The Ubiquitous Blog

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day of the Dead

I just spend Days of the Dead (1st & 2nd Nov) in Oaxaca city, and it was awesome! The whole city comes alive and has a big party in the cemetary, I kid you not! I wish I could post some photos up, cos it's really hard to describe what happened. The festival is actually about remembering the dead and celebrating the next stage of their lives. People bring flowers to decorate the graves, and bring food as offerings to the dead. At home there'll also be an altar with flowers and food offerings as well, different types of regional food etc. After the offering, the food will be eaten. It's a very colourful and positive festival, not at all like the name suggests when interpreted through a western perspective (which has really negative associations with death). The Day of the Dead tradition is a pre-hispanic tradition, but got mixed with christianity when the spanish came, so now there are crosses and pictures of jesus on the altars and the graves, along with the traditional food.

Speaking of food, there are several food specialties of this state, one of which is chocolate (which is made into mole [pronounced mo-le, not mole, the animal], a sauce made from chilli, chocolate and various other spices. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I'm going to try and buy some to take home.....if my bag will have space), and another is grasshoppers and crickets. In the markets, there are people with selling bags of insects, I think they've been deep fried, or at least fried. They look crunchy. And as ever, flavoured with chilli, lemon and salt. There are also these giant tortillas (about 3 times the size of a normal one) called tlayudas. It's a meal in itself.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

On the road again

I'm heading to Oaxaca City tonight (taking a night bus!). I've been in Mexico City for 1 week and it's been awesome. Lots of museums and art, and pretty colonial buildings. And old churches on practically every second corner! The Spaniards really were enthusiastic with converting the populations. Hopefully Oaxaca will be as enjoyable as Mexico City.

I'm now trying to motivate myself for the next 2 and a half weeks, not that I don't like Mexico, on the contrary, I love Mexico! But it's just getting to the end of my trip, and I really miss home, and I just want to get on that plane! So, I'm just thinking, 2 short weeks left, hey?

And it's also bloody cold here! It gets down to about 9 degrees at night, thank goodness I have thermals. It's unusually cold for this time of year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In my walk across the city, I managed to wander into the totally queer part of town. After 3 and a half months of queer abstinence, I was suddenly inundated! There were gay men everywhere! Everyone seems so out and proud too. There were rainbow flags, shops selling rainbow merchandise, gay clubs, cafes and restaurants. One of the cafes/bars was called BGay, BProud, something I did not expect to see in Latin America. Anyway, it looks like there's a pretty big gay scene in that part of town. The rest of the queers though (the LBT part) don't have such high visibility, as per usual. Gay men seem to always dominate the queer scene first. I wonder why that is...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mexico City WOO!

Mexico City is nothing like I thought it would be! I had imagined a dirty, polluted, dangerous and ugly city (from what I've read and what other travellers have told me), but in fact it's quite the opposite! There are really nice buildings here, in the city centre and in some parts of the inner city area, and where I'm staying is really safe (I don't know about the rest of the city). I haven't noticed much of the pollution, although there are a lot of cars here. It's not as evidently smoggy as LA, perhaps that's the problem. It's not thick black smoke, lol.

