i nervously bit my lip. we were waiting for what seemed hours on end for the trolley to arrive to take us to the border for a day trip to tijuana. as a full disclosure, i’ve rarely traveled too far outside of my comfort zone, opting for countries where i speak at least a bit of the language and understand most of the cultural norms. even though tj is less than a 30 minute drive from where we live, it’s a place that i had very little understanding of, a fact i’m rather embarrassed to admit in any public forum. taking a day trip down to tj has been on my list for at least three years now but i kept making excuses as to why it wasn’t the right time. some of the harrowing news around the border in recent years certainly didn’t help to ease my anxiety.
but here we were, the train whooshing by ready to take us to tj. we strolled across the border with ease–goodness, i thought to myself, i assumed this would be much harder. little did i know that was the way back. the ease of entering a foreign country made it feel, well, considerably less foreign–many restaurants are far harder to get into. it hit me that we were no longer in san diego when we were bombarded with a variety of offers, propositions and some of the loudest ranchero musics i’ve ever heard, blaring from speakers set up on the main road. the mood changed quickly once we got a few hundred yards in and began to feel more like a ghost town, or, perhaps more accurately, like a town hit by a zombie apocalypse. there was almost no one on the streets save a few lone walkers here or there. i can’t imagine a more interesting place to set a short film or photo shoot frankly.
we walked another mile into the main areas of the city, where the scene started to turn into something else entirely. i felt like a (semi-anxious) child, taking in a landscape that was entirely different than any i had seen outside of photographs or films. there was so much to look at, from interesting decrepit buildings to the steepest wheelchair ramps i’ve ever seen, as well as amazing vintage typography. once i got over my initial anxiety (and had a few of the most delicious tacos of my life to date) i began to really take in the experience. one more reason to push just a little bit beyond preconceived notions of comfort, belonging or difference.
the trek back over the border was arduous, long and annoying (we weren’t up to speed on the sentri or passport card), but it was all in all an experience well worth repeating again very soon.