I suffer the risk of death while you simply have to suffer my horrible grammar.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hygiene Mugging and 13 Surgical Stitches

"Hand-Sanitizer Rape!" I protested as our friend Muna was cornering me with two pump-action sanitizer bottles.
"Craig, when you sit on my bed, your perineum secretes oils onto my bed!" complained Muna.
Looking at her itchy trigger fingers on the approaching antiseptic lotion bottles, I questioned, "What--you gonna sterilize my perineum?"

With Muna almost being an institutionalized obsessive clean freak and me suffering from attention to hygiene deficiency disorder, in reality, we weren't doing that bad while we shared our travel space.

We had just arrived in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. We were going through our daily negotiation for the rules of where I could sling my jock-itch socks and my explanation of why it was unnecessary to use hand sanitizer on the room's Television screen. An agreement was reached and we air shook hands--real handshakes spread Japanese Encephalitis.

I was then off on a mission. See, I had recently discovered that the end of my shoe was developing a hole. I would never admit this to Muna, but the hole in my shoe couldn't have been a more clear reminder of the fact that I needed to clip my Appalachian talon toe nails. Shhh!

So, not wanting a hygiene lecture from DJ OCD, I secretly dashed off to purchase, this thing called, a toe nail clipper and to make an appointment for shoe surgery. Thirteen stitches later, mission accomplished!

Ironically and, well, not surprisingly, Muna was bed ridden and feeling ill when I returned. So, I was left to wander around the little town of San Pedro.

Sometimes I get so focused on trying to find the perfect nachos, the fastest dial-up internet, the cheapest tour package, and the best place to get mugged that, honestly, I sometimes forget why I love traveling so much. So, I was completely travel t-boned when I got sideswipe by a spontaneous spectacular parade.

I had no idea what the parade was about. But, from the looks of it, neither did the locals.

Minus the fact that it looked like a gang had looted a costume shop, the event was a fusion of every secret society and world celebration compressed into one exciting parade. It was part Mardi Gras and part Illuminati.

Fireworks were cracking, people were clapping, and musicians were singing to this unique music. It was so true and real. I laughed imagining another me tied to my office chair with CAT5 Ethernet cable secretly looking online for a cheap escape airline ticket to travel bliss. The whole event in the street was so authentic and unpretentious. Sure enough, and I hate it when this happens, but I started to cry. But really, I didn't have a chance. The event was so beautiful and real.

I thought being the only tourist there it might be a problem. But, everyone was so inclusive with me. I don't know why, but as I followed the parade, people randomly started giving me high fives. And then the alpha pirate priest nodded invitingly to my camera.

Some dude was lugging car batteries for the parade's 3-ton tsunami speaker. There he was dancing an almost levitating jig. How could I resist buying him a bag of water. He was grateful as I watched him catch it in his mouth, puncture it with one of his canine teeth and hydrate without ever using his hands.

Wait! Then for a second, within this hokie small-town tradition, I was afraid that everyone was giving me high fives because the secret society had picked me to be the honorary annual sacrifice.
"Who cares, silly! Keep taking pictures!" demanded my camera.

I followed the razzmatazz royal parade for a bit longer and then ducked down an escape ally to go back and check in on Muna, our travel cohort.

"Yeah, and then, Muna, get this! They were giving me high fives and--"
"--Craig, wait. Did you first clean the water bottle cap with antibacterial baby wipes?" questioned Muna.
"Kind of...and then, wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. At the parade, they had masks on and--oh right. Look! I fixed my shoe--"
"--Nice...but did you actually wash your hands before you used the antibacterial baby wipes on my water bottle?"
"Oh, Muna. Seriously, you are so, so, so OCD."
"And, Craig, you are so, so, so ADD."
"Air high fives?" I offered.
"Air high fives." agreed Muna.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Projectile Vomiting and Mayan Mojo

Our friend Muna was eager to get to the Mayan site of Tikal, Guatemala.
"I signed us up for the sunrise tour," she announced with a smirk.

We both knew that we'd leave at 4:15 a.m. the next morning and that we would most likely fall asleep at the temples and miss the sunrise anyway.

I don't remember getting up that next day at a punishing hour. But, I did remember when I started to become aware that I was on a bus.

"Muna...Muna...are you awake?" I whispered.
She gave me an opinionated answer by punching me in the ribs.
"Seriously, Muna. Is this really happening?"
"Yes, Mayan temples...heart of a lost civilization...sunrise tour...blah, blah, blah. Yes, it's happening, " she mumbled.
"No, Muna. Look."
Somehow my agnostic prayers had been answered. Looking and listening, I had noticed that I was alone on a bus full of Scandinavian women. It was as if I were being smuggled into a girls volleyball camp.
"You're welcome," Muna offered as I was still flattening my stubborn eyebrow hairs and manically rubbing my arm pits to stir up some irresistible pheromone musk.

As I was kind of hoping the bus drive would have a quick and painless aneurysm so we all could be a little more alone, one girl abruptly stood up and vomited out three pancakes, grape Gatorade and a tequila worm. My fantasy was officially over.

