please don't be concerned. i think this trip has revealed a lot for me. I've done a lot of things to make money, and i know it doesn't make me happy. i've become a shell of a man trying to chase it, and it never comes. i will find the courage everyday to listen to what makes me feel alive. So many years of depression and sadness - there's no manual out there on how to be jason, so I'm writing it as I go along. Right now i'm searching youtube for videos that make me laugh, searching biographies on people that interest me, listening to music that i like. it's a start. I guess I always thought i had to do something i didn't want to do to survive in life. I took it to the extreme, and now my life feels a mess. But if I can find a way to keep on this path, I will be ok! I know there are some things you have to do that you don't like, but there are many times when you can do exactly what you want to do. Doing things that you enjoy, turn you on, make you laugh, get you out of your head, out of your pain. It's the best i can do.
Thank you for your update mommy they're great and always put me in a good mood especially the emoticons.
I love you both very much,
the mechanic thinks the bike is ready tomorrow - it was the pickup, next to the stator and is involved in ignition. he may even be retrofitting an old part to work on my bike but i can't be sure. will keep you posted.
Penelope's ugly, dirty and nasty cousin. I only feel that way because of what has transpired over the last 24 hours. The bike could have stalled on the side of the Mexican highway somewhere with machetes flying around my head, so I am thankful for that. It was just before midnight, and the dogs were barking so much I had to make a move away from behind the concrete wall separating me from the street, and my broken down bike. There was some activity down the street, with what looked like a taxi company. I felt strangely vulnerable going up to this group of 3 or 4 guys washing their cars, but I did. I was so tired and discouraged my working level Spanish was less so. Finally, an understanding that I needed a place to charge the battery on my bike. Then, the owner, a young 28 year old offers for me to sleep there too, and after watching the TV that was placed beside the car wash, and laying down on the dirt, they offered me their hammock. Waking up this morning, a picture of my 'bedroom'. Time to collect my thoughts, I flag a taxi, and he takes me to Yamaha fruitlessly, but they offer a mechanic who's just down the street, non-affiliated. He is optimistic my problem is that battery but after a quick charge-up still no spark on the plugs. We put the bike into the back of a truck with me straddling Bonnie to keep her from falling off or over. As of now, still no solution, after thinking the $1700 part 2 weeks away was the answer. This experience has tested my patience, and despite wanting to be in Costa Rica in 2 weeks, know somehow that everything will work out just fine. Of course that wasn't my feeling this morning.
My disappointment in missing the open hours of the Canadian Embassy yesterday lasted longer than I wanted. It gave me greater motivation to wake up early and try again. For the first time in 6 weeks, I have a blue, permanent passport. Frustration with the bureacracy in Latin countries also faded as I saw the man bring it to the window.
I also say goodbye to my wonderful host family for 9 days - Marivy and Victoria.
I was compelled to write a story about visiting the Top Ten Tourist sites of Mexico City with a twist: on a motorcycle. Much faster than on foot, and more interesting than by bus, I knew it would also be much more difficult. This time, the Mexican would not be strapped on the back, and whatever challenges beset me, I would be forced to confront them alone. At least I would be paying much more attention to the street signs.
That is if they had any. Of course they have street signs; they're just hidden behind trees on the corner of the street and you often don't see them until it's too late. Additionally, the street you're looking for are rarely shown on the sign ahead - there are so many viaducts and connectors you must go through first, so logically it is their names that you see first, and you have to make a choice which one connects to your road. The city has had to continually adapt over hundreds of years from people on foot, to horses to cars to many cars, and therefore is the antithesis of a planned city.
Thankfully, unbelievable history and countless man-made wonders await those hungry for history and culture. Mexicans love monuments, especially to intellectuals and revolutionaries, as well as paying homage to the spiritual side of life. You could spend your entire vacation on one street, the sites are that close to each other. The problem is just getting there.
For two cars heading home, they both lost the battle with a bus. You cannot hesitate while driving, you must see your opportunity and go for it. For the brave, you can split the lanes with a motorbike, and avoid traffic jams. If none of this sounds like your cup of tea, the turibus will do it all in 3 hours, and pick you up from your airport.
Behind the National Palace, a short video attempt at capturing the surroundings of a busy street became an unwitting display of a man who's motorbike stalled and would not start again.
Tired at home with a slight resemblance to what was left of the city map. For the faint of heart, I would recommend the turibus!
