Archive for May, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air, Musically Speaking

I’ve just completed an extensive and thoroughly cathartic music intercambio (exchange) with fellow teacher Willow, deleted my entire old music library from the iPod and subsequently inheriting, amongst other things, the insane delights of Gogol Bordello. For those of you unfamiliar, this “Gypsy Punk” band from the lower east side of New York arrived in 2009, lead proudly by Eugene Hutz and have subsequently refused to leave. Quite a lot could possibly be explained by Hutz’s origins, from the town of Boyarka, near Kiev and also the Chernoybl nuclear disaster. The manic ballard below is a tirade against American weddings, and how dull they are. Enjoy!

Chiapa de Corzo
24th Mayo 2009


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…And Then The Rains Came

Sitting in my cuarto in a grump following a frustrating lunchtime interaction with the language barrier and the two tweenage girls of the household, I suddenly hear the patter of raindrops against the window pane. Within a minute the patter has turned to an uproar, and the rainy season begins. I’ve heard this seasonal change mentioned by various people and decide in a flash that I’d sooner go outside and risk a soaking than be inside with myself for company.

Grabbing a waterproof and the camera, I duck out of the house and tiptoe my way around the block under the awnings of the houses as the rain lashes down, heading for the central plaza. The stories I’ve heard are fully substantiated; the cobbled streets have become rivers, torrents pouring through the town, paying attention only to the inexplicable variation of gradients. Eventually I stand at one of the block intersections, facing an ankle deep, fast flowing stream as cars thrash up and down the street and the detritus of the town drifts lazily by, heading for the river. Finally tired of waiting, I step into the tide and feel my shoes instantly saturate, slopping big, wet footsteps across the intersection as I am watched by the curious townspeople from the shelter of their windows. Once again, I misrepresent foreigners as a bunch of curious eccentrics that would sooner be soaking themselves in the filthy first rain of the season than sheltering in warm and dry interiors, waiting for the storm to pass.

And pass it does, the forking lightning and loud, violent rumbles of thunder diminishing to nothing along with the pounding of the rain. Sopping wet and dripping in the shelter of the vast town fountain in front of a curious crowd of Mexican tourists, I watch the skies clear. The rapid turn in events of the weather permits the rest of the teaching staff to forge their way to afternoon classes without having to wring their socks out and leave them to dry on the desk at the front of the class.

Chiapa de Corzo
15th Mayo 2009

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Awfully Large Fruit

It is Mango Season in Chiapa de Corzo right now, and the trees are dripping with big, plump, tasty fruit. For those lucky enough to have a tree on their property, it’s a great opportunity to earn an extra couple of pesos selling them outside the fruit market, allowing us consumers to grab as much as we can. One obvious benefit (if you don’t have a tree in your back yard; oh, I wish) is that the hoardes of old ladies sitting patiently behind their vast stacks of mango have paid absolutely nothing to be in a position of selling their wares, and thus pass this on to the fruit craving masses. I paid not a cent more than 10 pesos (about 50p) for a bulging carrier bag of top quality produce, fresh as a daisy. The only problem is that now I don’t think I have the capacity to eat it all.

Chiapa de Corzo
15th Mayo 2009

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Shameless Self Promotion

After a great deal of cursing the general state of Spanish grammar, Acer laptops, the speed and availability of internet connections, Google Documents, Google Translator, Microsoft Word, Blogger and my own lack of patience, I have finally completed the opus that is my Curriculam Vitae, in English and Spanish.

You can now view the English or the Spanish versions hosted by my friends at Google Documents. In addition, I’ve posted a couple of links on the left hand side of the blog under “Odds and Ends” thus allowing easy access for the multitudes of Fairtrade companies who are aimlessly browsing random blogs looking for potential employees.

Gissa job.

Chiapa de Corzo
13th Mayo 2009

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Mexican Sunday League

Following an invitation by my Mexican friend Manuel and a couple of friendly 11-a-side games in the blistering afternoon heat at the Centro Deportivo on the outskirts of town, I was asked by Octavio, the team manager in his machine gun chatter if I would like to play in the local league. I graciously accepted the tenure of novelty international signing and began jumping through the flaming hoops of procuring tiny photographs for my league ID card and copies of all my particulars (in the eventuality than the authorities would conduct an on-pitch inspection, I suppose) and purchasing the “uniforme” of a green cotton t-shirt with a number on the back and a fetching pair of white short shorts and matching socks of the finest polyester. Unfortunately, despite my slavish attention to process I turned up for the first match on the Sunday for a 12pm kickoff, already sweating in the shade, without the necessary regulation moulded stud boots; essential for running on rock hard, dry earth.

