Archive for January, 2013

Internet Love in Colombia

January 31, 2013

“Our South American tour to Colombia is an unforgettable experience that may very well change your life forever. You will be introduced to literally hundreds of stunning women from Cartagena, as well as other surrounding Colombian cities. Why Colombian women? They just so happen to be some of the most beautiful, genuine, and sincere women in the world. These women are extremely friendly, warm and sincerely looking for someone with whom they can build a serious relationship. No matter how much we try to prepare the men who attend our Cartagena romance tours, they are always overwhelmed by these very special women.”

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This is the hook introduction to the Colombian section of an internet site that specializes in romance tours all over the world. With tour packages starting at $1695USD, this might be a great way to justify taking a nine day trip to Cartagena or this may a south-of-the-border hail mary for divorcees addicted to online gambling. The personal opinion of this author is that if you are going to get into a serious relationship and possibly marriage, you might as well double down and come and start a relationship in Colombia. With the divorce rate hovering around 60% in most of the English-speaking countries it is probably a safer bet to search out a relationship with a foreign non-English speaking person than risk marrying someone from your own national origin.

The tour is pretty impressive and well thought out. For your money you are given two fully catered, special invitation, large socials. These are basically ballroom parties that take place in the same hotel that the tour has booked you into. Of course, there will be many intelligent and beautiful women there to meet as well as probably a few women who fall into other categories. The tour also includes hotel accommodations in Cartagena, unlimited personal introductions, complimentary interpreters provided at all socials, airport pickup as well as 24 hour hospitality and guidance from the website staff.

For the rest of us (people who don’t have $2,000USD to spend), there are dozens if not hundreds of websites specializing in meeting Colombian and Latin American singles. The one that is most familiar to this author is ColombianCupid.com. This website is free to use if you just want to see who is on the website. If you click on “advanced search” on the portal page you are instantly presented with a 2-page form that helps you best search for romance based on your own criteria.  Say for example, you would like to meet a 30-35-year old woman, living in Bogotá, with a profile photo, who is searching for romance/dating/marriage, speaks some English, has a bachelors degree and is willing to relocate to another country. After hitting search there are over 1,000 profiles listed in order of which members are most active on the site.

What is the difference between single women in Bogotá vs. the rest of Colombia? Probably the average woman living in Bogotá vs. the average woman living in Sincelejo (for example) is that in Bogotá there is the highest concentration of quality education, therefore the women who live here are more likely to have a more academic background, the women in Bogotá speak neutral Spanish and on the whole, are more used to being around foreign people.

A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, can actually testify to the confidentiality of your credit card information if you decide to join ColombianCupid.com because he joined the site for 2 months last year for $45USD. A standard question you will be asked by the female members after you join and put up a profile picture is, “What is your job?”

My friend always made a point of answering this question the following way, “I paint fences for a living.” No matter what your employment status is, my friend relayed to me, this is a highly effective way to avoid meeting women looking for a sugar daddy.

Next, he started viewing the profiles of the many women on the site. If there were ever more than two girls in one photo he would always send the same email, “Which one is you in the photo?” The answer would invariably be that the girl looking for a relationship would be the least attractive of the two. So, if you are ever unsure of which woman is the one who is actually the one looking for a special friend, you can take it from my friend and his research that it will always be the least attractive one.

Because there were so many Bogotá profiles of single women, my friend could also eliminate all the women who weren’t smiling in their photos, had visible tattoos, had their underwear showing,  too much cleavage hanging out (this means that either they are overeager or possibly using someone else’s photo) or were on the verge of black out drunk. My friend figured that probably the single most important characteristic he was looking for was a person who actually was happy and optimistic about the future. After narrowing the field down to about 15 profiles, he then started emailing them.  He decided the best question to ask would be a subject that pretty much every Colombian had an opinion on, “Do you love Shakira?”

If the girl responded, “What kind of crazy question was that?” He figured he would have to scratch her from the list. If the girl responded, “I really like Shakira,” he figured they were off to a good start. He would then ask more random questions like, “Tell me about a time in your life when you did something embarrassing,” and once again if the girl asked, “What kind of question is this,” he would scratch her from the list. He ended up chatting with a lot of interesting women who told great stories about getting dumped in elevators or falling down the stairs at church. He quickly had a more intimate group of five women from Bogotá who he was chatting with at least five times a week. Of these five, there was also another girl named Diana (who had beautifully tan skin, thick lips and a funny little grin) who he was very smitten with but she hadn’t answered any of the three emails he had sent her. In a last ditch attempt he decided to send her the mother of all emails, “Where would you like to go on our honeymoon?” If she didn’t answer this email he would back off for fear of being accused of internet stalking.

A few days later he got a somewhat puzzling email from Diana, “Thanks for your message.” He quickly sent her back a follow-up message, “I have bought a ticket to Bogotá, I will be arriving in 2 weeks, can I have your telephone number?”

He still pretty much knew next to nothing about her except what her profile said that she was a non-smoker, a financial administrator, had a daughter, had no exposed tattoos and was interested in starting a serious relationship.

After arriving to Bogotá he went on about three different dates with women he met online, one of which he snuck out of on his way to the bathroom to avoid a massive bill that he would be expected to pay. Furthermore, none of the women seemed like they had the real desire or enough free time to start a relationship with him. A week after he had arrived to Bogota, he got another message from Diana with her telephone number.

He called her up from his hostel and he arranged to meet her in Bulevar Niza at Corral Burgers. After she paid the bill of their first meal together it was pretty much a done deal. He moved into her apartment building a few weeks later and has been in a relationship with her since July 2012. Their relationship is not perfect, they do squabble after my friend forgets to wash out the sink after doing the dishes or when he eats too many chocolate chip cookies but he has thoroughly enjoyed being accepted into her life and is very grateful that someone has come into his life who is willing to overlook the fact that his hair is falling out, he watches “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” obsessively and has very poor dish washing skills. And, probably the best part about their limited internet interactions is that he will never have to explain to her why he told her he painted fences for a living.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Traveling The World on a Shoestring Budget

January 22, 2013

Brian Ward, 36, got his first taste of living in a Spanish-speaking country after high school graduation. Since then, his life has consisted of traveling around the world, surviving on canned tuna at some points, pretending to be pro-surfer Kelly Slater’s second cousin and spying on his Russian Mafia neighbors.

