A new chapter is starting in my life... but I have no idea yet what it will be called, though perhaps this is always the case unless one is blessed with uncommon prescience or cursed with absolute predictability in life. I will be travelling to Latin America (via San Fran) and then back 'home' to Southeast Asia (via Dubai) over the course of 5-6 months. I hope to share (some of) my stories with you as they unfold.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In San Francisco now, recovering, resting. I’ve finished my journey through Latin America, richer for the experience, though somewhat poorer according to my bank.

My last week in Mexico was excellent, in Michoacan to visit “the new volcano of Paricutin” (quite extraordinary) and spend a few days on the beach at Maruata where I planned to meet my friend Karl (over from England for a week) but we utterly failed to find each other even though we were both in the same village at the same time! Nevertheless, all turned out well because Karl got to see more of Mexico and I got to know Vincenzo, a sound Italian chap – a Mexican tourist came up to us saying we were such a strange sight, a Chinese man and an Italian speaking a mixture of Spanish and Italian...

And my final weekend in Mexico City was fantastic too, with Ben & Yasmina (my friends in the city), and Karl, and Callum. I continued to be a novelty for the locals – in Teotihuacan, there was a big group of schoolchildren who treated me as though as I were a celebrity (I now somewhat understand the hardship of celebrity!) and in Xochimilco the mariachis were the ones taking pictures of us! Quite entertaining really.

I’ve see much, learnt much during the journey. It’s been a surprise how diverse the indigenous people are, especially in terms of language, because different groups migrated to the Americas from Asia at different times. I’ve been collecting some indigenous words in a few places and the differences are fascinating – for example, “good morning” is “sakcari” in Tz’utujil (around the lake of Atitlan in Guatemala), “nas eransco” in Purepecha (in the highlands of Michoacan) and “kinamikilanesepampadios” in Nahuatl from the coast of Michoacan!

In summary...

From Mexico, I will always remember the great friendliness and curiosity of the people, the energy of Mexico City, the cultural treasures (Hispanic and earlier), the delicious food especially in Oaxaca!

From Cuba, I gained an extraordinary perspective into a different way of life. One has to admire the nobility of the vision of the Revolution, the humanity of a society where all the fundamentals (basic food, healthcare, education, housing, employment) are available to all, the drive to minimize waste / recycle / reuse that the rest of the world would do well to emulate. Of course, there are many problems and many liberties are lacking... but I do hope that they don’t forget what they have especially after Fidel goes...

Finally, Guatemala, a country that will always be dear to me – for the great friends I made there, for Semuc Champey (the most incredible and least describable attraction of the whole trip!), for my teacher Lorenzo who opened the doors of the Hispanic world to me, for Chico, Paulina and Elvira, who were like a second family to me...

Furthermore, many thanks to...

André & Christine, and Ben & Yasmina, for their hospitality and company

Mike & Annegret, for their generosity

Carien & Inge, for a great birthday surprise

and Callum, my first-class travelling companion... it’s been a real pleasure travelling with you!

My friends in London, Dubai and Malaysia… I will see you all very soon!


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