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Archive for February, 2009:

Couchsurfing, Plaid, Et Cetera

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

plaid marI leave for Bogota, Colombia, tomorrow, early Sunday morning at 6:30 am. I’m going to Miami tonight with Adam and his friend Allison. I’m probably going to stay up all night. No real sense in going to bed. My ticket was ridiculously cheap: $150. I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining.

I’ve tried to connect with some couchsurfers in Bogota but to no avail. 2 of the 4 people I emailed wrote back that they weren’t going to be in town. I’m guessing that that’s a common white lie when they don’t want to host anyone. I got the same types of responses when I tried it in Mexico City. One girl said she had too many surfers already. It’s just like getting a job online. I guess you have to send out a lot of emails. But then people complain about cut-and-pasted inquires. I think people also like at least a week’s notice, which is hard to give when you don’t know where you’re going to be. You lose all the flexibility of free travel. With all the hassle involved in reserving a couch, it’s almost worth it to just go to a hostel. That’s kind of what they’re set up for.

The past few days I’ve been working on an online plaid making website (instead of filing for an income tax extension). I added a gallery and a saving function most recently. Pictured above is a plaid I made using the same palette that I used to design this site.

Finally, I’m changing my blogging strategy to be, well, more like blogging. Shorter posts, but updated more frequently. Opinionated. Topical. Links to other stuff. I’ve been too wrapped up in trying to write these comprehensive essays of all things I’ve been doing, when I should just quickly write about whatever’s on my mind. Updating more frequently also relieves the burdern of feeling like you have so much to write, which can be a deterent to writing. Just as I was thinking this, my life-long friend, Michael J, write me, “I’ve been loving the blog entries lately, I kind of like the shorter but more ones that are posted more often.” So there you have it.

Travel is inherently selfish…

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Travelvice.com
…no matter what type of spin you put on it.

I stumbled upon the the travel blog, Travelvice, and the author humourously points out in a post that a lot of young, white travelers seek not only to travel, but to do so in a strange or alternative way so as to impress their friends. The practice has even been lampooned in Stuff White People Like #120, Taking a Year Off, he points out. I can’t help but feel a perfect example for both of these claims. It’s true, not too many people, young especially, travel by boat;  the high price of owning and maintaining a boat usually limits the activity to someone older or retired. Unless, of course, you’re like me and you’re freeloading on someone else’s boat.

I get a kick out of telling people what I’ve done and what I’m going to do, and while vanity may be my reason for telling other people, it’s certainly not the reason I’m actually doing it. I’ve been sailing for 8 years now and since I spent the night on the Balclutha in San Francisco in the 4th grade, I’ve always wanted to go on a sailing voyage. The nature and history surrounding seafaring have always been lures for me. Most of the best cities are situated on the water. Another attraction is the price. Different skippers have different requirements, but usually, sailing as a crew member means that lodging and transportation are free, leaving food as the only expense. Some people think that you get paid to crew, and in most cases that’s not true. It’s simple supply-and-demand; there are plenty of qualified sailors who are willing to lend a hand in exchange for a free trip.

Craig Heimburger, the author, is interviewed by RooshV (Part I, Part II). One question is how he keeps his budget so low. Most surprisingly, he reccommends drinking tap water. It’s true I spend a lot of money on bottled water and drinking the tap would save me quite a bit of money, but everything I’ve ever been taught was don’t drink the tap water; and I’ve had turista a few times—it’s not pleasant. If it’s just a matter of acculmation, maybe it’s worthwhile to sack-up and drink the tap. Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, right?

Not Miami but Boca Raton

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Disc golfing at Tradewinds ParkBoca Raton. The Rat’s Mouth. It sounds better in Spanish. I think the name is supposed to describe the shape of the bay. Boca is a 1 hour, 4 minute train ride from the Miami airport. Adam picked me up from the station and drove us back to his apartment. I lived with Adam for two years in college, before I moved to San Francisco. He’s been living in Florida for a little under 2 years. He works for a capital management company and he’s studying for his second CFA exam. He’s doing well for himself. After work he helps coach junior high basketball. He didn’t know anybody when he moved out here, which is always a difficult move to make. But he’s pretty well settled now and even kindling a new relationship with a girl who also works at the junior high where he coaches.