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Ward decided to compile his journals of living in Mexico, Spain and other countries throughout Latin America and Europe, with travel tips on how to live rent-free for under $25 a day in his book titled “Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man.”

His book, referred to as “a modern day version of ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ except with more whining” by Lulu.com, a self-publishing company, follows Ward’s adventures, both good and painful, from sharing pants in Costa Rica, to traveling the European rail system on canned tuna, to surviving Mexico’s 60-year-old buses.

“If you can’t already tell, I was a loser in high school,” Ward wrote in his book’s introduction. “The only reason I got through it was because most of my fellow students thought I was completely out of my mind. My senior quote for the high school yearbook was, ‘Is the ringing in my head bothering you?’”

While traveling, nobody knew who Ward used to be, and he said he used this opportunity to constantly reinvent himself, sometimes attempting to impress women by telling them he was pro-surfer Kelly Slater’s second cousin.

“They don’t know you don’t have a job, you did bad in high school and your car’s a piece of junk,” Ward said. “You can just invent your own identity.”

Ward first experienced the art of identity crafting while living in Costa Rica. He jokingly asked his grandmother for a ticket to Colombia for graduation, and unexpectedly, she bought him a ticket to Costa Rica, where some of her friends lived.

He learned Spanish by while shopping for cigarettes for his host brother and spending the majority of his time listening to and learning about his family’s obsession with Levi’s Jeans.

“I brought this pair of Levi’s Jeans to Costa Rica that didn’t fit me, and gave them to the my host family. The whole family took turns wearing them. They were in constant circulation 24-hours a day,” Ward said. He explained that when one family member would take them off at bedtime, another person would put them on. “They’re probably still wearing those things,” he said.

Ward said this experience opened his eyes to how people live outside of the U.S.

“They really value any little token of gratitude there, and here, we don’t appreciate anything,” he said.

After a summer in Costa Rica, Ward began community college before working as a valet at a hotel in Monterey, Calif. He then traveled across the country with his father and entered a four-year university for a single semester before moving to Mexico.

Ward said while he liked the people of Mexico better than any other place he visited, its bus system has created some of his worst memories. He first discovered this while taking a three-day bus trip from Mexico City to Cancun on a “60-year-old piece of junk.”

“People were bringing 50-pound sacks of chips and blankets and bananas onto the bus; all these supplies like they’re leaving the country. I didn’t understand that you’re leaving civilization for the ride,” Ward said. “If you don’t bring water, you aren’t drinking.”

After returning to California and readjusting to American life, Ward turned down a job driving a delivery truck for Doritos before fleeing to Spain, where he experienced an entirely new type of adjustment.

“In Spain, the biggest cultural difference is these people are party animals,” Ward said, remembering a time when some friends asked him to go for “a couple of beers,” which turned into 15 hours of nonstop drinking.

“I slept in the door(way) of some abandoned building,” he said, adding that when he woke up “I was just trying to think what country I was in.”

Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man is available on Lulu.com

Chapter 1

Modest Beginnings

The story starts in Mexico where the author, Brian, is camping with his Mexican love interest. After roasting marshmallows, Brian sneaks up to the cabin where his girlfriend will be sleeping. His plans go quickly array when his girlfriend enters the cabin and Brian loses his nerve. The book then flashes back seven years to just before Brian’s sophomore year in high school. It retraces Brian’s failed attempts with girls in high school. While outside of school, with his friends, Brian does a lot of inadvisable driving due to false confidence and inexperience.

 

This chapter outlines the challenges of dating girls in high school. This chapter spans fours years and shows why teenagers should not be given driver’s licenses. The end of this chapter uncovers a dilemma; although high school is torture, the outside world may even be worse.

Chapter 2

Adventures of Link: Costa Rica

Brian is persuaded by his grandmother to visit Costa Rica. When he gets down to Costa Rica, he realizes the family he is staying with speaks no English and spends the rest of the summer with his two host brothers who have one pair of pants between the both of them.

 

This chapter gives a brief introduction to on how to find practical uses for foreign languages. In order for someone to succeed in mastering a foreign language, they must find a worthwhile obstacle to be overcome; in this case it’s The Legend of Zelda (a Nintendo video game).

Chapter 3

Marine Biology Will Ruin Your Life

Brian starts community college and realizes he is totally unprepared for his tests or the personalities of his teachers in college. He becomes a valet at a hotel in Monterey, California and realizes that people in real life are more like him than anyone he met in high school.

This chapter shows how a complicated situation like not having the perquisites for a class or any knowledge of a certain subject matter shouldn’t discourage a person from taking a class. The best way to have success is seeking out peers who can provide knowledge based on their experiences on how to succeed in community college. The later part of this chapter shows how community college a just a minor achievement and the true test comes when a person gets a job and is thrown in with a cast of co-workers straight out of the TV series 21 Jumpstreet.

Chapter 4

Superstud and Son: Vacations with My Old Man

Brian reunites with one of the oddest characters of the book, his father, and they travel across the country trying unsuccessfully to fit it with small-town Americans and some Canadian truck drivers.

 

This chapter exposes the superficiality of making professional athletes and actors our heroes. Sometimes we have only to look as far as own immediate family to find role-models.

Chapter 5

Korean Mafia, Line #1

Brian starts at a four year university and has to do some quick thinking to avoid being thrown out of school his first semester. He meets his first girlfriend but falls in love with her roommate and then tries to get his friend to help repair the situation.

