Leaning Towards Mexico

There is really no deciding where it is best to spend the rest of one´s life. It is all done with some bittersweet hope and trepidation. I´ve been too many places and have seen and experienced too much disappointment after having earnest confidence. I´ve read the stories of others whose hearts were broken by a place they fell in love with. Perhaps that is part of the reason I have been looking for so long, and have been mostly crest fallen at what I´ve seen.

But Mexico. In the last 14 years I have been in Mexico more time than in the US. I have worked there, a bit, and slept there a lot. I´ve invested in land there, only to be ripped off by my partner/good friend; a real soul crushing experience. I have few romantic delusions about Mexico. I am currently reading Under the Volcano, which should banish what remains of my fantasies. I think if I stay in Mexico, it will be a measured decision.

I landed back in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, from Lima, Peru, and it didn´t take long to remember why it has always been my first and last choice. Why hadn´t I just decided that long ago? First, I am very concerned that I won´t qualify for residency with my very limited resources, besides, I still had exploring to do. The issue of financial requirements scares me. If I can´t get residency here, then I am back to the start in terms of finding a place. For a variety of reasons that I will try to  cover in another post, I was not satisfied with the options in South America.

I am set on Mexico for now. I have contacted an attorney, and I hope they can help me sort out the residency visa. Now is a good time to do this, as the dollar is at an all time high vs. the Peso, so at least it seems like I have more money than I do.

What is it about Mexico? That is the ephemeral aspect to choosing a place. I can give lots of practical reasons; I am learning the language, it is close to the US, I love the food and the culture, yada yada. But it comes down to walking the streets of Mexico City and feeling a part of it, and yet totally foreign. It gives me the psychic space I personally need while allowing and inviting me to be part of it.

If I stay, I will try to spend a lot of time in Mexico City. I imagine I will need to settle some place less costly, but I love the city. Here are some photos from the recent visit:

First, there is the architecture, the very bones of the City. The Cathedral is actually built upon the Aztec bones of old Tenochtitlan, upon and with the stones of the old empire. The architecture spans centuries and tells the history of the city. I think now the powers that be understand the importance of this and will protect it.

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Cathedral built atop Aztec Temple

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Bellas Artes

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Random building across from my hotel room

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Down a side street from the zocolo

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The Cathredal

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Abandoned building on the Alameda

And the food! My favorite two countries for street food are Thailand and Mexico. I really cannot decide between the two, but ranking Mexico with Thailand in terms of food says a lot. The food is cheap and plentiful, and of course, muy rico.

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And cool, stylish, joyful street life. Mexicans live hard and party harder.

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So, hopefully, it will be Mexico.

 

 

Travel Theme: Transport

What a difficult choice! I have so many pictures of transport. Here are a few. I think my photos tell stories more than demonstrate technical skill. I like to go back through the archives and look for stories.

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Jalsamer, India. Around 2004

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Morocco, around 2006

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My hardworking rickshaw driver waiting for me in the rain. Bangladesh, 2015

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Rajasthan, 2008

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Motorbikes, Vietnam, 2004

 

From Medellin to Bogota: A tale of 3 Towns: Part 3

At the end of a long winding ride uphill, the sight of Villa de Leyva was a relief from a day of travel.  Squat little white houses with red tile roofs scattered across the valley, backdropped by mountains, creates an almost too idyllic scene. Sort of a Colombian replica of the south of France, complete with nascent vineyards and resident fossils. There are no sprawling fields of lavender and sunflowers, but both grow here, so there could be, poppies too, I imagine.

What made it really feel perfect, though, was the cool fresh air after a couple of weeks of sweltering. This was the weather promised in the guide books, though a bit short on the rain. The same blistering drought was happening here, but the altitude alleviated the heat and provoked a breeze.

From the van to a taxi, as usual. The first hostel I went to, The Hostel Everest, I’ll just say, disappointed. I’ll spare details except to say that when the housekeeper runs downstairs to get change for your payment, be very clear about how much you have given her, and maybe even get it in writing. You may save a lot of pain and embarrassment.

After arguing pointlessly in stupidly bad Spanish with the housekeeper, I went to find another hostel. Right next to the plaza I found a nice little hostel, the TinVa, run by a lovely couple. I would stay here 11 days.

