Monday, July 25, 2005


Yeah...I finally can upload photos! I've gone back and uploaded several on previous posts, so please check them out and let me know what you think. By the way....I LOVE getting comments! (Thanks, mom!)

Here are some random pictures...

This is a wall of crosses that the woman my friend Geri stayed with in San Miguel de Allende collected...isn't the blue background pretty?

This is me...updating my blog and saying hi to family and friends via email.

This is a great way to relax....nothing like a hammock and a cool sea breeze!

Dayna & Sierra at Monte Albàn in Oaxaca

The colors in Mexico are so rich...Sierra looks beautiful in front of this orange wall.

Litter Bugs and Monkey Bites

We're in Ocosingo right now...a very unlikely place to find such an upscale internet cafe, not to mention the services of putting all my pictures onto CD's (which means I'll finally be able to upload them!). There happens to be a college here for computer science and engineering. Other than that, it seems a pretty sleepy town halfway between San Cristòbal and Palenque...for us it is the jumping off point of going deep into the jungle into the Biosphere Reserve of Montes Azules where we will stay in a jungle town called Zapata. Along the way we will pass other small towns that are Zapatista strongholds, and I'm told to have my documents in order and ready to present. We are hoping to stay up to two weeks in Zapata, which is close to the shores of Laguna Miramar, reportedly the most remote and pristine lake in Mexico. There is no development allowed within 1 km of the lake, and motorboats are prohibited. The town we are going to, Zapata, doesn't allow alcohol or drugs of any kind. To get to the lake, we'll have to go on horseback. There are no roads leading to Zapata, so we will ride in the back of a truck that will cut through the jungle. THIS is my type of adventure!! Sierra's too, because I found a way that we only had to go offroad for 2-3 hours, but she chose the road that is 7 hours!

Yesterday we went to the Cañon del Sumidero, an impressive jaunt by lancha (motorboat) through canyons that tower over 3,000 feet above. Along the way we saw cocodrillos (crocodiles), monos (monkeys) and other wildlife. There were these flourescent green birds flying in and out of the trees...they were so beautiful, but I don't know what they are called. There is one area where there is a smallish waterfall coming out about 1500 feet above the water, and as it comes down the cliff it has formed a series of algae that looks like a Christmas tree. It was really neat.

One very sad thing we saw was an area of the river that is badly polluted. This picture actually doesn't even show the worst part of it. People in Mexico don't have the sanitary disposal we have in the U.S. and therefore there are very few garbage cans. People seem to just throw stuff out the window or in the street. This particular area of the river must have some differing currents, because all the trash is in one area, but it is extensive. The boats have difficulty getting through it, and it is thick with diapers, plastic bottles, coconuts, name it. It was sobering and disgusting. The birds were sitting right on top of the garbage in the water and eating from it. I can't imagine the impact this must have on the fish, birds, crocs and water quality, but I'm sure it is extensive.

Along the way, about 40 minutes into the lancha ride through the canyon, there is an Eco-Park that is only accessible via the lancha. It is entirely too expensive, but we decided to go anyway! They dropped us off at the park, and we realized immediately that it is set into a steep hill, and you have to walk up, up, up in the hot and muggy jungle atmosphere. I was sweating like crazy! They have a lot of neat markers that explain different trees and birds and various other flora and fauna along the way, and there is an aviary and also two jaguars and a puma to see. For a fee you can rappel or go on the zip line or kayak around.

We went into the aviary and saw some toucans (the traditional ones you are familiar with that are black with colorful beaks as well as other types that are green), and some big bird that looks a little like a turkey but with little dreadlock looking things on it's head, and some parrots. We were also very excited to see some monkeys!

One of the monkeys was hanging on the cage looking at Sierra and we were putting our fingers in the cage and feeling it's foot and it's fur. We filled the cap of the water bottle with water and were letting it drink from it. Sierra put some on her finger and the monkey started to suck it off. She ended up doing this several times and it was soo cute...she wanted me to get a picture, so I was trying to and she put her finger in one more time and the monkey sucked on it, then bit her finger! The noise was this horrible crunching sound that made me shake in the pit of my stomach. I was sure it had bitten the top of her finger off! I was freaking out and there was blood everywhere and Sierra was saying "it's's not's fine"...I couldn't bring myself to look at it closely as I was sure I'd see only bone and meat. I was looking for something to apply pressure and stop the bleeding and Sierra started to get mad at me, telling me I was freaking her out because I was freaking out. We ended up using the rest of the water in the water bottle to wash it off, then put her skirt on it. We found a guy who worked there and I told him what happened...his first words (of course!) were..."don't touch the animals"...I guess we learned our lesson, huh? Anyway, he took us down, down, down the mountain (after all that work to get up!!!) and to the nurse's station. The guy looked at it and said it was not a bad bite, and just needed to be washed and bandaged. We were both relieved as the visions of going to a Mexican ER were erased from my mind. He washed it and disinfected it, then put on a bandage and we were good to go. Within minutes, Sierra had recovered and was even feeling a little proud of her "souvenier". We ended up going back UP the hill to see the jaguars and puma ( feeding those guys!) and ultimately to the top so Sierra could take a 5 station zip line ride down to the bottom where the pool was. I ended up taking my time walking down and looking at all the butterflies and plants and things and then met Si down by the pool.

