Tag Archives: travel

A Shitty Thing to Write About

6 Jun

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It was a bus shelter empanada that made me break that bathroom in Cartagena.

Three hours before consuming it, I was in a seedy cantina with my new friend, Atlanta: an ex-army medic and survivor of the Fort Hood massacre. Atlanta’s PTSD had pushed him to the north east of Colombia where he volunteered at an isolated jungle hostel, periodically returning to civilisation to replenish his stocks of rum and cocaine. It was on one of these trips that we met, striking up a conversation as he urinated on a police car—the sort of introduction you can only have in Cartagena. After an evening of mayhem and laughter, he decided to smuggle me back to the Sierra Nevada, too.

We found a bus shelter hidden in a laneway that, for reasons unknown, was still selling tickets in the middle of the night. We asked the emaciated Morlock behind the counter for two on the early bird bus to Buritaca.

“And,” I added as an afterthought, “one of those empanadas.”

“I wouldn’t eat that,” Atlanta said, eyeing my Colombian surrogate midnight kebab.

He had a point: it’d been baking under a heat lamp like George Hamilton for the better part of the millennium, and the hands that plucked it from the cage were varnished with grime. Nevertheless, I took a bite. It was basically Whiskas in shortcrust pastry; and while a reasonable person might think, ‘Yuk, if I wanted to eat something crusty and fishy, I could just track down Lindsay Lohan and have a gnaw on her’, I was too stubborn to admit that he was right. So I forced it down with the vigour of a dickhead.

Back at the hostel, I clambered into my bunk, set an alarm for quarter past dawn, and dropped into sleep.

My stomach woke me before the alarm could. Apparently the piscine abomination I’d just consumed was so fetid that my body’s only option was to violently expel it. Right. Fucking. Now.

I vaulted off the bunk with an athleticism that I don’t possess and spent the next hour trudging to the bathroom and back until I gave up and lay on the floor, my head resting on the tiles, breathing shallowly through my mouth like a pregnant kelpie. I was okay with this—what little pride I had was lost when vomit had leaked through my fingers when I didn’t make it off the bunk in time.

And, on a side note, I’d like to apologise to the girl in bunk number seven. If you send me the dry-cleaning bill, I’ll reimburse you.

At about 3:45a.m., my belly gave the sort of ominous rumble that tells you to find a toilet, trash receptacle, or tin-can of sorts. Exhausted, but desperate, I grasped the side of the sink, intending to use it to lift my turgid carcass from the floor. As I pulled myself up, the basin came out from the wall, separated from the porcelain column it rested on, tottered elegantly in midair for a moment or two, and then crashed to the ground like Newton’s apple.

So—to recap—I was trapped in a bathroom wearing a Peter Alexander singlet in fetching, vomit-fleck yellow, and men’s Target-brand boxer shorts with an erroneous, easy access crotch panel. Half-digested Nemo could be found in my hair. My hands clutched part of a sink with the remainder scattered in shards around me, and, to be honest, I probably smelt like a sex crime.

My stomach rumbled.

Oh, and I still needed to go.

The remainder of the basin dropped from my fingers.

 

Shortly later, I snuck to the reception for confession.

The night porter was sitting at the desk, his feet crossed at the ankles, a block of chocolate resting on his belly. He was engrossed in his laptop, which was playing pornography. He jumped when I approached him, dropping his chocolate (which is a nice euphemism for what I’d just been up to myself, really), adjusting his glasses and offering an uncertain, “Hola?”

I attempted to explain in manic Spanglish, trying to highlight the fact that I hadn’t intended on smashing the bathroom like Keith Richards on crack, but an empanada (“Which might have been cat food. You know, el gatto.”) caused me to vigorously evacuate everything from my system which had, inadvertently, caused me to break the bathroom.

Perdon?”

“I’m not on drugs you know,” I babbled. “Honestly.” For some reason it was very important to me that he know this. “I mean, I know it’s Colombia but I’m not.” I blinked, my anxious eyes jittering across his face. “I promise. But the bathroom is—”

From the desk, the naked woman on the laptop let out a moan. We both glanced at it. With one hand he slammed the lid.

“—completely fucked.” I finished.

He explained that his English was not very good, and even if he spoke fluently, he’d struggle to cohere the nonsense that I was hurling at him, so I should just shut the fuck up and show him whatever the hell I was ranting about.

To paraphrase.

I led him to the bathroom, head bowed like a war widow. He looked in. Coughed. Crossed himself.

I glanced up.

The toilet hadn’t flushed properly.

Fuck.

“The other bathroom,” he began, a smirk on his lips. “She is okay?”

I frowned. “I guess so.”

He locked the door. “Then use other bathroom tonight.”

That was it?

Wait—that was it?

He just shut the fucking door? I could have done that! In fact, why didn’t I just do that?

“They fix in morning. Now it’s late. You sleep.” He laid a paw on my shoulder and, remembering the porn, I tried not to think of where it had been.

“You need something else?” he asked.

“Do you have any Gastro Stop?”

He frowned. “I don’t know what this is.”

“How about a cork?”

“Goodnight, miss.”

 

The following morning, Atlanta was in hysterics. “I told you not to eat that shit!” he crowed.

“Be kind to me,” I mewled.

Dehydration had pulled my eyeballs into my skull and the soles of my feet were laced with micro-cuts from the porcelain. Brittle and wan, I was shaking like a dild—

…um, like a…llama. With Parkinson’s. Yeah.

I’d run late for the bus, too. Which was total bullshit. Colombians operate on ‘Colombian time’: a vague assemblage of moments distinguished by phrases such as ‘mas tarde’ and the idiom ‘ahorita’, which, to Colombians, means ‘Nowish…ish.’ It’s impossible to be behind schedule when even a nebulously binding reference to time is abstract. This bus driver was apparently a German expat because Atlanta had to bribe him to wait for my leaky arse.

“You want drugs?”

I peered at him through knock-off Raybans. “You think cocaine fixes everything.”

“I’m not sharing that. I mean these,” he fossicked in his pockets, dropping loose tobacco, receipts, lint, and lighters on my lap before presenting a battered pill packet.

I turned it over. “Codeína?”

He nodded.

“You want me to take,” I squinted at the packet, “sixty milligrams of codeine for food poisoning?” In a distant part of my brain, my nurse training came online. “I don’t think it’s indicated for that.”

“Codeine causes constipation,” he began with forced patience.

It’s true, codeine can turn chia seeds into concrete…and we had eight hours before we reached Buritaca…

“If nothing else, it’ll help you sleep. Keep the pack,” he grinned. “I’ve got shitloads.”

That pill packet would resurface a year later on a bus in Nepal.

 

My gorgeous sister and I had travelled through there in January and—aside from a slightly rapey overnight train, a pair of sunglasses landing with a squelch in a squat toilet, and a clutch of hysterical pilgrims that nearly swallowed my blanket-wielding sibling whole—we’d navigated it without incident. I even swam through crap and corpses in the Ganges, managing to emerge free from sin and dysentery. So when I kissed my sister goodbye in Pokhara, feeling bulletproof, I did what any cocky tourist would do: I gave salmonella prevention the middle finger and ate a discounted hamburger.

