Dreams in mango colour

Popocatepetl Puebla

It is obvious that, regardless of our modesty, in the eyes of the hosts we looked like two big bags , filled with booty, with dollar signs on each side. In the face of difficulties that these people were struggling, poverty in which they lived, failed hopes and lack of opportunities, you could not escape the consciousness of this situation, you could not control the visible anxiety. It was not the fear of theft or assault, but the embarrassment caused only by our presence. Just because we were there – so relaxed, so laid back – was a kind of an insult. When I wandered through these mountains in my strange-looking outfit and face of an alien, initially I felt a shiver of shyness every time when we approached a new village and were flogged by assessing looks of inhabitants. But my embarrassment soon disappeared, as natural politeness of almost every encountered human being caused that I would forget about the serious differences lying between us. Tony Anderson, Bread and ashes.

I met Mrs Lili in the park, in the city of Puebla. I was just about to move on, but my stomach, filled to the brim with food, demanded an extension of siesta. An hour before I ate a huge papaya, followed by the equally big cemita – a Mexican hamburger. In the evening, sitting at the dinner at the house of Mrs Lili (whom the oldest of four sons will present me as Peggy Sue) I will find out that my burger was called cemita de milaneza, a sandwich filled with persea, onion, cheese, meat and some hot spices.

It’s hard to say, actually, to what or to whom I owe the fact that I was invited to the house to stay overnight. I presume it was because of my Polish origins, cause when I answered a standard, frequently asked question: De donde viene? (Where do you come from?), it turned out that the family Munive Alcaide for almost a year accommodated a Pole, Italian philology student, Samuel Sulkowski.

I followed the taxi and half an hour later I was lying on a comfortable bed, clean and tidy, overlooking a Polish flag hung on a wooden shelf. In the evening I met the rest of the family: papa Marco Antonio and his four sons: Julian, Abraham, David and Tono, with whom I shared a room. I took the bed of David, who came home just in time, when I was leaving the shower, tied with a tiny towel. Mom did not manage to let him know before about my arrival, but he didn’t seem to be surprised at all, as if he was accustomed every so often to meet an almost naked stranger in his room, lying on his bed, covered in a fresh, clean, new bedding.

The next day we went for a family reunion, where most of the participants took me as a long time unseen Samuel. By the way, I was able to participate in the children’s game called piñata, during which blindfolded children, using a stick, try to break a paper star. When it’s done, sweets and toys are ..

The traditional piñata was shaped like a seven star with tassels at its ends, symbolizing the seven deadly sins. Breaking piñata symbolized and represented the will power to overcome the temptation to commit sins.

In the evening we went to Cholula to watch voladores – Pole Flying. Five men climb up the tall, narrow pole. Except for a waist cord, there is nothing to protect them. One of them remains at the top of the column, playing drums and the flute, while the rest, with their outstretched arms, jump down and, balancing their bodies in the air, lauch themselves to descend to the ground. Men turn thirteen times, which multiplied by four participants, gives fifty two revolutions, which constituted one cycle in the Mayan calendar, as well as the number of weeks in a year of “our” calendar.

Hospitality of Munive Alcaide family was exceptional. Each day someone bothers me, but it rarely ends up to be invited home. However, the Mexicans still seem to me incredibly kind and hospitable. Wherever I stop to take some rest, someone instantly comes to talk. Even for a moment, just to share a word.

People are curious about everything. I am disarmed questions like: What do you do when it rains? What do you eat? Where do you sleep? What do you do when you have a flat tire? As for eating, I usually ask the same question: And what do you eat? I eat exactly the same things, and Mexico is simply flooded with food that you can buy on the streets, so you do not have to carry inventory in panniers. As for patching punctures: exactly two days ago, it happened for the first time, and it has been the first puncture since I left Alaska last year.

In the capital I stopped to have a chat with road workers. They had yellow suits, which blended into the orange wall. I leant on it, pulled up the legs, and twine tired knee with my dirty, sticky hands. Only after a while I noticed a little girl, sitting on the side. A few older men, two women, and a teenage girl, Lupe. She smiles a lot, but does not want to say anything. Men speak for her. That she is not as young as she seems, she has a child, a boy, and she must work for him because his father is an ordinary cabron and does not help in any way.

I get a mango for a road, in a bright colour of Lupe’s suit. I feel bad. I feel ashamed. I want to share something, but I do not know what. I would like to leave something, but I do not know what and for whom. Mango is sweet and leaves sticky hands. Juice trickles down my chin, stains shirt. I want to pay. I take out the money, but Jose Angel Alvarez tells me to hid it and stop fooling around, because the God looksfrom above and sees everything and that it is enough for everything, and that I should be careful on the way.