 

This chapter teaches proper phone etiquette when dealing with new roommates. He also discussed are tips on how to get up for living in the dorms, a place where round the clock role-playing is common and the need for residents to bring a set of keys to the bathroom with them are a fact of life. This chapter gives the best strategy for students on the brink of being expelled from. This chapter reveals the people who secretly control academic life on college campuses; teacher’s aids. They are the experts on arranging classes, where to obtain economical furniture and trends in the housing market.

Chapter 6

50 Kilos of Bananas on a Bus Bound for Cancun

Brian moves down to Mexico to study business, while failing accounting he requests a tutor and meets the most beautiful girl in school. He experiences the worst three days of his life on a bus to Cancun, but finds out it was well worth the suffering when he finally arrives to Cancun.

This chapter shows reader how to use the skills obtained in American universities can also be used to survive in Mexico. This chapter also reveals the names of discothèques in smaller Mexican towns are very hospitable to gringos.. This chapter will show how best to deal with Mexican migration when they are threatening deportment.

Chapter 7

Broken Bottle of Rum in a Burning Dumpster

Brian goes on cross-country trip in an RV with his mother and her boyfriend. He discovers a land where animals are on the top of the food chain when he enters Yellowstone National Park.

 

This chapter will show why sometimes reconnecting with one’s host country an be painful. Several near-death experiences and a broken pair of Ray-Bans mark Brian’s reintroduction to the United States. This chapter shows how visitors to Yellowstone National Park have not only to choose between the rugged falls and the revealing leather biker chaps worn by the locals for inspiration. They will also be mesmerized by other campers’ willingness to put their lives in danger to get a closer look at the many animals in the park.

Chapter 8

After Hours Partying at City Hall

Brian returns to university after being in Mexico for a year. He has trouble readjusting to life in United States but is helped through it by a cast of friends who make the Sopranos look like the Brady Bunch.

In the year Brian spent in Mexico, his friends from university have become the pit bosses of a town on the verge of anarchy. Brian can no longer rely on his old routine of going to class, eating microwavable burritos and playing Nintendo. With his friend’s new-found street credentials, not only is Brian supposed to attend three hour long seminars on wrist preparation in racquetball, but he is also brought along to participate in his friends’ verbal bashings of the local minor league baseball umpires. This chapter will also offer a look at interesting costal camping trails in Northern California.

Chapter 9

Louie Armstrong is Out to Kill Me

Brian turns down a job driving a delivery truck for Doritos and moves to the Costa Brava in Spain. Brian learns the ins and outs of living in close quarters with a group of Spanish Gypsies who are threatening to bring the entire east coast of Spain to its knees if it adopts the Euro as its national currency.

 

This chapter will illustrate why a college graduate should wait on paying off student loans and getting a job. If a person is going to poor and in a dead-end job, why not do it in Spain? Also discussed will be how Mexico and Spain really don’t have much in common besides a language. Also explained will be how a foreigner without much sense of direction or language skills, can navigate Spain’s 3rd largest city with relative ease. This chapter will also describe the difficulties of Spain’s proletariat in adopting the Euro as its official currency.

Chapter 10

“How ‘bout You Take a Picture of Me with Your Wife?”

Brian’s father resurfaces. He arrives to Spain just in time to board a train with his son Rome, Italy. While in Rome, they discover they have the entire city to themselves due to the terrorist attacks in New York City.

This chapter reveals the location of the most economical luxury hotel in Valencia. Also discussed is what will someday be known as the “golden age” of travel, the few months after 9/11. This was a time when hotels and airlines were practically giving away their services. This was also a time when travel by Americans to other countries was pretty rare, for those lucky ones who did travel, they enjoyed unmatched hospitality towards Americans abroad. In addition to the kindness experienced by tourists, world-famous attractions like the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were at their most accessible levels in decades.

Chapter 11

Flying Pig Hostel

Brian meets up with his long-lost cousin in Amsterdam. Brian learns shortly after meeting his cousin Simon for the first time, that his cousin is planning on traveling Europe on a shoestring budget which has them surviving on canned tuna and sleeping on trains in between cities. 

This chapter will give a description of the months before the adoption of the Euro currency in Spain. It will also give a description of the Dutch language and how it can be very confusing because of its eerie similarities to English. This chapter gives the budget needed for a traveler beginning a two month tour of Europe. This chapter will reveal to the reader how to get a cheap bed and many friends in Amsterdam.

Chapter 12

Bonjour, Avec Linda, s’il vous plait

 

Brian falls in love with Moroccan girl living in Paris. He tries repeatedly to call her and is forced to learn basic French to get past the girl’s mother on the phone.

The chapter will make the reader aware of what makes Paris different from any other city. It will reveal a side of the city, which despite its size and bad publicity, can be a pleasurable if the traveler can put aide his/her inhibitions of making a fool of themselves. This chapter will also disclose some lesser-known museums in Paris that are astounding in their originality. This chapter will outline questions to anticipate while entering the UK via ferry.

Chapter 13

Irish Ferries Really Means Irish Transportation Services

Brian tours Ireland with his cousin Simon. They impress an Irish film crew in one of the hostels while show-cooking an omelet. They get separated for the first time in Europe and set about trying to track each other down while not missing their outgoing flight to Spain.

 

The best vacations are ones that are open to spontaneity. This chapter will uncover a method of air travel that is so cheap, the tax on the ticket is higher than the cost. This chapter gives the name of a hostel in Ireland that’s a guaranteed great way to meet college-aged singles. Also provided are details on how the reader can be the life of the party, even if they can’t drink or dance. This chapter will also profile an Irish hostel/mansion that only charges 8€ a night. This chapter ends by summing up the effects of the Spanish Civil War on the lives of people who were outside of the country when the war broke out.

Chapter 14

Spanish Men Dressed as Female Cops

Brian goes to his cousin’s house in Spain the night before Carnival starts. After living on the road in freezing temperatures for over three months, they have a chance to finally relax and get back to what they love most about Europe: Spain.

 

One of the most overlooked tourist destinations in Spain are the Canary Islands. Their festivals, affordability and vibrant Caribbean culture combine the best of Europe and South America. The chapter will show the precautions necessary to help readers avoid being robbed while traveling in Europe.