The following day, when the rancid meat was somewhere in my jejunum, I boarded a bus to Kathmandu, fragile and cranky. Initially, my ire was blamed on the obnoxious Americans behind me: the ones comparing the selfies they’d taken with malnourished, haunted, but tentatively hopeful Cambodian orphans on their recent poverty-porn world tour. At the first rest stop—with six hours left on a bathroomless bus—I sprinted off to abuse a roadside toilet. It then became as clear as the second line on a pregnancy test that I was screwed.

Buying a bottle of water, I downed the Colombian codeine along with a handful of Gastro-Stop, hoping to calcify the evil that was incubating within me. It worked and six Gastro-Stops later, I was in Kathmandu.

I disembarked into chaos, knowing that my hostel was somewhere, unsure of where, but trusting HostelWorld’s claim that it was a $3 cab ride away. The first two taxi drivers didn’t know where somewhere was, but could get me everywhere else for $5. I declined, and since they didn’t want to go nowhere, they followed me around until I tersely said that I wouldn’t be going anywhere with them.

The third driver didn’t speak English, but nodded with the sort of earnestness that I find charming. I showed him the address on my iPhone—a move which proved to be as useful as a bathroom door around Oscar Pistorius—he couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t pinpoint where Samjhana Street was in the melee before me. We drove through crowds, sporadically stopping to ask random strangers for directions, my iPhone proffered like pocket-sized oracle. In three Gastro-Stops we found it. I checked in, went upstairs to my room, and passed out on the stained futon.

I awoke just before midnight in a batten-down-the-hatches state that can best be described as ‘gastrointestinal Armageddon’. Throwing open my door, I bolted downstairs to the dingy washrooms. This became my first evening in Kathmandu: a veritable red, white and green kaleidoscope of bad decisions punctuated by a shitty staircase. In desperation, I took my entire stash of Gastro-Stop, something that may have caused mild delirium because I recall kicking open the toilet door at one point and swaggering to the bowl like John Wayne after an enema, snarling, “Hello again, you old bastard. Remember me?”

Even though I’d booked the hostel for three nights, I decided to leave early the next morning, because fuck running up and down stairs like Tom and Jerry. I splashed out on a hotel that had a bathroom in the room, packed my bags, and headed to the front desk.

Not wanting to pay for the whole stay, I approached the clerk with a smile and said, “Hello, my grandfather’s dead. Can I check out?”

In Australia, a family emergency trumps a cancellation fee. In Nepal, it opens up a negotiation. With a small nod of condolence, he tallied my bill, swiped my card, and presented me the receipt as if it were inconsequential: bacon rind given to a hungry dog. I glanced at it.

“You’ve charged me for three nights.”

“Yes.”

“But I’m only staying one.”

“Yes.”

“But,” I paused, trying to direct my thoughts through the fog of fatigue. “Can’t you…?” I trailed off, letting the sentence rot in the air between us like a bag of liposuction fat.

He slid a notepad and pen across the counter. “What is your offer?”

I stared at him. “What?”

“You tell me what you want to pay and then we discuss.”

“But…I,” pause. “No! My—”

“And I’m sorry for that.” He tapped the pad, looking delighted. “Your offer?”

The only offer that felt appropriate was a bucket of dicks for him to suck but I had no idea where to unearth such a treasure—not in Nepal, anyway—so I gave up. I reasoned that the money wasn’t worth the very real danger of shitting my pants mid-negotiation—a tactic that could have worked in my favour, but seemed like the sort of thing I’d ultimately regret.

 

Outside, the streets were still quiet and I stopped at the only pharmacy that was open. I bought the essential narcotics from the white-smocked clerk, neglecting to do the currency conversion in my head. Later that evening, I discovered that he’d charged me roughly three times the amount he was supposed to. A fact which bothered me roughly three times the amount it should have.

Sure, it was a minuscule amount of cash to me but a modest amount to him, but I was vexed: It was wrong, I was just a tourist. And I was sick. Vulnerable. He was taking advantage of that. He was shitting all over me. I had to say something—for colonically-challenged travellers everywhere.

Two days later, lathered into frenzy, I strode to the store with my indignant inner monologue juggling words and phrases in my head like linguistic Sudoku. I stormed up to the pharmacist, struck my fist on the counter, and said—among other things—“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

Yep. Apparently food poisoning turns me into Dorothy from Oz. I mean: who says ‘ought to’ in general conversation? What the fuck was that? Why not just go all-out and put my little soliloquy into iambic pentameter?

At the end of my rant, he was flummoxed. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to find some ridiculous justification for it.

“Madam,” he began delicately. “I’ve never seen you before.”

My first reaction was shock, “What?” which slowly gave way to confusion, “I was just in here the other day,” then realisation, “Oh,” and finally, a throbbing mortification: “You didn’t serve me, did you?”

He shook his head.

I looked around, trying to pick the offender from the line-up of neat men in matching uniforms. “Does your twin brother work here?” I gave what I hoped was a charming, disarming, and completely non-racist smile. “Maybe he served me?”

“Madam, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Okay,” I turned, and then looked back. “Just, you know, don’t overcharge tourists. Not that you do. Because, um, we now know,” grin, “that you don’t.” Pause. “I’m a nurse by the way! Yep. An egalitarian nurse who is totally supportive of refugees and…”

I prattled on like this for a while, determined to dig myself out of the hole I’d just placed myself in.

Perhaps I should have just buried my shit in it instead.

Most cats do that, you know—bury their crap.

But not this one.

This cat flings it into the ether of the internet in a scatological frenzy.

Sharpening claws with a Swiss army knife

24 Jan

Switzerland was a girl that you simply couldn’t feel neutral about.

Ha! See what I did there?

Don’t get me wrong, she was quite friendly; but she was also a European princess, the only daughter of rich parents, who would frequently say offensive, ignorant and moderately hilarious things, then chastise you in a prim voice (“You have no right to speak to me like that!”) when you dared to question her questionable logic.

I’d managed to conduct a few surface conversations with her when I first arrived at The Royale, always with a moderate amount of social lubrication, usually without incident. But, like a cancerous tumor snaking it’s way through your white matter, she would eventually wear me down and annoy the shit out of me.

Bärengraben

There were two things that Switzerland hated in this world: dogs and poor people. And, after a week of incessant teasing from Atlanta and I, I’d say that we now occupy spaces 3 and 4 respectively.

Virtual high-five to my jungle comrade.

Her hatred for poor people became apparent during a conversation Atlanta and I had with her about zoos.

Switzerland: “I think zoos should be banned. It’s completely cruel to the animals.”

Atlanta and I debated with her, bringing up conservation efforts, breeding programs, care for sick and wounded animals that may die out in the wild…

“I don’t care. It’s cruel. Lions should not be suffering in a cage in Switzerland.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “They aren’t really suffering. They’re in large pens being taken care of by people with degrees in zoology. It’s not like they’re living in the ghetto.”

“I don’t agree with it.”

I tried a different tack. “Okay, how about this: not everyone is fortunate enough to travel to the Serengeti to see a lion. Does this mean that they haven’t got the right to see one in their lifetime?”

“I don’t see why animals should have to suffer because some people are poor. It’s not the animals problem that they don’t want to work.”

Yeah. Uh-huh. That’s right- fuck all you poor people.

“It is cruel,” mini-Rinehart continued thoughtfully. “Switzerland is cold, you know. A lion has no business being there.”

