Canada and the USA,      Mexico,      Belize,      Guatemala,      El Salvador,      Honduras,      Nicaragua,      Costa Rica,      Panama,      USA, again,       Thailand,       Lao,       Vietnam,       Cambodia,       Thailand, again,      

Journal Index



And here I go again

October 31, 2004

Tiajauna, Mexico

Please Note: There are some formating prblmes with anything that isn´t a normal letter character so please guess your way through the punctuation. (What they have Spanish keyboards in Mexico, who would have guessed it?)

Every time I make a big move it is like I am starting my trip all over again. It is almost as if what ever area I have been has become home again and now I am leaving it. Then again I´m often staying until I could see myself living there so I guess that is the point.

Here I am off on the next phase of the trip. I have my first boarder crossing that was not in the hyper orginized order of an airport or bus crossing. This afternoon I took the San Diego blue line trolly to it´s last stop at the border. And I mean right at the boarder. Twenty feet from the trolly stop is the parking ramp looking concreat structure that houses the border crossing. The pedestrian ramps are a bit endless but you end at a very informal crossing. I had to ask directions to find imigration. (I´m a little worried I didn´t get my bags searched at that will cause me problems latter.)

(The first 20 km south of the US border is a sort of fronteeer zone where you do not need to go through imigration or have a passport to enter. If you wish to contune south though there are aparently inspection points that you need the imigration paperwork to pass through. If you don´t have it you have to go back to the border and get it.)

I do have to put a bit more effort in to figuring out what imigration officals are going to ask and having answers they like ready. In this case the question was where am I going to leave the county. I knew, "don´t know." wasn´t a good answer, but I don´t know if, "by way of Belize" is any better or even accurate. Oh well. If nothing else, by tourest card is good for six mounths with mulitipul exit and re'entry and cost $20. If I just leave and don´t come back will they notice? We will see how it goes.

Out getting dinner this evening it was a little odd to see Mexican families out trick-or-treating with thier kids along La Avaneda de la Revlution with all the bars, presecption drug shops, and tourest gak. Actualy almost everybody I saw out tonigh was Mexican. I suspect had I been here last night it would have been very different, but Sunday night apears to be for the locals.

Being one of the few white guys wandering down the street did make me a bit more of the focus of the touts for the bars, strip clubs, and 󴨥r´activities. After a couple blocks I figured that the best responce to offers and sales pitchs was to polietly shake my head no and then smile as if what they said was the punch line to a private joke and that I found the offer, not interesting, but amusing. (They seam to be a bit pushier than they were along Saint Cathrine´s in Montreal, but then again this is a warmer climate.)

One thing dawned on me today as I was walking from the border crossing into town. Here I am off on a trip and I have decided I need to take a couple days off from the stresses of traveling and just hang on a beach. So what do I do? I go from California in the US to a country that doesn´t speek English, I don´t know my way around, doesn´t have a consolitated bus system, and I can´t even drink the water. How is that suposed to be realaxing? I have a bizare aproach to things sometimes.

I´m not sure where I will head off to next, south most likely, but you never know.


A Bit of a whine but it turns out OK

November 5, 2004

La Paz, Mexico (southern Baja California)

Well it´s a friday night and what is party animal Andy dong? Sitting at the Pension California catching up with his journal, reading the One Voice news letter online, and thinking about doing laundry. It´s been a long couple days so the fact that I am not out partying like there is no tomarow (not that I do that normaly) is no suprise.

The place I am staying it about what I have been looking for in a Mexican hotel. The rooms are based around an open central court yard and have simple with a bed desk-table thing and a small questionalby constructed bathroom. (Val you need to come down here and teach these people something about plumbing.) It´s like a place I stayed with my parents in Columbia that had a rock and roll pizza restraunt down stairs and floors you weren´t sure you wouldn´t go threw. (It´s like that execpt there is not rock and roll pizza restraunt and the floors are sold.) (OK so that comparsion tells you nothing, but it does tell my parents something, and if it makes you feel better they don´t know who Val is.)

The place is probably about as hostel like as I am really going to find in most of Latan and South America. (I decided that although Mexicans travel they don´t have hostels because they don´t do solo travel. The groups I see are families or couples so the dorm room hostel idea doesn´t make sence.) In the court yard there is a kitchen area with a little four burner stove and sink. I am looking forward to having my instant oatmeal for breakfast tomarow.

As I have said, I am looking for a beach to lye on an take a few days off from traveling. I have yet to find that beach, but it´s realy a metaphore for sitting back and doing nothing anyway. My guide to planning a trip around the world had warned me that at some point about three mounths out you I would hit a point of travel exhustion and to get over it was to just stay somewhere comfortable for a few days and relax񡨥nce the beach idea. I think for me La Paz will be my break.

Actualy I have already started my vacation from my trip. )For those of you who may think that a bit decicant, in the past three mounths I have learned fourteen public transit systems (used something like 20, but I didn´t realy figure some of them out.), traveled through four time zones, figured out how to vote, found a bed to sleep in about 95 nights (I only had to sleep outside once), and feed myself three meals a day in strange towns some of which don´t speek English. It´s time for a break.

This morning after getting off the bus at 6:00am and trying to find the hostel my guide gave directions to I had breakfast at McDonald´s. If that is not a vacation from travel I don´t know what is. Plain old normal hot cakes with sausage with orange juice. No wierd questoins, I know exactly what everything is going to taste and look like. They had a clean bathroom with toilet paper, sinks, hand soap and a way to dry your hands. What more can you as for? (Also it was about half way to the center of town on my two mile walk in.) Then after scheleping my bag the rest of the way in I found this place and took a nap in the first bed I have seen in 48 hours. By the time I got going again I went out and after some search found a place to have pizza. Now THAT is a vacation. (OK I still had to do everything in Spanish and the pizza place was out of peperonie but....)

Tomarow I shall wonder around the tourest shops of La Paz and plan what to do next.

The trip to get here turned out to be a bit more of classic cheap backpacking than I had realy planned. But then again it was exactly the lack of planning they lead me to it.

After leaving spending the night in Tijauana I took a bus down to Ensanada about four hours south. I had hoped to stay at a hostel I found online there (and had picked up a broceure for) but when I trasped an mile away from the city center I all I found was a building with a ´for rent´ sign on it. (I am getting tired of the weight and size of my pack, I keep half hopping some one will steel it one of these days, my new goal is to get rid of about six inches of stuff.)

I dragged everything back to town and stayed at the first hotel that wasn´t redicously expensive. (That being a relative term as I spent almost as much staying at a hostel in Boston, and then it didn´t seam so bad.) I spen a couple nights here and washed out my socks and shirt so I can try to keep up this clean clothes thing. On Wednesday I went to the bus station and got a 2:00pm ticket to Santa de Rosalia a twelve hour thrip south. (Do you see the mistake in the purchace? This being my first real try of using my Spanish it was a little bit latter that I realised my mistake.) In Ensenada half the time I would try Spanish and people would respond in English. The hostel when I paid in pesos was unable to give me change in pesos and so gave me US dollors insted. One shop I stopped at I could see the cash drawer and it was all US cash execpt for where we would put checks and they hall all the pesos stack in there together.

So not that I had a bus ticket that got me into a small Mexican town at 3:00am (time zone change) I wasn´t sure what I was going to do when I got there but figured out that I would work on that when I got there.

The bus ride was OK. I wish that I could have done more of it when it was light out as there were some caticus farms and probably so amazing desert. Right at 3Ѱ0am the bus dropped me at the bus station / ferry termianl. Since I didn´t have a map of the town I headed away from the water to what looked like the town. I wondered around town and did find the hotels, but not suprising none of them had late night reception. And since I wasn´t sure I really wanted to pay for aa room I was barely going to use I sat down in the main square across from one of the main provincal adminstartive buildings and started to read my guid books.

