Isang's Blog/

{February 23, 2010}   And that’s why we wear helmets…

Alright, let’s catch up on biking. If I bring the whole past week into view, there’s not much there. That is, I just got back on the bike yesterday, with a whole week off in between the last ride. The reason being that I could not ride, let alone walk, at certain points of la semana pasada. But I had plenty of time to warm my bed and Google the name of every single Olympic competitor and Indie movie in existence. Needless to say, I was spending time on my ass.

The day before Valentines Day I injured my right hand in the latch of a door. There was a deep puncture wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding (while although minimal in bleeding, it just kept going and going and outdid the energizer bunny). So I treated myself to some good old Mexican health care at a local hospital the following day. For the cost of $20 I received a full evaluation, a pleasant conversation with the doctor, and directions to a nearby clinic for my upcoming Tetanus shot (just in case the sharp object wasn’t Clostridium tetani free (courtesy of Wiki)). Did I mention Mexican Health care is awesome?! I keep raving about it to friends and family. I hope to post about my thoughts on holistic care and its relation to Mexican health care in the near future. After receiving treatment here I’m hesitant to go back to the way things are in our own health care system. The doctor wished me Buenos Suerte! for when that time comes.

With the hand bandaged up and unable to grasp a bike handle, I voluntarily committed myself to the pink hostel room I am staying at. A Tetanus shot 2 days later destroyed any chance I had of leaving after the next following hours brought chills, fever and body aches. As a gringo in Mexico, coming down with something isn’t uncommon. I’ve had luck to that point in not being pulverized by foreign bacteria. But this bacterial toxin was the pits. The pain in my legs reached a point to where I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom. It felt for a few hours that my whole body was going to give in to a Charlie Horse, and I spent many hours practicing stillness. The following morning I still had the fever pero fui debilitado (but I was weakened). No exercise day was in sight and I passed the week by anxiously. I learned much on this trip, including that in 10 years I’ll be saving up sick days preparing for another Tetanus episode. But hey, better than the real thing right?

Sunday came and it was glorious. My newfound friend Shannon accompanied us again on this escapade to the nearby mountain site, La Bufa. With an impressive rock formation, La Bufa is a treat for rock climbers and hikers. The caves along the trail hold altars and offerings for a few saints, and it is even said that an enchanted princess lives there that can restore the city to its former splendor, a city of silver. I likened the area to being half Arizona, half Ireland. The rocks along the hillside leading up to La Bufa are large and flat surrounded by grass and the formation of rock near La Bufa is jagged and high up. A perfect treat for the go getter mountain biker!

We started off our bike ride on a long paved uphill part. From there we worked our way up, way up, to a hill top across from La Bufa. Now granted, I’ve been riding for a few weeks, but nothing prepared me yet for the upcoming descents. And in this instant, I knew I was going to fall, and fall hard. I chose to walk for a bit over the most technical spots to give myself a fighting chance to make it all the way down. I did have one moment where I chose to go down the rock face with courage. But I lost it quickly when I watched one of the bikers fall over his handle bars. When you see that happen, you hold your breath because you know that if someone falls while going down that steep of a rock, the bike is going to follow. And follow it did. It got right on top of him and his head. That folks is why we wear helmets. No injuries to be seen, he got right back up, a little shaken but laughing. I double checked the strap on my own helmet and walked the bike down. There are some moments to this adventure where I’m willing to take a risk. However, I think when there’s a higher than 90% chance you’re going to eat it it’s best to wait for the next hill.

A significant portion of our mountain ride was on unmarked ground. Choosing which way to maneuver and at what speed gets your adrenaline going. You gotta keep up or you’re gonna hit something. The boys would woop and holler making it down some of the most difficult terrain. It’s like a bunch of indians on a buffalo chase, knowing they could get trampled but loving the challenge. Now that I think about it, the 7 week bike trip is all on road. What a contrast it will be once I give up my mountain bike. It’ll be like smooth sailing for the adrenaline junkie, for better or worse.