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The Hostel TinVa       Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

I went walking and found the picture perfect town plaza. Every picture of it online looks pretty much the same. and pretty much as it looks. Known as one of the largest plazas in the Americas, what is really remarkable about it is its simplicity. A small unadorned fountain anchors the center, the rest is cobblestones from the squat white buildings on the four sides to the fountain. On one side of the square sits a one story parish church, the rest of the surrounding buildings have tiendas, restaurants and bars. In the evening the bars fill up. and the restaurants try to. The major drink of choice is beer, Joker beer, and there are corners of the ground filled with bottle caps sporting card suits.

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Poker Players   Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

On Thursdays and Saturdays there are markets with producers from all over the valley, including organic farmers, some are Europeans who create beers, cheeses, salamis and chocolates.

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Organic Herbs    Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

 

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Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

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Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

This place seemingly has it all. But of course it doesn’t. I’ve walked the four corners, and I can see myself getting bored. I hate to admit it, and maybe if I had a group of friends here and a garden, well, maybe.

Okay, the specifics:

It meets be the beauty criteria, for sure. The climate is sort of at it’s hottest right now, and it is quite endurable, and mostly it’s perfect. The cost of living is great at the moment (it may get more expensive as the peso gets stronger). I’m learning the language, poco a poco, and I have some confidence that I’ll do fine at it.

The List (The Sorting Hat, part 2):

  1. Family and friends. With many affordable flights a day from Bogota, they family is reasonable close. I’ve already met a few fine people here, and went out for beers on the plaza with a fine gentleman who has great stories.
  2. Affordability. Rents are cheap here, in the $200 to $300 range. Living here for me is quite affordable.
  3. Legal Status. Legal residency in Colombia is quite manageable.
  4. People. Yes, I can see having friends easily here.
  5. Language. My Spanish improves daily. Colombian Spanish is clear, and the people I’ve met are patient.
  6. Culture. The pace is slow, for sure. But there are movies and music, good food, and Bogota 2 hours away.
  7. Climate.Somewhere close to perfect, unless snow is important to you, or blazing heat.
  8. Beauty. Cobblestone streets, white houses with deep wood balconies, overflowing with flowers, and wood shuttered windows shaded by red tile roofs. Oh me, of course I would prefer a bit more vibrancy and variety, but it is beautiful here.
  9. Access to  medical care. Bogota, 2 hours away.
  10. Terrain. Cobblestones streets, for all of their charm, are a challenge. I see many older people navigating with canes. My host at the hostel says his own arthritic knees have actually improved here due to the exercise. It is a concern.
  11. Food! When I go to markets as I travel, I find that some of them make me want to stop right there and get a kitchen. I prefer to cook my own food most of the time, and I love a lot of different cuisines, but there must be availability of fresh, local varied ingredients. Yes, this place meets these needs.
  12. Coffee. Colombia?
  13. Amenities. Internet, electricity, and the basic necessities. I’m not too fussed by not having access to big box stores, or even variety stores. Yes, more than the basics are here. Obviously good internet!
  14. Tranquility. Is too much possible? It verges on it. But the weekends are lively.

 

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Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

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Hostel Kitchen   Photo Credit: Joanne Bretzer

Travel theme: Self-Reflection

Where’s my backpack? has a travel themes photo challenge this week of (nontraditional) selfies.

I have the following to to contribute:

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The front camel is carrying me across the Sahara (or a small part of the Sahara to be truthful). This was a few years ago in the south east of Morocco and could even have been about this date. We went to Oasis Merzouga, as well as a lot of little villages out towards Algeria. It was Eid al  Adha, and we witnessed the sacrifice of sheep, and sat in a tent where some Mali musicians danced and played music. A Tuareg family hosted us for a day long dinner of…sheep.

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This is on the same trip. We were terribly cold in the open Jeep as we crossed the desert. Splendid trip. My friend I traveled with had no interest in taking photos, so if I wanted to capture myself in the desert, and my Taureg head gear, it was up to me.

When you travel alone, or with people who don’t take photos (rare, really) taking selfies is a way to capture your reflection in new places. Most of my travel photos of myself I have taken myself. I know this is solipsistic, but it is what I do, and it’s my selfie.