It’s not just a job it’s a f’ing adventure!

September 29, 2010

So day two wasn’t much better although I did get a bit of sleep last night. Right now this whole thing feels like a crappy job. I wake up early and walk to school then spend the entire day cramming my brain full of things I barely comprehend. By lunchtime I have a headache. I haven’t been in an academic setting in 20 years and my poor brain simply isn’t used to thinking this hard for this many hours straight.

I will adapt no doubt but after spending all day in class I find it very hard to try to practice and study vocabulary at home because I am simply sick of it by then. However, I realize that my lack of vocabulary is exactly why I am struggling so it’s a double edged sword. I guess this weekend will be spent memorizing vocabulary. I need to memorize 500 words a week!!!!!

For the first time, I am really homesick. I was walking to school yesterday and I passed an elementary school. The sounds of children laughing and playing caused me to miss my kids terribly and I had to wipe away the tears as I walked away. I really, really, really miss mi familia. This is going to seem like the longest 4 weeks of my life.

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OMG what have I signed up for?

September 27, 2010

So I finally arrived in Mexico City at 1am in the morning and managed to get through immigration, customs, and find my way to the hotel so I could collapse in bed for 3 hours. Then I was up and off to catch the 6:15am bus to Puebla. I was the first passenger to buy a ticket and be at the bus gate so I got onto the bus and strolled to the middle before picking a seat on the right hand side. I noticed other passengers looking at their ticket stubs and then looking at the seat numbers and I realized that apparently this was not open seating. Now Mexico is as disorganized as any other country yet they sell public bus tickets and actually assign you a seat. Oops! The other weird thing was that the policia videotaped every face on the bus before it left. Guess they wanted to identify any criminals. Reassuring.

By the time we reached the next stop I had quickly figured out that asiento on my ticket meant I needed to change seats pronto. Of course, my seat was right at the front with the absolute minimum of leg room. Given I was crammed in on the plane coming to Cuidad de Mexico, my knees were already sore and by the time I reached Puebla I was really hurting and my eyes were burning from lack of sleep.

I was wisked immediately to the school and when they say immersion they mean immersion. Basically, I was like a deer in headlights. Not only did I not speak Spanish but my brain was dog tired and here I was being forced to fend for myself. Thank God I was the only one in Level 1 (should be level -1) starting today because I couldn’t take the humiliation (again) of being the class dunce 🙂

My 22 year old instructor was extremely nice and patient because we started from scratch. OMG…. My brain was fried after 4 hours and three breaks. I met a few nice people at lunch and my guide for the week was very kind and spoke quite a bit of English to me for the last two hours of the day because I appeared to be in serious trouble. Not even a nasty, strong cafe Americano could wake me up. Tomorrow she said she will not take pity on me but then again I will have actually slept by then so I may be better. At what I am not sure!

I am 100 percent completely overwhelmed and that is an understatement. What the heck was I thinking going into central and south America without speaking Spanish. Here’s your sign!


Oh Mexico!

September 25, 2010

So this is it. I leave today for Puebla and a month of Spanish language school. I have idea what it will be like, what my host family will be like or even if anyone will be at the bus station to meet me but I am off anyway. I am a little nervous about it all but an adventure I’m sure it will be. My reward for doing well is that I get to spend 8 glorious days with my kids when it is all over. I can’t wait… I miss them more than air 🙂

UPDATE

I am beyond pissed!!!!!! My American Airlines flight out of San Francisco left on time but because of some stupid headwind that they didn’t bother to speed up for, we landed 20 mins late. I dashed across terminals and of course missed my flight. The woman at the counter couldn’t give a rats ass about my problems. She basically told me that she was already late to leave and that the next flight was sold out. She booked me on the 10pm flight that gets into Mexico City after MIDNIGHT!!!! I have no way to contact the institute on a Sunday to tell them that my plane is late and now I will have to spend the night in Mexico City, start a day late and God only knows where my bags will end up. My host family is expecting me today as well. To add insult to injury, the stupid gate agent who couldn’t care less put me in a middle seat of a regular isle after I asked for emergency exit. Now, my flight doesn’t leave for 10 hours and somehow all the emergency exits are booked?

