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Ryan's First Sabbatical

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Dolphin Love

Varadero, Cuba

Before coming to Cuba ol’ Harry passed on a joke to me from a Cuban. The second favourite past time of Cubans is sex. The first is ripping off tourists. ....usually the truth is funny.

Back in the streets of Bogotá Harry told me a better joke. Looking around the street he asked me, "Ryan, you know where I can find a veterinarian? "
"Nah, Harry, wadda ya need a vet for?"
Flexing his arms in front of us he shrieks, "Cause these pythons are sick!!"

Carly also told me a good one recently. Why couldn’t the lifeguard save the hippy? Cause he was way too far out, man!!

So now I’m in Cuba and, more importantly, with my family. Mark, Meghan’s boyfriend, asked me if I changed over the last year on the road. I said yeah, but then had trouble discerning any way I actually did. After a few short days with the family it seems obvious that maturity is a category in which I haven’t changed so much. No sir. I know this by how much I still love patting the Tone-man’s belly. I really do. His annoyed reactions always make it worth it. When all’s said and done I figure I haven’t matured much over the last year so much as realized how immature I really am. That’s a step though, right? ....right? Although, as I keep finding out, his best friends and colleagues also enjoy teasing the ol’ man, so I’m not gonna hold it against myself.

Anywho, planning to meet the family in our hotel, I arrived in Havana all by myself. I found out quickly that the Cubans could give the Chileans a run for their money for the most bastardized version of Spanish. Well, the Chileans would easily win, but this island has done a commendable job in making it indiscernible for ol’ Ryan. They sounds like slack-jawed Spanish on speed who have a vendetta against pronouncing the letter S. Nevertheless, a tour guide I met on my bus to Verodero (Cuba’s Cancun) assures me that Cuban Spanish is of great quality. Who am I to argue?

Being Canadian, not Cuban, I was given only one option for the 2 ½ hour trip from the airport to the hotel – a $40 bus ride. I soiled myself right then and there as Harry’s joke echoed through my head. That’s a two days worth of spending you know! Sniffle, sniffle.

Today the family went on a catamaran tour to Play Blanca. I was keen as to come along since we got to kiss some dolphins at the end. Not quite the same as cute girls, but it was fine in its own right. And I’ll be damned, I never would have thought it, but dolphins make me just as bashful as a high school boy taking to his crush. Now, due to dolphin anatomy –no lips– the kiss ends up being a gentle nudge on the cheek. Sometimes more of a head-butt. But you never get mad at the them for that because you know kissing has never been a part of their culture, despite what impressions cartoons may have given you. Anywho, getting head-butted by a dolphin truly was beautiful. If a more sensitive Ryan existed, he would have cried. Thank god, cause less sensitive Ryan would have mocked him, only making things worse.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, dolphins feel just like those rubber balls with silly faces that you find in WalMart. The kind that are too light to throw well, so are really only fun if you’re under 6. And they’re equally as squishy, too.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on December 12, 2009 from Varadero, Cuba
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Mozzies n Bikes

Tulum, Mexico

Goooood morning!! Hmm, that's deceptively cheery for how I really feel right now - first thing in the morning. Still waiting for coffee to be ready with eyes half shut. I look like I hate everyone and everything, but that's just not true. I only hate the damn mosquitos. Hell, I even like the ants. I can forgive those guys when they bite me. I mean, they work hard and efficient together in such harmony - like nature's perfect lil communists - and never complain when you block their path. They just bite. Understandably so, it's the only way to communicate with giant hairless apes and we them loud and clear, "#@*! OFF!" And we do!

But the mosquitos. Hate them. Each mosquito I kill I smirk and think of all the possible offspring I stopped from existing. In Tulum, Mexico, there are a lot of mosquitos. This town shares the same beautiful stretch of Yucutan beach as Cancun and is named after the Mayan ruins looking out at the Carribean from a nearby cliff. Inland is a flat, flat, flat with a jungle of cenotes (what I'd call watering holes) and Mayan ruins.

