Saturday, March 24, 2018

Home Sweet Home, March 21 - 23, 2018

My parents picked me up at the airport and after a stop at Costco, we were on our way to North Battleford.  Jane and Nico had appointments with their doctor so they were in town and met us at my place.  It seemed strange walking into my condo after almost 6 months away.  Paxton, the woman who has been renting from me, appears to have taken excellent care of my place, so I'm happy about that.  You never really know.

After lunch, we visited and then my parents went home. They like to drive in the daylight and try to avoid rush hour in Saskatoon.  Jane, Nico and I headed out to their house where I spent 3 days.  The first day was beautiful so Nico and I built three snowmen-


Nico is a lot of fun, a great talker for a "just 2" year old and very affectionate!  I am lucky!

Day 2 we got a storm-


The wind was howling and the snow falling.  It was a good day to be inside.

Today was beautiful- well, for March in Saskatchewan: the sky is blue-


My lucky grandson's toy blew right off the deck in the storm yesterday-


I'm happy to be home; back with the people I love: my family and friends.  Looking forward to meeting my new grand-daughter in the next few days, a little bit of work, lots of golfing and motorcycling and just an awesome spring, summer and fall!




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, March 20, 2018

On my way to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I passed the restaurant where I would eat lunch.  The worker was getting the 'el  pastor' ready to cook.  Pork is seasoned and put on a vertical spit while flames come out of the heater on the right to roast the meat-


I took the metro and some stations were packed.  I let a train leave without me because I didn't want to be a sardine and found the next train to be just as busy.  I got in anyway and at the next stop, they just pushed and pushed to get out.  It was like a mini stampede!  And, this was in an all women's car.  I wondered why they separated women and children from the men.  It was also funny because I was by far the tallest person in the train and all I could see was a sea of black heads.  

The Museo Nacional de Antropologia is gigantic and very well organized. There is always a travelling exhibition and today it was about flowers and their importance in all parts of Mexican life.  

Xochicalca is from the Templo of Xochiquetzal dating from 650 - 900 A.D.  He/She is the Precious Flower goddess and is related to the mythology of the people who lived on the Chinampas, the floating gardens- 


All ancient Mesoamerican cultures used flowers to name deities, in rituals and for sacrifices.  Flowers were as precious as jade beads and quetzal feathers.  They are found on everything-


In this 17th century choir book, the flowers around the "J" stand for abundance and the 4 flowers round the "V" represent cypress and Jesus on the cross showing the duality of life and death-


The man's genitals have been mutilated to bleed him.  He comes from Monte Alban - 300-500 AD.  His blood will nourish the earth-


They painted a flower where his genitals were-


This lamp was really cool.  The light shade is made from paper and the cut outs reflect onto the walls.  The walls were just green and red but the light shade creates the pattern-


My Grandma Madsen always grew dahlias and everytime I see one, I think of her-


The tree of life is from the 20th century and covered in flowers-


Besides the changing exhibition, there are 12 main halls dedicated to pre-Hispanic Mexico.  Upper level rooms show how the groups live today.  I only visited the main floor salas and that took 2 hours even though I quickly walked through most rooms.
The rooms start with an Introducion a la Antropologia which explains what anthropology is all about.  When I was studying my arts degree, I took an anthropology class so I already had a pretty good understanding.  

I think I've seen this person before-


The second room was Poblamiento de América, explaining how the earliest settlers got to the Americas and how they survived and prospered in their new land.  Next was Preclásico en el Atiplano Central, focusing on the pre-classic period which is from 2300 BC - 100 AD, showing how the nomads, who were hunters and gatherers became farmers.  The Teotihuacán room presents information from the Americas first great state with the Sun and Moon Templos and showed what the buildings would have looked like painted.  The paintings illustrate religious beliefs, mythology and rituals-


Next was Los Toltecas y su Epoca which presented cultures from 650 - 1250 AD.  Another room features the Mexica, or Aztecs.  

The sun stone was found under the Zócalo in 1790 and is an Aztec calendar.  In the centre is the face of Xiuhtecuhtli who is emerging from Earth Hole holding a pair of human hearts.  His tongue is a knife and he's surrounded by four suns-


The next room talked about the cultures of Oaxaca including the Mextecs and Zapotecs.  All of these rooms were familiar to me because I've visited these areas.  The next room was about the Culturas de la Costa el Golfo where I haven't been so I walked quickly through.  

