stops by tomottow morning. I had plans to try and find this out of town beach that has seashells.