Sunday, October 30, 2005

Beta news and guaqueque blues

Looks like Hurricane Beta has blown out over Nicaragua. It rained here in Chetumal today but we even missed that being out of the immediate area visiting 3 different Mayan ruins. Unfortunately, I forgot my flash drive at the hotel so no new pictures tonight. I took a lot more today but the most moving thing was coming upon a poor guaqueque (waa-kay-kay) being killed by a small fox. I butted in, scared the fox who tried unsuccessfully to drag the crying guaqueque away with her, and made a mess of the whole thing. Then, while photographing the event, started the guaqueque crying again. Bad scene. The fact is I am on both sides of the struggle. The fox needed the food, maybe even for her family, and the guaqueque want to live. I don´t know how it turned out. We went back later to check up on things but there nothing. Not even one drop of blood. Life is hard. Everyone is food for someone but I want to feed everybody soy and tofu and call it good ...sigh

Tomorrow, depending on the weather, we will either visit more Mayan sites or hang around town. If we stay in Chetumal we´ll meet our new friend Dan at the internet cafe in the afternoon then go hang out on the beach with him. Dan is one of those bigger than life people you sometimes meet on the road. He´s got great stories. He said when he was a young man he was going to play for the Chicago Cubs but then got drafted and fought in Vietnam. Later, among other things, he became a journalist and sailed across the Atlantic solo. He also claimed to have golfed with President Gerald Ford, interviewed Subcomandante Marcos several times. He lost his voice to cancer about five years ago and can´t talk above a whisper. We had lunch with him yesterday. Even without a voice he whispered, gestured and scribbled stories for several hours, waving one or another of his various knives from time to time for emphasis. One of the great things about Mexico is that you can have these kind of animated converstations and nobody objects. The waiters just went about their business. The only thing they worried about was that Dan had left the windows down in his vehicle and there was some expensive looking equipment in the front seat. They ended up guarding it for him because he wasn´t concerned about it being stolen. All this would be impossilbe in the paranoid US.
Bruce Hodder of SUFFOLK PUNCH wrote a nice review of this current series on our travels in Mexico. I´m always grateful for a good word. Thanks Bruce!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Chetumal, any port in the storm

I´ve still got a lot of photos to post from this trip to catch up with myself but am fast forwarding to today. Hurricane Beta is in the region and at the moment has my full attention. This is a map of Beta´s five day forcast. We are currently in the town of Chetumal which is located at about 3 minutes after 12 on the map´s outer circle. This puts us in the outer range of the hurricane´s projected path so once again our plans have changed. We were hoping to camp at Calakmul for a few days so we could explore it to our greedy heart´s content but looks like instead we´ll stay in town for now. Chetuaml is a funky Carribean town on the Belize border, not a bad place to hang your cap in a storm ... I hope.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Monkey games

The photos are running behind the trip. Currently we are back in the town of Paleneque after spending a couple of days on the Guatemalan border visiting Mayan sites. However, I got a big kick out of this sequence from the wild life refuge in Tuxtla Gutierrez so am posting them tonight. They are of a young monkey chasing the vultures out of tops of the trees. There are lots of vultures at the reserve. They are fed like everyone else and have lots of places to roost, but seem to enjoy annoying the monkeys by perching in the tops of the trees in their area. This little fellow made quick work of them. Look closely at photos 7 through 10. You will see glimpses of one of the vultures flying off.

Since this we've seen monkeys and crocodiles in the wild. That was wonderful and just this evening I saw a huge green free parrot sitting casually at the lunch counter of a taco stand but didn't have my camera for that one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Monkeys in Mexico

Until this trip, I didn´t realize that monkeys are native to North America. But they are, in Mexico. As usual, I don´t have much time but here are a few photos from our visit to the wild life refuge in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital city of Chiapas.

The monkeys at the refuge seemed to enjoy chasing the vultures off who were hanging out in their trees. Next time I have a chance I´ll post some photos I got of them doing that.

