Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Novel We Should've Been Writing All Along

Candace writes in pink, Josh writes in black. Thus it was decreed in a moment of genius, thus it remains.

Hmmmmmmm... so the last thing we said that wasn't in a rush (and inexplicably underlined {not my fault...}) was that we had started our TEFL program. A LOT has happened since. First, the program.

Candace and I finished all of our class hours and got the diploma! Yay! I will definitely say that my favorite part of the experience was not the lesson planning, but the class time itself. I now secretly envy all the teachers who have taught the same course ten times. They bypass all the headache that makes a good first lesson.

But planning each lesson to death has its benefits. Candace and I had 10 hours of normal classroom teaching, an hour of one-on-one lessons, a peer-observed class, and two conversation classes. So, 14 in all.

Our group of trainees was a surprisingly even spread of English speakers, most notably omitting Australia. We had 3 Canadians, 5 Americans, a woman originally from South Africa, and the token Brit. A very agreeable group who constantly engaged each other with their differences. In other words, a riot. :

Ok, so maybe not quite that, but you get the idea... ;D

The class was actually rather difficult, mostly due to the brevity of the course. We mostly stayed around the center of Guadalajara, seeing the sights there and generally hanging out with our fellow trainees and people at the Casa.

There's much more to say about this since it was the majority of our time in Mexico, but that's for later. yup.

In retrospect, I heartily agree that Guadalajara is the most "classically" Mexican city we visited. Not too many foreigners, tourists, or strange international stuff. Just a very cultural, very Mexican, very enjoyable city. As a place to live, I was really glad to have spent most of my time in Guadalajara.

After the course was over, the class went their separate ways rather quickly. Candace and I hung around for four days to take a free week of Spanish classes that came with our TEFL program. Exactly a week after we graduated, we took a day bus to Mexico City.

There are too many people in this city. Now that I have that out, we can go on.

I am totally cool with having millions of people all decide that they want to live in one place, as long as the streets and subways are adequate to support them. Candace and I had a bit of a rough time getting to our hostel in Mexico City, but hey, this is why barbecues were invented, so that we can talk about it.


It all started when I decided it would be an AWESOME idea to carry 150 pounds of combined luggage through the Mexico City subway system. At 7 PM. On a Friday night.

Our hostel was way down in the center of the city by the cathedral. Each station has, at minimum, 2 flights of stairs to get from one line to the opposite direction. Triple that if you expect to change lines. Heavy heavy suitcases. truth be told, though, I have a feeling that 100 of the 150 pounds was mine...

I have never eaten a can of sardines, so I can't comment on the metaphor happening there, but as far as I know, when you open a can of sardines, they don't come spilling out onto the sidewalk. That is exactly what happened in the trams. Old men shoving and pushing onto the subway -- once the doors closed their faces were spread against the glass like little children making faces.

Somehow we managed to squeeeeeeeeeeze onto one of the trams. Down several stops, Candace gets off like she is supposed to, and when I try to follow, ten people surge aboard, I can't get off and away I go to the next stop. I tried hailing a cab for 15 minutes, waited another 15 trying to get back on the subway, no cell phones, oh noes, nightmare, what if what if, and then at last we found each other and were off to our nights' stay.

Getting off the subway with 100 lbs of stuff that first time was surreal. I consider myself to be a more or less polite person in public transportation... but this was not the time for civility. When we stopped I thought I could jump off with the rest of the exit-ers and then the getter-on-ers would get on.

They were not waiting.

Doors open. Three sinewy seconds go by; I squeeze toward the door. Then, I'm hit. A massive wall of human muscle and bone thrust me back. Then I begin to yell.

As I said, I consider myself to be polite, but when I couldn't even cross the two feet to the door, I heard myself shouting, "No! No! NO!" thrashing almost horizontally to get off. Somehow I did.

I did not take this picture; nor does it capture the sheer volume of people who were waiting on every platform that evening. But perhaps you can get a small visual taste of something that was certainly a more physical experience than anything else.