The workers return to work, and I’m back on the highway. In the evening, I stop close to the gas station. There is no problem with putting up my tent nearby, nobody is surprised by the question. Nothing has changed. In Mexico, no one has ever refused that I can stay for a night in my tent. I cook dinner, bury in the sleeping bag, and watch the stars with a longing look through the night. And then I dream of your hands, twined with warm fingers, sticking of mango fruit.

happy morning

Silent eyes

tormenta

From the perspective of a place which one has to leave, travel is an exercise in dying. Any leaving is dying, every act of breaking out of the same is one of many small deaths that make life is just sheer passing. Kazimierz Mrówka

The heat and humidity give me a hard time. The antibiotic was too weak, so after three days I got two shots in the ass. For a better way. But, unfortunately, it was not any better. I left Mazatlan and headed south, but after a few days I had to throw up the game and once again look for a doctor. I got another set of tablets, then I bought some food, ten liters of water and stayed for three days in bed, frankly speaking, without getting out, apart from some rare visits to the restroom and time for changing sweaty clothes. It is said that dogs do that when they fall ill. They look for a place where they can be left alone to get through, so they hide themselves from the world and lie. So I followed an example of dogs, because I trust them. Even these I meet in Mexico, these that often bark at me and chase along the road, trying to reach my calf.

Almost the whole day the room is filled with dim light. It gets lighter only in the late afternoon, when the sun tilts in the sky and warm coulours fill a small patio. It is quiet and peaceful. Without some mosquitoes and rare visits of my neighbor, time passes by and nothing disturbs it.

A small, almost transparent, beautiful lizard lives in the corner of the room. It comes out in the evening and secretly eats insects that in abundance come flying into the room through a crack in the window to dump the wings on the ground. Then they awkwardly wriggle on the floor, do not even try to run away when a lizard is eating another creeping, naked insect.

And finally, late at night, ghosts arrive. I welcome you, ghosts, please, make yourself comfortable, no, really, I was not expecting you, thank you, thank you, Moomins will bring a glass of water, and some munchies, it’s nice you come, thank you, thank you, it is always better to talk to someone, swap wards, even with those who are invisible, than just to mumble constantly to yourself. Where you can sit? Everywhere you want, you can sit on the bike, surely, even on the bed would do, really, I move a little and there will be room for everyone …

So we sit around comfortably, close our eyes and listen. We listen to each other. We listen a lullaby with our silent eyes. Good night.

Sinaloa

road

“It has been said that when one of the great tzadik was asked by his disciples to reveal the secret of his wisdom, he replied: “It’s simple. When I sit, I sit, when I stand, I stand, and when I go, I go”. But his students said: “But teacher, we do the same as you do” Then he added: “No. You, when you sit, you already stand, and when you stand, you already go” Michal Cichy  

It got very humid – even fifty, sixty percent of humidity makes a person wet with sweat all the time. From an early morning, and actually from the evening and through the night everything is sticky, smells, adjoins to the body, teases, and annoys. Tropics are not beautiful palm trees on a sandy coast, descending into the crystal, clear water. They may look so at the folders of some travel agencies, where beautiful ladies flex their slender, tanned bodies in the shadows on a sun lounger, sipping Campari with ice. Tropics are an uneven battle with lush nature, it is a constant struggle with excess, the permanent fatigue, an effort to escape the overwhelming heat, trying to find a bit of a shade, and preferably – do not even move. Night brings no relief, as it was in the desert. There, it was getting colder at night, and in the morning you could even be cold. Now temperature drops a few degrees, and even if the afternoon brings a sudden storm, when it passes, the air heats up again immediately.

I’m cycling on the highway, but here, in contrast to the U.S., no one honks at me, and if they do, it is done to greet me, not to sweep into a roadside ditch. I changed a rhythm of the day and try not to cycle at night. Sometimes I go a little after sunset, just not to put up the tent nearby highway, because it is louder and less pleasant than on someone’s back yard. And there is no problem whatsoever to put your tent on the yards. Here, no one says no.

I wrote last time that Mexican hospitality began already in the U.S. But I forgot to add that in the American part of Nogales, in McDonnald, a woman came up to me and after introducing herself as Mary, proposed a night with her family, being more precise, with a family of her husband. Somehow it did not work out, but thanks to Mary I had a pleasure to stay at her friend’s house – Maria Elena, who greeted me so warmly, as if I was a close, long unseen family member. I was able to wash, do the laundry, and have some rest before I hit the road again.

