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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

La Caja: Part Four

Step Four: Send La Caja (cont.).

We get to the dock early and ensure we have seats on the boat.  We are the first to arrive with some time to kill.  Nicole is making new best friends with Lupita, the lady running the store.  Of course the ice breaker is tequila.  There are a couple of different and new brands on the shelf that need thorough explanations.  Everything is taken into consideration: The type, the color, the bottle, comparisons and contrasts to other tequilas known to both Nicole and Lupita.  I get a beer.

The tequilas are choice.  So much so, Nicole heads back in to share a shot.  In the meantime more people are filtering in and the water taxi from Belize arrives.  I chat with people coming and going.  A family of four from California living and working in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  A couple from Alaska heading to Belize.  The usual idol chat-chit.  

The time comes and boarding procedures begin.   The police roll up in a jeep, about six of them and one canine.   Everyone's luggage and cargo is lined up on the sidewalk.  Everyone places their carry on's in a line in front of us.  The dog paces back and forth along the line of luggage, cargo and carry-ons. 

With nothing raising alarms we pile in with our box and tequila for the couple of hour long boat ride to Belize border crossing.  Did you know they speak English in Belize?  It didn't make sense until I saw the Queen's face on the currency.

We settle in at the resort for a couple of nights.  We typically don't do the resort scene, as they always seem so confining and attempt to do everything possible to keep you and your money on the property.  Like most, this one is just far enough outside of San Pedro that no one would think to walk.  Golf carts and bicycles are for rent though.  Golf carts are the primary means of travel in San Pedro.  Need to go town and get some groceries?  Golf cart.   Want to find a restaurant to eat at for the evening?  Golf cart.  Want to go to the water taxi? Golf cart.

I wander over to the only bar and restaurant at the resort and collect my free rum punch and watch me some NFL.  The games go long and I am making new friends.  Suzette and Neil from Canada.  Robert and Tyson who work the bar and Diron, (a.k.a. "Spider"), is the chef.  

There really isn't a menu.  Just a chalkboard in the corner with six different ways to prepare lobster, but Diron is more than happy to accommodate offering suggestions for just about everything.  I decide on a chicken curry of sorts and it is delicious.  

Robert, ensures no one's cup is empty and Tyson is able to provide a book to read.  At the moment I am wondering if all my impulses to scratch are left over from Celestún or if I am getting new ones.  Robert offers the bar's mosquito repellent which claims it contains 100% DEET.  In the beginning I was frugally applying the stuff thinking 100% should go a long way.  By the end I am taking a shower in the stuff, covering not only my bare skin but my shoes, shorts, hat, you name it, it is covered in DEET.  It is a good first evening, but I drank too much and I have a box to send.

The next morning it doesn't look good for sending la caja or staying just the two nights.  Monty is still exacting his revenge on both of us, I am chasing a goma as they say here (got a hangover), and Nicole has a full on chest cold.  

Yet another morning, things are better.   I venture out to breakfast at the only bar and restaurant and eat my food in my own little five mile stare.  Then Neil walks up with a coconut hat where the hull of the coconut is shucked in such a way it looks like he has dreadlocks that point straight up.  I don't even recognize him at first. 

We catch up and he asks if I want to meet Jesus.  I really want to get this box off of our hands, but man who doesn't want to meet Jesus?  Jesus is the creator of the coconut Regge hat.  Neil bumped into him while exploring the area in his golf cart.  He has arranged to have coconut water and rum courtesy of Jesus.  So it is set, we leave at four thirty to meet Jesus.  

The rest of the afternoon a group of six of us (Nicole and I and four Canadians) wonder around the resort.  The Canadians coozy their beers and check out the beach.  Suzette floats around the pool and bar.  The afternoon is wearing on and I am loosing interest.  Why are we meeting Jesus again?  Neil reminds me: coconut water and rum.  The afternoon is listless and endless, I think I am going to the room.  What about Jesus?  Oh right, why are we seeing him again?  This time Nicole jogs my memory.

The time finally comes to meet Jesus.  Five of us pile into the golf cart and head further out of town to meet Jesus.  We arrive and it is just a hovel with no signs of life.  Neil tells me he always does one stupid thing every vacation, and for this vacation this is it.  

