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.

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