Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today I moved in to my new apartment in Panajachel, Guatemala.  $200/month for a furnished two-story-1-bed-two-bath with a garden on the river.  Apparently it's high season in this lake-side tourist town so I'm paying 30% more than normal.  I've found it difficult to pay more than $4 dollars for a meal here.  If I didn't feel the need to eat 6,000 calories/day I doubt I'd ever spend more than $2.

I have mixed feelings about settling down, even if its just for a few months.  There's something about stopping that makes me feel like I'm falling behind.  Or, more honestly, like my inadequacies are catching up to me.  When you don't spend more than a few days around the same people, its not difficult to project a flattering image of yourself. "Yea, I'm cycling my way through Latin America, stopping only to volunteer and help the poor, no big deal."  But when you're spending weeks with people who are the real-deal and have been at it their entire lives, it becomes a lot harder to hide the fact that you're a selfish, incompetent prick.

Overall though, I'm glad I'm here.  It's challenging and I need that now more than ever. I want to be a better person, even if deep down its only because better people attract better people and being around better people makes me want to be better so I can attract more of them so that I can be like them so that I can be with them so that I don't ever have to sit alone with myself and ponder the terrifyingly cyclical nature of existence like this anymore...

Ok I'm back after a quick trip to the r/depression sub of reddit.  Why can't I get through a single blog post without things getting dark?  I'm learning to love the fight. The never-ending struggle that is existence.  I just have to convince myself that there is a difference between learning and deceiving oneself.

My new house has a lot of bugs.  I am watching a centipede cross the line of ants that have already formed to harvest the carcass of the spider that I squished when I sat down to write this post.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain on corrugated fiberglass.  It was loud and I was tired so I let myself sleep in because "no fucking way I'm riding in that".  It was a foolish lapse of discipline seeing as how I still had a solid hour of packing ahead of me.  It was a little after 9 when the rain let up but I wasn't riding till 11:30.  By this time I was hungry so I tried to find a quick bite before leaving San Ignacio.  Everything was closed. Fucking Sundays in Belize.  I don't remember having this problem in Mexico.  Do Catholics just not take Sundays off?   Just as I was thinking "There's got to be a place where everyone goes to eat after church" I came upon exactly such a institution called "Hodes Place" with a giant covered back patio and I got my order in minutes before the church crowd packed it.

I always get strange looks from the server when I order multiple entrees.  It makes me a little uncomfortable, surrounded by poverty and eating food for 2 or 3 people.  Dammit, I'm hungry. And fuck me if I don't use it all.  According to my bike computer I burn nearly 5,000 calories/day.  Today I did 6,000.  Whatever.

Regardless, I need to stop being so anti-social.  I've started listening to my audiobooks during meals now too. So much more interesting than most of the people I run into.  But even with the interesting people I struggle to stay engaged.  I'm listen to Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker Guide series.  Finished the first book yesterday and now on the second.  I actually don't like it that much.  There are some great parts, but most of it feels like the humor of a different era. Like something maybe I would have appreciated at the time, but now it feels obvious and unoriginal.  I felt the same way watching the Usual Suspects a few years ago.  Anyway, I have this terrible thing I do where I can't just stop reading a book once I start it, no matter how terrible it is so I didn't switch to something else.  I guess its alright because I needed some thinking time today and with a book I'm not that into I don't feel obligated to skip back for parts when I daze off.

Took me a little under an hour to get to the border, 15km from San Ignacio.   They wouldn't let me take my bike inside while going through immigration which really bothered me.  There was plenty of room for it inside where I could keep an eye on it.  I'm in super-paranoid mode at borders.  No two borders ever work the same way except that they are filled with sketchy looking people who are way too eager to help you navigate the completely unmarked process.  I paid an exit fee and then went to immigration and got stamped out.  As I was riding through the border into Guatemala somebody yelled at me about getting my passport checked again.  They weren't wearing any official clothes and since I had my tout shields up at 100% I immediately ignored them and continued through the open gate and into Guatemala smiling at the guard who had no qualms letting me through.  It later occurred to me that both desks I checked with were on the Belize side and only one had stamped my passport.  Checking my passport tonight confirmed that I do not a Guatemala entry stamp and am apparently in the country illegally.  Not really sure how I'm going to deal with that yet, but I know where to go if I ever become a fugitive.

It was 2:20 by the time I started out in Guatemala.  I knew it would be impossible to make it the rest of the 120km to Flores, or anyplace near the lake, before dark (two hours away) but I was eager to get away from the border and didn't feel like trying to find a ride.  I started riding and told myself if worse came to worse I could finally break out the tent and sleeping bag that had thus far been dead weight on my front rack.

 An hour and a half later I began worrying. Definitely not going to reach any hotels soon. Camping is not going to be fun.  For one thing, its been raining and everything is wet.  The river along which the road has been winding is flooded and everything below the road is a swamp.  Everything above it is a steep hill and generally someone's property.  I am not mentally prepared to ask someone if I can pitch a tent in their yard like I have been reading about on other cyclists blogs.  I pulled up to a road-side bar to practice a little chit-chat and see what I could muster.  Nobody could understand me.  I couldn't understand them.  Goddamned regional dialects.  I ordered a beer and finally was able to communicate that I was looking for a place to stay.  An older guy mentioned something about a school.  Finished my beer in silence as I could not for the life of me think of how to conduct small chat in Spanish and nobody feigned any interest whatever in talking to me anyway.  The school was not a viable camping option.

