Tag Archives: Mexico

Random thoughts/ month 21

2 Feb

We’ve been met with lots of changes this past month, between the new year and our return to this US. This month we:

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+ rang in 2015 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We threw a party at our apartment (3rd gathering in 5 weeks. Can you tell I miss entertaining?!), cooked a giant lasagna and partied until it was 20-15 with Home on the Highway, Neli’s Big Adventure, Kelly, Anthony and some new friends. We watched a spectacular fireworks display in the Jardin, popped some bubbly on our roof then roamed town for a while. I still can’t believe we missed an entire calendar year of life in the US but am thrilled to report that we didn’t work a single day in 2014. Oh things will be different in 2015! New city, new jobs, new beginnings. Bring it!

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+ celebrated Three Kings Day. We watched the small parade as it rode by our apartment, complete with a band, horses, and a king in blackface, tossing cookies to spectators (of course I got one). The parade ended in the Jardin where eager children and their parents were questioned about their (good?) behavior that year, given gifts, beverages and a slice of the most massive cake.

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Because of the holiday, our favorite taco stand wasn’t open but we were able to squeeze in one last round of churros!

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+ left San Miguel on January 7. It was bittersweet, as we were very ready to leave the city (there are only so many coffee shops to bum in) but not Mexico. All great things do come to an end though.

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+ spent our last days in Mexico searching for a doctor. I stepped on a cactus as we were leaving San Miguel. Yes, a cactus. How very Mexican of me. And I was wearing flip flops because what other footwear exists for a Floridian. Just one little stab near my heel was all I got. It didn’t hurt that much at first but slowly swelled. By the next morning, the pain was intense and I couldn’t walk. We ended up going to a pharmacy doctor for $2, got some meds and began round one of antibiotics. Now, 3 weeks later, my heel is STILL infected, I walk with a limp, I’ve had to wear flip flops despite the cold weather because any shoe puts too much pressure on the area, and I’m taking another round of antibiotics. Who would have thought that one tiny prick (ha) would cause so much agony!

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+ had a nasty welcome back to the states. On the two occasions I flew home last year, I was greeted back in the states with a joyful “welcome home.” Stupidly, I thought we’d receive the same warm welcome coming back in Skyhorse. Leaving Mexico was easy and painless…once we actually found the exit. Please explain to me what’s the point of brand new buildings if they aren’t marked or manned by people telling you where to go? Once we got to the US side, they couldn’t decide whether we were a car or cargo. Border agents unnecessarily flexed their egos to the point that I was told to stand and wait in the cold rain with the dogs while Hani drove Skyhorse to be x-rayed. Mind you, I couldn’t walk because of my cactus foot so I’m literally hopping everywhere and NO ONE offered to help me. At least on the Mexican side they offered me a wheelchair! Our own countrymen just yelled at us and were dumbfounded about how we re-enter the US. Let’s just say the entire ordeal ended in Hani making not one but two formal complaints. Welcome home to us!

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+ were immediately assaulted by real highways, advertisements, chain restaurants and country music. Blech! And as an ode to our long driving days leaving Mexico, we spent our first night back in the US parked at a Love’s, the American Pemex.

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+ miss topes. NOT!! Every gas station accepts our credit card, we don’t have to search for branches in the road to indicate a problem up ahead, the highways are paved, properly signed, and don’t have craters in it. It’s the little things that we missed the most.

+ forgot how amazing radio in English, NPR, paper maps, and real fully stocked grocery stores are.

+ spent a relaxing night in San Antonio visiting friends we met while in Jaco, Costa Rica. Since we last saw Nadia and Brett, they relocated from Ft Lauderdale to San Antonio and offered us the warmth of their home for the night. We had a great time hanging around, drinking REAL BEER, playing tea party with their kids and eating a delicious meal. Thank you again Nadia and Brett!

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+ toured Austin for a week and a half. It felt familiar–like home. Maybe it’s because we now have a few pieces of Key West in Austin. We crashed at our friend Rhonda’s place in an effort to escape the freezing weather and the dogs snuggled with her pup, Mari.