We planned out our route, and successfully completed all the goals we set out for ourselves. This strapping a Mexican to the back of the bike definitely makes the trip in a big city easier. First, we went to the shoe repair store and picked up my black cowboy boots, returned a shiny black. Then, we met the tailor who had placed my next two badges on my leather coat: United States, and Mexico. (I have bought badges for each country I will experience on the road, starting with Canada, and ending with Brazil; the return journey badges will be added on after). Third, was the leather shop, which featured some amazing saddles (I took a picture for dad look at that saddle horn eh?). I wondered about a saddlery shop in Mexico City, but the cowboys must come in from the ranches to buy them, or they get shipped out. We picked up my saddle bags, with the left side totally repaired and all shiny and black as well.
Finally, the Automotriz Snoopy where we hit a bit of a snag, as Luis was not there, and wouldn't be for another hour. No big deal, as we went across the street for tacos. When we returned, one mechanic remounted the saddle bags under the back seat, and the other fixed the two side lights on the front; none of us caught this last week, but a wire had fried behind the main light from too much heat. I fried again too, with another dizzy spell after standing up too quickly. The elevation in Mexico City is 7,349 feet, and elevation sickness can occur after 5,000. All my muscles want to collapse, but I was ready this time and grabbed onto a post. Then it was gone.
Luis took us around while we were waiting, and showed us his speed bike (he commutes every day, and splits the lanes just like me) his go kart, F1 look alike car that has no category, and a motorcross. He likes his toys. His business started with one VW, and once him and his friend realized they were good at car repairs, all their buddies started giving them jobs. Soon, they had to open up a bigger garage, and another.
When it came time to pay, I asked him how much. He said "zero". I gave him a big hug after an incredulous "Si? Non!" I joked with him that when the Canadians find out the work is free, they will swamp his shop. We had a good laugh, and headed off to the younger Luis' house for a coffee. Upon return, we mapped out my quest to see the top 10 sites of Mexico City in one day. Oh, as well as check my rear brake at Yamaha, and pick up my passport.
a little video on some riding in mexico d.f. today
Perhaps the most intriguing and thought provoking was when I found a continuity error in the movie The Departed, which, if I'm not mistaken, won an Academy Award, or at least was nominated. After seeing Matt Damon's supposedly handcuffed hand pop out in the elevator after DiCaprio's character manhandles him there, I thought I'd look into if anyone else saw it. Well, yes, that and 64 other mistakes. http://www.moviemistakes.com/film6261
SPOILER ALERT! DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS!!!
It got me to thinking: if a man as talented, rich and famous as Scorsese can get away with this, is it because of his stature, or because people just really don't care as long as you are giving them something good? Like a sleight of hand, people won't notice your mistakes if you don't give them away? Unlike lying, it's a more forgiving, more human error. Such a coincidence that Matt Damon's character turned out to be the biggest liar of them all, almost successfully pulling the wool over everyone's eyes by systematically killing all his rivals, directly and indirectly.
Brock Lesnar was only a couple inches taller than most of his opponents, but his extra twenty pounds made him seem just as large as Ivan Drago to Rocky. My fascination with him started two years ago, after his first UFC (real) match coming from WWE (fake). It was against Frank Mir, who became my hero after beating the big silverback with a leg submission. See the first photo at left.
Their rematch did not turn out so tidily for Mir, and he was finished brutally, quickly and violently. Below, against a dwarved Randy Couture, Lesnar won that match and the title belt handily despite his opponent's experience and skill; basically a ground and pound. This was only after his 4th, or 5th match. I wanted him to lose because he was so cocky, and I always love an underdog.
Finally, Shane Carwin, a man with a perfect 12-0 record, someone I could believe in. Although the first round featured Carwin pounding the heck out of Lesnar, the 2nd round ended with a submission choke hold by Lesnar. Tonight, how could Cain Velasquez, and I overcome such a seemingly insurmoutable, immovable mountain?
I ignored the pain in my face, stomach, hips and arms and focussed completely on the fight, and put myself in the place of Cain Velasquez. You just can't let that big 264 pounder get on top of you, but he did and miraculously got back up. It's the same battle with physical pain. Worrying about it coming, or being there is secondary to the task of getting your brain to focus on something else. Pain is registered in the brain, so if you are not focussed on it, it doesn't exist.