I did manage to get an email to the school and the director of the school said I could still take a bus to Puebla and they would pick me up no matter what time I go there. WHAT???? Surely this guy is not suggesting that a person who speaks no Spanish and has never been Mexico would catch a bus in the middle of the night to a place he’s never been. Maybe he hasn’t read the news about Mexico being a tad dangerous these days 🙂


Please tell me this the top.

September 17, 2010

I’ve been enjoying my relaxation time here in St. Helena. In between shuttling Juliette to and from the airport, I have been going to the gym, eating too well and watching a few movies. I’m not studying as much Spanish as I should but I will buckle down now as I only have a little over a week before I leave for Mexico.

I did get to see my buddy Adam who had moved south from San Francisco to Morgan Hill. The last time I saw him he was single and living in San Fran and now he is married with a baby on the way and has a house in the burbs… so to speak. A huge change but he seems to be taking it all in stride and enjoying his life changes. His wife is considerably younger than he but they seem to have a great relationship and get along well. It reminded me of the sweet early days of my marriage and I had to smile when I thought of all the wonderful joys they are about to experience. I wish them well.

Juliette has traipsed off to India for ten days so yesterday I decided to try out a hike that she had done in her youth. I left the house before 8am and was at the 4,400 foot Mount St. Helena trailhead by 8:30. The mountain is the highest in the Napa Valley and one of the few Bay area mountains to get snow in the winter. I was the only car in the parking lot and the sign read 5.1 miles to the top of the mountain. What it didn’t say was that the vertical rise was over 2000 feet so my 5.1 miles felt like 10 miles on a POW death march in the desert!

By the time I realized that this was going to be a challenging hike, I was already a little tired and half my water was gone. I pushed on, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to convince myself the the burning in my hips actually felt good instead of serving as a reminder of what a fat bag of lard I am 🙂 After about 2 hours, I came to the saddle of the mountain. There were 5 peaks that I could see and chose from and after much debating I started up again headed for the highest peak. I won’t lie, it was a bit of struggle and as I rounded what I thought was the high point, I realized that the north peak was actually even higher. OMG… you mean this isn’t the top!!! The last 200 vertical feet were brutal but somehow I made it to the top, puffing and panting, and crashed out on the rocks to take in the magnificent views.

I took a few pictures and had a quick bite to eat while finishing my water. After about 20 mins at the peak, I started to head back down the mountain and on the very steep part near the top I passed a beautiful blond in running gear who cheerfully said, “Please tell me this is the top.” I assured her that she was close and proceeded to head down the mountain. Then I stopped in my tracks. What the heck am I doing, I thought. There is a beautiful blond at the top of this mountain and I’m walking away!!! So, I turned around and trudged back to the top, claiming to her that I was an idiot and forgot to take pictures… small white lie but fate had put her in my path and the long hike down was going to far more pleasant with her company.

We stuck up a conversation and spent the next hour and a half hiking down the mountain and chatting like a couple of old hens. Turns out that she was not only a very beautiful, smart and complex woman but that she also RAN up the mountain!!!! Ran… I was suitably impressed that a 45 year old woman, one, looked as good as she did and, two, ran up that mountain. Way to go Holly! The walk down was very pleasant and we seemed to click so about half-way down I asked her to join me for a bite to eat. We spent the rest of the day in St. Helena enjoying a good meal, excellent wine and an nice gelato at the local cafe while delving into the details of our lives. We called it a night fairly early but met for breakfast the next morning as she made her way back to Santa Barbara. I wussed out and didn’t ask her to stay the day and play with me… a decision I now regret because neither of us really had anything we had to do.

Will I ever see her again… maybe? She did invite me to stay with her on my way south but I couldn’t tell if she was being polite or if she actually wanted to see me again. Women… amazing creatures but who the hell can figure them out… not me 🙂


Way to go Alex!!!!