Chapter 15

Towel Boy for the Women’s Volleyball Team

Brian moves to San Diego, California where he is reunited with one of his best friends from high school. Brian does odd jobs around San Diego until he finds what he thinks is the secret to happiness: becoming the towel boy for the San Diego State Women’s Volleyball team.

 

This chapter will show readers how to get a free place to stay and a salary in the bustling city of San Diego. This chapter puts into plain words, how San Diego differs from any other California city on the coast. This chapter inspires readers by profiling a man who is able to live a full and rewarding life, despite his limitations. Enlightens readers as to where they can find the highest quality used clothing and best live concerts in San Diego. Chapter shows how, the low quantity but high quality of San Diego fans, can make an otherwise boring game come to life.

Chapter 16

Voodoo Crocodile Farm

Brian auditions for a job working for a hotel in Mexico, during the audition he has to do some quick thinking to impress the recruiter. While in Mexico, Brian becomes best friends with his roommate from Ciudad Juarez/El Paso. They attempt to visit every beach and cantina on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. On one of their excursions they meet a Shaman who owns a crocodile farm.

 

This is the chapter which reveals the secret of how to live in Latin America rent-free, also discussed is the rise of Club Med and trends for the future. The reader will learn the necessary skills to be successful in a Club Med audition. This chapter also gives insights on tried and true navigation techniques for Latin American airports. Readers will also be provided information on how best to get a job as an extra in a Spike Lee movie.

Chapter 17

Mexico Spring Break

Brian’s job at the hotel in Mexico quickly becomes more than he bargained for. Three months into his contract, his head is on the chopping block and his boss has to decide whether keeping Brian as an employee of the hotel is worth endangering the lives of the hotel guests.

 

This chapter explains the linguistic impact of the Spanish colonization on the Philippines. This chapter shows readers how to decode Tagalog into Spanish and then English. This chapter gives readers estimates of real estate prices of  tropical islands in the Philippines. Explained in this chapter is the typical diet of a person who grows up on Rodrigues Island (Mauritius).  This chapter shows the value of sticking with a job, even if you are not the best at it. This chapter also shows the reader how to tell a Spanish-speaking person you like them in a non-platonic way.

Chapter 18

Stranded in a Flooded Taxi

Brian falls in love with a Mexican girl and is forced to face his biggest fear; traveling on the Mexican bus system. His fears and paranoia quickly become reality as Mexico is hit by the worst storm since 1926.

 

This chapter explains how to escape a Latin American bus terminal that is on the brink of inundation. Also explains the impacts of floods on Latin American towns and how the local people deal with natural disasters. This chapter shows readers the willingness of Mexican taxi drivers to risk their own lives in order to get international travelers to their destination in a timely manner. This chapter also discusses the cultural significance of the Feathered Serpent to the Meso-American peoples. Also discussed are how typical Latin American families spend their recreational time together.

Chapter 19

Conehead Skulls on Postcards

Brian takes another vacation with his father. This time they visit Machu Picchu. While down in Peru, his father quickly discovers the lucrative market of smuggling women’s cosmetics into the country.

 

This chapter gives an in-depth description of the impact of the Incan legacy on today’s world. This chapter also compares the scientific knowledge of Europe to that of the Incan. This chapter gives a thorough description of the final days of the Incan Empire as well as how various Incan fortresses got their names. This chapter divulges the true architectural genius behind the Incan dynasty as well as some unusual surgical techniques that were carried out by Incan priests. Readers will also be informed on exactly how to get a behind-the-scenes tour of all things Incan in Cusco.

Chapter 20

Mexican Dentists

Brian has to get emergency dental surgery in Mexico. He visits the first dental office he finds, one that is conveniently located on the second floor of a women’s shoe store.

 

This chapter discusses exactly what separates U.S. dentists from their Mexican counterparts.

Chapter 21

Mexican Haunted Houses

Brian learns just how far $2 can take you while visiting the fair in Mexico.

 

The readers will be taken on a trip through the perils of a low-budget Mexican haunted house.

Chapter 22

Surfing in Mexico

In order to impress a girl, Brian pretends he is related to surf legend Kelly Slater. She calls his bluff and they end up in a dire predicament.

 

This chapter gives descriptions of two Mexican surfing destinations on the Pacific Coast. Readers will learn more about gear and precautions necessary before surfing in Mexico.

Chapter 23

Dead Pigeons Falling Out of the Sky

Brian takes his first overnight trip to Mexico City. While in Mexico City he tours an entire pizza franchise chain and meets the river dance king outside of the Northern Bus Terminal.

A thorough discussion is given on the geological conditions that are causing Mexico City to sink as well as the rising political tensions between Austria and Mexico due to pre-Columbian relics pillaged by the Spanish. Also discussed is one of Mexico City’s most priceless treasures that not even the National Guard can protect. A profile is done on one of Mexico City’s eccentrics who is living in one the most transient neighborhoods in the city. This chapter also gives a first hand account of what it is like to shop in the largest open-air market in the world as well as an ingenious method used to have a cheap and hot shower in the city.

Chapter 24

Gil and the Russian Mafia

Brian returns to Spain, this time as a student of International Hospitality. Brian’s studying competes with his urges to spy on his Russian neighbors, which he suspects are Mafia kingpins.

 

Chapter gives a profile of one of the most corrupt mayors in Spain and how the city of Marbella has been shaped by his legacy. This chapter explains the process needed for Americans to obtain a Spanish visa. Also included are rental prices on apartments in Marbella as well as the most affordable method to secure an apartment lease in Marbella. This chapter also gives tips on choosing clubs in Marbella based on preferred ambiance. The readers will also know how to get drinks at the best possible price in Marbella. The chapter also outlines the impact of the Russian Mafia in Marbella.

Chapter 25

Too Much Sangria = Food Fight

Brian quickly advances in the student ranks and is put in charge of event planning. The Hospitality School gets more than it bargained for when Brain turns a course on Event Planning into MTV Spring Break 2005.

