Sri Lanka; trains & tea

A taste of Sri Lanka

There was NO WAY I can get into the packed train which finally arrived to Peradeniya station. I was shocked and a security guard helped me to break the “Law of physics”. I was on my way to Nuwara Eliya the perfect place with tea plantations, mountains, cold and fog.

I have been living 10 years by the beach so I mostly look for cool weather whenever I travel.

The train trip supposed to be about 3.5 hours but it became 5. I was on the 2nd class, sitting on the floor but with a VIP view. My hair was flying around like a medusa and my eyes were happy to see such a beautiful scenario between mountains, tea plantation, traditional houses and kids saying goodbye with their tiny hands. Next to me a couple from England traveling with no water and no sanitizer, so I shared mine as they still had another 3 hrs to go.

Once I got out of the train, the new adventure started, to get transportation to my hotel…the little detail was that I booked one of the most expensive hotels and it was 1hr away, and of course I didn´t want to get ripped. I sorted it out and when I arrived I was so pampered by the staff as one person opened the door, 1 carried my luggage ( 1 medium backpack LOL), one person came and served me some clove with sugar and another one served me tea. OHH tea yes! because this hotel used to be a Tea Factory and that´s why I chose it, besides the landscape.

I love to have all kind of experiences, so I traveled on the 2nd class sitting on the floor of the train, I invited my tuk-tuk driver in Colombo for some beers sitting on the rocks contemplating the sunset and I also hire private drivers or pay for a nice hotel. Why not?

Experiences are everything to me, and I love nature. When I felt the cold wind on my face and my eyes perceive how the fog was wrapping my hotel until it disappeared I knew I was on the right place. I am not into very touristic activities but as it was raining all day I decide to join to Tea plucking activity. They dressed us as locals, gave us baskets that were hanging from our head and the lady explained us how to cut the tea leaves and then explained us all the procedure and how the machines work.

After my 45 minutes cold activity I was having some tea on the sofas of the hotel when I noticed something moving …

I was shocked to realize that it was an old lady covered with a green plastic, barefoot and carrying 2 full baskets that she came to deliver to the hotel. I asked if I could take a picture and somehow I wanted to give her money that I didn’t have at that time. It was a moment of excitement and disappointment; why she was barefoot and wet, what if she gets sick, why this expensive hotel don´t provide her with equipment. I also felt stupid for doing this activity to be entertained by something that represents the poor lifestyle of so many people until today. They earn 4 usd per day if they get at least 20kg of leaves…otherwise they get paid less.

I felt guilty and I kept this in my mind, I wrote to my parents and some friends…life is so unfair. Of course I thought about the same conditions of people working in agriculture in Bali where I live or in Mexico.  Sometimes I feel that the world hasn´t improve much.

These memories always reminds me how lucky I am to travel, to learn, how I should stay humble and grateful, how can I help people and to keep my feet on the ground.

A Mercedes Benz & A Maid

The Mercedes Benz was at the entrance of my house. Your godparents are here!! my mum said.

Once per year I visit my parent´s home in Mexico. My godparents would come during this time or I would go to visit them as part of my holidays ritual.

We were all sitting at the living room, including Cristi “their maid” (horrible description I KNOW!) because she was part of the family and always go everywhere with them. But is she really part of the family or is it a nice way to say it? (Well, she has been living in the same house for about 15 years but she will never get an Alfa Romeo or BMW like my cousins). Suddenly the conversation end up being about I don’t know which family and their “cleaning lady” and how expensive it was becoming and that finally they will get health care by law, etc. I was sitting in the corner of the room thinking: This is just so…ridiculous? ironic? Or normal conversation? Which could be the word? Am I the only one thinking that while they talk, complain, compared rates and details about our cleaning saviors, one of them is sitting in the middle of us without a voice(because she will never say a word) and even if she say something, I doubt that my godfather will really listen. In my mind I was watching the scene in black & white like if it was a movie and everyone around Cristi was quite blurred.