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Since Rhonda is still relatively new to Austin, we all explored the city, jammed to live music, watched some two-steppin, and ate and drank like lil piggies. We also visited other Key West escapees Jedd and Christina for a few meals. It really was comforting to see some good friends after being away for so long.

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+ went road tripping with Rhonda. One afternoon, after fixing her flat tire, we drove through hill country to Deep Eddy’s vodka distillery then to BBQ at the Salt Lick, where we made the unfortunate decision to get all-you-can-eat. Let’s just say day drinking and pounds of BBQ are not an ideal combination. The leftovers were heavenly though.

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+ bought several pounds of jerky. It’s all gone now.

+ left BBQ and jerky land to enter po’ boy and oyster country: New Orleans. We stayed with my youngest cousin Rinat who recently moved here and also dined with the gang we met in Grand Isle when we first started the trip. Again, we ate our way through the city gorging on all the staples (beignets three times, fried oysters, po’boys, king cake), topping off our food extravaganza with dinner at our favorite, Jacques-Imo’s! Seriously, I need a giant salad right about now.

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What’s next?

9 Jan

As you read this, we are probably somewhere in Northern Mexico, around Monterrey, or driving through the Laredo, Texas border arriving back in the US of A after being gone since November 2013. Insane. Then we begin the trying task of finding a city to move to.

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We will visit Austin, New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville for a few days each with hopes that one of those cities will be THE ONE. Thoughts? Feedback? Because we can sure use it! I feel like we are as clueless about where we want to go now as we were when we first started our trip. If you are in any of these cities, let us know, we’d love to see you.

And then we’ll do the looong drive south through Florida: Apalachicola (Gardis, we are coming for you!), Tallahassee (see you soon John and Mandi), Daytona, Miami and ended where it all started, in Key West.

So, yeah, that’s the plan. But as you must know by now, we never *really* stick to a plan so we shall see what life in 2015 brings.

So long, San Miguel

7 Jan

After 6 weeks of eating, drinking, wandering, and eating and drinking some more, we finally left San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and packed back into Skyhorse today for the last stretch of our adventure. Our final Friday in town ended on a high note as we rocked karaoke at The Beer Company. Karaoke Annie was MC, Jason as head singer of Neli’s Big Adventure, James rocking the mike for Home on the Highway, Kelly jamming to some Rod, and of course, me, paving the way for team Skyhorse (though I did manage to drag Hani up to sing some Aladdin). We rapped, crooned, shook our boo-tays, and dreamed of California–the BEST way to celebrate the new year! SMA, we will miss you!!

RESERVED!

RESERVED!

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Karaoke Annie!

Karaoke Annie!

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I don't think James likes karaoke

I don’t think James likes karaoke

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walk like an egyptian...

walk like an egyptian…

Victor G's sexy and he knows it!

Victor G’s sexy and he knows it!

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this baby's got back

this baby’s got back

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the gang

the gang

Random thoughts/ month 20 San Miguel de Allende

26 Dec

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This big 2-0!! This entire month was spent in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of our favorite cities. This month we:

+ arrived in San Miguel November 24. We were welcomed back into the Aurora neighborhood, parking on the street in the same spot as last year nestled between the elementary school and soccer field. The residents recognized us and were super helpful in sending us around to their cousin’s sister’s neighbor as we tried to find a place to rent for the holidays.

+ rented an apartment!! Since we love this city and didn’t want to spend the holidays hopping aimlessly from one city to another in search of friends, we decided to rent an apartment through the new year. That and Neli’s are here too and it’s great to have friends to play with. We found a sweet apartment right in the center of town, everything included (plus laundry) for $100 a week! A friend of a friend of a friend connected us with Susan who lives on the outskirts of town with a massive property for Skyhorse to chill out on. It’s nice (weird?) to have so much space again, a “real” home, wifi on demand, cable, and a rooftop deck with spectacular views of the city. It’s complete city living in this area with standstill traffic, nonstop church bells, cool cafés next door, an Argentinean restaurant underneath the apartments, the main Jardin a block away, and butcher shops and the local market close at hand.