Today I’m staying in Aaron’s house. I was sent to him by a woman who jumped out of a moving bus on the street asking if I’m not looking for accommodation. One can tell that she fell from the sky, as for the last few days I was traveling with a terrible headache, in a state of extreme exhaustion and generally I felt I needed some rest. Karina Soltero, this lady from the bus, appeared to be a yoga instructor, who some time ago helped Arthur Domosławski collect material for his book about Latin America. After a sleepless night at Aaron’s house, the time came to see a doctor. The appointment took place at the pharmacy, and the visit (private) cost thirty pesos, equivalent of less than three American dollars. I got the antibiotic (azitriomicina) and a few other pills. I was just dehydrated, exhausted, and I caught some germs, probably after drinking dirty water or eating fruit, which sometimes I pick on the road. Some rest will do me good, I hope. What does not kill us, will make us stronger.

Greetings! Peter and Moomins and all other ghosts

morning

Sonora

evening

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle Pico Iyer 

For me, as a matter of fact, Mexico began in the United States, more specifically, in Nogales – a big city lying on both sides of the border between the USA and Mexico (nogales in English means walnuts). As I got there quite late, I thought that it would advisable to spend the night on the American side and to get into Mexico only next day. What’s more, to make sure that nobody will bother me at night, I decided to behave culturally, and to put up my tent on a real campground.

The first of the camps was said to be very close, maybe a mile from McDonnald, where I had the last (hopefully) American hamburger. Unfortunately, I cycled here and there, I asked, I was looking for but could not find it. Therefore, I went to look for the other, but instead I found a huge supermarket. In the meantime, it got dark and it seemed that the plan to have a safe place to sleep, unfortunately fizzled. Well, I thought, once again I’ll have to settle for a cozy shade under a roadside tree.

Anyway, I saw a police car, so I went to ask if the nearby area was safe. The police said that I should go to hotel, checked my documents (luckily they did not check the money, cause I had three dollars in cash, but if that had happened I could have showed my credit cards), and then they concluded that if I have little money, I should go to church. Why not, I thought, the last time I stayed in church four years ago, in Zimbabwe.

So I went to look for the church, someone threw a firework on me, but missed, but thanks to this I stayed in, and looked across the street In the dim light of the lantern I saw a few car trailers. I came closer to see if it could be a better place to stay than the church

I passed the open gate and took a few steps toward a boy, standing next to one of the trailers. Before any of us said anything, I figured out that it was not a hidden camping, but, more or less legal encampment of Mexican immigrants. I asked the boy whether I could pitch a tent somewhere, and he answered that I could do it in the yard of his house, but he has yet to make sure and ask grandma. He came back for a moment, saying that the grandmother does not agree. Typically, in such situations, I just go ahead and ask the next person, and probably I would have done it this time, if the window of the trailer hadn’t opened. After a moment of conversation in Spanish, and reassuring Grandma, that I am not a gangster chasing by the police, I sat in the middle of the trailer, feasting on eggs and tortillas. Grandmother insisted that I could stay outside, because I am a guest and it would not be proper, and besides, it would be dangerous, and, apart from that, Dios sees everything in advance, so, I had no choice, and had to accept the invitation.

This evening was another warm and pleasant encounter among a whole series of similar evenings I spent during the last two weeks in the United States. After visiting immensely hospitable couple – Mark and Nicolle, I still had the pleasure to spend the night in Tucson with their friends – John and Emily. Emily is engaged in handicraft and allowed me to pretend to be the artist, and John is a former sailor, who decided to become a firefighter. I rarely meet people who smile as much as he did.

I crossed the border in Nogales, paid $ 27 for a visa, and after crossing the town, got into the dark, desert night. In the evening I met a man who offered me a taco, gave a bottle of water on the road and said he is glad that gringos start coming back to Mexico, because he loves his country and what they say on TV about Mexico is far from the truth

The book „Amexica: War Along the Borderline” by Ed Vulliamy, begins with a description of dead, decapitated bodies, exposed to public view, and then, one can immerse themselves into a few hundred pages of shocking violence. Not that I denied of anything from the book. The author has done a great deal of work in described the frontier. But besides that, there is also a lot of smile in Mexico, warm greeting words, friendly gestures and lots of hospitable people, who love, cherish their life, and don’t do anything from the stuff described in that book. And although it sounds naive, I hope that this is the image of Mexico – a beautiful country, full of warm, friendly people – that I will keep for myself and I could still share it.

morning

Arizona behind closed eyes

Boulder City

You see, everything gets complicated when people want to have things on their own. Snufkin. Comet in Moominland.