I grew up in a flexible middle class family, I say flexible because sometimes we had no money and my mother will create dishes out of nowhere, and sometimes we were all on holidays renting a boat and private instructor for me to learn water ski, also I was taking lessons of everything: French, swimming, chess, rolling skating, classical guitar, electrical guitar, etc. We also had a “sirvienta” (maid); sometimes a permanent one living on the third floor of my house, sometimes when they missed their village, go on holidays there and never came back, we will get another one that will come twice per week to clean, sometimes we even had 2 so they also cook and do the washing, etc.

The one that we loved the most (as was coming to my house for about 12 years) was Rosa, we call her “señora Rosa” (Madame Rosa) as the word “sirvienta” sounds quite classist like “maid” . She was always very kind, and never forgot anyone´s birthday. We were always giving her the furniture we were changing in the house like, sofas, dinning sets, washing machine, stove, etc. Also I will always bring her something from my trips.

Laughing, singing and joking is part of my dad´s daily life (besides reading tons of books and newspapers) so he enjoyed Madame Rosa´s company and always practice the new jokes he learned on the tv or newspaper with her before using them on the weekend family gatherings, sometimes also he will explain her what was happening around the world.  He has a magical power when he speaks either by phone or in person, and will get things done for his convenience; he get discontinued books, special prices, etc. so he helped Rosas´s kids to get scholarships and special price in the English school as he convinced her of how important was this nowadays, and also encouraged her to force her kids to study until university. It was neither easy nor cheap but they made it.

When both kids got graduated and got good jobs I think we were as happy or more than our lovely señora Rosa. We felt like part of the accomplishment, If I remember well my father sent to the daughter flowers or extra money and also for the boy.

Doña Rosa was getting older and tired and our house was not shrinking so one day she announced she was not going to come anymore, my sister cried her a river! It was like losing her aunty. She continued to call us from time to time and in our birthdays, I believe that we didn’t return the calls.

Was she part of the family? I think so, perhaps in certain way. She had the keys of the house, ate the same food, we laughed together and felt part of her family successes, but when she left…she left.

 

New Delhi; Sikh, Heat & flirt

20160502_161546Walking barefoot between some cockroaches, food, flies and dirty water was not exactly my original idea of being careful in India to don’t get sick. It was kind of a joke from the destiny to do not exaggerate on my precautions while being in New Delhi on my 1st day.

To visit India was a cherished dream since my father used to tell us stories where my sister and I were travelling around the world and visiting the Taj Mahal back in the days were it was constructed.

It was 42°C and we were trying to stay at the pool little bit in our nice hotel but it was quite impossible, I think that if I had put an egg on the floor it would have been cooked like in the movies. We wait until the temperature dropped a little (something like 35C) and went out to visit Gururwara Bangla Sahib that is a Sikh house of worship. It is a beautiful place and I was feeling happy to visit it and embrace the Indian culture.

On our way out while putting our shoes back on, the guy from the visitors center insisted to show us one area we were missing and he gave us a little tour in the kitchen were they prepare food for whoever wants to come to eat without distinction of religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. I just didn’t expect to be barefoot walking in this not very clean area and also it was quite uncomfortable how pushy the Sikh was to get some “Donations from our heart” which we didn’t have at the moment.

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It was so interesting to see how this big kitchen works with all the volunteer heroes that cook every day in high temperatures and for long hours to feed hundreds of people NO MATTER THE BELIEVES OR NATIONALITY. In Mexico we say “Haz el bien, sin mirar a quien” which means “Do good things to no matter who”.

Outside I could stay for hours looking at the clothing with beautiful vibrant colors, the language, the believes, the architecture…the heat…oh the heat, yes IT WAS MAY!. We continue our way and went to the Jantar Mantar that is an observatory in the middle of the city, and was apparently constructed in 1724 wow, almost 3 centuries ago. I am sure that in that time they would never imagine that it would survive such a long time and would end up surrounded by “modern” buildings, Mac Donalds and shops, but still is an interesting peaceful space in the middle of Delhi hustle.20160504_115247

While crossing a complicated avenue a guy approached us to “help us” doing it the right way and then offered himself to  show us the Official Delhi Tourism Center which end up being a scam that we partially suffer later on but I will talk about it in another time.

