Sickness

Update from Mexico City

Even though last week's Consume & Update received a lovely compliment, the production and content schedule here in Mexico is too daunting to also include a thorough perusal of the internet's best in travel and blogging. Instead, I'll make this Sunday Update all about the job with ProjectExplorer, on location in Mexico City.

Update on Nomadderwhere

The job is stellar. After landing on Tuesday, we've been hitting up the awe-inspiring sites of Mexico City. Day one of filming involved some awesome team work next to the Diego Rivera murals at El Palacio Nacional. I settled into my role of photographer happily, because for some reason, seeing things for the first time involves my eyes, my walking legs, my inquisitive hands, and the necessary appendage of my camera. Is that weird that I just called my hands inquisitive?

Teotihuacan

Day two was our most hectic production day, with a schedule packed with everything archaeological (thanks to the lovely INAH for that one). I banked on getting a mad Stairmaster-style workout on the Pyramid of the Sun, but then I heard some rumblies in the tumblies. Uh oh.

Yeah, coincidentally enough this child with incredibly distant Spanish ancestry felt the strike of Montezuma's Revenge upon reaching his once-powerful kingdom. I felt, well, not so good. And as the day progressed, my stomach pains became more extreme. Eventually I zonked out in the van while the crew captured the amazing Museum of Anthropology - our driver, Hector, watching over me like a suave and silent man of might.

Enrique's Book

Let's just say things passed. I recovered quickly, thanks be to Tums, Gravol, and the power of sleep (and showers). And how lucky was it that my bout of food poisoning only lasted a day, when the next evening involved a five-star dining experience under the very eye and hand of celebrity chef Enrique Olvera. Enjoying a life-changing meal at Pujol, paired with the colorful descriptions of Vijaya and the brilliant additions by Ruth Alegria, my stomach was able to forgive me for the poorly stored cheese from the previous dinner.

I think the following three days spent at Xochimilco and Coyoacan deserve their own time in the limelight.

Note to Regular Nomadderwhere Readers: My posting schedule will be changing while on location as to reflect the content of the trip, the reflections I have of the experience, and the time I can commit to my own site. If you'd like to stay on top of the ProjectExplorer on-site experience, check out the videos I'm cranking out, along with the crazy crew, at ProjectExplorer's Youtube channel. Also, keep an eye on my Flickr account for the most recent photos of production.

Photos © ProjectExplorer.org, 2010

Sick as a Donkey: Day 61

That'll do, Donkey.

Holy mackerel, Mykonos ripped my body apart and threw it to the seagulls. With every passing minute on the ferry, my head swirled against the motions of the waves and filled with pain. My cough was extreme. I went through three toilet rolls blowing my nose dry. And it's so sad, when your body becomes a victim to disease on the road, but I tried to wipe away my horrifying expression and enjoy as much as possible this most anticipated destination: Santorini. Here's what one can expect from Santorini... -All civilization lies at a high elevation on the island. It takes a while to get places. -Buildings really do cling to the cliffs and present those beautiful cityscapes. -The beaches are both calm and crazy and all are clothing optional. -Scooter and ATV rentals abound, making it very easy to get around and love where you are

Climbing elevations caused my head to throb. I could barely open my eyes to the gorgeous sunset falling over the rooftops. And without the ability to open my eyes, I couldn't rent a scooter and therefore discovered no beaches. Sadly, I did not see Santorini the way it was meant to be seen. But I did spend a lot of time in an air-conditioned room watch samurai movies and Major Payne.

My weary body did, however, muster up enough energy (after 18 hours of rest) to go on the optional tour with the group: to walk over the Santorini volcano, swim in hot springs, and ride a donkey from the water to town. Views were blue, rocky, and gorgeous at every glance, and luckily, the heavy smell of sulfur in the hot springs had no affect on me. I could barely breathe, let alone smell! We covered our faces in hot mud from the floor of the hot springs, and my struggling complexion caught a break with its healing effects. And finally, we boarded stubborn donkeys at the base of the cliff, only to laugh and scream all the way up. They would run, stop, bite each other, squeeze our legs against walls and other donkeys, and I couldn't help but make as many "ass" puns and donkey references as humanly possible. I laughed and was momentarily cured of my ailment. But I expended my days worth of energy and returned to shower, sleep, and watch amazing movies once more.