I came across a small soccer field seemingly in the middle of nowhere that looked promising. But as I slowed to investigate I noticed a tiny hand-painted sign mentioning something about the military. I was thinking it was odd when a whistle drew my attention to two camo-adorned men smiling down from the hillside above me.  A harder look revealed little cabins in the trees and a clothes line covered in camouflage pants and jackets.  Around the bend I was informed by a large sign that this was in fact an army barracks of some kind.  I rode on.

 I came to a long steep 22% grade and eventually decided I'd make better time walking.  It was becoming painfully clear that I needed to either setup camp or flag down a ride the rest of the way into town.  I wasn't prepared to do either. My confidence in my communication/social skills was too low to dare flagging anyone down and I there's was no place that stuck out to me as a viable camping option.  The cognitive dissonance left me with only one option:  continue on into the darkness and hope for the best.

I swear I'm the luckiest person I've ever met.  Not 30 minutes before sunset, with rain drops beginning to fall, 3 Guatemalans in a tiny pick-up pulled and asked me if I wanted I ride into Flores.  I spent the next half hour wedged between my 75kg bike and a ladder developing a mild case of white knuckles.  My bike computer says we were only going 110kph, but with the little pebbles of water making visible welts on my skin I would've believed we were approaching mach speeds.  Buses and trucks were passed, dogs and potholes were swerved around, the road alternated between dirt and pavement, but the velocity never faltered.  It was thrilling to say the least. About halfway we picked up a young couple hitchhiking from Argentina who claimed to have been on the road for over 2 years.  I tried to talk to them but making audible sounds at near-mach speeds requires far too much concentration and we were all pretty focused on hanging on.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tomorrow I should cross into Guatemala. I don't expect problems.  Everyone says its a very easy border.

Last night I stayed up all night trying to get some audiobooks working on my phone.  I've listened to 5 books in the 13 days I've been in the saddle.  It's one of my favorite aspects of this mode of transportation.  I get shit occasionally from other cyclists who say its dangerous to ride with earphones.  I agree sheepishly and then continue listening.  It's worth the risk.

I'm excited about getting back to a Spanish speaking country.  I keep hesitating here in Belize, accidentally opening with Spanish greetings and sometimes even speaking English with a Spanish accent (what?).  I am more confident in my interactions when I can use my native language though.

I'm still debating whether or not I want to try catching a ride or just finish my ride and be late.  I'm due to be there tomorrow but I still have a good 7 days of riding ahead of me.  It's awkward to take a bus with a loaded bike as your carry-on.  I'm thinking I might try for a few hours every day till I get good and tired and the trying to hitch a ride with a passing pick-up or something.  I don't know, we'll see.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Yesterday I rode all day in rain. I stopped after 6 hours, 40km short of my 110km goal. The water turned my $100 Brooks saddle into a soggy leather flap. I was just getting the damned thing broke in, too. Today it was supposed to rain all day again so I decided to take a rest day. Spent the whole day watching the second half of the 4th season of Archer, the first few episodes of the 8th season of How I Met Your Mother (aka, Friends 2), and browsing reddit. Feels like a set-back. I love this hotel though. Saan Yum Hotel and Restaurant. Reasonably priced food and lodging with hot water and decent wifi, and the rooms are large enough for me to keep my bike inside and still have my stuff scattered all over the floor.  Fuck the Black Orchid resort though.  Fucking extortionists.  I need to post that scathing review.

I'm still concerned about my motivation issues. It's like a flu that never goes away and effects everything you do. I can get myself all worked up and excited for short bursts of productivity, but I can't seem to sustain anything long enough to work up a healthy habit.  It makes me anxious that I can't divine a clear solution.  Obviously I need to start small and work my way up.  Develop one habit at a time. but I can't decide which habit to start with, and these things take months to develop.  Whatever.

I told the NGO I'm supposed to be working that I'd be there by the 15th.  I haven't even made it to Guatemala yet, which apparently is when the real riding starts (steep hills?).  I'm thinking I'll ride to San Benito, Guatemala which should take 2 or 3 days at my current pace and then bus most of the rest of the way.  It's definitely a defeat, but I'm ready to start my new job and I will feel guilty if I postpone it any longer.  Anyway, I have the rest of my life to finish this round-the-world bike trip (at the pace I'm making, it will certainly take up most of it.)  I'm looking forward to interacting with people from a similar background again and maybe even getting to know some individuals.  Not looking forward to working. Not so much because I dislike work as much as I ashamedly inexperienced with it.  I can't remember the last time I did anything that would qualify as work.  I'm counting on my adolescent need to impress people to kick-start some kind of work-ethic.  I guess the worst that can happen is I get fired, right?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dec. 9th

I used to think I was good with directions before I started this trip. 

