Monday, December 21, 2009

Your name has come to put me in mind
of a dot on a map, the name of a place
I haven't been in years.

There are towns I've lived in and loved
but left behind, for whatever reason.
I return, months later, and names of streets
have changed; I don't remember the shortcuts;
my favorite spots have become hard to find.

Once, I built a nice warm home
on your shoulder. I went to church
in the crook of your neck, my favorite dive bar
a dimly lit joint on your upper thigh. Live music
all the time and the best drinks in town.
But I've been away for some months now and wonder:
When I go back to visit, will I remember
the shortcuts? The backroads? The best hill
to ride my bike down? Will I find it only
to feel the wind in my face just once, strong and wild,
right before I have to leave?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I fly home tomorrow.

I leave my house at 10:30 AM because I found a couple to split the two hundred peso cab ride with, so that's worth it. My flight doesn't leave until almost 3pm though. Good thing all the books are in my carry-on. I layover in Phoenix or something and land in Memphis Tennessee at 11:54 PM. My father will pick me up and we'll go straight to the Beale Street Blues City Cafe for a whole mess of ribs and tamales, but not the kind of tamales I've been eating here, these are ridiculous southern-style wrapped in parchment paper and boiled in spices, and we'll eat baked beans and slaw and Texas goddamned toast and drive home miserably full and sleep until I can't anymore.

I'm walking much better now. Still a little hobbly, but you won't hear any complaining from me. I still feel like I won a prize. But I will be coughing up whatever they want to ask for luggage carts, you can bet on that.

I said goodbye to my piano teacher today. I can't believe I failed to put him on the list of things I'll miss. I've been adding to those lists, things I'll miss and things I can't wait to get back to, in my head over the past week or so as my departure sneaks up. Lately he's been playing this nocturna by Chopin, his last I think, and loves to tell me the story about how Chopin's girlfriend used to lie underneath the piano while Chopin would write songs... "EE-MAH-HEE-NAH-TAY" he says, 'Imagine!' Then, "No manches!" the way of saying, get out, no way, ridiculous, you've got to be kidding. And his eyes get all full of water because of the beauty of life and music.

Lately he's been saying I can't go. He's goign to get a chain, he says, and a lock, and I won't be able to leave.

Telling him goodbye today was the saddest thing I've done since I can't even tell you when. I didn't cry like this when I left my father or my puppy to come here. I think because he's so old and fragile, and the odds that I'll ever see him again are so slim. I practiced for a while, and he came in and visited a bit, and when I was done I went to tell him goodbye and his face was just like... heartbreaking. We hugged, I told him I'd miss him more than anyone, that I hate saying goodbye, and thanks for everything he taught me. But he couldn't talk and ended up kinda pushing me out so he could close the door.

I'm crying now. I've been crying off and on all day. The thing is, I have gone and practiced piano there every single weekday with very very few misses. He's been an absolute inspiration in that he got me back interested in an instrument I played for eleven years and then hardly touched for twelve. And he didn't just guide me and teach me about music. He's been the kindest person I knew here. And he's so ancient, so old and fragile, and the odds that I'll make it back here aren't super high. I mean, it's possible; I finally made it back to Barcelona after five years. But does he have five years? What if it's ten?

I'm so mixed up. After leaving school I went to the center, to go to the Mercado San Juan de Dios one last time, this huge indoor market downtown. I wandered around, looking for I didn't know what, last minute somethings to give people. I got some bracelets for my cousins' wives and my aunt. I got a jersey for myself, for the national futbol team, and a cute top that's very Mexican. I got some copal to burn for incense, since I loved it so much on Day of the Dead. I got some other nonsense to give away. I ran into some friends from school and we hugged and got sentimental. I tried to eat some pozole but it just didn't go over well, my belly was too sad, and I ended up giving it to this hungry old lady and little girl.

I want to go home. I want to see my family and friends and dog and house. And I want to keep practicing in the music building every day and see my maestro and go find amazing cheap food on every street corner and speak Spanish all the time. It's not possible to have both. I've complained about attitudes I've encountered in this conservative catholic macho country, but now that it's time to leave ...

I'm out of words.

I still owe you the story of my pilgrimage to Mexico City and Fridalandia. Hopefully tomorrow will be completely boring and uneventful and I'll get home and tell you once I'm settled there.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How I almost died. Or worse.

The thing of this story is, I didn't do anything crazy. It's not like the time I went to Mexico City all by myself, and while I was there met this random guy who seemed sincere so I hopped on his motorcycle. Whoops, sorry, Dad. I'll tell you the whole story soon.

No, in this story I'm really responsible. I met three amazing kids here locally through a girl who's been my friend the whole four month stay. They're her neighbors. I was talking about how I wanted to go back to the beach before I left. One of them asked, Which beach? I said, I guess Vallarta. I've been there, I enjoyed it, I know the hostel... this kid says, No, Vallarta's the worst beach in Mexico. I know a beautiful one. We'll go. I say, if Vallarta's the worst beach in Mexico, I can't wait to see what you're gonna show me because Vallarta suited me just fine.

We left on "Mexican time." Which means, I was freaking out because they said we should leave midday and I got there at almost one. We left at two thirty. But it was a beautiful drive, just gorgeous. Amazing mountain ranges the whole way, and mountains on one side with dusty plains on the other with warning signs about dust storms and we could see the stuff flying through the air and huge bridges that went over enormous valleys in between two mountains and we got to look out on all sides and bridges that went over banana tree fields and then lookouts when we got to the coast, and I got to go through two real Mexican military checkpoints set up for narcotraficantes. Beautiful pueblos and nature and everything, man, just an epic drive.

We finally made it to the spot, after a stop off in the last market on the way there, all open air and kids with no shoes and stuff, and made it to La Llorona beach, so named because the sand is kinda magical. When you walk on it, because of how fine it is and the compression, it sounds like sneakers on a gym floor. Or, alternatively, someone crying if you really want to stretch your imagination. Hence, La Llorona, the crying woman. I guess looking back now that should have been ominous. Whoops.

It was pitch black because it's started getting dark by 7 here now. We set up the tent and the bedding and commenced to a-drinkin. Don't get nervous here, the bad part doesn't happen until I'm sober again. They had tequila and I had whiskey. They wanted to be all fancy and mix drinks, meanwhile I'm like, I'MA SHOW Y'ALL HOW WE DO IT DOWN SOUTH. We all laid around on the beach watching stars and clouds, picking out shapes, until the moon came out and chased all the clouds away and lit the whole place up like it was noon. Just gorgeous man. We're nestled in between these two big hills right on the edge of the water with this long beautiful beach... seriously. It was one of those moments where I think... in my past life, I was either a saint or a war hero or found some cure for some disease or...

Hung out and enjoyed life until it was just Time To Sleep, at which point I did. We woke up... to the sound of rain. Not hard rain, more of a sprinkling, but just enough to keep us from going out from under the palm-leaf roof thing they had set up for everyone to camp under. The lady who owned the place made us a mean breakfast of scrambled eggs with pico and some mashed black beans and fresh made tortillas and quesadillas oh my lord for thirty pesos god bless her. We got full, watched surfers trying to manage the crazy waves, laid around, started packing the car back up, got lazy and took naps. Woke up to Paulina going, the sun's out! Quick! We have to use this time while we have it!

Everyone got ready and Carlos said he had the perfect place for us to swim because it was just so beautiful we wouldn't believe it. He was right. There were several tall lumps of rock on the way there that looked more like art sculptures than nature (but isn't the best of either always kinda both?). When we got to "the spot," there was one particular tall lump of rock that jutted on out. It was actually quite beautiful to watch the water crash up against it and swirl around. We stood there just watching everything for a minute, then Carlos started to swim and I started getting jealous. If you know me at all you know how I love being in water. I jumped in.

Oh, and I just got ecstatic. Just being in the water, moving around, splashing. Letting the waves pick me up and move me around. I must have paddled away from shore no more than five or six good strokes. Then I turned around.

Fucking shore was gone man. I had ended up in some crazy current that was going nowhere but out to sea and taking me with it. I mean it was there, but it was far, and the people on it were quite tiny.

I got nervous. Not panicky, but concerned. I started trying to paddle back but was really only succeeding in staying put. Since then I have learned that when you're in what is called something like a "rip tide" or "rip current" or something like that, your best bet is to swim sideways until you're out of it and *then* go to shore. Which is funny, because it's what I instinctively tried to do when going back wasn't getting me anywhere. I started getting closer to the rocks. Oh great, I thought, that'll work fine. If I can get some footing over there I can just climb my way back to shore.

But I was getting closer and closer really friggin fast. And then I started noticing, now up close and personal, what exactly the water was doing when it got to those rocks. It was smashing and crashing and swirling around like it really just wanted a rag doll to seriously fuck with. And here I was coming, completely against my will.

I kinda had a little flash back. Once, when I was 7 years old, or thereabouts, my family went to Virginia Beach. We had a little floaty raft. I was small enough that I could stand on it and surf a little and I really enjoyed it. I had this great idea that if I went further out, I could catch the wave earlier and somehow it would be bigger when it got to shore. It made perfect sense at the time. But I got to this point where the waves weren't coming in anymore. They were going nowhere but out, and they were taking me with them. I got really calm, though, because the other option, which is to panick, wasn't going to get me anywhere. I tried paddling back, I tried to touch the bottom, I tried and tried but it wasn't working. So, I decided to save my strength because I would need it on my long trip across the ocean. I would have to eat fish on the way, even though I don't like them, and I'd have to eat them raw, but I'd heard people did that in other countries so I'd probably live. Hopefully a boat would find me but if not, when I landed, I'd just try to find the American Embassy to get home.

Then I looked back at shore and saw my father and a lifeguard running out to get me. And they did. And I got to go back home and eat real cooked food that I liked with my real family on land. It was pretty nice.

But here, in Mexico, at La Llorona, there is no daddy. There is no lifeguard. There's just me, the waves, and the rocks, and the three friends I came with who may or may not even have noticed what's going on. I looked at the waves as they did what they did on those rocks and I thought about what they were about to do to my body.

I got really calm. Because, once again, the only other option, which is to freak out, isn't going to help at all. I thought about how I could die. I was mostly sad about how I would be letting down my family and friends so bad, dying right before I was about to fly home. I thought about how bummed out they'd be, and how I'd never finish college like I thought I was finally about to. I thought about that, and then I thought about how I could live but end up paraplegic, which actually seemed worse. It was somehow calming to know that death wasn't the worst possible thing that could happen.