I'll never forget a friend who was in a serious car crash when she was younger, went through a wheelchair to play baseball and dance again. We all have this ability to do it, and the pain of exercising daily is necessary as well as the mindful relaxation required to calm the tense muscles. Your body will instinctively react to a pain with tension - it is your job to be the boss, and change your brain pattern from pain, to connection with life. Ever wonder how your pain disappears when you are focussed on something intently? I worked late into the night with this strategy, and realized my 'tiredness' was just a physical communication to my brain. I felt dizzy, but I worked through it, knowing I would feel better soon.
Well, their house is quiet, exceptionally modern, cozy and spotless,except fort he bathroom ceiling, which was the victim of some moisture problems causing the paint to bubble and flake off. The problem was, I thought, it would be a pain to try and get all the tools to complete the job properly. An instance of telling myself not to do something just because I can. So, the new question I am learning to ask myself now is, "What do I want to do, and what can I do?" The only other option was to give Victoria English lessons. She speaks Spanish every day, and hasn't spoken since grade school. Yet another problem: I hadn't taught English in 4 years, and the last time I tried, I ran out of the school not wanting anything to do with it.
My ascension into the ranks of an English as a Second Language Teacher was a new experience. As I painted the thousandth window frame on an $80,000 job in Richmond, BC, 20' in the air on a hydraulic lift, I suddenly imagined myself teaching English in Shanghai, China. Upon completion of the job, I called my client Terry to tell him I would not be taking anymore maintenance contracts, and was shutting down the company.
The process began with some phone calls to local ESL schools, and an eventual application to the University of Cambridge's CELTA program, taught at the satellite school housed in the YMCA. My first interview with Tamwood on a Friday ended up as a temporary job to last one month the following Monday. I stayed 16.
Moving up the ranks to Activities Coordinator, and level 5 conversation was a flattering, yet humbling experience. An abrupt change in curriculum left me totally lost. I spent hours thinking of lesson plans with a blank page. I became a master of disguise, trying to fool the students into thinking I was organized and ready for their classes, but I couldn't fool myself. I felt like an imposter, despite wanting so bad to be a good teacher, enjoy the students and committed to their learning. Eventually I became more and more anxious, tired, ornery and stressed each class I came up with an empty lesson plan.
I quit, and spent 3 weeks stuck in bed shivering with anxiety. It was an awful experience and I was humbled once again by my mind's ability to shut my entire life off. I had been there twice before, but despite having the knowledge of what was happening, I couldn't shake myself out of it.
So here I was with lesson plan in hand today, prepared the night before, and a bit nervous. I flashed back to the feelings and moments teaching all those years ago, and realized I had to put a positive sign on this. I chose the career, and ended up afraid of it - a demoralizing experience. What went wrong? Well, I was scared to ask for help, too scared to fail, and a perfectionist. I couldn't allow myself to fail in front of the student, so I didn't even try.
Today, we won the battle. Victoria seemed to enjoy the speed and level of English, and together we built up her confidence. I guess that's it. A team - we work together, teacher and student. Equal ground. I came to terms with my time at Tamwood, and realized I can get pretty overwhelmed with the thought of infinite choice through creating my own lesson plans. I preferred to work off of someone else's plan, so I didn't have to go through the anxiety of starting from scratch, and looking at the clock saying 12 am knowing work started at 6 the next morning. My achilles heel, so to speak, came in the form of experiences of being at the front of the class, directing a group of people, and fearing making a mistake. My fear created itself a negative experience, but I know now it wasn't ME. It was just a skill I hadn't learned, and if I stayed relaxed, and committed to it fully, I could get through my physical pain enough to create the lesson.
Spanking is a form of corporal punishment commonly used to discipline a toddler, child, or teenager. It generally involves an adult -- typically a parent or teacher -- striking the offender's buttocks as a response to poor behavior, with either an open hand or an implement, to cause temporary pain without producing physical injury. When an instrument is used in lieu of a hand, spanking becomes switching, paddling, belting, caning, whipping, or birching, depending on the type of implement. When an open hand is used, some countries refer to spanking as slapping or smacking. Historically, boys have tended to be more frequently spanked than girls.
Spanking can also refer to the practice of striking an adult in a playful manner as a social ritual or form of entertainment.
Some countries have outlawed the spanking of children in every setting, but many allow it at least when administered by a parent or guardian. For the legal status of corporal punishment in different countries, see Corporal punishment in the home and School corporal punishment.
