Sunday, January 24, 2010

Home is where your shoe collection is.

I'm back. In Juneau. I think I was disappointed when I got on the plane and didn't recognize anyone, usually I know someone. I was not disappointed when I saw that it was actually sunny and beautiful and not disappointed that my friend Miss T would be picking me up from the airport.

I was also not disappointed when I had lunch with four of my friends, when I continued hanging out with one of my friends, when I met up with even more friends to attend Lunafest, or when I went out to the bars with my friends to have some drinks and dance.

I was also not disappointed when I put hot sauce on my tongue and put some boys to shame at a friend's house after leaving the bars.

I was also not disappointed to sleep in my own bed, even if it was cold.

I was also not disappointed to go to the Sandpiper with Miss C, run into other friends there, do my grocery shopping and relax, then go to work to be kept company by Miss S and Mr. J, among other friendly faces.

I was not disappointed to sleep in my own bed once again, even if it was cold.

I was not disappointed to have craft brunch today. And I'm not disappointed to have Miss M playing at the bar tonight while I work.

Going on vacation doesn't make the bad things about a place disappear, so it can be sort of unsettling to see the face of someone you'd rather not see, to hear about drama you had hoped would have blown over, but it does make all of the good things seem even brighter.

It was also nice to be home after a rather obnoxious connection at LAX, though I was not stuck airport sleeping, thanks to an old high school friend.

And now I am back in my cozy little apartment which has a kitchen table now, with my messy room and my full sized hot water heater that allows me to take unreasonably long, hot showers and with my plants that have still not died and with my roommate who is always full of energy and with all my dearest friends.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Money Makes the World Go 'Round

I used to work at a credit union, the same credit union, in fact, that I keep my money at now. I am a paycheck to paycheck type of gal. I don't make that much money and most of it already has a place to go, places like rent checks and cell phone bills, credit card bills and buying food. And booze. I don't generally have much in my savings account and as a general rule it is more of a place to stash a wad of money for some specific purpose. I have over $800 in my savings right now, all for paying rent and bills and whatnot next month, since I'm not anticipating a paycheck from my non-existent day job.

So, here I am in Mexico City in a pinch. I've got M$50 or roughly $5 USD. And I have some real US dollars, approximately $9. I requested a new PIN for my ATM card 12 days ago, to be sent from a location in Alaska to my Alaska address. My roommate has been checking the mail every single day. Sources say the PIN was sent on the 8th, though it has not reached my mailbox.

I don't consider this to be my fault. I guess I could have requested a new PIN sooner, but had I done it a week earlier, the PIN still wouldn't arrive in time. Had I done it two weeks earlier, there is no estimating whether things could have been worked out in time.

Being the clever and former employee of the institution in question, I poked and prodded about what could be done. I asked if the "choose your own pin" option had ever been implemented, I also asked if the wire transfer fee might be waived, should I need to resort to borrowing money from my friend and would have to wire money back to her to pay her back.

NOPE. No options. Everyone was sweet as effin' cherry pie on the phone, but nobody offered solutions, nor was my own solution accepted.

The worst part is that I remember how well we had to treat the members with money. Hundreds of dollars worth of fees would be waived despite disclaimers about costs of different actions. They'd do anything to keep the big money. If someone had $100,000.00 in the bank, they'd waive $5 fees and $25 fees and $50 fees and do whatever it took to make members happy. If a member complained that their account was short $5, they would put $5 in the account to keep them happy. Whatever. It was petty shit.

I am poor and I am in trouble and my financial institution says, "Sorry! Nothing we can do!" But if I had $100,000.00 in the bank I would get whatever the hell I wanted.

Here's a nice empty threat - if I ever have $100,000.00 that needs a place to live, maybe it won't be in your institution. Maybe it will be under my mattress.

Anyway, if you were questioning whether money made the world go 'round - it's does.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How's this for culture?

Today Miss A and I went to the Frida Kahlo house - it's a museum that is in the house that Frida Kahlo shared with Diego Rivera, it had a bunch of art and many belongings still in tact and in their places. I'm a fan of the art and I also think that their strong political stance was pretty awesome. Also awesome - the fact that some of their furniture was highlighter yellow. And that the house is bright blue.

But that's not all the culture I absorbed - oh no - Miss A, Miss J, Miss V and I went to a Lucha Libre match. We watched a bunch of masked men (and women) fake wrestle with bright lights and bright colors and crazy costumes. We drank beer and heckled and chanted and cheered.

When I get back to Juneau from Mexico I may have to do a series of photo posts. I think I promised to do that before and didn't, because I'm a slacker, but this time I will provide some access to photos at the very least.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Los Piramides

The pyramids at Teotihuacan are amazing. There was a whole city there, once. Dwellings and temples as well as platforms and pyramids.

