May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Last Leg in Mexico into the Good Ol' USA


March 12—After losing our buds Maureen and Jen we sadly wandered around the beautiful city built on a steep hill.  The image of Pipilo stood above all, representing the man who put a rock slab on his back to avoid the bullets of the Spanish in the grain storage building, gained access to the door then torched all those inside, and won the battle for independence for Guanajuato.

Colorful homes cascade down to the theaters, shops, museums, churches (the Pope is coming soon) and roads, one of which flows underneath the town because it used to be the riverbed.
Les in our hostel room

Sue Downstairs

Headboard after Frida Kahlo's artwork

Our hostel is lovely, covered with flowers and wrought iron.  Apparently we were lucky to have the left side, as the “Bar Fly” is attached to the other side, and music pumps the walls until 3:30AM. 

March 13-15—We explored the market and looked every day for the pulque man.  I want to bring home some agave honey water if I can.  I found some silver earrings, a little skeleton named Katrina and fruit/veggie shakes.  YUM.

Diego Rivera's birth home

Diego Rivera's image of the beginning of the world.
We went to the birthplace of Diego Rivera and saw the room with the crib where he slept.  Upstairs an all-encompassing exhibit of his early work hung in every room (cubist phase, nudes, volcano images, post-impressionist from Paris room, Mexican folklore interpretations, and his signature style including sketches of things we saw in the palace earlier.  Later, we saw a Spanish movie “Beneath our Feet.”  I enjoyed it very much, though I understood about 5% of it.  I am going to miss getting better at Spanish, as I still have a long way to go!
Ballet class with Mariella Messina

One highlight was calling the local ballet teacher to ask her if I could watch a rehearsal of “Dark Light” (Luz Oscuro).  I had seen a poster of the opening and it looked very interesting.  Mariella Messina invited me to come see a class!  After eating a delicious tamale, I climbed into a cab who took me to the top of the ridge.  Beautiful view!  But then he backed down a dark driveway.  I thought, “Oh Great, this is when I get robbed.” But no, this was indeed the studio.  He rung the doorbell and a nice woman guided me two floors down into the studio.

Balletic "Katrinas"

They were rehearsing a duet and a little ditty for the younger students.  All were scary and demonic or playing with images of skeletons.  It was great to watch class.  It looked Russian in its expression, yet it was coming from her Cecchetti background; she was Italian.  The students were focused and worked very hard to get the legs higher, and to achieve the intensity in the legs that make for fire-y footwork.  She and her students were very kind to me.  It was a true pleasure to meet kindred souls from far away.
We paid extra to have a more secure taxi WHO IS WATCHING TV!
Tent city of the teachers striking in the main square (Zocalo)

March 15—was our travel day.  We ate a delicious breakfast that our hostel supplied (from a fruit and toast plate, to eggs Mexican style, to toast with beans, sausage and cheese on top), and made our way to the bus station.  Back to Mexico City! 

We took a cab to the hostel, but the guy said the whole area was closed because of the teachers’ union strike.  They had closed down most of the nearby streets and set up tents to protest the government mandating examinations of their subject knowledge.  Lightning surrounded us, so we went up to the rooftop for a mojito to watch the show.  LOVELY and exciting!  I have said if I ever came back to life as something, it would be an electrical storm.  Yeah.
Indian Embassy
March 16—We got our Indian visas with no problem, except that we took a taxi that had to figure out how to get around all those striking (demonstrating) teachers.  It took a long, long time.   

Diego Rivera oversaw this mural at the University Library
Afterwards, we decided to go to the university to see the famous giant murals by Diego Rivera.  I do remember seeing them as a 5-year-old, and also the high dive for the Olympics. Across the street was the Olympic stadium.  This time Les and I lay in front of the colorful library mural and gazed at all the images on it, and tried to interpret them as best we could.  I wondered, if it wasn’t made of tile, why hadn’t the painting faded in time and weather?  There were students all over the quad doing yoga, playing ping-pong, listening to music, practicing circus skills and breakdancing, studying, kissing and locomoting.  It’s energizing to be on a huge university campus again!  On the way back, I wanted to see if I could find “pulque” to bring home for friends to try, and followed some directions to a plaza where there was a pulqueria.  This is the natural stuff that comes from the agave plant that they let ferment before distilling it into tequila and mescal.   I had a cup of the natural, then a sample of the peach flavored one.  It didn’t taste as good as the one we tasted at the pyramids.  The seller said that it wouldn’t make it to the USA because the fermentation is fast enough that it would explode in the plane.  Oh, well. 

March 17—was my shopping day.  I figured I could get things a little cheaper than the duty free stores IF they were open at 5:30 tomorrow morning.  My list included things I can’t get in the US very easily: vanilla, cajeta, damiana, ronpope, pisco, boots, and something light and easy to take to hosts when we travel.  I also bought some bubble wrap, a big bag with a zipper ($3US) and a 3-metal ring ($.90 US).  We have been collecting these rings.   