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+ spent Thanksgiving cooking with Victoria and Jason and their dogs, Neli and Maya. We had our hearts set on turkey, boxed stuffing (for Victoria), and canned cranberry sauce (for Jason). The turkeys were plentiful but frozen solid and no boxed stuffing was to be found so we settled for a feast of 2 chickens, mashed potatoes 2 ways (Sarah vs Jason), sautéed spinach and mushrooms, Jason’s gross canned cranberry gel, and the tastiest pumpkin pie compliments to the best bakery in town, Petit Four.

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The rowdy night ended like this:

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+ built a puppy pee area on the roof. We are in the heart of downtown which means very few green spaces. And the ones that exist are either fenced, elevated, or surrounding monuments and churches. We kept getting scolded by locals when the dogs walked on the above listed grass areas, even after showing them we have bags to pick up. Hello!? Where do they think the stray dogs go?!? So Hani ordered 10 pieces of sod and 4 bags of dirt to fill the 2 wooden boxes he had a carpenter build. Needless to say the 7 pieces of unused sod and bag of dirt are still up on the roof one month later. And the “lawn” is brown. But the dogs still use it and it’s far easier to walk up a flight of stairs at night than brave the 4 blocks in the cold and hope no one in front of the church sees you.

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+ wandered around the colonial streets and market sampling some awesome eats. We get our daily liter of oj for $1.40, sometimes fresh churros along side. The market has been a fabulous find serving up brothy soups and stacked high sandwiches. Even the street carts here are plentiful–sliced fruits and veggies (a liter container is under a dollar), ice cream (even though it’s cold out!), tamales and alote in the mornings and tacos at night. The cafés have such delicious coffee and sweet treats. Happy hours are everywhere on rooftop terraces. And the restaurants serve amazing international cuisines. This town is dangerous!!

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+ froze! Our first week in San Miguel was SO COLD we had to buy a heater and layered on every article of clothing. I don’t know how we are going to survive the winter when we get back to the states!

+ but still love this cool colonial city.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ec3/44879571/files/2014/12/img_3068.jpg+ met some great new friends, fellow travelers Krista and Paul and their dog Rufus. Rufus became part of the family as we watched him one weekend when Krista and Paul went into Mexico City. Olivia was in heaven, finally having a big dog to play with.

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+ celebrated out second wedding anniversary on December 1. No flat tire like last year but still an adventurous one as we explored more of the city and learned that most places are closed on Mondays. Also, I’ve decided that all future anniversaries need to be spent in Mexico to continue the tradition of the past 2 years.

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+ went to La Gruta hot springs, right outside San Miguel, with Krista and Paul. At first we were disappointed, seeing only one semi warm pool and an empty one. Then we discovered the grotto, a long enclosed hallway half underwater that opened up into a dome shapes room where the hot springs flowed. We stayed until we got pruney and successfully avoided a super creepy man talking to himself.

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+ saw two movies–one in the big multiplex and one in a quaint cafe. It’s been a year since we last saw a movie in a theater and these two did not disappoint! The fresh popped carmel corn didn’t hurt either.

+ karaoked!!

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+participated in a Posada on Christmas Eve. We started in the Jardin watching the ex-pats sing carols while the locals passed strange looks, then walked from one church to another in procession singing Spanish carols. Well, we didn’t sing, but it was fun all the same.

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+ Christmased with Victoria, Jason, their dogs and Victoria’s parents Lorna and David at our apartment. Lorna cooked a beautiful turkey, some delicious sides and ended the gorge-fest with another amazing cake from Petit Four. Happy holidays everyone!!!

