Panchan

DISCLAIMER: through a combination of randomly reading a novel about writing, wanting to keep blog posts fresh and new, and being rained in for the better part of a day, I found myself writing this. A word of caution to those who didn't like my last foray into prose (Four Nights): you might as well skip this one. Otherwise, if you're up for a little boredom-induced, unedited experimentation, read on.

He could feel the slats on his back through the thin foam of the bed, and thought to himself how it goes perfectly with it all: the partition walls that don't go all the way to the ceiling, allowing him to hear his neighbor turn the pages of her book; the tin roof that magnifies the huge drops of rain that fall after collecting on the massive leaved trees above. As he lay there, instead of seeing these inconveniences as a drawback, an appreciation of the magic that surround him creeps in.

Although his eyes are open, it is the sounds that mesmerize him most. Between that tap tap tap of the rain on the roof, sounds of the jungle permeate—birds, insects of all kinds, and even what sounds like a monkey mix into a soundtrack that reinforces the remoteness of this traveler-hippie community. From down the muddy path outside his door came simple guitar covers of songs that at other times might seem cliche, but something in the singer's voice make him look past that and really see the spirit of the songs. Songs by John Lennon, Simon and Garfunkle, and ones that he even didn't know what language they were being sung in but could feel the spirit creep down the narrow path, all the same.

Occasionally, groups of fellow travelers walk past his window on the way to their own cabanas, their low voices usually in Spanish of which he only caught a word or two. He is glad the brief chunks of conversation didn't make it understandingly to his brain. This way, he can create his own meanings. Maybe it is two strangers who just met, each while reading alone in the tarp-covered restaurant, finding one thing in common, enough to thinly veil the real reason they don't want to say goodnight. Maybe the group's discussion mimmicked the dicussion in his head, marveling at the wonder of all of place, right here, right now.

Closing his eyes, shutting out the tin ceiling and lone bare light bulb hanging from it, he imagines a camera looking directly down from above. The scene starts to zoom out, just like google earth when switching locations or in that movie from science class Powers of 10. As the camera passes through the roof, puddles along a muddy path come in view, quickly followed by more randomly placed cabanas. Streams with simple bridges crossing them mix with meandering trails to create seeming ant paths through the dark lush green. As the camera recedes, one or two larger roofs appear, those of the few restaurants and "real" hotels. But then, other than the one road, no new evidence of man's existence enters the picture. The little village community grows smaller in the middle of the image and jungle fills in all around. The zoom of the camera is fast now and the nearby ruins enter the picture from one side at the same time the lights of Palenque enter from the other, but at this distance, no details can be made out. Other clusters of lights enter the picture and shrink as the surrounding towns fly by. Then, all of the sudden, dark black of the oceans comes into view, the Gulf of Mexico from the top and the Pacific from the lower left. The zooming of the image pauses as he stops to think about how although he is in Mexico, it isn't the North American Mexico of Cabo or Puerta Vallarta. He is in Mayan Mexico, distinctly Central American Mexico.

As the paused satelitte image rests in his mind, he sees his little spot and feels a sense of freedom. This place is any place, and he is here. No one, without considerable effort, could track him down and there is comfort in that. Not that he is running or wants to keep his location a secret, only that right now, the control is all his.

The serene nighttime image of Central America from above is shaken from his head by an obnxoius bang bang bang on the neighbor's door, causing his connected walls to shake as well. Excited boys either vying for attention or trying to one-up each other loudly joke, laugh, and beatbox, ruining the magic. At the same time, he notices the live cover songs from the stage down the path have been replaced by AC/DC turned up too loud.

So goes the world of travel, the reality and hardships are never far off, ready to let one taste the magic but only in small doses. Attempting to file the feeling of magic away so that it won't be forgotten, he turns on his side, pulls a pillow over his head, and tries not to wish harmful things for those ruinors of his moment.

