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Jan 31, 2008

Five-Dollar Words and the Foreign Currency Exchange

Pleasant surprise: all my big words are once again useful.

On the advice of some good teachers, I've spent the last decade trying to use smaller words instead of bigger ones.  Anglo-Saxon instead of Latinate.

The results have been good, I think.  I don't get lost as much as I used to.  Nor do the people I'm talking with.  And fewer people notice when I'm being a snobby ass.

That said, my time in Mexico -- learning to speak Spanish, or speaking in English with people whose native language is Spanish, Italian or French -- has been a great chance to bring back the Latinate.

After talking with dozens of travelers, I've come to realize that a Romance-language speaker with limited English can understand me more quickly when I say say "accelerate" or "melancholy" instead of "speed up" or "sad". 

And if I have to guess what the Spanish word is for "light," I do well when I go long and guess "iluminación".  Looking for someone's "home"?  Get it right with "residencia".  Same for "snobby" when I try "pretencioso".  See how easy it is? :-)

Just don't try it with the Germans, Austrians, and Swiss.  Ist nicht gut, this metodología.

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As for the Australians and the English, skip the words and give them a beer.

12:49 AM in Mexico, Words | Permalink | Comments (5)

Jan 30, 2008

Lonely Planet -- A Different Kind of Bible

Lonely_planet_mexicoDefinition: A hostel is a place where people gather to read their copies of Lonely Planet.

The Lonely Planet - Mexico is by far the most popular guidebook on the Yucatán hostel circuit.  I think I've seen ~12 copies of the Lonely Planet guide (in English, German, and Spanish), one copy of another, German-published guide (sorry I can't remember the name), and to my surprise ZERO copies of the Rough Guide - Mexico or the Rough Guide- Yucatán.  (And zero copies of the Lonely Planet - Yucatán.)

It's fair to say that the hostel set treats the Lonely Planet as their Bible.  "Yeah, we [stayed at, ate lunch at, went hiking to...] such-and-such-place -- the Lonely Planet said it was a good [hostel, restaurant, archaeological site, etc.]"  World travelers may want to think they're different from their neighbors-who-stay-at-home, but when it comes to travel guides, they seem to be a very orthodox bunch. 

Mind you, it's an intelligent orthodoxy -- the Lonely Planet writers really know what they're talking about.  But for me and a few others, it's become a point of pride to do at least some things that the Lonely Planet didn't tell us were a good idea. 

Call us stupid.  Call us stubborn.  Just don't call us obedient when we walk ten extra blocks to use a different ATM than the one that Lonely Planet pointed out was right next to our hostel.  You know -- the one we're staying at because the Lonely Planet said it was great.

In any case, let me quote another definition, whose source I cannot remember:  "A tourist is a traveler who doesn't look like he's traveled very much."  And to quote Ron White once again, "I told you that joke so I could tell you this one."

A tourist reads Frommer's
A traveler reads Lonely Planet
A sophisticated traveler reads Lonely Planet, but only by flashlight, under his blanket.

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*Book whore that I am, I've read or owned all four of the Lonely and Rough books for the Yucatán and Mexico but for whatever reason I'm only traveling with the Yucatán pages of my Lonely Planet - Mexico on this trip.  Lonely Planet make some very sturdy books.  I cut the Yucatán section out with a very good bread knife, and the half-book I've been traveling with is holding together very well.  A lot of other paperbacks would fall apart if they didn't have their complete spine and jacket.  Kudos to the Lonely Planet folks for their bookbinding skills.  Word to the wise from my Australian pal Kristina: Lonely Planet pages do not make good rolling paper for the ganja.  Too thick.  Too sturdy.

02:06 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (7)

Campeche Parque Principal -- from the Monkey Hostel

Campeche_parque_principal_monkey_ho

In search of cleaner air and some trees, I spent the weekend in Campeche on the Gulf Coast -- 2-1/2 hrs by bus from Mérida. As the Lonely Planet guidebook says, "Campeche is just so... pretty."  They're right.

I stayed at the Monkey Hostel* whose porch and rooftop views are ridiculously sweet.  The hostel also made me think of my Durham pal Jenny C., whose Most Important Question to new friends goes more or less like this:

"Moral and financial considerations aside,** if you could have an equally trained monkey or robot as your servant, which would you choose?  And why?"

