Monday, September 15, 2014

Guanajuato, donde empezará mi aventura


Cuando le digo a alguien sobre mis planes de viajar por México en el 2015 siempre me preguntan a dónde viajaré y a qué me dedicaré durante el año. Preguntas razonables.

Y a la mayoría de la gente, después de que les digo que no tengo un horario detallado — ni aún cuál ciudad en cuál mes específico — expresa sorpresa. Solo en algunas ocasiones, me encuentro a una persona que entiende la idea de viajar como mochilero, sin planes fijos, mudándome a cualquier lugar que me interesa.

Pero esta falta de horario me encanta. La llamada de una aventura inesperada. No entiendo por qué esta idea es algo tan increíble. Es una narrativa tan común como la del "road trip" americano, ¿no?

Sin embargo. Lo único que yo sé por cierto es que quiero empezar mi aventura en la ciudad de Guanajuato, en el estado central del mismo nombre. Forrest y yo fuimos allí en julio — sólo por 2 días, pero la ciudad nos parece encantadora.

He leído mucho sobre Guanajuato antes de nuestras vacaciones cortas, y fue todo lo que he esperado. (Casi nos dejamos de San Miguel de Allende, la ciudad tan popular con los expatriados americanos, para regresar a Guanajuato por 2 días más, nos gusta tanto.)

Es una ciudad vieja, construida por los españoles por sus minas de plata. Geográficamente, está ubicado en un cañón. Existen túneles debajo de todo el centro histórico, donde va la mayoría del tráfico de los coches. Por esa razón, la zona histórica es sorprendentemente seguro para los caminantes. En el área más central, el zócalo que se llama El Jardín, no se permite ningún coche.

En espíritu mexicano verdadero, los superficies de los edificios son un caos de colores vibrantes. A mí no me parece muy bonito, pero sí me da algo de ánima por la energía de tantos colores. :) Las calles estrechas son empedradas, y por todos lados hay callejones aún más estrechas que serpentean entre las casas antiguas.

Una tradición turística y divertida es la "callejoneada," un paseo por los callejones guiado por una banda con guitarras y otros instrumentos musicales. Entretienen a los clientes con canciones y chistes procaces. :P Este dura por más de una hora, y creo que ocurre cada noche del año; no sé cómo se adapta la gente de la ciudad al ruido constante! Pero es muy divertido y te la recomiendo. :)

Hay una universidad en el centro, así que la edad mediana es un poco más joven, por causa de todos los estudiantes que viven allí. También es popular la ciudad con los turistas mexicanos (pero no tanto con los americanos). Así que hay mucho que hacer, y las cosas son baratos también.

Es casi ideal (para mí) para el comienzo de mi aventura.

Corrected by Aldebaran.


When I tell people about my plans to travel in Mexico in 2015, they always ask me where I plan to go and what I'll do during the year. Reasonable questions.

And most people, after I tell them that I have no detailed schedule - not even which cities in which specific months - they're surprised. Only occasionally do I find someone who understands the idea of backpacking without fixed plans, going to any place that interests me.

But I love this lack of schedule. The call of an unexpected adventure. I don't understand why this idea is so incredible. It's as common as the American "road trip" narrative, isn't it?

Anyway. All I know for certain is that I want to start my adventure in the city of Guanajuato, in the central state of the same name. Forrest and I went there in July - only for 2 days, but the city was enchanting.

I'd read a lot about Guanajuato before our short vacation, and it was everything I expected. (We almost left San Miguel de Allende, the city so popular with American expatriates, to return to Guanajuato for 2 days, we loved it so much.)

It's an old city, built by the Spanish for its silver mines. Geographically, it's located in a canyon. There are tunnels beneath the historic center of town, where most of the traffic goes. For that reason, the historic area is surprisingly safe for pedestrians. In the central area, the plaza is called The Garden, no cars are allowed.

In true Mexican spirit, building surfaces are a riot of vibrant colors. I do not think it looks very pretty, but so many colors are energizing. :) The narrow streets are cobbled, and everywhere there are even narrower alleys that wind between the old houses.

