Saturday, September 27, 2008

New apartment

I finally moved in to my new apartment. With my stuff in it, it looks strangely like my old apartment in New Jersey:
Bedroom:Living room:
Bathroom:Little Kitchen:
Part of the reason it looks the same is that my furniture in NJ was, quite coincidentally, Mexican. I can report two roach spottings. The first was taken care of with a spritz of raid and a flush down the toilet. I think the second escaped from the kitchen after it had been thoroughly cleaned and fumigated with raid. He was in the last throws of death and joined his buddy in the toilet. I've cleaned every inch of the apartment and sprayed raid around the perimeters of the bathroom and kitchen. I'll do the whole apartment, but you have to do it just before you leave as its pretty toxic. I also need to get one of those little plastic covers for the drain in the shower as I think this is one of the main entry points. On Jorge's suggestion I have been pouring a little bleach down there from time to time. I bet the Dali lama would have a similar view on roaches as he does mosquitos if he lived in Mexico. Now I have my apartment sorted out I can concentrate on getting a Spanish tutor and starting an exercise regime. I think I will start yoga next week.

Cave Diving

Well part of the reason why I have not blogged for a while is that I have been taking a cave diving course on the mainland. This course was fun, but goodness, was it hard work!! Allie, although already cave certified joined me for the class (see my dive blog for more on the diving).
The cenotes are in the jungle:
I saw my first tarantula. Apparently a male - I forget the name of the breed. Our cave instructor Steve used to have a pet tarantula so was able to tell us a bit about this one. The first clue that he was a male was the fact that he was out during the day. Once sexually mature, these guys live to mate (not unlike their human counterparts!). Steve's speculations were confirmed when our frisky little guy came out for a wonder - Allie spotted that his front legs had two little hooks on them. They use these to hang onto their lady when mating. I say lady, but the female tarantula is a little impolite, in that once she's taken advantage of her hapless mate, she tries to eat him. Apparently the average male tarantula mates between 4 & 5 times before getting too old to defend himself against his evil bedfellow. Hey a girl's got to eat, right?
Anyway Steve told us that these guys are very slow moving and will only bite if you try to pick them up (nothing could be further from my mind). The bite is apparently no worse than a bee sting. The dive briefing continued but I couldn't help keeping an eye on our new friend - just as well as his path would have taken him right over Allie's feet. Pretty cool experience. Not sure I trust Steve's bee sting analogy though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More settling in...

Well I put a deposit down for my apartment. I move in next week which will give me time to clean it and move in over a full day - right in time for the guy who's apartment I'm staying in to return.
My landlord comes from Belgium and owns a small language school where he teaches locals to speak English. Its mostly locals who work in the tourist industry. He has said that I can sit in on the classes if I like. This might be an interesting approach and what I'm also thinking is that I might find someone who wants to help me with Spanish in exchange for me helping them with English.
Jorge showed me how to refill my phone with the tecel cards - but please no one leave me a voice mail because I don't know how to answer it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bananas & Roaches

I have had a few problems since I have arrived here and one of the more minor - but vexing problems is that of banana storage. I'm not a big fan of AC in any event but am also on a very tight budget - so I run fans in my apartment. Unfortunately the heat in here greatly accelerates the Banana ripening process - they were over ripe within a few hours of my getting them home. So I figured OK then I'll out them in the fridge - now this fridge seems to be cooled beyond reason. My poor over-ripened bananas just went dark brown and look inedible. Does anyone have any ideas?

Sadly roaches seem to be a way of life here. I have been told to spray Raid liberally around the apartment perimeter and pour bleach down the shower drain at night. I've really only had one roach attack. He was in the shower and that's exactly where I wanted to be. Now I'm no stranger to roach warfare but the guys I've dealt with in the past have been 1/2 cm long (about the size of the word 'long'). I would stand on or otherwise crush these nasty little things and flush them down the toilet. Now their Mexican cousins are the size of small rodents and I cant bring myself to stand on one (I'm afraid that it will jump up and manage to get on me). So I ended up arming myself as best I could with the weaponry available in this apartment: air freshener and a shovel. I managed to stun him with the air freshener and scoop him into the toilet with the shovel. I feel he may have survived and be somewhere very far away from here smelling lavender fresh.
Any further advice on keeping these guys out and/ or dealing with them when found?