Monday March 22 2010File under: travel, Mexico

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Mexico Take Two

For those of you following along at home*, you know that after a brief stint in Belize and Guatemala, I'm back in Mexico—San Cristobal de las Casas to be exact. It is a gorgeous town with lots to do, although I find the majority of my activities involve ice cream, crosswords, and chatting with my dad, with whom I met up a few days ago.

Besides loafing, we've just meandered* around. There is some great architecture to see as well as a church or two. The food, as always, is amazing. Our hotel has a wonderful courtyard with a great bougainvillea. Also, just out of town, there is a great walk up the river, with sketchy suspension bridge included!

Besides loafing/meandering about town, we did a great trip up the Canyon del Sumidero. We saw birds, spider monkeys, and even crocodiles. Besides the fact that it was an organized trip and they shuffled us around like cards and stuffed us in wherever we fit, it was worth it.

Yep, Mexico continues to live up to its reputation for easy, relatively cheap, interesting traveling. So as the end of this adventure draws near, it is comforting to think that I know I will be back someday.
Friday March 19 2010File under: travel, Mexico

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Bold Backpacker Balks at Border Bullies

BETHEL GUATEMALA — A backpacker frustrated with corruption at the border and being taken advantage of decided to make a stand today at the remote border crossing from Guatemala into Mexico. The fee at issue was very minor, only $5us, but it was principle, reports Wren Schultz, that made him refuse to pay.
   Many countries charge an exit fee upon leaving their borders. Some charge this fee only when leaving via airplane and some at all border crossings. When flying in and out of a country, the exit fee is often included in the price of the ticket.
   Just two days previous, Schultz, a self-styled traveler "in the know", paid $18.25us to cross from Belize into Guatemala. "In Belize, the price was clearly marked and they even gave me a receipt," Schultz reports. "The guys in Guatemala just whispered among themselves and made vague threats."
   Schultz reports that the rest of his busload of mostly backpackers unquestioningly paid the fee. "The border people

Across the border, after the attempted bullying and a 30 minute boat ride
claimed that their system was down, and that is why they couldn't scan our passports or even let us talk directly to the border agent," continued Schultz. When he asked for a receipt, or to see an official form proclaiming the fee, a series of first unofficials, then officials came out to hem and haw about why neither of these things existed, and what would happen if he didn't cough up the money.
   A similar $3us fee was requested at the entry point 2 days earlier, which Schultz paid, claiming he was caught off guard. But after thinking about it and hearing about other travelers' experiences, he was ready.

   In the end, he got his passport stamped along with everyone else. "I think I might have also seen the border agent give me a knowing you-caught-us-good-for-you smile," Schultz said, obviously pleased with himself. The threats of accumulating a ridiculous fee for when he next returns to Guatemala will likely be shown false if he ever decides to return.
   Schultz does admit that the border agents were just trying to make a buck and were actually very friendly about the whole thing.

Wednesday March 17 2010File under: travel, Guatemala

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Un-Belize-able

Belize is a country that I've never known much about, except maybe the requisite traveler knowledge of where it is and what they speak here*. I'm afraid I will leave the country knowing only marginally more.

I've chosen to spend my few days in Belize out in the Northern Cayes* instead of exploring inland where jungles, caves, rivers, etc. are found. There is just something about sandy beaches, slow Caribbean life, and ocean breezes. So in lieu of adventuring with jaguars, monkeys, and who-knows-what reptiles, I walk around, read, eat, swim, and chat up my fellow travelers. Oh, and I take some pictures too: requisite self-timer beach shot, almost spoiled turned artsy shot, beach palm, good advice that I take as often as possible, and more friendly advice.

Perhaps I will return to Belize some day to expand my knowledge beyond the Cayes. Or perhaps I will return someday to each johnny cakes, drink fresh pineapple juice, and wonder at the beauty of the Caribbean sea. They both sound pretty dang nice.

