Monday, September 28, 2009

Why I just might survive this trip.

I'm a slow judge. Like, really slow. To a fault, sometimes. It has definitely hurt me in the past, but if I have to err on one side or the other, I'd still rather be a slow judge.

So I've been in México a month and a half, and I was starting to commit to the idea that the country just wasn't for me, for a list of reasons. But then I realized, I had pretty much stayed exclusively in Guadalajara and the surrounding municipalities. I needed to get out of town and see what else was out there.

My North American housemates had plans to go to a town called Guanajuato. I'm interested in checking it out, but I was more interested in doing some traveling on my own, which I generally enjoy - or at the very least, not with the people I live with seven days a week. I needed to clear my head, to leave some things behind. Another girl in the program said she was dying to go to the beach.

That's all I needed to hear. Water, I thought, will get my head right when few other things will. She found the hostel, I found the bus tickets, and we left from school after my piano class on Friday.

The drive was fucking ridiculous. Just gorgeous. Seriously otherworldly at many moments, and not just because we were in another country where the signs were in a different language - different architecture, differents ways of living, different cemeteries, different people, different ways of laying out the towns, different markets on the side of the road, but also the mountains we climbed and wove between, and the clouds that were some times just right above us, perched on the tips of the mountains, and other times right beside or even below us, and the magic they have to the trees they hugged, and the fields of agave, an eerie blue green, and the fields with cows and horses all alongside one another and...

Seriously, I was feeling better just on the bus. We got to the station in Puerto Vallarta and found a bus into town. We asked one of the workers in the station which bus we should take and where to find it. In Spanish we asked him. He responded that we could take any bus that was VERDE (and pointed at my shirt) or AZUL (and pointed at my water bottle) - really derogative and patronizing and I said Honestly? We clearly know enough Spanish to ask where the bus is, and you're going to point out colors to us? We just walked away, figuring we could manage.

It was still light, but the sun was setting - and we wanted to see the sunset from the rooftop of the hostel if we couldn't make it to the beach in time. We didn't even make it to the hostel in time. The bus took a really windy route, and when we started to wonder, a good half hour into the ride, whether we should find out when we would be getting to the part of town where the hostel was, we decided to just ask the women sitting behind us. Pardon, I said, good evening, like a good foreigner, playing by the rules of Mexican conduct. ¿Do you know if or when this bus will go through El Remance? They said not too much further, through the tunnel and across the bridge. Then they told us that we were going to be able to get to know this part of town on our way there, bragged on its beauty, its safety, the fact that a girl can walk alone at night with no worries. One got off, then when the other went to, she said, The bus driver will let you know when to get off. She went up to him, said a few words, then got off.

Seriously. When people here are nice, they're fukkin NICE. When we got off the bus, we walked past a tire shop with a really sweet looking and also clean dog. Of course, missing my pooch, I was charmed, so I stopped to say OH SWEET PRECIOUS BABY and the owner came up to greet us. Melissa, my travel companion, is has this gorgeous long blond curly hair, which makes her stand out here in Mexico, so there's a lot of male attention when I go out with her. He showed us the dog's tricks and was super nice, then pointed us up the road to the hostel.

Puerto Vallarta is hot as HELL. Seriously steaming. Over ninety degrees (farenheit, sorry) all weekend and humid as... as something ridiculously painfully humid. So once we got settled in to the super friendly hostel with the rockin good vibes, we went to hang out on the roof. We met the manager/host Guillermo, the guests Jem from England and Anthony from Washington, and Melissa and I went to eat soem delicious street tacos (tortillas made fresh right there to order, several different tasty meats, then beans and onion and cabbage and cilantro and yum) and then to the Oxxo to buy some jalapeño chips for when we got the munchies on the roof. As we walked up to the store, there was a couple, employees both, canoodling in the window. When they saw us and pulled quickly apart, we saw they were both women. Fuck yes! Finally some queer people in this country! We gave them big smiles and waves and hellos, went and bought our chips and our Strawberry Boone's Farm (don't judge) and went back to hang out on the roof of the hostel until it was time to pass out.

Here's my to do list for the next day, Saturday. #1: Go to the beach. End of list.

We got up, ate breakfast, had a quick smoke and headed that way. But we got a little lost and ended up on this curvy street with low visibility and high traffic and no sidewalk. We started freaking out a little and just froze to assess the situation. Just then, a taxi flew past on the other side of the road - we hailed, he motioned that he would come back around, we got in and said take us to the nearest beach, we'll figure it out from there. It was so beautiful. A little cloudy when we got there, so not too hot, and not too populated yet either. But I noticed right away that the only people showing much skin were the men - there weren't many women and the ones who were there were very modest in their swimming clothes. I'm a pretty modest girl anyway, so I didn't want to strip down to my bikini right away - plus the smoke still had me a little head-changed since it had been sooo long since I'd had any. Melissa however was damn ready. She got in and splashed about. I hung out just sitting, chilling, thinking, watching, soaking it all in... and listening to the boom-tisk club music coming from the gay part of the beach. That's right, there was a whole gay section of the beach, and they were FABULOUS.