“I had no fucking idea it was cold in Switzerland,” I snapped. “Thank you for the geography lesson.”

Pet Semetary

Switzerland fell in love with a stray cat that occasionally hung out at The Royale. It was a horrible little black thing that I christened Church due to the fact that it looked like it had come from the wrong end of the Pet Semetary. Switzerland would cuddle it, coo at it, and feed it spoonfuls of her dinner. From her fork. While she was still eating. When Atlanta and I began to wind her up she would retreat to the hammock, holding the cat like a security blanket, glaring at us, and smacking the nose of any canine that came within a ten feet radius of her precious pussy.

One lunch, as she was feeding the beast prime backstrap beef that had been cut from a freshly slain cow that morning, Atlanta was watching her in bemused horror. He elbowed me and whispered drily, “I’m sure there’s some local Colombians who would like that meat. I’m going to kick that cat so fucking hard when she leaves.” He paused, then said loudly, “CC, did I ever tell you the story about the cat empanada that I was served?”

“Cat? As in cat food?”

“No, as in cat meat. El gatto.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true. There were no pollo empanadas left so I ate cat. Doesn’t taste too bad, actually.”

Switzerland spooned a mouthful of soup, willfully ignoring us.

“You’re not doing that cat any favours by feeding it, you know,” Atlanta piped up.

“Why?” she asked, stroking the creatures head.

“Because you are taking away it’s ability to procure food for itself.”

“It’s a domestic animal.”

I took up the bait. “He’s right. That’s why you can’t feed the birds in wildlife parks, they lose the ability to hunt. That cat is going to wind up starving to death if you keep feeding it.”

“Cats don’t hunt.”

“Yes they do,” Atlanta and I said as one.

“It’s someones pet,” she huffed.

“This is a Colombian cat,” Atlanta offered. “Colombian cats aren’t like regular cats. They’re tough. They carry a switchblade and-”

“I’m sure someone will feed him,” she stroked the cats chin and continued in a baby voice, “he’s so lovely.”

“I won’t feed it,” he added cheerfully. “It’s going in the furnace as soon as I get hold of it.”

“Wait,” I said, putting down my spoon. ”Do cats carry a switchblade because people try and make empanadas out of them all the time?”

Inner Beauty

I can’t be too unkind to Switzerland. She did have a good appreciation for aesthetics:

“I really want to get married one day, but only to a blonde man. With no body hair. I hate body hair. That’s why I hated Brazil. It’s full of little, ugly, hairy people. I like blonde men and they have to be from a good family. I haven’t had sex in six months you know, I had to mentally prepare myself when travelling Africa for no sex because I don’t like African men, but I thought I’d find at least one blonde man in South America,” she turned to me and added thoughtfully, “I loved Australian men.”

I wanted to tell her to get her manicured, upper-class claws out of the pool of Australian men that my friends and I fish from. I should have pointed out that there are more blonde men from good families in South Africa than South America and that she should probably just fuck off back to Cape Town. She could even buy the baby she always wanted: “I’d love to buy an African baby. But only a cute one. Not an ugly one.”

And there was the time she did acid: “Everyone became ugly. I couldn’t stand it. I hid in my room for the night because I was just surrounded by hideous looking people. It was really quite frightening.”

Despite being constantly frustrated by her, I travelled with Switzerland for a bit, purely for the convenience and safety of having a human being beside you as you traverse Colombia. If you’re thinking that I was only using her- well, you’re right. I was. If you are tittering at what a horrible human being I am- well, you’re wrong. I’m fairly certain that she was doing the same thing: “I’ll stay at the hostel you are staying at in Santa Marta…maybe I’ll find some cool people to travel with there. It’s a drag being with the same six people every day. I need to find someone fun to hang out with.”

When international relations collapse

But, one evening, I very nearly throttled Switzerland.

We were at the beach, drinking fresh juice and staring at our phones, willfully refusing to converse with one another. We’d spent the better part of the afternoon bickering like pensioners at the bus stop. We’d heard a story a few days earlier about a rape ring that was once operating out of a popular party hostel in Medellin. It was a horrific tale that scared the pants off me- oh my, what a terrible pun that was- Switzerland, however, didn’t want to believe it because she had plans to stay there.

Switzerland: “I don’t think that people were really assaulted in the hostel in Medellin. They would have said something.”

“They probably reported it to the police who hushed it up.”

“Yes but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t write a bad review on Tripadvisor.”

Imagine reading that: Cindy gives XXYXY Hostel, Medellin 1 star, ‘The gardens are lovely but there is a good to fair chance that you will be viciously raped in them.’ 

Switzerland was staring at me. “Um…,” I said finally, “Shame?”

“Well they don’t have to put their real name.”

“Look, sexual assault is handled by every person differently and many people don’t shout about their experience. Most sexual assaults go unreported, actually. It’s that Victim Guilt thing.”

“Oh, I don’t believe that.”

I stared at her. “Well, honey, mental health is my fucking job and I know a little bit about this.”

“Yes, but I’d report it.”

“You don’t actually know what you’d do until it happens.”

“I’d go to the embassy and create such a fuss that the hostel had to be shut down,” she continued. This was a debate technique that she employed often. When your point trumped hers, she would continue on as if you hadn’t spoken. This would then cause an agitated silence from my end, and after a beat she would say in a little girl voice, “I wonder how the kitty is.”

At 5.30, I ask her if she wants to head back to The Royale. She agrees. Two minutes later she asks, “Oh my, how are we going to get back?”

I tell her it’s not a long walk. “But it’ll be dark soon, we’ve got to go now.”

She pays her tab, picks up her thongs, walks into a tent, and engages in a fifteen minute conversation about handmade bracelets while I tap my foot and swear under my breath outside.

“We have to go,” I urge her. “Now.”

“Yes, yes, I just want to buy a bracelet.”

You’ve had all fucking afternoon to buy a bracelet you vapid whore, I shout in my head. Get your silver spoon arse off that chair and let’s fucking vamos, Swissderella.

Eventually we leave. Somehow the conversation falls to the minimum wage in America.

“You know, I wouldn’t even get out of bed for $6 an hour,” she said.

“Well, some people don’t have a choice.”

“I used to babysit my brother and get $250 a week from my parents just for eating pizza and watching movies. And I got $30 an hour for my other babysitting jobs. I don’t see why they can’t just do that.”

There you go America: your economic woes have just been solved.

“I miss being fifteen. Life was so easy then.”

It’s bait that I can’t help but take. “Easy? You are travelling through Colombia,” I spat. “You haven’t even finished uni yet, what, exactly, about life is hard?”

Silence. Switzerland has now fallen ten passive-aggressive metres behind me. On the main road, we pass the marker that states it’s one kilometre back to the Royale.

“Should we get a lift?” Switzerland calls out.

I stop, looking around at the complete absence of anything. “From where?”

She points at a nearby farmhouse. “I’ll ask if they can drop us off.”

She approaches the porch and asks a random Colombian for a lift as if this is perfectly normal behaviour. I wait by the road, the darkness growing as quickly as my ire. We waste ten minutes of twilight as she tries to explain the location of an obscure jungle hostel to a flummoxed local who looks as if he wants to somehow evaporate into smoke to escape her pushy arse.

“It’s kilometre marker 46. You know the one,” she huffs. “It’s right there.”

