Since my last blog entry, we have been doing many, many activities. It would be impossible for me to describe all of them in detail, so I will do my best to summarize. While at Synergia we were mostly getting ready for Baja, which consisted of preparing the trailer for the trip. We installed the solar panel on the roof and hooked up the wiring to the batteries, packed food, kitchen supplies, tools, camera equipment, and our personal gear so that everything would fit somewhat neatly into the small space. In addition, we packed teas and dried fruit as gifts for the people in Baja that we would be staying with.
We spent much time learning how to use the camera equipment properly, as well as the video, photo, and audio editing software. Any free time was spent filming or recording other people as they went around their tasks of getting ready for the trip. Our day of departure was scheduled a day later than we had planned on, so the hustle and bustle of the final push of packing ended; we had a day to finish packing personal items, and to get our wits about us. The next morning we got up around 4:30, packed the rest of our gear up into the van, and headed out at 5:30.
The ride in the van was long, but not unbearable. We crossed the border into Mexico without incident or too long of a wait, which was surprising because a large 15-passenger van and a trailer could seem suspicious. The trip deeper into Mexico included frequent stops to get tacos or tortillas, all fresh out of the oven, and we could have as many as we wanted so we did not go hungry.
I was struck by the landscape change; it was not what I had expected. It is very dry, but the hills are green with cacti and other various forms of unusual plant life. The housing developments consisted of hillsides that were covered with thousands of little houses of all different shapes and sizes. There were houses that had just been built, or were still in construction, right next to houses that were jury-rigged out of random boards or anything else they could use to assemble a livable home out of. There was a lot of graffiti on almost every wall, however, it added lots of color to the scene. Instead of a large sign in front of a shop, the shops all have entire walls painted colorfully to advertise what they are selling.
The first night in Baja we went to a birthday party of a man named Adrian, the husband of a woman who will be joining us in Scammon’s Lagoon. The party took place in a little “Man Cave” that consisted of a jury-rigged garage with two sliding glass doors and three TV’s, and of 7 or 8 wrinkly beer drinking men, younger sons and relatives. Every one of them was extremely gracious to us, and offered us anything they could give. We had a barbecue, which consisted of Carne Asada, grilled chicken, and various other forms of toppings, most of which had some sort of pepper in them. The meal was very good despite this fact (I’m not a big spice guy) as all genuine Mexican food is in my experience.
That night, it started raining cats and dogs, so we stayed at a little hotel not far away from said Man Cave, then headed out for Bahia De Los Angeles, a little town with only 300 residents mas o menos, farther down the coast. So far we have been here in Mexico for roughly a week, most of our time spent here in Bahia. Yesterday a small group of us hiked to the top of a mountain, Serra Santa Ana, overlooking all of Bahia De Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. It consisted of a winding trail of switchbacks going up along the ridge of the mountain, then turned into a climb over boulder fields and a landscape of funny looking trees and jumping choyas*. It was fairly steep, and the whole endeavor took about 8 hours, but the view was absolutely breathtaking. Photos of the hike are included. We came home to a delicious dinner, and then I went to bed in our palapa on the beach.
This trip has been quite exiting for me, since I have never been out of the United States for more than a day before. The people here are all extremely nice, they offer us anything they can, and they have a very strong culture. They are very eager to tell us about themselves and their families, and want to know about ours as well. I look forward greatly to spending the rest of the month here.
*Jumping choyas are a form of cacti that have many many blonde thorns that break off in little balls once they get dry enough. If you step on one or brush up against one, they stick to you. They are quite sharp and a royal pain-in-whatever-part-of-your-body-you-use-to-try-to-unstick-them-with.
Stopping at a Roadside Fruit Stand
On our third full day of our trip, we stopped at a fruit stand to fill our bags with fresh produce. One of the sellers stepped aside for a moment and returned with a beautiful fruit arrangement. The slices of jicama, cucumber, mango, and coconut made our mouths water as they lay together in the bowl, which, I should mention, was a fresh coconut with all layers still intact! He squeezed the juice from two limes over the fruit and sprinkled Tajin (a combination of chili, salt, and citrus), adding a punch of flavor and a dash of decoration. We gathered around the beautiful treat and ate excitedly, making faces of pure satisfaction as the cool yet spicy deliciousness slid down our throats.