A roof top restaurant to admire the city sounded like a good idea to close the day, my friend went to the toilet and in a fraction of a second I had a man standing in front of me introducing himself, asking me my name, last name and next second he was already sitting in the table talking about how he got fired from his job that day – and I was not sure how was I feeling. My friend came back and look at me like – what’s going on? As the guy suddenly started drinking my friend’s beer and was obviously quite drunk and start hitting on me, so Daniel and I need to say we were a couple. To make the story short, we let the things ran, and this guy invited his friends who arrived later on and we end up all chatting for a while and meant to meet next day but Dany and I didn’t show up as the whole thing was quite bizarre.

Well, my first day In India was already full of stories, it seems impossible to fit all in 24hrs but the time in India is different LOL… in fact everything is.

Waiting, weekly photo challenge

Waiting

Time is 1 of the most interesting cultural dimension… Can be synchronic or can be sequential. 

On this trip to Lombok Island I climbed a hill and found this man that stop his work to rest or to pose and the animals did the same thing. Were they waiting for me to take the picture, were they looking to me wondering why my camera was interested on them or wondering what I was doing on top of that hill? I DON’T KNOW but they all wait for me to take several pictures before continuing their journey and it seems that we both enjoyed it.

Sahoro; snow trekking, snowflake & happy ending

Another day, another adventure! We took the gondola and went all the way up to the mountain to go down by doing snow trekking. It was quite confusing for the security guys at the entrance as normally people will do either ski or snowboard but they let us go.. the problem was when we keep going up and up and I started to feel vertigo and once we came out of the gondola and I look down to the mountain I was full of fear.

Here I am, a Mexican girl without experience in snow trekking, on the top of the mountain and with vertigo what a great combination!…suddenly a snowflake settled on my arm, I was absolutely astonished as it looked exactly like in cartoons and I took a picture of it to never ever forget how perfect it was and that it might be a sign of nature saying that everything will be fine so I made my mind and started to walk all the way down from the mountain feeling its ethereal consistency and capturing the beauty of the snow with my poor 5mp smartphone.

I do need to say that I had a short rehearsal for my snow trekking experience couple of weeks before with a funny ending.

Let’s go out to walk on the snow and verify the area as we will open the resort soon! I was not exactly fit so she was in the front opening up the path for the virgin snow. Me, well…trying to manage to get her same pace, don’t fall down and take pictures at the same time. Believe it or not I perfectly managed all of this and before getting back to the hotel as it was lunch time I wanted to take the last picture because the wind was making the powder snow fly and with the sunlight was just magical, but right after I took the picture and try to walk the last steps down leading to the entrance next to the restaurant, my snowshoes got stocked one into another and like in a slow-motion shoot I was going down, first on my knees and then for a fraction of second standing like a crucified person as my hands were into the poles straps and …puff in a blink of an eye my face was in the snow!! Then with some help to remove my equipment I managed to get up and realize the full restaurant with the entire ski and snowboard instructors were stuck to the big glass wall looking at me, laughing hysterically and taking pictures. That night was the first training I need to deliver for all of them at the packed conference room… well, at least all of them know me by now, I said to myself.

That night my introduction for the training was: Good evening everyone, my name is Abi, I am from Mexico and YES it was me today the one that fell down in front of the restaurant, the whole room exploded into laughter including myself. We need to laugh about ourselves sometimes, it’s healthy.

I can say that this day I came face to face with the snow haha and I like it.

Snowtrekking- There is always a first time

Coming down from the mountain

Need a break

Bloody scary

Vertigo time

The picture I took before falling down

Landscapes with my guide

In love with the shadows

Japan; a dangerous Mexican landed!

12313970_10153324932600888_3130647259952545521_nI was stopped by customs at the airport! Of course I was the quota of the day; a Mexican girl (dangerous) living in Thailand (double dangerous) and coming for the 1st time to Japan, it must be something suspicious! Even if my passport was full of stamps from all over the world.