Neil hikes around the hovel and finds Jesus.  Neil brings Jesus out for introductions.  Jesus is a 5 foot Belizian with dark leathered skin.  He looks wirey and well into his fifties.  Jesus proceeds to give us a tour.  First stop is his uncle.  The uncle offers no response and is absolutely lifeless sleeping upright in a chair.  I suspect alcohol.  Jesus points out grey iguanas as we go to the back of the property and Jesus pulls back some leafs and points; "Monos".  Jesus keeps pointing up in the branches, but he is the only one who sees the monkeys.  Jesus must have picked up on our incredulity and keeps the tour moving with a natural tattoo.  Yup, he pulls some leaves off a tree and starts rubbing the sap on Neil's arm.  He uses several leaves and takes his time to finish his masterpiece.  Upon completion he tells Neil not to rub it if it itches or burns - he has a coconut face on his arm.  I don't see anything but if Jesus says there is a coconut face on Neil's arm so there must be a coconut face on Neil's arm.

The smoke and mirrors tour continues as Jesus points to the roof of the only building on the property, a single room building, and claims there are green iguana's up there.  Neil climbs a fallen down antenna to view the corrugated steel roof to the hovel.  Nothing is up there.  As Neil descends the antenna, Jesus moves on with the show and has another of his coconut masterpieces on: Roman gladiator helmet.   Jesus does a quick stand up routine with a pair of scissors as he lightly trims his helmet.  Why are we here again?

Right, we all pile back into the golf cart, including Jesus, and head further down the road.  Jesus directs us right up to the walls of another resort area and says "Be quite, I will be right back" and darts around the corner.

Minutes later, Jesus quickly paces back to the golf cart with an arm load of coconuts.  I really doubt there happened to be a silent coconut stand at the resort, but hey we all have coconuts and head back up the road stopping at the beach.  

Jesus collects a couple of other coconuts found on the beach and takes his machete and starts shredding the first coconut.  The blade oscillating up and down results in the first coconut face mug with handle and everything.   Jesus has produced six in a matter of minutes, just enough time for Jim and Nicole to negotiate a few wooden wares from a beach entrepreneur.  Neil continuing on with his adventure decides to try his hand with a machete and manages a mug with both hands still intact.  He takes a bit longer and when he performs the final lop off of the top the coconut is empty - no water.

Everyone with their coconut mixes a concoction of rum and coconut water.  This is why we came to see Jesus.

We head back to Jesus' hut and he points out a few other interesting tidbits around his place.  It looks like there may be the beginnings or more likely the remains of some landscaping.  As we leave Jesus explains to Neil that "That is why I am fixing the place up so nice, I am going to start having cook outs".

We have a couple of more idol days of recovering co-mingling with the Canadians.  Neil's 'tattoo' looks like a feces drawing on his arms, and no it will not wash off.  The last day Neil takes Nicole and I into San Pedro in the golf cart.  We quickly find the post office, it is open, and they send post cards and packages.   However, our box has a bunch of print hidden by tape and pieces of paper.  After all it is just some random box a store clerk handed us.  This post office only sends boxes without all the print and no, of course not, they do not sell boxes.  They pointed us in a couple of directions to find a box and suggest tearing the box apart and folding it inside out as an alternative.  

We were not looking for another scavenger hunt.  We tear open the box from its layers of tape, empty the contents on the sidewalk, pull the box apart at the seam and get to taping.  We are almost out of tape, but this box is gone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

La Caja: Part Three

Step Four: Send La Caja (cont.).

We get an early start.  It is Saturday and odds are the post office closes early.  The internet displays two options.  Luckily for us, one is really close.  We walk the four or five blocks to the dot on the Google map.  Lies! Nothing here looks like a post office so we set off asking questions.

As usual we bounce from street to street asking people forever getting closer.  Today we keep hearing one word over and over: esquina.  I have no idea what that means, Nicole is stumped also, but feels she should know.  We are walking past a computer store and Nicole suggests we stop to tackle objective three - Find a cord for my phone.  Honestly, getting a win sounds really nice, but not this way.  I know the post office won't be open much past noon and keep my eyes on the prize.  Two more people questioned, 12 more streets traversed, and 4 more "esquina"s.  We ask another person and two more esquinas are dropped and it is clear we have overshot.  This is good news.

