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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Road trip!

In behavior, cities, life, travel, women, world on May 22, 2012 at 12:04 am
Open road, B6355 Big sky country, the road ove...

Open road, B6355 Big sky country, the road over the Lammermuir Hills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looooooove road trips!

I took the first one when I was too little to even remember it — from my birthplace in Vancouver, Canada all the way to Mexico, in the back seat of my parents’ car. No wonder I’m always eager to get behind the wheel, crank up the radio and flee the jurisdiction.

The New York Times recently ran a great selection of their writers’ favorites, several of which I’ve also done and enjoyed, like Route 100 in Vermont.

Here’s a fantastic recent blog post about driving Highway 1 in California, a classic trip I’ve longed to take.

Some of my favorite road trips include:

— When my Dad and I took a month to drive from Toronto to Vancouver, dipping south of the Canadian border into North and South Dakota along the way to visit some Indian pow-wows. We camped, and woke up to find a large steak and a bag of sugar at our tent door. In one farmer’s field, we camped and were awakened looking up at the owner on his tractor. I think every 15-year-old girl should spend a month with her Dad on the road. You learn a lot about one another.

Like….I am not a morning person. So my Dad would set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. and tell me it was 7:00 a.m. It worked, for a while.

— Our road trip from Mexico City to Taxco to Acapulco, in the mid-1980s. I speak good Spanish so, as the gas gauge fell alarmingly low, he said “There’s a house. Go ask where the nearest gas station is.” When we arrived in Acapulco, he remembered a cheap hotel from a decade or so earlier and there it was.

— My mom and I lived in Mexico when I was 14 and drove all over the place, which was vaguely insane for two women alone, one of whom was 14, with waist-length blond hair.

— Montreal to Savannah, Georgia, crossing — yes, this is its real name — the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, with my Dad. We dipped into tiny coastal towns like Oriental.

— My first husband I drove south from Montreal to Charleston, S.C. where he tried to teach me to drive — why? — on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We visited one of my favorite places ever, Kitty Hawk, N.C. where the Wright Brothers got the very first airplane to fly in 1903. I adore aviation and travel, so these guys are real heroes in my book.

— In Ireland, my Dad and I drove the outer edge of the whole country in a week; as Europeans well know, you can cross several countries in the time it takes to get out of Ontario or Texas. Ireland, side to side, three hours. I’ve spent that in NYC traffic just trying to get home! We visited Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, where my great-grandfather was the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse.

— In 2002 while researching my book about American women and guns, I went to visit a cowboy who lived in the middle of nowhere, between Silver City and Colorado City, Texas. For hundreds of miles, all one could see were oil drills pumping up and down.

Out there, on a long bare and empty stretch of road, my cellphone didn’t work, my gas was getting low and I was a long way from help. Then a white pick-up truck pulled up beside me, with a weathered man at the wheel. “You the writer from New York?”

Um, yes. That lost-tenderfoot thing probably gave me away.

“Follow me!” And when I arrived, his wife Doris showed me a long, narrow, low wooden box. “You’ve probably never seen or heard these and I want you to be safe when you’re here.” Then she opened the box, using a long metal stick. It was full of….live rattlesnakes. 

— Jose, now my husband, took me from his native Santa Fe, New Mexico along the High Road to Taos, through the town of Truchas. Spectacular.

— Alone, in June 1994, I drove in a circle from Phoenix, Arizona north to Flagstaff, saw the Grand Canyon and the  Canyon de Chelly, (inhabited for the past 5,000 years), and arrived back in Phoenix against a sunset sky so yellow and purple and orange — cacti backlit — I felt like a character in a 1940s Disney cartoon.

— I had a great solo road trip, in my beloved red Honda del Sol convertible, (since stolen, from New York to Charlottesville, Virginia. I stayed in B & Bs. I visited Monticello, home to polymath, and its designer, the U.S.’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. I drove through lush hills and valleys in West Virginia that made me feel like someone in a Thomas Hart Benson painting.

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 30, so I had a lot of driving to make up!

Go alone, or with your BFF or your sister or your nephew or Dad or Mom or husband or sweetie.

Pack a cooler with yogurt and green grapes. Bring binoculars and a sense of wonder.

Stop often. Eat well! Get up for dawn.

Drive in the cool of the night, as we did in North Carolina, the scent of dew-covered jasmine filling our nostrils.

But go!

What’s the best (or worst) road trip you’ve ever taken?

Where In The World Have You Been?

In behavior, cities, life, travel on November 21, 2011 at 1:36 am
North America - Satellite image - PlanetObserver

And yet, despite my loathing of turbulence, I live to travel.

