Archive for the ‘Travels – I Has Them’ Category

Iceland, Part 5.

Friday, January 13th, 2017

I was so super-excited to go to swim between two tectonic plates. Remember? Remember that? How could I have known how depressingly south it would go for me?

Before delving into that sadness, let’s look at some other things.

“Coconut” is “Kokosnoot” in Norwegian. I vote we all move there solely based on this.

kokosnoot

Can anyone identify this meat? I’m guessing reindeer but I have no idea, really.

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The city closest to the basalt columns was Vik. I should have posted a picture of Vik earlier but I’m doing it now.

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You’ll note the church on the hill. Just about every single church in Iceland looked like that. Plain white building, one steeple, red roof. Here’s someone else’s picture showing a) how freakin’ small the town of Vik is, and b) how close it is to the beach with the amazing structures and the homicidal ocean.

http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get2/I0000aGd276FisUA/fit=1000×750/Vik-church-beach-Iceland-1975.jpg

And look! The volcano that ruined air travel back in 2010! Notice the big divot in the top.

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Alright, let’s tell the sad tale of how Jessica almost drowned in a truly sad manner. I was beyond psyched to go to where the plates came together. The video looked so enticing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd1mv-wH5Pc

We arrived pretty early in the day and met up with the truck in the parking lot that had our dry suits. What’s a dry suit, you ask? It’s a suit designed for swimming in cold water. First, you strip down to your long underwear. Then you put on a pair of overalls made from sleeping bag material, so it’s puffy and warm. Everything was fine for me until the next step. You put on the dry suit. The dry suit is made out of a pretty rigid thicc-as-hell waterproof buoyant material so it is profoundly difficult to move your arms and legs. It’s also very heavy, so it’s like wearing a restrictive suit of armor. Mine was a tad too small so I could not exhale fully. In addition to being heavy and movement-resistant, there are TIGHT rubber gasket-like things around the wrists and neck to prevent water from leaking into the suit. The wrist ones were fine but the neck one made it hard to breathe. Like, to inhale. On top of that, mine was apparently a little too loose so the guy in charge put a RUBBER BELT around my neck to make it TIGHTER. I’m not making any of this up.

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At this point I’m beginning to panic very slightly and I think rightfully so because it was hard to breathe between the NECK BELT and the slightly-too-small suit. I had to consciously think about my breathing. We had to toddle over to the metal staircase into the water and it took me forever because I would immediately become out of breath. They put masks on us and flippers and we got into the water. The element most people were worried about was their exposed faces freezing from the 35-degree water but it was no problem, your face went numb after about thirty seconds. I floated pleasantly face down in the water and then I realized I was lagging behind the rest of the group so I attempted to catch up. This is the moment that changed everything. My snorkel got some water in it but because the suit was so rigid and buoyant I couldn’t flip myself upright to empty my snorkel and the guide said don’t touch the rock walls because they were covered with algae and touching them would dislodge the algae and cloud up the view. So I’m gurgling and trying to thrash (but I can’t) and I can’t take deep breaths and the neck belt is strangling me and that was my experience for the twenty minutes. I missed looking at everything because I was trying not to die. I finally had to be towed to shore by our guide because I was too pathetic to continue. If you’re wondering what I looked like this is a very accurate representation. I am the crocodile in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsRKYN8TeUg

And these are other pictures from the experience. I vaguely remember seeing this as the blackness took over my vision.

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The scenery was absolutely stunning. I loved how the rock still showed the folds of the lava.

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However, the whole day was not disappointment for me. I got to go to a indoor tomato farm! That was super cool. We went there for lunch.

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The menu is very limited and contains only tomato products but everything we had was absolutely delicious. Since electricity is pretty much free due to the volcano juice they can run those crazy grow lights twenty hours a day. This particular tomato farm supplies 18% of Iceland’s tomato needs.

Each table had a basil plant (also grown there) with a wee pair of scissors and a vessel of cold water that had two cherry tomatoes in the bottom.