We made it to an edge used by cows and goats and had a fun photo shoot for all the bikers coming round the rocks. From there we took the path back to Guanajuato, passing the caves of La Bufa. Zooming down the remaining hill made my day. You’re just flying, and after a hard day of hills, nothing beats that. Not many people who visit this place get to see what we have just seen. It’s quite a remarkable place, and when you step/bike off the path, it becomes even more enchanting. The days are getting warmer and the land is becoming more alive.

It’s great to have Shannon on board with our rides. She’s a tough young lady and not the slightest afraid of doing this sport. I’m certain she’ll appreciate her upcoming battle wounds if any, because they’ll remind her of some of the best moments she had. I’m taking quite a few back with me to Cali in April. God that time is approaching fast. I’ve met so many people here in the beginning who said they never really want to leave this place, and when they do, they come back. I’m experiencing the same thing. I know I’m coming back, but it’ll be so hard to drop this all for sometime. Coming upon my last month here and it seems too short. Pues, voy a regresar 🙂 .

{February 19, 2010}   Two Sides to Everything

It’s been a rollercoaster ride of luck. I’ve found good luck in my bad luck for the past week now. I could elaborate now on the weeks’ activities (injury, sickness and plenty of sleep). However, I want to explore an idea I’ve had ever since graduating from college. It goes along the lines of finding the good in the perceived bad.

Doing what is uncomfortable, uncommon, and unexpected has been one side to my journey so far. During college one is exposed to some of the most extreme situations and behaviors on and off the campus. It was there that I not only experienced my most unflattering and uncomfortable moments, but also thrived because of them. Thank You to friendships and relationships, this everyday now knowing smile would not have reached my face without you 🙂 .

When it comes to remembering the moments that tested my character and direction, the ones that come to mind involve instigating a fight in a park with rowdy catcalling guys resulting in a black eye for me (pride was hurt more though), being found drunk and miserable after bad breakup drama in the same park, athletic failures, bad judgments and the biased opinions of people. A good friend would later admit she felt I was a target for mishap and unexpected happenings. Indeed she was right. Along the way I came upon and created situations that could only be described as a bit off the smooth path. Yet even before leaving college, I knew that without them I would have missed out on some pretty eye opening revelations.

I do relate to what is uncommon, what is unexpected. How I got to Columbia, what I did during it (try house cleaning the dirtiest of NYC apartments and nude modeling for art classes :P) to name a few. Nude modeling…let’s go into that a little bit. Actually I love the dropped jaw effect when I tell people I did nude modeling. I remember laughing with my college friends joking that I was young and desperate for money (nope), which is why I participated. Truth is I never really cared to make clear to them what it meant to me since they seemed quite content with joking. After spending time at nude beaches with Sis and friends back in Cali, I wasn’t at all uncomfortable to take my clothes off in front of people in an art class. In fact it was empowering to see student artists transform me into a glorifying and beautiful art portrait (sort of like Rose in Titanic). Rather than being like the naked or near naked sexy women gracing the covers of numerous magazines or TV shows for the sake of just being sexy, I was valued for the inspiration I gave for shading, emotion and grace of the woman’s body. Now I know how different this post comes off as from other ones (they were mostly about biking). And yes, there are some who probably are squirming from discomfort with the idea of nude modeling. But I’m not here to convince anyone of anything about that profession. More to use it as an example, a real and honest example of how encouraging it is to do something you’re not comfortable with, that you never thought you could or would do.

If a person even knew how I struggled as a young girl with my image, they’d be amazed at how far I’ve come.As a young girl I was so conscious of my body. I wouldn’t even wear v-neck shirts or shorts because I felt people would judge my neck length (thought it was too long) or legs (they’re quite muscular ;)). I adapted to long sleeves and pant legs whenever I could, and even practiced placing my hands on my face to cover what I used to consider defects (my beauty marks). My relatives thought something was wrong with me when I wouldn’t even want to wear shorts at the beach. During the time period where my sister would be dressing up quite sexy (you’re hot sis!!) to go out with friends, I began to reassess what it was I thought about myself. I found I thought quite low of myself. It was down the road after I began questioning my self-esteem that I was introduced to the nude beach concept. That’s right folks. A nude beach: a mixture of old and young folk (mostly old…they care the least) running around in their birthday suits playing volleyball or catching waves. While they may raise eyebrows or receive disapproval from conservative parents, their happiness level was up a few notches than the average beachgoer. I mean the women didn’t even have to worry about what their figure looked like in their bathing suits. They just didn’t wear one to skip the annoyance.