This gigantic head, weighing 20 tonnes, was found in Vera Cruz, and it dates from 1200-600 BC-



The next room was about the Maya, who lived/live in south eastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras.  A full size replica of King Pakal's tomb from Palenque is on display.  It was found in 1952-



The two remaining rooms were about the north and the west so I breezed through them too. 

All the ancient Mexican civilizations played ball in the same way.  They used a rubber ball and had to contact it with their elbows, hips or knees.  A goal was scored when the ball went through this fairly small hole-


Tenochtitlán is today's Mexico City and this is how the Zócalo area used to look-


The Bat God mask was found in Monte Alban and is one of the best ever found in all of Mexico.  It's made of 25 pieces of  jade yet the eyes and teeth are seashells. It's the god Piquete Zina.  Three slate plates hang down from the chin and it dates from 100 BC to 100 AD.


These faces come from Veracruz and have some comic elements-


The God of water was found in Puebla in 951 AD-


This mask was used for fertility rituals and dates from 650 AD-


The museum is gigantic, filled with far too much to see in one day.  If I lived here, I would visit one or two rooms/visit.  I found a lot of the displays repetitive: lots of stellaes, funeral urns, masks, pots, jewelry and architectural details.  It is well worth visiting and next time I'm here, I'll visit the second floor!  

The metro was much calmer on my return and the tacos el pastor were ready and delicious, especially with a bottle of mango juice-


I caught a local bus  to the airport and had difficulty at check in because of my passport.  As soon as the WestJet website learned it was issued in Chile, I was thought to be Chilean and Chileans need a visa to visit Canada.  The woman trying to check me in went to her supervisor a couple of times and finally he came and clicked the right buttons so I could get my boarding pass.  We boarded our flight on time but the fuel truck ran out of fuel and took forever to come back.  We left 1h35 minutes late and so I missed my connecting flight to Saskatoon.  Luckily it was not a weather related incident so WJ paid for a hotel in Calgary and I am booked on an early flight to Saskatoon in the morning.  At least I'm not going home in a wheelchair like last year.  I thought about that a lot today and made sure I was extra careful going down all the stairs in the metro and crossing the streets. I want to go home healthy this time!  Adios Mexico!  I'll be back!  


Monday, March 19, 2018

Mexico City, March 19, 2018

I spent the morning working on yesterday's blog and then it disappeared again, so decided to go for a walk and see some more sights.  A person could spend many days, months and probably years in this huge place and still not see everything.

My first stop was Iglesia Santo Domingo.  It's a baroque style church built in 1736.  It too is sinking as there are cracks in the big marble floor tiles-


The inside side altars are very ornate-


It looks like Jesus or somebody is peering down on all thee sinners.  There are collection boxes everywhere, especially along the prayer rails.  These people who have miserable lives and have been brainwashed with guilt and thoughts that they aren't worthy think if they pay, things just might improve.  WTF I say.  How does that even make sense?  It's kind of an oxymoron isn't it?  An all loving God wants you to pay so life gets better and the more you pay, well maybe, just maybe, things will get better.  But what if they don't?  Pay more?  Some of these people don't have enough money to eat let alone buy their way to heaven.  Okay, stop-


I stopped at a street stall for Tacos al Pastor and talked to the salsa maker for her recipe.  I need green tomatoes: they come wrapped in a leaf and I might be imagining it but I think I've seen them at No Frills.  I  need to fry the green tomatoes, garlic, onion and mora peppers in oil and then blend it with water.  I can't imagine that my salsa will taste anything like what I've eaten here but I'll try-


I wanted to get a view from the top of the Torre Latinoamericana so I had to have lunch there or sit at the bar that faced the wall.  Darn.  I haven't had flowers in my salad since I had a great meal at Treenie's-


The view is great from 41 stories up. I can almost see 24 million people waving!  Looking west-


The Zócalo is in the middle where the white tents are set up, showcasing the agriculture, food and culture of the country in an exposition that's been on all week.  The long horizontal grey building behind is Palacio Nacional and the Catedral is to the left-


Looking east-


Looking south and to the "modern" city-


It's a civic holiday so the streets were packed-


Tomorrow I'm hoping to visit the National Museum of Anthropology before I make my way to the airport for my 4 pm flight.  That is,  I think I'm going home tomorrow.   After I entered my passport information to check in on line, I was told I'd have to have a visa to enter Canada and to please contact the nearest embassy.  Because I got a new passport along the way, it now says it was "issued" in Santiago, but it wasn't really.  It was issued in Ottawa which is why it took 21 working days to get.  So even though it says I'm a Canadian citizen, as soon as I put Chile in as the issuing country, I'm Chilean!  Crazy!  I called WestJet and Jamie was dumbfounded by my problem.  30 minutes later and after resetting my account it still didn't work but she assured me I'd be okay at the checkin desk!  We'll see!