On my first day, it took me an hour to figure out how to get out of Merida. On my second day I took two wrong turns, but quickly perceived my errors when the pavement ended. One my third day I got up two hours before dawn so I could sneak onto the toll-road in defiance of several posted anti-bicycle signs undercover of dark via riding the wrong direction up the off ramp (a trick I picked up from poor Mexican drivers in Tijuana) all to enjoy a speed-bump-free-wide-shoulder expressway to Valladolid. After an hour and a half of paranoid cycling, I took the wrong “exit” (I actually hopped the guardrail and climbed up the overpass, no easy feat with a bicycle that weighs more than you do) and ended up adding about 10 kilometers to my trip. I also discovered that the highway “libre” I took so much pains to unsuccessfully avoid had very recently been repaved with beautifully smooth asphalt, not a single speed-bump, and a shoulder broad enough to be an additional car lane. And after spending an hour trying to find a place to eat in Valladolid (mind you, I've already spent 3 days in this town not a month prior), I glibly set out on a 37 kilometer dirt road that dead ended in the middle of the Yucatan jungle. Not only do I have a perfectly functional GPS and internet powered phone, I have people in the street waving me down and telling me I must being going the wrong direction because there's nothing that way. Yes, I am a navigational genius.

But that's just the third day. I'm not even going to get into the hours I spent at the Belize border were I nearly managed to re-enter Mexico twice or the several “scenic” routes I accidentally found myself on here in Belize where the signs are all hand-painted and rarely give you any of the information you're looking for and the people are either oblivious or derive some kind of strange pleasure from sending you off in the wrong direction.

I didn't much like my first day in Belize. The polluted bay on which sits the town of Corozal didn't strike my fancy after being in beautiful Caribbean paradises like Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. The “Resort” I was so excited to have booked with bitcoin was dilapidated, bug infested, and had abysmal wifi access. You just wouldn't expect a place as cutting edge as to accept bitcoin would make their guests stand 20 yards outside their cabana to get a wifi signal. There was no lobby or even a place to sit down. I had to stand in the sand fending off the bugs that flocked to the light of my phone as I tried to make contact with the outside world. Fuckers even had the gall to give me a inflated bitcoin exchange rate that ended up over-charging me $15. Whatever.

The rest of Belize I have enjoyed very much. Everyone always talks about how expensive it is here so I was braced for the worst, but so far I've found it on par with Mexico, if not cheaper. Maybe its because I'm traveling inland toward Guatemala and most people visit the Caribbean Cayes. The diversity here is unlike anything I've ever seen. On every block there is a Chinese restaurant/general store with a creative name like "Chun Ma's Store and Fast Food (Chinese)" hand-painted on the wall. The town of Orange Walk is flooded with blond haired-blue eyed Mennonites speaking German and looking like they just came off the set of Little House on the Prairie. There are Hispanics from all the surrounding countries and of course African descendants who speak some kind of Cloud Atlas jib-jab that mixes English with a little Spanish and some kind of native language spoken with a kind Jamaican syncopation that feels all the more exotic when they completely drop it and address you in perfect Victorian English.

The flora and fauna are more diverse down here as well. Most of which I've observed as roadkill. Brightly colored birds and snakes and unidentifiable mammals. Of course, like Mexico, most of it is just dogs and cats and butterflies :( . Insects are everywhere. And they are huge. They have grasshoppers bigger than my feet.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wheeling myself away from myself. (Dec. 8th)

So yea, it's been days. I'm not sure what to say. The addiction got me.

I spent a few weeks San Cristobal de las Casas and after a few days being sick and letting myself go I was back to spending 90% of my waking hours on Reddit and the other 10% running around doing minor errands and trying to be social. I quickly started hating myself and devised an escape plan that involved buying a bicycle and doing the rest of my traveling on that. Mostly I needed an excuse to exercise and get outside. I couldn't find a decent bike shop in San Cristobal so I decided to start in Merida because I have friends there and there was an eye clinic that could do LASIK surgery for like like $800 which I decided I should do to get the most out of my traveling experience (highly recommend doing it outside the US where the health care is better and cheaper).

I spent nearly a month in Merida doing pretty much nothing except internetting. It was horrible. My excuse is that the bikeshop I ordered my frame from could not get the frame by the time they said they would, eventually I went with a less ideal frame the shop already had in stock, but I should have made that decision much earlier, like 1.5 weeks earlier, and anyway I have no excuse for completely wasting my down time. I could have made/finished so many blog posts and edited/posted so many pictures/videos that I have stockpiled or I could have done a little traveling and actually used my time, but no, reddit reddit reddit. I still don't know what's wrong with me, but I simply could not find the motivation to become productive.

I've been in the saddle 10 days now and only now have mustered the courage/energy to start typing again. God I hate how horrible my writing has become. Reading it makes me cringe. Its so bland and thoughtless. It's like I don't give a shit what I say. Well I don't. I'm just trying to create a habit. Write write write.

When I was in San Cristobal I met some girls who work at an NGO in Guatemala. They were attractive so I drunkenly told them I would volunteer. All of the best decisions I've made in life have been intoxicated so now I'm headed to Panachel, Guatamala to work as a communications intern for Mayan Families. I don't really know what they do, but it sounds much different from anything I would be naturally inclined to do so I think it will be good. I can certainly affort some penance for all my recent indulgences.

