Bonjour, Genève

I arrived in Geneva this morning to see my friend Sima, who I met in Montreal a long time ago. Better not to count the years back, at least in public. I will stay here a week or so. Sima and I don’t really have a plan, but it will involve a little of me on my own, since she has to work next week.

Here’s a little globalization for you. All through my trip to Guatemala, I was haunted by this annoying song called Gasolina. It’s like the song for the Macarena, but about gasoline. Well, if you listen to the lyrics and the interplay between the man and the woman, it’s pretty clear she’s not at a gas station when she chants, “Give me more gasoline!” Ahem.

So I turn on the TV here and start flipping channels looking for the cable TV channel that shows endless feeds from CCTV cameras on the tops of mountains all over the Swiss Alps. Can’t find it on this trip. But what song did I find on TV? Gasolina.

I’m really looking forward to Virgin Galactic getting off the ground so I can get off this stupid planet and escape that stupid song.

I will send out another update later today (bilingual, maybe trilingual, in honor of Geneva’s French speakers). I’ll tell you all how the first half of my trip to England went, including my RedR training.

Mi primera clase de RedR

Hoy tomé mi primera clase de RedR. Este clase se llama “¿Etonces, piensas querer trabajar como ayuda humanitaria?”

En sentido estricto, no era necessario, porque yo se querer trabajar como ayudar humanitaria. Pero visitaba Londres en cualquier caso, etonces uno mas clase era facìl para atender.

Eran muchas ingenieros civiles allì, y algunos ayudantes de sanidad. Pero eran poco trabajadores de informatic, solamente yo y uno otre. Estoy comenzando a pensar que debo haber sido ingeniero civil.

Un hombre de MSF hablò hoy. Estaba muy intersante, pero porque he estudiando mucho sobre MSF, no aprendì mucho de èl. Interesante, él dio el mismo consejo como la mujer en Nuevo York: no es necessario aprendo muchos antes solicitar. Tambien, dijo no es necessario hablar dos idiomas, pero pienso es muy importante para MSF-US. Quizas MSF-US receibe muchas mas solicitaciones que MSF-UK. Pero trabajo voluntario es mas comun en Inglaterra. No entiendo.

Mañana, voy a visitar “East Anglia”. No se donde, porque no he hecho mi tarea todavìa. Necesito decidir quel ciudades voy a visitar Domingo y Lunes. Lunes en la noche, voy a colocarme con RedR y voy a domir en Leiston Abbey.

In English

Today I took my first class from RedR. This class is called “So, you think you want to be a relief worker?”.

Strictly speaking, I did not need to take it, because I know I want to be a relief worker. But I was visiting London anyway, so one more class was easy to attend.

There were lots of civil engineers there, and some health workers. There were few IT workers, only me and one other guy. I am beginning to think I should have been a civil engineer.

A guy from MSF spoke today. It was pretty interesting, but because I have studied a lot about MSF, I did not learn much from him. Interestingly, he gave the same advice that the woman at MSF-NY gave: it is not necessary to learn a lot of things before applying. Also, he said it is not necessary to speak two languages, but I think it is very important to MSF-US. Perhaps MSF-US receives many more applications than MSF-UK. But doing voluntary work is much more common in the UK. I don’t get it.

Tomorrow, I will visit East Anglia. I don’t know where because I have not yet done my homework. I need to decide which cities to visit Sunday and Monday. Monday evening, I will check in with RedR and sleep at Leiston Abbey.

Rest at the Cabin, on to London

I just enjoyed a few days with my parents up at the cabin. I got lots of my stuff cleaned up and ready for a new trip. Mom and I cooked one of my favorite dishes we cook together (Vegetarian Lasagne). Dick and I finished cleaning up the lot so that it is ready for the summer fire season.

Alas, my cold did not abate.

I’m on my way to London in a few hours now!

Heading home

According to Karl, who is picking me up at the airport tomorrow night, I am flying home tomorrow to SFO.

So ends several days in Mexico City, and over two months in Guatemala and Mexico.

My time in Mexico City has been spent on three things: feeling a little crappy, being hassled moving around the city, and seeing cool stuff. So in absolute terms, I guess it was more bad than good, but it doesn’t feel that way.

The feeling crappy part started about the time I arrived. The first couple days I wasn’t having typical traveler problems, but felt like I was right on the edge, and didn’t really want to eat. Of course, not eating will also make you feel crappy, so it was a no win situation. Then I got a cold. I think the worst is over on the cold now, but I just need to take it easy and make it go away before I arrive in London. I think I’ve been average, or maybe a little under average sick compared to other people traveling in the same regions, so I consider myself lucky.

Getting safely cooked food in Mexico City is actually pretty easy, if you keep your eyes open and don’t eat at the first place you see. I prefer places where I can see the entire cooking process, and dishes that come right off the grill or out of the fryer. If you can watch the food for the 5 seconds between when it leaves 300 degrees and you start to eat it, it is hard to see how it will get contaminated without your knowledge.