This calendar year, so far, I’ve been to Victoria, Vancouver and Kamloops, B.C., Banff, Alberta, Toronto, D.C., Minneapolis, Peterborough (Ontario) and Chicago. In January I’ll be in Tucson and thereabouts for two weeks (while my husband teaches a photo workshop there), then go to New Orleans on the 25th to speak at a retailers’ conference.

Spoiled by years of international — i.e. off the North American continent — travel, I still have a huge jones to go somewhere, soon, they don’t speak English as a first language.

I’ve been, so far, to 37 countries, from Fiji to Turkey, Thailand to New Zealand. In 1982, I won an eight-month journalism fellowship that required (heaven!) funded solo travel on 10-day reporting trips all over Europe. I went to Denmark, England and Sicily and did an eight-day trip in a truck from Perpignan to Istanbul with a French trucker who spoke not a word of English.

Some favorites, so far, include:

the Coromandel coast of New Zealand

Melbourne

Paris

Corsica (nice piece in a recent New York Times travel section; here’s my fun piece about it from The Wall Street Journal)

Mexico — Oaxaca, Cuernavaca, Patzcuaro, Acapulco, Taxco, Merida, Queretaro

Ko Phi Phi and Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Galway

Savannah, Georgia

The Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta.

High on the list of places I’m eager to visit:

Argentina, Morocco, Laos, Berlin, northern Brazil, the Hebrides, Jordan, Lebanon, Mongolia. And repeat visits to Paris, London, Italy, Corsica and many others…

Where are you dying to go, and why?

What have been your favorite trips, and why?

Here’s a gorgeous blog written by a woman as enamored of world travel (and a fellow New Yorker) as I.

Happy 82d, Dad!

In aging, behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, love, men, seniors on June 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm
A view of Galway Bay from Salthill Credit: A P...

Galway Bay -- full of mussels! Image via Wikipedia

Four score plus two — score!

His father died at 59, just after he retired, so this ripe old age — full of health and friends — is an additional gift for him.

We’d hoped to spend today together, but he’s in Toronto.

As Dads go, he’s been an interesting one. He won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 for a documentary he made about young British rebels.

Here’s his Wikipedia entry!

A documentary film-maker, he was gone for weeks at a time when I was a teenager living with him. But he always brought home intriguing pieces of the world when he returned: Olympic badges in 1964 from Tokyo, elbow-length sealskin gloves from the Arctic and a thick caribou rug, an Afghan rifle case.

All of which ignited my own lust for global discovery and adventure, equally eager to find and tell great stories for a living.

He’s blessed with incredible energy; on our last trip around Ireland, in his 70s, he raced up the hills ahead of me, and set his usual blistering pace. On our cross-country trip when I was 15, knowing I am not a morning person, he’d pretend it was 7:00 a.m. and get me up an hour earlier. We attended pow-wows in Montana and North Dakota, finding a steak and a bag of sugar at our tent door, a gift for everyone attending — he would film and I would sketch.

We’d set up our little tent wherever looked good. One morning we awoke to find a farmer staring down at us from his tractor, as we’d picked one of his fields.

We’ve driven through rural Mexico, picked mussels in Galway Bay, skiied in Vermont, forged through rain across the Great Dismal Swamp, had a terrible shouting match at midnight in Antibes. We’re both driven, ambitious, stubborn, relentlessly curious. After the French fight, we didn’t even speak for years.

Both mad for antiques, we once stood outside two store-fronts in Wilmington, N.C. — one a diner, one an antiques store, torn between the boring need to eat and room full of possible treasures.

As always, he dresses with impeccable elegance: silk pocket square, gleaming lace-up shoes, navy blazer, ties and tattersall. His library, before he sold his house, ranged from archeology and theology to art history. He paints, sculpts, works in silver.

I wrote about him in my new book and was worried he’d be angry at the unexpected loss of privacy, but he was fine with it.

He likes the book a lot. Which, even at midlife, matters to me. Having lost too many years to anger and conflict, I now especially treasure whatever time we have to appreciate one another. It finally feels like he knows me.

For years, I could never find a boyfriend.

My late stepmother finally nailed it: “Your Dad is a hard act to follow.”

True!

Happy birthday, Dad!

Since When Are Latinos “Alien”?

In behavior, culture, domestic life, family, immigration, life, love, men, news, politics, urban life, women on April 26, 2011 at 11:21 am
Percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents by ...

The percentage of Latinos by county.Image via Wikipedia

With a green card that formally and officially names me as a “resident alien”, I’m the certified foreigner in our household, not my Hispanic partner of eleven years who is first-generation American, of Mexican descent, but who is resoundingly and red-bloodedly American.