So Tulum is where I am now, waiting for my breakfast included in the hostel price. Free use of bikes is also included, which I happily took advantage of yesterday. I hit the road with a couple of English guys, one Aussie and myself all on wide seated one-gear bikes with cute baskets in front. Let me tell you, we were an intimidating gang on the highway. With the sun at our backs and the wind in our faces we even bullied that swealtering heat away. The wind more than compensates for exercising in the heat of the day - it was cooler than relaxing in the shade with a beer (and I'm not one to readily admit that). As if the bike's wide handlebars didn't make me feel bad ass enough, when I over took a motorbike I think Clint Eastwood would have peed his pants.

Ooh, priorities! Coffee's ready. Adios!

permalink written by  ryanmyers on December 4, 2009 from Tulum, Mexico
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Mérida's Fair

Merida, Mexico

What luck! I found myself in Mérida during the annual fair (held just outside of town), so went there with Wes, an English dude from my hostel. Honestly it wasn't really that different from K-Days, the Ex or the Stampede. Well, there were subtleties.

For starters, the rides had more rust. And they were much smaller, but that's expected cause Mexicans are a much shorter people. Hey oh! Aw, it's a shame none of my Mexican friends will read that. But seriously folks, the ferris wheel was only 3 meters high. With the right sneakers you could slam dunk your toddler into the highest chair. Although, hindsight tells me that maybe unlike Canadian adults, Mexican adults just don't like being whirled around in all directions at ridiculous speeds.

Another thing different is that the carnies aren't obviously carnies. I mean, back home a mullet or gold teeth will give away who's the carnie and who's not. Nope. Not in Mexico. And just to mess with ya they don't wear tacky vests or name tags to identify themselves. Although they do have fannie packs for the tickets and money, but that doesn't help cause so does everyone else. So you gotta wait until you see someone else buy a ticket before asking for tickets to see the world's smallest woman. ....then again, maybe Mexicans don't have a bad stigma against carnies.

Mexican food is generally fatty. Vegetables are scarce and fruit more so. The diet is tortillas, beans, rice, corn, cheese and meat. Oh yeah, and chilies! If you can fry something that's better, but usually it's good enough to just grill it. How you mix em together varies from region to region, but my stereotype says that generally this is the basis for Mexican diet. Now you gotta imagine a food at the Stampede in comparison to regular Calgary food. The same ration applies to Mérida's fair. Deep fried hot dogs with french fries topped with mayo and chili. Or a small bag of Dorritos topped with cheese and jalepeños. Or pork rinds with cheese, corn and chili. Or a churro (deep fried batter that taste like elephant ears) drizzled in chocolate sauce. ....okay, so I exaggerated. It's no different than street food readily found in Mérida.

Side note. According to the World Health Org here is my list of the fattest countries in the world (at least the countries you and I will recognize) as of 2008:
1-7: All southeast pacific island countries
8: Kuwait
9: USA
13. Argentina
14. Egypt
17: New Zealand
19: Mexico
21: Australia
35: Canada

Alrighty, a classic favourite of mine from ol' K-Days was seeing the half-something half-woman illusion. Ya know, the Wasp Lady or the REAL Ladybug. I dunno why they were always part insect. Here's the hook: the ridiculous illusions aren't the best part. No sir. Once you enter you ask them digging questions about their lives like, "What's it like being larva?" or "What sort of names did the other kids call you growing up?" Before seeing Maria, who had an alligator body and woman's head, I forgot to think of a question. That turned out to be no big deal cause she was submerged at the bottom of a tank, so wouldn't have been able to hear me anyways.

The carnie who took my money (at least I think she was a carnie) opened the curtain for me and I got nervous as I walked up to see Maria. Walking up I noticed the illusion had her submerged in water, but figured she would just pretend the pretend the illusion's physics don't apply and answer my question. Suddenly I got nervous being that I was about to talk to such an important person and quickly lost confidence in my Spanish. I panicked.
Ryan: "Puedes sonreír?" (Can you smile?)
Maria: [puzzled look]
Ryan: [hooks corners of mouth with fingers and pulls up]
Maria: [smiles and nods, then one-piece alligator body dances separate from head]
Ryan: [happy tension is over, but still can't think of another question and slowly walks back to the curtain]
In hindsight she prolly just couldn't hear me or understand me. I bet alligator women have a hard enough time with Spanish, let alone my accent. Ah well.

The next thing I saw were the freaky animals - a two headed rabbit, a chicken with 4 legs, a dog with 2 tails and several others following that theme. They were all baby animals in jars of formaldehyde.