We know we are zero'ing in on the post office and it isn't even noon.  We turn around and Nicole is thirsty and suggests stopping at a convenience store.  Again, this sounds like a great idea and gets better with every degree hotter it gets outside, but I know the post office won't be open much past noon and keep my eyes on the prize.  I keep walking while Nicole ducks into the air conditioned beverage shopping experience. 

I am three blocks up from the beverages and surveying the corner.  Ahhhh, there it is, the post office  (Esquina means corner by the way and that is a phrase book win and a phrase book user fail).  How did we miss this?  It is big, a bit off the intersection, but big.  I make a beeline to the front doors.  They must be tinted because it looks dark.  The hours on the door clearly indicate that it is open for another full hour.  As I am working the locked doors to a dark building I see the last employee leaving from the side.  

While he is informing me that the post office is closed I manage to ask through my expiration and perspiration why is it closed a full hour before the posted time.  The only answer I get repeatedly is "Lunes". 

I backtrack to Nicole and she is just leaving the air conditioned purveyor of cold beverages.  She hands me my water which I grab with my free hand and we walk back to the hotel.

I am still frustrated by not finding the original post office and it is close enough.  I review the map again, scribble some notes and set out to the original destination just to prove it is Google and not me and hope I can actually get rid of la caja.  Nicole is not interested and chooses to stay in the air conditioned hotel room.

I quickly make it back to the dot on Google maps and it looks just like on Google maps street view.  I can't see anything so I walk into the only open store - a water store.  I ask about the post office and he tells me there was one here about a year ago but it is gone.  O.K. fine I still have the box but at least I know it is Google who is wrong and not me being an idiot.  I head back to the hotel.  The box is coming with us to San Pedro, Belize.

I return and declare my victory to Nicole and she informs me of her decision that we need to spend the day apart and that she is staying in the room.  I quickly check the maps and tackle objective number two.

We are staying really close to the peer so getting the second objective is easy.  There are two water taxi companies that run daily and they do alternate days so there is a taxi every day.  As far as I can tell there is no difference between the two.  They both leave at three and if we are really pushing it and sticking to the plan we would be on today's.  But that is not how this story goes.

One objective cleared.  The next proves to also be really easy.  It is Saturday and I walk up the main road, Avenue of Heros.  The streets are busy with consumers and sellers.  I duck into the first phone store and ask for an iPhone…, man how do you say cord in Espaniol?  Phrase book fail.  All the same a quick mime gets my point across and I am back in the street with two out of three objectives completed. Now what?

I really don't have much else to do.  I forgot my camera, my phone is about dead, so pictures are not few and far between, regardless I walk around Chetumal.  I stop for some freshly cut watermelon to ease the hunger while I search for an acceptable eating establishment.  I have a large juice and a very salty chicken, rice and beans lunch.  I walk down the Avenue of Heros into a local open market and finish off the day with a beer listening to some live music watching the world pass by.  All in all, this has been a good day.   Tomorrow Nicole, Frog, la caja, and I  head for Belize.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Election Night - Post Analysis: Coincidence or Conspiracy?

I am not saying anything, just asking the question.  Is it odd that the number of hits from Russia took the top spot shortly after the "Election Night" post?  Before that post there wasn't a single hit from Russia.

I am not saying this is huge or big league, but I also know our president elect is very concerned with an honest election, one which is not rigged, and thought I should add my singular observation.

The bus driver in Honduras

Friday, December 9, 2016

La Caja: Part Two

Step Four: Send La Caja (cont.).
Today we head back to Mérida in hopes the post office is really in the airport, but first we take a break at the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestún, a large coastal wetland reserve and wildlife refuge.  Their is a bridge over part of the reserve on the way out of Celestun.  We find a tour place right at the base of the bridge and hop into a boat to gently chase birds around the reserve and mangroves.  The road from Mérida to Celestún is called the Flamingo Way because of the vast numbers of flamingos found at the reserve during certain parts of the year.  We are just a tad early in the season and the water is low, so we don't see loads flamingos but we do see some and loads of other birds.  It is a nice tour and I think we are getting some great pictures despite it being an overcast day.

