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Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Tu 21 February 2017 @ 11:18  on some dirt road in the SE corner of Oaxaca

Well, it’s only fair that I finally have a bus adventure with just under 2 weeks to go here in Mexico. Despite having very limited Spanish capabilities, I haven’t experienced many glitches in my trip.

Back on a Sunday in January I did lose my debit card to an ATM after pulling out some cash in Teri’s town, but I still had Alesha as a back-up until I could receive a new card. Unfortunately an ATM then decided to eat Alesha’s card without giving her any money just a couple of days later. Fortunately we were staying with Teri and her sister at the time, so the bank of Teri and Christin opened for us. After hassling our banks multiple times, Alesha and I eventually picked up our new debit cards from her friend in Cuernavaca, and all’s been well.

no money

Bums on the street

rich

We’re rich!

new cards

Debit cards = can buy hammocks!

The stereotypical Mexican travel adventures didn’t end there, though. On Thursday of that same week, I sampled jicama, a root vegetable sometimes served on a stick and coated with flavoring. Although Teri, Christin, and Alesha also ate their portion, I’m the only one who woke up 3 times during the night and ended up with Montezuma’s Revenge at 4am on Inauguration Day. So many people have said our election results sickened them. Well, I legitimately was sick on the day our new president took office – though for different reasons. Luckily my bout lasted fewer than 24 hours, and a few days of bland food readied my system for Mexican food again.

Busing around Mexico has been unlike any expectations I had; I haven’t encountered a single chicken on a bus. Sombreros and gigantic flower arrangements, yes. Apparently I need to visit other areas of the country to get the chance for chicken buses. From all my travels of the past 6 weeks, the buses here are nicer than those on US bus routes. They’re clean, air-conditioned, mostly on time, play movies, and sometimes provide drink and/or food.

It’s just that right now I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. We sat in a line of traffic about 5 miles from the Oaxaca-Chiapas border for about 30 minutes before learning that migration, immigration, or someone had blockaded the road. I’d heard of this happening but hadn’t experienced it yet myself. Thanks to my Colombian seatmate who knows some English, I know our options are to sit and wait indefinitely, get off the bus and take our chances with walking and catching a cab, or call a tour company to see if we can access some other road.

Most of us have opted for option 3, which is why we’ve been meandering down dirt roads as we drive past brush fires, trucks of cattle, and dusty villages. From the GPS on my phone I can verify we’re headed in roughly the direction of our destination, but it’s far from the most direct route. I don’t mind, though. My only regret is not buying a chocolate banana from the ice cream man who was smiling at me from his car while we waited.

ice cream man

*We did enter Chiapas at 13:05, so no harm done other than over an hour’s delay*

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Since leaving Fairbanks in mid-November, I’ve been through 8 states while transporting my road bike from California to Michigan via Amtrak, spent 4 of 6 weeks afflicted by 3 different colds, purged a lot from my parents’ house, got treated to Michigan’s wet snow, and went to my first and last Red Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

Now I’m lying in my sleeping bag in Teri’s red and white hammock in Mexico, kind of wondering why I’m wishing I hadn’t just missed Fairbanks’ cold snap. After all – I have to say again – I’m looking up at the stars from a hammock. The inky sky melts into the dark hillside to the northeast, and the peppering of stars differentiates sky from earth. Dogs bark from different directions, and the rooster next door crows at 22:15. The Jalpan River babbles by just downhill from Teri’s house. All I have to do is push against the railing, and I can be rocked to sleep. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Having the freedom to travel in the off-season is a huge perk of seasonal fieldwork, and that’s why I find myself in this situation. Rather than returning to California for another winter of bird counting, I finally made good on my word to come visit Teri while she’s on her Peace Corps assignment in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. I even convinced another college friend to come along, so I have a travel buddy! Alesha’s been handy to have, since we’re 3 weeks in and my resurfacing German skills are still not very useful.

Jalpan sign

While financially it may have been wiser to work this winter, my spirit needed something other than bird counting or a meaningless filler job. It needed adventure and the unknowns of travel in a country where I don’t speak the language. Duolingo claims I’m now 26% fluent in Spanish, but that means I’m 1/4 fluent in toddler-level language skills.

It’s been an interesting journey so far, and there are plenty of adventures to come. Unfortunately I didn’t start a tortilla count on day one; I think it’s safe to say I’ve consumed over 75 fresh corn tortillas in 3 weeks’ time. I miss the tastes of reindeer, salmon, kale, and blueberries, but they’ll be waiting for me in Alaska. For a while longer, I’ll feast on a late night dessert of constellations.

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