MEXICAN TRANSLATION :
AND OLD LADY CAN SPANK ( TOUCH ) YOUR BUTT!!!!!! J
There was only one thing to do, and a drastic one. Lay belly down on the hard floor, and hope that the comfort that came from previous attempts would visit me again.
It started the year of 9/11 and I was so stubbornly committed to re-writing an entire database I sat on a hard chair for 8 hours a day. 3 months in, I could barely sit down for a half hour without my legs and gluts tingling and going numb, my arms had such bad carpal tunnel I couldn't make a fist, and my eyes burned whenever I looked at a computer screen. Commitment, some sort of commitment to make myself good enough, to banish the demons of self-doubt and feel accomplished. The damage done may be permanent.
I spent many of the remaining years undermining my health in so many other ways, just to have a taste of success. Today, I finally surrendered. It was a day of fully understanding the limitations of my body, and the extent to which blood and bone can be pushed. Water was obviously deemed unnecessary by my ADD brain, far less important than making a difference, or making money, or attaining goals.
Luis and I had stayed behind at the mechanic's while Pablo and Marivy took my saddle bags in for repair, along with my jacket to sew badges onto. When 'Snoopy', aka Luis the amazing owner/auto mechanic had asked me yesterday if I had had a manual for him to look at, I realized it had fallen out somewhere between Stettler, and Mexico City through the long tear in the bottom of the left bag. Although my thoughts were of a bike that needed repair, it was my body that was actually falling apart, and there was an absence of a mechanic who was to fix it, or even maintain it.
The pain in my back has been so intense over the last month, I've had to contort my body in unimaginable ways simply to relieve the distressed muscles, and all of this while riding on the motorcycle. Turns out the BMW, or KLM stand up style of bike is far easier on the back to ride, as you are forced to sit up straight. 2 out of 7 days in Puerto Vallarta with Bonnie were spent on my back in the sand, as it seemed the only way to relieve the pain. Pain relievers were out of the question for me, because I knew I had to stop doing what was causing the damage, and not rely on something to mask, or 'band-aid' the problem. At the mechanic shop, I was kneeling down, and standing up to stretch somehow, but the pain was not letting up.
The amazing mechanics had fixed my electrical short problem in 5 minutes, and I was curious as to how exactly they did it, especially since I thought it would be a nightmare in hell. Luis translated everything from the mechanics to me, and as he was telling me, I stood up, and rather quickly at that. I remember feeing the blood rush to my head like a tidal wave, and of an intensity I had never experienced before. My knees buckle, and I try desperately to maintain control as the world started to spin around me. Down on the ground, the feeling passes and I try to collect myself while Luis is crying "Jason! Jason! What's wrong? Are you ok?" As I'm on the ground recovering I'm thinking "was it a seizure?" "No, I'm ok Luis. I'm ok," I reply slowly after my eyes focus again. Marivy, and subsequently Pablo are on the phone with strict orders to get some water in my system. Dehydration causing the thick blood to rush to my head and black me out. I'm lucky I had my wits enough to avoid a nasty crack of the head on the concrete.
A couple hours of solid work: some bolts on the windshield and back seat, a repaired rear tail light electrical system, a screw on the front light, the owner's personal trip to the hardware store for a foot peg bolt, and a rubber emission hose to replace the 'surgical tube', as they called it that I had bought in T.O., California. Cost: $ 0 pesos. Nada. Nothing. I couldn't believe it. Luis 'Snoopy' the mechanic, on a personal recommendation from the young man who shares his name, gave me his, and 2 of his mechanics time for free. He said it was a gift from Mexico to Canada. I gave him my card with my blog on it, and said this is my gift to you.
Just in case you need auto repairs and you find yourself in Mexico City, give 'Snoopy' a call, and tell him Jason from Canada sent you. I have a feeling he has a soft spot for us, somehow.
Luis Juambelz V.
Automotriz Snoopy, S.A. de C.V.
Arbol del Fuego No. 43
Col Candelaria Coyoacan
04380 Mexico, D.F. Tel 5618-6620 o 5618-6245
I wouldn't have found a gold level technician for Yamaha without my friends, nor the mechanic, Luis, whom we had met that morning not to mention a new chrome lid to replace the stolen one from PV. I got an oil change, fixed the leak on the clutch cover and oil filter, tightened my shock all in a half an hour without an appointment. It felt so good to be treated well, especially on such short notice.