Things are going well...

So I had a good day today. Roberta gave me some details of an accountant her husband uses, Regina. Regina is awesome - she is originally from Guadalajara and speaks fantastic English. She's going to help me register with the tax people down here (hacienda) and help me with some FM3 issues. The best thing is that she is around my age and is going to introduce me to all of her friends. I am very excited to meet another potential female friend on the Island.
I also was pleased to find that a friend Monica, who is impossible to reach by telephone has started working at her old job next door to Scuba Shack. She was really pleased to see me today and had some really positive advice on working.
I also found out information on the course I have to take to register to teach in the Marine Park. You have to pay for the course at the bank so I did that and am actually going to sign up tomorrow. Its in October so it gives me some time to learn more Spanish and study some of the materials friends have from previous courses. The latest info is that there is no exam which is amazing news! - if true. If there is an exam I will manage. One of the dive Masters from Scuba Shack who I have known for years is going to take the same course as me so he can help me out.
I also committed to renting an apartment in this building and am excited to move in. Its on the third floor so feels a little safer. Its bright (painted white) and has a safe built into the wall which is great.
The only fly in the ointment was that I lost my ATM card. This pissed me off a little but I called my bank, got it canceled and am expecting another one soon. I figured what's the use of letting this get me down - there's nothing I can do to change the situation.
I'm taking a cave class with Allie this weekend which should be fun. Also Hans is going to do a pre-course dive with me so I can go over some stuff which will be great.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fiesta -Mexican Independence Day

Punta Morena - Adriana Sole Durazo
Yesterday Josie and I drove to a beach on the windward side of the Island, Punta Morena. This is a surf beach - and later in the day we did see two surfers - other than that it was pretty deserted. We went to a beach Club where they have chairs and had a few sodas in the sun. Actually I sat in the shade because I'm in no real hurry to burn like a crisp and I like to snooze in the shade. The water was beautiful and we had two long swims - there are far more waves on the windward side of the Island (hence the surfing). I wished I'd brought my camera and mask and snorkel. Miguel has been scuba diving over there. I think that might be a little risky with the currents so I think I'm going to leave it until I know someone who has A LOT of experience on that side, as it looks pretty scary to me.
Last night we went out with Miguel, Petros & Elvia. It was the eve of Mexican Independence Day and pretty much everyone on the Island was congregated in a lot near Chedraui (local supermarket) where there were children's rides, food and beer stalls and TONS of people - all locals. I saw one guy who was taller than me and then realized that I was walking in the street and he was standing on the sidewalk with a 1/2 ft advantage:) The mood was great, tons of families (I have been warned on several occasions now that Cozumel is renowned for great fertility!). Actually one of the things I really love about Mexico is the importance they still place on family.
I tried a Marquesita which is like a crape which they make on hot plates in front of you and then fill with cheese and roll into a crunchy cheesy tube - pretty good. I also ordered a chelada , which is usually a beer with lime and salt. This one came with dried chili around its rim and I'm not sure I'm up to that taste yet. At about 9.45pm there was some reading of the Mexican Declaration of Independence, followed by the anthem of Cozumel and then the Mexican National Anthem. At 10 there was a firework display, which was beautiful. When the fireworks were over there was a bit of a crush to leave. Mexico became independent in 1810 so in 2 years that will be 200 years of independence. [Live+México+-+16+Septiembre.bmp]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First day 'alone' on the Island