The final freak show I went to was Carla, the woman with three breasts. Logic tells me three are better than two, so I was intrigued. The carnie - it was obvious this time as she was perched on her own stool - told me I had to wait 5 minutes until I could see Carla. All I could think of is why the guy before me needed 5 minutes. Just like that I had no desire to see Carla.

I also missed Anna, the world's smallest woman. Carla had spooked me and I didn't even see her. So Wes and I wandered through the isles of fake watches, belt buckles and tattoo parlors. Woh woh woh!! Tattoo parlors?! Yeah, tattoo parlors! Well, Wes and I dared each other, but by this age double dog dares aren't effective peer pressure. Instead we took a stroll through the cattle show. That stunk and we went home.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on December 4, 2009 from Merida, Mexico
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Ryan's Takes a Trip to a Zapatista Community and Rants About the Environment

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

It's been a dream of mine to visit a Zapatista community for years now - ever since I studied them in uni. I learned of EZLN, their guerrilla army filled with indigenous farmers wanting nothing more than what Mexican legend Emiliano Zapata fought for: land and liberty. He was a man not unlike our own Louis Riel, if we chose to embrace him. As famous as Che Guevara here. The Zapatistas, dressed in black ski masks, annexed much of the state of Chiapas the moment Mexico joined NAFTA. They demanded land and rights. Years later they're still a thorn in Mexico's side, but the dust has settled much.

I hopped busses to Margueritas where I was packed into the back of a pickup with Cheetos and chairs, tomatoes and children for a 3 1/2 hour ride to Relidad - a remote Zapatista village of 80 families nestled in the clouds of Chiapas' jungle mountains. I should have expected it, but was surprised to see a fresh mountain river dividing the town with it's lifeline. All the houses are walled with wood planks topped with tin roofs, separated by streets of gavel or grass. Some homes have concrete floors. Some don't. None have electricity despite the powerlines.

When I jumped out of the truck the first thing that came to my eyes were the random chickens everywhere and the horses cutting the grass. I travelled in time to when Erna was a toddler running on the farm naked. Not really knowing what to do or where to go I asked around if there was someone I should see. They pointed down the road.

Walking down I saw little girls with babies tied to their backs with blankets and women washing their clothes or themselves in the river, which later I learned I would do the same. It was mid-afternoon when I found Sergio leaning on the side of a building. His job is to register the tourists who come by. Imagine that. Out in Relidad he's in charge of managing tourism. He really ought to have been more of a chatter, but we sat their in silence as he wrote in pen on torn paper my info. He says when he's not registering visiters, which is all the time, he takes it easy. Oddly he wasn't much of a chatter. I think he takes taking it easy very serious. Everyone's gotta have a hobby.

Several hours after arriving and sitting and waiting in silence Sergio shows me the building I can stay in. It's locked. None of the keys fit either. Plan B is to have me stay in a long hall by myself. The second night I pitch the tent to keep mozzies off my face.

Every morning the neighbour's girls come by to pester me. They come along, spit on the floor and wait for me to make conversation. Although they aren't really interested in my conversation so much as my crackers. My crackers leftover from a lunch of tuna n mayo. Mayo also seems to be the bees knees.

After getting settled in I asked Sergio about helping out the Zapatistas however I can. You know, teaching kids, working the fields or shooting guns. Turns out the ranks were all full. There was nothing for me to do, but read and play soccer. Thankfully I brought 3 books! In one short week I polished off 3 books and let in 7 goals.

One day Ryan got bored -okay, one day in particular when I was bored I decided to take a walk. Ya know, spice up life.


  • Some cows have huge floppy ears. Ridiculously huge. I assume they're the donkey strain of cows - bred to be dumb and strong.

  • I have good hiking boots and walk a lot. I mean, sometimes there's not much else to do. Hence the jungle walk. Yet still old ladies in bare feet pass me. Does this mean in the animal kingdom I'm more of a Shitzu than a Labradour?

  • The distant sound of streams is the same as an approaching truck's tires on a gravel road. Especially when the sound from my own feet is thrown in the mix.

  • After hours of walking on a gravel road without a vehicle passing one becomes shy of trucks loaded with workers and seriously contemplates hiding in the bush.

  • Waving is a better alternative than jumping into the bush. It makes you feel good inside and doesn't scratch you.