This chapter describes the college life and curriculum of European students. This chapter also informs readers on how to prepare for living in Spain. Included in this chapter is a look at the difference between dating Spanish girls versus their American counterparts. Also explored are the traits of what make Spanish fiestas so popular. Tips are provided on how to get an mp3 player, digital camera and electric shaver working in Spain. This chapter also takes us to the concert of famous Spanish musician, Pedro Guerra and his thoughts on pop culture.

Chapter 26

Raisin Wine

Brian spends his Spring Break traveling through Valencia, Cordoba and Malaga. While in Malaga, Brian visits Picasso’s childhood home and is fitted for a robe to take part in the Holy Week Procession of carrying around a 3,000 pound float with Jesus Christ strapped to the top.

 

This chapter gives an account of three of Spain’s most culturally diverse cities; Valencia, Cordoba and Malaga. This chapter also shows how a foreigner can successfully navigate Spain’s public transportation system during the busiest week of the year. This chapter shows readers how they can get a behind-the-scenes depiction of Picasso’s early career. Also provided is a sample of the rivalry of the three major cites in Andalucia; Granada, Sevilla and Malaga. This chapter will show how the Moors shaped what now-a-days is known as Spanish culture. The reader will also learn how not all Spanish provinces grow up speaking Spanish and the current international trade obstacles faced by young Spanish professionals. This chapter will take readers on a tour of the last Christian outpost in existence during the Moorish occupation of Spain.

Chapter 27

Beer Tour in San Miguel

Brian is forced to learn an entire course load of work in under ten hours. His roommate stays up all night to try and prepare Brian for the upcoming week of finals.

 

This chapter will highlight the hospitality offered to bar patrons in Spain. Also revealed will be a look into the European personality and how Europeans are more in touch with the inner-feelings and are more inclined to offer them to others. This chapter will also describe the immaculate conception of a marketing project that seemed doomed after its initial success. This chapter also deals with the difficulty in leaving a place that one is very fond of.

Chapter 28

Indian Restaurant by Day, Club Camaleon by Night

Brian moves to Portugal to start his internship at a casino on an island in the middle of the Atlantic. While not touring the many discothèques owned by Brian’s co-workers at the hotel, Brian watches Venezuelan television stations to learn about current events happening around the world.

 

This chapter describes the a foreigner’s arrival to an island most people couldn’t locate on the map. This chapter describes the experience of a foreigner in a country in which he cannot speak the language. This chapter describes the hierarchy that exists in hotels as well as the tasks performed by a person who can’t even properly slice a tomato. Also provided is an overview of the most prominent night clubs on the island, as well as the women who inhabit them. This chapter describes what it’s like to get worked on by a Portuguese surgeon who cannot communicate to his patient in their native language as well as an overview of the difference between Portuguese and American doctors. Also discussed is the overly humane treatment of hooligans by Portuguese police.

Chapter 29

No Size Medium Underwear?

Brian gets a job offer in Dominican Republic, and upon arriving to the island, he is alarmed to learn the hotel is run by the French and can only marginally communicate with his co-workers. He becomes friends with the only two other people at the hotel who speak English, a Greek tennis instructor and his Israeli assistant.

 

The chapter describes the sharp contrasts that exist between Club Med Ixtapa and Club Med Punta Cana. The readers will learn about the best spots to snorkel in Punta Cana as well as a sample of village life in Club Med. Three Dominican cities will be described; Bavaro, La Romana and Higuey. The influence of Haiti on the Dominican Republic is also discussed in detail. Tips are given to the traveler when they face a life and death situation after falling asleep on an air mattress in the Caribbean Sea. This chapter describes two popular industries in the urban parts of the Dominican Republic; rotisserie chicken and pirated DVD’s. Also discussed is the struggle by a foreigner in obtaining the desired services and products.

Chapter 30

Patience

Brian returns to Mexico to recapture the Mexican girl he originally tried to impress three years before by claiming to be Kelly Slater’s second cousin.

 

This chapter describes the author’s final run-in with his one true love. This chapter describes exactly what makes Latin girls different from any other girls the author has met. Chapter deals with the inconsistencies faced when comparing an actual woman to someone who he has been corresponding with via the internet.

 Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man is available on Lulu.com

A Complete History Of My Mexican Sexual Failures

January 17, 2013

Faridy (not pronounced Friday, more like Fah-RAH-Dee), my Mexican love interest, was into doing what made her feel the most joy in any given moment.

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“Do you want to go out to eat?” I’d ask.

“No, but I’ll go with you if you want,” Faridy replied.

Once the tamales arrived, she decided that they smelled good and would eat mine. I didn’t mind, I loved watching her hands gently unfold the crumbly cake as she smelled the week-old boiled corn husks. She didn’t want any of her movements to seem the least bit arousing or forward. Her uninhibited greasy-handed eating put me even more over the top in love with her. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. As cars drove past us in the plaza men would honk their horns and yell, “Bon appetite, good-looking!”

During the course of his 235 page self help/travel memoir, Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, author Brian Ward travels through Mexico, South America and Europe in an attempt to shed social awkwardness and anxiety. Ward also shares information on how others can do the same while transcending North American borders. Also covered in his book are hotel jobs in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, how to master a second language and how someone who can’t even properly slice a tomato can get a job overseas in a Portuguese restaurant.

Author Brian Ward is a freelance writer for “The Daily Emerald” (University of Oregon Student Newspaper), “KD Magazine” (Quarterly Student Magazine) as well as “The Student Insurgent” (A Student Run Newspaper).

Ward, 36, got his first taste of living in a foreign country after high school graduation. Since then, his life has consisted of traveling around the world, surviving on canned tuna at some points, pretending to be pro-surfer Kelly Slater’s second cousin and spying on his Russian Mafia neighbors.