A small group headed over to me from the police station and asked me what I was up to. Now I haven´t used my Spanish in ten years, and I don´t know if it was that good to begin with. After communicating that I was a tourest and had just gotten of a bus most of the group moved on but one guy stayed and we ¨chatted¨a bit. Now I´m not any good at small talk in English. We did exchange a bit about my year long trip, that I had been to Canada and that Bush won the election. In reflection I should have asked him about his family and more about the town, but as I said, I´m not good at small talk. After he went on his way I decided to take a walk around town.

It´s a nice little town. Lots of street lights in fact. I found all the hotels and read several of the little signs of historic interest. I found the town measume and the prefabricated meatle church designed by Gustoff Iffel (SP?) and shown in France before it was eventauly bought and shipped here, and then headed off to a square to read and watch the town wake up.

Mexicans are not a people I have assocated a driving need for exercise with. I can see the British taking a constutional walk and Americans jogging but not so much the Mexicans. This, atleast in this little town, is a mistake. Just as the sun came up a woman came to the little plaza I was in and started her morning walk around and around. It was a little unnerving as she came in oppisit me and walked aound the edege of the plaza behind me and then came out in front of me along the side. After about the tenth time I got used to it. By now the street sweepers were comming out and I needed a streatch myself. (Also I was cold and if nothing else dragging my full pack around warms me up.) As I walked along the water front a pack of joggers passed me that looked like they were from some millitary or police group. They were followed by what looked like a bunch of local guys who use the young military guys to set the pace. As I walked along the water I noticed a lot of people out jogging.

By now the sun was up, I was warm and it was late enought that I could find breakfast somewhere. I headed back to town to get breakfast. I ordered JOVES RANCHEREOS as a little two table and counter hole in the wall and sat down to wait for my food to arive. I must have fallen asleep as I remember being waken by the food ariving. Breakfast was OK, but my stomeic was a bit off from the bus ride and I am getting a bit tired of the kind of tortillas they have around here. So having fed myself again I went off to see the town. The church was OK. I think the guides description of it as something to be viewed as an early exapmle of prefabricate building rather than a stunning building was true. The local history measuem about the copper minning in the area was good and some of the displays had English lables and I could make out a lot of the rest. In the stores they have the Christmass displays and decorations up and I even found a public library to stick my head in. A nice little town.

As the day went on I had to figure out my plans for the next day or so. I had realy seen all of the town so there wasn´t any good reason to stay for another day so I decided that since the bus ride to La Paz was an eight hour trip I would simply take a late evening (In this case a 10:00pm) and sleep on the bus.

As the day moved on and I had seen the town I decided to climb the hill to the South side of town and see the grave yard that I had been seeing the crosses from all day. This was about three o´clock when all the smart locals where at home taking a sesta during the hot part of the day. Not having a place to go and something about Mad Dogs and Englishman I hiked, carrying my full pack, around and up to the to of the hill.

This just a day or so after Dia de los Muertes there were flowers and freshly scrubbed grave stone and monuments. Ensenada had not been a good choice, but Santa de Rosalia would have been.

Still not wanting to face another tortillia bassed meal I opted for my good old back up of canned tuna and crackers with juice from one of the little stores. By time time it was time to head over to the bus I knew a good part of the town by heart and could have given accurate directions to a good deal of the stores.

One the bus I dropped of to sleep with in about ten minuets of pulling out of town and only woke once at about 12:30am to shift my weight and untwist my knee. The next thing I knew was the bus being stopped at everybody getting of in La Paz at 6:00am.

(One odd obersavation, on long haul busses in Mexica so far, to recline your seat there is a nice big easy to use handel that lets you lean your seat back. In the US and Canada the same control is a little, hard to find, black lever that you have to pull with all your might to get to work and most little old ladies need help with it. Why?)


Waitting for the bus experencing Mexico

November 7, 2004

Todos Santos, Baja Mexico

I had figured that I had realy seen most of what I wanted in La Paz but I wasn´t shure where to go next, but do I ever. That evening I met Wendy, a traveler who was staying at the some hotel. She was planning on going down to Todos Santos and I thought it sounded like a good idea, but I didn´t want to have Wendy feel like I was folowing her so I left the choice off until the morning. In the morning I packed up and said ´Hi´to Wendy and she wasn´t going to head down as they palace she was going to stay didn´t look like it was going to work for her and her scooter she uses to get around. In the end she decided to come with me down to Todos as a day trip.

Once we got to town we wondered around a little and then headed back towrds where the hotel that looked good and cheep. )It is across the street from the Hotel California of the Eagle´s song fame.= As we walked up to we saw another backpacker comming up from the other way to check in. I let him go first but he had less Spanish than I did. )Being from Austrialia he has probably studdied Chineese insted so I suspect latter on in this trip I will have the tables turned but for now it was fun.= I bacame a translater for he to get the room prices and in the end we diecided to share a room with two single beds. Nice cheep way to cut the room price in half for both of us. (I seem to be getting bold in my travels.)

So Ben and I go upstairs to dump our packs and his surf board. )He is making me feel realy great, he has more or atleast harder stuff to carry, and my Spanish is better.= Wendy checked out one of the first floor rooms to see if she would be able to stay here and comeback tomarow. By the time we got down she had met the Gringos who were sitting under the plapa having a beer. There was a Candaian couple who are retired and are down here escaping winter and a an American guy and an artist who lives off in the hills and was in town for a couple days.

The Canidian couple are VERY Gringo. We were chatting about food and discovered they don´t eat out at restraunts because they might get sick. They are carrying a little camping stove around and cooking all their meals as they go. Now I can understand being careful about where you eat and although I don´t eat from everybody I see, I do eat at Mexican restraunts and even select street venders. I´m in Mexico! I should eat Mexican food! Right_ After the three of us escaped we took off to find a meal and see a bit of the town. We ran across one of the local measumes and saw their Dia de Los Muretes display and a bit of unlabled randomly displayed artifacts.

We eventualy found food at a stand near the bus stop (Wendy and I are too cheep to go into a real restraunt, espicaly if they have their hours posted in English.) I think they may have had to catch, clean, the fish as the meal took sometime to prepare. Unfortuany the meal took so long Wendy ended up missing the first bus she had hoped to take back to town. She considered taking one of the long haul busses back (with A.C. and everything) but they would drop her at the bus station on the far side of La Paz and not the one two blocks from the hotel. So we headed off on a little walk and started the wait for the 7:00 bus. Forr a bit we all split up our own ways but we ended back together a bit before her bus was to leave. While we were chatting the woman Wendy had been e'mailing with to see if the surfer camp would be accessable enought for her and her scotter. Pat had guessed that this woman using an elctric scooter to get around was Wendy and came over to say hi.

Ben is down in this area to surf and is looking to hook into the surfer grape vine so this was a wonderful optertunity to meet up. After a short discusion we worked out that Ben and I are going to head over to the Surf Camp and try tenting there and Wendy is going to come down tomarow and after staying a night at the hotel come out and try out the camp to see how it works. If it doesn´t work out she´s back to the hotel. (The thing that had put the camp off of Wendy´s list was the toilet was going to be too far away but Pat is willing to try somekind of chamber pot idea so she doesn´t have to deal with the hill.) So here we go from no plan in the morning to possibly a good place to hang my hammock at a Surfer Hangout. Maybe I should learn to surf or atleast to be able to talk like a surfer.

The 7:00 bus came and didn´t have any seats so it was until the 8:15 bus. While we were waiting again a guy we had met comming off of one of the other busses wondered back by. He was a bit of a Rastaferian looking for the rege concert that seemed to be somewhere down on the beach. He stopped and chatted with us a bit. Wendy has dread locks and he noticed that she was a bit behind on her dread maintance so we sat there and chatted and he worked on her hair.

So here I sit with an Austrailian surfer, an scooter using woman from San Francisco, and a Rasta Mexican chatting about hair. Not a too bad experence for someone not making it on their bus. For the record, he cuts his dreads off every eight years and donates them to people who make wigs for people who are under going cancer treatments. We liked the idea of cancer paitents getting a dreadlock wig.

(I of course also used the down time as a bit of a chance to play a little cat´s craddle with Ben.)