  • Some Mexican jungle birds whistle just like construction workers do at the cute girls. A walk through the jungle can be quite good on one's self esteem.

  • No matter where you are there is garbage. Even kilometers from the nearest village in the middle of the jungle plastic bottles and foil wrappers stubbornly sit on the road not decomposing at any discernible rate. It's truly sad. These remote villages import little, yet these evil reminders lay on the road and will lay remain there much past my time. The banana peels and discarded paper break down and reenter the earth, but the plastic and metal stay. Only pristine national parks appear garbage free, but that's a happy illusion trucked outside park borders each day. If Relidad - a village that's as close to organic as most will get - is littered then the rest of us are seriously dillisional about the severity of earth's health.

  • I want to rant more, I really do. But I don't want to complain about where I point the finger and why. Or what finger. I'd rather be encouraging. So know that recycle, while valuable, is a distant third in the 3R's. Remember first to reduce and then to reuse. Plant a garden. Carpool. Buy secondhand. Buy local. Buy organic. You don't need to be a hippy to be green.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on November 17, 2009 from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
    tagged Environment and Zapatistas

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    Día de los Muertos

    San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

    Day of the Dead turned out to be a bust. Not to the fault of Mexicans mind you. Movies always gave me the impression it was a wild street party with James Bond chasing a mysterious woman through crowds of dancing skeletons. So ol' Ryan started out the day like any other. Slowly. I got up by 10, showered and left the house by 11, finished breakfast by noon and then hit the road to visit a small town cemetary with Erika, the couchsurfer I was staying with.

    By the time we got there, roughly 3, the place was devoid of all life, but not desolate. At this point I learn that Erika previously told me that Day of the Dead festivities start early morning and finish by noon. It's easy to misinterpret Spanish, especially if you don't want to get outta bed early the next morning. There was evidence all around of an intense morning bonding with dead and baring gifts of flowers, hoards of flowers, delicious treats for lossed loved ones and bottles of vodka shared with friends 6 feet under. When I got there the joint was empty. The deceased were back in bed for another 364 days of solitude. Meanwhile dogs meandered through the graves searching for remnants in bags of chips or uneaten fruit that the dead were too full to finish. But aside of us there wasn't a single other soul there. Well, I can't be for sure cause I don't have that 6th sense. But I imagine most of the dead were sleeping on a full stomache or passed out drunk.

    The most modest of the graves had pine needles over the dirt mounds with flowers lovingly leaned against the headstone. The popular dead had mountains of flowers and beautifully multi-coloured wreaths that'd surely belittle Trudeau's funeral. The grateful dead just had roaches and friendship bracelets.

    Later we headed on down to the church - and what a big church for such a small town. The floor was covered in the same pine needles as the graves while the walls were like a museum of porceline dolls standing inside luminated wooden boxes with glass windows. Please don't touch. Pray. Place a candle nearby, but please refrain from touching. Each box had a name of a saint, so you have your picking. Not a good place to pray for the indecisive. Or those like Sindy and Sherry who are afraid of dolls.

    So at least I got to see the scene. Evidence gave me plenty of details, Erika some more and my imagination happily fills in the gaps. While I didn't see any dead out and about on la Día de los Muertos, I did get to get a makeover like a zombie a few days earlier on Halloween. Okay, a zombitch.

    Not forgetting to buy some facepaint (which later turned out to be quite valuable) before, I met up with Erika at her friend Romeo's art exhibition. His vibrantly and beautifully coloured collages have heavy Catholic imagery mixed with gay culture and a plethera of penises. The religiously sensative will likely see it as a perversion of the holy, but I liken it to a fusion of that which is natural to Romeo and natural to others. The last supper with transvestites. A bearded emmaculate concepion with a halo of penises.

    So here, at the exhibition, Fabien painted my face into a zombitch. You can't really tell the difference between zombies and zombitch. The secret is really who designs it. Fabien himself had fluffy ears, a leopard print blazer and cat tail.