September 9, 2010

I’ve been telling my eight year old son that a cute little girl named Lilly (who was in his class last year and also this year) liked him. Alex was always complaining that Lilly was mean to him and that she picked on him and physically hurt him sometimes. I told him last year that girls did these kinds of things when they like you. His response… “Wow, she must really like me a lot then!”

Well, my son started back at school today and he told me tonight that Lilly asked him to go to the dance with her. LOL!!! He was grinning from ear to ear when he told me. I asked him when was the dance… he said, “Oh, not until next May.”

My response… “Wow, she must really like you a lot then!”

Way to go Alex and remember to be a gentleman 🙂


A nice rest home.

September 9, 2010

So I have been in the Napa Valley for a week and have been enjoying the downtime. I’ve been basically relaxing, watching movies, studying Spanish, going to the gym and working on my bike. I feel quite a sense of accomplishment with giving my bike its 24 thousand mile service. It’s hard to believe that I have covered 13,000 miles already. That’s like driving across the USA 4 times!! I was a little nervous being the first time I have done the servicing but I managed to change the oil, change the transmission fluid, change the brake fluid, change the spark plugs, change the air filter, change the final drive fluid, lube the final drive, adjust the valves and change the tires without too much hassle. All those years as a kid working on Peuguots, Mobylettes and Hondas came in handy 🙂 The only thing I couldn’t do was synch the throttle valve cables because I don’t have the right tool. I also gave Juliette a bath (my bike and not Rick’s wife) and she looks ready to tackle the road.

My plan over the next two weeks is to take in some wine tastings and get some photos of the region. I also plan to visit another friend of mine, continue to study Spanish, and to get into San Francisco to do some sight-seeing. I’ve yet to get to Alcatraz or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge! One cool thing, I bought a high def motorcycle camera to mount on my bike. Now I can take you with me… if it works at all 🙂 I think I may need a camera for my first encounter with the Mexican policia.

I am here until Sept 26 when I leave for my language immersion program in Puelba, Mexico. I finish my program on Oct 22 and then fly to Miami to meet my kids… YEAH!!!!! I get to spend 9 nights with my loves and then I head back to St. Helena to pick up my bike and start heading down into Central America.

Because of all this, I will only be updating my blog once a week until I hit the road again in November. Stay tuned 🙂


Vendi, vedi, vici… VINO!!!

September 3, 2010

Ahhh… California at last. It didn’t take me long to cross the state line and I was happy to be heading south into warmer weather. I had only been to northern California when visiting San Francisco so I was eager to see the famous wine region of Napa. The end of my day would see me in St. Helena, staying with Rick and Juliette (no relation to my bike) and enjoying the comforts of a real home.

I whizzed along the California coast, taking in some of its beauty before route 101 turned more inland. I took a small detour along the Avenue of the Giants which is a 31 mile road that runs through coast redwood forests. To see these giant old growth trees overshadowing the road is amazing… it makes you feel so small.

I also stopped to ride through the Chandelier Tree, a famous 315 foot tall coast redwood tree in Leggett, California. It has a 6 foot wide by 6 foot 9 inch high hole cut through its base to allow a car to drive through. The hole was carved in the 1930s. I’m not sure the hole is actually 6 foot 9 because as you can see from the picture below I was hitting my head on it! Much to my surprise, I also had some of the best vegetarian chili at the roadside stand near the tree. Sadly, the lady who owns the stand said this would be her last summer as business was just too slow with the economy still in the toilet. It made me realize how lucky I am to be able to take this trip of a lifetime.

I stopped for gas about 75 miles from St. Helena and made the mistake of checking my rear tire. I about had a heart attack. See the pic below and you will see why that last 75 miles had me very nervous. I won’t be doing that again. Fortunately, when I arrived at Rick and Juliette’s there was a nice glass (or two) of wine waiting for me 🙂