We are taking a different route to the airport which is making Nicole very nervous.  We lost connection, but the blue line still seems to be mirroring what we are seeing.  We are trusting the blue line.  

We make it to the airport with no issues and said good bye to Sparkita.  We ask about the post office.  The internet lied.  There is no post office in the airport, but we are told there is one at the bus station we are going to next.  Again, all lies.

There isn't anything in the station but we are told there is a FedEx around the corner.  Nicole runs off to investigate while I watch the bags, and she returns in about 30 minutes.

She is irritated and still holding the box.  Nicole found the FedEx no problem.  Proceeded to fill out the paperwork, has to open up the football and display its contents and finally gets to the bill.  The cost to send it was more than the value.  It didn't seem right sending it, so Nicole and the FedEx employee wrap the box back up.  The box is coming with us to Chetumal.

We load up on the bus, after a quick inspection of la caja, with no regards the the rest of our luggage and are on our way to Chetumal.  The ride is more or less uneventful, but still an experience.

The bus has monitors to show movies and the sound is pumped through the entire bus; no headphones necessary.  The movies are a mix of American movies dubbed in Spanish, Mexican movies, and a random sprinkling of Spanish dubbed Japanese Anime. 

The bus driver, who can obviously not watch the movies, bored, and apparently deaf turns, on the radio; no headphones necessary.  While other passengers, displeased with the movie selection, play games or movies on their personal devices; again no headphones necessary.  We have a perfect cacophony of languages, movies and music to ones ears like Stravinsky's Tritones.

For Nicole and I, we are tuning out with a bottle of Tequila and our own movie; headphones required.

We are well beyond the halfway point and the majority of people are passed out and things have settled down, just in time for "No Escape".

I haven't seen the movie before and not sure I can really say while watching it in Spanish I am seeing it now. A couple of things I can say are a.) the opening scene is wildly inappropriate for the current situation, and b.) Owen Wilson throws children building to building with a lot of people around him rooting for him to come up short.

The gist of the opening scene includes Owen Wilson, and I assume his family, riding a bus in a foreign country where American's are not welcome and everything about the ride looks dodgy.  Of course as the opening scene closes and the title introduction starts, our bus comes to a stop, late at night, in a remote part of Mexico.

I am not saying I am especially concerned, but it does have me thinking, and of course nothing from the movie happens in my current reality.  One person is waking up and getting off the bus and shortly we are rambling on to watch the rest of the film where American's are being chased for their lives in a foreign country.  

We arrive safely to Chetumal with no issues, but I still have to ask the questions:  Is that movie the best for the means of transportation?  Is there no other option a bit more appropriate?  Is this intentional and someone's inside joke? It would be like showing "Alive" while flying over the Andes, or watching the Titanic on a cruise ship.

It is late, and I am searching for water taxi's from Chetumal to San Pedro, Belize safely from our hotel room.  I find two providers.  One clearly states which days it runs and it is not tomorrow.  The other, like the first, runs every other day, but this one unlike the other, does not say which days it runs.  

We are both tired and it is clear that we are not going to figure this out tonight and we will need an extra night in Chetumal.  With that decision made, we make tomorrow's list of objectives: 1.)  Send a box , 2.) Figure out the water taxi schedule, and 3.) Find a cord for my phone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

La Caja: Part One

The next day was sweltering hot and we had one simple objective.  Send a package.

Step one: Find a box.
We ask the hotel owner where we can find a box to send some things.  Choppy, hmmm, uhhh conversation result in some directions, and luckily the phrase book pans out: Box caja (f) ka-kha.  

With the hotel owners instructions we arrive at the city square.  Nothing is an obvious candidate for a post office or shipping type store.   My best bet is the telegram store at this point.  We bounce store to store in and around the square asking directions to the post office or instructions on how to send something. We gather that the post office is close and you cannot buy a box at the post office, which is a theme in Mexico.  When we ask most people where we can buy a caja they look at us like we have a third eye in the middle of our head or we are swearing at them and point us up the road.  Eventually a man stacking shelves just hands us a box.