Reluctantly I left Allie (thanks Allie for bringing me back to sanity after my initial freak out), and Playa Del Carmen. I counseled myself on the ferry that it was to be expected that I would feel lonely in my first few weeks on the Island. I thought about the Dali Lamas teachings on emptiness and decided some solitude would do me good.
I got back to the apartment, chained up my bike and went to check that my car was still where I'd parked it (yup). I then bumped into one of my neighbors an American from New Orleans called Dina who is living here with her sister Cathy. We chatted for a while and she invited me to hang out with them whenever I wanted. I then bought some drinks and came back to the apartment. I'd just settled down to start updating my blog when Miguel called. Did I want to go diving in 20 mins. Let me think - HELL YES!!!
I'm not on the kind of budget where I can dive off boats, so I was pleased to hear that the plan was to grab a ride on a little zodiac boat 200 meters out off the scuba Shack pier then follow a coral wall down to the pier at Papa Hogs and take a cab back. Another exciting thing about this is that I will be able to make the first entry on my SCUBA DIVING BLOG.
We dove with an American guy Jim, who's house Josie (Miguel's girlfriend and good friend of mine) is staying in and also a Mexican friend of Miguel's -Petros. After the dive Jim & Josie invited Miguel, Petros, his wife Elvira, their 4 year old son and me to his house for some food. We had cheese tacos and baked potatoes and they ate meat from the grill. Petros and Elvira were really nice. Elvira does not speak a lot of English so she might be a good person for me to practice my Spanish on. I left at around 7, because I'm tired and wanted to start to unpack a little. So my first day of loneliness was not too lonely at all!!!

Initial thoughts/ feelings on arrival in Cozumel

It felt good to finally make it here after missing one ferry and having to spend what should have been our first night on the Island in Playa Del Carmen.
When we finally did arrive we went right to the house that a friend had lined up for me. It was a beautiful house, with a cool roof top deck and swimming pool, but I was really concerned about it's security. I was aware that I was probably being paranoid but in view of the fact that it was my personal safety and entire worldly possessions that were at risk, I decided to err on the side of caution and move to the apartment of an American friend who will be in the States for the next three weeks. This place feels much safer. It's small and in a gated complex with bars at the windows and doors. I have a very small room mate - a little gecko who spends most of his time being yellow as this is the color of the walls. Miguel has told me that gecko's are great to have around because they kill roaches (enough said I'm completely sold). I tried to photograph my little security guard but he was too small and far away. After one night in the new apartment Dad and I headed over to Playa Del Carmen to spend his last night with Allie. We had dinner at El Cuervo Del Chango (the Cave of the Monkey) which is one of my favorite restaurants in Playa. We split a bottle of wine and ate fish. Dad liked this meal best in Mexico. We went to bed pretty early. Dad left on the morning of the 13th. We had breakfast in a cafe on the beach and talked for an hour or so and then Allie and I said goodbye to him at the bus station. I watched my Dad leave with mixed emotions. I'd really had a good close time with him during our trip, but having a parent around in Cozumel was making me feel like a child, if that makes sense and I needed to be on my own so I could get to the business of settling in.
I think when I first arrived here I had a bit of an emotional crash. I was physically and mentally drained and arriving at a house that felt unsafe made me feel very exposed. I think I'd been so busy building up to leaving and then throughout the entirety of our trip I'd not had a chance to really process what I was doing. My first day here felt a bit like crashing into a brick wall. What am I doing, how am I going to cope without my friends in New York who've all kind of become like a little family to me. I know myself enough by now to know that exhaustion does not have the best affect on my ability to rationalize!!!
SO I decided to spend a few days in Playa with Allie relaxing. It was good not to have to cope with sleeping in an apartment on my own. We also went to the beach and met up with our other friend from New Jersey, Sofia and hr boyfriend. Sofia was a great calming influence because she's gone through the whole process of working as an instructor down here. She's also made me confident that if it does not work out for me here in Cozumel I could always get a job in Playa (in fact I'm pretty sure she could actually help me get a foot in the door in a shop in Playa through her contacts. I also met Allie and Han's friends Patrick and Katie who were really nice.
I had the most AWESOME pedicure in the world from a guy called Robin at Spa-Itza. He spent about 1 1/2 hours making sure that there was not a trace of dry skin on my feet. My feet are now baby soft.
I'm still forming some views on what I think it might be like living here. Its going to take some time to get used to the cultural differences. I'm realizing how important many of the things I'd taken for granted in New Jersey actually were to me.
Oh I also bought a bike so I don't have to drive everywhere.