After a beat she flits back to me. “He will take us but he can only take one at a time, so do you want to go first?”

I stare at her. “You can’t be fucking serious.”

“Or you can wait and I’ll go.”

“I’m not getting,” I spit, “on the back of a strangers fucking motorcycle.”

In my defense, walking into a house in a dangerous country and trusting that a stranger will take you 1km up the hill out of the sheer goodness of his heart is something that I consider to be ‘retarded. Deliverance retarded. Non-Academy Award winning you’ve-just-gone-full-retard, retarded.’ And if I was stupid enough to agree with her harebrained scheme, my two options were completely fucked: I could be the first on the bike and hope that I wasn’t going to wind up, at best, robbed in a field somewhere, or I could stand on the side of the road at night and hope that I wasn’t going to wind up, at best, robbed in a field somewhere. Furthermore, she has spent so much time trying to convince this Kogi fucktard to double us like Evel Knievel on the back of his motorbike, that it’s now nighttime. So, I snap. And I had every right to do so.

“You can catch the fucking bike if you like. Fuck this shit. Fuck you, fuck the franc, fuck Tag Heuer, and fuck the Red Cross, I’m fucking walking.”

Okay, I didn’t exactly phrase it like that. But my dummy was spat unceremoniously across the road as a Colombian man watched the exchange in shock.

Switzerland gathers herself, sighs, and follows me as I steam down the road.

“Take the fucking bike,” I call over my shoulder.

“Well obviously I’m not going to let you walk alone,” she huffed.

Santa Marta

She followed me to Santa Marta and we spent an awkward night making stilted conversation in the hostel bar. Prayer in C by Robin Schultz came on, and Switzerland let a small piece of empathy slip: “Oh, this song reminds me of my friend who died of malaria. I used to listen to it over and over when he…” she looked down at her wine.

Maybe she is human after after all, I found myself thinking. But, before I could pat her hand and say something forced and inappropriate, an insubstantial summer breeze flitted back across the table: “You know,” she said leaning forward, “the last thing I said to him was, ‘At least with malaria you’ll be nice and skinny’. He was dead a week later,” giggle. “Not a very good thing to say, was it?!”

The next day, she boarded a bus to Medellin and we made the thoroughly insincere promise to “catch up again!”

I don’t think I will. Having a body next to you when you trawl Colombia has it’s advantages, but having the wrong body is a CATastrophe of Pet Semetarian proportions. Sometimes travelling alone and relying on your instincts is safer than being with the wrong person. Besides, she would have dumped me as a companion when she found out I was poor, anyway.

Watch out where the huskies go…

20 Jan

A Colombian coke binge seemed like a good idea at the time.

Don’t judge that statement. I don’t actually do drugs in Australia, you know.

She adds defensively.

Don’t get me wrong: I have. On many occasions. The majority of my university years were spent in a purple haze. My memories of that time are so smoggy that I might have studied in Beijing…it’s possible, you know- I smoked a lot of pot and can’t be entirely sure where I was at that period of my life. I’ve enjoyed so many illegal narcotics that several of them don’t work on me anymore. My brain has mutated and apparently developed anti-bodies to most strains of MDMA. My time on drugs can be summed up by the word ‘Disneyland’, and I ceased with my sanity and without any stories that involved me robbing someone or sucking something to fulfill a suburban white girl Ecstasy habit.

In other words, I did the shit out of drugs and passed with flying colours.

But the first rule in the Drug Users Handbook is ‘When they stop being fun, it’s time to move on’, so I stopped taking them, choosing green tea, smugness and meditation instead.

Then I got to Colombia, a country that looks at an afternoon bump of cocaine much like a double espresso- it’s just a little pick-me-up to get you through that post lunch drag. It’s their cultural siesta. In fact, in Colombia, cocaine is cheaper than beer. I’m a traveller on a budget. A temporary coke habit was the fiscally responsible choice, really.

It’s my second night at The Royale and Atlanta and I have just left the party that is blazing through the bar. We clamber up fifty dirt-hewn steps by the light of our mobile phones to arrive at my room for the evening: a man-made hilltop cabin that overlooks the jungles of North East Colombia. The next morning, a woodpecker will rythmically slam it’s beak into the balcony railing, acting as a natural alarm clock, and my blurry eyes will peel open to a glorious view of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This night, though, Jim Jefferies is playing on my laptop, a half filled bottle of rum sits, uncapped, by a cheap lamp that is perpetually surrounded by Colombia’s largest jungle bugs, an open packet of tax-free Venezuelan cigarettes lays on the bed beside me, and the table is covered with AUD$1600 worth of Colombia’s finest disco shit.

Over here, five grams of cocaine is worth less than a packet of cigarettes in Australia, and our transatlantic bounty is spread haphazardly before us. We dip our noses into a pile of white snow like talkative, debauched huskies. We rack line after line and when I feel my heart start to beat faster than an ice addict masturbating after three days of no sleep, I take a break, chain smoking cigarettes and talking about myself as if someone gives a shit. As I natter, Atlanta blows a handful of coke in my face like a child with a dandelion. As an Aussie, this sort of behaviour is hard to get used to. Coke in Australia is more precious than the purity of your first born child. When I arrived in Colombia, I was still chewing the empty bag to get every molecule of Charlie into my system, by the time I got to Rancho Relaxo, it was so prevalent that I was giving myself cocaine milk moustaches for cheap laughs. I had cocaine smeared on, and snorted off, several parts of my anatomy. The whole thing was like a scene from Blow.

My mum must be so proud of me.

My mum must be so proud of me.

Atlanta and I rant at each other with the manic, misplaced sense of self assurance that copious amounts of narcotics brings. The hours slip away, and eventually the party downstairs disbands. Aside from our two person and a-man-on-a-laptop-screen party, all is silent.

Then a gun shot cuts through the night.

Upon hearing it, Atlanta immediately snaps to life like a KGB sleeper agent who has just heard the trigger phrase. He pauses Jim Jefferies, slams the lid shut on the laptop, pulls the plug on the lamp, and plunges us into darkness.

“Someone just got shot at the checkpoint.”

I struggle to sit up on the bed. “Where’s the check point?”

“Just out the front of the hostel.”

“Just out the…what the fuck?” I screech.

“Be quiet, I want to listen.”

Everything around us is silent. I have now leapt, in one fluid, drugged-out motion to stand at the balcony, clasping the rails with a labor-inducing fervor. I peer apprehensively over the blackness of the hostel into the jungle before me. The amount of cocaine in my blood has surpassed ‘excessive’- I’m currently at ‘Charlie Sheening’- and half a bottle of rum is slowly digesting in my stomach; but in that moment I am more sober than Robert Louis Stevenson at a Logie’s after party.

Yeah. I couldn’t think of anything funny so I went for nonsensical instead.

Anyway, nothing can kill a buzz quicker than South American jungle paramilitary. I stare at the night stretching malevolently before me and begin to wonder if I’m about to die with cocaine boogers caking my nostrils and an M16 jammed beneath my mandible. Full scale drug paranoia hits me. “Are we safe?” I squeak.

“Yeah, they probably just shot someone trying to smuggle something over the border.”

A drug shoot-out. In Colombia. In a guerilla and paramilitary soaked area of the jungle that I probably shouldn’t even be in. Where I am currently fifty shades of fucked up. ‘I’ll take ‘Stupid things that gringas do’ for $500 please, Alex.’