Actualy I used cat´s carddle as another excuse to get off the beaten track a bit. While I was in La Paz I wondered into a fabric store looking to see what they had in cordage. They actualy had amost exactly what I have been looking for in 100% nylon. I could find lots of stuff back in Minnesota but almost nothing that I could melt together. So I bought a couple meters to try the stuff out and it´s nice. I´m not buying any more as the last thing I need is more stuff in my pack but it was a nice way to get out of the main trouest track and shop for somthing with the locals.

(I remeber a woman named Mary that we had met when my family was in China and she was always fabric shopping. She looked it at as a way to get out of the tourest stuff and see what the locals where up to. She always had ideas of cusions or curtains for her house back in the States. Fabric ships and stores well so it seams like a good idea. I sometimes wonder if when she got back how much fabric she had and if it ever turned into anything. Not that the product was important for her, it was the experence of shopping.)


Just to warn you, more computer problmes, tho some are fixed but this really needs editing and it´s not going to get it. (Silly people at the computer lab, when I say it isn´t working, it isn´t working! I know how to use a computer, just not speak spanish.......


Under the stars

November 10, 2004

Back in La Paz

Let´s see in the last few days I have slept under the stars in a hammock, camped on the beach, ridden in the back of a pick up and found a traveling companion.

After a night with Ben in the hotel in Todos Santos we caught a ride in to the Eco Surf Camp(www.todossantos.cc/ecosurfcamp.html) with Patty in the morning. (Ben has been a good influence on me about getting up in the moring.) Patty who runs the camp picked us up in her pickup. She dropped us off at a grocery store to pick up a bit of food while she dropped he son off at school. We got Ramen for lunch, ceral and bananas for breakfast and a can of corn soup and mixed vegitables for dinner. Patty picked us back up and off we went to the camp.

The camp isn´t really much of a camp. There are a couple of trailors, one of which they use as a surf shop renting boards and seening surf stuff, and the other they rent out. A bit of level ground with a palapa for shade and a composting toilet up the hill a bit. It is right on the beach and there realy isn´t much else you realy need.

They supply drinking water and have a barrel of water for washing. Patty had also brought us a couple sleeping bags, a tent and a little camp stove with acouple pots and pans. (It was the same kind of camp stove that we used to take camping when I was a kid. I now understand a bit more about my prents curssing while trying to get the stove to light.)

We met our neighbors Ryan and Angie who were on their last day of nine in the trailor. They were a nice couple from Jaksonville Wyoming down for a bit of a break. They had enjoyed their stay and living simply with a beach at the frount door with a little surfing thrown in.

Ben headed off to try the surf and I headed off to walk along the shore and get my feet wet. The beach is a beautiful streatch of white sand. There was a RV park down the way a bit and a little beach bar that sold cold bear and tacos. The four of us at the Eco Surf Camp ended up having a bit of a lunch of fish tacos together at the bar before Ben and I went back to camp to also have our noodles. We had hopped to get to go with Patty that afternoon to release sea turtle hatchlings from the sea turtle program but unfortunatly they didn´t have any that were ready to go. After a bit of a seasta Ben and Ryan went off surfing again and I decided that if I was going to be at the beach I should actualy swim so I cleared my pockets of stuff that souldn´t get wet and went off and played in the surf.

I don´t think I have really gotten to play in the surf since I was ten back in the Baths on one of the Virgin islands. It was fun. This time I was bigger and stronger and didn´t get suck down and washed up on the beach. After that Ben and I took a walk back in the hills to see the catus up close and get the obligatory photo of us standing infront of a big catus.

We came back and after joining Ryan and Angie down at the beach bar while they had dinner we returned to camp to heat up our soup. Angie offered their left over chicken mole they had made the day before as they weren´t going to eat it before they left so we threw it into the pot as well and ended up with a really good soup. (Or is it that all food tasts better when you are camping?)

That evening Angie and Ryan taught us to play dominos and I even won the second game. We trided to do most of the numbers in Spanish to practice and get in the habbit of saying and understanding it better.

We beded down early and since I am still on a bit on a theatre technicians sleep schedule, I had a good couple of hours to lay back in the hammock and watch the stars. It has been a long time since I have been out in the middle of no where enough to see the Milky Way clearly. I am startting to get far enough south that the consolations are just in a little bit different part of the sky than I expect them to be. Of course Ben being from Austriala they are all messed up.

The surfing was great for Ben and I had had my day on the beach so the next morning we headed into San Jose Del Cabo to see what was up.

San Jose del Cabo is a lot more touresty town. I did get some stuff uploaded although I have found a bit of a problem working with a spanish keybaords and they put the puncituation in different places and some of the stuff comes out wrong. Good thing I am not putting a lot of fancy HTML code in stuff. We had a couple good meals. Lunch was at a local place with a woman who didn´t speak any English. With a second person and my phrase book I am getting along preaty well with feeding myself. Dinner was a bit nicer place but we still didn´t spend more than eight dolors US for our meals and I had shrimp. I am liking the Mexico thing at last.

We came back to La Paz today to catch the ferry tomarow. Ben had broken a false tooth so we found a dentist and after lots of going back and forth and much looking in phrase books he got an apointment after the siesta. After swinging by the bank and buying our ferry tickets for tomarow I headed off to the local measum and Ben went off to the dentist.

It´s a good little measuem with an overview of Mexico´s indigious population and then some of the geology of the area. Most of the lables had English as well and the few that didn´t I could make out a good deal of the Spanish. Unfortunatly the section on the Revolution of 1910 was closed as I would have liked to have seen that.

After the measum I head down to check on the bus to the ferry terminal and did a little e-mail clean up. Walking back towards the hotel I asked one of the dive tour operators if they had anything we could do tomaro before our 3 o'clock ferry. He didn´t have anything but he did tell me that the bay right next to the ferry dock is not bad snorkling and recomended a dive shop where we could rent mask and fins and maybe a kayak. So we may go over in the morning a do a little exploration before take the overnight to Mazatlan.

When I caught up with Ben he said the dentist did a great job, better the when he has had the same thing down back in Austriala. And cheeper to boot. (Not to mention how often can you get a same day apoitment for something that is not an emergency!)

A little laundy here at the hotel where it is free and I´m off again. (You don´t even what to know how bad one of my shirts smell.)


Traveling on an in Salt water

November 12, 2004

On the bus from Mazalan to Guadlajara

It´s been a good couple days. Yesterday we got up early and took the 8:00pm bus to off where the fery leaves from. A guy I had check with in La Paz said that we would be able to rent snorkle gear and that there was so good snorkling just in the bay next to the fery terminal. When we got to the town with the fery terminal we discovered that all the town consisted of ther fery termianl and a dive resort. There goes the plan to pick up food for dinner on the fery.

We headed over to the resort and rented a couple of plastic kayacks and snorkel gear and headed out across the bay. Having not ever been in a kayack before it took a little getting used to. Ben was good at letting me keep up with him. We wondered around the bay, out to a little island, and over to the next bay. The snorkling was good. Ben said it was as good as what he had done back in Austriala. I remember getting into some better stuff with my parents, but we were in a boat and could get off shore and into places that Ben and I would have had by into a tour to get to. One nice thing was there were theses large schools of this one fish that would just let you get right in with them. At one point I was doing something with my mask and when I put my face back down in the water they must have forgoten about me because the were right around me. Then I must have moved and they all took off. The coral was living but none of the bright colors I have seen off with my parents. Still it was a good swim and something that was much easer for the two of us to do together than apart.

After we got back to the resort we hosed down with fresh water and headed into the resorts cafe for breakfast. We left our wet things out on the beach chairs to dry while we ate and after the late breakfast we lounged by the pool to let the rest of our stuff dry.

We headed off to the fery terminal where we met a couple of other surfers who were also going on the fery. I have learned from Ben that surfers don´t have a community like I thought they would. A good surf spot is somthing you don´t share, not even with you friends. If you get too many people trying to surf on the same break it just messes things up and you never get a chance. It´s too bad I had always imagined the surfers as having a community where you could hook in and get all the news on good spots. Makes me glad I took up Morris danceing instead. (Not that there are a lots of surfing opertunites in Minnesota.)