I asked some of hostel friends. 

"Monkey!" said Helga (from Bologna).  "I hate robots.  They freak me out."

"It depends," said Mirko (from the Czech Republic***), "I think monkey because you could be friends.  But only if he wanted to work for you and if you could give him a better home than he would have if you didn't give him a job.  Otherwise, it's better to let him be free."

"I think monkey," said Mirko's girlfriend, Katy (from Slovenia).  "But monkeys can be hard.  When we were in Indonesia, we met a very sweet young monkey that lived at the hostel.  The little monkey sat by Mirko's shoulder while Mirko was reading late at night.  And when Mirko got tired and his head bent down, the monkey was also tired and leaned his head onto Mirko.  And when we went to bed, the little monkey slept in between us, just like a baby.  It was very very sweet.  But in the morning?  Oh, man, the monkey got up early and he was just crazy.  He wanted to play with everything.  He was grabbing things out of our luggage and all around the room and was throwing it everywhere.  We had to throw him out.  Crazy monkey."

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*Click for the Monkey Hostel reviewed in Czech HostelWorld.com, in honor of Miroslav.

**See first comment for important correction/comment from Jenny.  Apparently I am so moral that I couldn't help but include the qualification.  But I'll do better in the future :-)

***Mirko noted, "Hey -- 'robot' was invented by a Czech!" My NCSSM friends who remember programming "Karel the Robot" might remember the origin, too: http://www.robotics.utexas.edu/rrg/learn_more/history/. 

 

01:13 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (3)

Jan 29, 2008

En/courage/ment

You can't give someone courage, but you can give them encouragement.

-- I hadn't thought about the relationship between these words - "courage" and "encouragement" - until this weekend while talking about fear with Miroslav from Czechoslovakia. He agrees with the sentiment.  I'll tell you his story sometime this week.

01:00 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jan 28, 2008

Shaman

Last night I was out with my new Austrian friend V__.  We were walking down Calle 60 when one of the street vendors called out, "Hola!"  He was a 60-something Mexican in a white guyabara, with two boxes of fake Cuban cigars tucked under his arm for sale to gullible tourists. 

To my surprise, V__ ran over to greet him with a hug and two kisses (one on each cheek).  She apologized in her broken Spanish for not seeing him the day earlier when they had made plans to meet.  I can't remember what excuse she gave him, but here is the real story which she told me as we walked away:

"Do you know the word, what is it in English, 'shaman'?", she asked.

     "'Shaman?' Like 'witch doctor'?"

"Ja, that is it.  Well some days ago, I saw this man on the street and he started to talk with me.  He told me he was a shaman, which I thought was interesting so we talked for a while.  He asked me if I would like to see the town with him on Saturday and I said 'Yes'."

"After some time, he put his hand here my upper arm.  I was wearing a shirt with no sleeves and so he could feel my skin.  He said, 'You are 33 years old.  You are doctor.  And you are from Europe.'"

     "My God..."

"Ja.  Mein Gott is right.  How would he know?  Everyone here thinks I look 25.  No one knows what I do for work.  How would he know?  The whole thing was so weird...  I didn't want to be around him again, so I didn't show up for our appointment on Saturday."

I wondered how a person with such magical skills would be poor enough to need to make his living by huckstering idiot tourists.  But doesn't it seem like all the seers and healers of lore are poor?  V__ says that the shaman makes a little bit of living from telling futures for housewives and other people.  But not much.  The rest, I suspect, comes from the tourists.

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If you read a lot of older literature (think of Victor Hugo), you are familiar with the practice of referring to people by "Mme. D_____" or "Count _______ from a certain area in Germany." 

The custom, I gather, was intended to preserve people's privacy by not writing their entire name.  I promised this same practice to V___, who still has a medical practice in a certain large European town, and who has some credibility to maintain.  Like me, she believes that the supernatural ought certainly exist, but that it would be nice if it kept its distance.

10:07 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (3)

An Accumulation of Generosities

For the most part (but not always), travelers are people out of their regular element.  Away from their regular pile of resources.  And regularly in need of some small thing that would make their lives easier.

