Wednesday, December 16

Mariposas in Michoacan

I grew up watching Nova, and am still a huge fan, so I was elated to visit a place that had it's own Nova special. Definitely check this out. The journey of the Monarch butterflies is amazing, taking 4 to 5 generations from Canada to reach the final destination of Michoacan, a state that borders Guanajuato to the south. This past weekend, we headed down.

We heard the trip would take at the most four hours, but at some point skipped the main highway and ended up traveling the entire way on back road with annoying Mexican speed bumps. Mick and Ula drove their sweet van, and the two of them, myself, and three Dutch people crammed in. Don't tell my grandma that I sat in a fold up camping chair in middle of the van all the way to Michoacan — a journey that ended up taking over 8 hours. The Dutch people layed on the mattress in the back and spoke German to each other. We called it a "dutch oven."In Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.
Stopped for some sandwiches and blended jugos...I got distracted by great lighting and orange walls...

On the more "scenic route" we stopped a couple times on the side of the road.

Pulled off and camped somewhere close to the sanctuary. It was wet and rainy but we cooked dinner out of the van and drank metzcal. The next morning, I realized we were surrounded by pine trees, reminding me of home sweet home.
Finally arrived to the park that morning and got immediately hounded by people selling butterfly trinkets and hiking sticks. (It seriously was a 20 minute hike, all on concrete stairs.) We kept saying, "no gracias," distracting the kids by inviting them all to play hacky-sack. Rosario is the sanctuary that we visited, there's a lot of junk for sale, and a few cool things.

Giant clumps of monarch butterflies clustered together in tree tops.

Kidnapping number 1.

Kidnapping number 2.

We weren't satisfied with the tourist trail, so we ducked under a roped off area and headed up...

And became eye-level with the mariposas...
In the little town, on the way back from hiking. Kidnappings number 3-4.
She kept getting in my face and grinning and giggling. I gave them all the pesos I had...

26 ain't all that bad

Tuesday, December 15

Feliz Cumple

Last day as a 25 year old was a good one. I caught an amazing sunset:

Walked back to the house in a great mood to find an enormous spider on the bathroom wall. Katie wasn't home, so I got online and asked Drew, my go-to man, what I should do:me: there is a spider in my bathroom that is about 3.5 inches long
and thick
and black
and I'm home alone
and don't know what to do?????
should I kill it???
Drew: yikes!
me: omg omg omg omg
7:45 PM Drew: i'd either kill it, or trap it and take it outside and far from your house
the ethics of it are up to you
me: how the eff am i going to trap it???
Drew: find something like a shoebox, something with a top
me: oh good idea
shoe box
i think i have one
7:46 PM eeeeeeeeeekkkk!!!!!!!
Drew: you can do it!
me: of course my first thought is get out the 50mm lens and take photos...
Drew: lol
me: maybe i'll do that first ;)
Drew: if you're more comfortable with it, you could wear some protective clothing
7:47 PM like, long sleeves and gloves
me: don't have gloves, but do have long sleeves
oh boy ok wish me luck
7:48 PM Drew: good luck!
you're much bigger than it!
me: is this my "finishing your 25th year test??"
7:50 PM Drew: yes, yes it is
with just a few hours to spareI used a broom to gently shove the spider in a shoe box, closed the lid, flew out the door and took off running and squealing. I dropped the box two blocks away, tipped it over and watched the spider speed away, as I ran the opposite direction.
7:51 PM me: omg omg omg omg omg omgomg
Drew: yay!!

Later that evening I was surprised (and elated) to get to chat with Natalie #1 from India for a bit. The seventh, my b-day, I woke up to my Mexican friend Fabian calling me first thing to wish me a happy birthday. It was a spectacular sunny 72-degree day, I was serenaded b-day-style in three different languages at La Escuela Mexicana, worked on my website, chatted with Shelly, Todd and Drew while having a delicious latte de soya with a little bit of chocolate. Danced salsa that evening, then met up for drinks at Desmunds bar with Kent, Brea, Camelo, Katie, Juan, Fabian, Dan, Mick & Ula. We drank all the random dark beer they had in stock, ate popcorn smothered in hot sauce and then someone ordered me a flaming shot. Nuff said.

Thursday, December 3


Walking around Plaza de la Paz tonight, I heard what sounded like a dance party. I saw people starting to gather, so of course I followed. Standing on the edge of the street, in the middle of the plaza, the first truck drove by. It was a massive, white pick-up truck pulling a huge trailer and inside the trailer, I was floored to see three zebras. The speakers attached to the SAME truck were blasting electronic music loud enough to hear at least 5 blocks away. The truck drove by, I had my WTF? moment, thinking about how the speakers were probably 3 feet from the zebras' heads.

A minute passed, and another truck with a baby camel and (WTF?) a baby tiger. I cursed myself for not having my camera, and looked down the street to see 5 or 6 more of the giant white trucks with trailers all which featured tacky graphics, stars, lights and bad electronic music. The next trailer was divided into three sections, and contained two enormous tigers in each section. My jaw hit the cobblestone street when I realized the next trailer was also divided into three sections, but contained massive female lions. Being I was 6 feet away from the cages, this was the closest I've ever been to an animal of this sort. We've all been to zoos, but never have I been in such close proximity to what turned out to be more than 30 massive wild cats, so of course my next thought was about the lady who got SUPER close to the cage; and if they would kill the cat after it ate the child that she was trying to entertain.