Chichen Itza

Well I've got a little bit to catch you up on. Chichen Itza was pretty impressive. This is the main pyramid - towering into the sky, it was used to read the seasons of the sun and stars. Standing at its base it almost seems to touch the clouds in the sky. Apparently during the Spring and Winter equinoxes the zig-zag shadow cast by the stairway appears to slither like a snake (Kukulcan was a god in the form of a rattle snake decorated with feathers, that the Mayans worshiped). We decided to pay a guide, Carlos, who was of Mayan decent. This was not particularly expensive (after a little negotiation) and really brought the place alive. We visited the great ball court. We were told that the commonplace Mayans were not usually expected to be able to reach heaven. I think there were 5 exceptions to this. The three I remember were, by dying in childbirth, battle or by winning the annual ball game. Athletes trained year round to be allowed to compete with each other in the ball game. The athlete who managed to score the most goals by hurling a ball through these stone hoops was given the supreme privalege of being sacrificed to the gods with a guaranteed place in heaven. Now there is some faith for you. You have to appreciate that the priests were pretty darn smart sun worshipers/ astronomers. For example they knew when there would be a lunar or solar eclips and would tell the people 'today I will command the sun to go out'. You can see why the people were in awe of such miracles.
We enjoyed talking to Carlos who was pretty knowledgeable and enthused about Mayan history. He was interested in the British Druids also told us a little about his family, which was nice:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quick Update

I've been getting in trouble from friends and family for not keeping my blog up to date. My normal (non road trip) pace is 1-2 entries a week. Mostly my life is just not that exciting!
We made it to Cozumel (after an cool trip to Chichen Itza which I will blog about), dad met and liked my friends, I have my work permit, I have a temporary, small one bedroom apartment and I'm now really looking forward to relaxing a little into the pace of things here. I could honestly sleep for a week! Will probably take the week off blogging and fill you in on the events following my arrival after the weekend.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Just writing a quick update from a lovely peaceful Hotel courtyard in Merida because the wireless internet does not seem to work in our room. It's very relaxing and still here - commodities which have been scarce so far in Mexico!
It took 7 hours to get here, but that was the last long drive of the trip. We were aiming for a Hotel in the main square but the square is closed on Sundays for a market. We ended up getting flustered driving round in circles. Just when we were about to give up we stopped to re-group. There, right where we pulled over, was an amazing hotel (I think it is called the Hotel Grand Real). Anyway it is beautiful and has only been open for two weeks so the room smells fresh and new. The staff speak English (I know I'm in Mexico and I promise I have really been trying with my Spanish but it is so nice to be able to ask questions in English). Anyway Dad is dying to see the Cathedral and while he was in the shower I checked mass times. We are in luck there is mass today at 6.30pm. Mass in Spanish, as tired as I am, may send me to sleep -but I'll take one for the team. I do actually intend to go to Church in Cozumel, but its something I prefer to have a clear head for.
We have only about a 4 hour drive to Playa del Carmen from here (this is where my friends Hans and Allie live and where we catch the car ferry to Cozumel). So our plan is to get up early again, drive to Chitzen Iza to see the Mayan ruins and have breakfast. Then we'll head to Playa, hopefully get there by lunch time, find the car ferry and get over to Cozumel. Tomorrow I hope to be sleeping in my (temporary) new bed!!!
Allie flies back from New Jersey on Tuesday so hopefully we'll be well rested and will be able to meet her in Cozumel for dinner.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Villa Hermosa - Not so bad

10 stops down Aug 28- Sept 6
Baltimore; Asheville; Nashville; Memphis; Dallas; Austin; Brownsville; Tampico; Veracruz & Villa Hermosa
2 to go...
Sun Sept 7 - Campeche/ Merida
Mon Sept 8 - Valladolid
Tues Sept 9 - Cozumel!!!!!
The drive today was pretty nasty in the morning. Torrential rains covered us and the road. My little windshield/screen wipers could not keep up. I'm getting better at potholes and speed bumps. My car's wipers, suspension and four wheel drive have been tested to the full. My little car is doing well. I think the journey would have been very beautiful if we had been able to see anything other than rain and fog. My rain coat came into its own at the gas station.
We are getting closer. Tomorrow I want to drive to Merida (we could stop in Campeche if we're too tired and then we are almost in Cozumel). It should take around 7 hours and be the last really long drive of the trip. We are staying in one of the nicer hotels in Villa Hermosa - the Olmeca Palace. We had one of the nicest meals of the trip on our arrival. My back is killing me and, as we are coming into the home stretch and the bed feels pretty comfortable tonight, I have decided to splurge and get a massage (its only $40 for an hour and I think its worth it). I cannot wait! Think I'll watch a little bit of my ipod have a shower, a massage and then bed.
Dad did a great job of map reading on the way into town today and he's had a little explore. I'm told it was just too hot to hunt down a church for mass today though.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Veracruz - only three driving days left!!!