“Drugs?” I squeak.

Atlanta laughs. “God no,” he drawls. “The biggest thing being smuggled into Colombia from Venezuela right now is gasoline.”

I glance at the 10c per packet, tax free, Venezuelan cigarettes beside me. “And illegal tobacco?”

He nods, switches Jim Jefferies back on, and settles back in the chair to rack up more lines. “It was probably just a warning shot fired into the bonnet of the car as they tried to sprint across the border. It’s nothing.”

I’m in the middle of nowhere and a gun has been fired fifty feet away from me. To anyone who doesn’t live in a South American Golden Triangle, it’s fucking far from nothing. Atlanta is an ex army medic who grew up in Georgia. Gun shots probably accompanied the majority of his lullabies. Rifle fire is like elevator music to him. I’m from Sydney, the place where gun crime is as common as egalitarian bogans. In short, this is far from a normal occurance for me and I’m fucking terrified. Has someone just died? Are the military going to come into the hostel and look for witnesses to shoot? Or were the shots fired from the guerillas in the Colombian mist, and not the military at all? In other words, am I going to fucking die?!?

Atlanta sees the look on my face and immediately switches into Southern gentleman mode. “Anyone coming up that hill will need a flashlight and we’ll see them. We’re safe.”

This calms me mildly.

“Besides, it’s nothing like the time the military stormed this place and Boss Connecticut and I had to negotiate with them while we sent all the guests to hide up in the jungle with their passports.”

Any calm that has settled in my drug-addled brain leaves abruptly. “Um,” I begin. “What?”

“It was fine. They just came in with guns because they wanted money.”

“Wait..what?”

He offers me a rolled up fifty mil bill and explains. One sleepy evening, armed militia stormed the property with machine guns drawn. The hostel staff sent the guests up into the mountains to hide with their passports- you know, just in case negotiations with the armed men went sour and they had to flee the area and/ or country. The guests hid, presumably discharging bodily fluids from circular orifices while below them, agitated Spanish raged as the owners renegotiated with heavily fucking armed, mildly fucking sociopathic, post adolescent, testosterone fuelled military.

“That won’t happpen again. Not tonight, anyway.”

I glance at my bag which contains my passport and a laptop which can probably be sold for a plane ticket in a pinch. “Are you sure?”

Atlanta glances at me. “Calm down, Tweak.”

“I’mnotfuckingtweaking,” I snap.

He ruffles my hair. “It’s going to be fine.”

To be pompously continued in the next post…

Sufferin’ Succotash

29 Nov

As I write this, I’ve been in Puerto Escondido for nearly three weeks. This beautiful beach side town has made me it’s unintentional prisoner as I wait to receive a package from Australia. I underestimated Mexican postal services. I foolishly thought that an express post package that should arrive overseas in three business days would have made an appearance in Puerto Escondido within a week and a half. Silly CC- I forgot about the phenomena that is Mexican Time. If one was going to compare the Mexican postal service to anything, it wouldn’t be to a Looney Tunes mouse.

SPEEDY

Once I learned to blithely flick the bull ants off the bed and ignore the geckos fighting in the corner of the room, the accommodation I stayed at for my language school was lovely. Mix that with amazing people in the area and the purpose that comes with a scholastic responsibility each day, and I found myself quite content with my Escondidian routine. After travelling for six weeks, it kind-of, almost felt like my little Mexican home, but when the language course finished, I had to find new digs. Without giving the matter much thought, I chose the hostel that a friend was staying in. It was disconcertingly devoid of human beings every time I walked past, but The Texan had found a private room there for $2000 pesos for the month- an obscenely good rate- so I booked a room for three nights.

I didn’t notice my surroundings on the first night. I’d been involved in a particularly debauched drinking session with The Texan and an English expat chum of his, and I fell down no less than eight times during the 500m walk back to my room. Once I made it to the door, it took me a good fifteen minutes to open it. I stood, swaying in the hallway like an inebriated fuckwit, clumsily inserting and reinserting each key over and over. I was given three keys when I checked in and I never did discover what the other two were for. I jammed them into everything from the storage closet to the cat, but their purpose remained enigmatic.

The next morning I woke up looking, feeling, and smelling like a bruised puddle of bulldog vomit. The bathroom was located down the hall. It was a poky, light blue room, smothered with leopard spots of mould. The noxious odours of Mexican feasts past had long stripped the paint from the walls, and what was left hung in flaky chunks like sunburned skin. The toilet cistern lid was broken, and damp books were piled haphazardly on top it like some make-shift lavatorical library. And there was never, ever any fucking toilet paper in there. In fact, if you asked at the front desk for toilet paper, the staff would half heartedly look behind the counter before saying, “I don’t have.” This was uttered in a completely indifferent tone, almost as if you’d asked for a pen or a cigarette lighter. The first time they said it I was flummoxed, “What do you mean, ‘you don’t have’?” I asked in Spanish.

Shrug. “No tengo.”

“I need to go to the toilet,” I said. “What do your suggest that I use?”

She smiled, nodded and said, “Use. Yes.” Then she turned, walked across the reception floor and stood by the fridge, staring at the wall, her back to me.

It was a tactic that I had employed myself. The staff spoke almost exclusively Spanish and when they’d say something I didn’t quite catch, I’d lean forward and ask them to repeat it. They would, and if I couldn’t cherry pick enough words from the sentence to create a meaning, I’d often just repeat the last word they said and add a ‘yes’, so it sounded like I understood them thoroughly enough to confirm the final word of their sentence. You know, you do it if someone offers you directions:

“Turn right at the park.”

“The park, yes.”

“Then first left.”

“Left. Yep.”

“Then go straight past the school…”

“The school, got it.”

But since the phrase was spoken in a second language, I could have been agreeing to anything:

“We’re going to slaughter a stray dog in a voodoo ritual tonight. Right here.”

“Right here,” Enthusiastic nod. “Yes!”

When the reception gals couldn’t deliver the bog-roll, I was forced to fossick through my bag for travel wipes and, when they ran out, odd athletic socks whose partner had fallen victim to Mexican lavanderias. I’d drop each in the basket beside the toilet with a small sigh- another travelling companion lost in Mexico, like a pilled, grey drug cartel victim.

The shower in the bathroom was a single jet of water, a quarter of the diameter of your average garden hose. The shower head was cemented to the wall, so it stuck straight out at an 130 degree angle. This meant that the adjacent sink often got a better bathing than you did. Unfortunately the angle wasn’t obtuse enough to dislodge the seventeen bars of pubic-hair encrusted soap that were perpetually glued to the porcelain of the sink; but it did create a striking paper mâché effect with the yellowing Surf Class pamphlets that were stuck to the top of it. It looked like something an obsessive compulsive preschooler had created after binge watching Playschool under the influence of acid. The water pressure was unyielding, and, despite the room being constantly shrouded in steam, freezing. It was like trying to clean yourself in a Urinating Cherub Fountain. In fact, if the water had of been warm, it would have felt like I was being peed on by an excessively well-hydrated vagrant. Showering became an endurance event: not something pleasant and refreshing that you do of a morning, but a necessary ordeal undertaken only to rinse the smell of the mattress from you.

The mattress smelt like interspecies erotica, sherbet, and broken promises, but I’ll get to that.