I tried to think about everything Lake Ouachita had taught me. I knew it wasn't worth it to try to keep my eyes open underwater. I'd just lose my contacts and be unable to see anyway, so I resolved to keep them closed. I knew that I was always more buoyant when I took in a big gulp of air, and since the water would probably have me swirling around underneath a bit I'd need it. I resolved to try and stay as horizontal as possible so maybe I could stay near the surface, and at all costs to try and keep my head up. I took a gulp just as the wave sucked me in to the rocks.

That's about all I know for a bit. I know I got swirled around and banged three good sessions in total, and I know at one point, in between swirl-bangs, I got to go back up for a much needed breath. As I gulped in air again, I took in some water, but I was immediately back underwater and had the presence of mind not to choke or gasp while I was underwater. I toughed it out. I really wanted to live.

Before I knew it, I felt sand under my feet. I pushed up and got air again. I was on the shore somehow! But I couldn't make it out just yet. I was super high from adrenaline and really hurt all over from the bashings. I tried to push toward land when the wave was going in, and to lose as little ground as possible when they were going back out. They were pretty strong waves. As I finally was able to stand, I watched the faces of the two kids on shore go shocked and their mouths drop open. I looked down.

I was covered in scratches and gashes and they were all leaking blood. I looked awful. What I just went through really started to set in as the adrenaline faded and I started getting weak. I got just far enough away from the waves and laid down. Paulina rushed over and asked did I want her to try and stop the bleeding. I said sure, grab my white shirt, it was free. I just laid there while she dabbed and blotted. She assessed which ones were actually deep and which were mostly superficial.

Then the boys came over. They said, does this mean you're done swimming? The salt water will help close the wounds.

I said, look, y'all swim all you want but I need to get back to camp and chill out for a minute.

Paulina walked me back, god bless her. Got there and went to the showers and washed all the wounds with soap and water. Remembered I had neosporin in my bag for lord knows what reason so I grabbed it and started covering myself. My whole left side is scratched from toe to tit, my right side has a little scratching on the foot and leg, and my right hand is really whacked. Typing's tough, we'll see how I do on the piano tomorrow.

The boys made it back eventually. Said they'd stood there for a minute watching the waves over the rocks and said I was actually really lucky. I said boy howdy do I ever know it. We ate lunch, tuna salad on tostadas, and eventually I felt good enough to walk back to the beach where we built a sandcastle and I sat in the waves for a minute, letting them wash my wounds. We strolled back to the scene of the crime and watched the waves go apeshit a little more. Went back and started our final packup and I realized there was just one shot left in my bottle of whiskey.

I took the bottle down to the shore. I walked out just enough for the waves to be washing over my feet and poured it out. I said to the ocean, Thank you so much for letting me live. Thank you so much for letting me make it out as intact as I am. I love you. I love you. Thank you.

The waves got stronger. They started pulling on me and before I knew it I was knee deep. Don't be so confident, young lady, the ocean said. I may be water but that doesn't mean you know me as well as you might think. I'm different everywhere. Be more careful.

Okay, I said. I'm sorry. Thank you. I respect you. I made my way back out of the water and back up to shore. Got in the car, still in my swim suit because I'm sorry clothes would hurt way too much. We made it back to Guadalajara, I took a shower and passed the fuck out. Spent all day in bed today because the real bone and muscle ache has set in but I'm so glad to be alive, to have all my limbs working. To not have let you all down this close to coming home. I swear, sometimes I think in a past life I must have been a saint or a war hero or something...

Monday, November 23, 2009


...until I fly home. So I'm taking stock.

First of all, what I will miss.

1) The food. It is so delicious, nearly all of it across the board, and also quite cheap, again, nearly across the board. The cafetería here on campus? I can go in there and get the most delicious sandwich on a grilled 'bocadillo' loaf with delicious marinated 'pierna' meat, chorizo, and queso blanco and by the way they put crema and frijoles on the bread then lettuce, tomato, and avocado and then I load it up with onions and cilantro and some dank salsa rojo and also I get a delicious refillable glass of horchata or jamaica or melon water or limonada or tamarind water or whatever choices they have made that day... for thirty pesos or less. Or maybe I get a couple of barbacoa tacos and a quesadilla with vegetables. Still about thirty pesos. Or maybe I go to the other side of the line and get the complete meal with soup, my choice of two entrees, my choice of two of the three sides, bread, dessert, and a delicious agua fresca for only forty pesos. Oh salad too. Tacos in the street are cheap. A huge soup of pozole that I shared with a friend and we couldn't finish between the two of us was thirty pesos. Just for point of reference, it's about thirteen pesos to the dollar. This will make me very sad when I come home to my own cafeteria.

2) The weather. It's November 23 and the high today was mid to low seventies. It's just starting to drop leaves and dry grass around here. A little chilly in the nights, in the mornings, but hot midday. Coming home to winter will be quite a shock.

3) Being able to do this by pressing only one key on my keyboard:
Being able to do this by pressing only two keys on my keyboard ó¡äêù
Some of these keyboards, I accidentally hit a key sometimes and the c with a little squiggle tail comes out. Not sure how that happens still.

Things I can't wait to have/do upon my return:
1) Hug my daddy
2) Cuddle my puppy
3) Eat ribs
4) Eat Memphrican tamales
5) Eat a steak that is more than a quarter inch thick
6) Be with family for Christmas
7) Spend time in my father's house
8) Drive a car. Drive *my* car.
9) Walk in the door of my own house.
10) Sleep in my own bed
11) Spend time naked because I won't be sharing a room or a house.
12) Masturbate without worrying someone's gonna walk in on me.
13) Be on my own campus again
14) OMG SEE ALL MY BELOVED FRIENDS at the cuddle slumber party I'll throw upon my return.
15) Stand in my kitchen...

The cruise was great. Not at all what I expected, but still very very cool. Got to go to two countries I'd never seen before: Belize and Honduras.

Went to the center to buy a new suitcase so I'll be able to bring home all the presents I got people. Then got home and remembered more people I still need to buy presents for. Whoops.

This last two weeks of school is going to be pretty busy. Everyone cramming in tests and papers all at the last minute.

This weekend I hope to go to see Frida's houses.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I should have updated about by now:

1) Wed Oct 28, the trip to the Hacienda, the ruins at Guachimontones, hanging with the Mexican kids, and then getting ridiculously drunk with all sorts of exchange students in the closed restaurant our Chinese friend worked at where they showed us some serious Chinese hospitality and we played in the playground afterward.

2) Going to Morelia last weekend to see what they do for day of the dead there.

3) Hooking up an Altar for my dead friend Lucie with the help of some exchange kids.

But right now I'm packing to go on the cruise for a week, so that probably won't happen.

What I miss

When I first get back to my own home,
I will climb into my bed, big as the ocean
and begin to nap. I will sleep
until I cannot force myself to sleep any more
and apologize to no one. My dog will sleep
right there on the bed with me and we will both
sleep the best we have in months.

My second day back in my own home
I will wake up and take a shower and I will not
put on a stitch of clothing. I will make calls,
business calls, get the land line turned on,
get internet in the house again, get the bills
sent back to my own address instead of my fathers,
turn on my netflix account. I will then
watch at least two movies and call for a pizza.
I will tape the money to the door with a note:
"Set the pizza down. Knock. Go back to your car.
Today I cannot be convinced to put on clothes."

My third day back in my own home, I believe,
I will love myself several times in a row,
as frequently as I please, and I will be
loud about it. No one will complain.
When I feel the need to do something
that some might consider rude, like burp
or fart, I shall also do that just as loud
as I please. There's a chance my dog
might look at me funny, but lord knows
he does it too. I will leave my dishes
in the sink and I will lay in the floor
and I will listen to loud music and I will
still be naked by the way and I will cook
naked too and watch movies naked and then

I will put on some clothes and invite over
everyone I have ever loved and throw every pillow
I own into a pile in the floor and say,
Friends, here is where we cuddle. I missed you.
And it will be almost as if I had never left
except there will be Mexican artwork on the walls.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Before we talk about the word's prominence in everyday Mexican speech, we should talk about what it means.

LA ONDA is a noun, meaning 'the wave.' ONDAR, then, is the infinitive verb, meaning to wave, or to make waves. When someone says -¿Qué onda?- they're literally asking you "What's waving?" Then they'll tell me I'm "buena onda" myself, which is kinda like good vibes. They'll say a place has the buena onda, or say that they're looking for the buena onda.

Well damnit. I too am looking for the buena onda.

Thought we'd found it Friday night. Well, maybe we did, but I lost it since then. Got invited by a VERY handsome boy, in fact the same futbol player I've been checking out for some time, to a bar. I brought a huge gaggle of exchange girls, mostly Korean, then American, and a Canadian. We danced and had a great time, but he didn't talk to me much. I was a little disappointed, since it's obvious I have a big honkin crush on him, but was more pleased by everyone in the bar. We all agreed that it was the first place we'd been that the other girls there weren't stabbing eye-daggers at us the whole time. In fact, while dancing, we'd frequently look up and catch some looking at us, but they'd be smiling! Friendly and shit! One girl even had a whole conversation with us, she was so so kind. The guys there seemed more interested in talking to us and getting to know us and having fun than being creepy. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Woke up Saturday and laid around lazy for a few hours. Kiki talked Cory and I into wanting to go see a movie, so we walked to the plaza nearby and caught Funny People, or as they call it here, Siempre Hay Tiempo Para Reir. It sucked so hard! Unanimously agreed. Went back home and I got ready to go over to Melissa's for another sleepover weekend.

That's the thing about waves, you know? They're always rising and falling, coming in and making their way back out to sea. So had a pretty good time overall Friday night, but then the movie sucked, and I went to Melissa's only to find out that her roommate, instead of going with us to the gay bar, would be going out with some other friends. What should we do? we asked each other, and sat there trying to brainstorm for some time. Just as we were about to give up, that silly new song, 'I gotta feeling... that tonight's gonna be a good night...' came on the radio and her phone rang. It was a boy who, along with his friend, wanted to know did we want to go to a house party. Well yes! So we got ready and were out the door in fifteen minutes.

They picked us up. They were handsome. They bought drinks to take to the party. We got there ... and really didn't see them much for the rest of the night. If I took two hot foreign chicks to a party, I'm sorry, I'd keep an eye on them girls. Not just because we're fabulous, but because they brought us and we didn't know ANYONE. But then the ONDAS shifted, and a super nice girl named Nadia came up and introduced herself. We chatted and just fell in love with her and the friends she introduced us to. Things started winding down early by Mexican standards - the music stopped at midnight, I reckon because of neighbors. As we were out front, Melissa and I, talking with a few boys we'd befriended there, bemoaning the way the boys who brought us had treated us and wondering what we should do since they were our ride...