We went on to drive in seven minute bursts pulling over each time for our prolific puker to create another 1 mile roadside marker. Muna offered her a napkin, which our afflicted passenger promptly puked through with velocity vomit. Our vomiting passenger tried to apologize but couldn't help replacing all her prepositions with hurl.

Eventually the chucker passed out from vomit exhaustion and the bus rushed to the Tikal temples.

"Come on Muna, please!"
I was whining to Muna to stealthfully take a picture of me with our girls volleyball team.
"Will you promise to shower?" Pleaded Muna.
"Yes, yes. I promise to wash all my lymph node crevasses," I feverishly announced.

We then entered the Tikal temple park. But, due to either getting up so early that it was basically still yesterday, the 274 kelvin heat, or the powerful Mayan Mojo, Muna and I kind of went nuts at the temples. For example, we decided to have some sort of human panther photo shot:

Muna kept insisting on getting choking pictures:

I decided it was a good idea to put a fat and hairy spider in my food-filthy hands:

And, I concluded that descending down bends-inducing stairs was a great location to close one eye and experience the loss of parallax vision.

Overall, even though no one got blow-darted and absolutely no one would sell me a magical Toucan beak, I was not disappointed with the temples.

In gratitude for the international passengers on our bus, I thanked the Mayan spirits. I also asked for forgiveness for flat out lying to Muna about promising to shower.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Economy of Bribes While Kind of Being a Traitor

Crap! Leaving my Mexican hotel for Tikal, Guatemala, I had realized that once again, Captain Details, had added to his unplanned extensive collection of 2nd and 3rd world hotel keys.

I was heading to Tikal for a little Mayan get away. Tikal is basically the
Machu Picchu of Central America.

Though, to be completely honest, initially I was hella ho-hum about Tikal. But, then I discovered that a little known movie called Star Wars filmed a scene there. Now, I was on a thirteen hour bus/boat combo to be in the very holy presence of where the revered Sir Hans Solo once stood--the rebel base on the jungle moon of Yavin 4!!

Even after stashing my ever-growing hotel key collection in another passenger's bag, there were immediate problems at at the remote Mexican/Guatemala border crossing.

"$26," demanded the Mexican agent as he seized my passport while somehow not looking up from his lunch.
"Yes, good sir, but as we both know very well, as I have spent less than one week in your fine country, I am unfortunately exempt from your very reasonable fee of $26," I humbly offered.
My Passport was put in a draw as the original financial request was repeated.

"See, I wish not to pay as it would disrespect the upstanding law that exempts me from this fee."
"Okay, okay. $14." The original retail rate was kindly reduced.
"Ah, you see, here on my Yahoo-answers print out. You can clearly read that this is really no need for me to pay this fee in my case."
"$5. That's the best I can do," offered the agent.
"The fact is, professional and just border agent, that I don't have such money."
"There is an ATM back in Palenque," shared the border agent.
"Why, that's two hours in the opposite direction."
"No worries. We will wait. Your passport will be safe with us."
"Well, in that case, I'll just take back my passport and take my chances swimming across the river to Guatemala."
"Sergio!" the agent called in back up.

My passport was presented to the supervisor while the current pricing structure in our bartering situation was explained.
"$4.50," offered the supervisor while tapping my passport.
Both the supervisor and the original border agent optimistically turned to me with clear indication that this was a very good price.

But, it was true. I really had no money so I made one last very lucrative offer.
"Okay, look. How about this. I promise, during the next World Cup, to generously support and cheer for Mexico."
There was a stunned pause. In surprise, both the supervisor and the agent turned to each other to reflect on this new more valuable offer. There was much emphatic nodding.

They then both fought over themselves for the honor of stamping my passport. They respectfully compromised by putting both of their hands on the border stamp and validated my passport together. My passport was then dusted off and gently placed in my hand. Then, gleeful hand shakes were offered from the border cage.
"Thank you for visiting Mexico. Good day, sir!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mr. Rebel, Can I Have My Passport Back?

At the time, my Guatemalan visa was about to expire. But, I discovered a look-tight loop hole where if I reached over the border and dangled my passport in Mexican airspace, snap, I could instantly reset my Guate' visa.

"Como?" The Mexican border agent was confused about my loud long extended celebration.
"...laaaaaassooooooo!!! Oh, sorry. Argentina just scored a goal."
"Against Mexico," added the unamused border agent as he held my not-yet-stamped passport.
He expressed his displeasure with my World Cup antics by power-hammering a stamp into my passport. I quickly jumped back on the bus before he stuffed me into an underground mule tunnel to Detroit.

"Hello! There is no toiler paper in here!" I yelled from the Mexican hotel bathroom.
"$1!" replied the local hotel staff.
I replied by clearly articulation that I was then not accountable for how I may or may not use the bathroom faucet to clean myself if paper was not properly and freely provided. A square piece of 300-count Egyptian cotton was slipped under the bathroom door. I was happy. Actually, I was also a little nervous. See, before leaving Guatemala, I was given a hot lead for visiting and interviewing Zapatista rebels.

