Sunday, June 12, 2016

The heat is on!

When I was in Mexico experiencing teeth-chattering cold, I made a vow never to complain about the heat in Jamaica again.

Know what? This heat deserves a complaint. It's so hot in the nights! Hot days don't bother me. The sun  comes out and does its thing in the days. That's expected. What I do not expect is for the nights to be so humid and miserable.

It's not cool at all. Pun intended. I'm downing glasses of water like a camel in the Sahara. I might soon be sleeping on a bed of ice. And these headaches. This pounding in the side of my head .... a result of the heat, I'm told. Not cool either.

One day, I'll be so well-monied and travelled that I will spend my summers in cooler climates and winters in warm places. This heat is motivation to work toward that dream with renewed urgency. I am NOT about this hellish nightmarish heat.

I always tell people I prefer to be too cold than too hot. In cold, you can always add another layer to get warm, but when it's unbearably hot, the only thing left to take off is your skin! It's truly miserable.

Anyway, I'm not complaining. Not really. Just a candid observation of sorts. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Some Tuesday motivation

#GoGetIt #LiveYourDeam #NeverGiveUp #LiveUp #LookUp
This is the thing I remind myself (well, one of many things I try to remind myself) when life gets a little rough. There are days when I forget. There are days when I forget to be positive and think positive and act positive. Sometimes I forget that this moment is really just a moment and that it does not and will not define all the other moments to come ... . So here's a reminder for those of us who forget: treat a moment like nothing more and nothing less than a moment. And if you forget ... ah well, tomorrow, we try again ... :)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I miss #Mexico ...

Hello, Jamaica. Hasta luego, Mexico!

It's been two weeks since I've been back, and I'll tell you what: the magic hasn't worn off yet. I think of Mexico and smile. It's a happy smile, but it's a secret smile. It's a secret smile full of special things only people who went to my Mexico, and met my Mexico people, and did Mexico things with my Mexico people would understand. It's an inside joke only the ones who shared this experience with me would know. You had to be there to get that it was fun, and different, and special, and definitely worth smiling about.

It's an accomplished smile, too. It's a 'yes! I did it!' smile. It's a smile that reminds me of the friends I made, the people I met, the experiences I had, the ways I changed ... . It feels good to be home, but it feels good precisely because I was away. Going away makes coming home better in some ways; worse in others; different in every way. I can't wait to go away again! :)

Ah, Mexico. Mexico made 'foreign' feel like home. My experiences there make me feel 'foreign' now, at home! I'm still regaining my bearings. I still feel a little jetlagged - but in soul, not in body.

I have internal jetlag. Physically, I'm fine. But in my mind? In my emotions? In the depths of me? I'm still travelling. It's weird. But it's true. I don't even know if this is the kind of thing I want to be blogging about yet, because I'm still figuring out exactly what it means and how I feel about it. But maybe this writing exercise will help.

I've always heard people say that travel does things to you: widens your horizons, broadens your perspective, facilitates self-knowledge, self-reliance, strength, etc., etc. Know what? It's true. Travel does all of the above. And it's awesome.

But somebody should have warned me that once you've been to the mountaintop, anything less will forever seem ... pedestrian. Once you've lived even a little of your dream in a truly fullsome way, that taste - that way of being - becomes addictive. Nothing else compares. Nothing else matters. So, forget the cold, the food woes, the bumpy bus-rides. My mind has graced them with amnesia. Now, all I remember is being at the airport, boarding the plane, going ... being gone. Being there. Meeting that person. Living in that place. Trying that new dish ... the feeling of being in a foreign place ... that feeling of living in the beauty of the moment ... and completely loving it.

It's ALL I remember. That feeling. That way of being. And I'm grateful, and hopeful, a little sad, a lot lost, but mostly ... grateful. Hasta luego, Mexico. I'll see you again. Hopefully soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

There are no do-overs ... live it UP!

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
This is not for you.
This is for me.
For all of the wonderful things I will be.
For all of the places and people I’ll see.
want to be ready.
This is for me.

