Wednesday, December 28, 2011

time and time again

Time is entirely what you make of it; it’s the same as a glass that’s half empty or half full. One week in a new country is however much or little you want it to be. And for me, one week is full of far more experiences and observations than conceivable back home in the States.

I’m not sure why but I was born an incredibly lazy person. I also have a lot going through my mind constantly and realize that no matter what I will never become bored with myself. I might go crazy and need to exit my own head, hence supplemental escapism, but I’ll never run out of things to think about. What this translates to is my ability to travel alone and remain content with just myself.

Since I’ve arrived, I have spent much of my time only with myself and have yet to feel dissatisfied. True, I have a lot to sort out right now and also I understand this time is both limited and important. But it allows me to wander markets, discover vegetarian restaurants, and shop as I see fit, without any pressure or expectations from someone else. I realize not everyone is capable of this as the need to share experiences is inherent in human nature. But true explorers and wanderers seek adventure for their own sole appreciation, and I am not an exception. My safety may be a concern for some, but nothing will change my intense desire to discover every random corner of the world one village at a time.

While I have only been in Mexico just over a week, I have been observing their culture for much longer. Working in various restaurants, I’ve had many experiences with Mexican people, mainly though men of the lower economic class. While it may seem unnecessary to mention, I do this because class status has a lot of influence on how a person acts or how they view the world.

For example, the men I work with are infamous for catcalling and wooing women, to the point of discomfort. Here in Mexico I have had experiences with a variety of classes and it has been noteworthy that middle to higher status males do not participate in this behavior. The Mexican women of higher status simply do not tolerate this behavior as they see it as rude and uneducated. Education is the key here in dividing the classes.

The poorer you are, the more necessary it is for you to work and not attend school. The richer you are, the more important it is to receive a higher education and have interaction with various cultures. Studying, traveling, or au pairing abroad, meeting foreigners, and being fluent in English takes precedence over immediate income as it will help them in whatever white collar career they choose.

I’m not sure why the endless sexual harassment exists in the lower class, but I know it isn’t exclusive to Mexicans. All over the world men try to prove their manhood by hassling women, although it is predominant in Latino cultures. I wish I understood what they were trying to accomplish: do they think we like this? Does it make them look good to their comrades? Or is it just something they’ve witness since they were children and think is both normal and appropriate? If I had to take a wild guess, I’d go with the last and I can only hope through education this will change over time.

I flew into Cancun because of the cheap ticket, not for the intense partying (despite what my past history might insinuate). So instead of hostelling I couchsurfed with a Brit who had been living there for a long time to get a more authentic experience and better understanding of what to expect from Mexican culture. I spent the first few days laying low and figuring out my plan of action. I lazily soaked in the sun on the beach all day and had mellow evenings with my host sharing good conversation and getting inspired. My main focus was creating a travel plan and trying as much delicious Mexican food as I could fit into my stomach.

And then, as it always does, it happened oh so quickly. I already had conflicting plans with different cs (couchsurfing) hosts and fast decisions to make. And for anyone who knows me well, you know that decisions are my kryptonite. Despite my desperate attempt to make faster decisions and let them go from my mind once they’ve been made, I still struggle with them everyday. From meals to new places to travel, I have trouble in creating my own destiny.

But sometimes, I can hear a whisper from the Universe and I know in my soul where I'm supposed to go. And that’s what matters most I suppose; to be able to read signs and let the Universe be your guide. And that’s exactly how I ended up in Mexico.

In allowing myself to accept whatever offers came my way, I have already found confidence in knowing I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The Universe has given me several coincidences that I use as bench markers and reminders that I am right on my path.

So I decided to go to the cs party in Cancun being held at a hostel trusting I would meet someone or hear something that would guide me to where I was supposed to be; I knew in my heart this would lead to something good. But in the meantime I had one day to kill and I’d had enough of the Cancun beach; it was time for another.

So I set off for a quick ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, a beautiful island with one of the most clear blue tranquil beaches around. I needed a bit of adventure and was ready to challenge myself to meeting new people on my own in a hostel. And after another lazy day on the beach and strolling the town, I set in for an evening at a fun and full hostel. The first person to really talk to me was an Argentinean who spoke no English. I realized my Spanish was going to have to improve quickly so I went out for both food and booze. First I purchased bottle of rum and then I found a chilled out taco stand that most definitely would churn my stomach. The old men running it were sweet enough so I sat and joined them for a long while, practicing my Spanish and drinking my rum. For anyone who has struggled with learning a second language, they understand just how much inebriation helps you both speak and understand a new language.