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Oaxaca

4 Dec

While parked at Overlander Oasis a week and a half ago, we took the bus into Oaxaca for a few hours. Oaxaca is one of our favorite Mexican cities because it’s very human rights oriented, progressive and revolutionary. It’s home of mezcal, art, protests, and the most luxurious string cheese. Graffiti is considered an art form. Galleries and bars are in equal number. Every summer, teachers camp out in the Zocolo, the main square of the city, protesting some injustice or another.

This visit was no exception. The main square exploded and the area that was quiet and green on our last visit 10 months ago was now bustling with people camped out in tents and food and clothing stalls to cater to all these new inhabitants.

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Locals had taken over the city to protest the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students by the government.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/07/world/americas/mexico-missing-students/ The Zocalo was plastered with signs in remembrance of the 43 students and calling for justice. It was like nothing we have seen before south of the border. Sure you’d expect Americans to protest and have sit ins but completely unexpected to witness this in Mexico.

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On a completely different note, Oaxaca is also home to another fabulous local market. Enter: the meat hall. I posted a picture of this gem on our last visit but the culinary experience here is too amazing to not describe in detail. This was one of our favorite food experiences of the whole trip.

Picture it: a smoky long room with high ceilings

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Meat lining the isle and vendors constantly calling out

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Tables at one end of the room

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The directions:

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Everything is separate–you order meat from one person, veggies from another, drinks from a third person and side dishes lastly, all paying at different points during your meal.

The process begins… you get bombarded by ladies pushing wicker baskets of scallions and jalapeños in your face

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Take your basket of scallions and pick the meat stall to your liking

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Your cooked meat, scallions and a stack of tortillas will soon arrive along with a selection of side dishes

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Gorge

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Maybe you’ll even get serenaded

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Random thoughts/ month 19

28 Nov

This month we:

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+ celebrated the Day of the Dead in Antigua on November 1. Instead of mourning the dead, locals celebrate their lives, taking to the cemetery. Families visit their loved ones’ graves cleaning them, adding a fresh coat of white paint, decorating with flowers and sometimes planting. Mariachi bands and ice cream carts wander the rows of the departed. The entrance to the cemeteries are filled with food venders, some cities even have carnival rides.

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+ went to the Sumpango kite festival on the same day. Tons of locals and foreigns flock up steep dirt paths to a grass field in this small village. Vendors selling small kites, food and crafts are set up around the perimeter and gigantic circle kites made of colored tissue paper are on display. We were disappointed to learn they don’t actually fly these massive kites, but it was pretty amazing waking around in the mud looking at the intricate work.

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+ scrubbed the inside of Skyhorse from top to bottom, washing everything possible. Don’t ask.

+ dined, yes dined, at the fanciest McDonalds I’ve ever laid eyes on. As you have probably gathered, we only eat McDs after a trying day. Our Antigua meal was no exception. After a frustrating morning at the doctor with few concrete answers, we followed our noses to the discreet golden arches and into the most luxurious courtyard. We ate with a clear view of the volcano in front of us.

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+ were funded! Thanks to you all, our kickstarter campaign was 200% funded. We cannot thank you–our friends, family and dedicated reader–enough for making this possible!

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+ experienced our second and third earthquakes. The second one was much more mild than the first but still confused Hani. As Skyhorse began to rock, Hani yelled out, calling to someone he thought was pushing the truck. By the third, we were pros and just looked at each other and our unaffected dogs as the truck wobbled a bit.

+ spent time with our friends from home, Caroline and Mike. They were in Antigua for a wedding so we got to hang with them and their dental crew for a few days, even getting to crash a pre-wedding dinner.

+ ended our time in Antigua after staying a whopping 44 days. It is by far the longest we’ve stayed camped in the same spot in the same city. Seriously love that city and can’t wait to come back someday.

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+ spent a total of $64 to stay at the Antigua tourist police for those 44 days. You are allowed to camp for free for 5 days but beyond that, the officers ask for things to spruce up the property. Over the course of our time there, we bought them a rake, tree paint, brushes, buckets, 2 soccer balls, lightbulbs and a few breads, chips and sodas. Well worth the money and we enjoyed chatting with the officers and helping them with their English.