My first movie premiere ever and it was all in Spanish. Javier Bardem was the star of 'Biutiful', and made an appearance for photos. I was unable to catch much of the dialogue of the movie, but the actor's portrayals were so intense I could follow the storyline. It certainly is a surreal experience to realize you are watching a movie in another country in another language. It is a feeling of being an alien, an observer into another world. The cinema itself was not unlike any other multiplex in North America, and my friends could speak excellent English with me at anytime, but it was different. Millions of people living their lives in other parts of the world right now, speaking different languages, following different customs, and caring less about whether you choose the white, or the red dress today. The stars were out and Mexico City's finest were in attendance.
Mexico City's garbage dump is a private affair, surrounded by fences and unaccessible by the public. Future plans will be to continue the landfill until some point deemed necessary, cover the garbage, and begin development. As space here is so scarce, even the garbage dumps need to be reclaimed, and one of the city's most prominent, and wealthy areas has already gone through the process of garbage dump, to reclamation, to habitation. Monica's eyes teared up not from her sadness at saying goodbye, but were burning just from being over a km away.
An ancient people's handiwork is so ancient it was discovered by the Aztecs 15 centuries ago, who, without seeing any inhabitants, deemed it a gift from the gods. The sheer size of Teotihuacan's (Tayo-tee-wahcon) pyramids 50 km north of Mexico City was an homage to the sun, and moon in hopes of receiving plentiful harvests for their massive undertaking. There is much debate still as to who exactly these people were, but they have undoubtedly left their mark, and it has survived the ages, with millions of rocks expertly held together in perfect symmetry with the same material we rely on today - concrete. Built at 15.5 degrees east of north, the city's urban grid was precisely constructed to align with the sun at it's zenith in the summer months, and effectively kept track of the growing season for it's inhabitants.
Although their monument has stood the test of time, their civilization was unable to survive much past the 5th century A.D. Considered now to have been a multi-ethnic community, the human, and animal sacrifices these people performed to appease the gods, could not innoculate them against their own human trials. Evidence indicates extensive fire damage to only the areas inhabited by the ruling elite class, suggesting unrest among the civilization. It seems Teotihuacan continues to fight for it's place as a spiritual centre, as a Wal-Mart was built on the grounds in 2004, and an enormous light and sound show contends for the area, featuring large metallic structures, 2,500 lights and three kilometers of cables, according to Statesman.com.
Either way, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will continue to be a cherished spot for tourists, and business, alike. Filled with vendors selling everything from bow and arrows, to jaguar whistles to obsidian masks, it is a popular tourist destination for the locals as well. People of all ages scale the Pyramid of the Sun, and raise their hands in tradition at the top, possibly feeling the power and grand scale of human accomplishment, and a connection to their ancestors.
It is a cultural experience the locals use to connect with their ancestors. The nearby Wal-Mart is concealed from view.
a warm welcome and 7 hours of hanging out at the cafe in zona rosa
the university stadium and home to the pumas futbol team and 20,000 rabid fans
luis commented i'm lucky to be alive after choosing a by-the-hour hotel, my first night in mexico city, after i asked him why couples were waiting in the lobby late at night - no rooms left!
I love you all.
I am meeting my friend Marivy who went to Tamwood School as an ESL student when I was a teacher there in 2006. She has kindly offered for me to stay at her house while I am here, and miraculously she has classes very close to where I am at, again near the WTC. I will meet her there between 6 and 6:30 pm. She is meeting some friends tonight, and has invited me along, so it will be more opportunity a practicar mi espagnol, y mi amistad.
Despite sitting in a well-to-do french-style cafe, it is not innoculated against the occassional vendor coming in to sell things, from music to bee pollen to knickknacks and food. Small children too, just out on the street selling. I find my emotions got to me a bit when I saw this, and had to buy something from one of them. But it was incessant. I had to say no. My opinion, they're much better off than a kid who gets to play Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation all day.
some clarification mexico city has the largest footprint in the world, but is 2nd in population. The largest city, population wise, is Tokyo, Japan. Damn big no matter how you slice it.
Today, I must leave soon to Mexico City, the largest city in the world, at 30 million people. It is a 6 hour drive from here.