He wears khakis and polished black loafers, loves to golf, reads business magazines like Fortune and Forbes. He works at The New York Times, arguably one of the most establishment of employers, and has for decades. He drives a Subaru, drinks gimlets, takes the commuter train to Grand Central Station every weekday with legions of lawyers and media guys and non-profit executives.

He’s just one of the guys — even if he keeps a bag of pozole in the freezer and a beloved black pottery pot of his Mom’s from New Mexico, where he was born and raised.

But that’s about it. Issues of race and identity are much less compelling to either of us than the usual mid-life, mid-career questions:

When and where will we ever be able to retire? What’s for dinner? What are we doing this weekend?

Which is why I found this Wall Street Journal op-ed, by Janet Murguia, decidedly odd:

Like others who brought demographic change to America, our presence has stirred anxiety among some of our fellow Americans. A century ago, people expressed the same concerns about waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It was understandable—but it also turned out to be unfounded. As the number of Latinos grows, our fellow Americans need to overcome the natural human anxiety that accompanies change and look for common ground…

It’s time for people to stop thinking about Latinos as “foreigners,” “aliens,” or “others” and start thinking of us as their fellow workers, classmates, colleagues, worshippers, neighbors, friends and family.

I’m clearly missing something here. I don’t see someone Latino and make any specific assumptions about their education or income or legal status.

We’ve attended meetings of NSHMBA, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

When I hit my local grocery store, in suburban New York, an aisle is devoted to Latino favorites, many made by the successful firm of GOYA, founded in 1936.

My local car wash is run by a man from Colombia,  a successful and hard-working man who employs other Latinos in his community.

Two of the most talented young recent college graduates I know are a photographer and a journalist; he’s won major national awards and she’s heading off to the Los Angeles Times soon for a job there.

When I see Hispanics and Latino(a)s, I see my in-laws, friends, neighbors and colleagues, all of them hardworking, talented, ambitious — and American.

Yet when Jose and I started dating, after he found me on-line, (under the truthful headline “Catch Me If You Can”), friends started pelting me with absurd cliches:

“Does he dance salsa?” “Does he wear a guayabera?”

Excuse me?

This is a guy whose Times colleagues dubbed “the preppy Mexican”…which left him nonplussed. Was this a compliment? Can’t Mexican men wear Brooks Brothers and Barbour and LL Bean?

I lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico for a few months when I was 14 and have been back to Mexico many times. I speak Spanish and it feels like home to me in some strange way. I have never understood why brown skin and a Hispanic surname offer license for all sorts of appalling stereotypes.

I’m aware there are millions of illegal aliens of Hispanic descent in the U.S. — while millions more, legally resident, also work hard, pay taxes and yearn for the same successes we all do.

Do you date or live with or did you marry a Hispanic or Latino(a)?

How, if at all, has this changed your life or your ideas?

Moved By Mountains

In nature, photography, travel on March 2, 2011 at 4:00 am
Mt. Rundle, Alberta Canada

Mt. Rundle, one of my new favorite places in the world! Banff, Alberta. It's 330 million years old...Image by s.yume via Flickr

I’ve always thought of myself as a city girl. I love to dress up, eat out, look at art, attend theater.

But having just spent a week in the Rocky Mountains I came away so bereft at the thought of leaving them behind it was hard not to weep today when the Air Canada 767 finally took off from Calgary, taking me back to Vancouver for another week.

How can mountains, ones I didn’t even ski on or climb but merely admired from a distance, so move me?

Every morning, I opened my hotel room’s pale yellow striped curtains and stared straight up a steep, wooded mountain. If I peered off to the right, far in the distance, snow-covered peaks glowed rose in the dawn, disappeared into wreaths of snow or cloud, gleamed blue at dusk.

Having never lived near mountains, I had no idea how they change with every cloud and shaft of light, shifting shape and character hourly. Like an ever-changing baby’s face, I could watch them, mesmerized, for hours.

I had never felt such an intimacy with a landscape, enveloped by the crags surrounding me. I was up this morning at 6:30 to catch my bus, and ran about — my nostrils freezing shut, eyes weeping with cold, bare hands cramping, snatching earrings out of my pierced ears (they conduct cold!)  — snapping last-minute photos. As the bus raced east, I shifted from one side to the other taking more images through its windows, oblivious to what a gawping tourist I was being.

Mt. Rundle, one of the peaks I stared at every day in awe, is 330 million years old.

As we entered the endless suburban tracts outside Calgary, a local woman — heading off for a week’s warmth in Mexico — pointed out a “sundog” — a huge rainbow encircling the sun, thanks to light refracted through ice crystals in the air.