Since then we´ve seen wild monkeys around the Mayan ruins of Palenque but, although they stayed right above our heads, I couldn´t get a decent shot of them. Too dark. Monkeys are cool. Their tails are powerful as giant snakes. It was nothing for them to hang upside down, munch a meal and watch us flat-footed, tailless humans far below.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Oaxaca mannequins and other street scenes

For those very few people who visit this tiny outpost, I´ve added a few more photos, mostly from Oaxaca. I´m behind. We´re in Palenque today. It´s breezy and cool, I suppose side effects from Hurricane Wilma which passed over the not so distant Yucatan. I hope all goes well for everyone as it moves northward. I´m doing this on the fly. I hope it´s not full of typos and bad grammer. As usual, I´m short on time. Hope you enjoy them. More later. Tomorrow we go to Palenque, a small but perhaps finest of the Mayan ruins. a.


We stayed at a hostel in Oaxaca rumored to be the former home of Oaxacan painter Rufino Tamayo. I don´t know if it´s true. We stayed in a roof top room, third floor; terrible but cheap. There was an ungodly smell coming from the bathroom. Drinking water was on the second floor but the view was wonderful. We could even see Monte Alban from the roof.

You get used to the presence of machine gun toting soldiers at the pay roads and armed guards walking the streets of every city. They certainly doesn´t make me feel any safer but I can´t resist an occasional sneak shot of them.

The mannequins are wonderful in Mexico. Contrary to popular opinion and the Bush administratioin, image is NOT everything. A good foundation is!


In Mexico it often takes one man days to do what a machine can do in a few hours. On the other hand, in the US the jails are full of guys who would be working if they weren´t behind bars, sometimes for life, on minor charges or because of the insane Three Strike laws.


This girl, her family and two bunnies lived in a tiny hut in the parking lot where we parked the Jeep for the time. The plants are the famous mescal plants. The man and oxen and the poor cows on the way to the slaughter house are familiar roadside scenes.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hexagram from the street

I pieced together a message from the I Ching by using the coins we found laying in the street. It took a while. We´ve been gathering fallen coins since Texas but I finally got the six required for a hexagram. I take this first one as the theme for the trip.

#18 KU:
mountain, wind. IMAGE: Worms breeding in a bowl. Work on what has been spoiled. The winds at the foot of a mountain penetrate everywhere.


Has supreme success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Before the starting point, three days.
After the starting point, three days.

One should weigh and consider well, both days before and after a turning point. And a truly lofty spirit attends to one's own affairs.


The wind blows low on the mountain:
The image of DECAY.
Thus the superior man stirs up the people
And strengthens their spirit.

When the wind blows slow on the mountain, it is thrown back and spoils the vegetation. This contains a challenge to improvement.

What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work. IT is not immutable fate, as in the time of STANDSTILL, that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom. Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords the possibilities of the time. We must not recoil from work and danger-symbolized by crossing of the great water-but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation. This is expressed by the lines, "Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three
days." We must first know the cause of corruption before we can do away with them; hence it is necessary to be cautious during the time before the start. Then we must see to it that the new way is safely entered upon, so that a relapse may be avoided; therefore we must pay attention to the time after the start. Decisiveness and energy must take the place of inertia andindifference that have led to decay, in order that the ending may be followed
by a new beginning.

It´s not my job to "prove" the I Ching, God or anything else. It´s my job is to make sense out of nothing so in that spirit here´s my general take on the reading. Might as well start with the obvious.

Wind in the mountain spoiling everything. We started out on this trip in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Stan and are currently in San Cristobol waiting out Hurricane Wilma which is at the moment grinding away over the Yucatan. It´s even cloudy and raining here as we are just at the edge of the storm. We are leaving tomorrow and heading east into the jungle region closer to the Yucatan and probably into more rain but our plans are up for a moment's change if the weather worsens. Naturally, the I Ching´s message is always many layered. Worms breeding in a bowl covers a lot of issues, social and personal but, as always time has run out here in the ol´ internet cafe and I still haven´t even gotten around to posting the photos from Oaxaca or checking my email but I´ve got to go.

Hasta la vista until manyaña.

Photo credits:
#1: The Gold Scales
#2: Springs Greeting Cards

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shedding layers

We have been gone over two weeks and I´m just now beginning to feel like the US is just another country, somewhere else and not how-IT-is. Certainly, since we left, I have felt "out" of the country but that´s a different thing. The US was still the center I was relating to. It finally occurred to me this evening when we were eating falafel tortas in a tiny, vegeterian restaurant here in San Cristobol that I have relocated myself outside that circle. It´s a great relief. Even the madness generating from Bush and his good old boy network has retreated into the background. I know it´s going on and that it does effect the whole world in a very negative way but for now I´m actually away from it.