Love to all,
Two people had replied to me on my first attempt at couch surfing. The first one was suspicious, judgemental and all together negative. I felt bad. The second guy was so friendly, positive, open, and accepting without any doubts. I felt great. Neither people had ever seen me before, and could only guess my disposition from a profile I had only posted less than 24 hours prior. What if I looked different? What if my ability to communicate was different? It got me to thinking: If enough people that surround you help you into believing you are a bad person, especially as a child, your chance of being one will be that much higher. That's it. If you get it into your little human brain that you are not enough exactly the way you are, then you will do all kinds of anti-social things to prove it: stealing, lying, cheating, killing, all so you can be better than the victim. Take something from them. It's easier to do when you think the other person has no connection to you, not in your circle. I had very low self-esteem growing up, and I didn't give a shit about other people when I was lonely, scared, or feeling not good enough. Here's where the problem comes: the victim then begins to lose all trust in humanity, and starts protecting, defending, and closing off. Now, magnify this from an immediate family, to the extended family, to a community, to a city, country and world. You have now got an entire world consisting of people that are scared of each other, and they don't even know each other. There is so much needless pain and suffering. It is our responsibility to create a better world for everyone on this earth. How?
A respected educator in my hometown made a speech years ago that my parents had relayed to me, basically saying that if a kid is bad, it is no fault but their own. I will never forget that, because I feel the statement requires so much more interpretation before it can be considered true. I wonder if he knew how much affect his statement had on me, and I wasn't even there?
All the more reason in my mind to be 100% sure about what comes out of my mouth, especially if I were in a position of authority. Let's take fault out of the equation. It is the parents, community and world's responsibility how a child is brought up, and each person's responsibility to make appropriate decisions as an adult. Yes, agreed, actions, behaviours, words, it all comes from you, but if the people around you are not capable of dialect with you as a child to make sure the message you're getting is positive you could very well end up a 'bad' person, and a bad person I mean someone who screws with other people in someway.
Am I nieve? Reckless? Stupid? A little daft in the head? Preachy? Consider this attitude is one of survival. I am riding a big black and shiny chrome motorcycle through arguably some of the most dangerous areas in the world. People can sense my fear, or lack thereof. It is my responsibility to be aware of my surroundings, but I make it clear every single person I meet gets the benefit of the doubt: you are a good person. If I show fear, or contempt, or judgement, they will sense that, and their behaviour changes instantly. Every single one of us wants to be loved and accepted exactly the way we are. I ain't no evangelical love hippy, it is a declaration of what this human world really needs. I see it not so much as a survival, but as a means to enjoy existence, and to share it. Our civilizations all had a time when there was no need for bars on windows, and cages around our hearts. We will always have a human desire to defend ourselves, but we must find a way to counterract our natural mechanisms and find a different way. The world is getting smaller and smaller and more and more complicated. Open up. Take a chance, change someone's life simply with your attitude towards them.
I had setup an account with couch surfing last night, and my first attempt to find a couch was unsuccessful. The gentleman with the couch said I had obviously run out of money and wanted a free room for the night. He surmised this because I had copy and pasted my request, as I had sent a request to a few people. I thanked him for his feedback over a couple emails, and moved on, despite feeling a bit hurt by the accusation.
Off to Guadalajara!
I love you all very much, and hope you are well.
Zoologico de Puerto Vallarta: right from the first night in our hotel room, we spotted the sign, neatly affixed to the bottom of the rare street signs here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Positive comments trickled in during the week about one of the many ways to spend one's time, and money here. As my girlfriend and I both had a penchant for wildlife, and our place within nature, it seemed a natural fit. My expectations involved some childhood memories of the Calgary Zoo, with animals behind cages, and us walking methodically past one exhibit to another, and the Vancouver Aquarium beseeched with protestors rallying for the release of Orca Whales 10 years ago. The lack of enlightening motivation may have been the main reason it took us a few days to actually get there.
Our journey began innocently enough. I feel it necessary at this point though to also mention that the roads in PV have been intentionally designed, and built, as if it were a turn of the last century pueblo, substituting black pavement with rocks and concrete. Millions upon millions of rocks turned on a side to reveal a maximum amount of surface area, with concrete to fill in the rest. They did provide the courtesy of two rows of rocks anchored in single file, supposedly for car tires to follow. For motorcyclists, this makes for some interesting driving around town and a definite need for constant attention.
