31 August 2007

Aug 29 – MX Training, The Final Day

I didn’t get down to the restaurant at 7, as on previous days. I haven’t been eating breakfast, only drinking tea, and it ends up being a long time to sit while conversation flows around me. I certainly don’t expect everyone to speak English just for my benefit, especially since several of them don’t speak English at all. I’m comfortable wandering in my own thoughts but it seems rude in company.

I joined them mid-meal and then we all trouped off to the office for our final day of training.

The training morning was pretty much like the others. The only unique event was that an alarm went off mid-morning and we all had to leave the building to gather at the “punto de reunion” in the parking lot.

We all stood around, chatting or making cell phone calls, until someone official made the announcement that it was a false alarm … someone had opened a restricted door… and we could all re-enter the building.

Mark explained later that there was only one alarm. Usually, when the alarm goes off, it’s because someone either inadvertently leaned against the wrong door or…so whether it was a fire or someone opening the wrong door or forgot to use a keycard or code first. But since the same alarm is used for fire, everyone has to leave the building until it’s confirmed.

We finished up the class agenda and broke for a late-ish lunch. I gathered everyone for a class picture in front of one of the biggest stained glass windows in the building. It made a nice backdrop.

After lunch (paella) we did a final wrap up and they gave me a bag of Pioneer logoed items along with their thanks. Then, about 3:30 we packed up and left for a plot tour.

We drove to the research station just outside of Guadalajara and Víctor and Cesar were our tour guides. They were getting it ready for demos they’d have in the next couple of weeks. Friday was going to be for employees and staff as a kind of preview. Then, in a week or so, they’ll have about 1500 dealers and sales reps in to tour the plots.

Being agronomists, all, they got into many discussions about how this product was doing, disease or insect damage, etc. The only thing I noticed was that the corn plants seemed to be a lot taller than I remember them in Iowa.

At one point, I was walking around the end of one plot…not on the tour path…and saw some small animal scurry from the corn to the weeds along the fence. I didn’t catch a really good look at it and waited a bit to see if it would run out of the weeds and cross the dirt track that bordered the field. It didn’t. So I gave up and went back where the trucks and people were.

In the van on the way back to the office, I turned toward the seat behind me and asked Víctor if he knew what a “mink” was. He said yes, in a puzzled sort of way…I’m sure the question came out of nowhere. Then I asked him if there were mink around here; he said, “No.” So I explained about the animal…something fast and long and low to the ground… I’d seen and asked him what it might have been.

He and Cesar (the driver) had a discussion about it…Cesar voted for ardillo, which didn’t mean anything to me until he said, “Como Alvin.” Ah! Chipmunk. I said I didn’t think it was a chipmunk…it was a foot long and solid dark gray, no stripes. He said there are chipmunks like that in Mexico. It moved like a ground squirrel, just larger than the ones at home so maybe it was something like that.

When we got back to the office, it was about 6:30 and there was a soccer game going behind the warehouse building. The back part of the facility is a recreational area with a basketball court, undersized soccer field, playground area and a covered space that has tables, chairs and some kitchen amenities.

We wandered that way to watch a little of the Research Station staff versus the Commercial Office staff. I couldn’t tell the teams apart…no one was wearing uniforms. Some of the guys looked like they’d just come in from the field with dusty jeans and tennies. There were a couple of guys who had actual soccer gear…the colorful synthetic shirt, shorts, shoes with cleats, and shin guards. But mostly, it was just guys getting together for a pick-up sort of game.

We watched a few minutes then went to the office building to collect our stuff and head out to supper. We were headed to a mariachi restaurant for typical Mexican food and one of the classic icons of the country.

I rode with Cesar, Juan rode with Lule and Víctor drove by himself. Mark had left from the plot with Géronimo and Emilio to take them to the airport and would join us later.

That time of day, traffic was bad and it took us almost an hour to get there. About that time it had started to rain, which then turned into a complete downpour. By the time we got to the restaurant, there was an amazing amount of water coming down.

Most places, at least the nicer ones, have valet parking. You don’t park your own car because then they can double- and triple-park vehicles in a small space and can always move whatever needs moving. Besides, they get tips for doing it so it’s another way for people to make money.

This place was no exception. We pulled up to the entrance and a guy came out with a huge umbrella, like you’d see over a patio table, and covered my door while I got out then walked me to the entrance under its shelter. Then, he went back for Cesar. Víctor was right behind us so as soon as we were under cover, the guy went back for him. Service!

We entered the restaurant and got a table near, but not next to, the stage area. Currently, there was only Mexican music playing over the loudspeakers and a soccer game on video. The real show, the mariachis and folklorico dancers starts at 11.

I had a margarita, the guys had beer or tequila with sangrita (a blend of tomato and other juices that’s served in a shot glass beside the straight tequila). We sat and sipped and chatted, all the while the rain was pounding down outside with occasional crashes of thunder. Eventually, Cesar ordered for us. We all got Aztec style tortilla soup to start and then the main course, served family style in the middle of the table.

The waiter put down a wooden platter with a stone, 3-legged bowl on it. The stone bowl was very hot and the contents bubbled and boiled for quite a while. Inside the bowl was a type of salsa…tomatoes, onions, etc…with strips of beef, a couple of soft-cooked cactus parts (paddles? leaves?), a radish and a piece of panela (local cheese) on top. It was very tasty and, contrary to my experiences with beef in Central America, the meat was tender and flavorful.

We finished eating and Mark still hadn’t arrived. Cesar had called him on his cell phone and said that he’d gotten stuck in traffic but was on the way. We’d eaten the 2 bowls we’d ordered so Víctor ordered another for him, Juan and Lule to have more and leave some for Mark.

Mark finally arrived. There are several tunnels on that main street that he had to travel and he said when it rains hard, they flood. We’d made it through before the rain really started but he got caught in it so the road was closed and all traffic was routed another way. Man, I hope it’s not raining tomorrow when I need to go to the airport…

I got back to the hotel a little before 10 and packed up my stuff for the journey home. The students had given me a shirt, a couple of caps, a self-storing raincoat and some other things…I had to find space for them.

By the time I was done with that, I set my alarm and fell into bed.