It is estimated to have been built in around 50-100 AD, you know, about 2000 years ago. AMAZING. And to continue with being badass, Miss J, Miss A and I climbed the Piramide del Sol and as much as was permitted of the Piramide de la Luna. The Piramide de la Luna isn't as tall as the Piramide del Sol, but the view is the best - you can see straight down the Road of the Dead, which has platforms lining it and the Piramide del Sol on the left.

Climbing the Piramide de la Luna was tough because the steps are really large, too large for our legs or for the legs of those that built it. The Piramide del Sol was a rough climb because it is enormous. From some meters away, the people climbing up look tiny, like insects or tiny toys.

We also got to go down inside some structures, which was neat. Especially since you could see some original frescos. There was a museum too! It took up pretty much the whole day and we were pretty tired by the end.

The bus rides there and back were interesting. There are so many things in Mexico that are very foreign to me and I don't know if I'd get used to how seemingly disorganized so many things are. Also, how many laws seem to be completely disregarded or maybe they don't exist - people in the aisles of buses, riding in the backs of trucks, swerving, cutting people off, ignoring red lights - totally nuts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Officially Badass

I think I do a lot of pretty cool things, you know, like getting drunk and making an ass of myself and... wait. No. But I do cool things. I went to the zoo and the Museum of Anthropology on Friday. That was pretty neat.

On Friday night Miss A, Miss J, and Miss J's novio and I went to Garibaldi plaza and saw a super kitsch Mariachi show and consumed a bottle of tequila. That was probably my most expensive day to that point, having spent over $50 dollars.

Most expensive day until yesterday when I JUMPED OUT OF A MOTHAFUCKIN' PLANE! I don't know if it was ever something I had really desired to do, not enough to go out and do it, anyway. If y'all remember a couple summers ago when I was dating Mountain Man, he was big into crazy shit like that and I witnessed him BASE jump. I think, even when it was something frequently discussed, my attitude was, "Oh, I'm just not that crazy." But when Miss J asked if I'd be interested in doing it I said yes. Then I talked it up to everyone and got all excited but without really thinking about the fact that I would be jumping out of a mothafuckin' plane. It didn't really get to me until I was in a harness and sitting in a tiny plane with no seats, cramped in with the pilot, two instructors and my friend Miss J.

Even during the plane ride up to the proper altitude I managed to calm myself, my heart wasn't beating too quickly and I was breathing regularly. Then the door opened and I was strapped to my instructor, Luis, who luckily used to be an English teacher (so I could understand what the hell was going on) and then I was told to put my leg out of the plane.

NO TURNING BACK.

That was it, I was going to be jumping out of a plane. I could feel tiny bits of ice pelting my face (good thing I had goggles) and the wind, air, whatever was hitting.

"One. Two. Three. READY. GO!"

Then I was free falling with a dude strapped to me. My stomach was who knows where in my body. I was face down, I was upside down, I was falling from a plane. Then, as I clutched my harness again, Luis released the 'chute and we were gliding. The rushing sound in my ears was gone, the feeling of impending doom was gone, and I was looking at Mexican countryside.

I got to steer a bit, pulling down on one strap or another to go right or left. I wasn't panicked at this point, I was sort of dazzled by the whole idea of floating through the sky. For my landing I gave up on the running with Luis and landed on my butt.

IT WAS AWESOME.

After that we had some beers while waiting for videos and pictures and certificates before we headed to the house of some of Miss J's friends on the lake. We had grilled meat and vegetables and had rice and tortillas and drank more beers while we looked out at the lake. There were even fireworks! Tequesquitengo knew that it was a day to celebrate!

I told this to my instructor and I believe it firmly - I've risked my life in cabs in Mexico City many times now, if I can live through that, jumping out of a plane is totally not risky. Then we had another scary drive back to Mexico (City) and we went to bed because jumping out of planes and eating a lot is tiring.

Side note:

A friend of mine spent 10 days at a silent meditation retreat, she explained to me that it was difficult to clear one's mind of all thoughts, that it took days upon days of meditation but that it was amazing to finally reach that state. I think I've found a shortcut. Jump out of a plane. I guarantee you will have no thoughts. Your medulla oblongata, the most primitive part of your brain, is in full control. Your lungs breathe, your heart beats, and apparently you can still scream.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Accompany at your own risk:

I have done a fair share of traveling in my short life - I've traveled some of the time and with companions some of the time and I guess what I'm learning is that people should accompany at their own risk.

I'm sort of particular when I travel and I'm not terribly patient.