In fact I was going there to train the staff of one of the resorts from the company I work with, but well, there is always a 1st time to be stopped and I found it quite funny, one more story to keep. NO marihuana, NO tacos, NO… porn (well… not sure about my phone). Officers were super nice but with their poor English they didn’t arrive to understand everything that easily, anyway I didn’t stay there more than 10 or 15 minutes. An apology from the officers and then I came out to meet my Japanese friend that was waiting for me with an ironic smile knowing something went wrong.

Walking through the colorful ails full of what looked like hieroglyphics (Japanese Kanjis) I was feeling like a little girl in a candyland; food, drinks, bread, candies, basically the airport in Hokkaido Island was looking more like a supermarket for me. We stop to buy a “food box”, such a cute and smart way to bring some food into the train that we need to take to our destination. My friend put her phone (old one) in a little machine and in a blink of an eye she paid electronically…such a normal thing for her and super cool for me, especially as her phone was not a smart phone, but still smart LOL.

I was carrying quite a big luggage as temperatures were expected to be below 0°C and that would be a huge change for my body as I was living in Phuket, Thailand (around 30°C). The train was very proper and of course I was the only foreigner at that moment taking the train in Hokkaido Island and going to the ski resorts that were still closed, such an adventure for me. My eyes were trying to record everything as well as my ears, I was super excited… such a lucky girl…and I didn’t need to pay anything!!Well… I did with all my extra hours and no days off later on but that was nothing compare to what is one of these experiences in your life.

A lady with a little food cart was walking along the train selling food and beer, and of course as a Mexican girl who loves beer and knowing my Japanese friend also does, we bought our can to enjoy our 2 hours trip. When finally arrived to Shintoku station another 2 girls were waiting for us, we pass to the mini supermarket to get…of course, more beer! And snacks, OMG I was absolutely happy – a Japanese supermarket, and it’s me, I am here!! Hey parents look at this – I wished they were with me but they were at 10,616 km in Mexico.

It was getting dark when we arrive to our location in the mountains and the General Manager came out to welcome me together with the few staff working at the resort before the reopening that would be couple of weeks later, it was fantastic to see and feel a resort that is closed, no heating, just basic lights, reception and bar cover in blankets, empty vitrines at the boutique…WOW a perfect scene for a horror movie!

They took me to my room and OMG it was a traditional style one with a TATAMI! This particular smell was floating in my room, it was the tatami material, I wanted to lied down and roll over like a panda, and it has this small table with chairs that had no legs and slide doors covered by white kind of paper…of course I am giving you my description as a western that didn’t know anything about it…if some of you are reading this thinking how ignorant I am giving the descriptions, please forgive me.

I came down and walk to the small restaurant where we were meeting, walking through the dark and cold corridors with no more sound that my own steps and breathing was interesting still not scary. I was privileged to have the opportunity to see how does it looks a well-known resort when it is still closed and I was ready to rock my time in there. Be careful everyone, a dangerous Mexican is in Japan!

 

 

 

 

Surakarta; Sola in Solo

I took advantage of this poor old men!! That’s what I was thinking when he hardly was cycling me in his little Indonesian tuk tuk to my hostel in Solo city. Actually the price was fair 30k for about 20 min. ride and I read on internet you paid for a taxi about that, except that this was a bicycle and I didn’t know it until I jumped in.

The trip by train from Yogyakarta to Solo was short and nice, the train is proper and there were 2 girls on my side very excited to talk to me while their kids were running all along the wagon.


Your room is right there in the corner, but first you need to take a selfie with me!
…it sounded more like an imposition than a request actually but I agreed after the “manager” of the homestay showed me little bit around and stopped right in front of the swimming pool, to ask me this. I don’t mind to take pictures with people but most of the time I know them for more than 15 minutes LOL.