The fery ride was a fery ride. It was a 16 hour trip and overnight. Ben and I had decided to be cheep and just get seats rather than a caban. I had heard reviews that went both ways on getting a cabin. Some said the seats were just fine and others said they were crouded and full of sceaming kids. Fortunaly the latter was not true.

Admitly the seats weren´t any better than a bus but since the place was less than an eigth full everybody just took over a row and camped out on the floor. Ben had his sleeping bag and took over an isal to sleep and I split my time between the floor, a seat, and a bench out on deck. Not the best sleep but OK.

In the morning we ran into the surfers again. Thad spent the eaxtra 20 bucks per person for a cabin. We discover that they had showers. That would have been nice. The surfers headed off to the bus station via taxi and we headed off via local bus. When we saw them ata the bus station we had spent a total of 8 pesos and they 60. This was also my first local bus experence. Not bad.

We had half planned of just going to the bus station and checking bus schedules and leaving our luggage there and then spending the day seing Mazalan before taking an overnight bus. As the other surfers were moving on and Ben was looking to catch up with them we figured just to keep on going so we got tickets for the same bus so here I am.

This will probably be the last night traveling with Ben he is heading off along the cost to find waves and I am heading inland towards Mexico city. I am going to miss Ben. It´s been great having a traveling companion. I had always said that this is how I would travel finding people along the way doing the same thing and traveling with them aslong as our plans match, I just haven´t up untill now. It´s been nice. (Also you can save a bunch of money by shareing rooms.) Hopefully I will meet more people along the way. I suspect it will be a bit easer down here in Mexico than it would have been in the US and Canada because not everybody speeks English and language groups will stick together.


Dead people and Don Quijote

November 17, 2004

Guanajuato, Mexico

I am going to miss Guanajuto, it´s been fun. For example I decided that I wanted to get a journal entry in so rather than sitting back at the dorm where not much is going on I figured I would go down to one of the Plazas I like and write there. When I got to the Plaza San Roque I ran across a brass band and a bunch of revelers in the square. It´s is a town of suprises.

When I arrived I took a local bus into from the Centro de Autobus. When I got to a decent sized plaza I got off and pulled out the guide book and tried to find myself on my map. No luck, I wondered around wishing I would find an intersection with street signs. I did but I couldn´t find either street on my map. Eventualy some stranger reconized how lost I was and in better English than my Spanish put be on a bus in the right direction. (He had some relatives on the same bus watch out for me so that when the bus driver forgot to tell me when to get off they caught the mistake.) Now that I was actually in a part of town that was on my map I figured out where I was. On my way to the hostel someone else also stopped and checked to see if I needed directions. Friendly town. (I have also determined that if I want to practice receiving verbal directions I should stop and ask people how to get somewhere I already know how to get to and then see how they say it.)

The hostel is nothing exciting. Mostly empty, I probably should have tried the Hosteling International place for more people, but what will you do?

Guanajuato is a small town. My bigest problem with the map, after I got on it, is to remeber everthing is closer than it apears. Most of the town is pedestrian only simply because the roads arn´t wide enough for cars or the stairs that make up the road bed wouldn´t permit cars. As the automobile introduced itself to town it was quickly realised that the current system wasn´t going to work. They had previously dug a tunnel for the river that had flown (and occosonly flodded) threw the middle of town so they just dug the tunnel a bit deaper, put a culvert in the bottom and started the subterian road system. I woudn´t want to try and dive here whith all the surface streets going oneway and the underground roads going the other. I´m still not sure where to catch the bus back to the bus station as it will probably be undergound this time.

The road tunnels are realy neat beacause these aren´t the smooth concreat and tile tunnels like the Lorning tunnel in Minneapolis or the Big Dig in Boston. These are tunnels of brick and stone done by hand. I have only found one road that is paved with a homigenious concreat or black top and that wqas out in the hills. Most streets are stone, cobble, or brick, even in the tunnels. The tunnel lights are not ubiqious strips of floresecent tubes but laterns hung along the walls. (They are lit with low-preasure sodioum discharge lamps so it´s not all technology free, but the warm color of the sodioum gives the tunnels a feeling of history and expendancy.)

This is also one of the first towns that the endless sweeping and clean apears to work. Mayby it is the lack of cars on many of the streets, but this is a clean city. There isn´t that redbrown dist shifting into everything, you could actualy see grass growning here if there was any room for it.

I have been to most of the curches (no small number) and almost all the measumes intown. I most enjoyed the Alhondiga de Granaditas which has a local history measuem. This buidling was the cite of the first win by the rebbles in the War for Indepence in 1810. Unfortunaly it being the first victory they didn´t win for long and when the four leaders had been caught and beheaded the goverment sent the heads back there to be hung from the four corners of the building in metal chages for which the hooks are still there and the cages can be seen in the measum.

Amoung the ticket stub collection I have ammased during my stay including a dance concert by the Guanajuato University students at the Teatro Principal (I didn´t actualy know what I was getting a ticket to, I was hopping for a play but it was a chance to see the performing arts), and viewing the inside of the Theatro Juarez (built by the silver barrons back when the mine ouside of town produced a third of the worlds silver), my favorite measum is the Museo Iconografico del Quijote.

The Don Quijote art gallary was started in 1987 by a guy who had a large collection of Quijote stuff. It is in a restored house and has an amazing collection. There is also a big Cervantez festival here once a year that would be fun to come to. (That would requiring PLANNING, maybe nex time.) (I´m not sure what the connection with Cervantez is here, I think it may be: just beacuse.)

I sneeked a few photos although I wasn´t suposed to (I didn´t use a flash) beacuse I have had so much religious icongraphy over the last few days that having art based on Don Quijote was a great relief and balance. After the vibrant colorful murles of religion and politics, it was good to see the same energy put differently. (Not to say that Don Quijote doesn´t involve politcs and religion, but I still like it better.)

Today I went out the the big tourest trap of the Museo de las Momias. It is about what I expected. Actualy a bit more orderly, but when I first heard about it the information was from before the 1972 renovation. The grave yard here is overcouded so if people arn´t keeping up on the rent one their families grave they dig people up (or pull from their mosuleum) and put them in a mass grave. When they first started this, they discover that a good deal of the people rather than rotting had desicated and turned into mummy like things. For years it had been one of those secerate little tourest stops. Go to the grave yard, pay a small fee to have the caretaker unlock the door to a winding stair to see the mummies lined up along the walls. Now it is a lot more orderly with glass cases, an entrace with a box office, turn stile, and even the back and forth maze to makes the line look shorter. You can even pay an extra dolor and visit a hoky horror measume with motion sensors to turn on stuff as you get near it. All in all something to go see, but not earth shattering. One odd thing was that most of the mummies had their clothes taken off back when they were just standing / hanging along the walls. They got to keep the shoes and socks so it´s a bit odd.

Since they are still unearthing people behind on their rent (the law states they have to wait five years) I wondered back around the the grave yard to see some future inhabitents of the measuem. (Oh yes more grave yard pictures.)

I enjoy just walking this town. It is very beautiful and the winding streets and stairs are clean and welcoming. I have had luch at a place in the Market Hidalgo the last couple days and figured I should include a picture of lunch to give an idea of experences. (This is what you get when I start thinking about my pictures in terms of what story they are telling, pictures of food, next thing you will know it will be bathrooms.) The market is a bussling place. I whish I chould have gotten a vido clip of them making tortials but they were not doing it when I whent back to take a picture.

I am working on postcards to my Spanish teachers saying that I have been thinking of them. I really want to go back and reivew the ´to be´ verbs and a couple of other things. I keep thinking about finding a place to stop and study Spanish for a week or so just to get it together better, but I am doing OK and better all the time and I have so much more to see. (Thiland is calling....) I don´t know, I will probably enjoy what ever I do so I´m not going to get too worried.