In the two weeks I've been traveling, here are some of the things I've seen given, often by strangers:

  • hugs to the stressed
  • 2-1/2 hours of internet credits at a hostel
  • a pair of contact lenses with a close-enough prescription (with reciprocal thanks via a plate of pasta carbonara)
  • written advice on travel to Cuba ("The airlines require that you know in advance where you are staying.  If you buy your ticket at the airport but don't have a hotel already booked, they will force you to book a room at someplace expensive.  If you use a travel agent, they will give you a fake listing for the airline.  Then you can just find a cheap place when you get to Havana.")
  • an offer to mail you a camera from the US where they're cheaper
  • a walk home at night
  • an invitation to a solo diner to join the dinner party at a nearby table
  • a late night beer; and a banana and some orange in the morning
  • interpreter services for an apartment-hunter who speaks poor Spanish
  • coins to a beggar*
  • a lesson or two (or three) on how to negotiate the bus system
  • instead of directions, a car ride to where you're trying to go (when you've failed to negotiate the bus system, despite the lessons)
  • the home phone number of the guy who sold you a mobile wireless card ("because everybody needs a friend in town.")

The list will grow. 

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*a traveler also, I have to think.

09:29 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jan 25, 2008

Los Guanacos -- Cocina Economica, Mérida

Dsc_0410_1024x680

Lunch at the cocina economica* "Los Guanacos".  Owner Fernando is at center.  The other two caballeros are guys who I happened to share a table with.  Don't ask me how it happened, but we had a little music session while they were waiting for their food.  The guy in the plaid shirt was absentmindedly plinking out a beat on the tab of his Coke can and I reflexively started blowing across the top of my bottle of Diet Coke.  When I  started blowing the rhythm of "Oye Como Va", the guy on the right exclaimed "bosso nova!" and joined in with a spoon on the salsa bowl. 

We had an OK trio for a moment or two.  Their food came right around the time the guy in plaid lost the beat.  "Sin metrico," was the comment from the guy on the right, I think.  Anyway, Mérida is a friendly town.  And I like the food and company at Los Guanacos enough to have eaten there three times in four days.  These guys are having the grilled chicken with vegetables, rice, and some kickass black bean soup for ~$2.15 US.  Fernando says "tomorrow there will be fish."

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*Cocinas economicas are "hole in the wall" restaurants that usually seat from four to ten people.  Most offer two or three set lunches that change daily. Los Guanacos is a little bigger than most: they also offer a few regular sandwiches.  Want to come?  Los Guanacos is on Calle 47 between Calles 60 and 62.  Open for breakfast and lunch five days a week.

Last weekend, Hostelman David and I had lunch at an eight-seater that offered just one choice on a slow weekend day: fried chicken, rice, and some beans.  While we were eating (and for a while after), the owner leaned across the counter and told us a long story about her family.  I didn't understand a word, but she addressed herself to me just as much as she did to David.  (Apparently you can't tell that other people can't understand you if you never stop for a breath.)  Eventually, David made an excuse that I needed to get to an appointment.  I guess the story was even less interesting if you understood it.  But the chicken was great, as was the homemade salsa.

01:39 AM in Mexico, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (6)

Jan 24, 2008

Egalitarianism and the Eagle

Gettn I may have mentioned elsewhere that despite our many faults, Americans should be praised for at least attempting to be a non-racist society.  "Educated" society (and government officials) in many other supposedly civilized countries are perfectly happy to express a blanket hatred of whole populations, whether they be Kurds, Turks, Kenyans, or Belizians.

My Mérida pal David has spent many years in the US, and he told me tonight, "One thing that place taught me is that everybody deserves respect.  No one's better than anyone else just because of the color of their skin."

Race portrayals in Mérida aren't politically correct, by 2008 US standards.  Arabs and Dark-skinned Africans are portrayed in caricatures like we might have seen in the US some 40 or 60 years ago.  Mind you, the US doesn't treat all groups equally.  I haven't seen the South of the Border billboards in a while, but I know it wasn't long ago that they were still riffing on the "Pedro says" grinning Mexican.  (Anybody remember the Frito Bandito?).  Today I saw a billboard that reminded me of Pedro.  The ad was for a Chinese market and had a big painting of a grinning Chinaman (slits for eyes, of course).  In quotations at the bottom,

"PLODUCTOS CHINOS. PLECIOS BALATOS."