When I first arrived to one, that’s when I saw I was limited in what I do. By the way, this isn’t some Chicken Soup for Myself Blog or some self-help article. For god sakes I’m talking about a nude beach being inspiration for part of my confidence ;)…it’s hilarious and awesome. I don’t like limits, especially ones that bear down on your confidence and dreams. So there you go…at that point I was drained for always feeling people judged my looks and said to hell with it all! I went running towards the water ready to be a mermaid (not the Disney version)! Now granted that’s not how all people overcome their body self-esteem issues ;), but it was the best thing I did for myself.

The majority of people I’ve met were not comfortable with the idea of taking off their clothes in front of others. But when I asked them what they thought of other people doing it, most would say they wish they could follow suit. It was a bonus to be paid for helping others recreate what so many of us find beautiful in women, in art. It’s quite liberating to not feel judgment from anyone about your body, to willingly stand there bare and confident. Not many people I meet feel comfortable about their bodies, and I even persuaded a few friends to get over their insecurities by trying out nude modeling. They weren’t disappointed! From nude modeling I found inspiration to join those art classes and draw, and I now have my own keepsake drawings 🙂 .

Therein lies what I love to smile about: the unpredictable moments, the uncommon events.  What opinions or doubts I experienced during my time at Columbia only strengthened my resolve for future choices. You see, during my time in the land of Mexican Chocolate ;), I’ve had time to reflect on quite a bit of things concerning life choices. The 3,300 mile 7 week bike adventure is as far away from finding that steady job with benefits idea that many stressed I get right away. I could be back in NY most likely having the time of my life and saving money for higher education, but that wasn’t enough for me at the moment. I will be back in NYC with a steady job and benefits only after I learn how to jump 5 sets of stairs on a mountain bike, camp outside almost every night for 7 weeks, and after I ride another donkey. And once back in NYC, I will continue looking for ways to shock the systems limits.

Once in awhile, we experience seeing an image of ourselves that we swore we would never be. Sometimes we become that image. Some may have misgivings. Others may find it was the best damn thing to happen to them. For those that have misgivings, I feel they go through the Fight Club buildup, the repeated phrases of “Supposed Too” “Should have” and “Must Be” shared over and over in their everyday relationships with people. For those that consider the circumstances surrounding that unexpected and uninvited image as the best thing to happen to them, their outlook is expansive, their shortcomings insignificant. There’s a passion, there’s a drive. It doesn’t matter how you got there, just matters what you’re doing with it all.

Here’s a side note that I wanted to add in before I close off this blog post:

Where is the path of least resistance? Tell me so I can avoid it. What is the cure for passing biased and undeserved judgment on others? My cure is running or biking until the mind and body goes numb, until I’m completely broken in spirit, deprived, weak and vulnerable. And then, upon recovering, I realize the very thing that has broken me nurtures me. It gives me reason, inspiration and a well fit body 😉 .  Because of this, I am humbled. I recognize I limit myself by looking at others and passing judgment of who they are and what they do. Why be stuck with a judgment that could bring negative and unnecessary gossip to the table? Why not just let it go and focus on how you can nurture yourself and others? Tolerance, patience and humility are the best nutrients I could ever ask for while training for this bike ride. Cliché but true, it’s also training for life.