...the boys said, well we have a car! We piled in. They were super sweet respectful guys, so we just went with it. They took us back to Melissa's, even stopping for tacos on the way, and we all hung out in her place for a while, talking and smoking and laughing. It was super fun.

Melissa's bed is neither comfortable nor large and is right next to a super busy street that makes noise all night. Since we shared it, we woke up every time anyone had to shift, which was frequently, or some silly car made too much noise, which was even more frequently. Didn't matter; we still had fun and I still love her to pieces. Woke up the next day and headed back home to do some quick laundry and showering because Melissa and the boy she's been seeing kinda steady had a fella they wanted to see if I liked at a get-together to watch a big futbol game on the tele.

On the bus home, the Friday-night-futbol-boy called and asked did I want to go watch the show with him and some friends and bring some of my friends. Well... sure. I'm a sucker. I thought maybe he'd just been shy on Friday and wanted to try hanging out again. I went home and got ready with Kiki and we headed out to meet the boys where they wanted to pick us up.

He wasn't in the car that got us and when I got there he was cuddling on the couch with some girl. Total coward. All you have to say is you're not interested, or you have someone else... what kinda punk invites a girl over just so she can see him cuddling someone else? The kind, I reckon, who invites a girl just so she'll bring her cute friends for his friends to flirt with. Anyway. I'm not the kind of girl to allow myself to be treated like that, so I acted like I got a phone call and ran outside to take it. Kept walking to the street. I'd checked with Kiki first to make sure she'd be okay - another girl was on her way to hang out too, so she'd have backup. I called Melissa and asked if she and her steady would come pick me up and they were there by the time I made it to the street. Angels, both.

Got to their house and the boy they were supposed to be setting me up with said all of maybe ten words to me the whole night.

But the party was fun; they were cooking up chicken wings the whole time and had conjured up half a dozen different sauces to put on them, all so delicious that when they kept pressing us to pick favorites we ended up having to narrow it down to two and refusing to go further. At the end of the game, a boy had lost a bet, so his head got shaved; THAT was fun.

These ondas... they're coming and going and rising and falling, going great and going shitty. It's appropriate that the word features so prominently in Mexican speech because I reckon it's a metaphor for my whole experience here.

I woke up last night at 3AM wide awake, troubled by the strangeness of my interactions with the locals, and completely unable to fall back asleep. I puttered around on my computer for an hour or more, then tried to go back to sleep. It must have happened after another hour. I had the most vivid dream in which I was sick, and I saw, I heard, I felt my father come into the room, reach down and pick me up while I was still asleep just like when I was a little girl, scoop me into his arms and carry me out of the room with my head on his shoulder. In the dream, I thought... this is really happening. Is this really happening? I should concentrate very hard. Do I feel his shoulder more strongly than I do the pillow, or is it the other way around? The more I concentrated, he began to fade away until I was certainly in my bed, listening to the fan, feeling the scratchy blanket. It broke my heart.

I'ma just keep riding these ONDAS and see what they do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Language, Laughter and Music.

I was in the cafeteria this week with Cory and a Mexican girl we were helping with her English homework. We'd all been talking off and on, bouncing between English and Spanish but staying in one or the other depending. If it had to do with the homework, it was English, if not, then Spanish. We were in line waiting for our lunch orders when Cory asked me something and I answered him. The girl started laughing. What, I asked her. She said, he just asked you in English and you responded in Spanish.

I hadn't even thought about it. It just happened, just came out of my mouth like that. That afternoon at home, the television was on during lunch and I realized I was hearing it and understanding without actively listening and thinking. I call that A SUCCESSFUL STUDY ABROAD EXPERIENCE.

I remembered the other thing that had to do with change. It was one thing I refuse to change. I noticed, one day after I hadn't been here too long, myself laughing out loud. It was surprising to notice because I never really took note of that before, and I realized the only reason I noticed it was because I didn't much hear loud laughter here. I thought that must surely be a mistake, so I started paying attention, hoping to hear loud laughter. In the weeks that have followed, I'm really one of the very few people I've heard laughing loudly, and most of the other few people I've heard are also foreigners. So I wonder, is it bad form for women to laugh loudly here? Do I look like a floozy when I'm having a good time and enjoying myself? I have decided that I do not care. I will assimilate in all sorts of ways, I mean to say I do respect your culture but I will not contain my joy.

I've been wanting to write about playing piano for a while and have never gotten around to it. It has been one of my sources of joy while here. The rooftop and the piano have helped me more than anything else. I did finally get everything in order to be able to swim in the school pool, but when I did it was just disappointing. I felt like it was just wrong, somehow, all that beautiful free water being cooped up and contained like that. I swam a while, but not for long, and I haven't been back.

I play piano every single school day. My fingers are so strong now. There's a muscle on the underside of my forearm that wasn't there before and it's hefty. I started with a piece called Solfigietto by one of Bach's kids and it's a very busy piece, maybe you saw the video I put up when I was still learning it. From there I tried a couple simple pieces, one my sister mailed me and Fur Elise. Now I'm working on Bach's Partita no 1, but only the last part, the two Minuets and the Gigue. UGH it's tough, and I love it.

I love the walk over to the round building, I love the quiet that surrounds it. I love being greeted by my maestro as soon as he sees me - he always seems so genuinely glad I'm there. I love it when we talk for a while, I love his stories, when he starts to give me full life histories of past composers, or when he starts to go on about the pieces he loves, how if he plays this piece nothing in the world exists but the music, if he listens to that one it lifts him up to heaven, how one composers said that he who prays with music prays two times. I love the small rooms, the old pianos so badly mistreated with the wonky tunes. I love the natural light that comes in from the tall windows and the way the notes echo in there. How when I play this exercise it sounds as though someone's knocking on the door, and that one sounds like whispers, and this one makes echoes like someone's singing in the next room. I love when my fingers start to burn from the exercises; I love the progress I'm making on the Partita. I love feeling like I'm doing something good for myself; I love witnessing each piece develop. I love getting frustrated and feeling like I'm doing poorly that day and I should just pack it all up and go and then coming back the next day and being able to see that I'm still better.

Lots of plans to go out many places this weekend; should have some great tales for you next week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paradoxes and Changes

So I know I said I lost my little notebook already. I'm still sad. Also in there were some ideas I was hoping to write to you about, so I'ma see if I can't brainstorm them a bit before they disappear altogether.

First of all, I was writing about some paradoxes I've witnessed here in Mexico. Looking at the list, they're pretty much all related to religion somehow or another.

First there's the whole issue of what exactly a woman in Mexico is supposed to be like. Seems like there are two extremes, and I'm sure those of you who know a thing or two about feminism know where this is headed. First of all, there's the impotance of the image of the Virgin in Mexican culure. Estimates I've heard range between 80 and 93% of the population as Catholic. So why, then, does this culture that reveres the image of the Virgin as well as the Mother so highly... allow its sons to hang out of cars whistling at the women they pass, yelling, barking, wagging their tongues? When I go out dancing, the Mexican girls advise me not to dance with more than one boy per night, never to kiss a boy until we've been out several times. If I do, they tell me, I'll be a slut, a whore, no kind of respectful woman at all. But then the same men who would judge me to be a slut seem to demand it.

And while we're talking about the image of the virgin, what of that? October 12 was a big local holiday here in Guadalajara, the Day of the Virgin of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. Now if you know anything about the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, you know she appeared to a man there and spoke to him in his own native tongue. He went and told his priest who advised him to bring proof. When the man returned from visiting the virgin again, his apron was completely full of roses that never bloom there, and when he dumped them out the image of the virgin had appeared on his apron. But the Virgin of Zapopan? No story. She's just a little statue. She has a silly dress and a ridiculous hat and lives inside a glass case. People pray to her for miracles and claim that she gives them what they ask for. Every year they parade the statue all around the city, blowing off fireworks and noisemakers in her path no matter what time it is nor how many people with heart conditions may be nearby. She's just a statue someone made. She is... an idol. And yet this is the same religion that has God himself demanding in the only ten commandments important enough to engrave in stone that they should not be idolatrous. I'm pretty sure Jesus brought it up in the New Testament, too. How do they get around that?

There was another paradox in there but it's gone forever now. On to changes.

The first change is a bit of a paradox also. So I'm in an exchange program with all sorts of other students, I'm sure I've mentioned but I'll do it again. German, French, Australian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Candian, Holland-ish, Austrian... there are surely more but that's all I've got. Nobody from Italy or the UK I don't think. But Spanish only has five vowel sounds and not many compound consonants, so frequently our foreign names are hard to say. More than any other nationality, the Koreans adopt Spanish names when they come here. When one of them introduces themself to me with a Spanish name, I make a point to ask, but is that your own name or a Spanish name? 100% of the time they'll say, no, my real name is this, and when I repeat it, it's like... the surprise on their faces while they exclaim VERY GOOD PRONUNCIATION... It makes me a little sad for them.

But then I realize, I've changed too. It hurts me so badly to hear people call me GEEEEENA that I've just told them to call me Susan. Now, to be fair, that is my birth name, but it's not what I usually go by. I've changed. There are some people here that call me Ginna, but not many, and many of them screw it up when they try it.

Another change. When I first got here, I was surprised to see the kids in the house throwing the peace sign up any time they came home or entered a room or left... it's like Aloha or something, serves all sorts of purposes. And I laughed like uh what's up 1993 didn't expect to see you here. But it's not just them, it's all over the place. And now... I'm doing it. Throwing deuces all over the place. Whether it's the peace sign or the victory sign, I'm not sure, but I'm doing it. It's actually kind of handy.

Something else handy: the phrase "Vale la pena." It means, literally, to value the pain, or be worth the trouble. When I worked in Scotland, I came back with the phrase "canna be arsed" or "canna be bothered" as my phrase of choice. Here, for me, although I've picked up all sorts of phrases, my favorite is "vale la pena." So many things do and don't "vale" their "penas"... it becomes a way of thinking as well as a phrase.

On my list of changes, I had something that hadn't changed, wasn't changing, would not be changing as well. It was an important observation for me... and now it, and my beautiful beloved notebook are gone forever.

Staying in town and planning to pall around with Melissa and Sergio again. Here's to another ROCKSTAR WEEKEND.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I was a rockstar this weekend.

Well that was a hell of a weekend.

I reckon it started Friday. Cory flew back to the States for his sister´s wedding. I stayed after class to practice piano and when I got home everyone was gone, I assume, to the airport with him. I rustled around in the fridge, found some taquitos, some delicious white rice, some garbanzo soup, and heated them all up. Pigged out, laid down for a nap.

