Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Vist to a City Condensed Beyond Belief

El Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park)
Less than 24 hours after landing in Mexico City, I end up dancing solo for a crowd. Go figure.

I was entering Chapultepec Park when I was hailed by a clown (red nose, face paint, big shoes, and all the rest) with a microphone, "¡Oye! ¡Güero!" he yelled. I pointed at my chest, and he said "¡Sí, usted! ¿Hablas Español?" And from there we were off to the races.

I wasn't totally alone-- after having me dance solo he pulled three volunteers/victims out from the crowd to dance with me, plus a team of kids in pairs to compliment the show. I even got to practice some meringue and salsa near the end-- lifts and dips included. Good way to start the day.

That wasn't even the beginning, and it certainly wasn't the end. I've been here since Saturday and have been to multiple parks, ruins, museums, rallies, bars, and I've lost track of what else.

One of the highlights was definitely Teotihuacan. About an hour's bus ride from the City's north terminal, it's arguably the most important archaeological sites in the state, if not the country. And that's saying a lot; this is a place where such sites are so common that you can find pyramid steps in the middle of a subway station. Teotihuacan has two of the biggest pyramids discovered on the continent (yes, of course I climbed them), extensive living quarters between them, well-preserved murals, and more.

I banded together with two girls from the UK and a guy from Mexico City and hired a guide. We learned a ton more than we would have otherwise. Among other things, apparently the world is going to end in the year 2012. There's going to be a massive earthquake when the planets align ("Of course," responded one of my British companions, "just in time for the London Olympics."). Not all of it was quite so ominous. The calendar used by the builders (we think the Olmecs, but to this day, we're not 100% certain) was quite advanced, and the numbers used were everywhere in the place's construction and art. The main route is aligned to precisely on 15.5º east of North. There are acoustics such that our guide often stands on the tops of the smaller pyramids in the evening-- a good distance apart-- and easily converses with the guards standing on any of the others. Some of the pyramids haven't been excavated due to budget shortfalls. If you look behind the smaller exposed pyramids, you'll see some hills about the same height. Those are pyramids that haven't been uncovered yet.

I've uploaded pictures of this and more-- If you look on the sidebar under the map, you'll see a slideshow. I'm still playing with this gadget, so it might get stuck. There's a link underneath the pics to the whole album online.

The rest has been one amazing blur. I'm in a really posh apartment, right on the main drag of the city, with a pair of great hosts, Jorge and Ruben. Not only has my stay been comfortable, but also informative. Jorge is an experienced traveler himself in both Latin America and parts of the Middle East, plus Ruben is from Veracruz, one of the places I'm headed soon. So I've been learning a lot from them both about travel in general and also of course in Mexico City (or D.F. as it's known here). Zona Rosa is a great place for nightlife, but don't go there if you don't want to get hit on by someone of the same gender. The National Museum of Anthropology is one of the very best of its kind, be sure to check out the massive sun stone in the very back room. The Subway system is great, if a bit crowded during rush hour. One speedy trip anywhere in the city costs US$0.20. And watch the Mexican tequila-- it became the first drink, not only to give me a hangover, but to give me a hangover before even getting me drunk, (though I suppose five hours of sleep and four and a half in an airplane might have had something to do with that too).

If I keep writing, I'll be here for hours, and I should leave soon-- early birthday party tonight. I'm already meeting people left and right (funny how travelling alone works that way). Tomorrow, I'm headed east to Puebla. I just met a med student from there at the Frida Kahlo museum, so with any luck, I'll be able get beyond the tourist bubble there too.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Joel,
    I wrote a note a few minutes ago, but I guess it couldn't go through. Just want to encourage you to keep going right to the heart of things. I hope your camera can be replaced soon. It's great to know you are seeing and experiencing life on such a grand scale.

    Keep on truckin' dear.

    Cousin Ann