WOW, that was definitely the smallest shower I ever seen (besides when you are a baby and your mom can put you in a bucket haha); I was trying to figure out how to get into as no more than my knees will fit in there. Ahhh I got it!!…that cube was supposed to be filled up with water and I needed to take the shower standing on the side…the guy said it was traditional Indonesian style. This place was so interesting full of traditional furniture and with a tower you can go up to sit, have a drink and contemplate the city, also there was a room with plenty of traditional musical instruments that some people come and play twice per week and a little stage in front of the swimming pool but they don’t do it during Ramadan so I was not lucky to see that.

Ferdian (the manager) suggest me to go to see the Wayan Orang (masked dance-drama) at the Sriwedari Theatre which I also saw on internet as a highlight for turists, but I told him that I didn’t feel very safe to be walking back alone as it might end up around 11pm and some of the streets that I need to walk through disnt look very safe, he kindly offer me a ride and I bought my VIP ticket that cost me the enormous quantity of 10k (USD$0.75). It was quite full and already had started, I could see on scene very colorful costumes and make up with a live orchestra and the dialogues were only in Bahasa as well as what the screen was displaying, anyway it seemed quite interesting and funny. I wished I could understand and laugh with the rest of the crowd.

Ferdian was waiting for me outside of the theatre and gave me a quick tour around the city to enjoy the avenues and lights of what was the sister’s city of Yogyakarta and eternal rival. I do need to say that I was expecting more like a village as I wanted to be relax,in quite places, in contact with the nature, etc. Obviously I didn’t do my homework and I end up in a medium city, but I always enjoy my life and what it brings me day by day, specially as I was kind of deciding many things last minute… part of the adventure.

Solo is an interesting name for the city as in Spanish means “alone” and I was actually traveling this way, by myself. For feminine the word used is Sola… so I was sola in Solo, but I liked it.

Yogyakarta; 5 years of friendship in a 6 hours ride

I was her first client she said! …and no, I am not talking about something sexual haha, it was the taxi driver from my application that couldn´t pick me up at the airport because of the taxi mafia in Indonesia…so she made me walk like 15 minutes carrying my luggage until the closest Gas station.

My holidays were about to start and we had a long way to my hotel in Borobudur from Yogyakarta city, but we made such a great connection and after 20 minutes we were talking like friends and I was singing “Despacito” that was playing on the radio.

When I came back 3 days later to Yogyakarta I called her, as I promise, to ask if she wanted to be my driver and we agreed the price of 300k rupiah for 6 hours, “Dee” took me to the Water Palace and as she said that she haven’t been there I invited her to join me…and she end up paying my entrance as I didn´t have change, quite a funny situation.

On our way to the famous Prambanan temple “Dee” told me about her dream to go to work in USA with her sister that is part of the big percentage of migrants pursuing a dream of a better life, but she was conscious that she will hardly be able to get the visa. We got to the temple but she waited for me outside and I run into the shapes of this 9th  century Hindu temple as it was around 3:30hrs and the temple was closing at 5pm. I am always running by the way 2 hours before the places close as I found it the best, because there is less people and great light for the photography.

Around 6pm I was starving and Dee was taking me to “Milas” a vegetarian restaurant that was described as a secret garden in lonely planet and it supports street youth. We had dinner together because at this point Dee and I, we were friends like from 5 years ago already.

My “friend” dropped me at my hotel and didn’t want me to pay her anything besides the gas which I didn’t accept…that day had been going between both paying us each other, entrances, or food, or whatever,(5 years of friendship in a 6 hours ride) one of the best things in life is to find these humans beings that it seems to be waiting there for you to find them in some corners of our world to lighten your heart, clients and no clients at the end we are just people .IMG_20170622_094741_352IMG_20170625_053256_86920170620_130004IMG_20170620_202726_478

A crazy Mexican decides to write

I am a funnylicious girl who loves to travel the world so I am not sure I am Mexican anymore LOL. I am currently working and living in Asia and I love it; my heart already tastes like curry and my skin smells like Japanese Umeshu.

Photography, people, nature, details, laugh…I am thankful to be surrounded by all of this and I love to share my stories so even there is tons and tons of Blogs, finally I decided to listen to some of the people that asked me to write my stories, and here I am…let’s see how it goes.

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