It sounds odd to say I’ll desperately miss a pile ‘o rocks, but I will.

What landscape has so touched you?

At 20, College Student And Mother Becomes Mexican Police Chief

In behavior, cities, Crime, news, politics, women, work, world on October 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm
Coat of arms of Mexico.

Image via Wikipedia

Check this out for bravery:

So now the new chief in Guadalupe, a town of 10,000 residents near the Texas border, is 20-year-old college criminology major Marisol Valles García.

Public officials have increasingly become the targets of assassination as Mexican cartels try to tighten their grasp on the country. Just this year, 11 Mexican mayors have been slain, including the former mayor of Guadalupe, who was killed in June. In the small town, “police officers and security agents have been killed, some of them beheaded,” according to the AFP.

Valles tells a local paper that she took the job to help the town’s people become less fearful. “Afraid? Everyone is afraid and it’s very natural. What motivates me here is that the project [to make the community safer] is very good and can do a lot for my town. I know that we are going to change and remove this,” she said.

As someone who has lived in, loves and has visited Mexico many times, and a passionate feminist, I’m proud as hell of this young woman. But I sure hope this doesn’t soon become her premature obituary.

No one else applied for the job, so she got it.

A young photography intern was shot and killed recently, another victim of the drug wars there:

Still wearing press badges and with their equipment handy, Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, and fellow intern Carlos Manuel Sánchez had just learned camera tricks at a workshop. They were about to get a bite to eat.

Instead, Santiago was riddled with bullets about 2:30 p.m. as he was driving a silver Nissan sedan in the parking lot of the Río Grande Mall. The mall is in the busy commercial Triunfo de la República Avenue area in north Juárez.

I admire young passion and idealism but I don’t want to see talented, committed men and women dying for it.

What do you think of her decision?


Marriage Across Ethnic Lines Slowing, Report Says

In behavior, men, women on June 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I’m interested in this because my partner of 10 years is Hispanic, second-generation American, of Mexican origin — new research shows that Hispanics and Asians are starting to marry others within their ethnicity, not choosing a Caucasian.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

The overall number of interethnic and interracial marriages continues to grow, as taboos against it have faded significantly. An estimated 8% of all couples in the U.S. belonged to distinct ethnic groups in 2008—with more than 10% in California and Texas—a sharp increase from the 3% overall rate in 1980.

But new research concludes that intermarriage rates between Hispanics and non-hispanic whites and between Asians and whites have declined or stagnated over the past two decades, due in part to a surge in immigration that has expanded the pool of people of marrying age in those groups. Scholars call the phenomenon a “retreat from intermarriage.”

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for 1995-2008, which was released in March, sociologists Daniel Lichter and Julie Carmalt of Cornell University and Zhenchao Qian of Ohio State University identified trends in Hispanic-white marriage among 42,308 couples, divided almost equally between the 1990s and 2000 periods.

Among second-generation Hispanic women, who are the children of immigrants, the proportion who married outside their ethnicity—mainly to whites—fell to 16% in the 2000 period compared to 22% in the 1990s. The decrease in marriage to whites can be attributed mainly to a significant increase in the share of the second-generation Hispanic women who married Hispanics: 84% in the 2000 period compared with 78% in the 1990s.

“The massive influx of new immigrants from Latin America and Asia has not only fueled the opportunity to marry one’s co-ethnics, but also revitalized ancestral and cultural identity,” says Dr. Lichter.

It’s been interesting for us to negotiate our cultural differences — the irony being they stem more from my Canadian roots and beliefs and his American ones than any Anglo-Hispanic divide. On any number of occasions, he’s sighed: “This is not the time to be Canadian!” (i.e. diffident, risk-averse.)

I had spent much more time in Mexico, even living there briefly as a teenager, than he had. (The photo here is of our apartment building in Cuernavaca.) When we traveled there for three weeks in 2005, everyone assumed he was fluent in Spanish (he understands it but does not speak it) while it was I, the Canadian white girl, who did the translation. I was dying for caheta and churros and cacahuetes, the Mexican treats of my childhood that he had never tasted.

The whole notion of “assimilation” is interesting, as it assumes it’s a good thing. It can be, if it gets you the education or job or home or partner you want. But it can come with a price, the loss of your own culture. When I started dating my guy, I bumped into some pretty funny stereotypes from people who had not met him. The minute they heard a Hispanic name, a whole pile ‘o cliches came to mind.

“Does he salsa?” asked one. (The kind that comes in a jar, yes. On the dance floor, no.) “Does he wear a guayabera?” (Brooks Brothers, actually.)