Have you ever felt like you’ve been dreaming for so long, you’ve forgotten what real life felt like? Like you’ve forgotten how to breathe and feel and be in present tense? There have been days when all I lived on was future. “Will be” became the propeller for my life: a seemingly endless reach into a vast unknown, a permanent stretch into next. That was me. That was my life. I lived looking for consecutive exits, skipping rapidly through chapters, like a screen director on a boring set, always screaming “Next!"
Then I did a somewhat crazy thing. I planned a trip, by myself, and left my country for a strange land for five weeks. Next time, it WILL be for longer - much longer ... hehehe.

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
This is what I'm thinking with roughly three days left in Mexico. I'm three days away from returning to my beloved Jamaica. I kinda don't wanna leave my beloved Mexico. I feel like I have stuff to say to Mexico, and Mexico has stuff to say to me that we haven't said yet. I feel like the conversation is incomplete. Like I ought to stay longer and hear - in its fullness - what Mexico has to say to me.

Does that even make sense? I don't know. But I feel like going home is a break in transmission that I'm not fully ready for. I could stay here a little longer. Just a little. Just to listen. Just to hear Mexico talking to me.

What's done is done, though - and that return trip is booked! That's life. There are no do-overs. I did my Mexico trip the way I did it, and that's that.

Would I have done anything differently? Not by much. I mean, I would have travelled with seasoning to spice up some dishes; I would have let the bank know I was going to be in a foreign country for over a month, and spared myself a day on the phone trying to verify that I'm really me. But that's small stuff. The big stuff - the really consequential things - I wouldn't change any of that. It was a great trip. I liked it the way it was. And I want to remember it like that.

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
I'm getting nostalgic and I haven't even left here yet. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm kinda a sap. I like to think in philosophies. With some depth. (At least, I think so, lol). What I'm saying is: You only get this moment once. So breathe in, take it all in, and forget to feel afraid. Forget your reservations. They can wait till tomorrow. Or never. Don't let them in. Live! Live it UP!

All you have is now. So live. Live it UP! In Mexico, I definitely lived UP! And I liked it. That's the thing I'll take back with me to Jamaica - that ability to move past difficulties and differences and look up, and live UP. All you have is now, friends. And until you die, NOTHING can kill you. So LIVE! Live UP!

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
If I'd let fear reign, I would have never seen this first-hand.
Photos mine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Random thoughts in #Mexico

1. So the days are winding down quickly. And I'm starting to get a little homesick. Or home-food-sick. Seriously. What I'd give for some curried goat. Or manish water. What I'd spend to get some stew chicken with yam and banana and fried dumplings ... *sigh*. And ackee and saltfish? Or a beef patty? I miss Jamaican food with a vengeance. This might sound bad, but it's the thing I miss the most: the look, smell and taste of food from Yard. I miss it. I want it. I need it. Bad bad bad.

I didn't even know Jamaican cuisine was so essential to my makeup. But listen, it's in my DNA. I need Jamaican food. I just need to at least SMELL some Jamaican food flavours really soon. Lest I die. Serious. The craving is real. FedEx me some flour dumplings, please. I'd be eternally grateful.

2. I have passed the test of a true Yardie: I have said 'yeah man' and didn't realise I was saying it. It's funny. You don't realise how much you say things like that till you have a chorus of foreign echoes repeating every cliché Jamaican thing you say. Then you realise how many of those clichés are true. It's funny.

I never even realised I had a strong Jamaican accent until I was teaching someone to say a word, and they said the word with a Jamaican accent. I cracked up, because, well, one, it was just hilarious to hear them trying a Jamaican accent, and two, I was like: oh my goodness! That's what I sound like to you? Shocking.

3. I have fallen in love with this little family I'm staying with. I really admire their work ethic, and how close they are as a family. They have a routine that works, and a structure that pulls them together. Family is a seriously super-big deal in Mexico. Watching them interact on a daily basis: how the boys genuinely love their mom and dad, and show that? How they play together, and work together? It's nice to see, and it's great to be allowed to be part of that - even for a little bit.