I was almost constantly thinking of the maltreatment of the animals, except for that brief thought about the child, and the next thought which was, "What happens when the cats break loose from the flimsy cages, and run rampant through the city?" Because I was so close, I decided almost immediately that I would be eaten by a tiger or a lion. And honestly, I laughed outloud because it sounds like something out of an Isabel Allende novel, and I then thought I would be happy for my friends and family to be able to say, "Oh, Natalie? Yes, she moved to Mexico and got eaten by a tiger. Pobrecita." For a moment, I was proud of my obvious destiny.

The next five truck/trailers drove by. After all the wildcats, came (WTF?) five or six MASSIVE camels. The setting really shook me. I thought, maybe the enormity of animals doesn't startle us when we visit the zoo, because we're viewing from a safe distance, and of course seeing large animals is what you do at the zoo. It's just like if you went to a bar and saw a naked woman you'd be shocked, but in a strip club, you sit there and have a beer while naked women prance around, and act as if nothing un-natural or out of the ordinary is going on. I thought of this as trailer after trailer of wild animals slowly passed, electronic music blasting, and I felt sad sad sad; and mostly awkward.

Thursday, November 26

Abundance Day

Thanksgiving Day – Early AM: Had a total meltdown about missing Tim and his family. (Crying + more crying.) Katie drug me outside, pushed me into the sun, told me we are re-naming Thanksgiving, "Abundance Day," and that we only have one together, so let's make it good. I sniffled and agreed reluctantly to the idea.

We walk back into the kitchen, she immediately knocks over a brand-new bottle of Tabasco sauce on the ground, it busts and spills all over the floor. Two-seconds later, the hose to the washer shoots out, showering our kitchen with water. We were joking about abundance when I smashed into the garbage can, spilling the entire contents onto the floor. Snorting and tears to follow.Used Shelly's amazing recipe to make cookies, but had to substitute nearly everything on the list. Instead of chocolate chips I chopped up three random candy bars. The first batch I accidentally used bread crumbs instead of oats. Second try, instead of three cups of oats, I'm used the granola I bought for my cereal. Instead of brown sugar, I found cane sugar. Oh god I hope these turn out okay.

Look at me Shelly — I'm baking!
For the deviled eggs, I forgot to buy pickles (pepinillos). Luckily Katie and I could make a dance song about them. "Pep-e-nillos! Pep Pep eh-nillos!" Moving on.

Instead of pickles, I used cucumber, green onion, green peppers, dill, cumin and paprika. Mmm.
The dogs were going crazy with all the cooking going on. Ethel found the stick of butter I was using to butter the cookie sheet: Devoured. We have so little room in the kitchen, we were using the outside washer for counter space. Closest row of cookies to the ground: Gone.The lone survivors:

Katie made a gorgeous assortment of slow-roasted veggies and garbanzo beans.And put together this killer tray.We drank the Rogue chocolate stout that my very good friend sent in the mail. (Thank you Todd!) We had a cheers to delicious dark beer and Abundance Day.Fanny-May hoping for one of those deviled-eggs to fall off the table.Grabbed a cab, packed the backseat with food, and got to the party two-hours late with no money to pay the driver. Camelo took care of us. Kent's place is insanely gorgeous. It's a big open remodeled warehouse with what Camelo says is the nicest hot tub in Guanajuato. This is their "white" poodle. There it was: A massive table of traditional Thanksgiving Food: Two turkeys, duck, lamb, pork, stuffing, three different gravies, potatoes cooked every way imaginable; mashed, baked, covered in cheese you name it; pasta bread, veggies, dips casseroles and SWEET POTATOS GALORE! (All my dreams.) The deviled-eggs were a huge hit for the gringos, por supuesto.I devoured the first plate in sort of dreamlike state, then an entire second plate before Katie even finished her first. She said the abundance of food was making her anxious. I couldn't have agreed less.Drinking began, and I met lots of new people including one guy who lives in near Shelby Park in Louisville, and a woman named Mindi who racked up many credit cards to buy a house in Guanajuato, and was now working 80+ hours a week to pay them all off. I admired her effort and the fact that she pulled it off, but saw that all-to-familiar fatigue in her eyes. She was a total zombie. I didn't mention the fact that I had spent the last month reading, writing and relaxing. At one point this older man tried to pull out some Chinese poetry and read it to everyone. He was relentless, amongst the drunken and rude comments Ilan and everyone else were making.Camelo and Kent's girlfriend, Brea.Brea and Ilan.The lovely Monica.At some point Camelo started reading quotes that Kent (a writer and poet) had written as a sort of forced-endorsement from his publisher.My Mexican friend Josue showed up with his German girl friend whose name I can't remember. She got drunk real quick and they both expressed interest in me by the end of the night, joking about how I was "la chica más bonita a la fiesta." Three times later and I was totally uncomfortable, especially when the German told me that I could never know how good being with a woman was until I tried. I said I appreciated her honesty, then split like a bat out of hell to find Katie and tell her what had happened.She responded with her best mom voice, "Okay. Let's just sit down and have a beer, you and me." So we sat down, and somehow (because it's Guanajuato) a professional hula hoop dancer started showing us her moves. (All the drunk people to follow.)The debauchery continued. Ilan and the incredibly adorable, Saul. Abundance Day Round 2 — 2 am. After way too many beers and cold leftovers, we cabbed it home.

(Listening to Atlas Sound, Logos; and random selection of the Black Keys.)