Thus I found myself watching, and not participating in, the epic battle of my team against a considerably more professional looking and organised opposition (their replica shirts had sponsors and everything). Despite the fact that I was thousands of miles away from the green and very uneven pitches on the Bristol Downs, I was surprised at the similarities; both teams labored around the pitch, veering between periods of enthusiastic capability and utter ineptitude; a gaggle of devoted spectators, substitutes and “managers” screamed completely contrary advice from the touchline and sporadically lapsed into laughing and joking from bulging eyed abuse hurling and, synonymous with my Bristol days, I was none the wiser as to why some players were deemed to be having had a fantastic game and others worthy of a death sentence when for all intents and purposes everyone seemed to be doing as well as each other.

The only difference seemed to be in the diverse and frequent circumstance of injury that plagued the game; the included photo depicts one of countless additions to extra time that the players no doubt cursed as they waded through the heat of the day. I can only put this down to the fact that the players were tottering around on regulation studs on a surface akin to a basketball court, but with dust.

Sadly (no doubt due to my absence on the pitch), my team received a resounding 3-0 beating which led to the familiar British post-match rounds of backslapping and joking about how awfully we played/what a bunch of bastards the other lot were, punctuated by occasional involuntary silences and shaking of heads. If I can last 90 minutes without expiring in the heat, I think I’ll have a great time with this for a couple of months.

Somewhere outside Chiapa De Corzo
10th Mayo 09

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Friends, But Not Where You Expect Them

It is a strange occurence indeed when, after tearing oneself from the homeland and travelling vast distances to the other side of the world, you bump into familiar faces.  A couple of times. Within five minutes.

I was granted the gift of a seven day weekend by the recent inconvenient national (and, in all credit to the global media, international) panic of swine influenza.  Rather than sit quarantined in my cuarto shaking with fear at the remote possibility of death, I decided along with my joyfully impulsive friend Willow that the best course of action was to travel on a multitude of chicken buses surrounded by potentially lethal locals towards the distant but beckoning location of Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.  
As it turned out, the apocalypse predicted at every step of the journey was dissapointingly inevident.  We reached and crossed the border without incident and the worst thing that happened to us was a diversion off the section of Pan American Highway currently under construction into the winding muddy single lane mountain switchback that was groaning under the capacity of two-directional traffic.  After 2 hours of squeezing our bus past other grimly patient motorists in the gathering darkness and sporadic heavy rain of the wet season, we reached the grim town of Huehuetenango, designed specifically to be left as soon as possible.  
Once clear of Huehue, we crawled overland to the pretty colonial (i.e. strangely simular to San Cristobal, near my hometown) town of Antigua and spent a very pleasent couple of days with a friend of Willow looking at picturesque ruins and vistas, drinking picturesque coffees and watching the hundreds of picturesque tourists and language students crawling all over the town hunting for picturesque experiences.  If it wasn’t for the bloody great volcanoes towering over the streets I’d think I was forty minutes down the road from CDC.  

After this that I parted company and headed for Lago Atitlan with the intention of meeting ex-teacher Abi in a setting that she had told me in previous emails that I would be a fool to miss.  True to her word, the lake was incredible; surrounded by the lush green slopes of volcanoes rising up through the early morning mist of the glassy lake and the jungle that enshrined the scattered communities clinging to the slopes.  The afternoons yielded fierce downpours, forcing me to find shelter and enjoy a cup of something warm in a nice hippy run eco-restaurant and wait for one of the arching rainbows that curved over the landscape and plunging into the lake.
It was in this dreamlike setting that I met my ex-university housemate of two years, a Mr. Jon Buick, on a weekend break from furthering himself professionally in nearby Xela, and bumped into Abi some minutes later in the same spot.  It really serves to illustrate that no matter how far we go, we’re much closer together than we think.  We do, after all, live on a sphere; sooner or later everything leads to everything (or everyone) else.
Lago Atitlan
3rd May 2009

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