Step two: Label and seal the box.
We have no idea how to say "tape" in Spanish.  This is a phrase book fail.  All the same using the caja as a prop and universal sound effects we are able to clown our way to a store that sells packing tape.  

They also sale paper in units of five, so we buy five pieces of paper.  Luckily we have a pen and everything necessary to prepare a package after a couple of language butchering hours.

Step three: Prepare the package.
We are melting in the afternoon sun so we make our way to the breezy and shaded city square to assemble the package.  We sit down and catch our breath and enjoy the light breeze and its amazing cooling affects.  The box is bigger than we needed so we are figuring out what other things we can add and eventually are satisfied with the contents.  To the tape, or is this saran wrap.  This tape barely sticks to itself.  Well at least we have a whole roll.

The last time I remember wrapping so much tape around anything is when I was 12 or 13.  I spent that night at my friends house and did the sort of typical thing of walking around and blowing things up with fireworks.  After dinner the night devolved from a movie to spraying AquaNet hairspray on our jeans and lighting them on fire.  Of course we were wearing them.  As the AquaNet burned off it got warm and we patted it out with our hands.  The entertainment value was high, but eventually lost its luster and we moved onto better ideas.  

We wanted a big firecracker.  The little ones are good for passing the hours away but it always seems like the last bang should be the best.  We tried the Black Cats firecrackers.  We used M-80's purchased in other States, but we wanted more.  We are going to build our own firecracker.

Kenny found a round plastic ear plug holder case, a roll of Duct Tape and we still had loads of firecrackers.  We got work to unwrapping firecrackers and collecting the gunpowder into the plastic case.  The night was carrying on and it was getting late and our gunpowder supply was not growing quickly.  Kenny has the next great idea:  We should use bullets.  

Kenny disappears for a few minutes and comes back with bullets and a couple pairs of pliers.  We pried the lead off the top of the bullets and dumped the fire power into the case.  I think they were 30.6 bullets, because I don't remember it taking too long to get the gunpowder we sought.  

Now we have a case full of gunpowder.  Next, we wrap it with DuctTape.  We wrapped and wrapped taking turns encasing the plastic ear plugs case.  I don't remember how much of the roll we used but by the time we were done we had a softball of DuctTape and gunpowder.  We drilled a hole through half the DuctTape and plastic with the appropriate sized drill bit ensuring a nice snug fit for the wick re-used from a dismantled M-80. We were ready for short sleep.

Did I mention that this all seemed perfectly logical at that age, with no drugs or alcohol. Just good clean fun I guess you could say.

Anyway, back to el caja.  We wrap the box in packing tape like it is a round plastic ear plug case full of gunpowder.  I don't know how much of the roll we are using, but we have something larger than a football on our hands, and we are ready to send the box.

Step Four: Send El Caja.
We are walking around bumping from store to store and eventually get pointed to the Telegram business. We ask if they send mail, we get an affirmative, we ask if they can send el caja.  I think the lady is half laughing at me as she points toward Merida, like it is around the corner, and tell us we have to send by package from there.

We are thwarted for the day.  We will have to pick this story up in Merida, which is tomorrow's journey.  I do a little research and see there is a post office in the Merida airport which is perfect as we are going there tomorrow to drop off Sparkita.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Celestún, Mexico

I lied I had a few more pictures from Merida this is my favorite - the phone was not steady that evening and we were not close.

Sparkita follows the Apple maps blue line even without service.  I have no idea how this technology works and it manages to track us through the Mexican country side without service.  Last night it couldn't even get me back to my hotel with service.  All the same we make it to la playa de Celestún and check into our accommodations.  The room is basic but more importantly just steps from the beach.  A lot of sins can be absolved by a nearby beach.

We swim, shell hunt, eat at nice restaurants right on the beach and a one night stay, as initially planned, is not going to be enough.   Flexibility is becoming a theme and it is a theme I am more than O.K. with.

The beach has shells galore.  Several places you can literally reach down and grab a handful of shells.  Figuratively more shells than grains of sands, because, well, sand is really small.  If anyone knows Nicole, this can be a lifetime of shell hunting.  The water is warm, but in this particular place of coast line, there is too much chop to snorkel and not enough wave to ride.  Enjoyable but not ideal for much other than a long soak and a quick swim followed by a nice dinner by the beach.

