Weeks 14-16: Friends, Friends, Friends…

Feet, what do you I need you for when I have wings to fly?

I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.

Frida Kahlo

Well, my dears, I’m entering my final two days in Latin America. It’s kind of wild to think this journey is four months in, one-third of the way over. And yet, there’s still so much left!

The past few weeks in CDMX have been a rollercoaster. I had two of my closest friends, Sonia and Clare, visit. Both weekends with them were amazing and it was thrilling to be able to share even a little bit of my experience with some friends from back home. Yet, the week in between their visits, I felt strangely lonely. I’m not sure if it was because visitors reminded me of the life I left behind or because these are simply the natural highs and lows of long-term travel. It was a strange feeling– I felt weirdly disconnected to this place and to those around me, even though there were people around me all the time. I also think Mexico City has felt the most similar to home and so it doesn’t necessarily feel as much like we are “traveling.” It’s strangely too comfortable. People have also had many visitors, or gone on side trips, and haven’t been hanging out in our shared workspace as much, so I have felt less connection in general as a cohesive group. This, and then having friends from home visit and then having them leave while I remain in this new context, gave me a bit of whiplash. Even though I feel so close to the people in this group already, I have to remember it has only been four months, we are all still getting to know one another, and there are many elements of my life that are not visible to them yet. But that’s ok. Loneliness is also normal and not a bad thing, and I have to ride the wave. I will be relying on these people a lot in the coming months. And also myself, most importantly.

Anyhoo, Sonia arrived in Mexico and we had a blast while she was here. It was so great to spend some QT with her. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been very hard for me to stay in close touch with everyone back home, and nothing beats time face-to-face. Being with her reminded me why she is one of my closest friends and soul sister. My cup runneth over with love! She got here on Thursday night, during which we were having an Around the World Dinner to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Remote Year. It was great because Sonia got to meet a ton of people right when she landed! On Friday, we did a karaoke night for a few people’s birthdays. The next day, we did the Trajineras de Xochimiclo. These are really colorful boats that float between a bunch of man-made islands. So our group hung out on these boats all day and ate and drank and enjoyed the ride. It was such a fun day and made me so happy that Sonia got to hang out with all of my friends. The next day, Sonia and I went to breakfast and she jetted back to the US of A. Such a short trip, but so grateful for the time we had together! Then, Nikki, Dan, and I explored Chapultepec Park (which is bigger than Central Park in NY?? mind.blown.) and went to the castle! Here are some pics from that weekend:

As you can see from that last pic, we celebrated 100 days together this month. What a wild ride it has been so far. What a crazy idea to travel the world with 30+ strangers for a year! Oh well, we’re doin’ it.

The next week, Clare came to visit! I will take no credit for this visit, Clare planned pretty much everything we did. We did a ton of exploring and eating together, it was great! We started off with breakfast at this place called Estación Cereal, where you can basically choose from a massive collection of cereals (some flavors I’ve never seen before or haven’t seen since we were children!) and get different color milks and toppings to go with the cereal. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much sugar in one sitting in my life, but it was totally worth it. Such a fun nostalgia trip! We then explored the Merced Market, which is the massive market in the middle of the city. It was pretty overwhelming. It was blocks and blocks long, and had hundreds of stalls selling EVERYTHING. From knock off sneakers, to trinkets, to iced tea, to whole cows and pigs, to produce, to piñatas. Whew! We ate some great meals. We also went paddle boating in Chapultepec Park, which is shockingly harder than it sounds. The next day, we explored the historic center some (after a failed attempt to go to the Frida Kahlo museum; I did not realize the line would be blocks long…), saw some ancient ruins, went to this really old restaurant that is in a convent (Café de Tacuba), and ended the night at Lucha Libre! For those of you who don’t know, Lucha Libre is Mexican wrestling, it’s actually what the WWE is based off of. A big difference is that many of the men wear masks and no one knows their true identity. If they lose certain matches, they are “unmasked” by the other fighter, which ends their career as their persona. They can then secretly take up another persona or end fighting… it’s really fascinating. Personas are even passed down through generations of a family. We got to make our own masks at our event. We then went to the stadium and, lo and behold, another woman from our law firm, Erin, was sitting in the seats directly behind us. The world is crazy, crazy small. Three lawyers from one law firm in DC all happen to sit next to each other at a Lucha Libre fight in Mexico City. Pretty nuts. Anyway, here are some pics!