Must´ve woken up a solid six hours later. It was dinnertime when I woke up, and we eat late here. Kiki said she had plans to go out with a German girl in the program, that they were planning to go out around eleven and if I wanted to come I was welcome to. I really wanted to go out, still didn´t feel like I had properly partied in this foreign country.

We went to a salsa bar, a Cuban joint and it was fun and classy... but not the kind of night out I was looking for. It cost sixty pesos to get in and they handed us a mojito right away. We made our way to the table the girls had reserved and sat with them to watch the SHOW – several dancers dancing their respective ASSES off... in the States, it might have come across as cheesy, but for some reason here it was really awesome and impressive.

After the show we danced some too, then couldn’t decide on what the next move should be. Some wanted to go to another bar, some wanted to go home... we hadn’t left until midnight anyway so it was getting close to 3 and Lore was afraid her parents, our host parents, would want us back soon. At Meli’s urging, we went to the next bar with her and found that they wanted an entry fee as well. It just didn’t seem worth it so we found food and headed back, checking in around 4.

I woke up the next morning READY. No idea why. It was ten or so and I was up and at ‘em. Had plans to hang out with Melissa so I went to her place to meet her and we went to the tianguis cultural – this hippy market that springs up every Saturday. While there we found some really cool stuff, but sadly someone saw Melissa’s open bag hanging behind her and reached in and helped themself to what they could grab. It turns out they got her skirt and scarf, her super sweet new camera and her wallet.

We headed back toward her place, right near school, and she had a cuddle date on his way to hug her to feel better after the robbery, so I headed on to campus because I heard there was a student game and wanted to catch it. It was totally worth it! I headed back to her place afterward and we figured we wanted to go out so I ran home to get ready.

After the night before and the whole issue with people feeling like we should be back at a certain time... I just didn’t want to mess with that. Melissa had said I could sleep overnight at her place so I packed a bag, took a shower, and headed out, looking classy. Got to her place and she wasn’t there. Turns out she’d gone out with her neighbor, a cute boy who likes her. I wasn’t surprised but I wasn’t bothered either. I knew another one of our ideas for going out had involved the gay bar with her roommate, so I just waited around hoping he would show before too long. I figured the worst that could happen was it got late and I went back home.

He showed up with a friend and let me in and we started having beverages and conversations. It was super deep stuff, and I held my own in Spanish, so that was fun. Mostly related to gay issues, because I wanted to know what life as a gay person is like in Mexico. After a while, he got ready and we headed out. It was after midnight before we even left.

Let me just talk about Sergio for a minute, the roommate. First of all, just beautiful. Super intelligent, ridiculously kind... just an angel. We made it to the club, made it in, got our free first drink and went to scope the place out. First thing he did was point out a spot and say, if we get separated, we meet here. He was a great wingman too – he’d start introducing himself to groups with cute girls, then introduce the cute girls to me god bless him. We danced all over the place, I got flirted with more by guys than by girls, super weird, and stayed partying and dancing and drinking and dancing until they threw us out at five or six in the morning.

Took a cab back, and passed the FUCK out. Melissa still wasn’t back. I woke up and Lord knows when shivering, found a blanket on the floor, covered up, passed back out. Woke up again later with a burning desire to get to Tonala, a suburb on the outskirts of the city that has a great market on Sundays. Melissa stopped in just as I was getting ready to head out so we all swapped crazy stories from our nights before. She came with me but I ended up losing her in the market, and due to searching for her didn’t make it to one of the stands I really wanted to get a present for my <3BFF at until they’d already packed up. Guess I’m going back before I come home.

I was tired of not being able to get ahold of people. Because I didn’t have a phone the night before, I missed Melissa on her way out. Because I didn’t have a phone, I couldn’t find her after I lost her. So when I got back to town, I got a phone. Discovered I’d lost my wallet. The only real important thing that was in there was my driver’s license, so that’s not too bad. I lost between a hundred and two hundred pesos, but it could have been worse. Then between the phone shop and my house I lost my precious beloved tiny gray notebook I’ve been jotting notes in for so long. That hurts way worse than the wallet, and not just because there was a number in there of a boy who wanted to make out. There were poem ideas in there, feelings, important info, all sorts of stuff. I’m hoping someone decides to call one of the numbers in there and it makes its way back to me somehow. Manifesting that reality now...

Overall it was a great weekend. Listen, sometimes I get down and all, but what really matters is that even when I feel like I’ve got it kinda bad, I’ve got it really fucking great. Had an amazing weekend with some great friends. Have a house and food. Have wonderful family and supportive friends back home. Have a ridiculous scholarship and a precious dog. Have myself, have my health, have my faith in life and love. Have you. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's been over two weeks since I updated. Guess what. That's right, I've been bummed.

Currently, right this very moment, what has me most bummed is the fact that there are no sufficient words in Spanish for "awkward" nor "cuddling."

I know the first one because it came up today while I was talking with some friends and a girl brought it up. I know the second one because it's what I really miss most right now. On "Free Hug Day," they told us the average person needs eight instances of personal touch per day to keep from getting high strung. Until I lamented it today, the last really real good hug I'd had was my father in the airport before I left. A girl named Hannah gave me a pretty good one, but it's always better with someone you already love, right?

To that end, I'm holding in my head the hope for the slumber party I'll host upon my return, a repeat of so many cuddle parties past only on a much larger scale of course because I want everyone I love to be there at once. Carrot on a string and all.

I almost got really close to somebody before I left. I mean I was getting out the silver platter to serve my heart on and polishing it and all... but then it was time to go, and who wants to serve it up just to watch it break? So I tucked it back in its little hidey-hole in my chest, but now it's restless. It got a breath of fresh air, the first real feelings like that it's had in years, and it wants more.

So I have a crush on a futbol player, who finally approached me the other day and added me to his facebook friends. Big deal. Then in the market this weekend, this tall handsome fellow started talking to me and took me on a grand tour of the whole market. I hung out with him for a while, ran between his stand and the other manned by his friends while we talked about our personal opinions on all sorts of issues, philosophies of others, future plans. It was nice. He was easily the kindest, most respectful and smartest gentleman I've had the pleasure of meeting since I came here. But he has no computer and I have no phone... so they're all just little ideas I keep in my head to pretend like I'm close to someone, anyone.

One girl who has become a good friend is my travel buddy from Puerto Vallarta. She's more than a little boy crazy, god bless her, but I have to admire her, as she knows what she likes and goes after it. She's being courted by a gentleman currently I do approve of (not that I disapprove of any of the others, just I don't think they're up to snuff) who's a little older (that is to say, closer to my age than hers) and classier, more respectful, less... babyish. Age is a lot different here, those of us in the exchange program frequently agree. You can be in your twenties but still be a completely helpless child. Not that you can't do that in the States, just that it's more widespread here.

So anyway, this guy. His name is Ismael, which is just fun to say. He heard we wanted to go see a lucha libre and took us, bless him. That is to say, really really took us. Picked us up and drove us there, gave us a whole inroduction on the way as far as what we could expect and what we shouldn't expect and how to behave and how not to behave... we were pretty excited. He was wearing a shirt with a luchador mask on the front and it said in big letters PUTOS LOS DE ABAJO - Folks downstairs are bitches! There's a class war going on apart from the luchas, upstairs are the poor folks and downstairs are the rich folks - at least, that's how it's supposed. Ismael's got his cash, probably as much as the average person downstairs, so it's more of a mindset I reckon. Nobody upstairs looked really poor.

We got there and drove past and he told us his friend was holding a spot for him. Sure enough, apparently he's a regular and *knows people*, you know. Sure enough, homeboy had a great parking spot marked off and talked him into it, then sold him discount tickets to get in, and Ismael paid for everything, even if it was only fifty pesos each it felt like a classy gesture. Nevermind he got to roll in with two gringa babes.

He'd warned us that people were going to be yelling things at each other all night, and not to worry, it's all in fun. No sooner had we topped the stairs when the entire crowd spun around, pointed at Melissa, and started hollering - "La guera no es normal! La guera no es normal! Tiene solo un huevo y es homosexual!" that is to say, the blondie is not normal, the blondie is not normal, she has just one ball and is gay. It was fun and games though, she was a great sport as was the guy they designated to be the one they made fun of for being dark skinned, the one with the big nose, the one with the eyebrows, every single person with glasses who got called blind... this was all going on while we were having shouting matches with the people downstairs, and as Ismael said, "AND BY THE WAY, there's also a Lucha."

The lucha was great too, when we actually paid attention to it. It was never fewer than two on two and sometimes three on three. Of course it was just as rehearsed as wrestling back home, but this was much more acrobatic than slammy. What's more, we were frequently yelling things to make fun of the luchadors, and they played along which was a blast.

It's October here. The temperature hovers on either side of eighty all the time. It's sunny. I'm really greatful for this amazing weather, as I don't know if I could cope with all my heavy-head and winter at the same time.

I'm working on a video project. Going to leave it at that for now, but there might be some developments coming up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why I just might survive this trip.

I'm a slow judge. Like, really slow. To a fault, sometimes. It has definitely hurt me in the past, but if I have to err on one side or the other, I'd still rather be a slow judge.

So I've been in México a month and a half, and I was starting to commit to the idea that the country just wasn't for me, for a list of reasons. But then I realized, I had pretty much stayed exclusively in Guadalajara and the surrounding municipalities. I needed to get out of town and see what else was out there.

My North American housemates had plans to go to a town called Guanajuato. I'm interested in checking it out, but I was more interested in doing some traveling on my own, which I generally enjoy - or at the very least, not with the people I live with seven days a week. I needed to clear my head, to leave some things behind. Another girl in the program said she was dying to go to the beach.

That's all I needed to hear. Water, I thought, will get my head right when few other things will. She found the hostel, I found the bus tickets, and we left from school after my piano class on Friday.

The drive was fucking ridiculous. Just gorgeous. Seriously otherworldly at many moments, and not just because we were in another country where the signs were in a different language - different architecture, differents ways of living, different cemeteries, different people, different ways of laying out the towns, different markets on the side of the road, but also the mountains we climbed and wove between, and the clouds that were some times just right above us, perched on the tips of the mountains, and other times right beside or even below us, and the magic they have to the trees they hugged, and the fields of agave, an eerie blue green, and the fields with cows and horses all alongside one another and...

