Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I feel very fortunate today and that I am receiving the true Michigan experience and I have our GSI to thank for it. A GSI is a Graduate Student Instructor. These are people who take on a certain number of hours of teaching or grading or something that the university quantifies as important enough to subsidize their tuition or pay it altogether along with a stipend. Any way they all went on strike today for various reasons the main one dealing with their raise in pay not matching inflation and health care benefits. Unfortunately I took no pictures of picketers although I tried to find my friend Jonathan picketing in a suit, he probably looked like a member of the mafia. Instead I will use picture from the best strike musical ever, Newsies, and a pic of my friend Brian with a half-stache (I think he is a GSI). Perhaps if Christian Bale was striking here I would care more.

I am not going to get into the politics of this all. My own opinion is split as to whether this strike is really a worthwhile or not. The reason that I am loving it is because I did not have class today and will not have it again tomorrow because of the GSI walkout. Perhaps I should care that my money is going down the drain by not attending class, unfortunately none of my classes inspire such ardor. Perhaps that is the real problem. Whether this apathy is intimately linked with the GSI strike or not I can't say. All I know is tomorrow I get to sleep in, stay in my pajamas and work from home. God bless unions.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nature's Taunt

Today was a day that deserves to be immortalized by my blog. Today I took a walk, voluntarily. I walk a lot in Ann Arbor but it is usually in the bitter cold, and out of necessity to get from one class to another. Today that all changed. It was beautiful. I took a walk with two friends and a dog named Dark Wing Dog (Dark Wing's backside is pictured). Here is the big clincher of my walk. I didn't wear a coat. I have not gone outside without a coat for more than 5 months. Today I felt so liberated. It may be akin to what Nelson Mandela felt after being realized from prison. I fear this may be nature taunting me and in a week it will snow again. Regardless, I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Oh! Oh! Mexico

Here are highlights from my Mexico trip. It is a little choppy but I am trying to give highlights from each day.

Day 1-Friday February 22

Departure. Stephanie took Dan, Jonathan and me to the airport about 5:30 to catch our 8:15 ish flight. Cassie, Dan’s poli sci friend was on a different flight so it was just the three of us. When we got to Texas, Dan and Jonathan had fun singing “the stars at night are big and bright d

eep in the heart of Texas” and then clapping or waiting for someone around them to make the appropriate three claps that follow that line. One

security lady actually did it right on cue. We got to Mexico and made it to our hotel around 4 o’clock. Our hotel was this great little place in a very cute, safe area of Mexico City that was really close to the Zona Rosa. We explored a bit and then waited for Cassie to arrive.

When she did arrive at the hotel it 10 and we still had not eaten so we set out to find something. We found a place that looked a bit too upscale for how we were dressed decided to eat there anyway. The food was really interesting; I got a lump of fat with some meat that was supposed to be bacon, some mini eggs and hash browns. It was OK but not that great. The highlight was our waiter had awesome hair and agreed to take a picture with me. It is now my face book profile picture.

Day 2, Saturday

Saturday I woke up about 5:30 am which is an improvement over 4:00am, the time I had woke up the three preceding days. I went down to the lobby and read my scriptures and then decided to go to a little park we had passed the day before. I took the book I was reading “What is the What” a novel about one of Sudan’s lost boys. It is a great book and it was

so nice to sit in that cute little park and read. While I was sitting there a boy who looked about 12 ears old walked by and said something with the word bonita.

After we all got going we went to the Zocolo, saws the presidential palace, the Catedral Metropolitana and Templo Mayor. The Templo Mayor is an ancient tempt that was at one time the center of the Aztec capital, from which the Spaniards took stone to build the nearby cathedral. Ironic.

Then we ate at Café Tecuba, where I got some great tamales. The weird thing was that all the waitresses were wearing nurse-like uniforms giving me the feeling that we were in a disease ward instead of a great restaurant.

In the afternoon we made our way to the
anthropology museum.
That part of town is really nice and there were a lot of locals and cultural events going on. We saw this group of men who did a little dance around a huge pole, climbed the pole and then attached to ropes swung around and around slowing unwinding until they got to the ground. I got a video of it, it was awesome. The anthropology museum was great, mainly because I put on my ipod and walked around looking at ancient Mexican cultures while listening to Arcade Fire. I think the visual/audio juxtaposition made the visit all the better. I also got some great pictures.

I think everyone was quite beat after walking around for so long in the sun and such that we just went home, emailed and ate at a little place by our hotel.

Day 3, Sunday - Cassie’s Birthday

I woke up early again but it was 6:30 ish so I got up showered and took my scriptures to beautiful church just down the street from our hotel. Being Sunday it was quite busy with Mass, but it was an amazing place to read and relax. Around 8:30 the Mormon group set out for church. We found this taxi driver who I think was drunk, crazy or both. Anyway he took us on an entertaining ride that eventually ended at an LDS church. We got there as they were passing the sacrament so we waited for it to finish before going in. It was an English speaking branch so I knew what was going on.

When the meeting was over Jonathan was chatting it up with a girl in front of us, Amelia. Her parents live in Mexico City because her dad works for IBM and is working out some problems there. She is recently divorced and did not conceal that fact at all. There was a Caucasian younger looking male sitting next to me so I struck up a conversation with him. It did not take long for me to get weird vibes from him. He was very aloof about what he actually did. Both Dan and I thought he was weird. Come to find out from Amelia he is in psych opts with the army. I am not sure what that means but I think he interrogates people. As the three of us were walking outside discussing how nice Amelia was Jonathon thought he should go back in and get her email. Since Jonathan is Latino and she is Latina the eternal possibilities prompted Dan and I to encourage him. He went back in and got her and Jesse’s info (Jesse is the psych opts guy). The area that the church us in was really beautiful. I thought if I don’t find and internship in the DC area than I might think about going to Mexico city for an internship.