This dinner is an experience right out of some T.V. sit com.  We are enjoying the best food here in Celestún, if not in the Yucatan and possibly all of Mexico.  The evening is ideal, the sun is setting over the gulf and mosquitos, gobs and gobs of mosquitos.

I am pretty use to being the guy who gets bit.  I understand the locals never seem to notice the existence of mosquitos - I chalk that up to a healthy diet full of vitamin B or whatever is in beans, a stable of almost every meal in Central America it seems.  However this is different.  The moscos were not selective.  It starts off with a few bites, then I notice my legs are jumping up and down.  I am assuming movement will help.  I am still thinking this isn't different from any other sunset meal on a beach, nothing above and beyond.  To the right: They notice my jitters and offer bug spray, which I accept and liberally apply.  To the left: They are swatting (one women even adopts my bouncing leg approach to our current problem) and I am pretty sure they are locals.  This is not just me being singled out, this is a problem.

Looking around it is obvious everyone is donating blood.  The staff are offering bug spray to everyone, and everyone is swatting, chasing, scratching and cursing.  The order of the moment is the bill.  It looked like a prank that Hawkeye and Hunnicutt, from M*A*S*H, would play on Maj. Burns for whatever reason du jour.  As if someone released thousands of blood thirsty mosquitos in the thatched roof mess hall during dinner hour just to watch the world burn and the entire Mobile Army Surgical Hospital itch in search of temporary relief but no one has enough hands and fingers.

Unfortunately, this is one of the best meals we have had in a while and we want to enjoy it.  We hang on as long as we can but we are scarfing down the food as quickly as possible despite ourselves - conflicted.  We finish up and ask for the bill with the last bites still in our mouths and on our ankles, legs, back, shoulders, arms, fingers, toes, hands, face….  We promptly bolt to our safe haven…, well after the purchase of a reasonably priced, delicious bottle of tequila, and proceed to scratch the remaining night away setting the next day's objective:  1.) Send a box of purchased fights home and mail some postcards.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Election Night

We return from Chichen Itza to spend a night in Merida at some bars meeting yet more new friends.  No friend referrals this time, just people we meet at La Negrita at first then onto some other bar open late including one American.  He was in the area to give some talks about solar panel defects and processes to find them and prevent them or something along those lines.  I don't know some smart person Ph.D. type talk that is way over my over my head even though he is obviously dumbing it down for the audience.  The night gets a bit blurry while we sit at the bar constantly checking as the election results roll in.  

As the results become clear, the bar closes down, my new American friend and I move onto a second bar and meet some more new people.  All locals and all working on their English, which goes without saying, is way better than my Spanish - that reminds me I need to email them…, be right back…, back.

The evening goes long, very long.  It doesn't help that I am well over two hours into trying to find our hotel and that is with Apple and Google maps pointing me in different directions and both wrong.  An old man is waiting for someone to wrap something up with nothing but time on his hands is very helpful;  too helpful one may say.  After a 30 minute conversation about things I didn't ask, he is going on and on about directions to the next day's destination: Celestun.  Again, why? I have no idea other than he has time on his hands.

I finally make it back and the hotel it is all locked up.  Nicole is reasonably fast asleep and not responding. I finally call the hotel to cobble enough Spanish together to get the front door open. Nick and Andy know what that sounds like first hand - it is a thing of oratory beauty.  I am in and all I am looking for is sleep.  I am sure glad we got that Mexican phone number before leaving Mexico City.  It proved invaluable and detrimental all in one evening.

Alas, who is this Montezuma fellow and why is he so angry?  A quick Goog' - drop attributes it to Moctezume II and this is his revenge for the conquering, slaughtering and enslaving of the Aztecs by the Spanish back in 16th century.  At 3 am his revenge is released on Nicole.  The "Gringo Gallop" and "Aztect Two-Step" do not embody what Nicole is experiencing this evening, it is punitive. 

After a long night and late check out we are done with our mainland explorations for the time being.  It has been at least a week since we have seen an ocean or anything resembling one and we are off to Celestun.