Rocky roads transform into smooth highway, if only for a brief moment. The 10 km ride from Old Puerto Vallarta out to the curvy, pot-hole ridden highway betrays its seemingly short distance. Each 'hoyo', or hole at times inherits it's secondary spanish translation: pit. The motorcycle would have been destroyed, or at least suffered serious blows had it been haphazardly directed through these pitfalls, but fortunately bike, and two riders made it to the zoo on time. Our arrival is met with an eventual request to move the motorcycle further away from the entrance gate, and a male worker, obviously forced to work admissions for the afternoon, and a bit confused as to his duties, no doubt panicking while faced with a couple Whiteys from Canada.
Things seemed like any other zoo I'd been to, but only for a moment. Bonnie was greeted with a victim of a brush-in with the toilet bowl, and summoned the courage to take an innappropriate photo opportunity with it's corpse. Bugs down here are slightly larger than the ones back home.
We are suddenly ushered into a world of immediate connection with animals of our dreams, and whisk away the pragmatic thoughts that this is simply a zoo from our childhood, a time bereft of lawyers, animal welfare, bacteria and 21st century rules. Instead, we get all of our pre-pubescent desires aptly met without all the parental supervision that may have come with it in an earlier day. A zoo worker finger-waves at us linguistically in Spanish and proceeds to tell us in English how to feed the ostriches. Each guest is provided the option to purchase a bag of food full of instructions on which type of food to feed which type of animal. Carrots, peanuts, corn, pellets, and cookies (bread) are all included on the side of the bag, but each animal we encounter seems to fall outside of the statute of limitations firmly set out on the bag. We worry about our behaviour until finally we elect to simply feed the animals whatever food they like. Horribly irresponsible, and totally fun. I overrreact. It's the group of 3 Mexican women that taunt the animals behind the cages and gets them all riled up that is horribly irresponsible. But, I guess it is all a measure of degrees. Somehow, the trust we created between ourselves, and the animals, worked out fine. I love animals, and as one, value our ability to be the patrons of every other living thing on the planet.
The question is: do zoos help, or hinder this ability?
The Zoologico de Puerto Vallarta currently sits on 5 hectares of land lush with vegetation growing up from the deep ravines. It was started 12 years ago by Martin Castaneda in memorial to his mother, who loved animals. It soon became an obsession, and to keep the operations going, he was forced to sell off his successful American businesses. Plans include expanding the zoo to encompass all 62 hectares of land owned by the Castaneda family by the year 2018. I envisioned a park without fences with animals free to roam of their own volition; time will tell if this is merely a dream.
A definite criticism of the place is the inability for the larger animals such as the giraffe and leopard to get their much needed muscles moving and exercise in the open. The custodian of the park mentions to us that the incessant pacing back and forth of the large cats are its attempts at just that: in a smaller enclosure the animals seem to adjust, and get their needs met regardless. The park has a reputation as a successful breeder of endangered animals, as well as saving others from mistreatments in a circus, as one example. We were told of a hippo purchased for $5000 only after the zoo's custodian incessantly begged the circus owner to give him up. As a 100% privately owned enterprise without any government assistance, their growth centres around the health and protection of the animals, and expanding as the money comes in. The operation has been in the red for all but 2 years in it's history.
As a means for the operators to assist their operating costs, visitors can treat themselves to a once-in-a-lifetime experience: to hold a baby jaguar. Depending on which animals are deemed suitable for this interaction at the time of your arrival, you may be treated to a one-on-one moment with a baby lion, tiger, jaguar, lemur and monkey. A tricky dilemma arises, and one that pits business against nature, human emotions against animal needs.
I believe it is crucial for every generation to have the opportunity for close contact with other animals. It is a healthy interaction that, if monitored, can lead to respect, a sense of connection, and patronage. I don't think the argument is about zoos or no zoos. I think the argument is about preservation, and maintenance of the natural world. If zoos are assisting in that goal, then so be it. There are obvious detractors, but as long as the animals welfare is being considered, and the operators are in tune with their needs, I see no problem with them. Zoos cannot bear the brunt of all ill will towards human's relationship to nature. We must look at them as one piece of the puzzle, one part of the answer for keeping this wonderful world, and the astounding array of animals on it, alive and well.
Our understanding of the natural world has grown leaps and bounds in even the last 20 years, and we continue to search for ways to improve the welfare of animals, and ensure their continued survival. Whichever way you look at it, these operations require money to continue, and if the preservation of wildlife is an important issue to you, then well-managed zoos keen on animal welfare are just one way for you to show your support.