She got out, we laid out, I eventually took off my shirt and put on sunblock, and then here comes a guy wanting to talk. His name was Abraham and he had a lot of tattoos and liked mine. We talked for a while, he didn't seem too forward or scary, and he seemed to know everyone around us. This fellow with a giant parachute thing for parasailing came near and Abraham told him we needed to try holding it. It looked so easy when he did it but... Soon as I took it, it was this huge struggle to keep it up, keep it from flying this way or that, keep it from crashing into the beach... which it did. Melissa was better at it than I was, and after we had both crashed it the guy decided he should probably move on. By then I was starting to chill out and so when Melissa and Abraham went into the water I went too.

Abraham carried his shirt in too, which confused me for a minute until we saw him drinking from it. He was really reluctant to tell us what it was though, like he not only wouldn't do it but started getting cranky when we pressed with questions. When we got hungry and said we wanted some fish, he said he knew a market we could go to and would lead us there. Said it was really close. We figured we'd follow and if it ever felt creepy we'd jet.

Just four or five blocks he told us, and we turned this way and that. Just four or five blocks, he said after four or five blocks, and every street we went on he had to say hi to someone and say "These are my friends" and show us off. We must have said hi in passing to thirty people or more. Then it started being Just one or two more blocks, and after another six or so we were there. I kept track of the direction of the beach the whole time so we could make it back. The whole time Abraham had been talking about how he couldn't wait to get back and have a bath and a nap so when we got to the market and they had no fish, he headed off to do that and pointed us in the direction of some fish. We never found it so we started heading back to the beach, still hungry as hell, when we passed a sign that said Pollo Asado Estilo Sinaloa. Grilled Chicken, Sinaloa Style. I've had this before when a friend of mine back in Arkanas used to make it every once in a while. Sweet Mary, I told Melissa, we have to eat here.

We split a half chicken, some chicken tacos, and a barley water. It was friggin great. Peed on a toilet with no seat, and went back to the beach. We got there and Melissa needed to jump right in again, gave me time to reapply my sunscreen, and then we heard some wicked drums. Melissa wanted to find them and I was game. When we did, it was a group of four guys and one girl, the guys all had different drums and little metal things to knock on and the chick had a gourd with beads all over it to shake. Then she'd set her gourd down after a couple songs, dance like a crazy woman posessed by demons, pick up the gourd and flip it over where it was open on the bottom, and go around asking for pesos. They were actually awesome. I wanted to buy a disk but they didn't have any. We followed them all the way down the beach.

When they got done, we figured we'd go explore around the other side of the southernmost point, where we had heard there were some nice coves with really crystalline water. On our way there ANOTHER guy stopped us to talk. We chatted for a minute, he was nice enough, and then he asked us what we thought about Mexican guys.

I told him. I said they lack any measure of respect. He said how do you mean? I said, for example, back in the states I wouldn't have to worry about drunk old men grabbing my ass while I wait for the bus. I said Melissa wouldn't have to see guys hanging out of their cars wagging their tongues at her. He said really? That's happened? We said yes and it sucks. He said you know what, I apologize on behalf of us all. Why don't you come hang out with me and my friends and let us try and make it up to you.

Again, we figured, why not, we'll see how it goes and if it gets weird we'll jet. It never did. They were perfect gentlemen, we all had super great conversation and planned to hang out until the sun went down. We played in the sand, played in the water, sat and talked, drank and smoked, joked, laughed... But just as it was about to start getting gorgeous and sunsetty, this killer rainstorm rolled in. We figured, hey, we're clearly already wet, so how can that matter? We stayed and swam and laughed and then figured it was probably time to go since it would be getting dark soon. We splashed our way through the streets to their car, as they'd offered us a ride back to the hostel since we had no idea really how to get there, and on the way we ran into Anthony - perfect, since he'd been there several days, walking to and from the beach every day. He pointed us back and we made plans to go out dancing with the guys later.

We never did. We took showers and washed sand out of all sorts of places and then just laid around in the room on our beds with the fan on, still feeling the waves. When we did leave the hostel, it was with Guillermo's handsome brother Julio to go to a different taco stand, the one his mother cooked at, to eat more delicious street tacos and quesadillas with fresh tortillas. We did call the fellows to let them know at least that we weren't going out, and I passed out early and Melissa stayed up chatting with Jem, the English guy who knows all about numerology and Western and Eastern astrology.

I had already bought my ticket to go back the next day, so I got up and got ready. Melissa had pretty much decided that she was going to stay another day. Despite everyone trying their damndest to convince me to change my mind, I headed back, quite sad to leave the location and the wonderful people I'd met.

Saturday was the single best day I've had since I came to this country. The decision to go to Vallarta was the single best decision I've made since I came to this country. I still haven't judged México yet, but that's because Vallarta pulled me back from the decision I'd been about to make. I'll take some more weekend trips and see what I think about things before I commit. I got my piano class moved to Wednesday now if I need to leave Thursday night instead to have more time. And I'll have one whole week between the end of classes and my flight back to go back to the place I liked most. Vallarts's in the running.

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