The only thing is this bicycling thing is taking a lot longer than I planned. I was actually supposed to be there before I even left, such is the cohesion between my self-perceived potential and my actual output. That was partly a miscommunication, and partly me dragging my feet, but mostly just me not knowing what the hell I'm doing. I planned to be able to take on 150km/day everyday with maybe 1 or 2 single day breaks along the way. My average day is half that. So far my longest day has been 116k and I stopped for 3 full nights in Tulum. I have rode nearly 40km in the wrong direction and spent over 2 hours trying to get across 1 damned border. And I haven't even had any real issues to deal with yet.

Anyway, I'm exhausted and burnt to crisp and still have pack all my shit and sleep soon so I can get up and leave at 5am even though I have no idea where I'm going to stay tomorrow because this stupid fucking hotel that I paid .04272BTC for doesn't have working wifi and I couldn't get a Belize SIM card for my phone because the whole fucking country is closed on Sundays but I'm happy because I wrote this shitty fucking post and broke my dry streak :) It's going to be a great week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm in San Cristóbal de las Casas.  I know, right? It's been days.  I was sick ( for 3 days and counting).  I get it, it doesn't count. I have a lot of pictures, they will be updated soon.  I have thousands of stories, they are all boring so don't worry about it.  Thinking about bicycling my way through Latin America (yes, I know I will have to ferry from Panama to Columbia).  Exercise, right?  Anyway, better posts in the future, no worries, a tad drunk, be grateful otherwise I'd probably never post

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Paulo patching up the radiator 
Today I scubaed the cenotes in Tulum. Dos Ojos. Paulo was my guide. $110 for two dives? Whatever.  I'm going to have to check my funds soon because I'm pretty sure I'm way over budget.  I think I fell in love with the Argentinian Girl that volunteers here. What is it with Argentinian girls working at hostels and being absolutely gorgeous? No I haven't talked to her yet. Chloe the red-head Australian girl has been traveling with me. She's cute, but dumb as a cinder block. She tried to tell me she had never heard of quesadillas before. She's been in Mexico for nearly a month now. I know they have Mexican food in Australia, my CELTA buddy Joel was from Australia and he fucking loved Mexican food. She asks a shit-ton of stupid questions. I don't know, I don't mind though. Doesn't seem like there's a lot that can get on my nerves recently. I had my phone jacked the other night. That bummed me out for a bit, and then proceeded to piss me off subsequently for the next 3 days every time I went for my phone and realized it was gone. But each time it was just passing frustration. I miss the military guys from Alaska who were biking through the American continents. God I want to do that so bad. That and sail around the world. Well, maybe not literally, but maybe. Right now I just want to sail through all the worlds tropical islands. I just need to learn how to sail. And fix a motorcycle. Or else find someone else with the skills I need.. I should ask Ben how he feels about sailing with me. Check. Goddamnit the English chick at the bar is so fucking hot. I'm afraid if I let myself really take a look at her my eyes will get stuck and her boyfriend will have to pry them away with the bill of his douchy trucker hat. No, but really he's cool. Fucking awesome red beard. She's way too fucking hot for him though. Fuck me, can I stop thinking about girls for 10 minutes? The answer is no. No I cannot.

Here's some raccoon and a couple of their odd little friends:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1, 2, Buckle my Shoe

Trying to wrap my head around numbers. Bear with me for a second.

Everyone knows there are an infinite number of integers (1,2,3 etc...) There is no limit to to how high we can count. And between any two integers, not only does there exist another infinite amount of numbers (1.1, 1.01, 1.001), but it is actually a larger size of infinity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleph_number). Yes, that's right, and not only are there different sizes of infinity, but there are an infinite amount of sizes of infinity; the size of which is infinitely larger than them all.

Sometimes I wonder if our entire universe could be merely a single atom within another universe that we will never be able to fathom, and then I'm like, why the fuck would I ever want to think about that?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cancun and My Introduction to the Yucatan Peninsula.

So I left Rancho and flew out of the Tijuana airport into the Caribbean resort megaplex that is Cancun.  After a month of bucket baths and porta-potties I decided to splurge on myself and booked 3 nights at the all-inclusive Omni-Cancun (and spent about what I'd expect to pay at a Holiday Inn in California).

The experience was everything I'd hoped it'd be.  That is to say, it was boring as fuck.  It probably didn't help that we're in the middle of Hurricane Season here in the Yukatan so it was raining the whole time.  I honestly can't remember what I did for the first two days except spend a lot of time in the shower and sitting in my room on the internet with the AC on full blast.  I also managed to stuff my face with mediocre buffet food and drink way too little free alcohol (yes, too little.  I had like 4 drinks during my entire stay).  I even paid homage to the gym a few times in a vain attempt to prolong exercise trend I had started my last week at Rancho.

One thing that caught my eye was the iguanas roaming the  beach-lined terrace like stray cats.  Well, like really lazy and sluggish cats.  I mistook the first one I saw for an oddly placed sculpture.  I was staring at it trying to decide if I wanted to touch it when I overheard some passing guests talking about it "Still being there".  I didn't have the balls to actually touch it, but I snapped a few photos of a bigger one hanging out in the bushes when I was checking out of the hotel.
He's daring me to touch him

The second night of my stay at Omni I opted to get a test for Cancun's infamous club scene.  I had declined a drunken invitation from the night prior because the $50 entrance fee seemed rather steep and I'm honestly just not the spontaneous kind of person who decides to go clubbing given a 10 minute notice.  However after doing some research I learned that the hotel arranges the transportation to the club, lends you an activity coordinator (party guide) to show you the ropes and the $50 fee includes an all-you-can drink open bar.