I'm thinking dating me is somewhat like dating Howard Stern - a public figure who will publicize his, and his partner's innermost thoughts, feelings, and interactions for the world to see. It can be a drag.
Do you believe the truth shall set you free? I'm willing to die for my truth. I've died a thousand deaths trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be.
When I took these shots, i wanted to share with the world how amazing my girlfriend is for coming all the way to Puerto Vallarta, donning a motorcycle helmet, and heading out to god knows where in another country. I was filled with hope and optimism for all of us, just from one person's actions. Nothing is impossible for us, and our world.
Taking a fork in the road here conversationally, I think it's hard to really relate to someone's actions, and all the thoughts, considerations, and inspirations for them until you are really there..... a 'walk a mile in his moccassins' adage to the nth degree. For some, it would be incomprehensible to do just what Bonnie did, without even a 2nd thought.
And another fork: Eleanor Roosevelt (bless her heart) once said "I will only give my opinion when it is asked of me." Fair enough. Smart woman, and well versed in human relationships. What if that person does not have the ability to ask for advice? What if that dog on the street has no owner to take care of it tonight? How about this: Respect a person's need to write their own life's story, but offer them a candlelight with which to see it from? I believe we can help each other so much, but to offer help carries a great, great responsibility and should not be carried lightly.
Now, back to the front page: under these circumstances, it's virtually impossible to really understand someone's choices when you consider the environment, their mood, situations in their day, the people they're with, the weather, their personality, the people who influenced their lives, their ability to deal with stress, how many tequila shooters they had, and so on, and so on. There are a million and one reasons to misunderstand each other, and only one to understand.
Bonnie and I really had a wonderful week together, and although it's arguably pretty easy to get along in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we had some rough times. These tough times were all created through misunderstandings. When one person is absolutely convinced that the other is doing something with a sole intention to harm, or damage the other, it's hard to come through without the defensive mechanisms coming up. Spines, teeth, claws, poisonous venom: we, as humans have an astounding array of attack, and defense mechanisms far more dangerous and debilitating.
How do we all find the patience, and self-control, to do away with our human need to protect that destroys our intimate relationships, and yet still feel safe enough to function? You make a choice, and you stick with that choice until you go to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, you make another choice. Saying 'forever' for anything can invite regret and disappointment, despite making everyone happy and optimistic for the future. Do our human minds really have the ability to understand, or even adequately deal with 'forever'? Yes, I think it does, on one condition. That condition is that the person recommits to their 'forever' agreement every single day. It could be a diet, an attitude, or a relationship. We're not that different. Sure, some of us know exactly what forever means, and some of us don't. For those who don't, I request that you don't throw it around lightly, and conversely that you don't refrain from using it. Every single one of us has the ability to embrace 'forever', but few of us really know how.
The Mexican Tourism Industry has experienced such significant setbacks recently that business owners refer to the swine flu epidemic of 2008 as ‘the good old days’. The media’s attention on the over 28,000 drug-related deaths in the last 3 years, combined with the slowest economy in a decade has taken its toll on local tourism. Puerto Vallarta, a stalwart destination of North American travellers for the last 50 years, has been built on this business, and is feeling the crunch. Don’t let this doom and gloom bother you in the least bit though – shopping, eating, drinking, and sleeping have never been cheaper.
The relatively quiet streets of Old Puerto Vallarta belie an over 300,000 strong local population spread amongst two adjacent states - Nayarit and Jalisco. You may feel as if everyone in the town is a beach vendor after dining in one of the open air restaurants, and find yourself saying “non, gracias” upon your return back home. They are hungry to make a deal on everything from bracelets to silver, ornamental oyster-shell masks to hammocks and it is customary to haggle on the price. Buyer beware: show any interest, and they will swarm. As you would be hard-pressed to find other foreigners, your money creates more interest here than it may have just a few years ago. Accustomed to seeing wealth, and not afraid to hassle you, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. In the very least, if you are craving some attention, you will feel very special. Simply wear a t-shirt and shorts, and the local vendors will see you a mile away. This fellow to the left and I had an initial misunderstanding, he was thinking dollars, I was thinking pesos, so when I gave him $25 in coins, he had quite a pause. An uncomfortable moment before we re-negotiated at $140 pesos, or $14.