Mexico City was pretty cool. Massive, but not nearly as dangerous as the movies make it out to be. No "Man On Fire" happening in the city center.

I was actually impressed with the Federal Police. They are the burliest looking police force I have seen (except perhaps the South Koreans that kicked me out of the Seoul airport). Seriously, these Mexican police just strolled the streets with submachine guns, riot helmets, huge pickup trucks, and bulletproof vests. And I honestly think there was one within yelling distance everywhere we went.

We saw a big park, the cathedral, a museum of modern art. One advantage of hostels is always the people. I have now found the reason Facebook is truly valuable. "Yeah, don't have a cell phone. Email is awkward and nobody does that anyway. Facebook!"

We spent... four days there? I'm sure the pink text will append greater truth to my words.
After Mexico City, we took an overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta.

PV is nice but waaaaaay too touristy. No, I didn't want the last guys' display of bracelets, and I won't want yours either. Neither will I want the next fellow's 2 minutes from now. But I'm exaggerating... I would say hawkers came by closer to every 30 seconds, on the beach anyway. no kidding!

The rest of the town, in my mind, wasn't anything special. The locals seemed to know a bit more English, which they took as an opportunity to hassle you. I actually felt less safe in PV than I ever did in Mexico City. I think PV would be a wonderful place to come if you stayed in one of the ritzy hotels and blew tons of money and just had private drivers take you from one activity to the next.

For Candace and I, though, there was Sayulita. It's this little town about an hour north of PV, and it is lovely. It had all the nice beaches of PV, waaaaaay less people, almost no nice hotels (with their exclusive private beachfronts), and just a better laid back type atmosphere. So we literally just sat on the beach, and bodysurfed, and did nothing for 2 days. We started naturally accumulating knotted dreads, which I'm sure the home audience will pine to know that I washed out and did not dye turquoise.

The weather was fantastic and sunny during the day, but hot and still at night. We managed a dingy little second-story room right on the waterfront for quite cheap. Candace has pictures. which she is to tart to post right now.
maybe later tatter

We ate fish tacos and judiciously applied sunblock. I saw a dead bird on the beach. The next day a man buried it. This describes the activities and pace of Sayulita.

Candace and I were sitting at the beach, just chilling, when we both slowly began to discover that the other had no intention of getting back in the water that day. When this realization struck, we knew it was time to move on. We bussed back to PV and decided to get along to Los Mochis.

Los Mochis is not exactly a coastal town, but it is along this interior coast of Mexico. It is a loooooooong bus ride, but this one we also made overnight. It was generally unremarkable except that we got searched for drugs about four times I'm pretty sure... and also the first 3 hours of the ride were FREEZING. The AC. OK. Now this one I am going to contradict.
It was bone and mind numbingly, cold, freezing, tundral, and arctic the whole time!!!
ok. can we say that Candace was a little cold? Yes. But she dashed off the bus at one of the stops to grab a towel, and spent the rest of the trip semi-mummified and much better...

I was in my sweater, my FOB cap, my pants, and I was so cold I was pulling off seat covers to wrap in. Look outside... nope that's not rain, that's condensation.

Also, my new life purpose is to be a bus driver just so that I can wait 'til someone goes into the rear bathroom stall, and then take that bus over a sweet jump and hear them yell all the way....


Me, Myself, and I said...


Shiloh said...

HA HA HA Ha Ha Ha ha ha ha hmhmhm hm h h hhh ......


Friday said...

Lovely. Yes, THIS is what you should have been posting all along. Glad y'all are back. :)

aswine said...

Despite my lack of commenting, I've thoroughly enjoyed this blog. That was quite a good post. Also, I applaud your ability to use Google Image Search.

Josh said...

Publish your novel~ I'll buy it. It's very cool reading about all your adventures. Are you back in the US yet? Who can speak the best Spanish now?