So when I returned to the Argentinean and his friends I was both confident and fluent, and I had some rum to share so they loved me even more. The night rolled on and I knew I was getting into trouble but I loved it. Eventually I met others and we set out from the hostel bar on the beach into town for some legitimate troublesome fun.

I used to think trouble found me and not the other way around, but lately I’m beginning to realize I have a real knack for attracting it. Really though it’s the people I choose to spend my time with. I like characters; not boring people. I won’t talk to the people who sit in lounges all day on their computers or go everywhere with their Lonely Planet. I’d rather meet the people doing cartwheels off palm trees or who are clearly on binges that are over 24 hours. These people have stories to tell and the lives they lead are far more interesting, if not dangerous. But these are my people and I’ll be damned if society dictates that I should avoid them.

Anywho, my new group was clearly on an intense and long binge to which I was invited to join. I politely declined most of their offerings but liked the fact that I had been taken in as one of their own. The night crept on and soon became morning and I was the last into my dorm crawling into bed with extremely dirty feet as I decided to roam the street without any shoes. (I suppose I look like a bit of trouble myself most of the time.)

The next day passed quickly as I got a bit more beach time in and said goodbye to my new friends and sailed back to Cancun for the cs party. I had just enough time to shower and sort myself out before we had to arrive at the hostel to set everything up. It wasn’t just any party; it was a posada, which is a Christmas party that involves traditional food, songs, and piñatas. And for us, alcohol. The large group involved a mix of both Mexicans and foreigners, all excited to meet the other and practice their languages.

Salsa was danced, piñatas were beaten, and alcohol was consumed. By the end of the night I had received an offer to work at the hostel as the manager desperately needed help and some time off. I considered it and promised to return for at least New Year’s Eve, although I knew in my heart this was a gift from the Universe. And so my plans once again created themselves.

But first I needed to explore a bit of Mexico and so I set off the next day for Merida where my next cs host awaited me. She was Mexican but had lived in both Paris and New York for extended periods of time and was extremely fluent in both languages. She had obviously grown up in a family that valued both education and traveling and the outcome was this energetic, outgoing, and open minded woman. I only had a few days to spend with her though as she had just purchased another ticket to New York and much like my own travels, didn’t know exactly when she would return but knew it would be months. She was more then generous to offer me to stay with her in her final days at home (that also happened to be her birthday) and it was a whirlwind of meeting new people and going places. While I was proud my Spanish came flooding back to me rather quickly, it also challenged me daily and made me super tired at night.

Being on my own allows me the luxury to observe people constantly, which in turns creates a natural flow of thought. I ponder questions and come to conclusions about both the world and myself and am constantly seeking more. I look into windows and see homes and families, celebrations and daily life. While this blog will chronologically follow my trail, it will be more or less the observations I make about society that I prefer to share. These are the things that matter most in the end.

One thing I have written about before but cannot express enough is how similar we all are as human beings. More often than not, we focus on the differences: our religion, political preferences, skin color, etc. But the truth is we have more things that unite us together than divide us apart. We all go to the bathroom, eat and drink, listen to music, need to sleep. We all have friends and enemies, opinions and preferences (although different, we still all have them). We all have emotions, whether we suppress them or not, and we all have the capacity to love. We feel sorrow and happiness, longing and content. We have family and friendships, and relationships that hurt and help us. We make connections with other human beings, or we choose to avoid them. We are all alike and not alike at the same time and we should celebrate this fact alone because it is what makes us human. The more I travel the more this is made clear to me. No matter the language or skin color, I see families singing songs, couples in love, and everyone laughing. I may not always get the joke, but I smile because I am happy to witness these things. To be exposed to as many cultures and experiences as I have has made me an extremely lucky girl and I do not take this for granted. And what I take from it all is that we as human beings have no natural reason to hate one another, but instead to love. And in the end love is all we have, all we need. The sooner we realize this as a collective society the sooner in harmony we can all live.

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