Seriously, I was feeling better just on the bus. We got to the station in Puerto Vallarta and found a bus into town. We asked one of the workers in the station which bus we should take and where to find it. In Spanish we asked him. He responded that we could take any bus that was VERDE (and pointed at my shirt) or AZUL (and pointed at my water bottle) - really derogative and patronizing and I said Honestly? We clearly know enough Spanish to ask where the bus is, and you're going to point out colors to us? We just walked away, figuring we could manage.

It was still light, but the sun was setting - and we wanted to see the sunset from the rooftop of the hostel if we couldn't make it to the beach in time. We didn't even make it to the hostel in time. The bus took a really windy route, and when we started to wonder, a good half hour into the ride, whether we should find out when we would be getting to the part of town where the hostel was, we decided to just ask the women sitting behind us. Pardon, I said, good evening, like a good foreigner, playing by the rules of Mexican conduct. ¿Do you know if or when this bus will go through El Remance? They said not too much further, through the tunnel and across the bridge. Then they told us that we were going to be able to get to know this part of town on our way there, bragged on its beauty, its safety, the fact that a girl can walk alone at night with no worries. One got off, then when the other went to, she said, The bus driver will let you know when to get off. She went up to him, said a few words, then got off.

Seriously. When people here are nice, they're fukkin NICE. When we got off the bus, we walked past a tire shop with a really sweet looking and also clean dog. Of course, missing my pooch, I was charmed, so I stopped to say OH SWEET PRECIOUS BABY and the owner came up to greet us. Melissa, my travel companion, is has this gorgeous long blond curly hair, which makes her stand out here in Mexico, so there's a lot of male attention when I go out with her. He showed us the dog's tricks and was super nice, then pointed us up the road to the hostel.

Puerto Vallarta is hot as HELL. Seriously steaming. Over ninety degrees (farenheit, sorry) all weekend and humid as... as something ridiculously painfully humid. So once we got settled in to the super friendly hostel with the rockin good vibes, we went to hang out on the roof. We met the manager/host Guillermo, the guests Jem from England and Anthony from Washington, and Melissa and I went to eat soem delicious street tacos (tortillas made fresh right there to order, several different tasty meats, then beans and onion and cabbage and cilantro and yum) and then to the Oxxo to buy some jalapeño chips for when we got the munchies on the roof. As we walked up to the store, there was a couple, employees both, canoodling in the window. When they saw us and pulled quickly apart, we saw they were both women. Fuck yes! Finally some queer people in this country! We gave them big smiles and waves and hellos, went and bought our chips and our Strawberry Boone's Farm (don't judge) and went back to hang out on the roof of the hostel until it was time to pass out.

Here's my to do list for the next day, Saturday. #1: Go to the beach. End of list.

We got up, ate breakfast, had a quick smoke and headed that way. But we got a little lost and ended up on this curvy street with low visibility and high traffic and no sidewalk. We started freaking out a little and just froze to assess the situation. Just then, a taxi flew past on the other side of the road - we hailed, he motioned that he would come back around, we got in and said take us to the nearest beach, we'll figure it out from there. It was so beautiful. A little cloudy when we got there, so not too hot, and not too populated yet either. But I noticed right away that the only people showing much skin were the men - there weren't many women and the ones who were there were very modest in their swimming clothes. I'm a pretty modest girl anyway, so I didn't want to strip down to my bikini right away - plus the smoke still had me a little head-changed since it had been sooo long since I'd had any. Melissa however was damn ready. She got in and splashed about. I hung out just sitting, chilling, thinking, watching, soaking it all in... and listening to the boom-tisk club music coming from the gay part of the beach. That's right, there was a whole gay section of the beach, and they were FABULOUS.

She got out, we laid out, I eventually took off my shirt and put on sunblock, and then here comes a guy wanting to talk. His name was Abraham and he had a lot of tattoos and liked mine. We talked for a while, he didn't seem too forward or scary, and he seemed to know everyone around us. This fellow with a giant parachute thing for parasailing came near and Abraham told him we needed to try holding it. It looked so easy when he did it but... Soon as I took it, it was this huge struggle to keep it up, keep it from flying this way or that, keep it from crashing into the beach... which it did. Melissa was better at it than I was, and after we had both crashed it the guy decided he should probably move on. By then I was starting to chill out and so when Melissa and Abraham went into the water I went too.

Abraham carried his shirt in too, which confused me for a minute until we saw him drinking from it. He was really reluctant to tell us what it was though, like he not only wouldn't do it but started getting cranky when we pressed with questions. When we got hungry and said we wanted some fish, he said he knew a market we could go to and would lead us there. Said it was really close. We figured we'd follow and if it ever felt creepy we'd jet.

Just four or five blocks he told us, and we turned this way and that. Just four or five blocks, he said after four or five blocks, and every street we went on he had to say hi to someone and say "These are my friends" and show us off. We must have said hi in passing to thirty people or more. Then it started being Just one or two more blocks, and after another six or so we were there. I kept track of the direction of the beach the whole time so we could make it back. The whole time Abraham had been talking about how he couldn't wait to get back and have a bath and a nap so when we got to the market and they had no fish, he headed off to do that and pointed us in the direction of some fish. We never found it so we started heading back to the beach, still hungry as hell, when we passed a sign that said Pollo Asado Estilo Sinaloa. Grilled Chicken, Sinaloa Style. I've had this before when a friend of mine back in Arkanas used to make it every once in a while. Sweet Mary, I told Melissa, we have to eat here.

We split a half chicken, some chicken tacos, and a barley water. It was friggin great. Peed on a toilet with no seat, and went back to the beach. We got there and Melissa needed to jump right in again, gave me time to reapply my sunscreen, and then we heard some wicked drums. Melissa wanted to find them and I was game. When we did, it was a group of four guys and one girl, the guys all had different drums and little metal things to knock on and the chick had a gourd with beads all over it to shake. Then she'd set her gourd down after a couple songs, dance like a crazy woman posessed by demons, pick up the gourd and flip it over where it was open on the bottom, and go around asking for pesos. They were actually awesome. I wanted to buy a disk but they didn't have any. We followed them all the way down the beach.

When they got done, we figured we'd go explore around the other side of the southernmost point, where we had heard there were some nice coves with really crystalline water. On our way there ANOTHER guy stopped us to talk. We chatted for a minute, he was nice enough, and then he asked us what we thought about Mexican guys.

I told him. I said they lack any measure of respect. He said how do you mean? I said, for example, back in the states I wouldn't have to worry about drunk old men grabbing my ass while I wait for the bus. I said Melissa wouldn't have to see guys hanging out of their cars wagging their tongues at her. He said really? That's happened? We said yes and it sucks. He said you know what, I apologize on behalf of us all. Why don't you come hang out with me and my friends and let us try and make it up to you.

Again, we figured, why not, we'll see how it goes and if it gets weird we'll jet. It never did. They were perfect gentlemen, we all had super great conversation and planned to hang out until the sun went down. We played in the sand, played in the water, sat and talked, drank and smoked, joked, laughed... But just as it was about to start getting gorgeous and sunsetty, this killer rainstorm rolled in. We figured, hey, we're clearly already wet, so how can that matter? We stayed and swam and laughed and then figured it was probably time to go since it would be getting dark soon. We splashed our way through the streets to their car, as they'd offered us a ride back to the hostel since we had no idea really how to get there, and on the way we ran into Anthony - perfect, since he'd been there several days, walking to and from the beach every day. He pointed us back and we made plans to go out dancing with the guys later.

We never did. We took showers and washed sand out of all sorts of places and then just laid around in the room on our beds with the fan on, still feeling the waves. When we did leave the hostel, it was with Guillermo's handsome brother Julio to go to a different taco stand, the one his mother cooked at, to eat more delicious street tacos and quesadillas with fresh tortillas. We did call the fellows to let them know at least that we weren't going out, and I passed out early and Melissa stayed up chatting with Jem, the English guy who knows all about numerology and Western and Eastern astrology.

I had already bought my ticket to go back the next day, so I got up and got ready. Melissa had pretty much decided that she was going to stay another day. Despite everyone trying their damndest to convince me to change my mind, I headed back, quite sad to leave the location and the wonderful people I'd met.

Saturday was the single best day I've had since I came to this country. The decision to go to Vallarta was the single best decision I've made since I came to this country. I still haven't judged México yet, but that's because Vallarta pulled me back from the decision I'd been about to make. I'll take some more weekend trips and see what I think about things before I commit. I got my piano class moved to Wednesday now if I need to leave Thursday night instead to have more time. And I'll have one whole week between the end of classes and my flight back to go back to the place I liked most. Vallarts's in the running.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why today was special..

I found a rooftop.

I've been having problems. Mostly between my ears, although my belly was a little screwy for a bit there. I've been having issues with sharing one house and two bathrooms with ten people. I've been having a problem with not having any space I can really call my own since I share a rooom now with a girl who frequently becomes combative with no warning or real reason. I've been bummed that I chose to come to such a macho, conservative, chauvenistic country when I could have gone back to Spain.

When life gets me down and there's nothing I can do about it, I cope through a few different things. When life is really beyond screwed, I chop off all my hair, because for some reason when things are headed toward that place I stop cutting it and it builds up. But it's pretty short currently and things aren't really bad enough to warrant a drastic cut. Another thing I do is think about things in the past that have happened that were also totally screwed up, and how no matter how bad they were (and they're usually worse than what I'm dealing with at the time), they led directly to where I am today, or I gathered from them some knowledge or experience or contact that helped me later. Sometimes I like to get new ink, but I have a rule against doing that ouside of the country ever since my experience in Scotland.

What helps best, though, better than anything else, is to just clear my mind out altogether.

I've never been good at meditating. I tried, believe me. I went to weekly classes for over a year. I tried self-teaching through books. I listened to guided meditation CDs. I had a spiritual teacher for a couple of years who would periodically try and guide the group through meditations. I just have trouble quieting my own mind of my own accord. I don't want to say I can't, because that's a defeatist attitude, but I haven't had any luck with it yet.

What I need are things that help me do that. Two things especially have been great helps through the years - being in water and being up high on rooftops.

Water's the best. Anyone who has been swimming with me in Lake Ouachita knows how happy I get there. Just blissed out on life, and I'm completely incapable of thinking a single negative thought. There are no problems there, no stresses, no negative nothings. But I've been working like crazy to get the necessary paperwork and nonsense done in order to be able to swim at the pool in the campus gym - had to get a blood test to have proof of my type, had to get ID photos taken, had to get 100 pesos, and I still have to get to the office between 9 and 12 (nevermind that I have clases) for some application and medical exam process. That is to say, I haven't gotten it all together yet and so I'm not allowed to get in the water yet. Hopefully that will be happening soon.