We weren't exactly sure how to get back to San Cristòbal from the canyon, and after waiting for a bus for about an hour, finally caught one back and ended up back in town about 10 pm. We both took some Tylenol and went to bed after our adventures of the day.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

On Getting Mobbed and Making New Friends

Chiapas is fantastic - we are really enjoying our time here. We are in the highlands and it can actually get pretty nippy. The indigenous people are an inspiration, yet it is difficult to imagine the hard lives they lead.

On being true to my addiction, we did find a fantastic little coffee shop. Sierra thinks their frappuccinos are even better than Starbuck's (who woulda thunk??)...and I have to say that their cappuccino's rival the Goat...

The class differences are so stark here, and there are a lot of Mexican tourists right now from DF (Mexico City for those not in the know). Believe it or not, this guerra actually blends in with Middle Class Mexicans and I have been mistaken for Mexican! This pleases me to no end, of course. Today I was even mistaken for German...I took it as a compliment because it seems the "world at large" tends to have a negative view of "American Tourists" I figure I'm making up for that somehow by being a good traveller.

Apparently the reason so many folks are here now is because they were originally to go to Cancún, but were re-routed due to Emily. So, it's interesting to be a traveller among traveling Mexicans! However, there are plenty of other folks too. We've met Peter and Teresia from Denmark, Marco from Italy, and a variety of other folks from France, Sweden, Israel and other places. It's neat to hear all different languages around you. As I wrote about before, we've also met some folks from "home"...Isadora, Seth and Cariña from New Mexico and Pamela and Wren from Arizona.

In addition to other major languages, we are hearing a lot of indigenous languages. Yesterday, I learned some Tzotzil....for example....Cus í a bi? (What is your name?), Maruch bi (My name is Dayna), Mili oté? (How are you?), Milé cot (I am fine). Fun, huh?

So yesterday we went to Las Grutas, some caves nearby San Cristóbal. There you can explore about 750 feet into this huge cave that has a river running through it. They have a raised paved walkway and it is kind of freaky! The water is dripping down and creating stalagmites and stalactites and they look really slimy, but when you touch them they are hard rock. It was eerily beautiful. At one point there was a big sign that said "Prohibido Hacer Pipi"...which is prohibited to go pee pee! Hehe...we got a kick out of that one.

After exploring the cave a bit, we went outside where they had horseback riding, a big park, and of course...vendors! There was this slide of concrete poured into the side of the mountain and kids would sit on a piece of cardboard or an old plastic bottle to slide down. The plastic bottle was the best for conducting speed. Then we went horseback riding through the forest...$5 US per hour! Sierra's horse was kind of lazy, and she had to keep smacking it's butt, but it still wouldn't move, so this little guy came running alongside the horse smacking it's flank to make it move. It finally started going and she loved trotting and galloping. I was done after an hour, but Sierra wanted more so she kept going. She went with a little guy who was about her age and was her guide and they galloped their horses all over those mountains!

After Las Grutas, we went to San Juan Chamula. Sierra was getting tired and a bit cranky and didn't want to go, but I said "too bad". I'm glad I did!!! San Juan was so interesting.

First of all, the ride there was just incredible. They live in a valley that is so fertile and they have small farms with goats, pigs, horses and they grow corn, cabbage, beans and a variety of other vegetables. They wear very distinctive clothing. The men wear white tunics made of lambs wool...but the wool is still curly on the fabric. The women have black skirts of the same wool, and colorfully sewn silk shirts. They make everything by hand.

We wanted to buy a table runner so I began to talk with a woman who had some. She ended up showing us how she weaves them and even let Sierra give it a go! She has a rope around a pole, and on that is connected her weaving apparatus, and the end is a leather belt that goes behind her and pulls the tapestry taught. Then she goes through a series of maneuvers to set up the yarn and weave it. Her 13 year old daughter also weaves, and she began to learn the craft at age 10.

We were a little hungry, so we headed to a little restaraunt for lunch. They had one option, which we got. A peice of chicken (whole, on the bone with skin) in some chicken broth with rice in the broth and about 20 tortillas on the side. We ate a little bit and then Sierra saw a dog she had made friends with, so she threw him some tortilla. Before we knew it, we had 4 new pooch friends...all with big sad eyes and ribs sticking out. Sierra kept giving them food and I was getting on her when a little boy about 7 or 8 stuck his head over the gate and asked for some tortilla too!! I ended up giving him my soup, my 1/2 eaten chicken leg, my 1/2 drank coke and the tortillas! Then Sierra took her soup and just put it on the floor for the dogs. I think we had a big sign on our foreheads that said "SUCKER COMING!!".

After this little episode, we headed up to the church. The people in San Juan Chamula have some different religious practices, and have combined a form of Catholicism with witchcraft. The church is beautiful from the outside, but the inside is mostly empty. There is dried grass spread about the floor, and statues of saints all around the perimeter. There must have been over 1000 candles burning on the floor and in front of the saints. People were on their hands and knees praying and chanting with candles all around them. They had food, soda and alcohol, which they pour on the floor in healing rituals. We didn't see it but read that sometimes they rub bones over sick people for healing. They actually worship John the Baptist over Jesus. The people are extremely devoted to their faith and it was scary and sad to me at the same time. I read that some missionaries had come into the town some time back and many people converted to Christianity, but that the people who didn't convert were incensed over this and ran the converts out of town. They now live on the outskirts of San Cristóbal in an area called Cinturón de Miseria (Belt of Misery), which is a shanty town. I tried to find this place, but no one seems to know where it is.