The joke, for those who don't speak Spanish, is that the words are supposed to be "Productos Chinos.  Precios Bajos" [Chinese products.  Low prices.].  In any case, I'm proud that my Spanish is good enough that I got the joke.  Which reminds me, seeing how this is basketball season: my friend Amandeep SWEARS TO GOD that when he was at the Duke-UNLV game in some early 90s NCAA tournament, an Asian UNLV fan was chanting, "LE-bers! LE-bers".  He swears.  To God.

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Photo yoinked from Bathwater Productions, San Francisco.  Remind me to tell you sometime about the book Marya.

01:07 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (3)

Jan 22, 2008

Scandinavia -- Siblings, Rivals, and Foes

Scandinavia_from_freeworldmapsnet_s

When I was planning my trip to Mexico, I thought I'd avoid staying in hostels because there would be too many excuses to speak English, which would shortchange my "being in Mexico" experience.  But I've since realized that a great richness hostel life is meeting cool people from all over the world.*

Yesterday I hung out with Annalee and Andreas, two very nice folks from Sweden, and we talked about Scandinavian relations.  According to Annalee, the Swedes and Norwegians are much like siblings when it comes to national pride and identity.  In sports, Swedes will cheer for any Swedish team against any Norwegian team.  But in international competition not including a Swede, they'll cheer for a Norwegian team over anybody else.  But screw the Finns.  And the Danes? Meh. "They are more Continental, anyway."

My cousin Bent is Danish and when I visited him in Copenhagen some years ago, his national pride was easy to notice.  Give him half a chance to point out a famous Dane and he'd do it.  "Do you Karen Blixen, who was also known as Isak Dinesen?  She was born near here.  She's Danish, of course."  "And do you know your American olympic team's men's soccer coach?  He's Danish."  "Oh, the inventor of [some important gizmo]?  Everyone thinks it was a Swede, but that guy stole the technology from the true inventor [Mr. So and So] and he's from Denmark."

I once read in a travel guide that there were three steps to making friends with a Dane.

"What are they?", Bent asked.

"Step 1.  Buy him a beer.", I said.

"Ja"

"Step 2.  Make fun of the Swedes."

"Ja!"

"Step 3.  Buy him another beer!"

"Yea, that's true!  That will work!"

Annalee and Andreas agreed. "Yeah, those Danes -- they like their beer."

Pamela from Saskatchewan asked if Annalee and Andreas knew the show A Prairie Home Companion which features a lot of Minnesotans with Norwegian blood. They didn't know Garrison Keillor's show, but they loved the hell out of Fargo.  "And you know the actor Peter Stormare? [the guy who shoves Steve Buscemi into the stump grinder]  He's from Sweden!"

In this moment, I wondered if Pamela and I were being too quick to buy the idea of Swedish and Norwegian solidarity, so I told this story:

Some time ago I worked with a Minnesotan named Ron Berglund.  Thinking of a Prairie Home Companion, I wondered if his family heritage might be Norwegian.  But not knowing how Swedes or Norwegians get along, I treaded lightly.  "Say, Ron -- where's the name 'Berglund' from?"

"We're Swedish," he said.  Vociferously.

"So... I was wondering... how do the Swedes and Norwegians regard each other?"

"Do you know what we do with retarded people in Sweden?"

"No"

"We send them to Norway." [pause] "Where they go to work as TEACHERS".

So.  Somehow, I wonder if the rivalry is stronger in Minnesota than it is in Scandinavia?  Perhaps in America, the Swedes and Norwegians have to do everything they can to not get lumped together by the rest of us who can't tell a Lundberg from a Lindqvist.