Healer's supplies
As I shopped, I enjoyed seeing the healers douse people with fragrant smoke and herbs and water as they had soft conversations beforehand.   
Aztec Dancer with feathers, shakers, and masks.

The Aztec dancers were out in force too, banging their drums and dancing in their loin cloths and feathers ALL Sunday.  
Reminds me of the top of my childhood Christmas tree angel
St. Judas: Saint of Lost Causes, with personal notes on ribbons
 I spent a little time in church too.   As I sat and felt others come in for 5 minutes to pray and go I was thinking how it’s not so different than the muslims that stop to pray 5 times a day.  Also, I was sitting quietly with others who were meditating, in front of the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe (a specifically Mexican icon) in a European structure that is slowly sinking into the ancient lake that has become Mexico City, with Aztec drums beating outside and ancient ruins of temples next door, a trumpet that sounds one note three times every few minutes, and tourists coming to view the whole that is uniquely Mexican!
Most of my booty I brought to the hotel was liquid, so I spent the next bit of time wrapping bottles up in bubble wrap, shoes and clothing to withstand the luggage handlers.  Our packs were extra heavy—back up to where they were when we started—around 20 kilos.   
Fruit Salad!
Great Shakes

We went back to our favorite fruit place and had fresh salads and juice shakes.  Then the hostel had a “warm up party” on the roof: drinks at ½ price and one free shot of tequila.  Les and I went up to have a mojito and listen to the oldies playing as we watched the night skyline blink.

You can plug in your car! Solar Panels feed this.
March 18-27—After a couple of hours sleep, we got to the airport too early and arrived in Miami.  I think the dog sniffer smelled the tea and dipping spices I have been carrying from Israel because the backpack was uncovered and opened in that area.  Nothing missing.   
Chinese Visa Application
Next morning we got to the Chinese Embassy early and waited about an hour.  When it was our turn, we had to get new photos (ours were 12 months old, not 6 months).  Also Les’s last clear page had been stamped by Mexico as we were exiting, so they wouldn’t give him a visa without a clean page.  He went to the US visa services who took too long to get extra pages, so he ended up getting the additional pages in Boston later.  
Bus Broke Down
We were early for the Megabus, so we got on the bus that was one before ours at 1:10.  At 5:00 it broke down and we had to wait until 7:45 for another bus. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, we could catch up on sleep, and there was internet and electricity; so Les worked on his blog for a long time.  We caught the last commuter train to Southborough and an angel friend that Les adores picked us up in Les’s car. 
TARKA!  Reunited with a strong, healthy dog, thanks to RUTH
We ran over to Troy to pick up dear TARKA and the car.  THANK you Ruth!  THANKS Sarah and Alan!  The dog and car are strong and energetic.  Tarka has more white and is more wiggly than the car though.
After washing travelers checks

After a day of washing everything in my pack (including documents and a large amount of travelers checks) and wearing old clothes like they were long lost friends,  and ironing the travelers checks so that they were a little drier and flatter, I took off for Maine.
Becky the Rolfer

My favorite bodyworker is there.  Becky the Rolfer can make me stand better on my feet, increase range in joints, get rid of nerve pinches and make miracles happen.  After my session with her, I went to a couch-surfing host (Wendy) who is a dynamic art teacher and mother of amazing children who have grown to embrace their passions in life.   
Days old Kid
We went next door to hold the wee baby goats, went walking in the warm night by the lake, and shared stories about activism, environmentalism and changing the world for the better through art with Wendy.  The next morning I went back to Becky and then to one of my favorite salvage stores, Marden’s to buy some professional clothes and shoes.  I scored a pair of those Merrell barefoot shoes Martin was so excited about for 1/2 price!  Then I drove back to Boston for a day, including having dinner and making Pisco Sours for some wonderful friends at Les’s school before heading to Troy to do financial stuff and taxes, see doctors and dentists and to visit dear friends. 
I think the greatest luxury of a sabbatical is having the time to be able to work something out.  If something doesn’t turn out as expected, I feel like I can remain relaxed and trust that I’ll be able to work it out.  No one suffers because of my decisions, and I am not really responsible to anyone but myself (and the whole world in some esoteric way, really).  What a huge weight off!  I am so grateful!  There’s nothing like it.  (How’s retirement, people who have been through some of that?)

University architecture in Guanajuato


  1. Sue,
    Good luck with your Chinese Visa. It is hard to get...I do know someone there I could try to write her to help. Better if someone there kind of sponsors you....
    Let me know...
    Good luck! Long trip but then you are used to that! Amazing stories, I love reading them. Were you in the earthquake in Mexico City?

  2. Yes! I think we're almost all set.
    Luckily, Les and I left the 18th. The quake was on the 20th. Wow. Blessed!