The particular night I was going was Señor Frogs Glow Party.  Having no clue what I was getting into, I donned the single snazzy outfit I had packed.  The second we walked into the club we were covered in neon paint.  By the end of the night I was swimming in what I later learned was the fucking lagoon.

There was only one other guest from the hotel that came to the club (hurricane season I guess).  She was from Sacramento and confessed this was her 5th time in Cancun this year.  Apparently her parents had invested in the hotel and she was able to stay for free.  She was shooting me all kinds of signals, but she was a bigger chick and I was out to play my hand.

We were given a table (no chairs) near the dance floor on which was placed bottles and bottles of alcohol.  I swear if we drank it all someone would be going to the hospital.  I stuck to Vodka.  In fact I have drunk nothing except vodka since I arrived in Mexico.  I love Mexican food more than life, but I can't stomach tequila or shitty Mexican beer (interestingly, they don't drink Corona down here).

The night is pretty hazy, but I'll note some of the details I can remember.  There were lights everywhere, a dj on stage, a crowded dance floor, tables in the back for sitting, and a water slide that feel into the lagoon.  All in all it was hopping (or whatever the kids say these days). After getting myself well drunk,  I picked out a pair of girls sitting against the wall that appeared attractive but reasonably within my league.  They weren't with anyone and seemed to be looking for a reasonable excuse to join in the fun.  After probably an hour of creeping, I finally got drunk enough to make my move.

I walked up, gave one of them a painfully feigned aloof look and relinquished the clever remark I had been preparing all night.  I think it was something like "You're cute".   From the stares I received, I thought they hadn't heard me over the music, but then she gave a reply Spanish and I was so upset with myself for neglecting to factor language barrier into my calculations that I nearly suffered a nervous break-down on the spot.

I doubled down on the Vodka back at the table until I found myself sitting at another table with a group of
backpackers from a hostel in town and some dude from the hotel across the street from mine.  The next thing I remember I'm in the lagoon with an Israeli girl wrapped around me and we're macking on each other The Notebook style, which is a-whole-nother level of gross when you consider how disgusting that fucking lagoon must have been.

Hanging out at Ka Beh
Entrance to Ka Beh

The next day I checked out Ka Beh hostel where my new Isreali friend was staying and booked a night.  She wanted me to go with her to Tulum but I already had plans to meet some girls from Mérida in Playa del Carmen for Independence Day weekend.  The staff at Ka´Beh were really rad, kept giving us alcohol and tried to get us to go out and party more.  Most of them were actually travelers just working short-time until they had enough money to reach their next destination. Needless to say my last night at Omni-Cancun went unused.

Also, the food here is fucking fantastic.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My last days at Rancho (Finally)

I've been procrastinating for ages but I've finally become fed up with myself so prepare yourselves for a whirlwind of semi-coherent posts.

 Before I begin updating everyone on my most recent travels in the Mexican Yucatan, I want to finish up the documentation of my experience at Rancho. This particular post is taken from 3 or 4 posts that I started while at Rancho but never actually finished.  I've opted to focus on quantity and inclusion rather than quality and cohesion as the former requires more decisive action than I'm willing/able to contribute in a single night.

Two significant changes occurred in my final 2 weeks at Rancho.  First, Joelle left to wakeboard back home one last time before the end of summer; leaving me to take over her job running Rancho's fitness program. And second, the Ministry School began, which meant my curriculum proof-reading job finally ended (needless to say if you read my last post, I did not miss the work).

Although I was initially apprehensive about both transitions, the timing seems to have been overall very beneficial.  Although my till-now empty dorm room was now now packed to the brim (quite literally actually, we're talking 3-person bunk beds) full of young men who speak English even worse than I speak Spanish (but insist on trying to converse regardless) and the increasing temperatures combined with westward facing windows, no shades, fans or ac made the place a veritable fly-sauna (no joke, every morning we'd sweep out heaps of flies that had lived and died there the day before), Joelle's office at the gym afforded me ample opportunities for isolation and respite. Where before I would spend all my time outside of meals in my room, I now dared to enter it for the sole purpose of sleeping.
Angel Medina illegally
working on his chin-ups

I was supposed to be making the students pay $10 before they use the gym, but after I tried to explain the rules the first few times I decided I'd just let Joelle deal with it when she gets back. Truthfully the place is little room with some rusting weights a couple partially working pieces of equipment. It's really not worth paying $2, let alone $10.  Plus and I have to live with these guys and I don't want to be the dick that kicks them out of an empty gym, I don't really care how indignant the rest of the staff get.

I've actually had people come in and be like, "We don't think their supposed to be in here"  I just told them I had sent them to the office to pay their dues and assumed it was all taken care of, you know, since I don't speak Spanish.  They all got kicked out anyways.