That brings me to another theme of the beginning of the trip. Jessica’s mid twenties crisis. I should say one of my mid twenties crisis because I have had more than just one. Jonathan was my therapist. While the break was great I do think that having too much time to think can be detrimental to my mental health. I have time to analyze my life and often I don’t like what I see.

Back to the trip. Sunday afternoon we went to pick up the rental car that we were taking to Acapulco. At the rental place they told us we could upgrade to a Durango for $5 so we drove around Southwest Mexico looking like drug lords in our huge white Durango. I must say as much as driving a Durango goes against everything I believe ecologically, it was fun. A little stressful at first as we were trying to get out of the city but once on the highway it was smooth sailing. We stopped at a little taco stand for lunch and all got tacos, Cassie did get a rice milk drink, which we can only assume lead to what happened about two hours later. As we were driving Cassie started getting some shooting stomach pains and we had to pull over. She went up to hill for an emergency bathroom break. Luckily we made it to Acapulco and our hotel before she needed to stop again. Happy Birthday to her.

Day 4, Monday

Our hotel in Acapulco was interesting. It was in a pretty place, but was very dilapidated. I can only envision what is must have looked like when it was in its prime. We stayed there when it was passed its prime. We were not too enamored by Acapulco, but toured around the Zocolo a bit. We had a great breakfast there and then decided we wanted to explore up to coast more.

On our way out of town we got pulled over. It was clear that the police just wanted some extra cash and made up a stupid story about how we had run a blinking green light. They made up some story about how we would have to go down to the station or we could just pay them $200. We finally got them down to $40. I was really upset by the whole thing and think it is a good thing that I cannot speak Spanish otherwise that stupid policeman would have had a piece of my mind.

We found a cute little beach with very few people on it up the coast and lounged there for awhile. Then we were going to keep going up the coast instead we just drove and saw some parts of Mexico we would have never seen otherwise. It was pretty. We ended up going back to the town where we had lounged on the beach and staying there. We got the most amazing dinner on that beach. Well at least Cassie and I did. Dan and Jonathan were not too impressed with their meal. Because we were all sharing a room in which the bathroom was not enclosed and people had to take care business the people not taking care of business would stay downstairs playing cards and talking.

Day 5, Tuesday

The next day we headed back to Mexico city taking the non toll roads. Roads that we thought were fine but apparently are not all that safe. WE made our way to this cute little town called Taxco. I imagine it is similar to being in mountainous European town. Small little alleys set on a hill with a great city center church and shops. The town was originally founded and developed on silver deposits found there and it still to this day a center for silver smiths and lots of great jewelry. I bought some souvenirs for Maggie and myself. I and Jonathan already bought Stephanie a necklace on the beach the day before. Really I just enjoyed walking through this town, exploring the shops, checking out the gaudy church, built from all the silver money and basking in the atmosphere of it all.

Day 6, Wednesday

We left there and got back to Mexico City just after dark so we waited for the next day to take the Durango back. I think this was my favorite day. After returning what had become known as “The Beast”, we walked down the Zona Rosa which is an amazing street with about a hundred statues and a number of awesome benches. I took advantage of almost all of

them for my purposes of taking awesome pictures. We walked down the street taking pictures until we got to the grand finale, the Gloreita Angel de la Independencia. From that monument is some amazing views of the main city boulevards and the monument itself is very impressive.

Adding to the splendor of the day was the gordita stand that had the best Mexican food I had
eaten the whole trip. It was so amazing that we returned the next day for breakfast.

After that we made our way back to our hotel and waited for Amelia, the girl from church and her driver. They were coming to pick us up and go to Xochimilco. This is in the south of the city and is known for its extended series of canals — all that remains of the ancient Lake Xochimilco. It was originally built for agriculture purposes although it is but a minor activity not. It was actually declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO 1987. We went with Amelia and Antonio. Antonio is Amelia’s driver and the nicest person I met in Mexico. If he was younger and single he definitely would have been my Latin Lover.

We brought along some tacos and floated canals of Xochimilco. The most entertaining part to me was watching the other boats, many of which were filled with drunken parties, go by and with their mariachi band. We didn’t get a mariachi band. I am not sure why but it was just nice to relax, enjoy the scenery and chat with everyone.

I think that day all of our travels were catching up with us. There had been talk of going dancing that night but by the time we got back we all just lounged and did nothing, but watch the show Brothers and Sisters and the first part of Mean Girls. Cassie was leaving the next day around seven so we turned in early.

Day 7, Thursday

Cassie left at seven and then it was just little old me in our bedroom. I really missed Cassie. We went from hardly knowing each other, to sharing a room, a bed, and becoming friends. I really missed her when she left. Our plane did not leave until 3:00 so we went out on the town again. We found the gordita stand from the day before and ate tamales, gorditas and quesadillas for breakfast. It was delicious. Then we found a little café drank some Mexican hot cocoa, ate pastries and read. It was lovely. Then we slowly made our way back to our hotel, packed and went to the airport.

At the airport Jonathan lost a form he needed to get out of the country so we had to go to immigration so he could get a new form. It seems like experiences like that need to happen to counter the awesome ones. To add to that our plane from Dallas to Detroit had maintenance problems and we had to switch panes which d

Overall the trip was really amazing, but while we were on it we had to say "it was just OK" because every time someone said it was great something bad happened: Cassie got sick, the police pulled us over etc. So we got into the habit of saying “this trip is OK”. Not that we are superstitious or anything. But it really was great. Now I have to get back to real life. boo hoo.