Ward decided to compile his journals of living in Mexico, Spain and other countries throughout Latin America and Europe, with travel tips on how to live rent-free for under $25 a day in his book titled “Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man”

His book, referred to as “a modern day version of ‘The Motorcycle Diaries, except less revolution and more whining’” by Lulu.com, a self-publishing company, follows Ward’s adventures, both good and painful, from sharing his Levi’s jeans with his host brother in Costa Rica to traveling the European by the rail system and surviving on canned tuna.

To buy the book, Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, please just Google the title.

 

Sample Overview

Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man is written for anyone who has ever been uncomfortable when trying to approach the opposite sex, learning about Pre-Colombian cultures, traveling Europe or interviewing with ivy-league colleges. Covered in my book are the cheapest and most social hostels in Europe, how to live in Latin America for $25 a year, how to make the most out of a Euro Rail Pass, mastering a second language, insider’s tips on navigating major Latin American airports and how someone who can’t even properly slice a tomato can get a job overseas in a Portuguese restaurant.

Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man also pauses and gives food for thought on many international topics. These topics include; gear and precautions needed before surfing on the Mexican Pacific Coast, tips in obtaining a Spanish visa, dating in Spain, the three features that make Mexico City unlike any other city in the world, the impact of the Russian Mafia in Southern Spain, how to get a digital camera, electric razor and mp3 player working in Spain, the linguistic impact of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, the last 20 days of the Incan dynasty, Spanish tourist destinations that offer vibrant Rio-style festivals as well as how a foreigner can win the approval of his/her love interest’s Latin American family.

Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man is the result of over six years of field research in Spain, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, The Netherlands, Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal. This guidebook was designed to be the essential companion for baby boomers and college students wanting to explore a Latin approach to working, dating and travel.

Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man is approximately 118,000 words.

To buy the book, Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, please just Google the title.

 

Chapter Outline:

Chapter 1

What in the Heck is Marianismo?

The story starts in Mexico where the author, Brian, is camping with his Mexican love interest. After roasting marshmallows, Brian sneaks up to the cabin where his love interest will be sleeping. His plans go quickly awry when she enters the cabin and Brian loses his nerve. The book then flashes back seven years to just before Brian’s sophomore year in high school. It retraces Brian’s failed attempts with girls in high school. While outside of school, with his friends, Brian does a lot of inadvisable driving due to false confidence and inexperience.

Did Faridy like the Brian better because he didn’t make many advances on her? Sometimes girls like guys better who continually stay inside the friendship zone, this chapter outlines the downside of staying inside the friendship zone. This chapter also summarizes the challenges of dating girls in high school. This chapter spans fours years and shows why teenagers should not be given driver’s licenses. The end of this chapter uncovers a dilemma; although high school is torture, the outside world may even be worse.

Chapter 2

Adventures of Link: Costa Rica

Brian is persuaded by his grandmother to visit Costa Rica. When he gets down to Costa Rica, he realizes the family he is staying with speaks no English and spends the rest of the summer with his two host brothers who have one pair of pants between the both of them.

 

This chapter gives a brief introduction to on how to find practical uses for foreign languages. In order for someone to succeed in mastering a foreign language, they must find a worthwhile obstacle to be overcome; in this case it’s The Legend of Zelda (a Nintendo video game).

Chapter 3

Marine Biology Will Ruin Your Life

Brian starts community college and realizes he is totally unprepared for his tests or the personalities of his teachers in college. He becomes a valet at a hotel in Monterey, California and realizes that people in real life are more like him than anyone he met in high school.

This chapter shows how a complicated situation like not having the perquisites for a class or any knowledge of a certain subject matter shouldn’t discourage a person from enrolling in community college. Sometimes the best approach to succeeding in community college is to seek out peers who can provide knowledge based on their experiences on how to succeed in community college. The later part of this chapter shows how community college a just a minor achievement and the true test comes when a person gets a job and is thrown in with a cast of co-workers straight out of the TV series 21 Jumpstreet.

Chapter 4

Superstud and Son: Vacations with My Old Man

Brian reunites with one of the oddest characters of the book, his father, and they travel across the country trying unsuccessfully to fit it with small-town Americans and some Canadian truck drivers.

 

This chapter exposes the superficiality of making professional athletes and actors our heroes. Sometimes we have only to look as far as own immediate family to find role-models.

Chapter 5

Korean Mafia, Line #1

Brian starts at a four year university and has to do some quick thinking to avoid being thrown out of school his first semester. He meets his first girlfriend but falls in love with her roommate and then tries to get his friend to help repair the situation.

 

This chapter teaches proper phone etiquette when dealing with new roommates. Also discussed are tips on how to get up for living in the dorms, a place where round the clock role-playing is common and the need for residents to bring a set of keys to the bathroom with them are a fact of life. This chapter reveals the people who secretly control academic life on college campuses; teacher’s aids. They are the experts on arranging classes, where to obtain economical furniture and trends in the housing market.

Chapter 6

50 Kilos of Bananas on a Bus Bound for Cancun

Brian moves down to Mexico to study business, while failing accounting he requests a tutor and meets the most beautiful girl in school. He experiences the worst three days of his life on a bus to Cancun, but finds out it was well worth the suffering when he finally arrives to Cancun.

 To buy the book, , Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, please just Google the title.

This chapter shows reader how to use the skills obtained in American universities can also be used to survive in Mexico. This chapter also reveals the names of discothèques in smaller Mexican towns are very hospitable to gringos.. This chapter will show how best to deal with Mexican migration when they are threatening deportment.

Chapter 7

Broken Bottle of Rum in a Burning Dumpster

Moving back to the United States, Brian goes on cross-country trip in an RV with his mother and her boyfriend. He discovers a land where animals are on the top of the food chain when he enters Yellowstone National Park.

 

This chapter will show why sometimes reconnecting with one’s host country an be painful. Several near-death experiences and a broken pair of Ray-Bans mark Brian’s reintroduction to the United States. This chapter shows how visitors to Yellowstone National Park have not only to choose between the rugged falls and the revealing leather biker chaps worn by the locals for inspiration. They will also be mesmerized by other campers’ willingness to put their lives in danger to get a closer look at the many animals in the park.