UNAM, Cuicuilco, Xochimilco, Bellas Artes, Ballet Foclorico de Mexico, March 18, 2018

I just spent the last few hours working on yesterday's blog and it just disappeared - poof!  That doesn't happen often but it has happened a few times this trip.  It is so frustrating, especially when the Internet is slow and it seems to take forever to post pictures.  Oh well, here I go again!

I decided to book another tour today just for convenience's sake.  The metro and buses are excellent but they take a lot of time.  I was picked up at 8:30 sharp from my hotel but it took until 10 am and 3 van changes until the tour officially started.  I guess the problem was that I was the only client with the company I booked with so they shuffled me over to a different company which unfortunately followed a different itinerary.  And as for complaining about George talking on and on yesterday, today's guide, David, was practically mute!  He did tell us a few interesting things though, such as the population of Mexico is 120 million and 24 million live in Mexico City alone with 4 million cars!  35 million live in the U.S.!

Our first stop was at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and more precisely at the 1968 Olympic Stadium where we saw a mural by Diego Rivera called The University, the Mexican Family, Peace and Youth Sports.  It's kind of a long name for something that isn't very impressive.  It's made of natural stones and the university shield is in the center with the condor and eagle on a cactus, referring to the orders by Huitzi to the Aztecs about how to find a new place to live. The parents are presenting the dove of peace to their child and the athletes on the outsides are lighting the Olympic torch.  The feathered snake on the bottom refers to the god Quetzalcoati-


The nearby extinct volcano Xitle erupted in 245-315 AD.  The smog from those 4 million cars makes it hard to see and it's a clear day-


The eruption destroyed the city of Cuicuilco where all that remains is this round pyramid, also known as a huachimonton.  Cuicuilco was a city between 750 BC to 115 AD and is known as the oldest city in the Mexico Valley.  The platform, that they think was used for religious purposes, is 100 m in diameter and 25m tall-


It's made of lava rock that's packed around a pile of dirt.  There is no limestone holding the rocks together and the rocks weigh up to 30kg each-


They have found altars in the centre-


The pyramid is in a bad spot because developers want to use the land for new buildings and the rest of the site is covered in 8 - 10 feet of lava so it is nearly impossible to excavate.  I understand the importance of history but this pyramid is very small and it would be on the bottom of my list of things to see in this great city so build away I say.

It took an hour to get to Xochimilco and this gave me time to get to know the others on the tour.  There was a couple from Managua who have a son living and working in Calgary.  Two Taiwanese women had just finished a year working at the Banff Springs as housekeepers.  A Panamanian man lives in Connecticut where he's been assistant managing a KFC for 13 years.

Driving through the city we passed by the Angel of Independence, a 150 foot victory column built to commemorate the centennial of the War of Independence.  It was completed in 1910.  The image of Nike sits on top and she's covered with 24k gold.  She holds a crown above her head and has a broken chain, representing freedom, in her other hand.  There's a 200 step staircase inside leading to the top.  I forget what the first fountain is but I like it-


Once in Xochimilco, the city of flowers, we walked through the hordes of trinket booths to the canals where we were each given a rose to start our trip-


The 3000+ trajineras are all very colorful and named after women-


We were barely on Beatriz-


when our drink orders were taken-


and in no time I had a michelada in my hand-


I've only had one before and that was in Manzanillo when Jane and I went a few years ago.  I didn't like it then but thought I'd give it a try and oh oh, I loved it!