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To start I got the “Mary Christmas” (all the drinks had the word Mary in them, based off of the Bloody Mary) which was a very sweet breed of tomato mixed with wine and mulling spices and served warm. It tasted almost exactly like spiced cider with a little alcohol. It was delicious and wintery.

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Then we all got the never-ending soup bowl with bread which was a brilliant decision because YUM.

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And I insisted on getting all three desserts because they all had tomato in them and I needed to understand how they worked. And they were all served in flower pots! There was apple and tomato cobbler with corresponding whipped cream pot, ice cream with candied green tomato and two kinds of tomato syrup, and cheesecake with green tomato jam.

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I took this picture of the ice cream so you could see the candied green tomato embedded in there.

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It all tasted wonderful. Tomato is very versatile.

After I had gorged on all the tomato wonderfulness I walked around the facility. Since tomatoes are not native to Iceland, these are from the Netherlands. And in order to pollinate the plants there are imported Dutch bumblebees! They live in filing boxes with their queen.

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It was so nice to see how to make food without putting too much stress on the earth. And this was the definition of farm to table. The tables were in the farm. I highly recommend the Iceland Tomato Experience.

 

Iceland, Part 4.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Guys, I got to hug a glacier. A GLACIER, GUYS. It was amazing. But first, a canyon. It’s not mind-blowing or anything but I climbed a fairly steep hill to look at it so y’all gonna look at it too. Pretty pretty scenery.

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First we walked out to a glacier that was breaking apart at the edge in massive pieces, like yacht-sized pieces.

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I took a stop-motion video for about five minutes of the frost-barges heading out to sea.

That was lovely but my heart was set on snuggling with the ice so imagine my surprise when we walked about 100 feet to the beach and they they all were! Hanging out on the black beach being viciously pummeled by the ocean! It looked like a ship filled with tortured glass sculptures crashed and sunk and its booty washed up on shore. I was in heaven.

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Some chunks were cloudy with bubbles and some were blue and some were crystal clear. I loved all the kinds equally.

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But I think my most beloved type was the clear ones with soft pockmarking. Oh, so beautiful.

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I took a ton of close-up photos. The way the light reflected through them was intoxicating. I wanted to stay all day, possibly forever.

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Cricket and Mishi found a particularly cool piece. It was the size of a rowboat. Half of it was clear/blue and the other half was filled with dirt. Where is the dirt from? How old is the dirt? That dirt could be really old and from far away. The mind boggles at what that dirt has seen. It’s totally possible that it might have met the first settler from Norway in 800 A.D.

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The ocean is so powerful and untamed it was batting these multi-ton chunks around like tennis balls. It was so humbling to be in the presence of raw nature.

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Look at the gif below. As the wave comes in it shoves that ice boulder on the left like nothing. That thing was the size of an SUV, and the wave is all like, “Move, you’re in my way.” And the wave is practically on the beach and finished. Imagine the strength of the water further out.

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To finish off “All Glaciers All The Time Talk,” the other three went on a glacier cave hike one day. I did not accompany them because climbing with crampons and sticks on an icy surface is not my jam but here are the pictures they took. Very beautiful. Very blue.

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Coming up in the next post: fun story about how I almost drowned in the lamest way possible.

Iceland, Part 3.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Some fun facts about Iceland – the countryside has many one-lane bridges you have to drive over. I thought was insane the first time I saw it but after a while it made sense. One, twelve people live in the whole damn country and two, you can see forever so if another car is coming towards you you both have miles to somehow figure out who’s going to cross the bridge first. We drove for hours and it mostly looked like this:

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BTW, that bluish thing in front of us embracing the mountain is the glacier. The big one that takes up a massive portion of the island. Here, a map for help.

We got closer to it at one point. I thought it was stunningly beautiful.

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Another fun fact – this is an extremely elf-conscious country. Lemme pull a sentence out of this recent article in The Atlantic. You don’t need context. Just read.

If a road is completely necessary, the elves will generally move out of the way, but if it is deemed superfluous, a possibility at Gálgahraun, “very bad things” might happen. “This elf church is connected by light energy to other churches, other places,” Jónsdóttir said. “So, if one of them is destroyed, it’s, uh, well, it’s not a good thing.”

