Monday, October 26, 2009

Oaxaca

The remaining 6 days of my trip were spent in varying degrees of pain due to Montezuma and his poisoned waters.

Here's two words when put together, make you frown inside:
Mexican Buffet (in Mexico)

I view American buffet's standards as sketchy. Keeping internal foods at 140 degrees farenheit to prevent bacteria from forming is hard.
I know, I worked at Subway.
(Side note: I wrote "Sandwich Artist" under title for my resume coming out of college. Meant to be tongue in cheek, multiple people at my first job somehow took it seriously and referred to me as "The Artiste" behind my back)

In both buffets' defense, my wife did not get sick.

In fact, I think I know why I got sick.
I'm a mouth breather.
Not all the time, just in the shower. Can't help it.
Every morning I'd be spitting water droplets from my slack-jawed front-hole.
Those little droplets housed an army of diarreah.

We went on a few tours, saw a ton of sites, and got fleeced by the locals for all they could beg/borrow/steal. Rather than fumble through explanations, I'll just link to My Flickr Stream for Oaxaca.
Cheers, all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still in Mexico City

I forgot to mention the closing hours of the first day. The museum sits at the beginning of a huge park; in the middle of it is this castle on Grasshopper Hill.
It's Mexico, though, so it's Chapultepec.

It apparently has a very rich history which we learned nothing about because it closes at 4:30.

You're probably thinking to yourself, "It's named grasshopper hill because it's a hill made of grasshoppers, right?"
No, stupid.
It's called grasshopper hill because they eat grasshoppers.
Which I did not do. I could lie and say the opportunity never presented itself, but it did multiple times.
My hang-up is this:
If I grew up in a tourist town, tolerating stupid tourists who don't bother to learn my language, who muck up traffic, talk too loud, and spend too much money on garbage . . that's the kind of shit I'd come up with.
"Let's tell them we eat grasshoppers, it'll be funny."


p.s. I don't think it's named for eating grasshoppers but here's the wikipedia entry. It's good, gives you some perspective of the urban crush coupled with this park.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mexico Day 2: DF

Mexico City is an enormous, chaotic place. A testament to organic 20th century growth, its sprawls for miles with no method to the madness. Our friend Eric's place is on the outskirts of the beltway that surrounds the city proper. 45 minutes and 200 pesos to anywhere in the city we cared about.
Eric offered us a tour of the poor areas next time we come. It will be a driving tour, as it's too dangerous for us to walk ("rich" gringos). It may be too dangerous to even follow traffic laws.

The night we landed we cracked open some 12 year old scotch to commemorate our safe arrival and thank our guests for having us.

The following morning, we set out.

Mexico City's Museum of Anthropology was the first (and only) destination. The facility is enormous, wrapping around a central roofed courtyard. The roof is held up by a gigantic pillar.

The remnants of their 60th anniversary party (held the night prior) is in the foreground.
Normally the space surrounding the pillar is a fountain. There's a bunch of carvings symbolizing a bunch of stuff all over the pillar, but since you didn't spend 50 pesos on the voice tour, you're S.O.L.

The museum is spread over the different areas civilizations arose in Central America. The prehistoric peoples, the Olmecs, the Michoacans, the Mixtecs, the Aztecs, the Mayans, and more. Each first floor is the anthropological/archaeological stuff - finds of prehistoric peoples, the pottery/technology, and ruins.


Since I paint miniatures, this diorama was amazing to me. It's based on a fossil find of a mammoth with stone tools, indicating the mammoth was hunted and slaughtered for meat or gladiatorial sport. (WHO KNOWS!)

When looking at this diorama, you're standing over transparent glass, and below you is the recreated mammoth dig site.

I didn't get a picture of that because I'm an idiot who doesn't know about pikchurs.



Here's a picture of part of a temple in another section of the museum. Since I don't know pikshurs and the museum doesn't allow flash, I consider any picture less then slightly blurred to be an act of will surpassed only by Lance Armstrong's battles during the Tour de France.

This is one of at least 8 partial temples in this museum; most regions represented had at least part of a temple.



The rest was a blur.


We saw the famous Aztec Calendar (most famous because it flawlessly synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook, the first and last device to ever do so)








And this guy which is famous for a bunch of reasons, none of which I can remember. (I used to be SO GOOD at education, too!)

He might be the first representation in stone of King Hippo, who later rose to prominence in the NBL.












