Sometimes there are roadside stands selling roasted sweet potato! Stopped for the day in Ciudad Hidalgo, where I asked a police guy about camping places in the direction I’m heading and he told me I could stay there, but then I got transferred to an empty infirmary? where a bored nurse watched me eat/ stood at the ready to heat more tortillas (and also talked to me). Going to hang out with her and the guard for a bit.
I am in Morelia for the night, and perhaps tomorrow as well. It is nice to be in a city every once in a while, with ore to explore than I can manage, vegetarian restaurants, museums, and whatnot. Riding in and out is often less pleasant, but I am at least a little bit a city person… That is ok, right? I’m missing my stove a little these days. It is not expensive to buy food, and certainly not to get tortillas, tostadas, or bread and beans, avocado and tomato, but while there are lots of fresh vegetables in the markets, often not so much in prepared food. I get a lot of avocados and tomatoes, but not a lot others that are good to eat raw and are good for one meal or pack well. Carrots some times. I’m not sure I actually have anything to complain about here.
Today has been quite pleasant. I am now stopped in Carapan, the map suggested it would be a ways to the next town.
It was brought to my attention that a couple of my posts from the past few days never posted. Sorry. I was alive, and will write more stories soon.
too many to get very far today, lots of eating and talking. Staying with a family in Cojutmatlan
Just a short ride into Ciudad Guzman this morning, though most of the time spent going slowly on the rest of that climb. An adventure in public telephones and successfully found the people I’m staying with. I think we are going to climb a mountain tomorrow!
Today was harder and sunny. I feel like I was climbing most of the day, though I’m sure it was a net downhill day. Beautiful riding through the mountains, though, and there were many towns to take breaks in. The mountains look different here, sharper and greener than the far north ones, at least. Especially in rural areas, much of the continent is pretty similar. (In a lot of ways at least, I imagine no one reading this is still battling mosquitoes). I am spending the night in the lovely town of Unión de Tula.
I left Guadalajara this morning. It feels really good to be moving again. Had a beautiful ride out to Gauchimontones, and then on to San Martin Hidalgo where I am stopped for the night.
This year I have fostered the perhaps unhealthy habit of moving on when I don’t know what to do with myself, or say or do some number of wrong or embarrassing things. These things happen on a daily basis here. But I’ve paid a month of rent (until mid November), and it is probably good to start practicing not indulging this inclination anyway. Some days I enjoy the people I’m with and have plenty to do and feel like I’m learning and making improvements in my ability to converse, and others I am just lonely and awkwardly stalling through the day, hoping no one asks me much.
I have definitely made progress in my ability to exist verbally. Situations where I expect people to talk to me and want responses are no longer so scary, I can navigate the market and restaurants and ask for things even if I don’t know they exist and walk into spaces that I don’t totally know what to expect in with little apprehension. I can have conversations with patient people, and I can, with a combination of pointing, gesturing, and words, (often effectively) teach some bike things in the shop I have been volunteering in.
It is important for me to remember that I asked to be lonely. That I’ve left everyone who has ever tried to care about me. It is all well and good to feel a little jealous of stable people, but it is good to be practical, too, and thus far I’ve shown no inclination towards existing happily as a stable, committed person. It is different to stay in one place for a while without intending to stay long term- I can get to know people much more than if I am just passing through for a few days, but it is still inherently temporary. I am past being new and exciting and having everything explained to me, but I haven´t been here long enough to totally understand everything happening around me. That said, it is getting easier.Last weekend a bunch of us went to Leon for the Congreso Nacional de Ciclismo Urbano. There were maybe 40 of us? which is enough to charter a bus, which met us in a convenient place and dropped us where we wanted to be, and which we shoved all our bikes into the storage area of, early on a wet Friday morning. Congreso is a bit more formal than Bike!Bike! with a string of presentations all day in the auditorium of a university, it largely didn’t feel so participatory (to me). There was also sometimes a person teaching some bike techniques, tricks, self defense etc, outside. And lots of group rides and parties. I was a bit nervous about how much I’d be able to understand, which was well founded, but I talked to some new people, and learned some things, and left Jalisco.
