Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Extremely Unlikely Encounter

On Saturday, August 1st, Erin and I flew from Merida to Mexico City. Apart from being a tad bumpy, it was a completely normal, two or so hour flight... until we landed.

When our plane docked at the terminal and everyone stood up, I began my compulsory scanning of the people around me. After about a minute or two, someone several yards in front of me caught my eye. The profile looked extremely familiar, and then he turned to look at me. Our eyes locked in a confused stance for a period of time that, while short, would normally have been well over the awkward stranger stare. Then he smiled, snapped his head up in a quick, salutatory nod, and lightly yelled "Como estas!?". I couldn't respond as I had started laughing, returned the nod, and then turned to Erin to tell her who was on the plane. It was Ricardo, a Mexican classmate of ours for several levels in our Italian study in Florence!

When we deplaned, we met in the terminal, all completely stunned smiles and laughs. I had forgotten that Ricardo lives in Merida, and it just so happened that he was on the same flight as us to visit his family in Mexico City. I'm not much of a believer in destiny, but Mexico City is either the second or third most populated city in the world; home to some 22,000,000+ inhabitants.

I sorely regret that we didn't think to get a picture with him in the rush and haze, but we exchanged emails and will be in contact. This leaves me with two concrete goals: reestablish contact with some of the other classmates from Italy, and strengthen my Spanish to a respectable level.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I Could Live (almost) Anywhere

Earlier this evening, Erin and I were sitting in Cafeteria Pop, a small coffee shop in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Erin had a rich coconut ice cream doused with Kahlua, and I a simple espresso. It was a fantastic pair. Merida is an active city; much more alive than the places we had come from, and this is a welcome change. I gazed out the window in sheer satisfaction as the setting sun cast dancing shadows on the brilliantly colored facades of the adjacent buildings (a staple of Merida's external decor). During these seconds of bliss, a thought that recurs to me frequently, especially while traveling, paid a not-so-unexpected visit to my thought stream: I could live anywhere.

Let me declare two excepting rules:

1) Anywhere outside of the United States. I am not anti-american, and this rule has nothing to do with political views or socioeconomic factors. It has everything to do with cultural, linguistic, and general anthropological factors. In the U.S. there is for me, very little in the way of mystery. Yes, there are many adventures to be had, but the adventures I seek extend beyond camping in the forest or hiking in mountains. The thrill comes for me in the coalescence of and assimilation into a culture not my own.

2) Anywhere in which my health or general safety would not be at significant risk. These would include primarily states I perceive as hostile towards foreigners, and Americans in particular. A few current examples would be Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and probably Iran. It does pain me to name so many Middle Eastern countries as they tend to possess such drastically opposing world views, and it is being in the presence of such views that make the experience so deeply satisfying. There are specific ones that do not fall in this list however, including Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, possibly Egypt and possibly Morocco.

As expected, our time in Mexico has reinforced my simple fascination with language, with every street sign, advertisement, billboard, passerby, hotel worker and street performer now objects of my close observation. My command of Italian has served me here, but more so in understanding the grammatical structure of sentences. The vocabularies, expressions, and of course, vocalizations are very different. I've committed a few grammatical pieces to memory, including the auxiliary verb conjugations (haber/ser), formation of the present, simple past, imperfect tenses, and the progressive mood. With these I've increased my conversational Spanish a good bit on this trip, and have been convicted to study the language a bit more formally (at the risk of wreaking utter havoc on my Italian). Don't get me wrong, I can say I speak Italian, but my Spanish is only a hair above abysmal. It is time to remedy this.

In a few minutes, Erin and I will be off to the Universidad de Yucatan for a local cultural show, and after that it will be dinner at Amaro, acclaimed for its vegetarian dishes. This should be a fantastic evening.

Hasta luego!