Also I have to admit, I feel pretty bad for the bible students here.  I live like this for a month and I'm at my wit's end.  And I have internet access, connections with staff (which I'll get to later) who can take me off campus every once in a while, and an office in the gym with a fan where I can just sit and lock the door if I need to. These poor fuckers are stuck here with literally nothing to do all weekend except sing 'kum ba yah' or sit in their over-heated, fly-ridden dorm room all day.  I'm not exaggerating.  This place is hell incarnate if you don't have a way off campus or some-kind of staff privilege.  I try to tell myself that somehow its part of the training since they are preparing themselves to go into ministry where you're basically a slave until God decides to bless you with enough success to become your own leader; but the whole thing just makes me uneasy.  It's little wonder the supernatural plays such a crucial role in this whole system when people faced with realities like these as alternatives.  I really just don't want to think about it too much.  For the time being I've decided that if I don't have something more fulfilling to give people, why deprive them of their purpose?  People are drawn to Rancho for a reason, for most of them it's the best option.  I'm not willing to step up and offer something better so what good am I doing with my criticism?

Anyway, enough with feeling bummed out.  One of the perks of my new job is the all the windfall exercise I get.  I work out like 5 hours a day and I feel fucking amazing.  I wish I could take this job with me everywhere I go because I know I'm not going to have the discipline to exercise on my own while I'm on the road.

After Joelle left, everyone wants to be friends with me all of a sudden.  I'm not sure if they feel bad for me or they just didn't want Joelle to think they're moving in on her brother or maybe just didn't have any excuse to talk to me until I became their personal trainer.  Whatever the case, I am now feeling very much a part of the gang.

Miguel, meditating on the distance
that he embodies so well.
Today after church(Sept 7th?) Miguel befriended me out of the blue.  I'd met him my first day here when Joelle was trying to get him to build her a porch. He's the Mechanic/Handyman at Rancho and grew up here since he was a kid. I had an instant liking for him because like me he's just a little too cool for school (no really, I feel bad for him; kinda in a similar way to how I'm always feeling sorry for myself, if that makes any sense).  Also everyone insists on calling him 'Pato' ('duck' in Spanish) instead of 'Miguel'.  I guess the story is that when he was little he'd follow Jimmy (the head leader at Rancho) around campus like a duckling ('Patito'). Whatever the case I don't feel like the name really compliments him very well and I can relate to being called something other than a name you've chosen for yourself.  Miguel came out to the movies with us in Tijuana when I first got here. We watched Now You See Me with Spanish subtitles.  I don't know, it was kind of awkward some reason, ask Joelle. Since then Miguel and I had exchanged greetings in passing but never really entered into a conversation. Today I was sitting outside the church after service waiting for lunch because the dorm was too hot and crowded.  He sat down and just started talking. Asking me questions about myself and my travel plans and what not.  Honestly I was thrown off guard.  My friend Jaime, who has known him all her life, will attest that such behavior is slightly outside the scope of his usual aloof persona.   I kept waiting for some kind of point to be brought up or for some aim to be revealed, but no it seems he was genuinely interested in bonding.  He even opted to ride with me to the airport and see me off.  Truthfully I can't really remember the last time I felt so honored and even though I'm still a tad bit suspicious (something about an old dog I guess) I've been cursing myself ever since for not giving things a go back at the beginning of the month when there were still differences to be made.

Keeping the gym open for everyone.
(Note: NOT Jaime)
By far the most significant relationship I've fostered here has been with Jaime (Name Changed) , Co-director of Hospitality at Ranch. After our first fitness session she lingered a bit to chat and being in a rare socializing mood I was doing my best to keep the conversation rolling but I noticed that she didn't seem to be in any kind of hurry.  She was my last appointment for the day so there wasn't anything to interrupt us except a gradually imposed awareness of the time (and dinner, which I completely forgot about.  The conversation was a fairly natural evolution of self-expression and mutual appreciation for one-another's experience.

Jaimy spent a a significant portion of her childhood at Rancho and had recently been 'adopted' by Rancho's main leaders (I use quotations because the adoption occurred after her 18th birthday [She's now 24] and isn't legally binding, but in this culture they take 'spiritual adoption' rather seriously and familial terminology is strictly adhered to [often to the utter confusion of outsiders] and her new 'parents' still exercise a remarkable level of influence in Jaime's life).  She's communicated a desire to leave Rancho and attend BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) but is experiencing resistance from her 'parents'.

When we finally found our way out of the gym we were immediately solicited in campus wide game of hide-and-seek.  Apparently one of the Rancho kids had run 'away' and the onduty staff were running around with flashlights calling for him.  I was told it happens fairly often with one of the boys, but its not a big deal because he's afraid of the dark and never wanders far.  An hour later we found him in a tree.

I refused Jaime's offer to come eat left-overs at her parent's house because I thought it might be awkward going over there so late, but she must have realized I missed dinner that night because when I returned from my bucket bath later that night, there was a big plate of food sitting on my bed.

The next week Jaime was my best friend and we spent nearly all our free time hanging out or texting. She brought me the best Fish Tacos of my life for my lunch break, showed me the best restaurants in Tecate, and took me out with her friends for the weekend.  And just as I was beginning to feel at home, it was time to leave.  And that's how I got my first real taste of what the rest of my trip has been so far.