I’ve been thinking a bit about the question, what is place? Why don’t I feel attached to anywhere? How do I travel and meet people in new places and not just feel less and less like I belong anywhere? What does it mean to be somewhere anyway? How do you respect tradition and character while working for change? And who am I to think I understand how things should change anyway? A place is not the same for everyone existing in it. A place is the land and climate, the layout, structure, the rules-legal and social- and how they are regarded, it is the people there now and the people who existed before, and the way change happens there. It is probably a lot more than that.
And maybe occasionally I remember that I can probably go anywhere and do anything and if I want to at some point be settled in a place and build a thing to care about it would be ok to start thinking about what that could look like. But for now, I think I’m getting towards time to move on and trying to plan my escape route.
Someone I was talking to recently mentioned that learning a language feels like acting. And I think about that a bit. It is a lot like taking on a character, learning to talk like other people, and until you can internalize it and stop needing to think about every word (I’m largely past thinking about every sound at least!) it is hard to make it your own. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing it, and other times I am totally faking it. Often I just listen, but I’m working on saying more. It is interesting to think about saying things that I can know mean something but have to work to put together, which to the recipient comes naturally full with meaning.
There are actually a lot of people who can speak English better than I can Spanish, and I sometimes try to avoid them… Or at least the ones not patient enough to let me stumble through. I can, of course, and do when I’m on my game,try to respond in Spanish. The folks I’m staying with are good examples of people who know a bit of English but are happy not to use it. I’m renting a room from my new friend Citlali, who has a roommate who stays most of the time with his boyfriend anyway, and was ok with letting me pay his rent for a month. The house is lovely, close to places I want to be, super open (to outside), and the remaining folks are good to hang out with (and tolerant of my limited vocabulary).
Bike!Bike! is an annual gathering of folks from community bike shops. Each year one group (or city, if there are multiple projects in the same cty they probably work together) volunteers to host. This year it was here in Guadalajara, which is how I decided to come to begin with. It was nice to come early and help getting ready and learn the city a bit. This was my third Bike!Bike! (a silly name, I know) and was a decidedly different experience for me, mostly because I’m not actively deeply involved in a community bike shop project at the moment. I think about them, and they are still important to me, but I felt like I had less to bring and take from discussions this time, and it all felt a bit distant. Bike!Bike! is a great time, lots of people from all over with this one thing in common, sharing what they do the same and differently, what works, what has failed, what they want to try. And lots of partying-most people don’t sleep much-and I participated in more of that this year than I have in years past (maybe I’m not getting older?). It is a weird time for me, and I sometimes felt distracted by my lack of plan for the future, but tried to keep that in check and remember the kind of experiences I’ve had here in the past and how excited everyone else is.
I took my pants to get fixed. I did this because they were broken (worn out from riding in them too much) and also because maybe it is good to put myself in places where people will ask me questions. It turned out to be pretty easy, I’m not sure I actually used very many words, but I did get what I needed. For $70(peso) someone did an excellent job of patching and shortening them, so I don’t even have to fold them up anymore.
I tend to start cautiously in new places, especially big cities. This means walking instead of biking as I get my head around the layout, and listening a lot as I meet new people. I like walking because it is slower and feels less intimidating as I learn streets. It only took about a day and a half of walking here before my feet hurt and I gave biking a try. It has not been so bad.
Most streets are one direction, narrow, poorly marked, and it can be hard to know which direction has right of way in a given intersection. Traffic can be tricky to navigate but overall I haven’t found riding to be so scary.
Trying to cram a functional vocabulary and set of grammar rules in on top of getting my head around a new city and meeting so many new people whose faces and names I should remember how to connect is a lot… Maybe I should have come earlier, but I think it is getting easier. I had many days in the first week that I was exhausted pretty early. My Spanish was improving until bike!bike! at least, which has filled my life with English speakers and more complicated stuff to try to hold in my brain and not sleep.
This is already now the longest I’ve been in any place in half a year. I’ve mostly been in town, helping in the bike shop, and learning… I’m thinking I will stay here for a bit longer, but I’m not committed to anything yet. Off now for a short adventure with some bike!bike! folks.