While we are on the topic of food, I need to admit to the most dangerous food I ate on the trip… twice (twice! like I couldn’t learn from the first time!) I bought chicken salad sandwiches from the vendors who crowd onto chicken buses. The chicken salad was, to put it charitably, luke warm. In both cases, I was hungry enough to eat it, but thinking back on it now I cannot fathom how I could have possibly been that hungry. Neither time did I get directly sick from them, but they might have contributed to generic malaise.

On the way to the Metro I pass a place that sells oysters. They sit out on a table all day without any ice. It about gives me food poisoning just looking at them! I advert my eyes and hustle past.

The street hawkers in Mexico City are no worse than anywhere else, but because the city is so big and it takes a long time to get places, you are exposed to them for way more time than other places. Nothing about using the buses or the metro is tricky, but it just takes time and it gets old. Stack on top of that the constant need to be vigilant against pickpockets and worse (for Mom’s sake we won’t go into it here, but if you really want to know, read what the State Department says). With all that, it is just a pain to travel anywhere other than from my bed to the living room of the hostel.

But when you get to the destinations, they are neat!

The opera house, where I saw the Ballet Folklorico last night was one of the coolest art deco buildings I have ever had a good look at. There are pre-Hispanic influences in the art deco styling! I saw a couple of elements (a light and a door) that I would kill to have in my house someday. Not my beloved 43 Arch, though. Putting art deco stuff in a Craftsman bungalo has got to be some kind of sin up there with coveting another person’s… art deco lamp. This house will have to be next door in San Carlos, where there are a couple art deco structures on the main street of town. The lamp I loves so much looks like a set piece from Frankenstein, but in luxiourious brass with a marble base. I should have tried to grab it. (Well, maybe not. Did I mention it was over 20 feet tall?)

The museums here are first rate. The way they display the sun stone (which used to be called the Azte calendar stone) is just really incredible. It is hanging up on a wall over all the other stuff in the room. It appears that the architect designed the building for that artifact alone!

Today I went to Xochomilco, where there are boats in canals and pretty nursuries on the shore. The canals are supposed to be leftover from Tenoctitlan, but I’m not convinced. It seems to me that over 500 years, the canals would change just a bit. But it wasn’t difficult to imagine how the agriculture of the old city worked. The other cool thing was how the culture of the Mexican street vendors transfered onto boats in order to cater to the people on boat tours. There was the Polaroid Camera boat guy, the kitchen-on-a-boat, which tied up to your tour boat turning it into a restaurant-on-a-boat. And of course the ever popular mariachis-on-a-boat. We saw a big party that had over 100 people. They were in 8 or more boats tied together into a raft so big, other boats had trouble passing on the edges!

Tomorrow I head home in the afternoon. I will get to the airport way early to make sure everything is cool. In the morning, I might try to slip in one more sightseeing walk or something, depending on how I am feeling.

Now would be a good time to post some concluding remarks about how my trip changed me as an individual or some bullshit. But really, I just picked up a few more skills for how to take care of myself in countries other than the US and Europe. I made good progress on learning Spanish, but I have thousands of words to learn still. I met nice people, but none that are going to change my life (yet). I arranged the next two steps of my journey towards getting a new job in the humanitarian aid world. So pretty much, mission accomplished.

I didn’t have any mystical experiences in the Mayan world that convinced me it was my new home. I’m looking forward to doing the job I arranged for myself in San Pedro, but I’m not longing to return there or anything. It would be fun to bring friends and family to some of the places I saw in Guatemala, which would also give me a way to use some of my travel and language skills.

I had a lot of time to think about what I missed from home, and the answers were not entirely surprising. That thinking, which I don’t really have ready for written words yet, is in tune with the change I am in the middle of making in my life, so there’s no radical adjustments I need to make, instead I need to just keep plugging away at my todo list.

And shake this stupid cold. Sniff.

In Puebla

It is the weekend, so I’ve decided I don’t have to write in Spanish. Also I am in a bit of a hurry, so here’s what I’ve been up to the last few days.

I spent several relaxing days in Oaxaca. I spent a morning doing museums. I found an artist I think Evi would like. I kept hoping some of his seascapes would have a sailboat instead of big passenger ships, but no luck. I think it was Francisco Guiterrez, but I’m not very good at rememberinbg artist names.

The museum of culture in Oaxaca was really neat. It is in a freshly restored church that was occupied by the Mexican army for many years. It is really beautiful. The pieces show how the native people lived before the conquest, then showed how the indigenous people merged their culture with the Spanish one in order to survive, and in fact thrive. It showed several trades where the natives picked up the skills and technology, then outcompeted the Spanairds themselves, by making better stuff, cheaper.