I'm staying with a friend of Fabiola's (Fabiola and Christian owned the farm I was working at for the last 3 weeks), she offered her apartment when I said I was going to the city for a few days, and she's asking another friend in Oaxaca (where I'm planning to go next) if I can stay with them. What nice people! Patricia (the woman I'm staying with) lives in the inner city area, really close to the centre (if you count the presidential palace and the Zocalo as being in the centre), and is walking distance to all the major museums and galleries. It's very convenient!
So I arrived yesterday, and I went to the National Museum of Anthropology today. It is a ridiculously huge museum! There are 24 rooms in total, and they're all pretty big, with lots of displays and some bilingual captions. Needless to say, I spent the entire day there. I could've spent more time, but I was freezing! When we arrived yesterday, it was hot. Today, it was overcast, windy and raining a bit, it was a complete flip in weather! It's like I'm in Melbourne again. I'm wearing 4 layers of clothing as we speak. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of warmth in the museum, I just had a light jacket, so I was absolutely freezing. In between unsuccessfully trying to stay warm and trying to absorb the information presented to me (half of which was in spanish), I nevertheless was able to pick up some bits of information. The Aztec and Mayan rooms were really cool. I didn't know this before, but they were really big on blood sacrifices. They'd sacrifice animals, people, even children to whichever god who needed it at the time. They also built huge pyramids and temples. It was pretty cool.
On the food note, I've been eating lots of street food lately. I love street food, it's the best food you can get in any country! If only Australia had enough history to have good street food. I know enough spanish (and names of Mexican foods) to know what I'm ordering, and to get it without cheese! Seriously, everything has cheese and/or chilli here. You can get all fruit salads with chilli powder, salt and lime juice, same with corn on the cob, except they put cheese and mayonaise on that too! Regardless, I still love Mexican food, it's awesome! Oh, and they have blue tortillas! They're made from a blue variety of corn, unsurprisingly. They have a million varieties of corn here (ok, not that many, maybe 40 or 50). I thought Ecuadorians were obssessed with corn, that was nothing compared to Mexico! There's always at least one thing made of corn in every meal, most likely tortillas. Anyway, I'm trying lots of different foods, I just get whatever is vegetarian in the stall and ask for it without cheese, and then wait for the surprise. So far I haven't been disappointed!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Costa Rica update

A quick follow-up on the Costa Rican referendum for the free trade agreement with the USA. The results were frustratingly close, 51.61% yes, 48.39% no. I wonder what will happen now.


Farm update

Well, I'm still at the farm, my last week here (if everything goes according to plan) before I head off to somewhere else. Just an update to say that all is well, I've only got about 1 month left before I head home, so I'm really looking forward to the next part of my trip, as well as going home again, yay! Tempus fugit.

I walked to a waterfall close to the farm yesterday, and I don't want to sound religious or anything, but once I got there, it was the most amazing experience I've had for the entire trip. The place was so peaceful and serene, so beautiful and devoid of human presence, I was overwhelmed with happiness. It was the most pure happiness I've ever felt, it's hard to describe in words. But I'd have to say that was one of the best days of my trip, all the more intensified because it was so simple. No touristing around, no gardening, no nothing. Just sitting next to a waterfall appreciating everything around you. It was great!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Life and death

I saw a rabbit being killed and gutted today. For some reason, the actual killing wasn't as disturbing as I thought it would be. It certainly wasn't as disconcerting as the cow milking, possibly because I wasn't the one killing it. The rabbit seemed surprisingly peaceful, so much so that I felt bad knowing about its impending death. Just moments before it was hopping around in its cage; it seems so incredible that we can take away a life with such ease. In case you were wondering, the rabbit was killed by having its neck broken. Christian held it upside down by its hind legs, and whacked it hard. I had expected it to be screaming and squealing etc, but it didn't make any noise. Perhaps I was just ignorant to the fact that rabbits don't make loud noises like cows and pigs. I don't know. Perhaps it actually died relatively pain free? No, probably not. It was spasming for a few moments before it became still; it didn't take that long to die.

I'm probably making this whole event sound very matter-of-fact and heartless. Make of it what you will. I don't know what to think about death now, and the morality of this whole animal killing business (not just killing for eating, but killing for other purposes, like mosquitoes and garden pests). Incidentally, I've had to do some killing of my own. There are these white grubs in the garden beds that eat the roots of the plants and eventually kill them, so really we have to kill the grubs before they kill the plants. It's certainly not vegan, but how far can you take it? If I don't kill them, they'll no doubt be killed by someone else. Using deterrents (if there were any) would chase them to another place where they'll also be killed. If, very hypothetically, we were to deter them so far away that they didn't have a food source and they all died, we would still be responsible for their deaths and eventual extinction. That doesn't make it any better. So the question is, does that make it ok to kill a grub or a mosquito? Or is this issue too myopic to be contemplating about?