4. Speaking of family, I will NEVER forget the chaps I spent the last five weeks with. They are just too awesome. Fun times, you guys! Like when Mark and I taught y'all to willy bounce and bogle and butterfly and sweep ... . Or when we went to La Coltrane cafe and then went to Riu to learn how to dance la Barchada? Or the karaoke bar? Or the informal lymes in the apartments? Fun times. Unforgettables all ... :)

5. I've found the perfect return-home travel song. It's Cold Play's 'Fix You'. I've loved this song for a long time. But for this trip, the song somehow reminds me of my mother:

When you try your best and you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse ...

When tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone and it goes to waste
Cold it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
I will try ... to fix you.

No matter how broken I am, she is always willing to try to fix me ... .
I love you, mommy.
See you in a little bit.
Hope I didn't do too much damage.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Touristitude: what kind of tourist am I?

Touristitude = TOURIST + ATTITUDE
There was precious little to appetise me here ...
So we went to a Mexican Chinese restaurant. Know what? I prefer Jamaican Chinese food by LEAPS and BOUNDS and GALAXIES and UNIVERSES. Yep. It was that bad. I didn't express the extent of my dislike while we were at the restaurant. That wouldn't have helped anything. I was polite, and explained that I like my cold food COLD and my hot food HOT - and that maybe because everything was room temperature and pretty much tepid, I wasn't feeling very 'appetised'. Plus, I added, I wasn't that hungry anyway (lies!!). I ate what I could stomach, and made polite conversation while my host had his meal. He noticed that I didn't touch half of the food on my plate, but was polite enough to 'understand'.

That's what you get for trying CHINESE food in MEXICO. (But Chinese food in Jamaica is so tasty though ... I thought it was like that everywhere.)

One plate of Chinese food that
pretty much remained untouched ...
Another time, we (not the same host, a different we) went to a restaurant where I ordered a soup called posole blanco. Truth? It tasted like chicken boiled in water with large grains of hominy corn. No seasoning. Not even salt. Now, all Jamaicans know that soup is not soup without some Maggi Soup-It-Up. Plus some thyme and scallion and all them herbs for flavour. So this new dish sans seasoning wasn't going down too well at all. Even with the addition of chopped onions and radish and a little chili pepper.

Know what I did? Same as above: I didn't express the extent of my dislike while we were at the restaurant. I was polite, and sipped my soup, ate my corn grains, truly enjoyed the chicken, and nodded vague approval, masking the sorrow my tastebuds were undergoing.

Only weeks later, after I'd tasted the red counterpart to that white wonder, called posole rojo, did I let slip how terrible I'd found that soup. We laughed about it, probably because I really LOVE posole rojo, and was chowing down with genuine gusto. It was like chalk to cheese. Posole rojo? Win. Posole blanco? Never again.

But I realised something about myself: I'm a polite tourist. You know those people who are perpetually nice and always find a way to 'make do'? I might be one of those.

It got me thinking, and I started paying closer attention to my reactions to things - as a tourist. Imagine my surprise when I realised I'm squealish. Not squeamish. Squealish. Like a person who creates a lot of excitement over every little thing. So I go somewhere, and they say, "This is Mexican dirt." My response will be (in a squeal), "Oooh. How lovely. Mexican dirt!" Only long afterward will it occur to me that it's not particularly exciting to see dirt. But such is the nature of my touristitude. I make excitement for dirt.

I'm also screamish. I scream. Loud. Lots. Especially when excited. One night, we went to a karaoke bar. One of my friends went up and sang. It was sooo good - dude can sing! So I screamed. Loudly. Alot. One of the Mexican girls came over to me and said: "I buy you beer. You scream. How you do that?"