  • Yes, I'm an American but that doesn't mean I have to go to American stores or restaurants, act like an American or advertise that I'm an American. As a matter of fact, I would rather avoid Wal-Mart, McDonald's and any actions seen as typically American. I don't think this is all that different from my behaviors while I'm in the US, though.
  • I don't want the help that is offered to me - that cute little man with the badge kindly offering a tour of the Cathedral? He wants my money. I don't want to give it to him. I know how a church works, I don't want to waste $5 for 15 minutes of bullshit. I also don't care if that is how he makes a living - there are plenty of other suckers out there who can support him. Or he could get a job that doesn't rely on my patronage.
  • I'd rather spend a minimal amount of money on things like transportation, I also like to blend with a crowd and keep up the pace. I don't want to stop and look confused, I don't need to look at every map and I will clutch my purse to me like it's full of riches, even if I only have a hundred dollars and a camera worth about as much. Don't try to sell me anything either.
  • When in a foreign country, unless that country's food is disgusting, theirs is the food I'd like to eat. I want to eat Authentic food, street food, food from family owned restaurants. I also want reasonably priced food. In many places that means cheap food.
  • If I don't speak the language, I don't speak much. I prefer to be quiet and inconspicuous. Sometimes it is impossible to be inconspicuous - like as a Guera - but I still like to keep my nationality and my preferred language to myself.
  • I try to avoid colloquialisms and slang terms - there are some things that don't translate well and if I must speak English to a non native speaker I would like to keep it simple and easy to understand.
  • I walk. A lot. I'll walk miles in a day without any particular destination. I like to just get absorbed in a culture and see what happens.
In some ways, this has made for fool proof traveling - I don't often get ripped off, I have never been robbed, I always find my way eventually and I tend to enjoy myself. Still, I can see how some of my quirks as a traveler might get on the nerves of my companions.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mi Amor!

Soy guerita.

Especially in the off season, I stand out. I am fair skinned with orange hair and I have heard on many occasions utterings of "guera," "guerita," "bonita," etc. I have also found gentlemen to be very welcoming of me and my guera friends.

It's made for an interesting trip so far. In some ways it is obnoxious and in some ways charming. Everyone begs money or tries to sell to us - we are white, we must have money!

I've also had a couple guys who became rather enamored with me. Solely based on looks since I barely speak a word of Spanish. Back home it is always my charming personality that gets me attention, in Mexico it is my white skin, blue eyes, and strawberry blonde hair. First was Piti who welcomed Miss A and me into the bar we had walked into, he pulled up seats for us and stuck around us most of the night. He tried to kiss me, too. Then while on the beach there was Geronimo. Yes, Geronimo. He had a lot of native blood and apparently does the Aztec dances at the Templo Mayor in Mexico City sometimes. He didn't speak any English and I don't speak much Spanish at all, so he made Abby translate to me how beautiful I am, he protested when I put on a skirt over my swimsuit and sunglasses over my eyes, he made hand motions that his heart beats for me and he begged for a kiss on the cheek.

Acapulco beaches were covered in people selling things and the streets of Mexico City are full. I saw a man in clown makeup juggling in front of stopped traffic and asking for money. People sell bottles of water to cars stopped at traffic lights. Speaking of traffic lights - red apparently doesn't always mean stop. People in Mexico City drive like mad men - they are all speeding and swerving and putting on their hazard lights for seemingly no meaning and blinkers mean nothing and pedestrians are merely obstacles. It's nuts. Today there was an ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring and nobody pulled aside or stopped. Remind me to not have an emergency in Mexico City.

Oh, and the food is wonderful. I know for a fact I've gained weight since I arrived since my pants are a little tighter than they were before. Hopefully all the walking in Mexico City will burn it off - I know sitting on a beach for four days with sporadic ocean swims didn't help.

One more note - most of the people in Acapulco didn't swim. I don't think they know how. We gueras were way further out in the ocean and we had some people comment about our ability to swim. Strange that people living on the ocean wouldn't be excellent swimmers.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Viva Mexico!

When you read this, I'll be in Acapulco! On the beach!

My first day in Mexico City, a half day-ish, the highlight was seeing my friend Miss J again, eating tacos at a taqueria and drinking beer - spending less than $20 for both of us to have more than we could eat and four beers to wash away the spiciness on our tongues. I had to take a brief break to cool my tongue - I anticipate I'll have killed some taste buds by the end of this trip.