There’s also the article reported by AP News.

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So, as you can guess, lots of elf stuff everywhere. You need to respect the elves.

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Y’ALL RESPECT THE ELVES NOW.

Okay, the geothermal bakery and spa. Now, I don’t know about you but when I hear “bakery” I think of at least one oven, usually multiple oven. Based on what I saw I think maybe the name “bakery” is a bit of a misnomer. I will show you.

On arrival to the bakery and spa we got to see an authentic building with grass / moss growing on the roof.

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We asked to see the bakery and the kid behind the counter said, “Sure, let me grab the shovel.” None of us understood why he would need that, maybe to prop up the door? We had clearly seen the bakery from the parking lot.

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Here’s the thing: that’s not the bakery. That’s a building that takes the boiling water out of the earth and makes electricity. The bakery was a pile of dirt on the edge of that lake back there. That’s it. Here’s how the “bakery” works – you put the ingredients in a big pot, the main ingredient being rye, one of the only two grains that grows in Iceland, wrap it up tight in plastic, bury it a foot or two into the lava sand where the water is boiling, come back in 24 hours and unbury your bread. Hence the need for the shovel.

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The bread was delicious. They served us slices of the hot bread (really cake, the dough had two cups of sugar in it, let’s call it what it really was) and cold salted butter and we snarfed it down like we had never had food before.

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I’m not even remotely kidding about the water being boiling two feet down. Standing on the edge of the lake you could see the hotness trying to escape like little teeny tiny geysers.

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Mishi and I decided to try out the spa. The gentlemen opted out of this and on the website it said something about their roof deck being the ideal place for making memories. Here is the place for the making of memories.

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Mishi and I left the menfolk there to spoon or whatever their memory-making required, I don’t presume to know their business, and we tried all the pools. First we tried the room with the boiling springs directly under the floor that was cool because you could hear and feel the boiling under your feet but profoundly uncool because you were engulfed in a mist of egg farts. We then progressed from pool to pool, increasing in heat with each one. It was pretty great.

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The view of the lake was stark and lovely.

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And everything was going great until the maintenance guy who was patrolling the area doing something with a leaf-blower/pool cleaning device and OH MY GOD HE’S PULLING THE ELECTRICAL CORD INTO THE POOL WE ARE IN WE’RE GONNA DIE AND LEAVE BACHELORS ON THE ROOF TO MAKE MEMORIES ALONE FOR THE REST OF THIS TRIP. Luckily a second after I noticed and braced for a tingly demise, the pool guy signaled for Mishi to put the cord further away, saving us from a tragic passing. Cricket caught the epic save on film.

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There was one other hot tub place we visited while in Iceland. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. A bunch of pools next to some mountainous rocks with a piece of plumbing that you could shove some money into for the upkeep of these pools. And a great view of the glacier in the background. I was transfixed by the craggy rock directly behind us.

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We saw reindeer on the way out to the hot pots! I would have been far more excited if we hadn’t been a million feet away from them but if African safaris have taught me anything you see what you see and that’s how it is.

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To close this entry let’s talk Icelandic horses. Sweet, small, hairy, furry horses. I saw a few outside of a gas station and I had to get up close and make friends.

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Next, possibly the best thing I saw on this trip, the glacier beach.

Iceland, Part 2.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Every day we headed out in an attempt to see as much as possible in the few short hours of daylight (and I use the word “daylight” real loosely, more like “dim light” because SO DARK). One of the things we saw was waterfalls. Really beautiful waterfalls. The Icelandic word for waterfall is foss, so if you see names that end in foss, it’s a waterfall.

First, this one.

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Very big. Very powerful. The other three members of our group went behind it and said it was thunderous and strong.