A related last story from Scandinavia:  In the mid-80s, my Indonesian grandmother died while visiting my cousins in Copenhagen.  According to my cousins, the Indonesian ambassador was just horrible when they asked for help in processing the paperwork to get my grandmother's remains back home.  The ambassodor seemed to make every possible effort to distance herself from any Indonesian in Denmark.  Why? I'm guessing that the ambassador was doing what far too many representatives of a lower-status group do when they enter the circles of a higher-status group: they start looking down on the folks they came from.

A few years later, our family and the by-then-former ambassador ended up on a long vacation together in the Ujung Kulon Indonesian wildlife preserve.  My Danish cousins and the ambassador managed to avoid each other in even the smallest spaces -- like the tiny boat that took us to and from the camp.

All of the above stories, by the way, are just a preface** to something Valerie made me think of just now.  This year in basketball, I'm cheering for NC State over both UNC and Duke.  And UNC over Duke.  And any of them over anyone else in the tourneys except for whatever Ivy team gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.  And Davidson, which seems to show up year after year.

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*Every one of whom wants George W. Bush out of the White House.  Now!

**As Ron White once said on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour:  "I told you that joke so I could tell you this one."

Map courtesy of freeworldmaps.net

09:39 PM in Mexico, Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Servicio y Ducha

Departamentobano600

Bathroom and shower.  They don't call these apartments "efficiencies" for nothing.

For science geeks: this place would be great for studying the distribution of flies near a wet area.  Shower drain at the corner of your x, y and z axes.  Black flies.  White tiles in a grid.  Easy to count!  Easy to remember that d = sqrt (x^2 + y^2 + z^2)!

08:27 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jan 21, 2008

"Departamentos Amueblados" ["Furnished Apartments"]

Departamentoentodo600

Welcome to my home for the next few weeks!  Small and dingy but more than serviceable, with ~180 square feet of bed, desk, cooking space (that's a two-burner gas stove at the far corner), and a combination bathroom/shower.  $170 for one month, including utilities and "cleaning". 

I'm very lucky to have found this place, which is only six doors down from  the Hostel Nómadas where I've enjoyed the last week.  I think I have the best of both worlds, now: a quiet and cheap place to work and sleep, with a great social life just steps away.*

While inquiring, I asked the owner if I could have guests over.  She said, "Bueno. Pero, NO MUJERES!"  ["Sure, but no women!"]

"Let me tell you why," she continued:

Here is the story as interpreted by my new friend David, the hostel manager who was kind enough to help me find this place:

"A couple of years ago, a young lawyer was renting one of my apartments.  One afternoon he brought his girlfriend over.  And then her husband showed up.  With a pistol.  He didn't know which apartment they were in so he came looking for me at the office. 

The first door {like a screen door, but with iron bars for security} was locked, so he couldn't come in.  So he just yelled at me, demanding to know which apartment his wife was in with the [expletive-deleted] lawyer who he was going to kill.  I told him, 'no way, I'm telling you.'

All the while, he was yanking at the door with his left hand while threatening me with the pistol in his right hand.  He had shoved it through the gate so he could wave it around at me with more vigor.  But I am brave. 

I walked closer while we argued and then I struck him in the arm so hard that he dropped the gun onto my living room floor.  After that, he wasn't so tough.  We exchanged a few more words and then he left.  And that's why NO WOMEN."

The owner is a former schoolteacher who retired after working for 70 years.  As the Blues Brothers and now this cuckold know, you don't mess with old schoolteachers.  Still, my heart kind of goes out to the guy.  First, his wife cheats on him.  Then he gets disarmed by a 90-year-old.  That's gotta hurt.

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*I found this place after apartment-hunting for four hours all over town with my new friend David, the Hostel Nómadas manager.  The first place we visited was a very pretty little apartment about a half-mile from the town center.  I loved it but wanted to see other places before deciding (you know, there's always something better somewhere else...)  After visiting a few others, it was clear that the first place was the best, so we trotted on back just in time to meet the new people who had snagged it while I was out being fickle. 

Still, I'm glad we saw them all.  I wouldn't appreciate this apartment as much if I hadn't seen how much the other ones cost, or what they were like, or how lonely I'd have likely felt staying in those places that didn't have a great social life on the same block.

 

09:43 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (2)

Happy Birthday, Dorknose

Dave_and_chicken_2

Dave is 40!  In the 24 years since we first roomed together, I don't recall ever throwing him a party.  Today the tradition continues, though I might buy him a beer or something when he visits Mexico in February.