My room had a large concrete mesh window which offered a lovely view of an abandoned toilet in the courtyard. If I squinted, I was transported to The Labyrinthian Bog of Eternal Stench. My window didn’t have curtains on it, something I realised as I was dressing after the shower. There was a cleaning lady outside who was systematically moving through the courtyard, scrubbing the concrete with a weathered red broom. It was refreshing that they paid so much attention to the ground outside. I mean, my room was wallpapered in dust and spiderwebs, and the pool was a particularly fetching shade of flourescent green, but at least the external concrete was clean. That patch of cement may have been more sanitary than my sheets. It was certainly cleaner than my mattress, which had morphed from beige to yellow under the strain of assorted bodily fluids from a thousand anonymous hosts. When I spied the lady, I ducked into a crouch, trying to hide. However, since I could still see her, there was a good chance that she could see the naked thirty one year old squatting on the floor like she’s trying to insert something into her vaginal canal, so I stood up slowly, not wanting to attract her attention. I did, anyway. I’m not sure if the moment our eyes locked was more uncomfortable for her or me. I think it was for her- the hairbrush dropped from my ‘giney when I stood up, and it clattered loudly to the floor with a wince and a disapproving glance.

I’m kidding.

I bring a frozen zucchini when I travel. It’s more ergonomic.

I forgot to take my toothbrush into the bathroom and I couldn’t bring myself to go back in there, so I went to the sinks in the common room to complete my ablutions. Turning the handle gave me a puff of smoke, several bats, and small dribble of rust coloured liquid. I didn’t have a bottle of water on me, so the receptionist helpfully offered me some. I accepted it gratefully.

“Can I have some toothpaste?” She asked as she handed me the glass.

I paused. It was the first time that hotel staff had asked to borrow my toiletries.

“I’ve run out,” she continued.

I was so baffled that I agreed before considering the implications of giving my toothpaste to a stranger to smear across something that scrubbed the bacteria from her mouth. I realised the ick-factor as she was fetching her toothbrush, and when she returned with a dog eared blue thing, I told her that she could keep the toothpaste.

“Really,” I said, offering her the full tube of Colgate like some babbling dental hygiene fairy. “I have plenty and it’s nearly empty, anyway.”

I wasn’t given a top sheet, so that evening I slept huddled beneath my sarong. At some point during the night the fan had stopped working, and I awoke just after 3am in an environment sufficient to bake scones in. The skin that hadn’t been covered in brightly coloured cotton was now covered in bright red mosquito bites, which itched in an insomnia-inducing ditty of frustration. I lay there, mentally offering Satan everything from my soul to the virginity of my first born child in exchange for sleep, trying to ignore the itching that was slowly making it’s way from my skin to the last shred of my sanity. Something crawled over my arm, I smacked it and felt it scurry up my shoulder and onto the pillow. I vaulted out of bed in one fluid motion, turning on the light and flapping my hands at the wrists.

The light allowed me to see that the mosquitoes had made their way into my room via a hole in the flyscreen, which was roughly the size and shape of an overdeveloped child’s fist. I was considering what other item of clothing I could sacrifice to jam into this filthy hole when a moth flew through it. It might have been as drunk as I was the previous night because it spectacularly missed the lightbulb to crash land just below my left eye. My hands started flapping again, the moth flew away, and the next fifteen minutes were spent chasing it around the room with a thong. It was a wily little bastard, I’d thwack one wall seconds after it careened off to the next one. This noise woke up my neighbour, who thought that a spell of vocal masturbation would be just the thing to get him back to sleep. The walls were thin, and I heard enough to be able to confidently do it myself, had I wanted to. I should have offered him my zucchini.

After destroying the moth, I sat on the bed, lit a cigarette and listened to the overweight fellow next door flog his meat like an unemployed butcher. I reasoned that noxious tobacco fumes might be enough to drive away both the bugs and my ever-increasing desire to repeatedly punch a badger in the ovaries, so I smoked and lazily batted at buzzing mosquitoes while he jerked away on the other side of the wall. The only sounds in the hostel were a symphony of pleasure, hunger and frustration. And I don’t even know which was which.

I checked into a hotel after this. It was three times the price. I saw clean white sheets on the bed when I checked in. Totally worth it.

The Adventures of CC and John West

9 Nov

Day of the Dead

Sunday night, I found myself in the middle of a Day of the Dead parade, hurriedly looking over my left shoulder, with a pink iPhone shoved in my underpants.

Yes. In my undies. Down the front.

It’s a sentence that will stop anybody from borrowing my phone ever again. Unfortunately for me and my poor iPhone- which is now affectionately nicknamed John West- I had no other option. How did I wind up in the middle of a street parade with a mobile phone awkwardly prodding at my genitals? Let me explain.

It’s my last night in Oaxaca and I am almost dias de los meurtos‘d out. I’ve hung out in cemeteries with Kentuckians, photographed parades with impossibly chic French women, and tonight I just want to grab some dinner and enjoy the fact that I have my dorm to myself. I’m sitting in Zocalo, smoking and reading a book on my iPhone, when a guy sits uncomfortably close to me, furtively eyeing me as I put my phone back in my pocket. He starts to talk. His name is Gustavo. And, hey, even though we just met, why don’t I add him on Facebook? His eyes drift to my pocket. Right now.

Something about Gustavo gives me the willies. I can’t put my finger on it. It could be that he sat very close to me, it could be that he appears twitchy and nervous, it could be the fact that he was wearing headphones without listening to music (I mean, come on, that’s weird, right?) or it could be the fact that he fingered my ring when he shook my hand.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

I mean, he shook my hand and ran his finger along the Claddagh ring that I wear on my ‘fuck you’ finger, tugging it ever so slightly. In any event, after five minutes I want to leave my creepy companion and retire to my hostel. At 9pm. Like a thirty-something geriatric. I rise.

So does Gustavo.

I pause.

“Go,” he gives a strained smile.

I wait, frowning. “You first.”

He motions with his hand. “No, you.”

It’s an excessively polite Monty Python skit. I start walking. He trails me. I abruptly zig-zag across Zocalo. He zig-zags, too. I reach the edge and stop, turning around. He stops too, pretending to be fascinated by a jewellery stall.

If Gustavo is a crook, he’s a clumsy one. Nonetheless, the walk to my hostel is down a quiet street and I really don’t want to punch a Oaxacian- with or without nefarious motives- so I take the long way through the crowded parades, figuring that I can lose him.

When out at night, I no longer take a bag with me, choosing instead to wander the streets with my possessions in my pockets, like some heavily pear shaped bag-lady. The problem is, Gustavo knows where my iPhone is. I’m not sure if it’s paranoia or common sense that drives this, but I decide to move my stuff from my jeans pockets, just in case. My coin purse fits in my shirt pocket. As I do up the button, I ponder where to put my phone. My shoe? My bra? Oh, wait- I know!

And down the pants it goes. It’s ingenious, really. Look, if the evening were to escalate to a strange hand being in my knickers sans consent, a missing phone will be the least of my worries. And while it’s not comfortable, it is set to vibrate so if someone calls me, well, things will improve considerably.

Hierve el Agua

Twenty hours, a bus, a collectivo taxi and four chain smoking French men later, I am two hours from Oaxaca, at the ethereally beautiful Hierve el Agua.