While in the church, two men approached me to ask if it was okay to walk around the church...maybe they thought I was in charge??? Haha. Anyway, I told them it was fine. Later, we ended up talking more. They were visiting from DF and also found the church scary. They also had "SUCKER" tattooed on their foreheads, and together we were all acosted by children everywhere wanting gum, money, notebooks, pens, sodas and anything else we would give them. One boy saw something in my fanny pack and was begging for it, saying he needed a pen for school. I finally took it out and showed him it was mascara!!! That got a big laugh from everyone. Our new friends, Roberto and Polo, offered to give us a ride back to San Cristóbal, but asked if it would be okay to go to another town first called Zinacantan. We thought that would be interesting and agreed. As we were leaving, kids were literally dragging on us, begging and demanding things. We had bought several packs of gum and were giving them out, which caused more kids to run out and they were grabbing and pulling at us and pushing each other. It was awful. One girl asked if we could take her picture, which I did, and then she demanded to be paid! I took out a peso for her, and it was all over...the kids went crazy. They wouldn't let her take it, they were grabbing my hand and trying to pry the pesos out. It was a mob and it was scary. I hate that this is what these kids have been taught in their lifetime and I think it has stolen their pride. We finally had to throw the pesos to get them off of us so we could even get into the car.

We headed out to Zinacantan, a little shook up. However, Zinacantan was just what we needed. As we pulled into town, some girls ran up and offered to be our guides. We said we weren't sure and kept going til we got to the church. There another girl offered to be our guide. We agreed to pay her 5 pesos and she showed us around town and the church. The church here is very quaint, and we soon had a group of girls following us and giggling. Sierra got bored in the church and went outside with the girls. We came out to find them playing Cat's Cradle, and other string games. Si had some excess energy so she began to cartwheels and backbends, which the girls found truly amazing and they kept wanting her to do it again and again. They tried and tried, and were giggling the whole time. Finally, a few girls and Sierra ended up having a footrace around the church and then they all ran in front of us while our guide showed us the way to the Artesan's homes to look at the handi-work of the town.

As you might gues, the Artisan we visited was our guides (Cristina) mom and grandma. Well, we headed in to look and before you know it, all the girls were playing dress-up with me and Sierra and dressing us up in the traditional costume of their town! Soon they were also dressing up Roberto and Polo and we took many, many pictures of us all in our new garb. Then the grandma, Petrona, invited us in for dinner. They have a large room that is empty except for a few child-size chairs and a firepit with a very large pottery bowl that they cook on. The homefires were burning!! It was such an honor and a treat to eat with them, and I'm sure it was a big sacrifice for them, too. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and it was them who taught me a few words to Tzotzil. The girls all sat Si down and braided her hair in two braids, and they couldn't get enough of her red hair. All in all, it was a magical night.

We all came back into town and walked around San Cristóbal a bit, had some coffee and then we bid our new friends good bye.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


We arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas this morning, in the state of Chiapas. We climbed up, up, up into the mountains, above the clouds as the sun was rising. We are heading into jungle country and the scenery is fantastic. We rode through the night and woke up to green everywhere. The bus stopped for 1/2 hour at 3 am in case anyone wanted to eat!!!

As we were driving up the mountain, you can see the effects of deforestation everywhere. There are miles and miles of corn crops where once there was jungle. They've planted corn on impossibly steep hillsides and I have no idea how anyone harvests the corn. There are men and women in colorful huipiles and sarapes. The men are often carrying 5-10 gallon buckets on their back filled with water or gas and they are strapped on like a backpack with rope. The women carry bundles of wood that have a strap they place on their forehead and carry that way. They walk up and down the mountains every day. It's amazing!

As you may recall, we saw a big demonstration in Oaxaca yesterday. I've found out some more information. Apparently the union called a strike because some reporters were being critical of the governor that the union supported. The reporters ended up being holed up in their offices for a month (their choice or because of the union I'm not sure). Apparently yesterday at 1 am the union beseiged the offices with billy clubs and mace and dragged the reporters out. The demonstration was on behalf of the reporters. From what I understand, President Fox is trying to bring about more freedom of speech, but it's been a struggle. He was going to come down to Oaxaca to try to help the reporters and the union sort things out, but the union acted before he got here. It's interesting to me to be a part of this country as they work out the issues and difficulties of embracing freedom of speech.

I've been seeing reports on the effects of Emily...I understand it has been degraded to a "depression" and is now hitting the Veracruz coast. They are looking for volunteers to help in rebuilding some of the areas that were hit the hardest and I am in contact with a guy in the Yucatan to see if we can help. I'll keep everyone posted!

For the moment, we're looking for MONKEYS!!

Guelaguetza in Oaxaca

Wow...Oaxaca knows how to party! We got here last Saturday and almost didn't find a room. Right now is the Guelaguetza festival...also known as "The Monday's on the Hill"....this is an annual festival where all the 7 regions of Oaxaca are represented by dance, music and singing. In Mexican culture, there are generally a few families in each Puebla who are designated as the people who help out others when there is a death, birth or marriage. They give gifts and help out others. In the Guelaguetza, the dancers throw gifts of food to the crowds.