{February 5, 2010}   And then there was sun…

It’s been four days since I’ve been outside on the hostels’ terrace. Four days of waking up to the ever constant sound of rain on the roof, not wanting to roll out of bed having the knowledge that soon I would walk in it. It wasn’t the nice let yourself get soaked in it rain. No, it was torrential downpour with a touch of iciness. Having to make my way to Buen Pastor in the afternoons was the only motivation I had to throw off the covers and get out. I never suffered from seasonal mood swings, nor did I really battle it out mentally to deal with rain. But it only makes sense what with having sunny days for most of my stay here on top of outdoor adventures that I was feeling quite down and out of it, as was the rest of Guanajuato. It becomes a ghost town cuando está lleuviendo. The many alley ways becoming raging rivers, and the stairs are covered by thousands of waterfalls. Only the dogs are brave enough to go down slippery cobble stone streets.

But yes four days and Friday brings back our friend, the Sun. My friend Kent made a point that once you get bit by the mountain bike bug, you just can’t stop wanting more. It was hard not to be out practicing, but I compensated with core circuits in the room and a spinning class. And then, this morning I took advantage of the clear skies. My friend Alejandro and I went out for a ride in the Panoramica. I’ve never felt so lucky in my life to be a tourist with a bike. It’s like taking all the tourist spots (enormous castles, old mines, fortresses), and seeing it in one sitting. There was one part where Alé went off road and all I could think of was “oh how nice to be biking on the slim edge of the ravine”. I’m losing my fear for slim paths. Being that close to an edge where you can see the raging river right below brings out instinctive preventative measures, like wanting to either walk the bike or walk back. But as I’ve become more accustomed to just going with it, my hands are less on the brakes these days. Sometimes I feel like I’m in Mario Kart, constantly steering and swerving near precarious edges. Of course, it’d be nice to have the little cloud guy pull me up if I fall over…

Today marks my sisters’ 24th birthday. If only she were here, we’d spoil her rotten with quesadillas, frijoles and chalupas galore. Oh and don’t forget the mad cheap chelas (cervezas) y tequila. Happy Birthday Sis! Bringing some Mexican flavor back to you in April!

Guanajuato is said to be the Venice of Mexico. With the many educated individuals, actors, musicians and bohemian café owners mingling in the streets, its culture is rich in flavor. Ahorrita the sun is slowly going behind the statue of Pipila (a hero of the revolution) on the distant hill. I’m going to capture the last of the rays and a few memories I’ll take with me after I leave here for this post.

You know there are tortillas and a line of people nearby when you hear the crank of the machine at any local Tortillera. Taking a kilo of those warm discs home is quite the treat :).

Horchata in a bag with a straw! God it’s sipping on cinnamon…lots of cinnamon, and sugar. You just grab a bag of it and walk the streets, being able to swing it around with you without worry of losing some.

When a truck comes passing through on a busy road, guaranteed some boys are riding on the back of it. I plan on doing that soon. Getting around the city is a shared effort it seems. Just jump on the back of the truck and the guy won’t stop and tell you to stop touching his property and wasting his gas with your extra load. They just keep driving..but you have to be fast enough or else your friends will be hooting at you yelling god knows what obscene words (actually I know most of them already…fun stuff to hang with tough mexican boys…you need to speak ‘their’ language).

Finally for today, the Terrace (terraza). I’ve been lucky in coming to Casa Bertha. It seems every night (excluding bone chilling rainy ones), we’re out here admiring the view and sharing la comida. There are a bit of older folks, the traveling type, who when they talk, tell only the most marvelous of stories. Just citing today, I’ve learned more here about Canadian weather patterns, health care system issues and  how much German people eat than back at home (I know, it’s not pop culture, but hey glitz and glam can be overrated sometimes). There’s this German guy who uses the largest plate in the kitchen, the size from my elbow to the tip of my middle finger, filling its base and piling it up 5 inches high, swearing his country men do likewise. I guess I’ll take that as a fact. But yes just sitting on the terrace, sipping on Mexican chocolate and listening to adventures, it’s a 3 month visit dream come true. In return for their stories I share the language of the locals… ¡Chocala! ¡Hijo de su madre, echa te algo! No entiendo ni madres…things translation websites won’t get right and Webster doesn’t provide :). Of course, when hanging with friends, these phrases are quite the informal way of saying things, and the best. Come Sunday plenty more to share! Going to chop up carrots now and do a Mexican pollo dish!

et cetera