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I don’t climb or hike so I went to the gift shop and bought ethically-harvested Iceland salt for forty dollars. Before you sass me for how freakin’ much it cost, one: everything, EVERYTHING in Iceland is expensive and two: in my defense it’s really yummy salt. It’s two bottles, one was flaky and mixed with charcoal so it looks like lava and one was flaky and smoked with birch wood which is one of two trees that grows in Iceland (the other being some Christmas-tree-looking pine). I do not regret my salty purchases.

http://www.saltverk.com/products-test/

No joke, best salt I’ve ever tasted. If you know someone going to Iceland, make them get it for you. It’s sold everywhere.

Returning to waterfalls: remember that movie that had so much potential, Prometheus? According to Snorth the opening sequence was filmed in front of one of Iceland’s waterfalls, Dettifoss I think it was. Makes total sense.

dettifossprometheus

Later that day we checked out another waterfall. It was pushing 2:30 in the afternoon so we had to get our shots in quick because it was getting dark.

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D. took a photo of me with the flash but because of the mist on the lens it looks like I am anointed by God. BEHOLD MY GLORY.

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Now, let’s move away from waterfalls for a minute. We went to visit a beach. A beach? Who cares about a beach? Oh, this was a fancy beach. This beach had basalt columns. An explanation:

It is the nature of basaltic lava cooling that allows this to happen: this lava is hotter and moves faster than other kinds. As it cools from the bottom up and from the center outward, long fractures form columns that at times take on astoundingly clear-cut hexagons. The whole process is called columnar jointing.

I have mentioned my love of basalt columns previously. The previous basalt columns were in Japan and they were small and very few. Iceland brought the basalt like never before. When we arrived at the beach we were informed of how desperately the ocean wanted to consume us and force us to live in the bosom of Neptune for all time.

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Death. Instant death if you touch the ocean. Got it.

There was a huge cliff directly in front of us. We walked around the corner and… there they were.

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And I promptly freaked out. Have you ever seen anyone shriek with glee at tubular rocks? Travel with me and you will get that opportunity.

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And next to that was a basalt column cave! All hexagons all the time!

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At the very end of this beach (which was covered with beautifully round stones) there were craggy rocks in the water being pelted by unnecessarily aggressive waves while tons of seabirds circled above. SUPER-nature-y and photogenic.

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And the ocean was no joke. Those signs were absolutely right.

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I deviated from waterfalls to tell you about the basalt columns because we went to a waterfall WITH basalt columns! Sad news: I felt ill so I stayed in the car but the others went and it looked like this:

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Not is all lost, however. I plan to go back to Iceland in the summer at some point to see the fields of wildflowers and neither stone no water is seasonal so I’ll maybe get to see this waterfall for myself. Because BASALT COLUMNS.

 

Aaaaaaand I’m back from Iceland. Part 1.

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I’ve actually been back for two weeks but work happened in that way it always does (dramatically and oppressively) so I haven’t had a chance to sort through my pics. But now that Christmas break has started I got a chance to sift through my pictures of moss (get ready to see, like, twenty pictures of moss) (I am not kidding) and y’all gonna get a chance to live my trip to Iceland with me. So, Iceland. First, let me say I understand Björk sooooooo much better now. Her weird, odd, sometimes beautiful and otherworldly music makes much more sense. When I came back I watched a documentary on her and she talks about how being Icelandic influenced her in the first five minutes.

Iceland is unique. Based on what was told to me by several locals, Iceland is most like the big island of Hawaii in that it popped up out of the ocean from volcanoes. The two islands have the same black sand beaches and a very similar pH in the earth. Because Iceland was not part of Pangaea (the giant supercontinent that splintered into our separate continents) and no rafts of leaves floated over, Iceland has no native animals. None. Some seabirds come over and nest there in the summer but until some guy from Norway (let’s call him Sven) came over in 800 A.D. with his sheep and horses and cows, there were no beasties. According to my Icelandic source (the young man who worked at the geothermal bakery), Sven had to return to Norway after some time because all his animals died and he was starving. This sounds pretty correct to me. Everything about Iceland’s landscape said, “Thank you for visiting but if you stay here you will eventually die of malnutrition and exposure.” There are no trees. I’m exaggerating. There are a few short trees. A few. But no situation where you couldn’t see something because it was blocked by trees. No forests. So you can’t build your shelter out of anything but pumice which is sharp and porous. Fissures are open in the ground and sizzling water mixed with poisonous gases come out. There’s no grass for your animals to eat. The ocean is perpetually trying to kill you so it’s hard to fish. The wind wants to rip the flesh from your bones. But, you know people, they can’t take no for an answer. People eventually settled and the hardy short hairy horses and hardy short hairy sheep did well and became indigenous. Humans also brought mice and rabbits and reindeer and they’re considered Icelandic now too even though they’ve only been on the island for 1,000 years.

We* arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and the first thing one would notice is that it was pitch-black outside. I soon found out that the sun didn’t rise until 10:51 in the morning, hung out in the sky for about four hours and then peaced out, leaving you in blackness again. Once we rented our vehicle from the car rental station (where I saw this sign):

arrival

We headed out to get some breakfast. As we were driving away from the airport, there was a sculpture that set the tone perfectly. It was a big pile of rocks with an enormous egg on top and a tail breaking out of the top. This was lit with red lights from the bottom for maximum spookiness. It said, “Hey, you didn’t know we filmed Game of Thrones here? Well, now you know! GIANT DRAGON EGG!” I was too busy going, “Whuuuuuuu…?” as we were passing it to get a picture of it, but here’s a shot I took as we were leaving. It’s during the day so it doesn’t have the same impact as it did with the red lights but you get the idea.

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Post-breakfast we started off to our first destination: the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is mostly for tourists – the natives tend to go to small hot pots in YMCA-like facilities in their towns. The four of us got to the place in pouring icy rain, changed into our bathing suits, grabbed some towels and quickly lowered ourselves into the warm, sulfur-smelling water. Important note: if you do not like the smell of sulfur maybe don’t visit Iceland. It’s a very common odor to come across. Some of the hot water pumped into the houses comes directly from the earth and it is infused with the pungent, egg-y smell. On the way to the lagoon we passed a cemetery. Much to our surprise and for reasons we couldn’t really fathom, the Icelandic people put colorful lit crosses near the graves. It’s a strange place to make so festive. Everywhere else the houses which are small and quaint have one tasteful strand of lights strung above the door, but if you come to visit the graves of Nana and PopPop, hey! A rainbow light-up cross shows you the way!

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I thought it was only that cemetery but no, I saw it several more times. Come celebrate Brazilian Carnival at the cemetery! Woot woot!

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Back to the lagoon. It was 9:45 in the morning. It was pitch-black. There was freezing cold rain periodically falling. There was also a thick fog that prevented you from seeing ten feet in front of your face. To complete the weirdness, there’s a hotel being build off to one side of the lagoon so you can hear some construction sounds and see the lights of the crane through the fog. I felt exactly like I was a wealthy person enjoying life after the fall of society in some dystopian future. Very Mad Max: Fury Road. “I’ll just sit in this warm, eerily bright blue water filled with powdered silica in this perpetual night consumed by fog while buildings are built nearby. All is as it should be.” I didn’t take my phone out because I was concerned it would get wet but someone else took some pictures that were very similar to what I saw. Thank you, internet, for providing me with visual reference of my experience.

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We took some photos as we were leaving.

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This was taken around 11:30 in the morning. This was as bright at it got during the day. Epic gloominess.

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Next, we look at waterfalls. In the dark. Because Iceland.

*”We” is Cricket, Cricket’s sister Mishi, Mishi’s husband D and me.

Iceland. Land of surprisingly little ice.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Well, I’m off. I’m going to Iceland tomorrow and I’ll be back in a little over a week. Be strong in my absence and I’ll see you when I return. Enjoy this video of what I will be expecting.