So I've been on the lookout for a good roof. I found a good lead, one building we have classes up on the fourth floor and I noticed that the stairs keep going even though that's the top floor. I kept going one day just to see what was there, and there was a tiny door that looked like it would lead to the roof. When I opened it, I was hit with a wave of heat and sunlight and humidity - it was midday in Mexico after all. I closed it but remembered it for later.

Today I was stressed about all sorts of nonsense and I knew I'd be staying on campus late anyway - class gets out at three, and I wanted to practice piano for a couple hours before going home, and was interested in seeing if I could catch a futbol game of the uni students as opposed to the pro team. So I practiced for a while, then went and got a sandwich, and then clouds started to gather and the temperature started to drop.

I headed over. It started to sprinkle - this is the "tiempo de las lluvias" here, the "time of the rains." I didn't care; I have an umbrella. I climbed up there, went through the little door so squat it looked like it should lead into John Malcovich's brain and there I was.

And it was perfect. It was cool but not cold, and breezy so my hair and my skirt got all whipped around and it wasn't so high that I got scared but it was really nice and high up so I had a great view of the city off two sides since it's on the edge of campus. I walked to the edge and tried to think about something that was bothering me... and I got nothing. Nothing! My brain was completely vacant, silent, just reverant of all the beauty and the feeling of openness and freedom. I must have stayed up there forty minutes, just standing, getting sprinkled on now and then, staring out at the city below, watching lights turn on across different streets, occasional cars, watching the storm roll in...

...oh SHIT. That's a big storm. And it was time for the game so I figured I'd get down off that roof with the big damn lightning rod and go looking for the game. If I found it, I'd try and find shelter from the rain to watch and if not, I'd go for the bus. I didn't find it. I went for the bus. The rain started dumping in buckets. My fun flowy skirt that I had been enjoying all day suddently got really damp and difficult to walk in. I made my way over to the bus stand which has a tiny roof, but that only helps when the rain is coming from above. This wind had it coming from the side. So I'd hold my umbrella behind me and that sheltered my head and the top of my back, but my entire backside from the waist down got completely soaked. Then the couple of drunkards decided they needed to start talking to me. They started asking where I was from. The old one says, in English, NOO YAK? IS NOO YAK? WHERE NOO YAK? NORS? SOUS? WESS? EES? IN NOO YAK? I say, no, on the east side of Texas. He says YOU WET! WET WET! Starts patting my back. Starts patting lower than my back.

¡AY SEÑOR! I exclaimed, giving him a very unkind face and running to the other side of the bus stand. He got the hint. His friend figured he was still okay to talk to me. He spoke to me in Spanish, and the first thing he asked was whether I had a boyfriend. I just looked at him. He asked again. He asked if I knew what boyfriend meant. Yes, I said, I know what it means, but I don't have to answer that. Why? says he. Because that's personal information, I say, and I don't know you. He says, but I want to get to know you! I say, when I get off that bus, I'm never going to see you again. I don't want to get to know you. He says, but I can walk you to your house, to know where you live. I say no. Sir. I can say no one time or twenty times, however you want. He says twenty. I say twenty one. He says but you want to go to a movie sometime? You like movies? I just look at him. The bus comes. I flag it. It keeps going. Traffic is getting sick and the rain's getting ridiculous. When the next bus comes twenty minutes later, I go running up the road to catch it and tap on the door until he lets me in. I have to step in a river of muddy street water to get on. I don't care. I don't care about harassy boy, about grabby grandpa, or the booze on their breath. I don't care that I'm completely soaked from the waist down. I don't care that the first bus passed me or that traffic absolutely refuses to move and that a fifteen minute bus ride takes an hour and a half. I don't care. I'm still on that roof, completely zenned out. I get home, and the first words out of Guille's mouth are WHY DIDN'T YOU LET ME KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO BE LATE?

I just look at her and walk in the house. It's nice to see you too, I say. Yes, I am completely soaked and would love a hot shower, thank you for asking. By the way, I have no phone and no way to know the bus trip would take over two hours (when you count waiting time). On the table was a care package from my dad.

It was a belated birthday care package with gifts for the whole house. Lots of stickers, little animal figures, cookies and... He got me a pony.

That rooftop is my new best friend.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's been two weeks since I posted.

You know, I was raised a Southern girl, and I heard if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say nuthin at all.

I haven't been very happy lately.

It's only fair that culture shock should catch up with me at some point, and I spent a good week plus pretty sick. I don't know if something I ate disagreed with me or if I was just stressed, but for at least a week my belly was a war zone. That had me feeling week, generally pissy about life, and sad about my state of being. I also share a room now, in a house where ten people share two bathrooms, as opposed to having a whole house to myself back home. I just completed my first month here, which means I'm able to look at time and measure it, able to say I'm a quarter of the way through which makes the length of the stay really settle in.

And I've had this recurring daydream, this fantasy where I walk in the door of my house back in Little Rock. I picture the front room, the general feel of the place just wraps me up, and I walk down the hall, check out the rooms, go into the kitchen, go into my own room and plop down on my huge pillowtop bed and just relax. I pretend like my dog's there too.

So that's why I haven't posted. I've heard from so many people saying "I just love reading about your experiences! It sounds like you're having so much fun!" and I just haven't been lately. I didn't wan to write while I was still in that place. I wanted to make sure I was on the other side of it before I updated. I love you guys; I don't want you to worry about me because at the end of the day, I'm a big girl, I'm going to survive and look back on this as a positive experience.

But, and I'll never say this in front of a Mexican, I kinda wish I'd gone back to Spain instead. To be fair, I've only really seen one city so I don't know if I can judge yet, but the basic overall vibe I get from the country based upon the people, the media and television, etc... just doesn't compare to the ridiculous overwhelming sticky disgusting love I have for Spain. I'm itching to see, when I get back, if I could do a summer abroad there and what it would cost.

Since I wrote you last, I've been to visit Tonala twice, Tlaquepaque, Zapopan, been to another futbol game, learned a bunch more on piano (I can feel my fingers getting stronger!), went out one night with almost all the kids in the house (grand total of seven) for the Mexican equivalent of the 4th of July for a big party out (lots of drinking, dancing, and the "grito" at midnight of "VIVA MEXICO!). I owe you stories. I'm posting more pictures all the time (still have some more to upload, should have that done tonight). Still going ahead with classes, and loving Lit. I'll see if I can't give you some good stories soon, but for now know this: I'm doing okay. <3

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The bus couple story.

Here’s the thing of it. One of my most favorite things to do in this life (there’s a long list of these things, but this is pretty close to the top) is to make up stories about people I don’t know. People I just see passing by.

Another thing I really enjoy is when the bus driver is actually talking to one of the passengers. It happens very rarely. The other day, and I’ve only seen this one other time here and few few times elsewhere, a lady was actually sitting in the very front seat, holding a whole long conversation with the bus driver. They were having lots of laughs and it was precious.

At the time, I was on the bus with Cory, and I told him about how much I love it when that happened, then about how much I love to make up stories about people. And then I told him about that couple. I told him they were having a conversation catching up about all the people they knew in their little barrio – that they had known each other since preschool and had grown up together. That the guy has always had a crush on the girl, but she has no idea. Of course, some part of her knows, but she ignores it, denies it, to make things easier, but the moment she climbs on his bus every day is about the happiest he gets.

We got to our stop at that point and got off the bus. We started walking, Cory and I, to my house but the story kept going. Because he’s a guy, I said, he naturally thinks about her when he touches himself. But he only fantasizes about really sweet shit – like, about their wedding, and sneaking off to fool around in the bathroom at the reception, or about being on their honeymoon, or doing it in their kitchen of their house someday. Here’s where Cory chimed in on the story, and I like when people help me write them. Yeah, he said, after they tuck their kids in to bed. Exactly, sez I. And, sez Cory, he’s got a cat named Chi Chi.

Dude, I said. You know that means titty. Well yeah, sez Cory, but he didn’t know that when he named Chi Chi. He was in preschool so he didn’t know any better, and it was cute so his mom let him keep the name. Well then, I said, that’s the magical part of the story, because if he named Chi Chi when he was in preschool, and he’s clearly around 30 now, Chi Chi happens to be immortal. Oh no, Cory corrected me, he went off at one point, to university or military or something, and Chi Chi died, but his mom replaced her.

Ah, no, sez I. It’s even better than that. The girl went to visit mom one day, because they live in the same barrio, and she saw mom crying. Mom told her that Chi Chi had passed and she didn’t know how to tell her son. The girl told her, don’t worry, leave it to me. She then proceeded to go all over Guadalajara, looking in every vet clinic, every pet shop, every animal shelter, every alleyway until she found the perfect replacement for Chi Chi. Some part of the guy knows something happened to Chi Chi while he was away, but that part also knows the girl had something to do with whatever happened, so he doesn’t mind and just overlooks it.

That was the end of the story until Kiki came home. I told Kiki the story and she had to go and get all logical and cynical on me. Why, she interrupted, at the part about the kitchen and the babies, are they having more babies? He’s just a bus driver, he has no money, he can’t support a family, and the last thing Mexico needs is more poor babies. And why doesn’t he just ask her out?

She was right, of course, and I hated it. And I thought about how much the bus driver guy probably knows all that and hates it too. And he thinks about it a lot, because the girl doesn’t always catch his bus, sometimes she gets on a bus before or after his, depending on when she gets out of work. One day, he was really deep in these depressive thoughts, and it was one of those days when the bus gets really crowded. When the girl got on, there wasn’t room to get on in the front, so she did like many do, and got on through the back door and passed her bus fare up to the front to get her ticket passed back. He didn't know she'd gotten on.

She had been thinking about him all day that day and at first she wasn’t sure why. But as the day rolled on, she realized that he was in love with her, and always had been, and that she had always been in love with him too. She had decided to tell him that day, somehow, even if it was cloaked in some other meaning, just to say, let’s go see a movie Sunday or something. So when she got on and it was crowded, she decided she would just ride the bus until it wasn’t anymore, even if it went past her stop, so she could talk to him. But the more she looked at his face in the mirror, the more she saw how depressed he was, and she knew she was the cause of it.

And the moment they went over the bridge, the moment he broke through the barrier to drive off the edge, the moment the bus became airborne and she knew they were going to die was the happiest moment of her life. She felt more complete in that moment than she ever had before. Sublime.