We were lucky to find a room at Hostal Don Mario, which is a nice little place for $200 pesos a night. It's about 8 blocks from the center of town, but the walk is through the touristy shopping district. One nice thing is that from the street we are on all the way to the Centro the streets are pedestrian only, so there are literally thousands of people milling around. There is impromptu music all the time, and dancing, and vendors with everything imaginable. Lots of people from the outlying villages come into town and they are dressed in traditional clothing that is so colorful. Each outfit represents where they are from and what their craft is.

We met a lady who makes rugs by hand and she showed us how she weaves them with wool and how she dyes the wool with natural colors. There is a little bug that they catch and when it dies and dries out they crumble it and mix it with water to make red. For orange they mix lemon juice to it and for purple they add some bi-carbonate. She let me mix it on my hand and it was stained purple for two days!! Her rugs were truly a work of art and she puts her initials and her family logo in the corner. If I had room in my pack, I would definitely buy one!

Every night they have been having fireworks. One night we thought the fireworks were in one area and were heading there when we stumbled across where they really were. We were waiting there when a young guy about 20 approached me and asked if I spoke Spanish. I said I did and he invited us and any other tourists to come up on his roof to get a better view of the fireworks. We gathered about 8 people and headed up. Apparently they usually have friends and family over to watch the fireworks, but this year they didn't so they thought they'd let some gringos check it out. It was SO COOL!!!! We sat on the edge of the roof with the fireworks right below us. The first one they lit off was a butterfly that opened and closed while a big flower spun behind it. Let me tell you, the Mexicans know parties and they know fireworks!! There are several men who put on a little bull costume that is adorned with fireworks and they run around and into the crowd and people play "bullfight" with's quite entertaining.

Another night we watched fireworks and they had strung the whole church and centro with fireworks overhead. We were standing below them when they lit them and had to run to get out of the way of the falling fire!! It was as bright as day!

I've been searching for a journal that I can write and paint in, but have had no luck!! I found them in SMA right at the beginning, but thought I'd find them easy as pie elsewhere. Teaches me!! I've been looking high and low for three weeks to no avail.

Sierra's Spanish is picking right up and she's doing great. I think she's enjoying being able to communicate in Spanish.

There is a political problem in Oaxaca right now and I'd asked several people about it, but no one seemed to know. It has something to do with the government locking up the journalists. Anyway, as we sit here, there is a huge demonstration going on for this reason just right outside. It is pouring down rain and the people are shouting and waving banners. It's kind of exciting!

This morning, in search of my journal....we went to one of the markets and Sierra wanted some pineapple (the fruit is unbelievable here!)...she just wanted a little peice, so we went to buy it and the lady gave it to her for free. Wasn't that so sweet??

Speaking of Sierra...she gets quite a lot of attention everywhere we go. She's so beautiful and her sweet heart just shines through. I get a lot of comments about how smart she is, and how pretty and how sweet. I just love it! She is really getting more comfortable with Mexico and with traveling, which just warms this mama's heart.

Oaxaca is famous for coffee, chocolate and molé...I really like the coffee and the chocolate (especially their hot chocolate!), but the molé is not my thing. It's intensely popular, but just not for me. It was here that chocolate was discovered...a very important and fantastic discovery if you ask me!

Tonight we leave for San Cristobal de las Casas, which is in Chiapas. We hope to get deep into the jungle and to find some Mayan villages to spend time in and to find some MONKEYS!!! We also might see Toucans, Alligators and Jaguars, as well as a myriad of other animals, birds and exotic flora and fauna.

Still having trouble getting photos downloaded, so it may be a bit before I can get that figured out. As soon as I do, I'll load a bunch!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

My Baby Barfed in the Back of the Bus

....and mama mopped it up!

We are in Oaxaca, Oaxaca (like New York, NY) and it is a fantastic town. We came yesterday by an 11 hour bus ride from Puerto Angel. The ride was supposed to be 7 hours, but we got on the wrong bus and took the LONG way to Oaxaca. We justified it to ourselves by thinking it wouldn't be so curvy. We were wrong. It was curvy. Curvier than any road I've ever been on. We were in the back of the bus, Sierra's favorite place to go. Bad idea. The back gets whipped around those hairpin turns a lot worse than the front. Unfortunately there were no seats available up further. Sierra threw up all over her seat and the floor and there was no TP in the bathroom to clean it up with so I took the little headrest sanitary things and cleaned it up. About that time she thought she might get sick again, so I opened the bathroom door for her. Then she said, "no, I'm fine" so I closed it and she promptly threw up again. Unfortunately, I had used up just about all of the little headrest thingies. I ended up walking up and down the aisle and snagging them off of occupied chairs if the person was sleeping!! She felt much better after that.

We had a great week in Puerto Angel. We ended up busting our budget a bit. That is one thing I have found...things are just not as cheap as I thought they would be, so we have not done very well on keeping to $40 per day. I've decided to increase our budget to $60 a day, which is more akin to what we're spending.