Mexico, Part 3 and done.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The reason I went to Mexico in the first place was not to enjoy the ruins or the extremely delicious hot chocolate, though both of those were terrific. I went to go study a bead technique under two extremely talented artisits, Jan Huling and Nancy Josephson. It took place in Puerto Vallarta which is a seaside town very popular with tourists. I don’t really have much photography to post on the workshop because it was a group of women hunched over a small wooden altar gluing rows of tiny beads. I do, however, have pictures of some of the Mexican artwork I was privileged to see during my stay. Mexican art is, how do I say this, real vibrant. It looks like the artist is on drugs, the artwork is on drugs and if you stare at it too long you too will magically be on drugs from proximity to the art. I was particularly enamored with two different types of art – the beaded objects made by the Huichol (or Wixarika) people who live in the mountains and the alebrijes made in the Oaxaca area. First, beaded objects. The Huichol people started using beads in their sacred bowls in 17-something-something when the French brought seed beads to Mexico. Because they were so rare they were used very sparingly. The bowls looked like this:

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The Huichol use a very sticky wax to get the beads to stick to the substrate. Then in the 1970s when seed beads became far less scarce the pieces started looking like this:

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Very encrusted. Here’s a great video showing you how it’s done.

https://youtu.be/nQxY5Pr4Pw4

I ended up buying a few bowls made from gourds with beads pressed into them. I think they’re pretty snazzy.

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As you can see a bead fell off from the first bowl but it’s no cause for panic because it’s only one yellow bead and as soon as I find one I will squish it into the wax and everything will be fine. Until then the empty spot will be a lovely reminder of the fragility of life. Or something.

The other artwork I was lovin’ on are things called alebrijes. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Alebrijes are brightly colored Oaxacan-Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. In the 1930s, Linares fell very ill and while he was in bed, unconscious, Linares dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds that suddenly turned into something strange, some kind of animals, but, unknown animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting one word, “Alebrijes”. Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and papier-mâché and called them Alebrijes.

So now there’s an entire art movement based on some guy’s fever dream. They vary in nuttiness but I found two I really liked. One is a… lizard-thing. With a mouth. And wings. And flames coming out of its head. Lotta stuff going on.

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The other is a snail who saw something very traumatic and is going through PTSD. Or he was at the Electric Daisy Festival and took far too much Molly and is having a bad reaction. Either story works.

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The Moomins saw these fellers when I got home and said, “You know, I have a jaunty preying mantis from Mexico that would go beautifully with these sculptures.” So now I also have a jaunty preying mantis friend.

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All of these are fine and good but as with any artistic style there are levels of skill and these are somewhere in the middle. I went to a gallery in Puerto Vallarta and got to see the best artists at this and it hurt my heart. I wanted those pieces so bad, but they ranged in price between $1,800 and $3,000 so I own none. The artists are a team, Jacobo and Maria Angeles, and they are amaaaaaaazing. I found some pictures on the internet that impress their fantasticness onto you. It’s intense.

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I know, right? Drool. Even if you’re not down with the aesthetic approach you cannot deny the skillz. Someday when I win the lottery I will acquire one of their pieces. It’s gonna happen. I should probably start buying lottery tickets though. That would definitely increase my chances of winning.

I brought home the alter that I was working on in Mexico and I have continued gluing beads onto it. I decided I wanted it to look like a petrie dish so I could freehand my design on it. I also glued some origami paper and some coins to it because if you’re going to try something new go all out.

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I’m now making small peyote-stitched tubes that I will sporadically attach to give some depth.

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So there’s my trip to Mexico. If you have any questions, let me know and I will attempt to answer them for you.

Addendum: Other artwork we saw:

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Mexico Part 2.

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

And now for your enjoyment, pictures of the pyramids we saw at the ancient site of Teotihuacan.

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The pictures do the place precisely zero justice. This is not Snorth’s fault. The area is massive and when you get up close to something you can’t photograph it then either because it’s so freakin’ big. Wikipedia has a pretty good shot taken from the top of one of the pyramids that conveys the immensity of the place a bit better.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teotihuacan#/media/File:SSA41434.JPG

Similar shot, more biggerer:

http://theredlist.com/media/database/architecture/history/architecture-pre-colombienne/teotihuacan/cite-de-teotihuacan/007_cite-de-teotihuacan_theredlist.jpg