Next is either off to Morelia or Mexico City, still can´t decide. I don´t have to until I get to the bus station tomarow so I´m not worring about it. Guanajuato is a place I want to come back to again someday. I never made it out to the silver mines and I would like to see the dam and resivor. If you are looking for a pederstrain city with a few hills this a wonderful place to come. (An it´s not that touresty or what tourest stuff there is, is geared toward Mexican tourests.)

Well I should see if I can get this posted and my camera cleared off again. Traveling is still going well. Still working on getting the backpack lighter but that may be the case until it is stolen. Ah well, if it was easy it wouldn´t be fun.


Mexico City life on the Zocalo at the center of the Universe

November 22, 2004

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico city has been good. I don´t know if I did all the things I should have but I enjoyed what I did and will do the rest when I come back. Next time.... (That is one thing I am having to move onto is the idea that I will do some of this stuff, next time. So much to see, so little time. I guess that is what I get for trying to tour the world in only a year. Eighty days? Yeh right!)

Reading in my guide, Mexico City has been the one place I was a bit worried about crime as I came into town. So before I left the bus station I moved my money and pasport into the secreat pocket in my shirt and made sure my backpack was as pick proff as possible. (This is one adavantage of having a pack that is just one big bag, not a lot of little zippers to worry about people going through.) I event thought about taking a taxi from the bus station to the hostel be decided since I had gotten myself all ready I might as well be cheep and take the Metro. (Taxi = nine dolors US; Subway = twenty cents)

Actualy the Metro wasn´t all that packed and it went well. (Part of the reason I was a bit worried about Mexico City was that it breakes one of the cardinal rules of forien travel, accroding to reports. Normaly if you think you have wondered into an unsafe place it is recomended that you hail a cab and get out. Unfortunatly here in D.F. (District Federal same as Mexico City) it isn´t recomended that you hail cabs on the streets because some of them arn´t really taxies and they will mug you. I did see locals hailing cabs on the streets and maybe it is better, or maybe they can just spot the bad ones. Either way, having one of my general rules crushed like that was a bit off putting.

After dumping my stuff at the hostel (yeh! I am back in hostel land!) I wondered into the Zocalo, the main square. I didn´t have plans for the evening and hoped something would come up. I heard drumming comeing from one side and followed the noise. For the next couple hours I watched a group of dancers do a tradational Aztech dance. There were actually three groups out that night. One very small one that looked like they were still new, a group of about fourteen who were high school and college age in normal shoes and standard street clothes, and a large group with head dresses and tradational costume. I mostly watched the middle group because they looked like they were having more fun.

Actully it in some ways had the feel of a Morris dance out the way people interacted with eachother, execpt this was one big dance that lasted for over an hour. The next night there were also a couple groups out one of which was even larger and with more fancy dress than the group the first night. One of the things they had (that I am hopping to find at a craft shop and buy) were these rattles worn on their shins like Morris bells. (Some of the people even had some bells in with the rattles.) In some ways, if you looked at it just right, this was a bit like Morris dancing, unfortuanly I didn´t get to go get a beer with them afterwards. I got some sound pictures of the danceing and a shot of the bell like things on a manakin in the Archology measume.

For the couple days leading up to the 20th of November, Revolution Day, the square was getting more and more prepaired for an event. They polished all the brass on the balcony where the president would speak, put up large bleachers and set up a sound system strong enough to cover the 200 meter by 200 meter square. Had I been clever I would have tried to book myself a hotel room facing the square so I could have seen the festivites. As it was when I got up in the morning I couldn´t get near the square so I wondered down towards Alameda park. I didn´t get far as I saw people the next street over lining up watch a parade. At the time I wasn´t sure what the parade was going to be but since I didn´t have a plan I just joined in the croud.

It wasn´t a bad parade. Reminded me a bit of the parades I saw in China during the cultural festival although not as fantastic. A bit better than maybe the Brookings 4th of July parade, but then again we didn´t have all the Perry electrict trucks either. On the other hand they did have kids playing a kind of stick ball with the ball on fire, watch your feet!

Since most everything was closed I wandered around and got to see how the Mexicans spend there days off in the park.

The next day was my day for measumes and most of it was spent at the National Museum of Anthropology. It was very much like trying to seee the Simthsonion in Washingtion in one day. I took someone´s advice and focused on the places I would go and see or had been and just glaced at the rest. I did on the other hand do a bit of a survy of the diferent cultures and if they had jinggle bells. (Most did so I have to keep my eyes open for tradational bells for my special bell pads.)

Today was my trip to Teotihuacan, the big ruines sight near D.F. I decided to take the tour offered by the hostel so I would have an English speaking guide. It turned out well, execpt the box lunch wasn´t worth it. I had re-read what my guide had to say about the site and had spent the day before visiting the Teotihuacan room at the measum so it was nice to have someone fill in the gaps and be able to answer my questions. In someways one of the interesting this is that much of the site is still unexplored. They are only now tunneling into the big prymids. One of the new discoveries in the Parymid of the Moon is only a couple of weeks old. (Not that I got to see the new stuff, but what can you ask for?)

As much as anything was I have figured out here is more about setting priorities. You can´t do it all. Period. Now I have to pick what to do and what to put off until next time. I´m not bad at doing that with theatre shows and the events that would come thru Ted Mann but it´s hard to do that with my own life. I like to know something as a whole. Where I know every bit about it and can think of it as one big system. It´s just not possible, or maybe even good, to try that too much on this trip.


Famem and Fest (sort of)

November 26, 2004

Oaxaca, Mexico

It's been a good stay. I did have one bit of bad luck, or I should probably say my luck just ran out. The first night here I had a long trek in from where the bus dropped me off. I first stopped at the HI affailated but decided it looked like everything I complain about HI afailated hostels and figured I should walk the six blocks to see the other one. I liked the Magic Hostel (the guide book said you either love it or you hate it) so I checked in. As I dropped my bag on my bed I met a couple of Canadians who were packing to leave. We chatted and I got information about things to do and not do in town. About 11:00 pm we were all getting ready for bed and since I hadn't had dinner yet I ran out to the Zocalo to grab a quick bite. It was late and although many of the fancy cafe's bordering the plaza were open I opted for a bit of quick street food rather than a real restraunt. The only stands still open were the hot dog stands. I hadn't tried the Mexican hot dogs yet although there are lots of stands and they pile all sorts of stuff one them. I got to and headed back to the hostel. They weren't bad, not really want I wanted but I figure I can't complain for 11:00pm at night. Unfortunaly my luck finally ran out concerning street food. Now I have been having one to two meals a day for the past three weeks from street food so I would defenatly recomend it, but I would not recomend the hot dogs in Oaxaca. Trying not to get into too much detail at 3:15am, 4:15am, and 5:15am my digestive track rejected those hot dogs. This is not fun. But it is even less fun when at 3:15am you have to navagate a dark dorm to find the bathroom on the other side of the patio. Times to wish for a private room with bath....

So the next day after a can of Coke, Val's magic rehdration stuff, and some instant oatmeal I have been saving for such an occosian I stomach and I were on speaking terms again.

Not bad as it goes. Especialy since I hadn't eaten anything for eleven hours before I knew exactly what the cause was. And a quick recovery. Rember: don't eat the hot dogs. (Probably good advice anyway.)

Yesterday being Thanksgiving, and I the only American in the hostel I nearly fogot about it. My dinner did contain Turkey as I remebered when I was scanning the menu. A crepe with turkey and three chesses. And on the way back from dinner I got to see the local school's gellitan mould display so it was even had the tradational red jello.

Mexico roles directly from Dia de los Muertes, November 2nd, directly on to the Christmas season. Although not always effective Thanksgiving does put off the Christmass marketing for a little while.

As I have been searching the cheezy Christmas stuff in the markets I keep hoping to find a sting of lights that are shapped like the Virgen de Guadalupe. I can't beleive they don{t make them, but I haven't seen them. My mother would be perfect person to send them to. (As is I figure I need to find something with the Virgen de Guadalupe on it before I leave Mexico because it is such a persavie symbole.)