My second day in Mexico City I slept in and spent some time talking to ATT about what kind of damage using my phone abroad might have. Not as bad as I had expected. Which is nice because I sent the following text messages to Miss J today:

"I might be sort of lost, but the goal is to find my way back within an hour. Near Parque Espana right now." (Not actually too far away from Roma Sur)

"I think I'm officially just lost now. Think I'm in Col. del Valle Norte and kind of wandering, looking for a good person to ask directions" (I didn't ask the dude with the eye patch)

"2 good things. Found street called Alaska and am on Medellin." (Then I went the wrong way and was on Amores before turning around and getting back on Avenida Medellin)

I was out exploring for about 4 hours and developed a nice blister on the back of my left heel. Good thing for me that I brought some slippers with fake sheep fleece inside. Much better. I only spent M$4.50 during the course of the day - on a bottle of water. That's less than $0.50 USD.

By the time I got back Miss J was done with teaching for the day and back, so she made us some soup and we were relaxing until her boyfriend came over. We went to the mall briefly and there were obscene amounts of people. While walking around I had been surprised at how few people I saw on the streets (relative to the population of 20 million) but they are all in cars. And in the mall, apparently.

It's been raining since I arrived, apparently residents of Mexico City think they will melt and try to stay inside or they carry around large umbrellas.

Some little things that show that this isn't as developed as the US (though some in Alaska do live pretty simple lives in cabins and whatnot) there are frequent power outages (more than we see in Juneau and unrelated to avalanches) and to get hot water you light the pilot light in the furnace only when you want hot water, rather than keeping your water constantly hot. To be honest, I think it might not be such a bad idea - but I'm a big tree-hugging hippie if you ask my dad.

More later. When I return from beach vacation within vacation!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friends in... places. Part II: To friend or not to friend.

I have a blog - you know this, you are reading it. I guess it would only make sense that I am also an avid social networker, using sites like facebook and twitter - I even still dabble in myspace.

I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, inflamed by my recent trip home. To friend or not to friend?

I've run into a number of people I haven't seen since high school. Some I've kept in touch with through some means or another, others I haven't but was pleasantly surprised to see, still others with whom I am perfectly happy to have parted ways.

I am curious, though. What are they doing now? Since high school, it seems that nobody cares much for the old social circles we once kept. The popular kids are friends with the stoners, the preppies are mingling with the punk rockers, the kids who graduated in 2000 are hanging out with the kids who graduated in 2005, etc. But that's here. These people run into each other at the bars or the market or wherever. I am living thousands of miles away and wondering occasionally at the faces popping up in the right hand column of my facebook home page as "suggested users."

That girl who was in my class - she's married? And that one has a kid! That guy right there, he is doing what? It's not like I want to be friends with these people or anything - but can I wait until the ten year reunion to sate this morbid curiosity?

Do people wonder what I'm doing? For my sake, I hope not. My current status of "technically unemployed" isn't terribly impressive.

The question remains and I will ask you, my dear reader(s): To friend or not to friend? Do you friend old high school acquaintances? Even those you haven't seen since then?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Friends in... places.

I have spent almost a full week in the ol' home town. Redmond, Oregon. It's been nearly two years since I had been here last. Back in April 2008, maybe.

It's always slightly strange to be back, having spent most of the past 7 years in other parts of the state, the country or the Western Hemisphere. I came this time mostly just to see my sister and her new baby. When I say mostly I mean entirely. I was really happy to spend time with my sisters, happy to see my parents, excited to see some old friends - but it was really about Mr. and Mrs. M and baby J.

Since being here I managed to spend at least an hour every day with my sister and my nephew, usually several hours. I saw Necktie Killer play on Wednesday night with my friend Mr. A. It made me feel pretty nostalgic for the days when SKA music was big. I saw Mad Caddies in concert once at the Meow Meow in Portland, Oregon - I don't even think the Meow Meow is still around. I also took my youngest sisters to pizza and to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is great because it is suitable for children but is clever and witty and Wes Anderson for me. I also hit up some stores we don't have in Juneau - I never thought I'd be so excited to enter a target store. And tonight I spent the last of my time with family and the rest of my night with old friends and friends of my sister and her husband. I danced with some of the groomsmen from their wedding and wished one of my sister's oldest friends a happy birthday. All while rocking out to Larry and His Flask - a band I've seen grow up. A LOT. I recall seeing some of these guys play at a battle of the bands at an assembly in high school. Two years ago I saw them playing at a house party. This time, seeing them play, I was amazed. They've taken their punk rock energy and combined it with some slightly country roots. They went from all electric to all acoustic instruments, replacing the electric guitars with honey colored acoustic guitars, replacing the sleek electric bass with an upright bass, adding a banjo and a mandolin. I wish I could better describe it. Anyway, I'm going to do what I can to get those guys to Juneau. I think they'd be well received.

I leave in only a few hours to head to Mexico. Redmond - LAX - Mexico City. The real vacation starts then!