When we arrived we were standing in a little field in the upper left corner of that picture. The field was meh and the pyramids looked really small and I was thinking, “Okay, this is fine. I mean, after Machu Picchu you can’t expect to be blown away by all the ruins.” I was woefully incorrect. The guide said we had to climb one of those little flat pyramid things and both Snorth and I were like, “Pass.” I still remember the steps of Peru. They haunt me to this day. The guide said, “You really should because how you see the ruins now is not how they were back when the pre-Aztecs built these structures. They were covered with stucco that had paintings and there were carvings. If you climb those stairs you’ll be able to see some of those-” I was off and climbing. Badly. On all fours like a toddler. But I did it. And it was totally worth it.

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Look at those giant weird heads! I thought the heads along the sides of the stairs (those stairs are enormous btw, around upper-shin-high) were jaguars but it turns out it is Quetzalcoatl the feathered snake, a very important deity in the pre-Aztec religion. The cube-shaped heads are crocodiles (the guide said you could tell by their “tusks” which delighted me no end) and the doughnut shapes are very sacred and represent water. Interesting fact: this whole giant religious place (no one lived here, it was just for ceremonies) was built without wheels and the thought is that the wheel shape was sacred and was not used in construction. I think they used logs, or possibly the same technique used to move large stones in Peru, which is covering the path with smooth cobblestones and sliding them. Nobody knows because this group of people had no written language. Another fun fact: they didn’t use any animals for labor. They didn’t have horses or cows or sheep yet, there are no llamas in this area and both deer and bunnies are notoriously bad at being pack animals so it was all man-strength. When you see how many buildings there are in this place you really appreciate how long it must have taken to build this.

In addition to the cool carvings the whole place was covered in stucco that was in turn painted with ground-up stone pigments. Bits of it remain but it is sparse and in poor condition as one could expect.

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In addition you’ll notice that in the picture above there’s that pattern with the main stone put in the cement and then wee stones peppered around it. That is so you know it’s a rebuilt portion, not original. It makes seeing the original parts much easier. Apparently there was a lot of wear and tear from the elements. A good example of that is the next picture. The part above was exposed. The part below was not. Look at the differences in the faces of the critters on the side. They used to be the same.

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I highly recommend if you’re in Mexico City you go to Teotihuacan. It is an amazing site and well-worth exploring. Bring walking sticks because if you go up and down the stairs there are no railings and the stairs are unforgiving.

After being there for several hours Snorth and I got back to the city and went on a city tour. This is where The Incident happened so I wasn’t paying the correct amount of attention because of the trauma of the theft and the hot booger sauce that had covered my forearm, but I absorbed some information. The first place we went was the parliament. Now, back here in the good ole U.S. of A. in a government building we would have murals of Washington crossing the Potomac or something, right? Not in Mexico, oh no. The government commissioned giant murals from Diego Rivera, a known Communist. And he painted what he wanted. As you come up the stairs you are greeted by the central part which is a giant battle between the indigenous people and the Spaniards.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/RiveraMuralNationalPalace.jpg

Okay, fine. However, the mural off to the left takes a whole different turn. At the top is Karl Marx like Jesus and if you look about halfway down you’ll see a woman with her boob exposed making out with a priest (representing the church) and he’s putting money and a cross into her hand. Did I mention this is in the main government building? And the stairs are the only way to get to the second floor?

https://ajshack.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/mexico-city-6-san-angel-and-zocalo-with-ruth-073.jpg

Off to the side are several smaller murals depicting the life of the people up until the Spaniards arrived. They show how corn was turned into tortillas and how the food was grown and how the dentist worked, basic village life-stuff. But it was not all sunshine and rainbows. In one of the market scenes there was an Aztec prostitute with creepy red teeth being offered a human arm for her services. I would pay someone to take the human arm away, but that’s just me. Once again, main government building.

Mexico, Mexico City. Murals inside the National Palace painted by Diego Rivera, Mexico CityThe murals decorate the stairwell and middle storey of the main courtyard and depict Mexican History from the life of Tenochtitlan through to the Spanish Conquest,

I highly recommend seeing this in person, frankly it’s pretty great. I mean, it’s weird as hell, no doubt about it, but awesome.

