mad in pursuit travel notes: mexico

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Thursday, 5.6.04: Xalapa, Mexico

Xalapa, Mexico[<<<previous] Today is better, I think.

I didn't sleep well last night but it was because my mind was racing with creative thoughts. With roosters crowing in the distance, I had to grab my notebook and write in the dark. I wrote this paraphrase of Nietzsche: "What doesn't kill me makes a good story." A traveler's motto, I guess.

Maybe it is the strangeness of Xalapa that made me think of a 1997 trip to Indonesia -- the incident on Biro Beach. I began thinking about it as another diversity-theme video, called "Exposed." It was an Islamic holiday and we were the only Westerners at the resort. Big winter-white Westerners limping to the water in our bare feet over sharp stones. We got stares and laughter. My sense of humor vanished in the strangeness of the situation. When we finally got into the water with our masks, we saw a poisonous sea snake swimming among the legs local bathers. We just watched. I felt as venomous as that snake. I hated those people who thought we were a circus sight and I was numb to the danger they were in.

I think its a good little tale of how cultural insensitivity breeds embarrassment, which breeds hatred.

P.S. I don't think Jim had those same feelings. He is less vulnerable to road stress than I am and rarely loses his perspective.

We spent a leisurely morning exploring the Anthropological Museum. It contains a vast collection of pre-Columbian sculpture and artifacts from just this part of Mexico -- mostly the Olmecs. They are the very ancient civilization whose people carved those gigantic heads in the jungle.

We headed back to our dull hotel room about mid-afternnon. We lacked ambition, so decided to take advantage of the well-lit bathroom to bathe. Jim was naked, about to step into the shower, touched the wash basin and it fell off the wall and broke into a thousand pieces. A shard nicked Jim's foot and he was leaving bloody footprints as he cursed. The sink had no pedestal and the pipes were only flexible plastic tubing. Apparently someone thought the grout would hold it in place.

Jim finished his shower while I went to bitch. The HoJo staff swarmed around, fussed over Jim's foot, then moved us to the room next door. Adventure over.

We went back out into the city. It was raining pretty hard but we had umbrellas and it felt pleasant and much less strange than it did last night. We had delicious tortilla soup and molletes (bread with refried beans and melted cheese) at the Caf Latin, then found a big exhibit of Picasso engravings.

Question: If you could be a combination of any two animals (including human), what would you be? Picasso often depicted himself as half man, half goat.

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TRIP ENTRIES

5.2.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.3.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.4.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.5.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.6.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.7.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.8.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.9.04 Papantla to Puebla, Mexico

MORE STUFF

Amazon link to "The Power and the Glory"

I finished reading "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene. It is the story of a "whiskey priest" during a time in the 1930s when the Catholic Church was outlawed in southern Mexico and priests were being killed. The priest is not really a good priest by Church standards. But when all the other priests have fled or rejected their priesthood, the whiskey priest can't bring himself to abandon his responsibilities.

He is an atheist, a sinner, yet he still understands his people's need for baptisms and communions. A tragic figure.

Graham Greene must have inspired John LeCarr. But instead of priests, LeCarr uses spies. They are all men who believe in their mission, but somehow get betrayed by their leaders.

It is always tragic when people of purpose realize that their leaders are only politicians and that they themselves are only tactics in a shifting political strategy.

 

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