I just got in from driving home from Mexico. Okay, saying I went to Mexico when I was visiting Nuevo Progreso is like saying I visited the United States when I was visiting Disneyland, but I needed my passport, so indulge me. 🙂
It was a short drive from my hotel in Harlingen to the crossing at Progreso/Nuevo Progresso. Parking is immediately before the border; don’t miss the entrance or your car is going to Mexico! It costs $2 to park all day in a fairly secure lot. You then follow the walkway to the border. There is a big bathroom right before you cross. The entrance is shabby, but the inside is beautifully appointed.
You need 50 cents to feed the turnstile that will let you enter Mexico. There is a change machine there, but having coins on hand (I was prepared) will get you through more quickly. You cross the bridge, then go through the secondary vehicular inspection point. After that, you’re in Nuevo Progeso. You won’t have to talk to customs agents at all.
Even though the culture change was striking, it wasn’t confusing the way it is in Tijuana. Walking down Avenidad Benito Juarez, vendors will try to hock their goods and peddle their drugs, but they are very polite and back off if you say no. It’s not an exhausting gauntlet at all. I just said, ‘No, gracias’ to everyone and earned myself a smile each time.
I started off by locating the office of dentist Gilberto Barajas, which was exactly where I expected it to be.
It was about 10:30, so I had two and a half hours to kill. I set off in search of a manicure! I stopped biting my nails (FINALLY) just over a year ago and have been wanting to treat myself to a manicure to celebrate, but haven’t bothered since I’ve been doing some much manual labour. I decided to compromise and just have the nails treated professionally and not get a full gel set on them. So anyway, off I went down the main avenue, glancing at the wares as I walked.
Very quickly, I noticed a blouse style that was ubiquitous. Every vendor seemed to have it in different colours. I was in love and finally asked about the price. $40?! That’s crazy! I’d heard that prices in Nuevo Progreso are set for gringos, but that was insane! I eventually ducked into a quieter clothing boutique and found the blouse yet again. A lady came up to me and asked “Se gusta?” (Do you like it?” I was surprised to be addressed in Spanish and thrilled that I was going to get to butcher the language a little. “Si, quanto?” I asked (Yes, how much?) I didn’t get her entire response, but the gist of it was “$30, but since you speak to me in Spanish, $20.” Sold. 🙂 Yes, a bit pricey, but it so rare that I really splurge on clothes these days, buying instead sale items at Walmart.
I had passed a bunch of manicurists, but they all seemed very busy. When a lady said to me as I passed, “Manicure, $6, you’re next!” I was all for it. Followed an hour of extreme pampering, including a full hand and arm massage. It’s too bad I didn’t have time to do my feet, too. 🙁 I had the gal paint my nails blue, but it didn’t take me long to completely mess up her paint job, so my nails are no longer blue. But they look amazing. She gave them an extra long oil soak and they cleaned up beautifully. The salon was very shabby, but the instruments were all clean and were disinfected many times during the process. My neighbour getting her feet done was a lady from Winnipeg (!) and next to her was a very macho looking elderly farmer in overalls and a checkered shirt who said about 10 times about his pedicure, “There’s a first time for everything and I will be back!”
It was almost noon by the time I got out of the nail salon and it was time for lunch. I had done research ahead of time and decided to go to Arturos’s. There, I was greeted by tuxedo clad waiters who brought salsa, pico de gallo, tortillas, and a very extensive menu. I ordered lemonade to drink. To my delight, it came with a maraschino cherry. I love maraschino cherries. 🙂
I didn’t feel like ordering in Mexico what gringos think is Mexican food so I bypassed the tacos, enchiladas, etc. and decided that it was time to indulge my bacon craving by going with the ‘Arturo Chicken Filet’, which was bacon-wrapped chicken, which turned out to be ham wrapped in chicken wrapped in bacon. Please, no guesses as to the calorie content! 😀 I had a choice of salad or guacamole to start. Having FINALLY developed a taste for guacamole, I picked that. Nom, nom!