In PA we stayed at Cordelia's on the beach. It was $30 per night and was right on the beach and they have a bunch of parrots and toucans there that were cool. Our room had a balcony overlooking the beach. On our second day there we met another family with a little girl and ended up hanging out with them quite a bit. We all went snorkeling one day...the tour was 100 pesos per person for 4 hours, which I thought was a good price. We got to go to 3 little beaches and snorkel and jump off rocks and we got to swim with a sea turtle! It was amazing. They said the turtle was about 50 years old.

We also saw some sea turtles mating and I was amazed to find out that they mate for 15 days and have to stay on the surface that whole time!

We were a little bit bummed because we didn't see any dolphins, but it was a great time anyway. It was raining and there were a lot of big storms during the week which were really cool.

Mostly we just relaxed and visited with people and that was just what we needed. On Fridays there is a big dance in the next town of Zipolite and everyone goes there. I told our new friends Seth and Isadora that they could leave their little girl Cariña with me for the night so they could go to the dance. Their girls had a fun night having a sleepover and giggling all night like little girls do.

We're still in search of monkeys...we think that after Oaxaca we'll go to Chiapas and rent a place for a month or so and explore the rainforest and find ourselves a monkey!

Oaxaca is great and it's really festive right now. They are having the Guelaguetza festival, which is in honor of all the indigenous peoples. They come from all over the region for dance, music and singing. The last two Monday's of July there are giant parties all over town, the biggest of which is the dances at the Guelaguetza stadium. It costs 400 pesos (about $40 dollars) each to get a front seat, but the back seats are free. We will have to get up there around 7 am to get a seat for the dances starting at 10 am. Then, at 7 pm tomorrow night there will be a big parade.

Last night we walked all around the downtown and the Zocalo and there were thousands of people and singing and dancing and clowns and people selling everything! We had dinner with some people from our youth hostel, Teresia and Peter, who are from Sweden. Today we are walking around and exploring the markets. The artisans are amazing.

We met one woman who weaves rugs and they are so beautiful. She makes them out of natural dyes and she showed us how she makes the colors. There is a bug that they capture and when it dies and gets all dried out they squish it and it crumbles into a powder that they mix with water to make red. They add some lemon juice to make orange and some bicarbonate to make purple! She let me do it on my hand and my hand and fingers are all dyed purple right now. It's cool! I want to learn how to do it! I think I'd like to live in an indigenous village and learn some of these things!

While we are here, we are going to go see the ancient ruins of Monte Albán. This city was built in 500 bc and at its height there were over 40,000 inhabitants. The people were called Zapotecs. They have a ball court where they would have these games with other groups...the game was sort of like basketball in that they threw a ball through a hoop...only it wasn't a ball! It was someone's head!!!

After we go to Guelaguetza, I'll post again about it. Have a good one!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Update on the "BUS TRIP"

What a long, strange trip it's been!! We finally got on the bus and I thought I'd be able to just go right to sleep. Nope. Sleep was eluding me. There were two girls about Sierra's age sitting in front of us and they visited for awhile before settling down.

It turns out they sold more tickets than they had seats, so some people were standing in the aisles (this is an overnight bus...ALL night!!). The girls in front of us were connected to a group of about 6 and they were all trying to sit together and another guy came and was bound and determined he would sit in the seat he was assigned and refused to take another seat so they could sit together, which I thought was kind of mean, but oh well.

I ended up not sleeping in a sitting position and so I just laid down on the floor under Sierra's feet and slept there. It was kinda dirty and hot and I was afraid people would either step on me or trip over me on their way to the bathroom, but at least I got a little bit of sleep!!!

We finally made it and, amazingly, both of us had plenty of energy to hit the beach and swim around and whatnot. Boy, did that water feel good!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


We called the bus station this morning. Or, the girl from the hostel did. She told us that we could take the 3:45, 4:45 or 11:00 bus to Puerto Escondido. We thought we'd take the 3:45.

Oh, but first...let me tell you - I stink. I mean, really bad!! I can't stand myself.

So, we left the hostel around 12:30 and figured we'd catch a movie and then go to the bus station. All was going well...the movie got out at a little before 3 and we caught a cab. The cab took us toward the bus station, but there was a traffic jam so he went another direction. The traffic was still jammed so he parked and said he'd walk us to the station. He set off at an Olympic pace and Sierra and I were struggling to keep up with our packs and the 100+ heat. We got to the station a few minutes later and they said it was the wrong one. So we walked another 5 blocks to another station. That was the wrong one, too. He took Sierra's pack and we headed back to the car. He said there was another station. I think we must have walked 12 or more blocks in total in the heat of the day with our packs.

When we got to the proper bus station, the bus had just left. I asked..."can we take a taxi and catch up to it????" but the girl said no, the whole bus was sold out. UGH. The 4:45 bus was a myth...the next one wouldn't be until 11. UGH. Ok, we'll take two tickets for the 11 o'clock bus.

Now, what to do for 5 hours? We couldn't go to the beach. Maybe a park? Well, the one we wanted to go to closes at 6. Another one? It wasn't very safe. Well, I guess we'll go to the mall.

Remember, I told you...I stink. I don't look much like a typical American tourist to Acapulco right now, let me tell you that!

