I have had the privilege of calling Tijuana home for the past two years, but sadly it is time for me to go. The past few weeks have been filled with boxes, tape, and customs forms along with way too many tacos, mezcal cocktails, and tearful goodbyes.
I will miss so many things about this complicated town that I have grown to call home:
Border eats. Even with Global Entry, there are times when the border wait times to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico are out of control. There are two options for human behavior at this point. Option One: Get super pissed off, swear existence, and wonder why you thought it wise to cross the border today. Or Option Two: Treat yourself to a nieve, burrito, or churro courtesy of the dozens of vendors that have carts, stands, and on foot operations at la linea. I think we all know which is the better option.
Coffee Shops. Tijuana is home to a number of independent coffee shops that are serving up quality coffee thanks to passionate owners that travel the world to learn more about roasting, beans, and machines. My coffee shop is Das Cortes in Hipodromo and my drink of choice: a triple, non-lactose, caramel and cinnamon latte. Don’t think this is some froofy Starbucks wannabe drink - this latte is barely sweet, and bursting with flavor as the cinnamon and coffee compliment one another. The baristas are a fun bunch and always patient with my Spanish and the locals are always giving me tips on new restaurants, bars, and travels to be enjoyed in Baja.
Salty, Sweet, Spicy. Mexico really has figured out the magic that happens when salty, sweet, and spicy all hang out together. My obsession for this combo has grown to a native level over the past two years. I sprinkle Tajin on everything from fruit to french fries, get childlike pleasure from eating Pelon Pelo Ricos, and if you treat me to a mangoada on a hot day I will love you forever.
The Food Scene. I am a serious foodie and the food scene in Tijuana blew my mind - you can find it all here, from high end to street cart. I never thought I would enjoy a six course tasting menu with wine pairing at an industrial, yet modern restaurant in Tijuana, but I did. I learned the art of eating a taco at the counter and talking to the guy who cuts the meat, all while he catches tortillas like frisbees from the lady who makes them farther down the cart. Local craft beers, thoughtfully constructed cocktails, and beautiful interior design are mainstays at restaurants in Tijuana regardless of what is on the menu and business owners are proud to be apart of the city's revitalization and rebranding. I am happy and proud to say that I never once had a bad meal or subpar service in Tijuana.
La Revo. Forget the nonsense you think you know about Avenida la Revolucion. Sure, there are cheap pharmacies for what ails ya, strip clubs with blacked out windows, and tequila more akin to gasoline in giant cups, but La Revo is far more than paved sin. You see, when there was a spike in violence and all the gringos stayed up north out of fear, locals who were tired of being cooped up at home started opening public spaces in an effort to bring life back to La Revo - and it worked. This is the la Revo that I learned to love over the past two years - ten blocks filled with fun bars, furniture showrooms, and art galleries. I will miss drinking mezcal and eating grasshoppers at La Mezcalera, hanging out at Object to browse and find unique pieces for my house, and drinking wine at art exhibits in Pasaje Rodriguez. La Revo, this gringa loves you and for all the right reasons.
Cultural Events. Documentary screenings, food and wine festivals, and free concerts are all things that I have enjoyed in Tijuana. If someone told me I would be eating an artisan macaroon at a paella contest in downtown TJ, I would have laughed at them. If someone had told me that free opera concerts on mild summer days are how many Tijuanenses enjoy summer evenings I would have rolled my eyes. Far too often Tijuana is compared to San Diego or other larger, older cities in Mexico and unfairly categorized as a city lacking culture. False. The CECUT has an impressive collection, festivals celebrating the grape harvest and lobster season attract the New York Times and Bon Apetit, and kids learn and have fun every day at the interactive and modern children's museum - El Trompo. So despite its youth, Tijuana does have culture - you just have to know where to look.
Binational Living. I have lived abroad for a decade and Tijuana played with my head during the first few months. When I lived in other parts of the world I had to make do by either finding a local product comparable to what I was missing from home or begging for a care package. Not in Tijuana. When I am out of peanut butter, Kinky Curly conditioner, or Bandit’s special treats, I just head to San Diego and usually see a parking lot full of Baja license plates. Crossing the border is actually a part of the culture of Tijuana and you aren't a soft gringo for doing it - its just a part of life on la frontera. Fun fact: My Mexican friends spend more time in San Diego than I do.
The Day After the Rain. I lived in Tijuana for 23 months and it rained (for real, you know, not a drizzle) less than 10 times during my entire stay, pesky drought. Rain and Tijuana do not mix - the infrastructure cannot handle the flooding and the drivers can’t either. After the chaos created by the strange wet things from the sky subsides, you notice this weird thing when the sun peaks back out - a colorful beautiful city. It’s like the rain pressure washes the town and you finally see it all in HD. Colorful houses on the hill, mountaintops on both sides of the border, and streets with black pavement versus dust - Tijuana after a good rain is my favorite time to take photos or just walk around and take in the unconventional beauty of the city.
People. Last but not least, I will miss the people that I have met over the last two years - friends, market vendors, all of you - I will miss you. My Mexican colleagues joke with me like they joke amongst each other, which is huge - they know i’m not an uptight gringa and legit love learning about their culture. I smile when they call me Kachita (instead of Kashia) and amiguita because it makes me feel like I’ve been welcomed and accepted into the fold. Tijuanenses you are what have made this experience so great and I will be forever grateful.
Hasta pronto Tijuana, hasta pronto.