Above: a pic from November with Dave and his ass-kicking chicken cooked in a clay pot.  I don't think he included much more than a chicken, some vegetables and seasoning (and some sausages), but it came out perfectly.  Growing up as I did with dried out flavorless chicken as a regular dinnertime feature, it was a revelation to discover that home-cooked chicken could be as fall-apart moist as this one was.  Way to go, Davebutt!  I hope you have a good dinner today, too.

12:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jan 20, 2008

Mirrors -- Hostel Nómadas, Mérida, MX

Nomadas1stnighttreeand

Above, a photo from my first night at Hostel Nómadas, with an overcast sky which I am told is infrequent.  The sky is colored by the lights of a large radio tower two blocks to the north.

Details to note: (1) the round window at right goes to the room I stayed in from Tuesday through today.  (2) At lower left, you're not looking through an arch at more sky, but instead at the top of a large mirror -- the kind you might see in a ballet studio. I think that the hostel's owner (Don Raul, from Venezuela) installed it for their regular salsa lessons. 

Que dice? Salsa lessons at a hostel?  For sure, Hostel Nómadas has a reputation for being more fun and more communal than any other hostel in Mexico. But despite the salsa lessons (and live trova music), the place is far from fancy.  I suspect that the mirror was one of Don Raul's momentarily quirky decisions, rather than one part of an effort to make his a hostel luxe.  In any case, it is a unique attraction.*

I mention this mirror for other reasons, too.  In Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon reports on a lesson he learned several months into his trip around the country's back roads.  I don't have the exact quote** but the essence is this: he never felt so low as when he realized that in all the time he thought he'd been seeing new things, he was only seeing himself reflected in different surfaces.

Today at breakfast I sat with two other 40-somethings: Olivier (from near Fontanbleu) and Josefine (from Hamburg).   Josefine works with foster children in Germany.  Olivier does... something else, we don't know what.  Earlier in the morning, Olivier had walked by several beggars without stopping, but one last pair of beggars somehow struck him so forcefully that he had to give.  He tried to tell us about them but had to stop because he was starting to cry.  He paused for a moment to recover his composure, and then he added, "...and everything is perfect." 

"Olivier, you are Buddhist", I said. 

"Yes," he replied.  "Or, well, something very much like that."

"What the hell are you talking about?" asked Josefine, and so began a long conversation about Buddhists, Quakers, poverty,  Samaritans, work and money.  And vengeance if someone should kill or hurt one of your family.  Olivier and Josefine talked and argued for at least a half hour. 

Josefine didn't want to hear Olivier's point of view (except she did).  And she didn't want to share her point of view (except she did).  Josefine accused Olivier of having philosophical contradictions.  Fortunately, she also recognized that she has behavioral contradictions.  I mostly listened and tried to absorb their viewpoints instead of comparing them to my own. 

Question: Can we ever see things for what they are instead of for how we react to them?  I once talked with a travel-writer friend about how people talk about their trips to new places, and how we wished that they (and we) would try to talk about about places for what they are, instead of how they compare/contrast with other places we (or our audiences) already know.

This is not easy, of course.  When I see small towns in Mexico, my mind quickly frames its impressions with what I've seen in the Philippines or Indonesia, ("Oh, this is like the town Mom is from, except for in Tarlac they tend to use cinderblocks instead of poured concrete for the small houses."). When I walk around Denver, it's hard not compare/contrast its proportions and neighborhoods with the ones I walk in San Francisco, the only other big American city where I've spent a lot of time on foot.

Olivier said something like, "the things you see on TV aren't real.  When the news shows package the images, the timing, the music, the emotion -- that's a made up thing.  That's not a fact.  I want to get my news of the world by seeing it in people, one by one, face to face."  Somehow I think this is relevant.  To what?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it's relevant to this first week's installment of what may end up as a "travel blog" (whatever that is).  I'll try not to "package" it too much.  Olivier might be right.  And he might be reading.

Hasta pronto.