The first day here I was sick so I mostly hung out at the hostel, drank fluids and stayed near the restroom. I did meet a couple Brits and a Finn who were staying at that evening we went out to a bar and discused the meaning and value of art. Much time on the idea of what could be art, and how what is art may vary from person to person. To some people it's art, others it's a pile of garbage in the middle of the room. (Or maybe it{s soup.) Not a bad discusion. The people in hostles are a nice selfselecting bunch. Maybe that's what my parent's should do with their spair bed room, open it up as a home hostel like I stayed at back in Burlington Vermont. It wouldn't be too busy out there in Eastern Wyoming but the people who made it would be interesting.

Today, being a Friday, was launry day. I took it easy and dropped my stuff off to be washed while I went off to see the Monte Alban ruins and then see market day in Ocoltan. The tour bus to the ruins sets a return time that only gives you two hours at the site. I would have like another hour. These arn't as big and impressive as at Teotihuacan near Mexico city, but since they are stuck up high on a hill they were more or less left alone until relativly recently. They are in good conditon and no one knocked off the top of the bigest parymid to but a church on top. As is a had to rush a little to make my return bus. Not entirly a bad thing to push be a little, but I would have liked to have a little more time.

The market wasn't quite as exciting. Here in Oaxaca there are some large public markets I have already explored and this one was much the same. I also got there late and things were begining to wind down. But it was good to get out of the big city and see a bit more of the country side and practice taking side trips on small intercity buses.

Before the Brits and the Finnish artist left we did some book swaping. I traded off my Geography of the Heart (which I enjoyed by as I have read it atleast three times now was happy to let go) for Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. When I was at the very expenisve English language book store in Mexico City I nearly bought The Davinci Code but went with the Diary of Anne Frank instead. I nearly got War and Peace simply because it was long. I had run out of English reading materal as was a bit desperate, but I think I need to remember the boater tradation of using "Do you have any books to trade?" as a way of introduction. As is the copy of The Da Vinci Code I now have she had gotten from a friend who read it on a trip on the Trans Siberian Railroad so it is a well traveled book.


Shopping, Shopping, Party, Shopping

November 28, 2004

Oaxaca, Mexico

I am heading out on the Bus to San Cristobal de las Casas. I am taking an overnight bus so I get the day today here in Oaxaca will (hopefully) sleep on the bus, and have the next day in San Cristobal. Also saving havinging to pay for lodgings for the night. (Not that it is so expensive around here, at the place I am staying here I am paying about $5.50 US a night.)

The guide book lists Oaxcac as a place travelers get stuck. I understand. I kept thinking one more day. But since I didn't realy have a plan for today I figured it was time to move on. Too many times have I stayed "one more day" and not had a great time and then when I got to the next place discovered I missed something fun. I think a good portion is that there are always exciting things happening just before you get someplace, but it is hard to swollow when you had intended to be there but did not follow thru.

This morning over a breakfast of pound cake, yougert and half an avacado I caught up on the doings of my hostel mates last night.

I had gone out for a bit to a jazz club and then decided to head back to read a bit more and get to bed before to late since today was going to be a travel day. For all the good conversations I have some of the people in the hostel there is still, from my point of view, a lot that is missed when people go out partying. On my way back from the jazz club, before the other people headed out to a big dance club, I wondered around the square again. There was a play being put on infrount of the church, a couple of buskers working different parts of the croud. A very lively scene that a lot fo the other people missed. On the other hand I have no idea what it is like to party with all the locals, of course I don{t really know what it is like to go to a crouded dance club where I am from. I guess I am getting to see the part of the Mexican experence that equates with my own experence.

Prior to going to the jazz club yesterday, I was the good tourest and saw the "World's Largest Tree" and went shopping.

I had planned to skip the tree in Tula. I have already seen the World's Oldest Tea Tree in China and I figured this would be much the same experence. One of the guys in the hostel has a car and he planning to go and then off to the ruins and since I haven't been off to the country very much so I figured the tree wouldn't hurt. Well the tree is big.

The trip in was a bit more fun just to see what driving in Mexico is like. As were were leaving town one of the major intersections was closed by a peacefull protest. (Probably indigious rights) They simply had a formed a circle of people holding hands that filled the entire intersection. They left room for people who came down the road enought room to turn around and find another way, which is what everybody simply did. No honking or getting tense, just a detour. (As is we just followed all the traffic assuming they knew where they were going. Dirk Gently rides again!)

The tree was wide, but not very tall. Oh well, it's a tree. The driver dropped me off in town on his way to the ruins since I had already been there.

After bing dropped of I headed to the market to do a little Christams shopping. (I know I was late as I was suposed to do it on the Friday after Thanksgiving, not Saturday, but hey! I{m in a Ma񡡦 culture.) Of course this is just a normal day around here, but there are some pressed tin works that I thought were cool and I figure that if I mail suff off on Monday they might get to people before Christmas. All this from a guy who normaly does his shopping December 24th in the early evening.

In shopping I also got myself a couple of things, the first things I have bought that arn{t practical since I started this trip. These are the first sovenerrers. As usual for my shopping style and look, and look, and then buy all at once. Fortunatly this works well when barrging because I can start with one set of things and then add things ala "well ok, but what if you throw this in?" As is I was able to happly bargen on everything I bought. I still think I would prefer price tags but atleast I can do this too.

This morning after having a grocery store breakfast with a fellow hostel resident catching up on the party side of the hostle, I headed off to get my bus ticket and see what was up in the square. They were having a Symphonic Band festival in the square. This is not quite the same experence as a Symphonic Band concert at Ted Mann. As is the group I heard wasn{t quite as good as the U of M Wind Ensemble, but then again they are good.

As usual the square was alive with activity and I even stuck my head in the Cathederal to catch a bit of the Sunday mass. Back at the hostel I cought up with one of the guys I have been hanging out with and we went off to the market to find lunch.

There are two markets right next to eachother just south of the Zacolo here in Oaxaca. The north of the two is the "stuff" market, and the southern is food. I had had a few meals in the food market already and not been too impressed, but I do better when I am with people. There was one wing off the market that I had never been down, mostly because it was so filled with smoke you couldn't see more than half way in. As we aproched the market this was the door that presented it's self.

The air was as thick if not thicker than it looked from the outside. Previously I had thought that it was because they smoked meat in the wing, but today I discovered that it was because they cook over charcole grates in this wing. I don{t know how (or if) people survive in this enviroment for long. I would have needed a fine particle resperator / filter to last more than an hour.

They did indeed sell meat, but at each stall they had a charcole grate burning and they would cook it on the spot. It all looked good but we had not idea how to order, nor did we just want someone to hand us a pile of hot cooked meat. As we headed towards the main market there was a space with tables and lots of people eatting although we still didn't figure how to got the tortillas or the salsas. As we stood and staired a girl in an apron ask us if we wanted to eat and took charge.

It apears that this is the Mexican equivlent of Dim Sum. They do have helpers, in this case our girl in the blue apron. She asked us if we wanted meat and grilled shallots and after disapearing to do something found us a place to eat. After a little time she came back with salsas, latter followed by the grilled meat. Then she flagged down a wandering tortilla woman to sell us the tortillias. As is I think I bought my soda from one person, tortillias, another and my meat and salsas fron the girl (who I suspect was just our go between for two or three other venders.) A good lunch and does speak the amazing things you can pull off by standing in the middle of things and looking stupid. (And how helpfull the Mexicans can be.)

After my friend went off to his bus, I wandered thru the "stuff" market again. I was hopping to find the woman who had sold me some punched paper things the day before to ask her again what they were called (and write it down this time.) She was closed, but taking a slower walk thru the market I found something I have been looking for. I found, atleast the raw parts for the Aztech rattle bell things. I even found a child sized set of the "bells" in a costume shop. After some thoughts I bought some of the indivgual rattles to add to my traveling bell pads, along with a couple of cheep, mass produced, jinggle bells to put on. (They may be nor more special than the bells I got at Ax Man, but these are atleast Mexican cheep crap.) When I get the rattles on my pads these are realy going to start to look like the weird bells I am planning.