9 stops down
Thurs Aug 28 - Baltimore
Fri Aug 29- Asheville
Sat Aug 30 - Nashville
Sun Aug 31 - Memphis
Mon Sept 1 - Dallas
Tues Sept 2 - Austin
Wed Sept 3 - Brownsville
Thurs Sept 4 - Tampico
Fri Sept 5 - Veracruz
3 to go...
Sat Sept 6 - Villa Hermosa
Sun Sept 7 - Campeche/ Merida
Mon Sept 8 - Valladolid
Tues Sept 9 - Cozumel!!!!!
Phew it makes me feel better to see that!! Another long drive today. Little did I know that when I took this picture in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that this would be a common sight on 180 in Mexico:
Most of 180 is single lane - so you take your life in your hands when you over-take/pass someone. My car does not have its usual acceleration, as it is so overloaded, so I have to make absolutely sure I have room to pass the guy in front (lemon carrying trucks seem the slowest). So twice today, I'm tootling along in the right hand lane and I come over the crest of a hill to see two trucks side by side coming right at me - one in the left lane and one in my lane flashing his lights at me furiously. Well my options were limited. All I could do was grind to a halt avoiding a head on collision by inches and with the guy behind nearly ramming my ass. Yes the driving here is quite exciting. I will say that they do have better lane discipline than the yanks. No one 'drives' in the fast lane and if someone is not driving fast enough they are flashed over. The drive from Tampico to Tuxpan was nasty. It was through thick Congo like jungle (the cool part) - the roads were FULL of potholes. I made myself laugh because my Dad was sitting with his glasses on and all of his maps bundled on his knee while I tried to avoid potholes and head on collisions in torrential rain. Did you ever see the scene in Indiana Jones where Sean Connery is riding in Indie's side car? That was the expression on my Dad's face.
Anyway we made it to the hotel by 3 and I parked the car, deposited Dad and the bags and jumped into a cab to meet my immigration attorney - Rafael. This all went swimingly. He met me on the street just outside of his office and we went directly to the immigration department. I gave all of my documents over, was fingerprinted and photographed and my FM3 should be ready by next Tuesday. Rafael is then going to send it by courier to Cozumel. It will be an independent contractor's FM3 which is awesome, and means I can work anywhere. The bad thing was that I did not realize that I would have to be photographed. I had no make up on and was fresh out of a sleep deprived, 7 hour stressful drive. I look like an ex-con. The photos are also mug shot style. One face on and one sideways.
Anyway tomorrow is Villa Hermosa which I understand is not so Hermosa (beautiful)! After that we may skip Campeche and head on to Merida. I favor this idea because that would leave very little driving to Cozumel. We could even spend an extra night in Merida or Valladolid (my dad wants to see Chichen Itza - as do I). I don't like to fantasize or tempt fate but one could even imagine the possibility of a late lie in bed.
I didn't get much of a chance to take many pictures but here is a picture of the unexpected mountainous terrain:And first glimpse of the ocean:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ups and downs