I took hundreds of photos at the wild life refuge today and will try to post a few soon. It was very cool there. In a way it´s my version of church but it was also very sad. No matter how nice, life in a cage is a torture plus so many of the species represented are near extinction because of the ongoing human encrochment. I don´t know how that can be relieved in any meaningful way.

As for us, we´ve found the cheapest lodging yet, $8 a night at a campground about a mile out of town. It was a hidden paradise this afternoon. We´ll see how it goes tonight. Barking dogs and blaring music from the neighborhood may drive us out but íf not, we tucked in for a few days. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Visiting monkeys, waiting out Wilma

We just spent the last two days in Oaxaca. I got some pretty good photos there but won´t be able to post any until we get to San Cristobal, located in the mountains of Chiapas. We are currently in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas. It was an 8 hour drive from Oaxaca so at this point we´ve driven about 4000 miles but are not "there" yet, there being the Yucatan. At the moment, Hurricane Wilma is in the Yucatan, so we are staying in Chiapas until it blows over. There is also a tropical depression on Mexico´s Pacific side so tomorrow we´ll cool our heels visitng Tuxtla Gutierrez´s spectacular wild life reserve. It is said that this area is home to the greatest number of species in North America. Besides the obvious benefit of establishing a wildlife safe zone, the reserve was established to introduce people to the other species living in the region and to  promote the importance of preserving the ecosystem for the good of all. This is just the kind of place we like to support anyway but what better time? Plus we will get to see North America´s very own native monkeys. Can´t wait!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Life in the eye of Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba is the third tallest mountain in North America and it is Xalapa´s patron mountain. I was lucky to get a photo of it from the open air, roof top laundry room at the Hotel Acapulco. Clouds usually cover the top just after sunrise. Mr. Lee tells me there is also a 3 day white water rafting trip people can take somewhere nearby. That would be an adventure.

I find Mexico exotic in any context. Yes, it´s part of America but, compared to the US, Mexico is as foreign as any place else on earth. Most importantly, Mexico is an escape from the standardized, soul-numbing, corporate environment that holds Americans hostage. There´s a lot to dislike about Mexico, including the suffering animals, trash, and pollution, but here my soul is bathed and restored in the muddy waters of humanity. Fetid waters. I know. This sounds really corny. You don´t know or miss it if you´ve never been in a place like this. Well, that´s inaccurate. Lots of people know they are missing "something". I always did. As soon as I was old enough to get away from my family I spend countless hours prowling downtown Seattle looking for "it". I spent most of my time exploring skidroad, the area in and around Farmer´s Market and the water front. I was looking for humanity. The collective. The world. At that time Farmer´s Market vaguely resembled The World of my imagination. I could get a cup of coffee at one of the sleasy restaurant bars tucked away in the market, look out over Puget Sound and watch the freighters and ferries come and go and write for hours without being hassled or hurried along because some yuppie wanted my table.

Mexico is still life size. It is a place to dream, wander, sit and watch, be invisible or passionate. There is plenty that needs to improve here or change completely but Mexico has heart, something the corporate world is so expert at stealing, copyrighting, and selling back to people, one sterile, expensive piece at a time. Mexico is also a place you can get your blood pressure read in the park or do your laundry at the communal wash tubs.

There is a seemingly endless number of wandering musicians and quaint stairways in Mexico but the streets are also places of open poverty and death. This morning, for example, I saw a man carrying a red plastic milk crate on his shoulder. It was full of something and on the top rode the large shinny head of a just slaughtered and skinned cow, her black eyes still looking wildly out at the world, her nose still moist and normal. The back of the cow´s severed neck was slick, pink flesh and red, open, drained veins. She was probably alive yesterday. A tiny, old woman wearing a flowered dress and wrapped in a black shawl sat nearby on the filthy sidewalk. As I passed, she lifted her open palm up to me and, in a pleading, childlike voice said, "Mujer pálida" (pale woman).