We also saw the Building of Lies, also known as the big Beaux-Arts building in the center of town. Look at it, isn’t it gorgeous with its Art Nouveau and its roof and all that?

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Inside should be similar. NO. LIES. The inside is Art Deco. Art Deco and dark. You can’t even see the ceiling from the inside. I was so bummed.

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It was cool to see that outside there was a Metro station from Paris.

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And gorgeous jacaranda trees all over the place.

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I think it is a testament to Mexico City that even though my phone was stolen I would still totally go back. I loved it there and I need to see more of it.

Next entry: my beading workshop and some of my purchases.

Mexico! Part 1.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

I went to Mexico to study under an artist I have a massive art-boner for, Jan Huling. I’ve mentioned her before. I didn’t really know the other artist who was teaching, Nancy Josephson, but she ended up being a wonderful kind lovely person as well. Her work is more casual and free-spirited so I used her techniques less (I need control and structure otherwise there is chaos and I’m in therapy to deal with this, thank you) but it’s very cool-looking, especially the birds.

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In keeping with my vacation-posting style, you would think there would be loads of pictures and stories to go with the pictures. And there would be, except for The Incident. I brought my phone down to Mexico and used it as my camera and everything was going great on Day 1 when we were in Mexico City. Snorth and I went to see some pyramids, both our first time seeing these pyramids, and they were amazing. I know people throw that word around, “amazing,” but these seriously were. When we arrived they were off in the distance and looked wee and both of us were like, “Eh, those are fine, adequate pyramids. I thought they would be big and imposing but whatevs.” And then the tour we were on went past a field area and holy moly, we were on a massive boulevard called The Street of the Dead and there were mini-pyramids lining both sides and two monster pyramids at the end. One was 22 stories tall. Crazy-big. Now, this would be the point where I would post pictures of those things but, as I mentioned before, there was The Incident. Don’t worry, I’m getting to it.

After the phenomenal pyramid excursion Snorth and I went for a much shorter afternoon tour in Mexico City proper to see the Cathedral and other city-center things. The main square is enormous, the third-biggest in the world. (Number 1 is in China, Number 2 is in Moscow and then there’s this one.) While we were walking past the Cathedral it was crazy-crowded and that’s when I felt it. Something hot was running down my arm. I looked over and it took me a second to figure out that someone HAD SPAT A GIANT SPIT-AND-SNOTWAD ONTO MY ARM AND IT WAS RUNNING DOWN MY ARM AND OH MY GOD. I reacted as if I’d been shot. I froze up and yelled Snorth’s name over and over. She was awesome. Snorth carries a small towel around with her when she travels and she had that translucent nightmare mopped up in a jiffy. I collected myself and continued on my merry way until I decided to take a picture of something and could not find my phone. They had stolen my phone using the phlegm atrocity as a distraction. I have to give the thieves credit. I don’t care who you are, if someone snorks that much stuff on you you’re gonna be thrown off your game for a while which is plenty of time for them to poach your goods. I know I’m prone to exaggeration but Snorth is not and her comment was, “On my drooliest day I don’t think I could conjure up that much mouth-fluid.” It was an excessive amount. I thought a vulture had pooped on me. While this was the worst thing that had happened to me in a long time I was actually a tiny bit excited because who has the best “I was traveling and my phone was stolen” story now? Me, that’s who. And even though I’ve traveled all over the world nothing of mine has been pickpocketed so I feel like I’m in an elite traveler’s club.

I ended depending on Snorth to take the pictures and she did a wonderful job but I was at her mercy so you’ll see what you see and that will have to do. I will pepper that with pics I find on the internet for additional info. In the next entry we will commence with cool Mexican travelry.

Mexico! And Mad Max. Lots of alliteration.

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

I’m going to Mexico for a week to study beading techniques under an artist I really love (I’ve mentioned her before). I’m sure I will have pictures and stories when I return. In the meantime here is a review video I made of Mad Max: Fury Road for your enjoyment.