    I headed down to the pub a head of the flamboyant croud with a bunch of other foreigners and Erika. I was the only one with any sort of costume. As it turns out you gotta pay an arduous entrance fee if you don't have a costume, so happily outta my pants I whipped out my paints. Within 15 minutes we were all disguised and entered for free.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on November 16, 2009 from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
    tagged DayOfTheDead and Halloween

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    Halloween in Mexico

    Puerto Escondido, Mexico

    I've been hearing about Halloween preparations back home, which has got me thinking. Next Halloween I'll go as Seinfeld. I also have a craving to go as a skeleton - although, if they encourage it for the day of the dead I'll do my best to go as one here in Mexico. I'll have to see though. Ya never know, it might be a mockery to their culture. Although that could just make for a even better night. I haven't had eggs thrown at me since my first year of high school.

    One other costume I thought of would be the moon. You could wear all black sprinkled with an odd star - including a hood. Then paint your face as earth and your bottom as the moon. I don't think it'd be distastefull. Especially if you had some real constellations. I'd put O'Rion's belt on my belt too. Feel free to steal my idea. There aren't enough Halloweens in one's life to use all the ideas.

    Anywho, I haven't told a story yet about where I am or what I'm doing, so I'll ramble on until a story comes out.

    I'm in Mazulte. A town of 800, south of Ixtapa and Aculpoco. Google Maps won't produce it for me, so I tagged this entry as Puerto Escondido. But I ensure you Mazulte exists. I'll vouch for it. It's hot and mucky, so I try to strip off my salty shirty (salty from my sweat, not sea water) and take a dip in the baby blue Pacific at least twice a day. In fact, my board shorts are still wet from the ocean as I type. Although by now it might be from sweat instead of brine.

    I caught an overnight bus from Oaxaca to Pachutla, then took a camioneta to Mazulte. I arrived with a Mexican and his gringa girl, who said nothing the whole time in our camioneta ride to the beach. Camionetas are pick-up trucks that haul people to and from the beach towns. Sitting under the canopy I squinted my eyes and played down my boyish smile - giddy from the truck ride. The novelty still gets me. Maybe it's nostalgia from hanging out at Jordan's farm back in the day. I suspect it's from the wind in my hair, like Guy Lafleur on a breakaway. There's one thing I share with dogs.

    Anywho, under a clear sky of nothing but black and stars (what a great idea for a Halloween costume!) we jumped out of the canopied box at 6am, which is early for anywhere. But in a beach town that hour simply doesn't exist. I'm sure the coloquial definition of twilight zone is simply 6am. The Mexican and his gringa just plotted themselves in beach chairs, apparently deciding to sleep until the town woke up. I was bagged after not sleeping on my bus, so walked around looking for and finding no one. I sat myself on a rock to watch the sun rise. This land faces south, so you can't see the sun rise or set. Nevertheless the clouds light up the sand pink. Eventually at 7am there was one place open, which is where I pitched my tent and happily slept until the early afternoon.

    Since then I could sum up my time with four verbs: sleep, eat, swim and read. I do all of those at least twice a day. Nothing more, nothing less. Although I met three Canadians girls from Smithers. They tell me it's the same latitude as Edmonton. Wow, that caused a lot of confusion. They were hanging out with a cute Mexican girl who's English decays when talking to me. She blames it on me speaking Spanish. I would like to blame it on me making her nervous, but that'd just be a lie to make me look cool. Doesn't matter though, she's shared more real conversations with than I've had since Carlos.

    Alrighty, that's all for now folks. Keep fit and have fun!

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 27, 2009 from Puerto Escondido, Mexico
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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    Cultural Anthropology

    Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico

    Time for some good ol' travel literature. I'm not talking about what bus to take, sights to see or how much to pay. I'm talking about the good ol' fashioned cultural anthropological type, self-reflecting on what makes us peoples of the world different from each other. -sorry, interuption. I'm on Skype right now and recieved this message from a friend: "Nada es mejor o peor que otro...solo distintoss" (no one is better or worse than another...only distinct). She's right of course, but that's a cop out answer. Which distinctivenesses are better?!

    WARNING: Stereotypes point out differences between the AVERAGES of groups and by no means account for the totality of any group. Varity WITHIN groups always surpasses varity BETWEEN groups. Thus, their only purpose is to pinpoint generic social differences which make for hilarious racist and sexist jokes.

    One conclusion (read stereotype) I've made is that Canadians are repressed in comparison to Latinos. Yup, we're repressed. Even with the liberal Colombians and Venezuelans aside, Latin America has no problem with public displays of affection. I dunno about you folk, but I still relate to The Beatles classic "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". Yeah, a public hand hold can still make ol' Ryan self conscious. I mean, she's touching me!! But that's not even considered PDA in Latin America.

