Month: January 2017

It’s Cool in Mérida

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¡Amigos!

A little update as I desperately try to avoid the news today. I need a mental health break. Let’s look at something happy! Here is a photo of me with my hosts in Puebla, Javier and Anita. They were so sweet to me. I almost cried when Anita hugged me goodbye on my last day.

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Javier and Anita.

Two years ago when I was in Mexico, I really only spent one full day in Mérida and I used it to go to Chichen Itza. I really didn’t get a good sense of the place. I thought it was a nice city, but not one I had to return to. So, nothing negative at all, but I still decided it was a bad first impression because somehow I didn’t realize that Mérida is awesome.

Of course, this is partially because it’s here that I was reunited with Ken, Martha, and Melody, my dear friends from Spanish school in Puebla two years ago. We would manage to have fun playing in a giant cardboard box if that’s where we were. But it also helps having people who know the city you’re visiting well and can show you the ropes.

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Fin de Semana

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Bad lighting, good company with Lisa.

Yesterday, I finished up my last day of Spanish school. I learned (and re-learned) a lot, and although I’m nowhere near fluent, I’m comfortable getting around town and even engaging more with my host family. I had a delightful conversation en español with Anita the other day about how microwave popcorn is just not the same as movie theatre popcorn. After my final class, I went out for a little tequila with a fellow student, Lisa from Atlanta. She’s older than me and very well-traveled. We talked about places we’ve been and where we want to go, and I’m even more confused about my plans now than before. In a good way! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ll pretend my indecisiveness is exciting instead of frustrating until I figure out next steps.

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First round.

This weekend, I’m just relaxing and enjoying the last few days in my little room in Puebla. I was glued to my laptop the better part of today watching a live broadcast of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Powerful stuff that makes me feel a little more hopeful about the state of my country right now. I tore myself away for a couple of hours to grab a giant cemita for lunch, buy a bus ticket, and pop into a cute Italian market where the nice guy working there sold me a bottle of Sangiovese. And tarallini! I have trouble finding those at home sometimes. I’ll enjoy them with some queso de cabra tonight.

Next week, I’m heading south to Mérida to meet up with the friends I made here two years ago: Ken and Martha, and Melody (her husband Cordel is working in Canada at the moment so unfortunately I won’t be able to see him). They’ve worked out a joint custody agreement so I’ll get to stay with everyone for a bit. My only serious plan for Mérida is to eat seafood–I don’t trust it here in Puebla. Other than that, I just want to chill out in the heat and enjoy some shenanigans with some of the best people I met on my last big trip.

I’ll leave you now with some Susan Tedeschi because women rock.

“After the Love Has Gone” (and gone and gone)

Well, this is a little random. I’ll let this note from my iPhone explain why I wrote it.

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That’s it, that’s the story.

First of all, how great is Earth, Wind & Fire? One summer during college after I turned 21 and earned the privilege to consume $12 frozen margaritas in public, my roommates and I attended the City of Orange’s annual International Street Fair in Orange, California. With plastic cups of overpriced alcoholic slush in our hands, we found ourself at a bandstand where a plucky group of local middle-aged men were covering hits from the 70s. My roommates and I were bopping along politely until the song changed and we heard the opening to “Let’s Groove.” We can boogie down, down upon, down the boogie, down, down upon, down the boogie down, down, upon, down the boogie down, down*. My friend Tatiana and I turned to each other, jumped up and down, and screamed. We screamed like we were teenagers in the TRL studio audience and Carson Daly threw to commercial (remember TRL?) Basically, Earth, Wind & Fire is so cool, they’re even cool in other forms.

Now, it wasn’t just the blend of bottom shelf tequila, artificial lime flavor, and ice; or that the band was actually really good (I am a sucker for middle-aged men playing their hearts out as well as hits from the 70s). It’s that it’s scientifically impossible not to dance to the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. I mean, come on. I dare you to sit still during “September” or “Boogie Wonderland.” You can’t do it. Don’t even try. What a boring, stupid thing to try.

Songs like “Shining Star” have been mainstays on my Walkman/Discman/iPod/iPhone over the years, but I only somewhat recently rediscovered their slow jam “After the Love Has Gone.” It came on the car radio when I was driving home one day. I love car radio. My car was too old to have even a CD player but I would choose radio anyway. Every song that comes on is a surprise. When something you love gets worked into the rotation, it’s somehow even more satisfying to hear than if you put it on yourself. And when “After the Love Has Gone” came on during that ride home, I was like: damn. Later that night, I found a live performance of the song on YouTube, and well, you saw the iPhone note.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I sat on my bed for two full hours playing it over and over again. I tried working other videos into my impromptu stoner playlist. Stuff I normally really like! But no more than 30 seconds in, I was pressing the “back” button on my browser. I was transfixed–very high, but mostly plain transfixed.

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My second first week in Puebla

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Today, I wrapped up my first week back in Puebla. The city is pretty much how I remembered but I had forgotten some of its idiosyncrasies. The intersections only have streetlights on two out of four sides, so you occasionally have to twist your head around to see if it’s safe to cross. The municipal gas trucks play loud music as they cruise through town. There are VWs everywhere thanks to the nearby Volkswagen plant.

My favorite restaurants are still here: Las Ranas for al pastor, El Paisa for carne asada tacos, and Los Portales for tostadas and molotes. The food remains delicious and potentially hazardous. Montezuma may not be seeking revenge on me but I feel he’s being…I don’t know. Passive aggressive? I’m not sick but without getting into too much detail, I keep running out of toilet paper at an alarming rate.

I’m back at the same Spanish school in the same classroom struggling with the same past tense verb conjugations.

Puebla is the same, but I feel different here.

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New Year, Old Insecurities

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La vieja mochila morada y mi nueva cama azul.

I’m going to be honest and say that this trip did not have the best of starts. My first few days here in Mexico have been lonely and exhausting. The adjustment from living in my quiet wine country apartment back to hostel life was rough, though I had expected that. Although the hostel was booked to capacity, no one actually hung out there and I didn’t make any new friends. I got the creaky top bunk in a cold room. New Year’s Eve was spent watching Other People on Netflix on my laptop and trying not to cry in front of the one other person in the common area. My Spanish is not as competent in practice as I thought it would be. As I am prone to spiraling, I began asking myself what I’m doing with my life. What if this trip isn’t as fun as the last? What if I don’t meet more amazing people?

Then I remembered how daunted I felt when I first got to Mexico two years ago. I even looked up a post from then. Here is something I wrote:

Part of me wants to throw in the quick-drying travel towel and go home but I’m not ready to pack it in just yet. For one thing, I already paid the deposit on my language school in Puebla. But I also know that this may be the only time I quit my job and uproot my life to travel.

Heh.

Here I am in Puebla, having once again quit a job and uprooted my life to travel. It’s not going to be the same experience. It can’t be. But after I wrote that post, I wound up moving through Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia for another five months, generally having a ball. I have no idea what will happen this time but I definitely need to relax and at least see how the next few weeks go.

The good news is, I start Spanish classes back at Livit tomorrow. I met with Scott, the proprietor of the school briefly earlier and it was nice to see a familiar face. He walked me to meet my host family and I’m in my own room in their home now already feeling a little more comfortable. Hopefully Spanish will start sinking in again. I have friends to visit in the Yucatan. It’ll be okay.

Feliz año nuevo, amigos.