Conquest reminds me… I was talking about a girl I wanted to date. My teacher told me in Spanish, “Good luck on your conquest!” I thought she was kidding, but they really do use the same word for conquest and for “successfully woo a girl”. I think I need to investigate this phenomena more…

I also went to Monte Alban, which was like all ruins everywhere, essentially hot rocks. But the views were really good, so I was glad I went.

Yesterday I arrived in Puebla, and when I got off the bus I met a Japanese girl that was on my bus too. She and I shared a cab in to the city, and then ended up sharing a room to save money since there were only two-bed rooms in the hotel. We are going out to dinner with a friend of hers who lives here tonight.

Tomorrow I will take a bus in the morning to Mexico City. I think I will meet up with a girl I met in San Cristobal. She’s heading north towards Mexico City too right now. Our flights leave within a day or so, so we are pretty much destined to be travel buddies in Mexico, a city where it is especially helpful to have someone watch your back. Mexico City is probably as dangerous as Guatemala, at least for foreigners, but the problem is there are things to see in Mexico City, so people go there and spend time there. Guatemala City, on the other hand, is on really big, noisy, dangerous bus terminal, at least for travelers.

Oh, one more thing: I saw a railroad museum in Oaxaca, and one here in Puebla too. The one here had more cars, but less interesting artifacts to look at. Both were free, which was nice.

Miré Palenque, ahora en Oaxaca

Anteayer, pensé no visitar Oaxaca porque el viajar allí tomaría demasiada hora. Pero encontré un bus de la noche de Palenque a Oaxaca. Etonces, llegé en Palenque para los 8 horas de la mañana y salí a los 5 horas de la tarde. Dos noches en buses serían mortal en Guatemala, pero el buses de Mexico son mucho mas confortable que lo. De hecho, los buses de Mexico son mas confortable que todos lo que voy.

¡Palenque fue excelente! El professor de India (Ananta Giri) y yo viajamos en junto de San Cristobal. Alquilamos un chambre, porque guardar para bagaje fue muy caro. Llegamos a Palenque bastante tarde para formar un grupo para emplear un guía. La clima fue buena, y Ananta y yo nos sentamos y hablamos sobre los templos. Antes regresamos de Palenque, Ananta y yo nos separamos. Tomé un duche y salí por bus a Oaxaca.

Veía Oaxaca solamente un mañana ahora, etonces no veía mucho. Disgraciadamente, el zocolo es cerrado para reparar. Esparo tomar un tour a bicicleta por dos dias en el campo. Nesicito tres mas personas. Posiblemente, voy a encontrar ellos aquí en la Magic Hostel de Oaxaca.

In English

The day before yesterday, I thought I would not visit Oaxaca because the trip there would take too many hours. But I found a night bus from Palenque to Oaxaca. So I arrived in Palenque at 8am and left at 5pm. Two nights on a bus in Guatemala would be deadly, but Mexico’s buses are much more comfortable than Guatemala’s. In fact, the buses of Mexico are more comfortable than any I have ever ridden.

Palenque was excellent! The professor from India (Ananta Giri) and I traveled together from San Cristobal. We rented a room because storing bags was really expensive. We arrived at Palenque too late to form a group to hire a guide. The climate was great and Ananta and I sat and talked on top of the temples. After we returned from Palenque, Ananta and I parted company. I took a shower and left via bus for Oaxaca.

I have seen Oaxaca only one morning, so I have not seen much. Unfortunately the zocolo (town square) is closed for repair. I hope to take a bicycle tour for two days in the country. I need three more people. Possibly I will find them here in the Magic Hostel.

Todavia en San Cristobal

Hoy estoy todavia en San Cristobal de las Casas. Tambien, no tengo dicionaire, pero decidí no es una buena excusa. Etonces, hoy posible esta diario es un poco mas malo, pero esta es solamente para mi mente.

Algunas veces una hospedaje tiene personas muy interasante. Aquí en Backpackers Hostel, estan un chico y una chica de ingleterra quien quieren viajar a Tejas, después alquilar un carro y conducir a Alaska. Tambien, lo tiene un hombre de un universidad en Chennai, India quien escribía muchos libros. Y tambien una chica de ingleterra quien quiere trabajar como un nutritionalista en paises quel necesitan ayudar para desarrollo.

El professor y yo vamos a viajar a Palenque esta noche. Antes, vamos a cocinar curry en junto (con los otros tambien).

In English

Today I am still in San Cristobal de las Casas. Again, I don’t have my dictionary with me but I have decided that is no excuse. So, today it is possible this diary entry is a little worse than usual, but it is coming only from my brain.

Sometimes a hostel has really interesting people. Here in Backpackers Hostel, there is a couple from England who will travel to Texas and rent a car there and then drive to Alaska. There is also a professor from Chennai, India here who has written lots of books. And a girl from England who wants to be a nutritionist in developing countries.

The professor and I will travel to Palenque this evening. Before, we will cook curry together, including the other folks.