We’re both driven career journos, both photographers, both world travelers who love French food. Our similarities outweigh our physical or ethnic differences.

The major cultural difference between us, perhaps, and one I value although it’s taken me ages to get used to it — he shows a lot of emotion. Expressed emotion. Verbally expressed emotion. WASPs don’t do feelings. Like money or physical pain, we may have them, but we don’t talk about it. And Canadians do tend to be more polite, forever terrified they’ll create a conflict.

Have you dated or married someone of another ethnic background? How is it?

Have You Re-Visited Your Childhood Home? What If It's Gone?

In behavior on February 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Mexico APTNice Wall Street Journal piece ran this weekend about re-visiting your childhood home(s).

It’s a poignant thing, often clouded with nostalgia. For some, it’s simply impossible.

My sweetie, who grew up in Santa Fe, was a Baptist minister’s son. His Dad’s church and their adjacent home were both torn down to make way for the city’s Georgia O’Keefe Museum, opened in 1997. He has often reminisced about riding his bike alone as a little boy through Santa Fe’s streets, so I was eager to see where he grew up. But it’s gone.

When we visited the museum, he stood at the north end of one room there: “This used to be my bedroom,” he said. How odd that hundreds of people, possibly thousands by now, have stood  — having no idea that this space once housed a family and a congregation — where he once slept in his little boy pajamas and dreamed his young dreams.

Only the apricot tree, the one his mom made jam from, still stands in the museum’s tiny courtyard. His parents are long-dead, so the memories of that home now reside in his head and those of his two older sisters.

The old three-story brownstone apartment building at 3432 Peel Street in Montreal where I lived with my mom — where I came home night, alone, at the age of 12 to find that we had been robbed — is long-gone. The white brick house in Toronto, on a busy corner where I lived while in high school, is still there. I wave to it each time I go north.

I went back, in May 2005, to the apartment building in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, at the corner of Copales and Naranjos, where my mom and I lived when I was 14.  I used to walk up a short, steep hill to my school, where I spent too much of my day staring out the windows at two distant volcanos, one per tall, narrow window.

In that building, my bedroom window looked directly into a next-door field full of cows. Surely, by 2005, it had changed. Surely, by then there was some flashy high-rise or a new house or…

Nope, still a field full of cows. The photo with this post shows our Cuernavaca building; we lived on the third floor.

What a soothing pleasure that was to find a spot from my childhood so unchanged. The nearby waterfall, Salto San Anton, was of course still there — and now three pottery candle-holders from a store on that street sit on my terrace wall every summer, a tangible reminder of one former home now gracing my current one.

Have you gone back in search of a childhood home? What did you find?

Kids, Travel And Weaning In Lapland

In parenting, travel, women on October 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm
Masai Mara Tribe Women 2

Masai tribesmen; image by The Dilly Lama via Flickr

Having a mom who’s a travel writer has meant great adventures for Wilf and Reg, sons of British journalist and author Sara Wheeler. Wilf, now 12, has already seen a polar bear and met the tribesmen of the Masai Mara, although his mom was warned that his infant noises might attract lions thinking he was a dying impala.

I was driven from Vancouver, my birthplace, to Mexico, when I was two, my parents taking the back seat out of the car for the journey. Ever since, I’ve reveled in travel, counting the weeks or months until my next trip. This week — Atlanta! I’m psyched, having found a female freelance photographer there who’ll spend the day with me exploring. I’m only going there for a board meeting, my first time in that city, but tacked on two extra days for fun.

I first flew alone, to Antigua, when I was six, to meet my mom. As she traveled with world alone for many years, years later, I’d fly in to meet her in Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Fiji, places I’m not sure I’d ever have gotten to on my own time and dime for years, if at all. We slurped room service tomato soup while suffering altitude sickness in Cuzco, froze our asses off on a train through the Andes at midnight, got frisked by the police coming home from midnight mass in Cartagena, and snorkeled amid blue starfish in Fiji. She created an addict! Now I spend every spare penny planning the next trip, our apartment filled with our photos from places visited and memories treasured, from Malta to Paris to Juno Beach to the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

I think the greatest gift you can give your kids is the insatiable hunger to keep a current passport, get out into the world, and the confidence to make themselves, and others, at home once they’re out there. Here’s a fun blog by American ex-pat and mom Karen Van Drie, living and working in Prague. And one of my favorite experts on life overseas is fellow Canadian Robin Pascoe, who runs expatexpert.com, which she began after leaving life as a journo to follow her diplomat husband around Asia.

If you’re suffering a little cabin fever — it’s a cold, gray day here in New York — these offer a quick, cheap escape.

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