Oddly enough this is the only photo from Merida, it's true.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I dare you

Just turn the knob below the basin, push the button and drink some water. I give 30 minutes before you are in the bathroom.

Donde esta los


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chichen Itza

We were off with Nicole at the helm of Sparkita our Chevy Spark rental car. We collectively decided to wake up early after reading all the warnings about Chichen Itza and tour buses from Cancun. By collectively I mean, the previous night I wanted to leave by 7 and Nicole didn't and by 6:30 am I wanted to leave later and Nicole was leaving at 7. So collectively we were able to get moving by 7 am.

First challenge was getting to an HSBC to recharge the money in the pockets. Merida at 7 am is absolute chaos. Maybe I simply forgot what 7 am looks like but this seemed a bit different. There were lines with a hundred plus people waiting for buses. Bicycles everywhere. And not just normal bicycles, but the kind with three wheels and a stack of produce towering over the rider. Motorcycles are considered four passenger vehicles. Children everywhere in their school uniforms. No one was moving faster than the bicycles. It was just a steady stream of people moving through the capillaries of the city.

 When close to the bank, I jumped out of Sparkita and weaved through the vendors picking up their daily dose of fruits, vegetables and whatever else I scraped past to eek into what looked like a closed bank - the ATM was available - Mission Accomplished. We are off.

It was about a 90 minute drive including something that looked like a police check point - if it was no one looked at us twice. Then closer to Chichen Itza we hesitantly drove past several people looking official right near the entrance to Chichen Itza. We weren't sure if they were official or people selling us something. We took the calculated risk and drove slowly onward. We arrived.

There were people there, but not mobs, but enough people to make it all seem like a nut house. Just having people doesn't make it a crazy home, it was the behavior that Chichen Itza inspired that made it seem like a nut house full of nutters. The acoustics of this place is something I never saw coming. I have seen pictures of Chicken Itza. Seen it built tens of times on Civilization V, but nothing ever mentioned the acoustics. Clap and a bird echoes back. The Quetzal, not even native to the area, calls back. And when I say 'calls back' I mean exactly like the actual bird sounds to the point it is a full on specialized study on how the Mayan's have done such a thing.

So, tell a hundred of people this tidbit, flood those hundred people with a thousand people who don't know about it and watch them congregate, disperse and walk around clapping. Sun beating down, clap clap clap. Clouds in the sky a horde of humans in the shadows, clap clap clap. There are some organized tours clap clap clap, individuals walking around clap clap clap, couples clap clap clap - all clapping at random intervals concentrating and amazed. This is a people person paradise created a century and a half ago - the gods must be crazy.

The place was amazing and it is dilapidated compared to the glory days. The grass we walked on was imported from Florida and replaced the stonework that encompassed the entire campus. Half of El Castillo was defaced to build conquistador's palaces. The place was at best colorless and half of what it was and it is still amazing. Even the area dating back to 300 BC have buildings that exactly capture the equinoxes. They had a lot figured out a long time ago.

 Along with the tourists and guides the place was flooded with vendors. Almost all of the roads connecting the various areas were lined with vendors selling all sorts of trinkets - Mayan calendars, whistles that mimic jaguars, owls and eagles, magnets, post cards, masks and about anything you can make out of wood. All the vendors had there own way of pulling in potential customers ranging from animal calls to yelling out a persons defining characteristics. For example I was called "Mr. Mustache", "Mr Whiskers", "Mr Beard" and "Cowboy" in the span of five minutes.

 After a few hours we left and more vendors were still setting up and the buses we starting to arrive in full force. We got out before the place turned into a real nut house.

Not sure how I got a picture with absolutely no people in it.

The round ball court, the VIP Box seats, and apparently the winner of the games were sacrificed and thrown in the cenote.  Go team!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New friends in Mexico City

We arrived late and waited an hour for a shuttle to our airport hotel, which would have been a 15 minute walk we discovered.  Despite the proximity the roads made the ride as long as the walk would have been.  If we knew the hotel was so close would we have done anything different?  Not sure.

Being relatively isolated Americans we have this perception that Mexico and Mexico City is full of murderers and we are inherently distrustful.  They even have a secret language called Español they use to communicate right in front of you.  It didn't help that once we were safely in our hotel room the info binder explained how to answer your hotel room door.