Santorini has the parties and the peace. I wish I could have experienced and loved both, but instead I dealt with the realities of travel: the occasional disease caused by exhaustion. It happens, and you can either ignore it (and suffer later) or take your vacation in sips, saving up energy for the moments that really make the trip. Now I know Santorini should be done...for next time...when I'm fit and ready.

Healing the Sniffles in Bangkok: Day 194

A cold front came through my immune system, and I felt an incredible amount of "build-up" form in my throat and nose. Delicious. Throughout the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, I attempted to sleep off the imminent sickness, knowing I wouldn't get to shut my eyes until at least 6 or 7am the following morning. Transit days…there's nothing like 'em.

It took a solid day, and a border crossing on foot, to make the overland jaunt to the Southeast Asian hub of economy, excitement, shopping, etcetera. I planned on finding a place to throw my bag for a couple hours and enjoying the backpacker alley known as Khao San Road to the best of my sickly ability.

The street was a pedestrian strip akin to a lively Spring Break destination or a modest Hong Kong/Las Vegas stretch. Overstimulation, indeed.

Thanks to some quick guide book perusal the night before, I knew where to eat if I wanted something authentic, albeit established. Sitting on the floor of Mama Something-or-Other's, I blew my nasal brains out while waiting for a hot bowl of broth and a cold lassi. The comfortable ambiance of sitting on floor cushions made me feel welcome enough to camp out here all night, updating blogs on the once-again functioning Blackberry and developing Christmas lists for family and friends, the items on which to be purchased on the streets below. I resisted the temptation to hang for a little adventure.

I had four or five hours to wander and roam, and so I committed massive chunks of time pushing through racks of locally made punk t-shirts, finding the perfect patch vendor and picking his brain for advice on taxi-to-airport scams, and indulging in a Thai massage.

For roughly $12, I received a wow-inducing foot rub and Thai body massage that nearly knocked me into a state of sub-consciousness. My head rolled to the side and jerked back up into reality while my feet received powerful knuckles of pressure release. Upon going upstairs to a communal quiet room for body cracking and loosening, my nose became a gushing falls during wet season. It was all I could do to avoid making a mess on the cushions or create a nasty nasal symphony in this place of meditation. I got by with a monster handful of napkins from my dinner joint.

I continued to wander well into the wee hours and kept my wits about me, often looking back to make sure no one was following me or going to peek out from a nook in the alley. However, I felt incredibly safe in this atmosphere, regardless of the lingering teens around hotels and bars, the constant police sweeps, and certain extra attention given to me by a healer on the street.

A man with a flashy belt buckle, a Robin Hood hat, a cut off slim t-shirt, and the tightest denim shorts I'd ever seen sat gawking at the passersby from his perch on a self-brought folding chair in the road. He was roughly 60, and his comments often involved the "F" word, some mentioning of an individual's energy or chi, and a loud cry guessing what embarrassing thing that person was off to do. I'd quote him now to give you an idea, but I think I was in shock of this crazy man.

He called to me as I passed by, telling me I should smile more and to come sit down by him for a while. He wants to talk to me, help me out…F this F that I don't want to take your money. Who do you think I am?

He seemed fun. I sat down.

As he continued to watch the people going about their nightly business, he discussed with me why he thought I was upset and full of acid (not acid the drug, mind you). Two liters of acid I had in me; that's what he said. He was a tantric healer, and since he had already made his day's pay, he would give me a cleansing for free. Only 45 minute.

Naturally, I was skeptical and shook my head "no" every time he offered.

Another woman walked by, a Croatian, who remembered this man from nights previous, heard his calls to her and came over. He began telling her all the things he remembered of her since she had come to Khao San Road. He'd seen her walking with friends, boys and girls, and asked about all things personal and shameful. After concluding that she had even more liters of acid than I had, the much more courageous woman allowed him to heal her there on the street. It was 2:45am.