It’s 5pm, and if I want to make my bus to Pochutla, which leaves Oaxaca at 9.30pm, I should probably leave. It’s still light and I make the 1km walk back up the hill, pausing to admire donkeys, cacti, and men herding goats. Near the top, I see a couple get into a collectivo taxi. Perfect timing. I’ll climb in and be back at the bus station in 45 minutes.

But I wouldn’t be writing this post if the collectivo waited. It didn’t. It skidded away as I was nearing the top.

Hmph.

No problem, though. Another will arrive. I perch on a rock to watch the sun set over the mountains, painting the sky with a kaleidoscope of pink and orange. I take several thousand photos of it.

sunset4sunset3

sunset5

snuset2Beautiful, isn’t it? However, as 5pm slides into 6pm, I begin to wonder where the hell the next collectivo is.

Six melts seamlessly into 6.15. I’m tapping my foot. Hierve has closed. Tour buses are trundling past. Nobody else is making their way up the hill, and the French dudes from before are absent. I begin to wonder: Do collectivos come this late? Am I supposed to wait here? There is nobody to ask. I decide to walk to the guard booth that we passed on the way in. Maybe people are still there. Maybe they can call a collectivo for me. There is one road leading to the booth, so I will pass anything coming this way, anyway.

So I begin to walk.

Alone.

In the middle of nowhere.

At night.

It’s getting cold, so I put my cardigan on, crossing my arms protectively over my chest. It occurs to me that I now look like a horror movie victim. Not the slutty one that dies first, maybe the bookworm who bites it spectacularly in the third act. I’m utterly isolated out here. Even my Mexican SIM card service has abandoned me. My only companion is Mother Nature, and the donkeys that randomly hee-haw my predicament. It felt like Wolf Creek 3. Or Mexican Creek, perhaps: ‘In Hierve el Agua, nobody can hear you scream…

It’s completely dark, did I mention that? Like, totally dark. I can’t see my booted feet on the road. If I don’t get devoured by a carnivorous goat, there is the distinct possibility that I will trip in a pothole and fracture my left ass bone, or step in a bear trap and have to gnaw a limb off like a rabid monkey. Therefore, to keep myself from spinning out, I begin to sing ‘Dry the Rain’ by The Beta Band.

This is the definition of my life, lying in bed in the sunlight…

So, at this point I have officially lost my mind.

A set of headlights approaches. Feeling more and more like Laurie ‘Boo’ Myers, I flag it down. It swerves past me, slams on the brakes, fishtails, and halts. It sits, idling maliciously. With a small amount of trepidation, I approach.

The Golf Cart

Hola,” I begin uncertainly. “Ah…” I pause to gather the correct words, then begin in a slow, overly-enuncative voice. “Neccissito una collectivo taxi para la Mitla autobus stacion?

His reply? Spanish. Of course.

I try again. “Autobus? Para Oaxaca?

Spanish.

Nothing is ever easy. In frustration, I throw random words at him: “Autobus. Mitla. Oaxaca. Saucepan. Toilet seat. Turtle procreation proclamation. Anything?”

This continues for an uncomfortably long period of time until I begin to understand a single word he is saying: “Voy.” i.e.- ‘Go.’ He gestures to the cart and I come to the hopeful conclusion that he’s saying, ‘Jump in, love. My chariot will rescue you on this cold evening.’

Five minutes later I am sitting in a golf cart as we drive back to the place where people wait for collectivos. We pass it.

Nothing is ever easy. Where the fuck is he taking me?

A group of people stand on the road, holding hands like some Hillbilly Mexican Manson family. The cart skids to a halt. The Manson’s approach. Two men, two women, two children. They begin to pile in. I skid over. The women are particularly portly and won’t fit. I skid over more. I now have one ass cheek perched precariously on the seat. They fit. Unfortunately, I don’t. A man sits beside the driver. There is still a man and two children to fit into an already full golf cart. In the spirit of charity, I move my bag from my lap. A moment later I have a small child randomly perched on it. Her sister stands beside her, staring at me in that openly curious way that kids do. A lady gets out, a man gets in, the lady sits on his lap.

We now have 8 people stuffed into a vehicle no bigger than a 1976 Mini Cooper.

Pause and picture that.

I am shoved up against the side of the cart, angled diagonally, holding onto the seats. I look like a proud father with his arms around the family at Christmas dinner, but there is terror in my eyes, so I probably look like Tony Soprano during the final season of The Sopranos. With, you know, hair and stuff. Wait, he’s dead now, isn’t he? Okay, so I look like a live, female, average weight version of-

You know what? Never mind.

Anyway, the side of the cart is made of flimsy, waterproof fabric. There’s no guarantee it will support my weight. The whole thing smells like an impending brain injury. The golf cart’s engine is spluttering and, in a mark of automotive protest, it won’t travel beyond the speed that the average egg-and-spoon race is run at. This gives me plenty of time to think about how much easier my life would be if I stuck to organised tours like a proper tourist, instead of stubbornly opting to do it all myself. I could be in an airconditioned tour bus right now, happily trancing out to the new Opeth record on my iPod. Instead, I am squished like a Skittle between a fat woman, a sheet of oil cloth, and a potential future in a motorised wheelchair.

Life on the Highway

After fifteen days, the family exit the cart. My ass can spread out again. There is relief for five minutes. Then, relief turns to horror as I am deposited on the freeway like a sex crime victim.
It’s every little girl’s dream to one day be left standing on a highway, at night, in the freezing cold, with a now almost desperate urge to urinate, isn’t it? The driver thought so. He pointed at the small group of people waiting, called out, “Collectivos!” and gaily puttered up the hill.

Apparently, this is where the collectivo’s pick you up to take you back into town. I wait awkwardly beside my car-less comrades. It’s just after 7pm. We are in the middle of what could arguably be the desert. Despite wearing jeans and a cardigan, my teeth are chattering.

Ha- I am now officially The Chattering Cat.

*Boom tish* Thanks folks. Hey, try the brisket- it’s fantastic.

For every set of approaching headlights, the four of us desperately throw our hands out. Cars speed past. Hitchhiking seems like an option. Or suicide. Or, frankly, squatting to pee in front of strangers.

I’m not sure how I get myself into these predicaments. Really. I don’t welcome chaos. I don’t ask for trouble. But when I travel, my sense of wonder often runs neck-and-neck with anxiety and dread. Let’s not forget that I have no fucking idea where I am. Well, I can pinpoint “Mexico” and in a pinch narrow it down to “two hours from Oaxaca”, but aside from that I’m screwed. I could be on Pluto. It’s certainly cold enough. I smoke cigarette after cigarette, trying to stave off cold, hunger and possible stress incontinence.

Life would be so much easier if I knew more Spanish. I could ask these people beside me, ‘What the fuck is going on (!?!) Is it normal to wait a fucking decade for a fucking collectivo on the fucking highway at mothershagging nighttime?! How do you people do this? Why do you do this? Yes, the night sky is radiantly pregnant with twinkling stars, but there is a little place called civilisation, and in it they have transportation options. Let’s talk about that over a Corona sometime.’ We would bond. They’d hug me, adopt me as a foul-mouthed surrogate child, and I’d feel infinitely better about the whole ‘I’m kind of almost lost’ mess.

The Dudes

A bus approaches. Without thinking, I stick my arm out. It slows. I get on with one other fellow. The doors creak shut behind us.