+ had yet another frustrating border experience at Tecun Uman, Guatemala/ Cuidad Hidalgo, Mexico. Allegedly the entrance on the Mexican side is only for “light vehicles” (whatever that means). It took twenty minutes for them to decide to lift up a low hanging cable to let us enter, then too much yaking about how we couldn’t cross into Mexico here because we were too big. Mind you, we were parked right under the bus parking sign. So obviously large vehicles pass through there. Then they said we also couldn’t enter because we had two vehicles, that the motorcycle would have to be driven through separately. What?!? Eventually we were allowed to enter only if they could search us from top to bottom. Go right ahead. I drew the line when they asked us to help them remove our stuff from the truck for inspection. The head dick pulled everything out from the truck cab, even searching under the hood and in our air filter. I jokingly asked him if he was going to change our oil too. The other two lackies did a lame search of the cabin and all the closets. TWO HOURS LATER, as it’s getting dark, we realized we couldn’t even get the vehicle permit paperwork here. At every other border, you get your passport stamped and vehicle permit in the same area. But at this border, the permitting office was miles away in a different city. So the next day, unsure if the office would even open because it was a Sunday, we drove the 1.5 hours to get the permit. The bank guy was nice and efficient in giving us our permits but then the same agency morons from the day before didn’t think the paperwork we were JUST ISSUED from the bank were valid. So another hour and a half of waiting for them to be informed of their own laws. Thankfully this was our last border!! Yippppie!!!!!

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+ were welcomed back to Mexico by two back to back stays at Pemexs, the gas station.

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+ came back to Playa Zipolite with Felipa ready and waiting. The beach was much hotter, the breeze was nonexistent but the water was cool and the food delicious. After 3 days, we said a tearful goodbye to the ocean and Hani’s favorite beach. No more beach days in the foreseeable future as we drive further and further north.

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+ arrived at Overlander Oasis in Santa Maria del Tule. We spent a few nights at the OO on our drive north so it felt like a small homecoming this time around. Calvin greeted us with open arms and we met some other travelers heading south. We are some tasty meals and it reminded me how much I love Mexican food and missed the culture.

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+ didn’t eat enough tlyudas or drink any mezcal but we did witness a tent occupied Oaxaca. More on that later.

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+ had some very long driving days. We drove the steep mountainous road between Zipolite and the OO (outside of Oaxaca) in one day, 9 hours in total. A few days later, we left the OO and spent 2 long days on the road arriving in San Miguel de Allende.

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+ have rented a cool apartment in San Miguel de Allende until January 7. Anyone want to visit? We are in the heart of downtown, surrounded by the best street tacos, wonderful restaurants and cafés, towering churches, and best of all, our friends Victoria, Jason and their dogs Neli and Maya from Neli’s Big Adventure.

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What I’ll Miss

13 Nov

When we crossed into Mexico one year ago, there was so much about daily life that took me by surprise. How I needed to visit 3 stores just to get everything on my grocery list. Why it was impossible for someone to give correct directions. Now, these once-annoyances are second nature. They are what give Central America it’s charm. The woman serving my meal licking her fingers–I’ll have a second helping please. Taking a long time to explain where to go sans street names and I still get lost–typical, but always my fault according to Hani.

We celebrated a year and a half on the road on October 25. As of today, we’ll have spent one year of that time in Mexico and Central America. Here are some things that I know I will miss dearly once we return to the States, things typical south of the border and of life on the road.
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I will miss…

The obligatory lone flip flop and dirty diaper left on a beach

Waking up in an unfamiliar place with nothing and no one around

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Meeting strangers…because you parked on their land

Making fast friends with people because they are traveling just. like. you.