I tell myself I don't really have anything to write about here but even as I'm writing this there are bible students casting demons out of eachother right in front of me.  Teens with an overload of hormones, the need to feel significant, and a warped world view.  I shutter as I remember my own exorcisms back in my hardcore religious days.  Terribly awkward and forced things, too much emotional angst and no intellectual paradigm to give it a constructive meaningful form.  The screaming and spitting and frothing and puking, or trying at least trying to and all the while not trying to and uncertain if your putting on a show for yourself but you have to try it because really nothing else makes sense of how you feel in that moment.  That kid is really going to regret chucking his cell phone like that in the morning..

Get you're shit together, Google!

I fucking hate writing on my android phone because there is no ctr+z function. Somehow I just sent a 3- page reflection into cyber oblivion. Fuck you universe, you adolescent trolling prick.

Ok, another rule.

I've never been one for black and white world views, moral absolutes, or zero tolerance stipulations, but today I've discovered a transgression for which I've lost any capacity for sympathy.

Under no circumstance will I ever again tolerate the use of a computer or other internet powered device within the confines of my sleeping quarters.

 I do not care if I'm in middle of a hurricane and want to know the latest weather alerts, I will not expose my eyes to another second of compulsive LED radiation.  The sanctity of the bedroom must be preserved.

Hello, my name is Jack Alderson and I am an internet addict.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My new post and a quarter rule.

Some new friends in Merida
Yeah, it's been a while.  I haven't made a post since Rancho and even then I have a post backlogged.  There's no way around it, I've been slacking.  At first I had something of an excuse.  Times were crazy, everything was moving fast, I didn't hardly have a chance to catch my breath let alone put together a thoughtful update. At least that's what I told myself.

 For the last week or so though I've really just been staying up all night redditing, sleeping for 10-12 hours through-out the day, running out to grab my only meal of the day before all the restaurants close, and then repeating the whole process over again.

I saw this picture in a restaurant the
other night and liked it.

I know.  It's despicable.

I'm out here in paradise and I'm living exactly like I did when I was in the States.  When I think about it I go into a depression that just reinforces the vicious cycle.

Alright, I'm exaggerating a tad.  I have been doing a bit of work and I have been getting out and doing things, but the overall proportions are abysmal.  And that's why I'm instating a new rule:  Every day I need to publish one and a quarter posts.  It's totally reasonable for me to dedicate at least 4 hours per day on my blog.  And in those 4 hours it's completely reasonable that I publish 1 post briefly outlining my day or rambling about some inconsequential idea that has been occupying my thoughts and leave an hour or so to working on a more thorough detailed story or idea or developing my websites or spending time out taking pictures of things.

 Now this doesn't necessarily mean that every 4th day I will produce and extra post, but rather that after publishing my daily post I will proceed to put forth at least a quarter of that effort towards a larger project that will impact my professional goals.

Anyway, I should hopefully have my final thoughts from Rancho published by tonight or tomorrow.  Thanks to everyone who's still reading this and please keep me honest if you notice I'm slacking off again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"Abortion is murder too" (Or, Shit Fundamentalists Say)

I'm throwing some pictures in this post too
 in order show them off  and make the
 formatting nicer.  I'm not sure if that makes sense
 at all, but you're going to have to deal with it,
 this shit's a work in progress
Other than daily chores, one of the main tasks I've been assigned involves proof-reading the recently translated English curriculum for Rancho's Evangelical Bible School.  Technically this job is right up my alley.  I read and write English fairly well (I should anyway, I have a Bachelor's degree in the subject) and I went to an evangelical college and have a minor in Religious Studies after having taken numerous courses studying the Bible and the Christian faith from an evangelical perspective.

There's just one problem:  I'm an unabashed Atheist.

Now I'm not writing this post to hate on Rancho.  They're just a bunch of people trying their best and, for the most part, doing a pretty good thing in an otherwise senseless and cruel world.  As people, I sense they probably 
couldn't give a shit what kind of doctrines they subscribed to as long as they could have their charismatic services, deistic insurances, and the feeling that they're making a difference in the world. I'm all for helping poor people, higher purposes and feeling good about yourself.
The intention of this blog is to hate on whoever the fuck wrote the ignorant, bigoted, racist, sexist, dogmatic horsehit with which Rancho intends to brainwash their impressionable young Bible students.  Below are just a few examples in the very first few books that I've copied down from the texts. This is honestly not even the a fraction of the senseless shit I've been sifting through. They are (badly) translated from a Spanish Pentecostal textbook (not by me).

"Many scientists agree that evolution does not make sense."

"The theory of evolution remains an unproven theory and Science is constantly changing. What was once a few years ago understand to be unavoidable truth, is today disputable. On the otherhand, God established a simple and non-scientific language so that man in the days of Moses could understand the world. In spite of everything, we can trust the Bible more than science, since it is the eternal and sovereign Word of God."

"The similarity of DNA between man and monkey can be explained by the fact that both were created from the dust of the Earth."