The only result of this shopping is that by bag is now even larger than before. One big goal in San Cristobal is to get some mailing done.


Andy=1, Mexican Post office=0, Or off into the jungle.

December 3, 2004

El Panchan, Mexico (Just outside of Palenque)

Things are well. San Cristobal de las Casas was OK. I liked Oaxaca better, but I survived the post office.

I stayed at the hostel Babylon which a hawker at the bus station gave me a convincing sales pitch for. Not the best place in town, but from what I latter heard the place I was going to head to wasnt any better. I stayed three nights and had a good time. I ran into a guy I had met in Guadalajara three weeks ago. He and a girl from Britain had arrived a bit earlier in the day and took off on one of the tours of the surrounding villages. I took the same tour next day and quite enjoyed it. (The girls name was Ester, which sounds just like the Spanish word for this so she always has fun when Spanish speakers ask her name.)

The Alex and Raual tour, which I latter found in my guide, is a little two to three man operation giving small groups tours of the surrounding Mayan villages. They use a VW van that holds about six people. Alex, our tour guide that day, is very knowledgeable and excited about his topic. We went to two small villages San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantan.

Chamula is a town that has fiercely held to its own culture and way of doing things. The people kicked the priest out of town back in the late 1960s. The church is still going strong in its won way. They have kept and maintained the effigies of the saints but up in front St John the Baptist has taken the lead. The thoughts being that since he baptized Jesus he must be more important. Also due to Johns being show carrying a lamb sheep are scared and never killed or eaten. (Although they do use the wool to make clothing. The church itself doesnt compare at all to what a Catholic church normally has going on. The pews and benches are long gone and the floor is covered with pine needles where it doesnt have candles on the floor.

The people come and go as they want and have conversations with what ever saints effigies they need to talk to. As they have there time with their saint the light candles and melt them to the floor while drinking Coke and a local alcoholic drink that makes you burp. (Part of the idea is after you are done you burp and it is a release and letting go of what ever you went there in the first place for.) The church is clouded with copal incense and the heat of probably hundreds of candles. There is one corner next to the door where the baptismal font is where they let a priest come once a mount and baptize people as they are people who worship John the Baptist above Jesus.

The two richest people in town are the guys that sell the alcoholic drink and the guy who owns the Coke concession. (With a close third by the guy who makes the candles.)

Part of this towns devotion to its religion and culture is pretty aggressive. If you convert to a different religion or form of Christianity you are exiled. Our guide had stories of people who had tried to sneak a camera into the church to take pictures and the stupid foreigner was literally dragged out by his hair. These people take their religion seriously. And the entire town is the same religion. It a lot of ways I admire their serious devotion, think of it as being allowed to visit a very large monastery rather than a town....

The second town San Lorenzo Zinacantan was much showy. Their big industry is growing flowers. What was exciting here was we visited some people in their home.

One of the challenges of traveling is trying to see how people really live. You get some thoughts looking in windows and what you read and hear but unless you are lucky enough to get invited into someones home you miss most of it. Here we hiked back to the edge of town and Raul lead us to a womans house where she invited us in and made us tortillas and answered all of our questions. The tortillas were from corn she had hand ground and made while we talked. They were WAY better than what get at the restaurants. (It has since always made me a bit disappointed at what I do get when I am eating out.) She inherited the house from her mother and replaced the thatch roof with a Spanish tile roof. It was probably well over 100 years old. The pictures didnt come out very well as it was dark and I hate using the flash and my camera doesnt do a very good job with it anyway. Its a little one room place and they cook inside so every thing has a greasy coat of soot. A family alter on one side and most of the familys stuff was piled or hung on the walls.

The family were also weavers so they hulled out their wears and showed us how the their back-strap loom works. In the end one couple bought a beautiful embroidered shirt so everybody was happy. Raul did a nice job of getting us places and showing us things without an extra expatiation that we were walking wallets. (I think he has done this long enough to know a lot of us really cant afford to buy the crafts but are fascinated how they are made and by who. And in the cases someone wants and can splurge on something all the money went to the people who made it without the middle men so everybody was happy.

Andy vers the Postal System

As I said I had gone shopping in Oxaca for X-mass presents and now was the time to get them shipped off. I found a well equipped paper store and went in search of packing supplies. What I wanted was padded envelopes, but I dont know if they exist down here or what to call them. (A note, Most stores down here you dont get to wander around the stock, you go to the counter and ask for what you want and they go find it, so it you dont know what its called and it isnt on display life gets fun.) Fortunately the staff had a good sense of humor and between sketches, pantomimed and referencing the phrase book I got manila envelopes and some cardboard to reinforce them. Home to an evening of craft projects to put it all together. The next day I went to the post office to drop the first mini package off and to see how much the postage was going to cost. Fortunately the envelopes were accepted by the letter department, were cheap to mail and everybody was happy. I still had the box off stuff to pack and still hadnt been able to find a cardboard box.

Back at home if you wanted to mail something that was always part of the challenges of X-mass was finding boxes of the right size but there I we always kept some at work (extras during the holiday season) and back with my parents we had a pile in the attic that we kept all the boxes in. Here I had neither resource. I ended up back at my paper store and after they showed me the shirt boxes they had. (My response Mas Furte More Strong.) She disappeared in the back and brought out a box something had shipped in. My eyes lit up and she looked at her boss to ask how much to charge. One thing that can be said for being the stupid foreigner is people do take pity on you. The box was free. So I got a roll of tape and headed home to finish packing.

One I had everything packed labeled and all the possible distracting labels on the box covered I headed off to the post office.

Round 1

The letter department waved me back to the second room where they handle packages. Here I got a gruffer reception. I guess the height of bureaucracy could be seen in the Post Office of any country although in Canada and the USA I have never had a problem. Here I discovered that the box must also be wrapped in paper and tied up with string. After one of the attempts while I was trying to under stand this information I told the guy I dont understand. As he returned to his desk he said under his breath You dont understand much. My Spanish isnt good but it is good enough to get that one.

Well I was off, and annoyed, to find paper and string to wrap my package. I went into the nearest paper store and put on the confused foreigner with box look. They asked if I wanted paper for mailing and then took the box and wrapped, taped, and tied it up for me. All for the princely sum of 6 pesos (about fifty cents.) I return to the post office.

Round 2

They guy behind the desk was surprised to see me back so soon and with a perfectly wrapped box. I seem to have raised in his opinion. (There were some native Spanish speakers franticly trying to wrap some boxes in the other room and it didnt look like it was going to come out well.) Sure the postage cost more than the contents of the box but thats not the point. When we went over the contents of the box. Since this box also contains some souvenirs I got for myself he was seeing what I though was interesting from Mexico. I think the punched paper banners. I guess he had never seen them as special or anything beyond cheap decorations.


Walled city

December 5, 2004

Campeche, M鸡o

There are times when I am traveling that I forget the fact that I am traveling. For the last few days I have been struggling with trying to figure out where to go next, what to do, how long to stay. All the daily hum drum daily activities of traveling. (I of course also have my own layer of trying to figure out what to do when this trip is over, when will I know I am ready to go home, where is home and all that stuff. (Fortunately after a day where I was thinking more about where I was going to get my clothes clean than the fortifications of this formally walled city I am exploring something is likely to hit me over the head and remind me what I am doing. (Of course laundry does have importance, especially on day five of the same shirt that has seen at least two archeological ruins and a cumulative 22 hours of bus time since its last washing.) In this case as I am reading my book laying in the hammock in the hostels lounge someone is listening to music and I hear a song that was popular back while I was still in Minneapolis. I used to listen to a best of the 80s, 90s, and today station when I showered in the morning. This song, I dont know what the title is, was in heavy rotation so I heard it almost every morning during my shower. When I heard it hear I was immediately think of my old shower in the basement of 140 Bedford Street and I wished to be able to go back there where everything was so easy. Then I looked up remember exactly where I was, in a backpacker hostel in Campeche Mexico over looking the main plaza reading a book in a hammock. What more can I ask for¡ Really it doesnt get more exciting so quit complaining. Its easy to forget the obvious, especially when you dont have your friends around to point it out to you.