Chapter 8

After Hours Partying at City Hall

Brian returns to university after being in Mexico for a year. He has trouble readjusting to life in United States but is helped through it by a cast of friends who make the Sopranos look like the Brady Bunch.

In the year Brian spent in Mexico, his friends from university have become the pit bosses of a town (Chico, California) on the verge of anarchy. Brian can no longer rely on his old routine of going to class, eating microwavable burritos and playing Nintendo. With his friend’s new-found street credentials, not only is Brian supposed to attend three hour long seminars on wrist preparation in racquetball, but he is also brought along to participate in his friends’ verbal bashings of the local minor league baseball umpires. This chapter will also offer a look at interesting costal camping trails in Northern California.

Chapter 9

Louie Armstrong is Out to Kill Me

In the Summer of 2001, Brian turns down a job driving a delivery truck for Doritos and moves to the Costa Brava in Spain. Brian learns the ins and outs of living in close quarters with a group of Spanish Gypsies who are threatening to bring the entire east coast of Spain to its knees if it adopts the Euro as its national currency.

 

This chapter will illustrate why a college graduate should wait on paying off student loans and getting a job. If a person is going to be poor and in a dead-end job, why not do it in Spain? Also discussed will be how Mexico and Spain really don’t have much in common besides a language. Also explained will be how a foreigner without much sense of direction or language skills, can navigate Spain’s 3rd largest city with relative ease. This chapter will also describe the difficulties of Spain’s proletariat in adopting the Euro as its official currency.

Chapter 10

“How ‘bout You Take a Picture of Me with Your Wife?”

Brian’s father resurfaces. He arrives to Spain just in time to board a train with his son Rome, Italy. While in Rome, they discover they have the entire city to themselves due to the terrorist attacks in New York City.

This chapter reveals the location of the most economical luxury hotel in Valencia. Also discussed is what will someday be known as the “golden age” of travel, the few months after 9/11. This was a time when hotels and airlines were practically giving away their services. This was also a time when travel by Americans to other countries was pretty rare, for those lucky ones who did travel, they enjoyed unmatched hospitality towards Americans abroad. In addition to the kindness experienced by tourists, world-famous attractions like the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were at their most accessible levels in decades.

Chapter 11

Flying Pig Hostel

Brian meets up with his long-lost cousin in Amsterdam. Brian learns shortly after meeting his cousin Simon for the first time, that his cousin is planning on traveling Europe on a shoestring budget which has them surviving on canned tuna and sleeping on trains in between cities. 

 

This chapter will give a description of the months before the adoption of the Euro currency in Spain. It will also give a description of the Dutch language and how it can be very confusing because of its eerie similarities to English. This chapter gives the budget needed for a traveler beginning a two month tour of Europe. This chapter will reveal to the reader how to get a cheap bed and many friends in Amsterdam.

Chapter 12

Bonjour, Avec Linda, s’il vous plait

 

Brian falls in love with Moroccan girl living in Paris. He tries repeatedly to call her and is forced to learn basic French to get past the girl’s mother on the phone.

The chapter will make the reader aware of what makes Paris different from any other city. It will reveal a side of the city, which despite its size and bad publicity, can be a pleasurable if the traveler can put aide his/her inhibitions of making a fool of themselves. This chapter will also disclose some lesser-known museums in Paris that are astounding in their originality. This chapter will outline questions to anticipate while entering the UK via ferry.

Chapter 13

Irish Ferries Really Means Irish Transportation Services

Brian tours Ireland with his cousin Simon. They impress an Irish film crew in one of the hostels while show-cooking an omelet. They get separated for the first time in Europe and set about trying to track each other down while not missing their outgoing flight to Spain.

 

The best vacations are ones that are open to spontaneity. This chapter will uncover a method of air travel that is so cheap, the tax on the ticket is higher than the cost. This chapter gives the name of a hostel in Ireland that’s a guaranteed great way to meet college-aged singles. Also provided are details on how the reader can be the life of the party, even if the readers can’t drink or dance. This chapter will also profile an Irish hostel/mansion that only charges 8€ a night. This chapter ends by summing up the effects of the Spanish Civil War on the lives of people who were outside of the country when the war broke out.

Chapter 14

Spanish Men Dressed as Female Cops

Brian goes to his cousin’s house in Spain the night before Carnival starts. After living on the road in freezing temperatures for over three months, they have a chance to finally relax and get back to what they love most about Europe: Spain.

 

One of the most overlooked tourist destinations in Spain are the Canary Islands. Their festivals, affordability and vibrant Caribbean culture combine the best of Europe and South America. The chapter will show the precautions necessary to help readers avoid being robbed while traveling in Europe.

Chapter 15

Towel Boy for the Women’s Volleyball Team

Brian moves to San Diego, California where he is reunited with one of his best friends from high school. Brian does odd jobs around San Diego until he finds what he thinks is the secret to happiness: becoming the towel boy for the San Diego State Women’s Volleyball team.

 

This chapter will show readers how to get a free place to stay and a salary in the bustling city of San Diego. This chapter puts into plain words, how San Diego differs from any other California city on the coast. This chapter inspires readers by profiling a man who is able to live a full and rewarding life, despite his limitations. Enlightens readers as to where they can find the highest quality used clothing and best live concerts in San Diego. Chapter shows how, the low quantity but high quality of San Diego fans, can make an otherwise boring game come to life.

Chapter 16

Voodoo Crocodile Farm

Brian auditions for a job working for a hotel in Mexico, during the audition he has to do some quick thinking to impress the recruiter. While in Mexico, Brian becomes best friends with his roommate from Ciudad Juarez/El Paso. They attempt to visit every beach and cantina on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. On one of their excursions they meet a Shaman who owns a crocodile farm.

 

This is the chapter which reveals the secret of how to live in Latin America rent-free, also discussed is the rise of Club Adriatic and trends for the future. The reader will learn the necessary skills to be successful in a Club Adriatic audition. This chapter also gives insights on tried and true navigation techniques for Latin American airports. Readers will also be provided information on how best to get a job as an extra in a Spike Lee movie.