So, on to the mall we went. First we went to the video game place and played video games. Then we wandered around and Sierra rode on one of those Euro-bungee things and then we wandered around some more and thought about a movie but aborted that idea. So, that finds us here, at the internet spot with still 2 1/2 hours to go. We are bored. Our tummies hurt. We are tired. We are stinky (or at least I am). This is fun!!!

I keep telling Sierra we'll look back on this some day and laugh. She doesn't believe me. For now, we're sending IM's to each other from opposite sides of the room. Hey, no one ever said we didn't know how to have fun. Well, I guess we'll just make lemonade out of our lìmones...and sleep all night on the bus.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Fun in the Sun

We came down to Acapulco late Saturday night. We hopped on a bus from Cuernavaca at 4 pm and started down the road to a new adventure. Since it's a bit of a long trip, we took a 1st class bus which has a bathroom and plays a movie. About an hour into our trip we got our first adventure. The 2 pm bus going to Acapulco had broken down, so we were taking on their passengers. As you might guess, there was not enough seats for everyone and a few people were a bit grumpy about it. All the kids under 6 ended up on someone's lap and a few people had to sit on the floor in the aisle. I thought it was amusing.

We soon hit our second adventure. The bathroom door was stuck and the handle had broken off. Since we were sitting in the very back, we got to watch this first hand. An old man and I tried several things to open it, and finally I took my itty-bitty screwdriver for fixing my glasses and jimmied it open. I think that officially makes me the hero of the day!

The ride to Acapulco is beautiful...the mountains and valleys are so green and the rock formations are really interesting. We got to see "Catwoman" in Sierra wants to see it in English! Haha.

We got to Acapulco at something like 9 or 9:30 and hired a taxi to take us to the hotel. Of course, he continually tried to talk me into another hotel that was closer or cleaner or a little bit more expensive and I was getting really annoyed. I'm not sure if he just didn't know where the hotel was, or it was too far and through bad traffic or he just wanted a commission for getting me to take another hotel! He FINALLY took us to the hotel I'd asked him to take us to (after stopping at 3-4 others) and they were just selling their last room! It was after 10:30 at night! He didn't want to take us to the youth hostel because it was too far away - on the other side of the bay. I said "fine, take us wherever that is under $300 pesos a night". He took us to this hotel and we went in and I didn't like it, so I asked for my money back and had to argue with the guy about it and he finally gave it back and we got another taxi and went to the youth hostel. The second taxi driver was so nice and helpful and I really appreciated him. When we got to the hostel at 11:30 pm it was all dark and I was a bit nervous so he ended up walking us in and around and getting us checked in and making sure we were safe and all was fine.

The hostel here, Kingdom Hostel, is really nice. It must be a 4-5 acre campus and there is a 5 lane olympic sized pool, track, tennis court and soccer field. There are two tv rooms and computers and hammocks and a nice courtyard for visiting. It´s brand new, so not many people know about it. My hint...reserve online because then it is $15 per night per person...if you show up it is $20 per bad. There is a bunny and kitten running around that Sierra is having fun playing with.

On Sunday we swam in the pool and then headed to the beach in Acapulco. There we rented a jetski and had a lot of fun on that! Afterward, I taught Sierra the fine art of sneaking into a fancy hotels´pool. She was freaking out about it, but in reality the people said it was fine. We ended up in a hotel that caters to Mexicans (as opposed to Americans & other travelers), so we stuck out like a sore thumb. It was fun though, and she got to play with other kids and splash around for a while.

Both of our stomachs are not feeling so well and we haven't been eating much. However, Sierra was dying to play on the playland at the McDonald's (y'know...creature comforts of home and all that) so that's what we did. It was a little taste of home, I guess.

Now we're on to Puerto Escondido & Puerto Angel, about 7-8 hours south of here.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Strange Happenings

I just watched a man die.

It was surreal and no one could really believe what was happening. No one did believe it.

Today is the birthday of the school, and they had a big party. All of the students and their host families came. There was a ton of food, and drinks and music. Kids were running all over the place and everyone was visiting or dancing or watching. My host family brought rice, and another family brought guacamole and chips and those two families were sitting together under the palapa. The other family was really nice and wished me a happy birthday and when the Mariachi's started singing the husband got up in front and sang with them. I got it on video.

I was sitting with all of them and the husband and wife from the other family went to dance. They were out there dancing and having a great time and I was thinking how great they danced together. The man twirled the woman, and then suddenly his hands dropped to her shoulders and then he dropped to the ground. The wife began to panic and finally someone else noticed what was going on and tried to get help. People crowded around to see what was going on and began to fan him and some people lifted his legs and massaged them and then a man identified himself as a doctor and began to administer CPR. The man seemed to begin breathing on his own a few times, and then would stop, but they were not able to get his heart started again.

The firemen took about 15 minutes to arrive and they didn't seem to know what to do and the man who was a doctor kept yelling at them to pump the man's chest, but they didn't seem to know how so he kept telling them while he was doing it. He was yelling "ya got pump him, ya gotta pump him. He will die without a heartbeat!" Someone else translated for them and they finally began to give him CPR. It took another 15 minutes or so before the ambulance and the paramedics arrived. His wife and son were crying and no one seemed to be going to comfort them, so I did. I just prayed that the man would be okay and that God would be with his family and she would feel like I was Jesus with skin on.