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*I fully recommend the Hostel Nómadas for your next stay in Mérida. Some of the other hostels have more amenities or are in more elegant buildings (Hostel Hobo is almost stunning -- it made me think of the place where the English Patient finally died, with Juliette Binoche's character swinging through the air on rope held by her dearest Kip). But from my brief visits, they don't seem nearly as amicable.  FYI: the swimming pool is currently offline but is supposed to be ready by March.

**For his vade mecums, William Least Heat Moon chose Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Neihardt's Black Elk SpeaksEn este momento I wish I had brought Blue Highways with me -- not only for the reading, but also so I could have given you an exact quote.  Instead, my carry-withs are travel guides and Spanish language textbooks, including the almost perfect*** Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish by Joseph Keenan.**** Those, and an issue of Friends Journal on Quakers and Money.

***It lacks an index.  But I'm writing one into my copy.

****Of note (at least to myself) in these two choices -- by "coincidence", I wrote about them in some of my earliest blogs at the Archer Pelican, way back in the winter of 2003/2004.  And look, here they are, together again.  William Bridges wrote (in Transitions -- Making Sense of Life's Changes), "Rule number one: When you're in transition, you find yourself coming back in new ways to old activities."

11:19 PM in Mexico, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (4)

Jan 18, 2008

Saludos de Mérida

Promobam_1

Greetings from Mérida, MX.

I don't mean to turn the Archer Pelican into a travel blog for the next two months, but I will say this: I am experiencing the expected travails of travel.  I'm only glad that I have two months to enjoy getting to know the Yucatan.  I'd like this to be a trip, not just a visit.

Tidbits:

  • It's hot here.  And muggy.  And sometimes breezy.  Kind of like being at the NC beach in summer, with a lot more diesel exhaust.
  • I'm fighting the urge to eat seven meals a day -- there's so much good food.  Yesterday I had a variety of seafood tacos in a small, folding-chair and plastic napkin-holder place that once hosted Pope John Paul II.  The wall art includes at least one photo of the Pope's visit, several pictures of the owner in his younger, body-building days, and at least one large print that looks like an old movie-still with a semi-nude teenage girl.  Go figure.
  • Today I got a local phone and mobile internet service (see photo above) for, in theory, best as I could understand, 2 months.  It only took 5 hours and $250.  Does that sound like a lot of money?  Yes it does.  And a lot of time?  That, too.  But I wasn't in a hurry and everybody was nice.  It's good to not be in a hurry.  And hell, the service is called "BAM".  That ought to be worth at least $50.
  • Spanish lessons start tomorrow.  2 or 3 hours a day at $11 an hour with experienced teachers.  I'm looking forward to recovering what I lost and gaining something new.  One good thing is that most folks in this town don't speak English.  I'll practice lots.

Hugs to anyone reading this, and even to some who aren't.

12:28 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (9)

Jan 08, 2008

Opening and Re-Opening Plans at Nikos, Gatsby's and Sinuses

Photo0024_960x768

Taverna Nikos has again announced a new re-opening date (black ink, above) but as you can see, someone snarky has added a revision (in red ink, above).  I snapped this photo last week.  The good news is that someone (presumably from the restaurant) has wiped out the "2010".  Which means, at least, that some action is happening behind those doors.

Gatsby's on Main St. (at the former Bread & Kabob location) now has stuff in the building and one of the owners told me today that they plan to open the 2nd week in February.

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As for me, my sinuses are improving but still (like Nikos and Gatsby's) not yet fully "open".  I'm glad that I didn't hop on an airplane today.  I'm about to try an Ayr nasal rinse but not a Neti pot.

05:55 PM in Destination Durham, News | Permalink | Comments (4)

Jan 07, 2008

If You Treat a Cold, it Will Last for Two Weeks...

"If you treat a cold, it will last for two weeks.  If you don't, it will last for fourteen days."

-- quoted by my friend Bill.

Cold

I have a cold.  And a big to-do-before-leaving-town list with many items not done.  And a $273.61 charge from Continental for pushing my Mexico trip back by one week.  So long as I don't squander the next few days, I can live with the delay.  Meanwhile, I hope you are all having a germ-free start to 2008.

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Image from the Singapore Government's Civil Service Club

05:46 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6)