    Nope, what's considered PDA here is more overt. Here you gotta be caressing your lover's cheek while tasting the salt content of their sweaty neck. ....on the train. ....at 9am. Old, young, it doesn't matter. Making out in public is the norm. In fact, the absence of affection is a cause for concern. Are you ashamed of me? Are you not attracted to me?

    If you're too selfconscious in public to kiss that special lady or man or lady-man then you care too much about what other people think. The lack of PDA in Canada makes me think we're a repressed culture. Not like Japan or Korea (why do you think they have such a ....*peculiar* underground sex scene?), but repressed nevertheless. I mean, whatever happened to the sexual revolutions of the 60's?! And the other ones for that matter. I'm telling ya, the revolutions of the 60's failed on every front. We're still consumeristic, imperialistic and sexually repressed. Maybe culturally we're back in the 50's. Picture it - if you were in the 50's you wouldn't know you were repressed. You'd be all like "Hot diggity dog, we've won so many liberties and freedoms from the war. Golly jee, life is snap, crackle and poppin!"

    So that's sexual repression in public. But that's not all. The other morning (note it's the morning - not the time to be crazy), I had breakfast with Carlos's family on a roof top patio at some hotel over looking Zócalo (the central historical plaza in Mexico City). There was a live band playing some music - creating that thing we like to call atmosphere. You could probably guess that this is an upper-middle class establishment, not for the poor. Nevertheless a family sitting behind us was clapping and dancing in their chairs while chowing down the dainty cuisine. A beautiful mix of two of life's greater pleasures! Anyone else take George Constanza seriously? Think about it in context. Can you picture an upper-middle class Canadian family dancing in public restaurants (without alcohol)? Let alone in the morning. See? I would call that difference repression. We're afraid to move our bodies freely. Afraid we'll disturb someone else's dinner. Afraid we'll look stupid. We will look stupid. But that's not the point! The point is feeling the music and enjoyng the moment freely. Yup, we're repressed. Not just you, but me and every other Canadian afraid to dance to the rythem. The ones who aren't we call crazy because they break those social norms that protect our obese comfort zones.

    It's fitting to note here what my dad said at a conference. He was describing the differences between Canadians and Americans, which he claims can be summed up in constitutional differences. Three words can be used as principles of each document. The fur traders honour peace, order and good government, while the Yankees honour freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It made me laugh.

    So there we have it folks, instead of talking about stereotypes of Latin American countries I've rambled on about Canadian stereotypes. Well then, let's discuss Latin American countries. I suppose there's not much more to say other than, no one is better or worse than another. They're only distinct.

    Okay okay. Peruvians, Bolivians and Mexicans are mild mannered and humble. Argentinians are proud, as they should be. Chileans speak ridiculously fast. Colombians and Venezuelans are liberally minded and live life fully. All of them know their politics.
    As for the other tourists, Australians and Irish like to drink and swear and Canadian girls like them both. Israelis bargain well and are proud of it. I have an affinity for the French and a sneaking suspicion the Spanish are always holding back a rude joke. I wish they would share. There's no need to comment on the English or the Americans. And hippies are the same everywhere.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 22, 2009 from Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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    Babylon and Beyond

    Mexico, Mexico

    Last night I saw Havana lights while flying to Babylon. I was reading Ragtime over a couple screwdrivers, getting excited about the anarchist Emma Goldman. Kyle has a copy on his bookshelf, so when I spotted it in a book exchanged I figured it'd a be a goodie. During Emma Goldman's speech about how socialism and anarchism need to be united worldwide the captain said, "Ladies and gentleman, to your left you'll see the Havana city lights glowing. We'll be arriving shortly in Miami in 20 minutes." Except he said it in Spanish. And all I really caught was Havana, left, Miami and 20 minutes.

    I never really wanted to stop off in Babylon, but beggars can't be choosers. Can they? And man o' man, what a joke. I was laughing with a Colombian dude named Miguel - he purifies the water in Bogotá - about how they'll take a retinal scan to ensure we're not terrorists. Being Canadian I had no problems, but others actually had to get all their fingers scanned and a photo of their eyes!! Paranoia, paranoia coming to get ya. My favourate part of the Babylonian airport was the security on segways. What a contrast to where I've been. And then instead of a lady mopping the floor a frail old man drives a zamboni around to buff it up.