Happy birthday to me.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way the brain stores information. I’ve talked about this before with some of you in conversations, I know. Like the fact that in high school, I knew how to do chemical equations and loved them. I could look at the periodic chart and pick an element and tell you how many rings of electrons it had, how many electrons were in the outer rings, how well it would bond with which other elements… that’s gone now, but after having gone to culinary school I can tell you the components of mirepoix, and what ratio of it to bones you should have in a stock. I look at the brain as having only so much room, and when something new moves in, what, I always wonder, have I had to move out? What do I lose every time I gain? My friends and I here are watching that happen in real time. For me, I find that when I can’t think of a word in Spanish I frequently can’t think of it in English either, even though I know exactly the concept I’m trying to convey. Kiki and Cory have found that their English has been affected – that they use phrases in English they would never normally use just because they’re the direct translations of the common Spanish phrases we use. I also find that I’m having problems spelling English words when I type with my friends back home. The other day I tried to spell soak as soke. In Spanish, it’s necesitar… so the other day I called something necesari when typing English. Whaaat?

Another thing that fascinates me is long-distance travel and my own experience of recognizing the location. I said at first that I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country, and that’s true. I finally had my moment where I went “Ah! Mexico!” And I find, when I compare it to other moments I’ve had in the past during long-distance travels and when I realized and really accepted and came to terms with my location, a common theme. It usually happens when I return to something I’ve done there before and it feels familiar. For me, it happened at the last futbol game.

I told you I went to one already. I told you it was wild and raucous and intense and fun. There was something familiar and exciting about going to this second one. It was like, we knew the routine already, we get the student discount, we’ll be sitting behind the goal with the fans, and as soon as we made it through security and all the little kids and old men trying to buy and sell us tickets, we walked through the entry of the stadium and into the stands just in time to hear a fellow scream the most horrible obscenities at his own team.

They take shit seriously here when it comes to their futbol. Just last night, at a rockin’ house party, we were watching the Mexico v. Costa Rica game. Mexico was smoking Costa Rica three nothing, and the Costa Rican fans were not only leaving with a good fifteen minutes left in the game, but they were leaving their jerseys behind in the stands. The stands were two thirds empty, but still completely filled with red. Bizarre. As Kiki said, “Futbol fans are serious. When they love you, they fucking love you, but when they hate you, they really fucking hate you.” She said this at our game because our people were starting to leave toward the end.

And that’s when I felt like I was in Mexico, and I knew it, because things were feeling familiar and foreign at the same time. The same chants from the last game, the same crazy kids leading them, but this time less enthusiastically. The last game was magic – we thought we were definitely gonna lose but ended up smoking them three nothing. This time, it was bizarre. It seemed like they had twice as many players on the field, they knew where we were going before we did and they were just toying with us. They were up three to two until the very end, and here we were, those of us who stayed to watch, chanting SI SE PUEDE, hoping for one last goal to get us a little more time – until the other guys scored a fourth and then the stands practically emptied. We stayed, my little group of exchange students, bitching about how the micheladas tasted wrong, the other team were a bunch of assholes, but still having fun. At the end of the game, though, our fans who were still there got really really crazy. Sure, they threw beers at the end of the game last time, but they were happy beers, celebratory throws. This time they were angry and trying to hit the refs, the other team, the police with shields guarding both. The two teams almost got in a nasty fight on the way off the field (the police with shields broke it up) and then the cops had to go guard the team on their way off the field as our fans shook the fence, screamed the most awful things, threw beers and cups and anything they could get their hands on.

It was wild… but I’m still glad I went, and I’m planning to go to all the ones I can until I’m gone. I’m really developing a taste for this futbol game. I don’t reckon I’ll get as crazy as these beer-tossing obscenity-screaming fence-shakers… but I want me a jersey baaaad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Things I should have already told you about:

1) The party for the German boy's birthday and the best taxi ride ever.
2) Goin' downtown for the International Mariachi Parade and getting dumped on by rain, finding a clown supply store, some crazy sculptures, and a wedding in a cathedral.
3) Making a bunch more sushi for the fam and going to Bar Americas with Lore and Cory.
4) Finding the best-smelling flowers in the world.
5) Kiki coming home and we met her in the airport with balloons with curious messages on them.
6) Lots of rain lately, getting dumped on all over Guadalajara and watching floods, losing cable/internet as well as hotness for the water :(
7) The rain-soaked trip to Tonala'
8) The second futbol game with Christian from Quebec and his many amazing quotes.

I'm going out soon to go dancing the night before my birthday. Hopefully I'll hit you up soon with some good stories. I'll tell you the one we wrote about the couple on the bus one day. So beautiful, so tragic, so sublime.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Week 2

Last week was nice and lazy. Class until one every day, and I'd go practice piano and be home by three. Have a big old lunch and usually a nap, do something in the evening or do nothing at all, eat more, sleep more.

This was the week that if we wanted to we could check out the extra classes offered. Those of you who know how I do school... well for those who don't, to be a full time student one is required to take 12 hours, my scholarship program encourages 15, the university caps you at 18. Last semester I took twenty while I directed, produced, and promoted a show and somehow, gods be praised, managed to pull a four point. I have a problem with coasting - I like to go balls to the walls or nothing at all.

So naturally, I signed up for all of them. If a student takes grammar and conversation, s/he can only take two extra classes; if s/he drops conversation s/he can take three. I signed up for five and kept going to conversation.

First was Geography and Culture of Mexico with an emphasis on Tourism. The theme of the class is absolutely perfect - study each of Mexico's major states/regions, their geography, their culture, things people go to see there, and their food, as well as cooking some of it too. When the maestra pitched the class to us, I figured if I could only take one this was it. Then she had us go around the class and introduce ourselves. We were to tell our names and where we were from. All went well until she got to the Korean boy.

He's in my same level for grammar and conversation, so I've gotten to know him a little bit. His name is Sung Rak and he's pretty rad. He's definitely in the better half of the class, not scared to speak in class unlike so many, and usually correct. When he introduced himself, the maestra said, "But what's your Spanish name?"

Um, he said, I don't have a Spanish name. My name is Sung Rak. "But," she said, "All the Koreans, when they come here, they choose a Spanish name because Korean names are too strange and too hard to pronounce. So, you should pick one, and let me know as soon as you do." Um, his name is Sung Rak? Try to say it. You had a tougher time with the Germans and Americans than you would have with his if you'd give it a go. His name is a big part of his identity and who the hell are you to tell him he has to change it because it's "too strange?"

First I should mention that class started a half hour late. After introductions we took a "five minute break" (try twenty) we met back up for her to give us a brief intro to Mexico. She mostly read info off a website, and when she got to the part about religion, she read that 93% of Mexicans are Catholic. "Now," she said, "I want to get an idea about you all. What religion do you have? We'll go around and I want everyone to tell me their religion." First, your question presupposes that everyone here has religion. The first person said either Catholic or Christian, then it was my turn and I said "I don't like to talk about religion," and the rest of the class sounded off with either Christian or Catholic, all of them. But it was clear that I wasn't the only one feeling awkward about it. The next day she basically read a crappy powerpoint presentation word for word and took another "five minute" break in the middle of class (again after starting super late) to answer a Skype call that kept interrupting the presentation. She's on vacation next week. The class isn't required for my major and I can only take so many. This isn't hard math to do.

What else did I try? Phoenetics, which is being merged with the Linguistics class since it's the same teacher and gives us a grand total of three students. But it is required for my major, and the teacher's cool as hell. Honestly made me go and check my university's website to see if I could change my major to Linguistics, so that one's definitely getting taken. Cultura Latinoamericana is another one that will count toward my major, and the teacher has made it clear he's not going to be too hard on us, god bless him. Literatura would also count toward my major if I could figure out when the hell time it's going to be offered.

Historia de Mexico would be fucking sweet to take, because the teacher is not only precious but really just enraptured by the subject, and says she's going to take us on outings to go see sites and museums and stuff, but I don't know if I have room for it, since Linguistics and Phoenetics is going to technically count as two classes. But then, you know me...

No Kiki this week. The saddest thing happened either Friday night or Saturday. No, it was Saturday! Because we were intending to go downtown and go dancing and I got all dolled up and shaved my legs and everything and then I heard Kiki sniffling a rather lot and trying to work the phone. My first thought was about how I went on that little trip to Tennessee and was having a great time and then got the call that Lucie had died. She wasn't having much luck with her calling card, so I just went and set my info to use mine down in front of her. I never know what to do when my friends cry, because everyone wants something different and all I want is to help. Some people need to be held, some need to be left alone, others need all sorts of stuff, but right then Kiki needed to make a call, and I knew I could help with that. Her grandmother, who had been having some health problems, had just passed, so she had to buy a last minute flight back to Canada for the funeral this week. She left Monday morning and comes back Saturday. I have missed that radical girl a lot and can't wait for her return.

I'm getting exhausted by the end of these days where I start out at 9 with grammar, then go negotiate a food purchase in Spanish, then listen to the History teacher talk twenty miles a minute then go to Linguistics then Cultura then practice piano and talk with that teacher... like, my brain starts getting really tired and even though it's the middle of the day and I shouldn't be sleepy, all I want to do is leave whatever discussion I'm in the middle of and go lay down. While I have finally come to terms, I think, with the fact that I am in another country, I'm not quite sure yet that I fully comprehend how long I'm going to be here.

That's all I've got for now, I guess. I'd have had more if I'd updated earlier, when details were still fresh, but I have been one busy cracker this week. Remind me to tell you about the German boy's birthday party and the best taxi ride yet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where to find my pics.

Will be updated from time to time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First week of classes

I have one that starts at nine and goes until ten forty – Grammar. It’s all the technical stuff, all the conjugations and which ones go with which others under which conditions and making sure I get not only that but accent marks and spelling. The teacher’s name is Gloria, she’s about the skinniest full grown woman I’ve ever seen – I’ve seen fifteen year olds this skinny, but damn. She’s very formal, but it’s a formal class I guess, so maybe it follows.

The next one starts at eleven and goes until twelve forty – Conversation. The teacher’s name is Abraham, which is pretty much pronounced abRAM, and he’s a big old hippy. He’s all the time talking about like how Mexican culture should respect women more and animals more and about how after his mom had cancer they both promised to always be happy no matter what because life is too short … basically we’re getting married. Bueno, he’s probably not interested, but the class is super fun.