Well the border was pretty easy except that due to my lack of Spanish we drove right past the office where you get the temporary car permits and ended up heading back towards the USA. It is at times like this that it helps to be a girl. I flirted with the guys on the US gate and they moved cars so I could back up and then moved cones so I could drive back to the parking lot for the permit office. This all went pretty smoothly. I went into the office at 7.45 expecting to wait after Allie and Han's experiences. But no - the window was open and we were processed pretty quickly.
Then a fairly hairy intro to Mexican driving through Matamoros. We had no real idea where we were going. My GPS basically has a few of the major roads and at least tells you which direction you are traveling in. After a few wrong turns we eventually got onto the road that leads to Tampico - I-180. the journey was OK. 180 is interesting. Mexicans seem to be fearless in the face of close passes. On a two lane stretch its not uncommon to see a huge truck heading right at you in the process of overtaking someone on his side. There were crosses all along the sides of the roads - clearly there have been many victims of this driving style. I hit a pothole which kind of bumped my trunk open a little. No lasting damage seems to have been done.
We arrived in Tampico at around 4.30 and spent the next 2 hours looking for this stupid hotel. My friends know me as a tinsy bit anal - and in true style I'd booked hotels in advance in Tampico and Veracruz. This is a very stupid thing to do, I have decided, as we passed possibly 30 perfectly decent hotels with on-site parking searching for this Best Western. The more we searched the more determined I became to find this stupid hotel. Eventually we paid a cab $5 to lead us to the hotel (which is ridiculous - but at that juncture I would have promised him my first born).
At last, almost 12 hours since we left our hotel in Brownsville we arrived at the illusive Best Western in Tampico.
Progress report:
So how are we progressing:
8 stops down
Thurs Aug 28 - Baltimore
Fri Aug 29- Asheville
Sat Aug 30 - Nashville
Sun Aug 31 - Memphis
Mon Sept 1 - Dallas
Tues Sept 2 - Austin
Wed Sept 3 - Brownsville
Thurs Sept 4 - Tampico
4 to go...
Fri Sept 5 - Veracruz
Sat Sept 6 - Villa Hermosa
Sun Sept 7 - Campeche
Mon Sept 8 - Valladolid
Tues Sept 9 - Cozumel!!!!!

Dad is sure that he can find the hotel I booked in Veracruz easily: "its right on the sea front - you cant miss it" he promises. So he has convinced me not to cancel that booking. My plan is to get to the hotel at around lunch time and take a cab to see my immigration lawyer. Tomorrow we get out of here early.
My Mexican cell phone seems to be working but when I try to make a call a recorded message in Spanish says: "Bla bla bla asterisco bla bla 4", having the benefit of Allie's blogging on the subject I know asterisco (sp) to mean *. The *4 thing seemed to work a few times but now does not want to work. My US cell phone minutes are finished and I don't have the energy today to work out how to use the Mex cell.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Last night in the USA (Brownsville)

This morning the drive to Brownsville was flat. Allie had warned me it was the most dull part of the journey and she was right. Although it seems that it is mating season down here for big red butterflies a particularly fat breed of dragonfly. These dragonflies are the size of humming birds and many of these poor love sick fools met their deaths on my windscreen. A bit disgusting to clean up too, I can tell you.
The start of the drive to Brownsville:
And 2 1/2 hours later on the same road:
I have to be fair though and say there were 2-3 very exciting 2 min stretches where I had to turn my steering wheel slightly. I actually kind of like this type of driving when I'm not too tired. I was pretty fresh today so it made for an easy trip. You could see drivers nodding off ahead and nearly veering off the road. We did actually witness the aftermath of a car having run off the road - I'm guessing because the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The car was pretty banged up.
Anyway we got to Brownsville - I flopped on the bed for a mini rest:
Had lunch and then jumped in the pool to stretch out my aching back:
So how are we progressing:
7 stops down
Thurs Aug 28 - Baltimore
Fri Aug 29- Asheville
Sat Aug 30 - Nashville
Sun Aug 31 - Memphis
Mon Sept 1 - Dallas
Tues Sept 2 - Austin
Wed Sept 3 - Brownsville
5 to go...
Thurs Sept 4 - Tampico
Fri Sept 5 - Veracruz
Sat Sept 6 - Villa Hermosa
Sun Sept 7 - Campeche
Mon Sept 8 - Valladolid
Tues Sept 9 - Cozumel!!!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Austin was a relatively short trip so I took my time. We arrived at around 10.30 am. The roads here are crazy (bit like a giant scaelectircs set):
Interchange of Interstate 35 and State Highway 45.
Interchange of Interstate 35 and State Highway 45.