I won't give you a play-by-play of his techniques, but the one that made me want to cry, scream, and vomit simultaneously needs to be mentioned. The tantric healer sealed his mouth over her nostrils and blew as hard as he could into her sinuses. Her face turned a purple beyond red. Her mouth open, she immediately began coughing up a storm and spitting beside her chair. I believe she even let him do it one more time.

For one brief moment, I sniffed up the build-up still in my nose and considered getting a quick purge from Mr. Chi here, but before that idea became a thought bubble he could possibly detect, I shivered at the thought and held tight to my "no" head shake.

His explanations of what was wrong with me went on, and I guess I like to think there's some mystical Eastern power that presides in the gifted few that make this their profession because I found myself almost believing him. I was not about to let him make out with my runny nose, though, or perform any number of the tricks that happen off the main thoroughfare in his "studio"; I left him to his work and went for noodles.

Bangkok was a quick excursion and one that instilled in me an intense longing to return to Thailand for at least months. There were beaches and mountains and jungles and alleyways to soak in. This country would be a quick escape I would plot in the back of my mind while working in a gray cubicle on the 10th floor of an art deco building in Somewhereville, USA.

That is…if I could survive the ride to the airport.

I used my recently obtained knowledge to get the right price on a cab to the airport, a newly-built facility that measures almost a kilometer in length. The driver asked if I wanted to take the city streets or the highway. I said, honestly, "Whatever's cheaper. I only have this much." I had the perfect amount that would account for a fair fare and a decent tip. He proceeded to book it on not just the highway but the roads leading to the on-ramp.

I kid you not, we were approaching stop lights going 80 mph.

Our top speed was around 100 mph on the highway. The speed limit was around 60, to accommodate the scattered waves in the pavement that sent my stomach into my bowels.

He traversed the straight, multi-lane highway like it was a winding road, making sure he wouldn't get behind a car crawling at speeds of 50 and 60 mph. This would have been the moment where you and your travel buddy exchange looks that say, "We may die tonight." Instead, I sat alone in the back middle seat, grasping my seat belt with white knuckles, and staring into the rear view mirror with saucer-like eyes.

This was the last night of my solo journey before boarding the flight that eventually took me to all sorts of home. Home with a layover to see familiar faces, home with a layover to reconnect with my bloodline, and home to my actual geographic region of birth. I was jones-ing for morsels of the familiar, but with such a homecoming comes the complete termination of my fantasy world no one from home knows about: my travels.

I accepted this sad reality, reluctantly, with heavy eyelids and a massive sigh into slumber, stretched across four seats on my flight to Tokyo.

Finding melodies in malady: Day 168

Finding melodies in malady: Day 168

I barely slept on the night train and eventually took a seat at the window, once the sleeper car had become alive again. The atmosphere outside infiltrated my senses with green, cool, and an absence of the decay of Delhi and Agra. In those few early moments, I had a breakfast of rural fulfillment. I sat bearing witness to the dawn activity of farmers, their wives, and their vivacious offspring. The women never ceased carrying heavy loads of sloshing mud, fire wood, or other awkwardly-carried weight around. Had the train been going slow enough, I would have considered the tuck and roll, careful to guard my packet of crackers. I was, somewhat regrettably, rolling into Varanasi.

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...aaaand I'm sick again

Man, when the girls from Wabash get together, mayhem ensues. When the Colts go to the Super Bowl, I lose my voice but keep going.

But when I babysit for two kids that have me pulling my hair out, my body finally takes a beating. And now I am drinking my food through a straw while watching a Rocky marathon in my basement. Super.

The amount of time I'm spending on my packing list is astronomical. I should put these research skills on my resume. I have eight more days of this wonderful sitting and preparing before we head off on a family vacation...makes me want to soak up all the depressing Indiana atmosphere I can. Hopefully this is the last time I'm sick like this until at least late May because that would be my definition of a tragedy...bed ridden in Rio. I'm already missing my 90 roommates and that beautiful B-town landscape.

Here's to T minus 8 days.

By the way, Rocky just knocked out Clubber Lang.