But I had a realization about halfway through the week when we were talking about where we all came from. I’m from the U.S., as is another girl, there’s a German boy, a Chinese boy, a few Koreans, a couple Japanese… and some of us are there in the exchange student program, and others are actually living there in Guadalajara, wives of diplomats or working in restaurants, and I can hear people’s different accents, like the German boy can’t really say an R, it sounds all French and in the back of his throat, and the Asians speak rather like they do in English and I realized…

…like, we are THOSE PEOPLE. Have you ever seen a promo vid of an ESL class? Or a show or a movie where they had an English as a Second Language class? And it was kinda funny because they all came from all over and all had different accents and different manners of screwing up the language, and the teacher was trying to unite them all under English… it was a little embarrassing, to be honest. But whatever, I’m here for my four months and I’ll get all my college credit and feel like I accomplished something. To be sure, I’m having a ton of fun outside of class, and so…


MONDAY: was the day my belly got sick. Sunday was the day I ate what made me sick, but it didn’t kick in until I was in class Monday. To be honest, when I felt my belly getting all awry, I got pretty friggin pumped. This little medical test I’m participating in is supposed to pay more if I get sick! The nice lady in the doctor’s office gave me crackers and Gatorade, told me to eat no fruit, no veg, no milk nor milk products. No money yet. I got home from class and took a huge honkin nap, from four until about eight pm. That’s when the Mister of the house came home and the energy changed altogether. It was really bizarre. “Mom” told us he was coming, with his brother, who was bringing two guitars for Kiki to check out – Kiki being about to start guitar lessons and the Mister working in a shop where they make guitars, it followed. Mom was bragging on the brother-in-law, about how well he played, and assured us he would play for us. It was really nice, we all sat down in the little plaza, she had me show him my cigar-box banjo and he threatened to put frets on it for me (cool, might happen too!) but it was so strange watching the husband come home and he and the wife didn’t even really greet one another. Things got awkward-turtle, and for the next couple of days Kiki and I felt like we were tiptoeing around the house almost. I had started laundry and hung it to dry, but the nightly rain was coming soon, so I went up to move it over onto the lines that were under a little roof so they wouldn’t get rained on – I got it almost all moved over just as the rain started dumping down and Kiki and Mom and Lore and Gonza junior came up to check. Lots of laughing and splashing ensued and it was pretty fun.

TUESDAY: traffic was INSANE when we got out of school. We waited and waited for the bus, but after a solid half hour and none had come, we started talking to the two girls next to us. Turns out they were waiting for the same bus, so we decided to split a taxi – it turned out to be twenty-five pesos each, which compared with the regular five pesos to ride the bus was pretty steep, but when you do the math into dollars is still a friggin deal. When we finally made it back to the house a solid two hours later, we went to go look for the piano book my maestro had recommended and ended up swinging by a shoe store, too. All I have are these fucking beat up ugly ass tennis shoes that I have been wearing for years, one pair at least for a decade and the other not as long but still a while, and a pair of cowboy boots for iffin I want to go out. I needed something I could be comfortable in but that didn’t look … well, like damn sneakers in bizarre colors like kelly green or fuscia. As I was trying some on, Lore stood up and I told her something must have been in her chair because she had some stains on her bum. Turns out it was woman problems. She ran to the car to wait for us with my bag covering her backside and I paid up and we went home to order sushi delivered (it’s all the rage here in Mexico, but not quite as good) and watch Perfume, some pirated copy, with Julie and her boyfriend Jesus.

WEDNESDAY: Mom came to pick us up nearby the school because traffic was still sic and we had to get back quick so we could grab some comida before returning for our music lessons. When we walked back to grab the bus again, we got a ridiculous amount of whistles and calls! I figured maybe it was because Kiki had her guitar on her shoulder? No idea. When we grabbed the bus, Kiki was wrapped up…

…first I should tell about the wonderful thing Kiki has brought into my life. Surely y’all know how much I love to hear stories. Stories of all sorts from all sources, I want to hear them all. Kiki has done some traveling in her day and met some pretty radical people and has some great stories to tell about them. My walk to the bus is usually accompanied by one of these awesome tales, and I eat it up.

So Kiki was in the middle of one of those tales when we got on the bus, and didn’t notice that the man sitting in the front seat had his eyes pretty much paying rent on her ass. I motioned to her to scoot further away from him, saying Honey you’re being nudey-fied by that guy there, and she scooted and he tried to give us this big grin but you know we weren’t having it so he went back to digging in his nose. I hope he was drunk. He kept staring though, and eventually this woman leaned forward and said “Why do you keep staring at those girls? You don’t know what a woman is?” She was getting off the bus, so she told us to take her seat and she got off, giving him a nasty glare and he never looked at us again. We decided she was our Mexican auntie and refer to her as our Tia now.

My class is at four, so Kiki does homework for an hour, then hers is at five, so I do homework for an hour, and then we go home. Or that’s the plan. But the traffic was still sick from them having to repair the sinkhole in the road, wherever the hell it happened, so we had to get creative. Plus, it was raining, so we had our little travel umbrellas and were walking all over trying to figure out where we could catch our bus. When we finally saw one, traffic was so bizarre and it was not in a lane to come pick us up, so we just walked into the road to get it. P.S., my piano class was awesome. My precious little viejito teacher started at the very and I mean VERY beginning to give me a brief history of music, starting with friggin cave men hollering and beating on trunks with rocks, up until when people tried to figure out how exactly to note music to know not only the pitch of the tune but the timing of both the sounds and the silence up until the Italians came up with words like allegre and stuff to tell you how to play it. When he got to Chopin, and he told me that Chopin taught his students that they don’t play piano with their fingers, the fingers are just another instrument, they play with their SOULS, he got choked up and of course therefore so did I. He speaks so slowly and precisely, due probably to his advanced age, that I understood every single word he said. I’m positively enamored of him. My new shoes hurt so much that day but I was determined to wear them in, and I think all that walking in the rain helped.

THURSDAY: So after class, I went to practice piano a while before I had my 3pm Ritmos Latinos dance class with my homoboy from my home school. Most dance classes I’ve ever taken, the teacher is like, okay we’re going to do this step now and this is how it’s done, step by step, okay now let’s all do that together, hey you you’re going the wrong way you should go the other way… no. This guy just turned the music on and started dancing and we could either follow him or screw it all up as much as we wanted. And he went full steam ahead, hardcore dancing. On my walk home from the bus stop, however, after yesterday’s nonstop piropos, I only got one whistle that I think was probably for me and one honk that I have no idea. Here’s the test then, I thought. I’ll ask Kiki how it went for her. If she still got ‘em, then they’re all for her. If she didn’t, then it’s just our power combined. Turns out she got way more. That’s right, I’m holding her back.

When I got home, we lunched (ahhh, the things learning Spanish is doing to my English) with Lore, who was flipping the television channels around and was watching some movie with horses and Spiderman. Turns out it was Seabiscuit, and when I realized it and hollered – Ah, Seabiscuit! – she thought it was the funniest word she had ever heard and kept making me repeat it for the duration of the movie. We started talking and ended up talking about plastic surgery somehow or another. Kiki and I were both strongly against it, declaring that women who get it don’t believe they’re beautiful, and that we think it’s better for someone to say “She’s pretty good looking” than to say “She’s friggin gorgeous but it’s all fake.” Stressing natural beauty over manmade falseness. Lore stressed that it wasn’t a big deal, that people in Mexico do it all the time, that it’s super cheap and a boyfriend of hers almost bought her boobs once. Kiki and I were both appalled … come to find out a couple days later that the nose Lore has now isn’t the one she was born with. Whoops.

She was also telling us about how she doesn’t really pal around with her old friends ever since she split up with her ex boyfriend – that most of her friends were also his, and so to avoid awkwardness she’s just kinda quit hanging out altogether. So Kiki and I declared that we would be her new friends, so we took her with us to the bailet folclorico downtown in this grand old theater where we met up with another couple of kids from the program. It was seriously impressive, and just fifty pesos, which is less than five bucks. Sweet!

FRIDAY: We went home after a Kiki watched me practice piano until my hands got tired and ate, then went with Lore to meet some friends in the city center – the same ones we met at the bailet last night. We went to the Mercado San Juan de Dios again, the one from when we went downtown with Mom last weekend, so that was kinda fun, so that the girl Monica could look for a violin to take lessons with. Then we needed to head back to make it to the futbol game in time – our school’s home team was playing a big deal team from Mexico City and we all wanted to go and pretend like we were longtime fans. But Monica and Daniel wanted to wait for another chick who was super late, and we did a lot of sitting around.

I have a problem with restlessness. It manifests a little in everyday life, but it goes over the top when I’m traveling. We were sitting waiting for this chick to show, this chick I’d never met before in my life, and she was taking way too long to get there, meanwhile the time was burning and we were supposed to meet my homoboy before the game for a drink but time was awastin and everyone was wanting to take pictures of the group in different combinations and I HATE being in photos and it was making me go bonkers plus the clouds were gathering and threatening to start raining at any minute…

…when the chick finally showed, there was MORE indecision going on, more like well are we gonna take cabs or a bus and are we going together or in groups and meanwhile if we take a bus it’s gonna take too long, I wanted to hop a cab with Kiki and Lore because I needed to go back to the house to get my ticket anyway because I’d thought we were going to be going back by there so I left it there and then get to the game but they were all well wait are we gonna blah blah…

…then the rain started and I just started walking. I figured anyone who wanted to come with me could, and I’d be able to manage either way. Kiki and Lore hopped the cab with me and we made it to the house just in time to make it to the game just in time and had a BLAST. You would not BELIEVE the fight songs these guys kept singing – some completely appropriate to be repeated, some I wouldn’t even repeat in a bar. We went expecting to get SMOKED by the other team, but we smoked them three to zero. The stadium was entirely full and went wild.

We were standing with a group of exchange students who all wanted to go out partying afterward. Neither Kiki nor I really had any desire to go somewhere crazy (Lore hadn’t gone to the game with us), nor my homoboy (whose name I intentionally keep omitting because some folks back home might know him and I don’t want his antics recounted without his consent) and we wanted to just find a place nearby to sit and get a bite and a drink and head home… but the whole group jumped on a bus so we, like good little sheep, followed. These two Korean girls from Kiki’s class were following too, and while grammatically and on paper their Spanish is great, when it comes time to speak they’re way too shy and apologetic to be any good at all. We felt the need to look out for them, and when we all ended up at the place the Germans had been leading us, it looked like a posh dance club with a dress code and a line to get in. Man, all we wanted was a cheap taqueria and a margarita! So we looked at the place, at each other, at the place, at each other… and there it was again. A group of people, standing around, indecisive, wondering what to do. Kiki and I had spotted a place we were interested in eating at, so after more than enough indecision we just said, alright, we’re going. Whoever wants to can come. Ended up us two, my homoboy, Daniel, and the two Korean girls.

We ate entirely too many tacos and quesadillas and I drank my weight in horchata and the whole table’s ticket was like two hundred twenty pesos and we paid and made our respective ways home. What a week!