A touristy and fun tradition is the "callejoneada," a stroll through the alleys led by a band with guitars and other musical instruments. They regale guests with songs and ribald jokes. :P This lasts for over an hour, and I think it happens every night of the year; I don't know how people in the city adapt to the constant noise! But it's great fun and I recommend it. :)

There's a university downtown, so the average age is a bit younger, because of all the students living there. The city is also popular with Mexican tourists (but not so much with American tourists). So there's a lot to do, and things are cheap too.

It's almost perfect (for me) for the beginning of my adventure.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

2015: My Year Abroad

Since my first trip abroad, to Spain one summer with my high school class, I've longed to live abroad for a substantial time period. I've wanted the adventure, the thrill of being in a different environment, the mental challenge of being immersed in a foreign language and foreign culture.

I made one more short trip to Spain with my mom, and I spent three weeks in Oaxaca (in southern Mexico), attending a language school and participating in the life of a homestay family there. I wanted to take a half year — an entire year — and really live somewhere else.

But I graduated college without doing any study abroad. It just never fit with the class schedule for my major. I started working full time. I got married, bought a house. Although I still wanted to have that adventure, it seemed increasingly likely that it just wasn't ever going to actually work out. The timing never seemed right, and I saw no reason why the timing would get any easier.

Yet I would still wistfully mention it to Forrest. To his credit, he consistently told me I should do it. I just felt like it wasn't something that could reasonably happen in reality.

When I started describing such a trip as something I'd regret never doing, Forrest finally told me that while he didn't have the same live-abroad wanderlust that I did, I shouldn't let that stop me. He told me I should just make it happen already. At which point, I started talking to people about when I would spend a year abroad, rather than if. It's amazing how much difference a single word can make, even just in my own mind.

So after spending almost half my life (damn! I make myself feel simultaneously old and young!) wanting this, and spending the past year seriously turning to the practical and logistical side of things, I am finally going to make it happen.

Many of my friends and family — and any strangers foolish enough to express any interest ;) — have already heard some portion of my plans. It's been over a year since my last blog post; this seems like a suitable "announcement" to break that silence:

I will be spending 2015 in Mexico!

I'm going to be rather busy up until I actually leave. I'm no longer at Google, and Forrest gave his notice earlier this month, so we're planning to do some traveling together before I go off on my own adventure.

In September, I'm spending the weekly camping at Lake Wenatchee State Park with friends, attending CatalystCon West (a sexuality/sex-positive/education/activism con) in LA, and meeting up with the old Jambool gang to go wine tasting 4 years post-acquisition. Then, mid-October, we're going to Disneyland with Jambool-Ben and his friends.

On either side of the Disneyland trip, Forrest and I will visit family in California At the very end of October, we're then heading to Baja with my parents. They'll road-trip with us for ~2 weeks then head back while Forrest and I continue wandering around the peninsula. We'll will return to California in time for Thanksgiving, and also spend Christmas and New Year's with family.

Once January 2015 rolls around, I'll be heading for the city of Guanajuato and the start of my one-year Mexico adventure!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Livescribe 3 Smartpen

First use of Livescribe 3 smartpen
First use of Livescribe 3 smartpen

I've rediscovered how much I enjoy writing things out long-hand, and I'd like to get back into journaling regularly. But I've also noticed that I tend not to transcribe things into blog posts. It's been over a year since I blogged!

Then I suddenly remembered that "smart pens" were a thing. So I googled what the current state of the world was for smart pens and ended up convincing myself to buy a Livescribe 3.

(I just paused to see what the OCR software made of my natural, unaltered handwriting. Holy shit! Those first two paragraphs above it made zero errors into transcription! It didn't catch the paragraph-break the way I would have typed it manually, but I'll forgive it. It even correctly placed a comma I had gone back in and added after I'd kept on writing. It did miss an apostrophe, but I suppose that one was nearly non- existent. As for underlined words, it just ignored it entirely. Which seems fair. Smileys confuse it, though.)

The docs also say it can be multi-lingual...

Y ahora he cambiado el idioma. Me parece que no es posible escribir en dos idiomas a la vez — debes cambiar los ajustes, que se aplican a una parte? página? cuaderno? Sí es posible re-transcribir algo en otro idioma. Pero no se puede mezclarlos.

Und kann ich auf Deutsch schreiben auch! Sehr toll. :)

Perhaps there shall be more blogging in the future...