Saturday, July 08, 2006

Field trip itinerary...16 people in van..no weapons allowed

We received our briefing on the upcoming week long field trip and it is going to be an interesting week. There are 16 people going and we are all piling in a van for the 5 day trek. At the end of this adventure we are going to know each other very well. You know it is going to be an interesting ride when our instructor, who is also going, repeatedly told us that we needed to be respectful of one another and have patience. In fact he went so far as to say that we are all going to, at one point or another, pretty much hate everyone else and if we see someone having this type of moment we should just let them have it and leave them alone. I think I will be having multiple moments like these but luckily for me and my fellow travelers Mexican pharmacies stock a wide array of mood altering medication. I should add that there are 11 people below the age of 25 going, most of them under 21 and of these all of them are women. I have not spent this much time around a pack of young women since I was in the sorority and the fact that I have not sought out this type of social setting is not an accident. So here is the itinerary...

Day 1: Jalapa de Marquez
This is the first real settlement on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and sits along the oil transport route from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. We leave Oaxaca early in the morning and arrive, after about 4 hours on a very windy road (getting the Dramamine tomorrow), around midday. We will be there one night and are sleeping in hammocks in the homes of some families. Not only will we be in hammocks but we are outside because it is too hot to sleep inside. Woo hoo! Guess who will be crabby that night? Anyway, we are going to be talking with the local authorities about local issues that day and then taking a tour of the town. I'm guessing the night time is when we drink ourselves into a stupor.

Day 2 and 3: Ixtepec
Wake up in Jalapa (of course I doubt that I will have even gotten to sleep) and head to Ixtepec. We are in Ixtepec for two nights and will be staying in a hotel (yippee!) and that evening going to Ojo de Agua, a local swimming hole with impossibly clear water (so I have been told) to cool off. The Isthmus is retardedly hot and humid so my curly afro will be in full force. I'm sure I'll smell great too and can't wait for long van rides with 16 other sweaty, sleep-deprived people.

Oliver warned us that in Ixtepec at night we should not hang out by the train tracks. Dammit! Plan foiled! A train running from Chiapas to Mexico City runs through Ixtepec and is apparently a major corridor for illegals from Central America who congregate at the tracks in Ixtepec hoping to hop on the train. There is also the presence of Mara Salvatrucha which is an El Salvadoran gang which has now spread to many countries, including the U.S. Actually, I think somebody said it was started in the U.S. by El Salvadoran immigrants but don't quote me on that.

The next day we will take a day trip to Juchitan which was the first municipality in Mexico to have a non-PRI government way back in the 80s. Women hold prominent positions in public life and commerce in Juchitan and this is also the home of another odd phenomenon in a religious patriarchal culture, that of the Muxe. Muxe (Moo-She) are men dresesed like women who command a lot of respect in this area of Oaxaca. In fact, if a family is lucky enough to have a Muxe they feel very blessed. The Muxe make up one of the 6 recognized genders in Juchitan, male, female, gay, lesbain, Muxe and another one that starts with an M that I can't remember.


Day 4 and 5: Santiago Xanica
Thursday we get up early and take a long van ride to Santiago Xanica, a town in a coffee growing area where the weather will still be humid, but due to altitude (3000 feet or so), much cooler. We will be spending the night, again outdoors and in hammocks, and the next day taking a 2 to 3 hour walk up and down the hills looking at the coffee fields. I hear there are a lot of bugs in coffee fields so I'm extra excited. Please note the saracasm in that last sentence.

End of Day 5: Leave either for Huatulco (beach town) or go home
I will probably just come home though most are planning on staying at the beach. Since I have already been to the beach and will likely be sick of traveling and sick of the people I'm with I thought I might just come back to Oaxaca for well deserved alone time.

Things we are supposed to bring on the trip:
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pills (these are specific to me, not really suggested)
Dramamine
Toilet paper (very important for me but everyone has to bring some)
Flashlight (lots of places without light apparently, got my headlamp so I will be hands free for peeing!)
Lots of bug repellant

So this is it, as you might be able to tell I am a bit apprehensive about this whole venture. Not only due to the extreme closeness with others but also due to the extreme closeness with large insects and the lack of extreme closeness to AC and a comfy bed. Yes, I am becoming a princess in my old age and I'm not afraid to admit it!

One a totally unrelated note, I was sitting on my bed in my room on Friday, close to 5pm and I felt the room the move, earthquake style. I asked my roomie if she felt that and told her I thought I had just felt an earthquake. Well, even though she looked at me like I was crazy, I went to the USGS website and sure enough, there was a 4.5 quake in Tuxtla Gutierrez (town in Chiapas) on Friday at just that time! I knew my butt was sensitive enough to detect earthquakes.

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