I really didn't have much confidence that the man would live. It took so long, and he didn't seem to be recovering. When I was a lifeguard, they told us if you have to administer CPR, the person has less than a 5% chance of making it.

We don't know what happened. The paramedics finally took him to the hospital and I guess they'll let people know what happened on Monday. Everyone was really shook up and quiet and crying.

There was one young girl, a college student from Ventura...she was on her knees fervently praying Our Father and Hail Mary and Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of Death. She was almost in a trance and her prayers were getting desperate. I went and prayed with her and I sensed she was at the edge of panic so I hugged her and she started balling and praying. It was heartbreaking. It's weird, but she looked really beautiful there, praying...she looks a little like how we picture Mary anyway. I don't know why, but it just struck me.

Thankfully, someone had the sense to get all the kids out of there and so they all went to a house down the street and weren't really aware of what was going on.

This seems like a bad ending to a bad week. We leave tomorrow and will be going to Acapulco for a few days, and then on to Puerto Angel for a week or so of relaxing by the beach. We plan to be in Oaxaca for a big festival on July 18.

Sorry for the depressing post! But, I'm trying to stay "real" about what's going on for us and this is about as real as it gets, huh? Please keep this man and his family in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


We started language school today at Chac-Mool. I chose this school because they also offer classes for children and I thought Sierra would enjoy being in classes with other kids, doing things geared for children. I took my test and was placed in a class. In the morning we go over grammar and in the afternoon we have conversation. I was placed in I-3, and I am not sure where that lies in the big scheme of things. I think it is on the upper end, or maybe "me creo la muy muy" which means I think I am "all that" HAHA!!!!! So, the class seemed okay, but it seems that some of the people in my class are maybe in a level a bit higher than they should be and they slow it down a bit, but it makes me feel pretty smart. Oh yeah, so muy muy!

In my conversation class, we had to talk about the problems of the world and how we would fix them to practice the subjunctive verb. I brought up world hunger, which I happen to think is a very worthy problem to talk about. However, someone else brought up that George W. Bush is the problem of the world and everyone else in class jumped into that one with a fervor. As the sole Republican of the group, I was sweatin it a bit. I mean, I do not like to argue politics in ENGLISH, let alone Spanish! Ay yi yi! Isnt there a rule about not bringing up politics and religion in new company? Well, I guess that was out the door. I said my piece about my support of the Prez and I could tell that people were leaning a bit away from me. So much for making friends...

There were two ladies in the class who I liked right away, but I was not placed with them. Perhaps I will get a chance to talk with them more later in the week.

In the meantime, I did talk with a few people about how their host families were...seems like we definitely got the most "modest" accomodations...however, Sierra likes it and the family is nice and the grandma treats Sierra really well. I guess we will continue with our family despite the MTV fascination and the drip-a-minute shower.

Sierra is doing well. Yesterday she really wanted to call Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie and Cousins and her friends, so we bought a calling card. It started to rain. No it did started to POUR. I mean, it was coming down like crazy, and there she was - braving the elements to call everyone. She was soaked to the bone. It was amazing how much rain came down. We sat on the steps of the Pharmacia and watched it while we drank a Coke. Now, how often do you do that in the States!! The thunder and lightening were lighting up the sky and shaking the earth and the water in the drains looked like a tsunami. We ran to a cafe after she called everyone for a chocolate caliente. We had had the best chocolate (hot chocolate) ever in San Miguel and were hoping for more of the same. Unfortunately it was not to be, so I guess we will have to go back to San Miguel for some more chocolate one day. Nonetheless, it warmed us up and we were able to pass the time until the rain slowed down and we could run home.

One thing I am really proud of Sierra for is how well she is eating food she does not like too much. She has not complained at all and eats with a smile and a "gracias" when our host mother feeds us. I did not even have to tell her! Buen niña!!

Well, I have lots of homework, so I guess I will sign off for now. I will be posting more photos when I get the chance.

Oh yeah...please forgive any wierd typos...the Mexican keyboard is different and strange to my fingers.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Metro

The mass of people was overwhelming. The green taxis were everywhere. We had been on the bus for over 4 hours and the smell of smoke was gagging us. Sweat was dripping down my back, my front, my legs. I had a death grip on Sierra´s hand and another one on my bag containing our important documents. My heartrate was at least 200 bpm and I must have looked like I was on uppers with my eyes shifting to and fro like a maniac.

You guessed it - we were on the Metro in Mexico City.

Now, all I´ve ever heard about ¨The City¨ is that it´s dangerous and dirty. We could certainly smell it as we approached, so I can affirm that it is dirty. As for dangerous - thankfully that is not something to which I can attest at this time. I know that angels were surrounding us thanks to the prayers of many saints.

We woke up on Saturday and were leisurely getting ready to leave San Miguel, thinking we had plenty of time. I thought I´d check the internet quickly to see when the bus left, only to find out we had only 40 minutes until the first class bus left, and there would be no other first class buses until 4:30 that afternoon. I ran upstairs shouting to Sierra - ¨get up, get up - we gotta go!¨

We madly packed, all the while Sierra saying ït´s ok mama, we are a good team, we´ll make it¨

We didn´t make it. We missed it by 10 minutes and ended up taking the 2nd class bus. The differences are many. Firstly, the 2nd class bus has no bathrooms. Secondly, it stops every few minutes to pick up passengers along the road, so it takes a lot longer. Thirdly, they pack the people on. Oh, did I mention they don´t have bathrooms? Yeah, they don´t. Take this into consideration when drinking your agua, refrescos and cafe in the morning.