It’s weird being back in the States. Miami would have been a good buffer zone from which to transition myself back into the American lifestyle. In fact, some people say that Miami isn’t even the US. Here in the suburbs I find an eerie silence and an agoraphobia-inducing surplus of space. Vast, mostly empty parking lots. Wide streets. Stretches of well groomed grass. The passing cars carry only one person and I can barely hear or smell them go by. Everything is stretched out. There are many stores on the main streets, all of which are trying to sell me cheap wares I never realized I didn’t need until I’ve lived without them. Everyone seems to be on a schedule and going along with the master plan. Maybe they’re just not on vacation.

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Mexico City

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Mexico City, ZocoloFor my last night in Playa, I went out to dinner with Guillermina, Sebastian and Sebastian’s girlfriend, Lourdes, who just arrived. Lourdes lives in San Francisco but she’s from Guadalajara. After dinner we bought some rum and coke and drank cuba libres in their hotel room. Later, the security guard knocked on the door saying they couldn’t have guests for longer than 15 minutes so we went to our hostel to drink and later to a bar.

After going to bed at 3am, I woke up at 7am for my 10:40 flight to DF. I had to pack and the bus to the airport was to leave at 7:50. I barely made the bus. I slept the whole way on the flight, waking up with sleep paralysis periodically and lucidly dreaming that all sorts of weird things were happening on the plane that actually weren’t.

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I Have a Plan

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Dos Ojos CenoteEver since Canice left last Friday I’ve still been hanging out in Playa with a couple of people that I’ve met here at Hostel Casa Santiago. There was one Aussie in my room, about the same age as me, who was living in San Francisco for 4 months until he got (surprise) laid off. I’ve also been hanging out with an Argentinian girl, Guillemina. She’s helping me out with my Spanish. I’ve never heard Argentine Spanish before, they pronounce their Ys like SH.

Since they’re both new to Playa, they’ve been pulling me out of bed in the morning to sieze the day. We’ve gone to Xpu-ha beach, Akumal beach, Dos Ojos Cenote, and Grand Cenote. The cenotes are basically underground lakes and rivers. The Yucatan Penninsula consists of limestone and there are no above ground bodies of water. I just snorkeled in the water, but I watched some scuba divers who were able to go deeper and farther into the cavern where there are no pockets of air. I regret not going to a cenote with Ali; I know he would have loved it. They surpassed my expectations.

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Illegal Ticket to the US: $3000

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I had the most interesting conversation last night with a guy who said he works on a human trafficking cartel, getting people across the border from Mexico to the United States. The entry costs $3000 and is payable on successful transport accross the border. The penalty for welshing on the deal is death, he explained rather simply.

I asked him how, because I know there are tunnels and boats, but he said trucks. I asked him if it was mostly men and he said no, a lot of women go to. Then I asked if it was for prostitution and he said it depends. Cubans, Colombians and Venezuelans, he said, usually go into prostitution. I tried asking him what work these illegal immigrants did once they arrived and I didn’t really get an clear answer. I think it’s because that’s where his job ends. Once they’re in and they’ve paid their $3000, he’s got nothing to do with them. There’s plenty of ways to make money under the table: construction, farm labor, gardening, domestic servitude, selling drugs, prostitution. A job is the easy part, getting in—that’s the hard part.

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Roughin’ It in Playa

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Sean and Canice in Playa del CarmenMahahual was the same as I remembered it. I introduced Ali to Gary and Larry and showed him my home for the past two months. Since I left, the port captain prohibited Gary from taking Crystal Blue Persuasion out for business until he gets all his paperwork in order. We lounged on the beach a couple of days and did some snorkeling. We had a little foosball competition. I was down by two games after the first day. The second day, the table was freshly lubricated and I won 6 games in a row. The last game I was down 9 to 1, when Ali, confident he would win, said “I think I’m going to win this one.” Not so. I came back from the eight-point deficit and beat him again. After that, I think he decided to retire from foosball.

After Mahahual we drove to Tulum, the site of coastal Mayan ruins halfway to Cancun. We stayed in a hut on the beach at Papaya Playa. Tulum is the best beach I’ve encountered on my trip. The sand was very fine and white and the water calm and turquoise without any obstructions. Our second day we ran into our French friends, Sylvie and Clarisse. They just arrived from a 20+ hour bus ride from San Cristobal de las Casas. It was also the day that my old coworker, Canice arrived. He’s doing a good job of Twittering his trip and wrote upon our meeting: “I have made contact with the conaty. He is thinned, tanned and mustached. I am the exact opposite. Should be interesting.” The five of us plus another French guy the girls befriended at the hostel, Antoine, went to the beach outside our hut. We tossed the Frisbee around and played some volleyball, France versus the United States, except Canice played for France and Clarisse was on our team. Sad to say the US team lost the two games, the second one after lots of tequila and beer.

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