(Alternate post titles considered: Jeez Belize and You Better Belize It)
Friday March 12 2010File under: travel, Belize

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Feelin the Vibe

Conveying the vibe of a place—how it feels to be there—is something that is hard to do via any medium: words, pictures, even video.

Sure I could tell you that here in San Pedro, Belize there are more golf carts on the roads than cars, an equal mix of English and Spanish on storefronts, and coconut palm lined paths right on the beach. I could further go on to describe how friendly the people are, and even offer an anecdote of being helped (without ulterior motive) by 3 people within my first 15 minutes of being here*. But you still wouldn't get the full vibe of this place.

Feeling a place's vibe is a lot of what traveling is about for me. Sure I like to see the sights, eat the food, and meet the people, but all those things can be overshadowed (both in a good way and a bad) by the vibe of a place. As for the here and now, I've done found myself a place with a wonderful vibe. Now I'm going to head out and enjoy it.
Wednesday March 10 2010File under: travel, Belize

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Travel Quote for Monday - Length vs. Width


LIFE IS SHORT, MAKE IT WIDE

Staying at a hostel in Valladolid, Mexico, I met an older traveller about whom there was a lot I admired (and aspired). His business card fancies him as an "entrepreneur, adventurer, traveler, troubador, eccentric" and from the few days we hung out, it all seemed true enough (and then some; I'm looking forward to reading the book he wrote*). At the top of his business card was this phrase: "life is short, make it wide". He also had a very well written song that said the same. I thought it was as good a quote as any to add to my Monday traveling quotes series, to be reminded, whenever I have occasion to review past posts, to do just that—make it wide.
Monday March 8 2010File under: travel, quote

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Comunicacion

Q:What do you call someone who can speak 3 languages?A:Trilingual
Q:What do you call someone who can speak 2 languages? A:Bilingual
Q:What do you call someone who can speak only one language? A:American


Yesterday, I was complimented on my Spanish. Granted it was only after I complimented him on his English. Still, it felt good. Practicing my Spanish was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Mexico this travel season.

While I was in Japan last year, I remember really admiring my American friends' ability to communicate with the locals in Japanese. As Americans*, we don't have the multi-lingual head start that many Europeans or others have. This ability to communicate with more than just my countrymen led me to the decision to really focus on keeping up my Spanish.

Since being here, I've had two really rewarding conversations, ones where I know that I've conveyed myself well, proving to myself that, in a pinch, I can get my point across. In one instance, I saw a guy with jugglers on this shirt. I asked him about it and we ended up talking circus talk for the remainder of the bus ride. In the other case, I conducted "small talk" with a barber who cut my hair.* *

In a few short days (maybe tomorrow even), I will cross the border into Belize and be back in an English speaking country. This last week, while I've proved to myself I retained more Spanish than I thought, but I didn't get as much practice in as I wanted. Luckily, Guatemala and returning to Mexico are on the agenda.
Sunday March 7 2010File under: travel

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9016 Words About Chichen Itza





Since a picture is worth 1000 words, here's my wordiest blog post yet. Enjoy. (We did.)

Thursday March 4 2010File under: travel, Mexico

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Oh Mexico



Oh, Mexico
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun's so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I'll have to go now

Tuesday March 2 2010File under: travel, Mexico

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One Trick Pony


A couple of weeks ago, I again took the stage at Vaudevillingham. For 2010, I made a resolution that I would try my hand at performing more than I have in the past. Yeah, I know that in the past I've said that I'm not a performer, and I still stand by that, but I want to be comfortable on stage and to enjoy it. The only way to go about that is to do it. Do it, do it, do it.*.

I know the video isn't great quality. I was holding out to get some clearer pictures so you could see the awesome costume Deanna and I made. You've probably all see the trick before, though. Anyway, just like with my last Vaudevillingham performance, the whole gag was in the costume/props. I was introduced as a one trick pony, was dressed like a pony, and did one trick. Get it?
Sunday February 28 2010File under: video

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