Besides being a protein bomb, lunch was very carb heavy. After the tortilla chips, my meal came with onions rings, French fries, toasted bread, and tortillas! I’ve been on a tortilla diet since New Orleans so I passed on the bulk of the fried foods as well as the tortillas and sank my teeth into the delicious toasted slices. The tomato that came with my meal was sculpted like a rose; lovely detail!
Lunch was set at gringo prices, so two lemonades plus the chicken, plus the tip came to $17. I then used the bathroom and took the opportunity to brush my teeth. There was an attendant who stood by silently handing me paper towels as I needed them. She got a tip. 🙂
I then strolled over to the dentist. I was a few minutes early and he was running late, so I didn’t get into the chair until about 1:30. No worries, there was a Reader’s Digest, Canadian edition, to pass the time! 😀
Dr. Barajas’ clinic is utilitarian. It is spare and clean. I met him, his wife (Dr. Karina) and the gentleman who handles the front desk. They were all very friendly and welcoming.
When the dentist was ready, the attendant led me to a cubicle at the back of the building and got me comfy. Dr. Barajas came in, introduced himself, confirmed what I needed done, and checked out my tooth. He said the damage looked bad but it was a good sign that I had zero pain. The plan of attack was to numb the area since I need extra numbing time, start on the cleaning, repair the tooth, then finish the cleaning.
He was very gentle. He started by applying a topical numbing agent to my gum and then administered the deep numbing agent. I didn’t even feel the needle go in! The cleaning, while not pleasant, didn’t hurt and he guessed, very incorrectly, that it had been about a year since my last professional cleaning. My teeth are in good shape!
I’ll confess to tensing up a little when he started up the drill, but once he got started on the bad tooth, I relaxed as I was feeling nothing except very mild vibrations. Before I could even register that the filling was done, he was polishing my teeth. I think I was in that chair 30 or 45 minutes. It felt very quick.
This was definitely the best dental experience I’ve had wide awake (nothing will beat the wonderfulness of my wisdom tooth extraction under full anesthetic 😀 ). I regret that I will probably never be able to go to him again, especially since he noticed that I have another small cavity starting, which he did not have time to fix right then.
I can’t stop feeling that tooth with my tongue. I’m just so relieved it’s fixed. Total cost? $65!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, $65 and the gas and hotel to come down here, but I got more enrichment out of the drive down here than I would have giving that money to a Canadian dentist.
I wasn’t as numb as I would have expected when he was done and I felt articulate enough to cross the border. It was almost 3PM and I had a four hour drive ahead of me, so it was time to go.
I am so very glad I was able to go to Nuevo Progeso today. The experience was worth the anticipation. The hidden bonus of the day was how much Spanish I was able to practice. I did both the manicure and shopping almost exclusively in Spanish. I cannot wait to come to Mexico for an extended vacation to really immerse myself in the language and finally gain a measure of fluency. Even though I spend USD today, being able to speak Spanish really made me feel farther from home than I really was.
The return turnstile needed 25 cents. There was a very clean bathroom just after, and another bathroom in the US customs building.
The first border crossing was painless. “What are you bringing back?” “A blouse.” “Have a nice day.”
I had been on the road home almost an hour and was going northwards on US-77 when traffic ground to a halt at an unannounced customs checkpoint! WTF?!
“US citizen?” “Canadian.” “Let me see your passport. What are you doing down here?” “Just visiting.” “Okay. Have a good day.”
Imagine if I hadn’t gone to Mexico! I wouldn’t have had my passport! I carry my passport at all times when I’m about 20KM from the Canadian border or closer, but I would never have thought to have it on me an hour north of Mexico if I was just hanging out there. Anyway, no big deal ultimately.
The drive home was quick and painless. I know y’all are sick of hearing this, but I love my truck. 😀 It’s makes those long hauls so easy and comfortable.