Happily we were able to check right in to our room. This is a Candlewood Suites hotel, the rooms are pretty basic in decor but they have a kitchen, and a huge table which is great because I want to make sure that today that I have everything arranged for our crossing the border on Thursday (the journey to Brownsville is likely to be another hellish drive) . In addition I want to keep tomorrow night free because it is the 2 hour long season premier of my favorite TV show 'Bones'. I know its sad but it really is the only show I like to watch on TV. Hopefully I will be able to download this from Mexico. My new temporary home will have wireless internet.
The other great thing about this hotel is that it has a room called the 'Candlewood Kitchen' which has free washers and dryers and all manner of foodstuffs that you might want to buy - its all based on the honor system. Dad washed all of the clothes he'd worn so far and I washed a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. We had lunch at a restaurant on the South side of the city called the Congress Cafe. The area reminded me of Brooklyn Heights.
The Battery on my camera has decided to fail which is not great timing. I tried Radio Shack and this other battery shop but no luck. I guess I'll order one in NY and ask Allie or Charlie to bring it down. I know Allie loved Austin and I'm sorry I wont get time to see more of it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Guest Writer on my blog

My Dad's experiences of Dallas:
We had a comfortable ride right through from Memphis to Dallas in dry, sunny weather. We had left at 6.30 and arrived in Dallas at 12.56. This was a good piece of driving by Anna. Arkansas was very rural and beautiful. Texas is brasher and more commercialised. The towers of the city make an exciting approach. We are in the Magnolia Hotel in the centre of downtown Dallas. We are a couple of blocks away from the site of the Kennedy assassination. I had a lovely lunch with Anna at a Mextex diner and while she went back to the hotel for a bath, rest and sleep, I went out to visit the Kennedy sites. First there was the Kennedy Memorial in Main Street, a large rectangular construction of white blocks of stone. Next I photographed the famous triple underpass and knoll where shots might have come from, according to some witnesses. Finally, I visited the sixth floor of the famous former book depository building from which Harvey Lee Oswald unleashed the shots that killed the President. The exhibition was absolutely first rate, a mixture of wall historical information, photographs and newspaper reports and also several period movie films. I was there a couple of hours. The city was very humid and sticky after this, so I came back for a warm bath, which I greatly enjoyed. Anna has had a good doze. She has booked two hotels for the next stage of our journey, one in Austin and one in Brownsville, the border town. If all turns out well, this puts us back on schedule on our journey to Mexico. We may have a bite tonight and certainly a good sleep. We shall also keep an eye on the hurricane through television. We shall leave early in the morning for Austin. New Orleans has been very lucky, with no heavy damage, though some flooding. That rain will spread. It is important to see what the effects have been on Texas. Watch this space....

Where am I now????

Dallas!! Actually its less exciting than it might seem. We had a 7 hour drive from Memphis and I am now zapped. Dad has gone off to see where Kennedy was shot and I plan to relax in a nice hot bath and perhaps have an afternoon snooze. Then I need to book hotels in Austin and Brownsville.
So I thought now might be a good time to talk a little about what it's like in the car. One fairly amusing thing is that, at the last minute, I decided to bring my pendulum clock. It bongs every 15 mins. 10 am is the funniest because I recently bought a new watch and have yet to read the instructions. At 10 am my watch alarm goes off (I don't know how to disable this) followed closely by the bongs of Big Ben. My dad says its a little bit of sanity from England. I'm fairly sure most would not assess this situation as sane.
We talk a little. I'm learning more about my Dad's parents and brothers, which is nice. We listen to 'The Hobbit' and have long Sing alongs to Elvis, Guys and Dolls, Ella Fitzgerald. There have also been shocking confessions: Claire Hagen, if you are reading this blog you might want to stop reading here. It would seem that my beloved goldfish 'Sam Samson' passed away suddenly and was surreptitiously replaced by Sam Samson II. Sam Samson was your common gold, goldfish and his mate 'Molly' was white with a red flash. I had to be told about Molly's demise because she was too distinctive to replace. This lead me to wonder about the miraculous Hagen goldfish 'Goldie' who lived into her 20ies (humn..). Santa Clause, Sam Samson, what more is there I don't know about.
Anyway we are on schedule tomorrow Austin, then Brownsville and across the border.