"Noah's ark measured 135m x 22.5m x 13.5m. Though some express doubts that Noah could fit all the world's animals on a boat with these dimensions, it is important to remember that in these days measurements were taken from the elbow. A really long elbow could be up to 14 inches! Also think that Noah would have taken only baby animals and God would likely have put them into hibernation so they did not need to eat."

I know, I shoot a lot of sunsets.
There's really not much else to look at
 around here.
"[Because they ate the forbidden fruit] Woman would suffer the pains of childbirth and her husband would be her authority. This last part is not bad, because in the home it should be an order, but the fallen man would abuse his authority. Besides women in the same state probably she would rebel."

"From his union with Hagar Ishmael was born, from whom Arabs were born, a people extremely bloody and against the Jews and Christians since their Muslim Religion encourages them so."

"We see in Lv. 18:22 that the practice of homosexuality was banned completely because it destroys the body and mind of man, nevertheless the will of the men of Sodom was to rape the two angels."

If you believe any of the above are reasonable things to teach young people, please stop reading this blog and go baptize yourself in the Jordan Seven times, and if you didn't get taken out by a drone or chemical weapons, see if riding a donkey to Damascus does the trick.

One of my new roomate is 32 years old
 and still sleeps with his stuffed tiger.
  How awesome is that?
Obviously I have deep seated issues with Religion.  They come mostly from having to claw my way out of that nauseating pit of ignorance one step of logic at a time.  Sometimes I feel like Jim Carrey in the Truman Show. Except instead of stepping out of a television set, I'm discovering I spent the majority of my young life being raised by a twisted cult and now I'm 22 years behind in my quest to truly understand how the world works.

Sorry, I got carried away.  The point is what do I do?  Do I do the task I've been assigned and effectively participate in the same brainwashing process I spent the better part of my life overcoming? Or do I find some way to be a force for good in all of this?  

If it sounds like I'm being melodramatic  it's probably because I'm trying to justify the fact that I already ended up deciding to sabotage the textbooks and I feel still feel kind of guilty about it.  

I basically reworked the sentences so that anyone with a speck of intelligence reading them would have no choice but to conclude the authors of the textbooks were mentally deficient and could not be trusted to convey truth in any form.  Admittedly it was immature and probably completely futile, but..

Whatever, YOLO!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Rancho Part II (or 4 Things I've Learned so Far)

In my last post I briefly touched on some things I learned on the basics of multi-exposure and HDR photos within the context of sunsets in my pursuit of becoming the world's greatest photo-blogger/videographer. Well upon reflection it appears there actually a number of things I've picked up on the past few weeks, some of them confounding technical details and others more general pieces of wisdom.

Mexicans Love their Murals. Then again, who doesn't?

1.)  With Knowledge, Comes Power, and a Much Longer Todo List.

If you want to be able to really get the most out of your photos during the editing process, you need to save them on your camera in their .RAW format.  This ensures that every detail gleaned from your camera's highly sensitive censors will be retained and available for later manipulation.  However, if you're not going to do anything more than tweak the contrast/saturation and splash on a digital filter or two, do not bother.  .RAW photos take up 4 times more space than .JPEGs and with many camera's (my Pentax 5II for instance) RAW photos won't even be compatible with the majority of photo editors, or else they's require a specific software update that can turn into a nightmare if you're using pirated software (Please don't sue me, Adobe, I'll pay you back when I start making money on this blog, I swear it)

Also, many online photo hosting services and their built-in photo editors can't process anything deeper than 8bit color (looking at you, Facebook) so that fantastically vibrant sunset you spent hours capturing and bring to life is more than likely just going to end up a blotchy eyesore for most of your audience anyway.
Calling for Lluvia (The horse next door)

Estefania warming up the room with her smile.

2.)   Having People Skills Will Make Your Job Easier, But There's a Work-Around for Everything

People become remarkably self-conscious when you walk up to them with a giant camera stuck to your face.  Most of the kids nervously shake their head when I utter '¿Puedo sacarle photographia?' in my awkward Spanish. It seems to evoke the most gratifying and candid poses from your models you should either strike up a casual conversation to establish some friendly report or else develop a preceding reputation persuasive enough to do all your talking for you.  Given my current progress connecting with strangers so far, I've decided it'll be faster to just concentrate on the reputation.   

One of the downsides of the hip-shot method is that you can never
be certain the image is in focus :/

In the meantime I've been relying on a 'shoot from the hip' technique I've developed that involves nonchalantly hold my camera at my side and trying to catch people unaware.  I feel like I've managed to be pretty subtle so far, but I have noticed a lot of strange looks lately.


3.)  Always Maintain Awareness.

Especially when trying to take close-up shots of ant colonies in the desert while wearing flip flops.

As spiteful as those little fuckers seem when they latch onto you, they are tender caresses compared to the sensation of landing barefoot on a broken piece of cactus.

And the picture turned out shit too

Everyday flies be bustlin.

4.) As Crucial as it may be in a Land without Running Water, Hand Sanitizer is Not Soap.

Sure, it may seem like the answer to all your germaphobic trials when your taking bucket baths and using a porta-potty every day, but everything has its limits.  Under no circumstances should you ever apply high-concentration isopropyl alcohol solution to your anus region.

You have been warned

These two powerhouses selflessly take the shit of over 200 people every single day