$5 doctor visits and $2 round of antibiotics

Walking into a pharmacy and getting whatever medication you could possibly want dispensed to you, no questions asked

The culture

Hearing Spanish

Searching for THE BEST spot to park for the night

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Wondering what that man with his back to me is doing then realizing he’s peeing in the street

Cars with a loud speaker announcing a sale of eggs or campaign

Bargaining for everything, including but not limited to keepsakes and handicrafts, clothes, meals, produce, doctor’s visits, medicine, laundry, beer, museum admission, parking, camping spots, water…

Dollar fresh squeezed juice and smoothies with no additives

Drinking said beverage out of a plastic bag with a straw

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Beach venders approaching you selling knock off sunglasses, sarongs, drinks and food

Pick up trucks carrying 15 standing people in the bed

Bombas

Long days of nothing

The wildlife

Sleeping on a slight decline because you can’t get the truck angle just right

Festivals for everything at all hours of the day, even in the middle of the night

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Clos boxed wine, not because it’s good but because it’s $3 and who the hell cares

Foreign currencies that look like fake money

Collecting shells, rocks, and sand

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The smell of fire

Buying Jiff, regular milk, generic whole wheat bread and Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup and not feeling guilty because it’s not the all-natural organic versions

The excitement of finding kale, mushrooms, arugula and other “rare” produce

Jamming to dance music the DJ spins (turn tables, massive speakers and all) in the middle of a grocery

Cooking with limes because lemons don’t exist in Central America

Cattle in the middle of a highway stopping traffic

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Old men with machetes the length of their leg

Using those machetes to “mow” grass

The highway suddenly becoming a narrow road through a teeny town…and it’s market day

Spitting on the floor (in and outdoors)

Women in traditional clothes

Those same women balancing heaping baskets of food or bags of firewood on their head

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Teens (and adults) wearing Aeropostale

Trophy-headstone stores…winning and losing at its best

Town squares

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Soccer fields in every village, no matter how small the village is

Guards armed with massive semi automatic weapons at the entrance to a pharmacy or ice cream shop

7 shacks in a row alongside the highway all selling the exact same one item

People juggling fire at an intersection in a major city

Asking for the wifi password and making sure it connects BEFORE ordering

A long deserted beach all to yourself…until that asshole parks right on top of you blasting crappy music

Topes

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Streets with no name and directions drawn in the dirt with a stick

Vehicles pouring black exhaust into the air

The power of the stamp and border bureaucracy

Making photocopies for inflated rates when the person needing copies has a machine right next to them

Getting clothes handwashed, line dried and folded for $5

The local market, skinned animal carcasses on display and all, where open air stalls sell everything from underwear to bootlegged movies to live animals

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40 cent chocolate covered frozen bananas

Conch fresh from the ocean

The familiarity of eating at McDonalds

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Hearing random B-list 90s music on the radio

Relaxing anywhere, a beach, square, park, national monument, and being bombarded with people selling trinkets

Spying auto hotels off the highway and wondering what is really going on there

Amazing street food for pocket change

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Said street food coming out of questionable half broken down trucks

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Highway-side dining

Walking past a restaurant or food stall and having the entire menu recited aloud in fast succession

Chrome buses and tricked out tuktuks

The leash phenomenon: wandering dog–a kid will kick it. But put that dog on a leash, that same kid will fight his siblings to hold the leash and walk the dog in circles

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I’m excited to…

Have SPACE and be able to do cartwheels INDOORS!!

Blast air conditioning

And then control the temperature of the house

Have a freezer

Drink good wine from a bottle out of a glass

Drink water from the tap

A real steak

Eat real sushi and drink real beer

Not have to scour for a free wifi connection

Be able to just pick up my cell and make a call

Receive mail and physical magazines

Cook what I want to eat for dinner and not what I should make because it’s too hot to use both burners and the oven

See distances in miles and measurements in gallons because I STILL haven’t figured out kilometers and liters

Drive a car. MY car. And drive it over 50 mph

Flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of opening the trap door of our composting toilet or in the waste bin at a restaurant

Have money coming into my bank account

See dogs that are well taken care of and part of a family instead of starving on the street

The familiarity of being home