However, there are some really cool things on the 2nd class bus. First off, they pick up vendors along the way. We had people get on selling everything from drinks and food to herbal remedies for bad teeth. We bought some fruit, and it was pretty darn juicy! We ate it with some trepidation, but it turned out to be fine.

There was a man who got on to serenade us and it was so beautiful that I started to cry. It was just amazing that this is how he makes his living...getting on 2nd class buses to play his guitar and sing for tips. We gave him 10 pesos. I´ll post the picture when I get the chance.

We finally got to Mexico City and had to take the Metro from the North bus station to the South bus station, which is about a 1/2 hour away. Taking a taxi costs over $10 USD, but taking the metro is only 8 pesos (about $0.80 cents). Being brave, we decided to take the Metro.

We had to switch trains 3 times. First we were on the yellow train, then the green train and finally the blue train. I had my fanny-pack in one hand and Sierra in another. I explained to her that we were in the 2nd largest city in the world, and there are lots of people who will try to steal from you, pick pockets, so we had to hold on to our stuff really tight and keep an eye out for anyone trying to bump into us. I explained how crafty people can be and they bump into you and say "oh, I'm so sorry" while their other hand goes into your pocket or your purse to steal your money. I was pretty nervous, and had a really tight hold on her. I also decided to put my backpack on the front of me and keep her right in front of me so I could keep an eye on her and her backpack.

We´d heard there were certain cars on the train for women and children - the ones in the front - so we went there, however, this wasn´t the case and we shared our car with all sorts of people. Now, I know you aren´t supposed to have eye contact with people in big cities, and especially with men in Mexico, but I wanted people to know I was on the lookout and wasn´t an easy target so I put on my most sophisticated "I know what Í'm doing" face and looked all around and directly into the eyes of anyone who looked a little "shady". I'm so tough! Ha!!!

The first train wasn´t so crowded, and we positioned ourselves next to an old man and his 2 granddaughters. We had to get off after one stop and walk a ways to the green train. We took the wrong exit and ended up outside of the subway station and had to ask for help. When we turned around to go back into the station, Sierra tripped over some uneven pavement and fell down, skinning her knee and ripping a hole in her favorite pants. She was upset, but I told her that we had to keep going and be tough, so that´s what she did. She is a trooper!!!

We got on the right train and it was really crowded. She got on and there wasn´t room for me. The bell was ringing that the doors were closing. I was getting scared! We had made a plan earlier - if we got separated, to get off on the next stop and WAIT. I wasn´t about to let that happen if I could help it. Now, you have to remember. We both have on backpacks. Big ones...all our lives needs for 10 weeks. Her backpack was sticking halfway out the door. Mine was on my front. I´m a mom and I was NOT going to let her get away from me for one second. I took my (front) pack and pushed hard. I pushed her into all those people and I kept pushing until my behind was clear of those doors. I just said "perdoname" and just kept on pushing til I knew we were both on that train. After a few stops, we were able to push our way to get her a seat and then a man with one hand that was made out of a metal hook let me in his seat so we could sit together. Finally, I felt safe. We sat there until our stop and in the mean time, Sierra counted 127 green taxis - the kind you never take when you are in Mexico City.

So, thankfully, we made it through that (somewhat) harrowing experience and were not the victims of any pickpockets. Phew! We got off and had to catch another bus to Cuernavaca, which was not too hard. We decided that after all our effort we´d take the 1st class bus. They showed some gross movie - I think it was Alexander the Great - in Spanish. The Mexicans love gory, bloody movies!! We finally made it to Cuernavaca and I realized that I hadn´t written down the address for our host family. D'OH!!! How lame is that???? We quickly went to an Internet Cafe to get it and then we went to meet our host family.

The lady of the house is Paulina and she lives with her daughter Maricela and her grandson Brandon. Brandon is 11 years old. Her son and his family live behind her, and you get to their house through her kitchen. They have a 5 year old son and he is usually at the house, too. The house is super tiny and we all share a little tiny bathroom. The shower puts out about 3 drops per second and the sink is in the hallway. The boy likes to watch MTV a lot, which I do not really approve of. So far, Cuernavaca has been rainy and overcast and I am not so sure how we like it. I guess we will give it a few days and then decide.

We start language classes at Chac-Mool on Monday and that should be fun.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Manana & Mosquitos

I'm catching on to the "manana" mentality...I like it, really. No real pressure to get anywhere on time. It's kinda nice. It may get old at some point, but today I like it.

Mi pobrecita...with the rain came the mosquitos and mija has over 100 bites. She was pretty miserable today, itching and going crazy. We put some ammonia based bite relief on, which stung. Then we put on some cortizone and I gave her a Benadryl and put on some bug juice. She seems to be doing a bit better and is getting by.

For some reason, the computer is not noticing my camera when I try to download the photos, so I think I'll need to reload the software. I'm glad I thought to bring it!! When I do, I'll post the photos of her bug bites...the stuff of nightmares!