Finally, this is one of the coolest things about the Mexican cultures - a reverence to the dead, and a belief that they rose every year on Dios de Muertos.
TO PARTY!

(Central) America, Fuck Yeah!


The sheer amount of skull iconography throughout all of the cultures is fantastic.
Probably unsurprising that many were involved in human sacrifice.
Later in the trip we see both a necropolis (at Mitlan) and a place where human sacrifice definitely occurred - Teotitlan, which is now covered by (and later discovered/uncovered in) Mexico City.


edit since I'm an idiot:
Teotitlan's where we bought some rugs. I meant Tenochtitlan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mexico Day 1: The Flight Out

My wife and I were seated in the exit rows on a 737 in the second leg of our trip - Miami to Mexico City.
737s have an annoying "feature" in the exit rows - the arm rests aren't real arm rests, but are solid block of metal containing your meal tray. Typically not a big deal, but I have massive thighs and felt a little pinched. Let's just say I was snug as a bug in a rug, provided bugs in rugs are vulnerable to blood clots.

We'd been in the air for about 2 hours. Since the flight was about 2.5 hours, it was amusing to me when the flight attendant came over the speaker and said "we were told we should review evacuation procedures with you." She told us about seat belts, and exit rows. I had a vague memory of them not doing it when we got on board, so I chalked it up to an in-flight checklist they somehow screwed up.
Pretty funny, though, them telling us about seatbelts this late in the flight.
This is obviously not necessary.

That's when they told us about crash positions.
Amusement metamorphosed into a cold trickle of fear in the back of my mind.
What's going on?
Crash positions are NOT part of my flying experience.
It has to be an emergency broadcast system sort of test. Can flight attendants do their jobs?
I looked around in confusion. Faces reflected confusion and fear. What was happening?

The captain explains the situation. The flaps are frozen in place (down) and we can't land with them. Flaps give a plane extra lift, and allows it to land at a much slower speed than without flaps. What we were going to do was basically like a person jumping out of a car at 15 mph. Yes, you can do it unhurt with some training. If I were to try it, I'd break both legs and probably eat a half pound of gravel. But we've got pilots. They've trained for this sort of thing. So I'm not going to be worried.

The flight attendant walks up.
He shows us how to open the emergency doors we sit beside to get extra legroom.
Suddenly the full burden of the responsibilities of Exit Row Passenger become clear.
What if I can't open this door? It would be just like me to break my wrist while opening the door, and somehow getting it jammed shut.
My alarm mounts.

"But look outside first. If you see fire outside the door, do not open it!"

My alarm remounts.
Fire? Now we have to make judgement calls? I'M A PASSENGER!

***flashback to right before flight, waiting to board***
CNN is playing its usual garbage; the only reason I'm watching it is because I'm addicted to staring at light emitting boxes.
They're doing a piece on how a spider walked all over the Pope and he didn't notice it, and it was all caught on film! Ha ha ha.
I can't resist being a boorish prick in front of a whole bunch of strangers, so I crack a few pope jokes in poor taste.
Wife, mortified.
Me, not quite so proud as I would have thought. Didn't get a single laugh.
Certainty in my atheism is my only salve.
*** end of flashback ***

Man, if the Catholics are right, I'm in big trouble.
My wife and I make eye contact, lock hands, and kiss. Calmness floods me. If we're crashing now, I'm happy it's with her.

we get closer to the runway, and we all assume crash positions. I've always considered myself to be inflexible, but boy, was I able to stretch in this situation. I probably injured myself trying to prevent injury. I turn my head to look out the window. We are going fast. We touch ground in what feels like a normal landing, except for the speed. It feels like the pilot is standing on the brakes; we're bleeding speed fast. I clap a couple of times because I think we've made it. (yes, I'm that guy who jinxes the whole flight. I've ruined more Michigan State football games in the third quarter by saying "cheers to another victory!" than I can count)
Seconds go by and the plane bleeds speed down to normal levels. We come to a stop, and the plane erupts with applause. Racing across the tarmac are fire engines and ambulances, lights flashing.
We've made it.

60 seconds prior, I was wishing I would live.
Now, I'm wishing that we get to use the slide. I've always wanted to use the slide.

We're towed into the gate, with no slide.

Thus begins a 9 day trip that takes us from Mexico City, through Oaxaca, and into Puebla, where we honeymooned 11 months ago.
The camera was stowed for the flight out (who thought I'd need it??!) but we took plenty of pictures of stuff.

More to come on Monday.