If someone knocks on your door, call down to the front desk, confirm someone should be at your door and then open the door.  I mean, it seems like a common sense…, sort of. At the same time, when have you ever thought of calling someone else to answer your door?  The fear factor was not soothed after such explicate instructions.  Anyway it was for only one night.  We picked a hotel close to the airport knowing we would be getting in late.  Tomorrow we had other accommodations so we rested.

The next morning we enjoyed a fairly standard hotel breakfast while watching the morning show on the television.  Everyone was dressed in Day of the Dead garb and makeup while talking a million syllables a second.  While in my morning daze at the television, Nicole was actively communicating with our new best friend and coordinated a ride.

We were lucky, the stars had aligned somehow.  Our friend gave us Andrés' contact information and we caught Andrés in Mexico City, with a car and in the mood to drive a car.  Three things that don't often happen to someone we have yet to meet.  We had a ride.  We were looking for a man in a pink shirt driving a green Jeep.  Even as I write this it doesn't make sense but it happened.

Andrés is a friend of my best friend's novia attached to us by a single email saying;  You guys seem like you might be kindred spirits in your deep appreciation of laid back fun, so...if the timing works out...why don't you...hang out!!

With that, and Nicole's mad WhatsApp skills, Andres was picking us up near the airport and driving us on into Mexico City.  It so happens that our next domicile was really near Andres' Mexico City flat with his girlfriend Anna.  We were neighbors.  And as I said before Andres was in Mexico City for work, which doesn't happen often, Anna had just bought a Jeep, and the rare occasion had it, Andres felt like driving.  Stars are aligned.

We checked into our hotel and then spent the rest of the day with Andrés.  He showed us around the Roma district where we were staying and he lived. Walking, talking, taking in the sites, some "laid back fun" as one would say, a lunch, where we met Anna and then some some coffee in the rain - serious rain.   Andrés was the best guide ever and best new friend ever.

The colors of the city stand out agains the pavement, concrete and dust.  Artists paint, taggers tag and the colors of the dead stand out.  Paint, flowers, makeup, clothes and sound against a constantly changing and churning backdrop.  The streets, roads and parks are tore up everywhere (constantly from what I am told).   Why?  never got a straight answer but would guess it is a combination of things from the earth is literally moving all the time (signs everywhere telling you what to do in an earthquake - never saw the in LA, San Fran or Seattle), the trees have surface level roots ripping up sidewalks (who would have guessed) or just keeping people employed (no idea why the park in front of us was being removed brick by brick).  All the while captive murals everywhere with sinkholes in the middle of the sidewalks.  If you were lucky they had branches in them to prevent you from falling in if you didn't trip before and impale yourself.  Cruel juxtaposition given the art that draws ones attention up.  This place is amazing for ones eyes and soul.

Speaking of souls, one stands out in recent Mexican history.  If you are going to Mexico City go to Frida Chalo's house.  Such an atypical and hard life.  The people she knew, loved and despised all on display.  It seems to be a modern love story without the movie sugar.  She hated Diego for all his affairs, all the time maintaining her own, They marry, they divorce, they remarry. The whole relationship between them is the hardest to understand in comparison to their other relationships.  The had two aligned individual passions: Mexico and Socialism.

To see where she was born, suffer childhood illness, endure adulthood injury that crushed her back for life, loved, co-habituated and died makes the whole thing very personal.  It was Frida's father's house, Diego bought it when her father could not keep it and Diego dedicated it as a museum to her life after she passed.  While tortured they loved, and the actions bear this out until the end.

What would Frida think of the museum?  What would she think of her face selling t-shirts and magnets to tourists. Maybe she would hate it as it flies in the face of one of her first loves: Socialism.  Maybe she would love it because it really does promote her other love: Mexico.  Diego thought is was the right thing and who would know better than him.  I trust them both.

Lots more to say about Mexico City, but I just don't have the words.  The pictures capture a small glance.  What can I say Mexico City is a World city and like every World city and has its own slant on the world skewed by location and time.  The contrasts, the color, and the people will not be captured with words or pictures.  Some day I do hope to live it more fully.