The bus contains men. All men. Workers, by the look of them. There is one seat available. I take it. I have no idea where the bus is going but it’s warm, there is Mambo music playing, and it smells like the Miami Heat locker room after a Celtics game: sweat, dejection, blood, and cum.

The bus stops. Half of the people get off. The driver turns and addresses me in Spanish.

I suppose that I have to get off the bus now.

Wait- I have to get off the bus?!

…No!

It’s warm and safe and although your taste in music sucks, I’m not standing on the fucking cold freeway again.

I can’t guarantee that I didn’t say that out loud. Really, I don’t remember. I think I disassociated.

He says “taxi”, points, then physically shooed me. Off the bus. Now. Come on you silly tourist. I don’t have all night.

I exit the bus. He doesn’t charge me. Small win.

AND I discover that he has dropped me outside the bus station that I initially caught a collectivo to Hierve from.

Awesome.

But it’s now shut.

Hmph.

Three guys from the bus approach me. They ask where I am going. Tired, desperate and thoroughly fed up, I pout, “Oaxaca. Taxi,” and cross my arms like a two-year old. They reply in Spanish. I don’t understand them. They motion up the road. “Taxi. Oaxaca. Aqui.”

I walk. They turn around every now and then, addressing me in Spanish. I repeat the one phrase that, ironically, I can now say flawlessly, “I’m sorry, but I only speak a little Spanish.” They laugh but continue to speak Spanish. Since I have no idea what they are saying, I begin to answer thusly, “Yes…no…bottom left…fourty seven…last Tuesday…”

One says, “Speak English.”

Yes. Not ‘hablas inglés‘ but ‘speak English’.

I stop, now more than a little indignant. “Can you guys speak fucking English?”

They laugh. “A little.”

Cunty. Very cunty.

They ask if I want to go and smoke some weed with them. Oh, sure, I think. I’d love to abandon my inhibitions with a group of strangers who have spent the last ten minutes poking fun at me. Sounds awesome. Let me get my coat. “No, thanks,” I begin with a smug grin, “I don’t smoke weed anymore. You see, I smoked a lifetime’s allowance between the ages of twenty and twenty two and I have to wait for the multiverse to catch up with me.” Sure they can’t understand me, but being clever in stressful situations makes me feel slightly better.

As we walk, my paranoia rises (see why I don’t smoke weed?!) I have no idea where I am going, I just know that three guys have indicated that if I follow them down a dark street, I can get a taxi. The walk begins to feel like a trail of lollies leading to the witches house in the forest. Following total strangers into darkness seems about as clever as amputating fingers with toenail clippers. So I try to find a taxi as I walk. But whenever I stop to flag an approaching set of headlights, the guys stop, too. They tell me that I have to keep going. I have to follow them because taxis don’t stop on the street.

Seriously- what the fuck kind of bullshit is that? ‘Taxis won’t stop on the street’? I just hailed a motherfucking bus from the highway. And it’s been my experience that you can’t walk down the road anywhere in Mexico without a taxi hopefully beeping it’s horn at you. Either you can hail them from the street, or I perpetually have a stream of toilet paper trailing from my pants and they are trying to tell me.

Now I’m convinced- following these boys any further will be about as safe as a marriage to Ike Turner. I stop in front of a store that appears to be open. The store owners are standing at the door. Good. Witnesses. I open my mouth to say, ‘My name is Casey Millikin and in the event of my disappearance please call the Australian Embassy on-‘ when one of the guys walks back to me, stopping just inside my personal space. “You have to follow us to get a taxi.”

“That’s okay,” I say, looking at approaching headlights. “I’ll hail one here.”

“Are you scared,” he asks suddenly.

This catches me off guard, which apparently makes me forget how to speak. “…Hu?”

He grins malevolently. “Are you scared?”

“No, I’m not scared,” I say, sounding fucking terrified. Of course I was scared. You’d be, too. Only a high level sociopath would feel no fear in that situation.

He lunges at me. “BOO!”

I still had to wee, you know. It’s a miracle that I didn’t widdle like a firehose in fright. In fact, if I had spent my life procreating like a normal person rather than existing in a state of arrested development, it’s entirely possible that a weakened pelvic floor would have made me wet my pants right there. He walks away laughing and I bravely mumble that he should really find an opportune time to fuck his mother.

The dudes leave. I remain stubbornly in front of the store. Another golf cart approaches. I flag it down.

Necessito taxi para Oaxaca?”

He drives me 200m up the road and charges me ten pesos. No- It’s not a rip-off. It’s the best ten pesos that I have ever spent. It’s a dollar that assuages my fear. It’s a coin that ensures I won’t make a YouTube cameo as a headless corpse in a snuff video.

Anyway, to wrap it all up, I get a cab to Oaxaca, pick up my luggage from the hostel, have the best wee ever, and make it to the bus station with three minutes to spare.

I said before that I don’t know how I get myself into these predicaments. I have an idea, it’s probably my robust taste for adventure- the same thing that will arguably be my downfall; but I’d be lying if I said that a small part of me didn’t enjoy these moments. Not at the time- at the time I’m a puddle of anxiety and fear- but in retrospect when I am safe, weeing, and warm, I giggle like a maniac. Perched on the hostel loo, enjoying a good-ol’ micturition, I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to stifle the laughter. The thing about periodically finding yourself in situations where you don’t know if you are going to make it out without the loss of your dignity is that you really appreciate the little lights beyond the tunnel: flushing toilets, safety, the first drag of a Marlboro Light washed down with a mouthful of lemonade while waiting for your bus to Pochutla to arrive. My god. They’re like sunshine in summer.

The point of this post was actually to point out that my, um, Cuban experience has infected me with moderate levels of paranoia. I’m not sure I like it. It’s making me paranoid, actually. I’m paranoid about becoming paranoid. I usually don’t look at the world through a filter of mistrust. I usually don’t keep a mobile phone in my underpants. Here, I have had two evenings in a row where my survival instincts have come online. While it’s nice to know that I have enough common sense and intuition to allow me to escape unharmed; it’s also a big crash to earth to discover that you can’t automatically trust people. Maybe I’m not paranoid, maybe I just have a sense of safety awakening in me, something animalistic that has stirred and raised it’s furry head from slumber. Maybe there’s a fine line between security conscious and paranoid; and I am, for the first time, learning to skirt it.

Whatever it is, please call me on +52 5551 366 354. Anytime. I may need help, or I may just have a mobile phone in an opportunistic location. Either way, you will quickly become my favourite person.

I don’t know what to call this. “Cemetery”? “Night & Day”? Meh. Who cares.

3 Nov

Follow me on instagram @casey_mareeee
Come on now. Don’t be lazy. I even added a link.
All you have to do is click.
Please?
….you have to validate me. You just have to! I don’t know what I’ll do otherwise.

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The Oaxacan Day of the Dead Medley

3 Nov

Follow me on instagram @casey_mareeee

If, you know, you’re bored or something.

Or don’t. You know what? I don’t even care.

Yeah…I don’t. Nope. Not one bit.

….please validate me.
edited girl skeleton

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Pretty Street Day of the Dead Shit

30 Oct

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Pretty Street Simple Yellow Shit

30 Oct

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Pretty Street Virgin Mary Shit

30 Oct

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