Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Day of the Dead

Well, I'm in Guanajuato now. I've gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. From blazing hot to chilly. I'm searching for the same thing Papa Bear in Goldilocks famously looked for in his porridge: "Not too hot and not too cold, but JUST RIGHT."
I got in last night after a 4 hour bus ride from the Guadalajara airport (exhausted). And, boy, I immediately dug the jacket out of the old suitcase. Which leads me to things I like (product endorsements here)--
1. I'm sure glad I brought my polar fleece jacket. It's easy to roll up and stow, and super lightweight. But plenty warm for these mountain evenings.
2. I love the Yahoo Voice system I signed up for. It's the best way to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Easy to use and only a penny a that rate, it's cheaper than the plan I was using for long distance back in Phoenix. I've also used it to call ahead here in Mexico to make reservations. That's considered at U.S.-to-Mexico call (international) and the rate is something like 6 cents. But it's pretty much replaced a phone for me on the road. Only downside: the connection is sometimes spotty. But--hey--I'll take that inconvenience.
3. My little laptop computer. It was a last-minute purchase off of E-Bay right before I left. I hadn't even thought to bring a computer, since every little town in Mexico has Internet cafes everywhere. But it has been terrific. I can use it for email (safer than using public Internet cafes), Yahoo Voice (see above), and doing research on bus lines and my next destination.
4. As someone who's been traveling worldwide since 1973, it is astounding how very much technology has changed the travel experience.
5. My Swiss Army knife (knock-off copy). I bought it at a pawn shop before I left. It's handy for everything from opening wine bottles to cutting paper to screwing in loose electrical outlets.
6. Canned tuna. Yep, here in Mexico they have canned tuna SALAD with all sorts of nice veggies in it. A can of that plus some crackers and a fresh fruit makes a dandy lunch.
7. My "Pac-Safe" brand backpack. It, too, was a last-minute purchase, but, boy, is it cool. It has a steel mesh built into the fabric and steel wire cables in the shoulder it's "cut-proof." Also, there is a bag within the bag, which you can remove and lock onto a fixture in your room. It also has a steel mesh built into all sides of the bag plus it has a steel wire draw string which you cinch up and wrap the wire around oh, say, the bathroom toilet. Or a heavy piece of furniture. I leave my laptop computer and my camera in it.Nobody's goin' nowhere with your goodies.
It was expensive, but worth every penny. Extremely well engineered and a comfort to have when your traveling abroad.
8. And last--my "inner pocket." This idea came from the book, People's Guide to Mexico. I went to a seamstress in Phoenix and had her sew me up a 6-inch by 12-inch rectangle made into a pocket. There is a loop on the top that your belt slides through. The thing hangs down INSIDE your pants and is pickpocket-proof. So it's a good place to keep passport, credit cards, etc.

Some quick glimpses from Guanajuato:
Lost in translation, from a local restauant menu-- "pechuga de pollo" (chicken breast) translated "chicken CHEST" OK....we use the word chest and breast for the same thing, only one is limited to humans and the other not. Remember that next time you bite into a nice piece of chicken chest.

And today is Day of the Dead all over Latin America. U.S. Halloween is just beginning to be celebrated, but the former is an ancient holiday begun by the Indians before the arrival of Cortes. The steps of the University of Guanajuato were decorated all the way up and down with traditional skull-shaped candies. Last night, as I was winding my way up this narrow, winding cobblestone street to my hotel, a horde of ghost- and demon-costumed kids came flying by. Pretty cute, but scared the bejezus out of me!

I had dinner at a restaurant owned by a friend of mine from Phoenix. It's called "Cerro de las Ranas" and means hill of the frogs. That is what the original Indian name for Guanajuato meant. The backstory--for the last several years, I had the Mexican guy, Sal, and his brother Mario, do work for me around the house. They did a super job on remodeling my master bath, the patio, some siding, etc. Last time they were over, I told them about my crazy Mexico plans. Sal said I HAD to go to his hometown, Guanajuato. And when I was there I HAD to go to his mother's restaurant. So I did. I was great. Mom wasn't in, but I had an over-dinner chat with his brother-in-law and sister. Oh, and the kids came in trick-or-treating. One little cutie was dressed as the Devil. I mistook him for my ex-boss....
And the hiking up and down these very steep streets winds me. It's a great place to visit, but not so much for living here. As we get older, flat looks good.