Just as we were about to pull away a man came up to the driver’s window speaking Spanish and pointing to the rear of the van. I assumed that he was asking about the Finding the Good Traveling Semester Program magnetic sign as many others had. It turned out he was driving the same van as ours but had different tires and was asking about our set-up. As we pulled away from the dirt shoulder, I realized that interactions so far in the Mexican culture are different from what I have witnessed in the United States. People seem less afraid of each other here. If someone is curious about something or wants to start a conversation, they do just that.
The sun was setting as we drove the last few hours to our campground in Bahia de Los Angeles. One of the many times I gazed out the dirty van window to see the setting sun, I noticed the colors in the sky, and I realized something about myself. I have yet to be able to put it into words, even in my journal. I can’t quite even define it in my head. The desert is so special and unique. I had never been to a desert before. I am glad that it has become part of my life, and I am curious what part it will play in my future.
So much has happened since we left Nevada City!
Expecta mi proximo blog que este escribido en espanol.
Falling asleep to the soft sound of the rippling waves gently lapping the shore; waking up with the birds and orange sky just after sunrise; breathing the fresh air; feeling the sand between my toes; eating ripe, delicious fruits and vegetables from local markets: I still can hardly believe where I am!
Warm tortillas smothered with butter from the tortilleria; carne asada tacos cooked and made right in front of us; coconuts cut and served with a straw on the side of the road: couldn’t get much better if you ask me. I wish you were all here to enjoy it with us.
I’m currently sitting in my palapa, looking out into the ocean only 20 or so feet away. The mountains and islands are hazed out by mist, and the beautiful colours of the sunset are dancing across the sky. I just can’t believe how beautiful our Mother Earth is! It blows my mind everyday…
So here I am in Baja California, in Bahia de Los Angeles, next to a beach in a palapa and on a hammock. It’s so easy right now to let the peaceful waves wash away the worries, stress and troubles back in the U.S. Right here, right now in this palapa, I am at peace. When I re-enter my community it’ll be like I had never left, my thoughts had never drifted way, my being never left the sandy ground. Immediately the gravity starts to dawn as I see their faces again, and… there I am. The stress of high school, being in my place, doing my job, and keeping up with their expectations. It’s a dance and I step to the beat as well as I can.
Sitting on the beach with the ocean just a few feet away, I realize that we have officially been in Mexico for over a week now. It feels like we’ve always been here and will always be here, but when I think about it I sometimes wonder how we’re going to do everything we came here to do. Yesterday it took me all afternoon to write two letters, but I know that somehow we’re going to make an entire movie while we are here.
That’s not to say we haven’t been busy. On our way to Bahia we stopped at an unstaffed “roadside attraction” to visit 10,000 year old cave paintings; our third night here we listened to the Gorillaz at a Mexican man’s 21st birthday party; and every day we wake up to the sun rising over the ocean and sand everywhere (thus far a not unenjoyable experience, but I don’t want to speak too soon and jinx myself).
My days mostly revolve around figuring out how to keep 12 people well-fed and happy, a dance that involves making our produce last until the next opportunity to resupply but also eating it before it molds in this heat. Interspersed between one meal’s prep and clean-up and the next are shell-scouting expeditions, conversation about how we as humans tend to only value nature as it is useful to us (my favorite phrase so far: “We are seduced by the cleverness of our own abstractions”), and fumbling attempts at learning Spanish, which continue to be hobbled by my high school German wanting to come out instead.
I feel pretty settled into this campsite, with our luxurious palapas, cabana, propane stove, sinks with running water, and outhouse. At the same time I know that while it feels like this is the only place that exists in the world, in a few days we’ll leave for Scammon’s Lagoon and the next stage of the journey. I wonder how I’ll continue to feed everyone and what unexpected things may happen.