The next day Clare and I ventured to the Frida Kahlo Museum.  Now, I have to admit something right here and now.  I hate art museums.  (#uncultured) I’m sorry! I am just normally not very moved by art.  (Unless you count film/television or books).  BUT, the little I knew about Frida Kahlo was intriguing and she is such an icon here, we had to go.  Wow.  I was blown away.  This museum moved me so much and made me so emotional.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that the museum is in the house that she was born and died and lived most of her life in, the subject matter of her art, her spirit, the fact that she was a fierce woman, or the fact that I was just feeling emotional that day, but it really got me.  She was just such a remarkable woman.  I had no idea, for instance, that she had polio and one leg was shorter than the other.  Or that she was in a horrific bus accident at 18-years-old, during which she was impaled by a pole through her torso, and thus suffered from horrendous pain her entire life.  Or that her famous colorful outfits that became iconic fashion were in part a shield of armor to mask her injuries.  Or that all she wanted more than anything in the world was a child, but because of the extensive injuries to her pelvis, she could never carry a baby to term.  Or that her and Diego Rivera had a wildly tempestuous relationship that resulted in numerous affairs on both sides (including one with her sister!) and them getting divorced and remarried a year later.  This is all to say that I now understand what people mean when they say a piece of art “moved” them.  There were so many different pieces I could say this about, but two in particular stand out.  One was a picture of Frida taken by an American photographer with whom she was having an affair.  The photo is simple, but the way she’s looking at the camera is and says everything.  I just felt like I knew her.  I stared at it for a good ten minutes straight.  The other was a painting she made about her miscarriage in America, called Henry Ford HospitalWarning, it’s a doozy.  I walked away from this experience feeling like, if Frida can handle everything life threw at her and she still remained joyous and vivacious with a fierce will to live, I can too.  Every day, even a bad one, is always worth it. (cliché much?)  Here’s some pics from the museum:

We ended Clare’s visit with a sunset trip to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana to watch the city at dusk. It was so beautiful and a great way to end Clare’s trip. Miss you already, Clare!

That brings us to this week, our last in CDMX and Latin America.  (I snuck in a lunch at Pujol, which was incredible.  They have a 2,000 day aged molé that was insanity).  We are having our family dinner tonight, cooked by my awesome roommate Alex, to mark the end of our month in Mexico. In a lot of ways, this week feels like the ending of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.  I am equal parts scared and excited about Asia.  Ok, maybe a bit more scared.  But also so excited!! I feel like in many ways, even as a group, we will be starting from square one.  No one will speak the language, no one will be in any sort of comfort zone, we will be in a completely different time zone than our loved ones, and we will all be out of our element.  It will be a whole new adventure.  I do feel like it’s a whole new Remote Year, although I am so grateful I’m going into this with a lot of trust and support from those around me! I hope it brings us even closer together as a tramily.  

I have spent the majority of the past week planning my Asia itinerary, and it is pretty epic.  On Sunday, we will be flying to Seoul (via Vancouver — hi Canada fam!).  After a few days in Seoul (where I will be meeting up with another friend from my old law firm, Nicole, who is Korean and happens to be in Seoul when we are there …. need I say it again? The world is so small…), we will be jetting to Hong Kong for a few more days before settling in Vietnam for the month.  I will be traipsing all over Vietnam.  Then hopping over to Thailand for the next month, as well a quick jaunt in Laos, and a visit from Mama and Papa Z in Bangkok!  I will then be going to Cambodia and Taiwan for a couple of days before our month in Japan.  Finally, the last month will be a crazy whirlwind that I’m not ready to divulge yet, but I think it will be incredible.  As always, anyone has an open invitation to come adventure with me.  If not, reading this blog is almost the same…

See you on the flip side (literally)!

ATZ

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