Campeche has been fun. Its an old walled city and they have preserved all but one of the six fortifications and kept a few bits of the walls. Most of the wall is gone to be replaced by a ring road which in some ways is slick because if you stand at one fortification you can still see right down the road the to next along the path of the old wall. The fortifications themselves are also well preserved and good to explore. A couple of them have museums in them which are peaty good.

The Monkey Hostel, where I stayed, is on the main plaza so in the evenings when a band sets up to play you can either sit on the balcony off the main lounge or go up to the roof and watch from up there. In any other town these would be some of the most expensive rooms in town, here the cheapest. (The owner is also very friendly. I had arrived at 2am and the next day he made a point to introduced himself and learn my name.)

I also rented a bike and rode out to one of the forts that protected the sea approach to town. (The town had been destroyed by pirates more than once prior to the fortification of the city.) It was a pleasant ride and the fort was in wonderful condition and held an archeological museum.


There are places I will have better memories of, even if its not the places fault

December 14, 2004

M鲡a, M鸡o (Northern Yucatᮡ

I have spent seven days here. So far the places I have stayed such a long time have been places I have really enjoyed like San Francisco or Vancouver. Merida unfortunately I have stayed because I was sick.

Being sick is never fun. Living alone and being sick and having to take care of yourself sucks. But being on the road and being sick tops it all. In the end I mostly sleep except when I dragged myself out to get food.

(--Warning This next paragraph goes on about being sick, feel free to just skip down a bit.)

I had a bit of a headache when I got on the bus to go from Campeche to go to Merida but I figured it wasnt any big deal and just went on with it. By the time I was here I felt awful and probably had a bit of a fever. I went to the hostel a block from the bus station and crashed. The next four days were more or less based around sleeping and rolling over a lot. For fun I would get out my digital thermometer and take my temperature. Fortunately the hostel has nice little curtains around the beds and the room has its own bathroom so as far as places to get sick, this was it. (Too bad the couple backpacking doctors I met back in Palenque werent here or it would have been perfect.) It took a couple days for my lower intestinal tract to decide I was sick and join in on the fun, but in the end it is one of those things you live through. By day four I had said that if I wasnt obviously getting better by morning I am finding a doctor that speaks English, so of course I started getting better the next morning.

Im still a little slow, but as one of the guys here pointed out if you have been sick for five days you should expect it to take five days to get better. Sounds logical enough.

Tomorrow I plan to head out. The pollution here is bothering me. (I have been here longer than in Mexico City and there I was using something to keep from having asthma problems.) Not to mention I have seen most of what is to see here. One thing I am hopping to see if I can find before I bus out tomorrow is some special stones in one of the church walls.

The Spanish as they concerned the Mayans would destroy the temples and reuse the stones to build their own churches and buildings. From time to time they would mess up and end up letting a bit of carved stone show in the new building and I have been happing to find some. Apparently one of the churches here have a pretty clear example and I would like to go see it.

Merida also has a strong expat community and one of the things they have created is an English library. I visited early on while I was sick and bought a couple used books which I have already finished. (Again a reason this isnt too bad of a place to get sick.) Its a subscription library and they didnt have a short term travels membership available. Or I would have bought my books but then checked out stuff to read while I was sick.

The collection is actually quite good. Its well organized by subject like a book store and had I been allowed to take books out I would have had a hard time choosing. While I was there several people came thru and chatted with the person working the desk.

Today I was heading off to see the grand boulevard of town and got a chance to stick my head in the local public library. Its a very pleasant welcoming space. I dont speak enough Spanish to really judge the collection but unlike some of the libraries I have seen in Mexico there were a lot of books that mostly looked relatively new. As is I picked a childrens book about inventions off the shelf and worked on using my Spanish and checked to see who the Mexicans think invented the light bulb. As that has been one of my jokes with the British when someone says that Americas and the British are so alike. (For the record the book listed both Swan and Edison.)

Well I should get this posted. Ive been bad because I first was have such a fun time I didnt have time to write and then I was sick and figured you didnt want to hear what I would have been saying. (Only a few people got stuck with whiny letters, I hope they werent too self-pitying.)


Ruins on the beach

December 16, 2004

Tulum, Mexico

What a nice day. I arrived in Tulum yesterday. It was day three of five of getting better so I was still a bit tired. I checked into the hostel and although this hostel and I dont click but oh well you cant win them all. A nice dinner and off to bed.

Today I got up early(ish) and too the free shuttle into the archeological site. The Tulum ruins arent very exciting. No one said they were, but they are on my way, and I guess for everybody else they are near Cancun and have a good beach life around them. As is seeing the crowds and dealing with all the camera toting tourists I think it is just as well I skipped Chichen Itza ruins this time.

Twenty years ago (I am always amazed I can make a statement like that) when I was living on the boat with my parents, we took an inland trip to see a bit more of Mexico. We rented a car and headed in to see the big and famous ruins. Chichen Itza is one we went to and I have remembered well for years. Partly due to this I have always kept my ears open for TV programs and the like on the Mayan people.

On this trip one of the big decisions was weather or not to go back. It would be the first place since Seattle that I have crossed paths with my former self. (Also I have NEW things to go and see, why go back and see the old ones again?) I have been asking people who are coming up the other direction how Chichen Itza was and I have heard that although it is amazing, it is very touristy and have had it described as the Disney one. I decided to pass. Today at Tulum reinforced that for me. If this little pile of rocks is so over run, what does the crown jewel of Mexican ruins look like? I treasure my memories of my first trip to Chichen Itza and I dont think I need to go back and see it over run with people. (Not to mention I suspect it wont be as amazingly big as I was smaller when I was 10.)

After the ruins I headed along the road to the beach.

This area is known for its beach and I almost stayed out at one of the beach front places. (I probably should have but didnt feel like it at the time.) The first beach resort is just 1 km from the edge of the park so I started there and walked along the beach until I found a place I wanted to stop. (By law all Mexican beaches are open to the public.)

I had lunch at an over priced beach bar and then headed down to the sand to swim and sun. I learned a long time ago that I cant just lie in the sun and do nothing and The Diary of Ann Frank which I am reading just isnt good beach fair so I built sand castles in stead. (Or in this case sand Mayan temples.) Since I am an adult I love making sand stuff because when you were a kid you just didnt have the motor skills and design understanding to really do things. That is probably why everything your parents draw is always wonderful when you are a kid. Well now its my turn to build things that end up looking good. I nearly ended up with and ice cube tray and could have made a great castle but I dumped it before I got to where I stopped. (Its impressive what you can find washed up on the beach.)

Unfortunately the weather hasnt been the best beach time and it got cloudy early. (How will I ever get my back tanned at this rate?) So I headed back to catch the return bus.

Back at the hostel I had a good, if cold, shower and put on all clean clothes. Now clean clothes might not seam like a big deal to you guys in the land of owning your own automatic washer and dryers, but to me it is one level of the Mayan heavens. Since I have been traveling with only two tee shirts it is only just after wash day to have clean shirts and since I was sick last week I didnt change clothes much because I was going to be miserable anyway. So today was the first day in probably two or three weeks when everything I put on was clean. (The only reason I had a clean shirt was because the hostel in Merida gave me one of their tee shirts with the logo on it. I figure I should wear it around to get them some advertising) So after a hot day and getting salty swimming in the Caribbean sea a fresh water shower and truly clean clothes makes me very happy.

This is also my first time really down to the sea since being on the west cost. Last time the salt water was from the Atlantic it was in Boston. Its just a little different down here.

Tomorrow I am expecting to head off to border town of Chetumal and maybe even make it to Belize City by the end of the day. We shall see.

Leave a Comment or View the Comment Page.


Canada and the USA,      Mexico,      Belize,      Guatemala,      El Salvador,      Honduras,      Nicaragua,      Costa Rica,      Panama,      USA, again,       Thailand,       Lao,       Vietnam,       Cambodia,       Thailand, again,      

Journal Index

My Home Page