I dashed out of my hotel to meet my initial Zapatista contact. My instructions were to knock on an unmarked door that was directly in front of a local church. The surveillance cameras around the door would identity which door. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I couldn't see any door that looked promising. I only saw a bunch of shoe stores and hammock shops.

"Can I help you?"
"You sure can," I confided. "Well, see, I'm ah...I'm here to interview, you know..."
While tweaking my optimistic eyebrows, I nodded my head to the Subcomandante Marcos T-shirts hanging on the wall.

There was a show of him all pretending to look confused. That's cool. With us both standing there alone in the store, I just let the awkward pause hang there, using it to my advantage to let him know that I was serious.

I wiggled my eyebrows again to break the silence. He responded by knotting his.

To let this Zapatista secretary know I was serious. I kind of lied and said, "Look. It's okay, compadre. I have an appointment."
There that will speed things up a little bit.

While it might have looked like he was gesturing to the door for me to leave, I knew that he really meant for me to speak with the sympathetic taxi driver out front. I hopped into the taxi satisfied that I was finally getting somewhere. The taxi driver merged with the traffic.
Though it really wasn't necessary, I proudly announced our obvious destination, "La Oficina de Los Zapatistas, por favor."

In an unprecedented act in the history of all taxi drivers, he actually released the car horn to be sure that he had indeed heard me correctly.
Exaggerating a little bit, I confessed, "It's cool, my friend. I know the password."
The taxi driver reclined his chair all they way back into my lap to be sure that he had heard me correctly.
"Oh?" the driver was waiting or confused.
I leaned forward to share the password, "...'Rage Against the Machine'..."
The driver promptly dropped me off at the next street corner.

Okay, fine, this wasn't working out so well. New plan. I had solid intelligence on where their compound was. I'll just go there directly myself, interview all the top ranking commanders, get deputized, snip' an enemy and then, of course, be invited to be a lifetime board member.

While taking a shuttle out of town to the Zapatista compound, I was day dreaming about how I would surely meet a female rebel. I would woe her with my hand-stitched ski mask that would have a heart-shaped opening for her beautiful eyes, bridge of her nose and eyebrows.

Suddenly the shuttle stopped and the door swung open. As the shuttle tore off, I was hurdled out in front of a Zapatista guard box.
"Good Day," came from a motionless ski mask.
And a good day to you, sir Zapatista rebel.

I was handed a customs form and asked to hand over my passport for review. I was standing at a blockaded road with two guard boxes. Behind the guard boxes was a small little Zapatista town with a dirt road that went to a parade field.

"We will confirm with the commanders that you may enter," reported the guard.

My application and passport were handed off to another masked rebel who ducked into a nearby office to review my application. Not that I was worried, but I did appreciate that I had just simply handed over my passport to two masked rebels. I then asked the rebel guard if he had a ski mask tan line. He responded by asking me to step back and to put away my camera.

As I knew with unquestionable confidence that I was personally being watched during my security review, I wanted to look as pleasant, cooperative and socialist as possible. So, loudly, for all to hear, I greeted every single passing pedestrian and then emphatically waved to them as they crossed the visible horizon. I spontaneously and unconditionally helped an elderly lady shuck corn. And finally, I discreetly dragged four local kids over to the guard so that he could see me give them each an identical Popsicle. Clearly I would be fast-tracked into the rebel compound.

Overall, I must admit, I was thoroughly impressed with the meticulousness of my security review as I was able to observe three hourly guard changes.

Then a naked-faced Canadian announced, "You know you can wait in their information booth."

He also shared that he had already been waiting for seven hours.
I thought about this and then shared my solution, "Mmm, maybe if we bought ski masks from the shop across the street, well, we could just walk right into the compound without any issues at all."
Doubt was expressed.
I followed up with, "But, what if we added life-size cut outs of
Subcomandante Marcos' face under our ski masks--"
"--They'd noticed," concluded the pessimistic Canadian.
"Right. But not if you created a distraction, like, by dropping your pants. Huh? What do you think now?"
Due to his questionable cooperation in the face of all that is logical, I was forced to conclude that he was part of the elaborate security review process.

While I let my Canadian team mate have more time to think about my perfect plan, I remembered a recommendation by some of my friends and got my picture with the Zapatista soccer team.

Still there hadn't been any decision on my security clearance. Obviously, they were too busy showing off my Facebook pix to all their squadron leaders.

But, with their media black out and the last transportation back home leaving in 10 minutes, I had to concede that my fantasy of hijacking the heart of a Zapatista rebel wasn't going to happen. I also concluded that it best not to have a summer slumber party with remote revolutionary rebels anyway as it might trigger a spontaneous second menopause with my ever-worrying mother. So, I asked to have my passport back. And to insure a better chance for my Canadian friend, I left after advising the Zapatista guard not to worry because I was absolutely 100 percent sure that other white guy was definitely not a spy.