    While trying to find a bite to eat in the Miami International Airport (which shares the same acronym as Missing In Action), I discovered something about my Spanish. No one could understand my English! So when people don't understand my Spanish it's probably the same problem: theirs. Nah, the real reason is no one in Miami speaks English, just Spanish. No worries though. The only food that was open was a coffee shop or Burger King. I haven't seen that many fat people together in one place in a while.

    Did you know that the MIA benches have arm rests? Makes it awkward to sleep on. The elevator music doesn't help either. I felt like I was being drugged to stay happy, but I knew better. The only pause from the music was the lady on the intercom. She'd tell me the time every 15 minutes and reminded me not to bring liquids or gels on the plane.

    Currently I'm in the very center of Mexico City. At 5pm tonight I'm going to meet Carlos - a buddy I met in Mendoza, Argentina - and crash at his place. Cool guy, Carlos is.

    Alrighty, I'm gonna go kill some time before meeting him. Maybe do something touristy or Mexiano. Like eat an empanada.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 14, 2009 from Mexico, Mexico
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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    Continental Change

    Bogota, Colombia

    This afternoon I'm leaving on a jet plane, but figure I'll be back again. Yup, I fly to Mexico from Bogotá, Colombia, via Miami. I imagine coming from Colombia with a beard and dirty clothes will get US Customs all worried I have coke up my bum. Not the case though. If they decide to check all they'll find is traveller's diarhea!! haha, just kidding. I got over that a long time ago.

    Yeah, about two months ago I started thinking about going home, continuing in my routine and seeing the same people I already know (and love), but after the last 10 months on the road it hasn't been appealing. I suppose it even scared me. I thought about it lots and figured this:

    The only constant in the universe is change. We will change regardless where we go or what we do. Some change is growth, other regression and other nothing more than a unsubstantial difference. Nevertheless, if I return home I will change and - fingers crossed - grow too. However, living in Edmonton, continuing my job and watching hockey at the local pub isn't how I want to facilitate my growth over the next year or so. The path of change and growth are not definitive, but almost predictable. Granted, my future isn't written in stone and I can do much to change it, however I don't believe I would vary much from that path.

    Staying in Latin America, on the other hand, will offer me a different path for change and - fingers crossed - growth. There are far more unknowns down here. That excites me! I don't know who will be my friends, where I'll live or what I'll do - which are some of the greatest influences on personal development. This may sound like I'm not satisfied with present Ryan Myers, but that's not at all the case! Nope, I still love me! hehe But think about it, it's obvious your experience makes you who you are and your journey in life gives you this experience. That much is for sure. So, if we are completely aware of this then why can't we manipulate our environment to facilitate the positive changes we would like to see in our lives!!

    So that's one reason to stay down here. Another is that I can speak Spanish, but sure as hell am not fluent like immigrants in Canada can speak English. Another year down here ought to fix that. Another reason is that ol' Ryan has fallen in love with the culture down here. Much more open minded, social and flirty!

    So far the three places I'm looking at staying are DF (Mexico City), Bogotá or Buenos Aires. I haven't been to DF, so I'm hungry to taste Mexico first before making any decisions. I hope it's spicy! However, I'm leaning towards Buenos Aires. It doesn't have the Latin flavour found in the rest of Latin America, but what a cool place!! So that's where I'm leaning towards, however if I can find a job for an NGO in Mexico or Colombia I'd happily go there instead. Plan B is to teach English. That's an easy job to find in these three countries.

    Yup yup, so that's what went through my head and heart as I decided to stay here. Funny enough, I wasn't homesick once until I sent my Bob an email saying I'm not coming back. Then I started to realise it'd be much longer before I'd sip on a pint of beer in a pub while watching a hockey game with my friends.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 13, 2009 from Bogota, Colombia
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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    Volcanoe Camping

    Bogota, Colombia

    I just watched a video Gary sent me of Jamie's birthday party. Everyone was decked out in cheezy 90's outfits - heh heh, nothing like a costume party make ol' Ryan miss home.

