Thursday, December 13, 2018

Tijuana: the highs and lows

Tijuana is a place on contradictions. One of the most murderous cities in the world also happens to be one of the most fun. In one day lunch might be a $1 street taco and dinner might be a $60 chef’s tasting menu. 

I don’t do a “highs and lows” post for every city. In fact, I’ve only done this one for an entire country (Pakistan) and once for an entire region (SE Asia). I seem to be inspired to do posts like these when I there is a clash of feelings, like I shouldn’t love a place but somehow I do. I felt this clash in Pakistan. I felt the clash throughout my 6 months in SE Asia and the many ups and downs I had there. 

Tijuana is still different. I did not have a set of extreme experiences there, but rather, it is a city of extremes in and of itself. Take a look at my list and decide which outweighs the other.

Things I loved 

  • Gourmet food: Mision 19 may be one of the best meals I have ever had. And my favorite octopus pizza at La Justina is not to be missed. 
  • Street food: ubiquitous and abundant, everything can be found on the street in all delicious varieties. I have yet to get sick from eating anything. 
  • Nostalgia: Tijuana evokes memories from me of places all over the world. Perhaps because the city itself is a crossroads of sorts, harboring refugees from Haiti and Latin America, a confluence of people of many cultures. No wonder the city reminds me of all places at one. 
  • Cars stop for pedestrians: of all the safety concerns you may have in Tijuana, getting hit by a car should not be one of them. 
  • The nights: while days can be plenty hot, nights are cool and breezy. Going out at 10:00 or 11:00pm is the perfect time to savor Tijuana’s nightlight outdoors. 
  • Uber English: Uber is easier to use than ever! 
  • Fluid queer culture: there is a thriving gay scene in Tijuana that attracts people of all genders, ages, races, abilities, and life circumstances. It was great to see so much diversity. 
  • Pace of time: time moves slowly and quickly in Tijuana. Slowly, when you are in the moment, and you can savor ever bit of the presence, but quickly because the days pass in an instant. As my friend calls it “Time slides” 
  • Coffee flavors: The lavender lattes cannot be beat. And the vanilla doesn’t taste like vanilla anywhere else in the world. 
  • Sunsets: magical moments that can be appreciated from any street corner or rooftop in the city

My not-so-favorite-things 

  • Random shooting: I would put Narco-vioence in a big category of “what sucks about Tijuana” but the worst is when innocent bystanders are shot simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
  • Drugs: Not only are there plenty of drugs flowing from Mexico into the US thanks to warring cartels, but there are plenty of drugs swimming in Tijuana. Syringes on the street are a commons sight, as are junkies. As a foreigner, I also have to worry about being harassed by police who think I might be buying drugs. 
  • The sidewalks and roads: One of the very legitimate dangers of Tijiana is it’s poorly constructed roads. Drivers have to worry about seriously deep pot holes, while as pedestrians we worry about gaping cracks in the pavement and huge curbs. 
  • Trash and sanitation: parts of the city are very, very dirty and the trash can be overwhelming. For my friend who lives there, sometimes the water can get shut off and there will be other basic issues with infrastructure. 
  • Things open late, or not at all: Many cafes and restaurants are simply not open until 12:00 or 1:00pm. If you are early to rise, I have no idea what you will do to pass your morning. Also, businesses might show they are open online or have hours posted, but be closed. It seems every place has a relaxed about when to open. 
  • Aggressive street hawkers and taxi drivers: Only on Revolucion blvd will you get called at by hawkers. It’s annoying but they are easy to ignore. Taxi drivers are aggressive and scary. I avoid them at all costs.

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