Arizona. Phoenix. I’m staying in Nicolle’s and Mark’s house. It is still hot outside, over one hundred degrees, but there is air conditioning inside. And the swimming pool. And swimming is a little bit like flying.

I arrived to Phoenix late at night; as I already wrote, it is impossible to ride at noon, but even cycling only in the morning until about ten o’clock, and then from sunset to midnight, it is plosible to cover about seventy miles per day.

Before I got to Phoenix, I visited Rob and his wife, Kelly. They live in Kingman. Rob is a man, who nabbed me at night in the bushes in Oregon, in December, 2011. We went to church, where a Mass was celebrated by a pastor’s daughter, and then we went to see the Hoover Dam. Rob and Kelly are these kind of people, that when you think about them, you immediately smile. Out of gratitude. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to repay this hospitality in Poland. I would love to.

A few kilometers outside of Kingman, when I pushed the bike through the sand along Interstate 40, looking for a hole in the high fence, through which I could finally get on the other side, I noticed a man, walking along the street. He was dressed in a light shirt and dark pants. He was walking in the same direction as me, but a little faster. After some time he disappeared from sight and soon I forgot about him. After some time I was finally able to get to the highway, and soon after I made a brief stop in the parking lot, where I ate a hot dog and rested a while. After an hour I went on, to the intersection of Highway 93, which leads to Phoenix. I was riding without lights in the front and if it hadn’t been for the approaching car, I wouldn’t have seen a barely visible silhouette, so I probably would have fallen on a walking man. I did not stop. I drove another two hours, and when I have had enough of pedaling, I put up my tent and went to sleep.

The next day I met a man in a bright shirt again. It was just after sunset, almost dark. I stopped. He smoked a cigarette. Apart from the clothes he wore, he had nothing. Absolutely nothing. No backpack, bags, bundles. I asked where he was going. He gave no answer, just made a gesture indicating the south. I wanted to leave him some food and water. He didn’t want to. He said he had everything.

Two days later I was sitting in a McDonald’s in Wickenburg. I looked out of the window and suddenly I saw him walking down the street. It seemed impossible that he made eighty miles in just two days. I ran out of the building, got on the bike, I went for him, but he was not anywhere. Only some colored afterimages remained on the road. At sunset I went to Phoenix.

Driving at night is a bit like swimming with your eyes closed. You close your eyes, move your body, and then you see images displayed in front of you. Movement generates more images, or maybe just makes them more intense?

Just a month passed, since I left Portland, but I think that at least three. I lie down in the shade, today I’m not going anywhere I will listen to the music that generates images, about which Agnieszka Glińska said it was music to movies that appear when you close your eyes

Save from forgetfulness

new friends

And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end. Pico Iyer

Nevada. Mojave Desert. It got hot. Very hot. One hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature it is impossible to ride a bike. Although initially I thought it is fairly possible. In fact, if one really insist, it actually is, but then you vomit, feel dizzy, have shivers and generally you don’t feel good.

So I stopped being stubborn and turned to lead nocturnal life. I get up at five, cycle till 10am, then look for some shade, sleep, and after sunset I cycle again till I’m so knackered that I can’t get along any more. The present boils down to a few, rhythmically repeated, atavistic needs. You go ahead, eat and drink, and when you don’t feel like carrying on – you stop, put up your tent and go to sleep.

What a great treasure here is a bit of a shade! You can spread out and get some sleep, wait over the warmest hours. Sometimes someone will stop, leave a bottle of water, chat a little. They say I’m crazy.

Cycling at night, or, walking at night, is a mystical experience. You walk with desert ghosts, it is a nocturnal journey filled with ghosts. Usually I only feel them, but it happens that sometimes I hear them, or even see. They take a variety of forms, less, or more commonly known, whispering different words, not always pleasant, but it’s nice to know that someone crawling alongside.

When I fall asleep, the faces of people that I have seen during the day come to me. I think about them a lot, about the people I meet, about those, who are helping me along the way. Jacob, Martha, Rob, Arjun, Karl, Sandy, Becca, Amie. Why they, and not the others, and why me. Maybe they are a part of me, and I am a part of them and I do not even have to wait for the night to feel that we really are all the same. And if so, you may not need to go anywhere, there is nothing to look for. There is no need to ask questions and look for the answers. Our footprint on the road will save itself from forgetfulness.

And if you really have to do something, just share your world, which is inside you. At the end, some light on the way, from Ala’s short animation. Enjoy:)

numie from obrazki nunu on Vimeo.