    No worries folks, I'm not throwing in the towel and coming home. Nope. In fact, I just got my ticket to Mexico! There I was, complaining to the lady at the front desk of my hostel how I can't buy a ticket online when in walks a Venezuelan travel agent telling me she can get me a cheap ticket. Talk about perfect timing. So I'll be heading to Districto Federal (a.k.a. Mexico City) on October 8th on a cheaper ticket than I could find online! Woot woot!

    Alrighty, so that's where I stand now. Saturday night though, I was standing on the side of an active volcanoe looking for firewood in the moonlight. And what a moon it was! Full and shiny, smiling down at us camping. Although, last night on the bus I thought that when the moon's face is tilted slightly he kinda looks like Jesus's face when he's hanging on the cross. Ya know, with his mouth open, eyes all glossy and looking down to his left. You see that picture on tons of buses here.

    Anywho, Mat decided to stay for the camping trip on the volcanoe. I'm glad he did cause he's a super positive guy. Brings a good dynamic to the group. Plus, without him it would have been Melisa, her boyfriend, me and La Negra - the crazy girl from the other night. Oooh, that woulda been too coupley.

    Mat and I packed up our stuff and sucked up our hangover, strapped on our shoes and mosied onto Melisa's house, where we had to wait an hour for Santo and La Negra to show up. Except they never showed up. By 1 in the afternoon I still hadn't eaten, so Mat, Melisa and I grabbed some greasy empanadas and the oldest hotdog I've ever had. HACIP would have a field day. Santo and La Negra eventually met us, then we had to buy groceries and gasoline. By the time we left it was 4:30, which only gave us one and a half more hours of sunlight for the 2 hour hike ahead of us.

    To cut some time we bussed the first part. We later spent that saved time ooohing and awing at a beautiful waterfall - something like 40 meters high and only accessable by hiking through dense bush and then scaling a rock face.

    When I think of camping back home it always involves driving out with my car so packed full of stuff that there's barely enough room for passengers. Then you arrive to site 8 on circle B with an outlet and a picnic table by the grilled firepit. Nope, not here. We had to walk all of our stuff up. Yup, all the way up this volcanoe that apparently errupted on Tuesday. La Negra said it was a "code orange alert".

    At first the path was easy, breazey, beautiful - it was wonderful, girl. As the sun set the path started to get tricky. The dirt path would slide away under you with each step, sending a dusty shower to everyone below. There was enough dust to inspire a full Woodie Guthrie album. Plus, around this area there weren't any roots to give your feet grip either. And the rocks you did grip would just come loose and happily bounce down the hill.

    After the dusty dirt came the crumbly rock face. It was exactly as it sounds. Mat went first, which sent rocks whizzing past our heads. We desperately asked him to stop, but even when he was just standing there dust would shower down with the odd rock. After that we figured it best to go one at a time. While we were deciding this I was hanging on the side of a horizontal rock face with every limb clenched, dust in my face and sneezing like mad. Man did it ever get dark fast.

    Once we passed the crumbly rock face Mat and I took out our head lamps - woowee, great purchases those were!! And we were the only ones in the group with them. Even with the headlamps it was tough to spot a way through the root maze. At one point I had to take off my back pack - the big one - and throw it uphill through the roots. Although Canadians invented basketball, I still contest that we aren't very good at it. The roots were entangled such that I had to toss my bag exactly top-to-bottom through the hole - no other way - then climb through and repeat on the next root hoop.

    After that was a much easier spot of just thick dirt clouds, but with trees and roots to grab onto. Finally, finally at the top was a tiny creak that feeds the water fall. This is where we camped. Mat and I both decided that the hike was the highlight of the trip. Equally as hard as Machu Picchu or Lost City, but in the dark, with dust up your nose, sneezing and rocks flying by your head ontop of an active volcanoe!

    What a relief to arrive. Mat built a fire and La Negra cooked while Santo and I set up the tents. Melisa took off her wet shoes.

    Like I said earlier, the moon was amazing. Once the glowing Jesus-on-the-cross rose there was no need for flashlights during our countless fire runs. Ya know, even in the remote bush on the side of the volcanoe you can find garbage. During one wood run we found a TV. Just the outside though. I can't imagine the reception would be very good. At least it made for some fun photos.

    Anywho, the next day we split up. Mat went to Ecuador, the Pasteños went home and I headed back to Bogotá.

    permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 5, 2009 from Bogota, Colombia
    from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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