It took me a while to understand. But she was basically offering to buy me a beer, hoping I kept up the hysterics all night, and asking me how I made that shrill sound. I declined the beer. I explained that she was welcome to hang with us (we were the loud ones that night), but she didn't need to buy me anything. It's funny when I think about it because I don't really scream on demand. It just happens if and when I get excitable.

Turns out I screamed a lot more that night. This one girl went up and put on a real Pink performance - rockerchick moves and all. I screamed for that. Another of our brave friends went up and sang Sean Kingston's 'Beautiful Girl'. It was a fun (and funny) rendition. I screamed for that. But when a Mexican mama hit the stage and said, "First I was afraid, I was petrified", I got off my stool and screamed the house down! Then we all belted out that time-honoured karaoke masterpiece and danced to high heaven. Was fun.

So, I learnt that I'm a screamish tourist. Not even just a tourist. I'm a screamish person. I make loud sounds when I'm happy - screams, peals of laughter, cackles, shouts ... you get the gist. I guess I can sum it up by saying I have a polite, make-do, screamish, squealish touristitude.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Too young to dance ...

On Sunday, I was loaned a grandmother and grandfather for a day. They picked me up at the home I'm staying at and drove me to a beautiful seaside restaurant all the way in Chapala, Mexico. We walked along a seafront pavement overlooking a very murky lagoon; we saw many shops with artesanías selling some of the most exquisite pieces of hand-crafted work I've ever seen; we walked through the town and saw some truly ancient places. These pueblas have cobblestone roads - cobblestone roads!! And red brick houses. Like something out of a movie. And they have the cars to complement the era - Tatas, Volvos ...

I had a fish dinner, with fillet (pescado con mantequilla) and white rice and vegetable salad. Not too unusual. It was tranquil and all very kosher. Until the music began.

And I noticed the dais at the centre of the restaurant. And the couple moving in rhythm at the front of the room. Then another couple got up and went to the dais. Then another. And another. And pretty soon, that little space was crammed with dancing couplets, and a few singlets, stepping in time to the Spanish beat - some wielding their waists like weapons of warfare.

It was mainly elderly couples on the dance floor. You wanted to see those old men get down - dancing and prancing around their señoras with enthusiasm, if not youthfulness. I laughed so hard at some of the antics they carried on with: hunched shoulders, eyes wide, arms flailing. It was a blast from the past.

My personal favourite was la cumbia. Oh my word! It's a lively, uptempo jive that the musicians false-ended three times before finally completing the song with a trumpet and a flourish. So every time we thought the song was done and people started to leave the dance floor, they started again. And the fiesta would carry on ... . At some points, I could swear I saw people doing something very similar to the dinki mini.

I sat watching these people indulging their rhthymical senses on a spectrum that ranged from the very tranquil to the downright frenetic - and I had to just laugh. I declined my first invitation to join them, but the more I watched, the more I wanted to join in. So when the next uptempo song came around and my hosts extended their hands to me, they didn't have to ask twice. I got out there and stepped and shook and shimmied.

I swallowed pride, fear and all inhibitions and had me some fun. Know what? I really enjoyed it. Right up until my thighs started to feel like I had been treading water for more than an hour. I looked around me and saw jubilation and enthusiasm in faces that had forgotten more than I could remember and bodies that had seen age like I hadn't. I had to will my young legs to keep time, and keep up! After all, I was the young one there!

I wanted to take pictures, but my brand new Nikon CoolPics S2800 stopped charging after a whopping three hours of use. So I have to bring it back to the store and get that resolved. So I had no camera with me. Hence no pictures. But use your imagination. Think of old people - couples very much in love. The elderly gentlemen leading their ladies onto the dance floor, assuming the ready stance, then swaying to the music. Think of very young toddling granddaughters jumping with their prancing grandpas. Think of daughters and fathers dancing together at a respectable distance. Think of lovers throwing respectability out the window and getting as close as skin permitted. It was a wonderful mix of the old and the new, sharing in a moment of tranquil synchronicity. I really liked it. And, apparently, they do this every Sunday!

Would I go back? You bet!