There was a lot of traffic in the canal-




but that just added to the fun!  There are numerous restaurants and bars floating along-





Some people bring their own food and have a picnic-


There is entertainment too:  mirachi bands play-




And there's marimba-


There are a few hundred creepy dolls in the trees on Isla de Las Muñecas.  The legend is that a young girl was found drowned in a canal by Don Julian Santana, a former caretaker of the island.  A few days later he found her doll floating too.  He felt so badly that he couldn't save her, he hung the doll on a tree to remember her but then became possessed by her evil spirit.  To free himself of the evil, he continued hanging up dolls for 50 years.  Eventually he too was found drowned in the exact spot of the little girl.  Dolls hang from the trees and have severed limbs and blank eyes.  It's rumoured they can move and blink because they are possessed too-


Unfortunately we didn't get to take this boat-


There is also shopping along the way.  This is the first time I've seen sombreros for sale since arriving in Mexico-


Blankets and ponchos-


Flower head pieces-


Dolls and other toys-


Even plants-


Who buys all this junk I'd like to know.  You never see anyone making any actual purchases.  It's a hard life.

There are over 175 km of canals.  Mexico City was built on a large lake so islands of reeds were built so there were places to live and grow food, similar to what I saw in South America.  There are greenhouses on some of the islands-


and homes-


Our canal trip was an hour long and that was sufficient although it would have been nice to get away from all the traffic but I don't think many do that.  After Xochimilco, we headed back to the city.  I knew the 28th of November was an important day and Mexico City recognizes my birthday with a square and beautiful fountain-


I stopped at a rooftop bar that has a great view of Templo Mayor-


And the Zócalo-


I wanted to sit at a table with a view so asked a man, who was sitting alone, if I could sit at his table.  He gave me a dirty look and told me to sit at another table inside the restaurant.  I told him I wanted a view so he rolled his eyes and said okay!  Asshole!  So, I decided I wouldn't disturb him by talking to him so I didn't.  Soon we were best of friends!  He's from Cologne, Germany and teaching video editing and photography at the university.  He's been here 3 years and loves it.  He lives in a small 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment and pays $1000/month!  I find that expensive but he says he's in a safe area so it's worth it.  

After the view, I headed to Bellas Artes Museum because on Sundays, entrance is free.  They had an exhibit combining animal elements with humans.  It was kind of weird!

Taller (workshop) de Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593).  Primavera, 1573  (Spring)-


Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787)  Achille y el Centauro Chirone, 1746-


Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) El beso, 1925-


Prune Nourry (n.1985).  Squatting Holy Daughter, 2010-


Victor Brauner (1903-1966).  Mesa-lobo (it looks more like a fox to me than a wolf). 1947-


Orlan (n. 1947).  Surmas Woman with Lip Plug and Face of Euro-Saint-Etienne Woman with Rollers-


And my favorite by Dustin Yellin, Psycogeography 97, 2017.  It's a person made from 25 sheets of plexiglass with cutouts from magazines inserted between the plates to look like a collage-


His head-


The sheets of acrylic-


His leg-


There are also murals on display such as Katharsis o La eterna Lucha de la Humanidad por un mundo Mejor, 1934-1935 by Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949).  It's pretty violent-


They have a few of Rivera's too:  Mexico folclorico y turistico, 1936 which shows a lot of the costumes worn during Carnaval and Day of the Dead celebrations-


David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 - 1974) painted Nueva Democracia, 1944.  These murals are huge; this one measures 5.5m X 11.98m-



Diego's El hombre en el cruce de caminos o El hombre controlador del universo, 1934, is 4.85m X 11.45m-


On my way home, I walked by the post office.  It was built at the beginning of the 20th century and has a combination of many architectural styles complete with marble floors-


The roof has some cool decoration-


It was closed but I could still take pictures.  It's retro-


I went home and had a nap, then went back to Bellas Artes to see el Ballet Foclorico which was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  The costumes and music were amazing.  They present the regions of Mexico across centuries of history-






The woman pulled this red ribbon off of the man's waist; it was like a cummerbund. She put it on the floor, and then with their feet, they tied it into this knot-


All the dances and costumes were so different, then, all of a sudden, these huge figures appeared-



A mariachi band was playing on the stage when all of a sudden drummers were pounding from the upper side boxes-




My favorite was a deer that was being hunted.  He sprinted around the stage, jumped, rolled, crawled and was finally killed.  That part wasn't why it was my favorite-




The finale went on forever.  They danced on the stage and in the aisles and even with viewers.  It was sooooo good-


It was a huge day so I'm looking forward to taking it easy tomorrow during my last full day in the sun.  All museums are always closed Mondays but it's also the birthday of Juarez, a former president so it's a national holiday.  Vive México!  







Marrakech to Kaouki Beach, Morocco, November 16, 2018

We only had 190 kilometers to go today so we doddled:  we stopped for coffee, washed the truck- or had a couple of guys wash it,  tried to g...