Rewarded by the Western Sun: San Diego and Ensenada

It’s finally been getting warmer around New York, and residents are rejoicing. Putting up with scarves and shivers for months on end, we certainly feel like we deserve this rewarding climactic break.

I cheated on this, however, by flying to San Diego, California, at the end of March.

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Perhaps that shared sentimental brightness that results from the first warm days is not a phenomenon for people who live in a warm place and do not have to endure the everlasting challenge of coldness; but for those of us that do, we can finally enjoy the feeling of wearing a T-shirt outdoors (and even encountering the subject of your T-shirt right on the sidewalk).

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Some of the other local animals are not quite as fluffy.

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After debating whether this Ocean Beach landmark was the largest pier or second largest pier in California or the country or coast or some other record, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it sure made for a lovely oceanic shot.

Another novelty of the Western United States is the scenic sunsets over this very body of water. When the sun finally descends beneath the aquatic horizon, the temperature goes down as well, and one can take refuge within the comfort of establishments.

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One such establishment, a karaoke hall, posts bodily etiquette rules above its plastic trash can (in two major world languages).

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At 7-11, rather, a sign is posted to punish those who have already committed unacceptable behavior against its rules (as well as to deter future immoral acts against innocent burritos).

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Down in Ensenada, Mexico, sunny skies also dominate the landscape in the laid-back daytime atmosphere…

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…for us humans…IMG_0531[1]

…and for inanimate versions of extinct (or possibly imaginary) creatures.

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Such a setting is also adequate for ranches…

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…not to mention little ¬†villages along rock beaches.

Chiapas

I think everyone who has traveled through Chiapas has definitely left with an impression. I went to San Cristobal de Las Casas when I was in Mexico, which is an old colonial city high up in the mountains. The city is well-lined with short, colorful buildings and cobblestone streets, and this structure makes its way up several tall hills at which you can get a crazy view of the roads and structures and beyond.

San Cristobal is populated mostly by Mayans who speak their native language instead of Spanish. Many of the women make money by walking around town and carrying about 20 scarves on their shoulders, 50 necklaces wrapped around one hand, and hand-crafted skirts stacked on top of the other, all while carrying an infant in a sling on their backs. The other major demographic of this town was clusters of foreign hippies, sporting their rainbow hemp wear and dreadlocks, who looked like they were likely of American or European origin.

We took a shared minibus out to some interesting church a few miles outside of San Cristobal to a little city. On the drive there, we would pick up people off the side of the streets who were flagging down the vans, and then drop other people off at their respective rural residencies while they would take live chickens out of the van’s trunk during their departure. We went to the little town and saw the famous strange church from the outside. We entered the hyped- up madness, and there were pine branches and needles scattered all over the floor, along with a few people crouched down on the ground either lighting small, white several candles or drinking Coca Cola and going into some inverted prayer trance. All the while, some plastic children’s toys were playing single-key Christmas songs and there were even some electric Christmas lights lit up. Apparently they sacrifice chickens at this church, but fortunately we missed that.

While I was staying around Palenque, another part of Chiapas, we also had a shared bus excursion to some waterfalls. On the way, the locals stop you and little children press their faces up against the glass and try to sell you their bananas. The waterfalls represented what I’ve seen in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, except in hot and humid jungle settings rather than cloudy temperate rainforest settings.

Interesting Architectural Preservations

Ruins are so fascinating on so many levels. It’s crazy to see the skeleton of some great city that was present hundreds of years ago, and to see how it’s still present but evolved into some cultural attraction, now clustered with groups of people from random countries led by people speaking their respective languages. I’ve definitely seen pictures of these ancient places in the context of tour books or old high school Spanish teachers showing the class some mass-produced, glossed posters with all of that educational banter and bright colors printed on the sides.

While I was in Mexico this winter, I went to Teotihuacan (above), which is located a little outside of present-day Mexico City. Mexico City is one of the most intense cities in the world, with so much development and so many humans everywhere, so it’s very special that this greater area dates back to such ancient times. Prior to my trip, I learned that Teotihuacan’s pyramids and structures all used to be covered by red paint with intricate characters and symbols inscribed all over the rocks. When you climb the pyramids, they have conveniently placed railing and ropes for your assistance, and when you get up there, it’s insanely windy.

I also went to Palenque, which is in Chiapas, in Southern Mexico. It was in the middle of the jungle, so it was crazy hearing beasts in the wilderness roaring and seeing Toucans fly by in the hot, humid settings. Both Palenque and Teotihuacan were very symmetrical, which surprised me. It’s strange trying to imagine a bustling city or village going on around with these structures as a base.