Direction

I’m in San Miguel de Allende now, sitting in the kitchen area of my hostel, eating a plate of canned pork meat and tortilla chips. I haven’t quite mastered the solo food situation yet.

Tom is my amigo here. He’s 65, and he’s been travelling for about forty years now. He’s been to every country I’ve ever wanted to visit and when he was my age he went to Woodstock. We shared a dorm last night with a Mexican guy who snored louder than I thought was possible for a human being. Tom ended up moving his bed out into the hallway to try and get some sleep. This shit was unbelievable. I had earplugs in and I still had to stop myself from laughing at the sounds this man was making from across the room.

I also learned yesterday that in Mexico it’s apparently the custom to throw your used toilet paper in the trash can rather than flush it. The joys of communal living.

San Miguel is rainy and gray right now, which is comforting for some reason. I think I’m mourning the loss of Fall. I’ve never missed a whole season before.

mp3: Emperor X- Canada Day

I’m a guest in everyone else’s life here. I step on the bus and watch the person in front of me to see what kind of coin they pull out of their pocket to pay the driver. I’m eating cocoa pebbles for dinner and spending most of my time at the library.

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Guanajuato to meet up with a couple from Australia who I met in school. We’re bussing down to Mexico City to go to a music festival that The Strokes are playing. Time is going by, and for some reason that’s surprising to me. I’ve been here a month.

mp3: Curren$y- Job

Whenever I get bummed out and feel like I have no idea what I’m doing here I listen to Curren$y. He’s got it all figured out.

Let Me Tell You About My Boat

I’m living here now. It’s not as much of a spectacle anymore, so It’s gotten harder to write about. I come home and try come up with interesting things to tell everyone back home and then usually just end up watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and falling asleep.

To start with, yesterday was pretty surreal. I had to get up early for school, forgot to do my homework, and missed one of my classes. This was never a big deal in high school but it feels a whole lot shittier when you can put a number on how much money you just wasted. There was a parade, but it turned out to be made up entirely of police officers. It was an army of every kind of cop you can think of. Guys with drug dogs, painted faces, machine guns, bullet-proof vests, whatever. It wasn’t really a fun parade, mostly just a terrifying one. Last night was also bingo night with Juan Carlos, the pudgy excitable conversation teacher, which I missed by an hour. On my way to being late for that, I got shit on by a bird. And that was my day.

mp3: St. Vincent- Neutered Fruit

The night got better, though. Juan Carlos took us up to this bar with a wide open view of the whole city and we sat and watched the sun go down. There are about nine people who I feel really happy being around here. The school is such an odd group. Here’s my best approximation:

-Juan Carlos, the pudgy excitable conversation teacher: Cannot be described except maybe by a recording of his laugh, which I’ll try and get for you at some point.

-The other Juan: An older white guy who lives in Mexico and who I’ve only had a couple of conversations with, but both were about psychedelic drugs.

-Walter: The closest thing to an actual friend I have here. He’s twenty, from Boston, studies Art History, “would rather spend the money on beer.”

-Violeta, the Korean girl: Speaks neither English nor Spanish very well. Uncomfortably hilarious.

-Janet, the Australian: Enjoys Margaritas and takes art classes in her spare time. One of my favorite people to talk to.

-Michael/Miguel: American Ex-patriot. Fluent in German. Learning Spanish to buy land in Chile. Pronounces Spanish words as if they’re German words. Has a cool girlfriend who I don’t remember the name of.

-Sharon: Pronounced “SharrrON!” (roll those r’s.) Retiree. Lives in Guanajuato with her husband. Consistently flustered.

-John: Canadian air force retiree. Biked down here from Vancouver. Buys candy from the little kids with the patchy haircuts who come up to us on the street all the time.

mp3: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- Dynamic Calories

Lately I spend a lot of time reading and sitting outside looking at the city from my family’s house. There’s food and walking and books and spanish classes, and for the most part I’m getting used to the constant stretching feeling in my head. There are people dancing in the square and the university kids are always out on the curb with big pads of paper, drawing buildings. Every day I walk to school on these tiny streets that are mostly stairs, and there’s one house that has a skinny cat in front that hisses at me every time I walk past. A rooster lives in the bushes across the way, and yesterday I saw a couple of dirty geese sitting in the street. I’m getting to know this place. The differences are coming on slow. I’m getting to see how easy it is to just start over. It’s a pretty incredible thing, knowing that I can adjust, that I’ll never be trapped anywhere, that I can do this.

mp3: Dr. Dog- The World May Never Know

Super Real

I had my first day of school today. My host mother walked with me in the morning and marked the way home on the sidewalk with a piece of charcoal. She’s awesome.

The school is beautiful, the teachers are kind, the language is hard. Pretty much the way I imagined it. I have four classes a day, two in a group and two by myself. So far, I like the one-on-one classes more. It seems like people act dumber than they are when they’re in a group, myself included.

I felt the first hint of progress today when I understood almost everything my host mother said to me at lunch. So far I have zero grammar, but I am able to string together meaning from the vocabulary words I recognize. I’m basically mute. I understand, but I can’t speak. It’s going to be nice to come to the end of these few weeks and be able to express myself a little bit. This trip is getting very real. Hard to believe I’m going to be here for three months.

mp3: Real Estate- It’s Real

Te gusta jello, Natan?

I arrived at Leon airport at 5:00 yesterday. Customs has a brilliant little red button that you have to push, which randomly decides whether you get searched. It’s something I feel like I would have thought up when I was six, and I mean that in a good way.

My host family are very kind and patient with the fact that I don’t understand much Spanish. So far I’m great at having conversations about whether I like certain foods. My host mother will take an egg or avocado or bowl of jello out of the fridge and ask “te gustan los huevos, Natan? Te gusta aguacate?” I always say yes, so the amount of food I’ve consumed in the past 24 hours is really pretty amazing.

Today I mostly people-watched in town. There are surprisingly few tourists here. A man was playing Rolling Stones songs in wonderfully fractured english and I sat in the shade for a long time listening. I am happy but very alone. There are costumes everywhere because a lot of Mexican tourists are in town for independence day celebrations. The fireworks never stop. I particularly like watching the parades. All the different musical sections play to their own tempo, so they look beautiful but pass you like a herd of machine gunners.

I haven’t spoken English to anyone since I arrived and I can already feel my brain melting. I know it’ll change. Just gotta keep on trying.

mp3: The Clash- Lost in the Supermarket

Greenville Airport

I am in the Greenville airport and I feel incredibly safe. I have wonderful, comfortable American culture for the next six hours. I have everything I need in my red backpack, a box of chocolates for my host family and a little black bear named Bolivar. I miss my parents already. I’m surprised by how satisfying it is to be on my own, even though I feel like a little kid at the doctor’s office right now. I can already feel how I’m going to get used to my own company. There’s a big similarity in emotional state between what I’m doing and standing on the edge of a cliff. It’s the feeling of needing to actually ignore your emotions in order to do what you need to do. The only way is through.

mp3: Fleetwood Mac- Never Going Back Again