To buy the book, , Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, please just Google the title.

Chapter 17

Mexico Spring Break

Brian’s job at the hotel in Mexico quickly becomes more than he bargained for. Three months into his contract, his head is on the chopping block and his boss has to decide whether keeping Brian as an employee of the hotel is worth endangering the lives of the hotel guests.

 

This chapter explains the linguistic impact of the Spanish colonization on the Philippines. This chapter shows readers how to decode Tagalog into Spanish and then English. This chapter gives readers estimates of real estate prices of  tropical islands in the Philippines. Explained in this chapter is the typical diet of a person who grows up on Rodrigues Island (Mauritius).  This chapter shows the value of sticking with a job, even if you are not the best at it. This chapter also shows the reader how to tell a Spanish-speaking person you like them in a non-platonic way.

Chapter 18

Stranded in a Flooded Taxi

Brian falls in love with a Mexican girl and is forced to face his biggest fear; traveling on the Mexican bus system. His fears and paranoia quickly become reality as Mexico is hit by the worst storm since 1926.

 

This chapter explains how to escape a Latin American bus terminal that is on the brink of inundation. It also renders the impacts of floods on Latin American towns and how the local people deal with natural disasters. This chapter shows readers the willingness of Mexican taxi drivers to risk their own lives in order to get international travelers to their destination in a timely manner. This chapter also discusses the cultural significance of the Feathered Serpent to the Meso-American peoples. Also examined are the ways typical Latin American families spend their recreational time together.

Chapter 19

Conehead Skulls on Postcards

Brian takes another vacation with his father. This time they visit Machu Picchu. While down in Peru, his father quickly discovers the lucrative market of smuggling women’s cosmetics into the country.

 

This chapter gives an in-depth description of the impact of the Incan legacy on today’s world. This chapter also compares the scientific knowledge of Europe to that of the Incan. This chapter gives a thorough description of the final days of the Incan Empire as well as how various Incan fortresses got their names. This chapter divulges the true architectural genius behind the Incan dynasty as well as some unusual surgical techniques that were carried out by Incan priests. Readers will also be informed on exactly how to get a behind-the-scenes tour of all things Incan in Cusco.

Chapter 20

Mexican Dentists

Brian has to get emergency dental surgery in Mexico. He visits the first dental office he finds, one that is conveniently located on the second floor of a women’s shoe store.

 

This chapter discusses exactly what separates U.S. dentists from their Mexican counterparts.

Chapter 21

Mexican Haunted Houses

Brian learns just how far $2 can take you while visiting the fair in Mexico.

 

The readers will be taken on a trip through the perils of a low-budget Mexican haunted house.

Chapter 22

Surfing in Mexico

In order to impress a girl, Brian pretends he is related to surf legend Kelly Slater. She calls his bluff and they end up in a dire predicament.

 

This chapter gives descriptions of two Mexican surfing destinations on the Pacific Coast. Readers will learn more about gear and precautions necessary before surfing in Mexico.

Chapter 23

Dead Pigeons Falling Out of the Sky

Brian takes his first overnight trip to Mexico City. While in Mexico City he tours an entire pizza franchise chain and meets the river dance king outside of the Northern Bus Terminal.

A thorough discussion is given on the geological conditions that are causing Mexico City to sink as well as the rising political tensions between Austria and Mexico due to pre-Columbian relics pillaged by the Spanish. Also discussed is one of Mexico City’s most priceless treasures that not even the National Guard can protect. A profile is done on one of Mexico City’s eccentrics who is living in one the most transient neighborhoods in the city. This chapter also gives a first hand account of what it is like to shop in the largest open-air market in the world as well as an ingenious method used to have a cheap and hot shower in the city. While in Mexico City, Brian visits the part of the city that is so smoggy, dead pigeons actually die in mid air and fall to the ground.

Chapter 24

Gil and the Russian Mafia

Brian returns to Spain, this time as a student of International Hospitality. Brian’s studying competes with his urges to spy on his Russian neighbors, which he suspects are Mafia kingpins.

 

Chapter gives a profile of one of the most corrupt mayors in Spain and how the city of Marbella has been shaped by his legacy. This chapter explains the process needed for Americans to obtain a Spanish visa. Also included are rental prices on apartments in Marbella as well as the most affordable method to secure an apartment lease in Marbella. This chapter also gives tips on choosing clubs in Marbella based on preferred ambiance. The readers will also know how to get drinks at the best possible price in Marbella. The chapter also outlines the impact of the Russian Mafia in Marbella.

Chapter 25

Too Much Sangria = Food Fight

In Spain, Brian quickly advances in the student ranks and is put in charge of event planning. The Hospitality School gets more than it bargained for when Brain turns a course on Event Planning into MTV Spring Break 2005.

This chapter describes the college life and curriculum of European students. This chapter also informs readers on how to prepare for living in Spain. Included in this chapter is a look at the difference between dating Spanish girls versus their American counterparts. Also explored are the traits of what make Spanish fiestas so popular. Tips are provided on how to get an mp3 player, digital camera and electric shaver working in Spain. This chapter also takes us to the concert of famous Spanish musician, Pedro Guerra and his thoughts on pop culture.

Chapter 26

Raisin Wine

Brian spends his Spring Break traveling through Valencia, Cordoba and Malaga. While in Malaga, Brian visits Picasso’s childhood home and is fitted for a robe to take part in the Holy Week Procession of carrying around a 3,000 pound float with Jesus Christ strapped to the top.

 

This chapter gives an account of three of Spain’s most culturally diverse cities; Valencia, Cordoba and Malaga. This chapter also shows how a foreigner can successfully navigate Spain’s public transportation system during the busiest week of the year. This chapter shows readers how they can get a behind-the-scenes depiction of Picasso’s early career. Also provided is a sample of the rivalry of the three major cites in Andalucia; Granada, Sevilla and Malaga. This chapter will show how the Moors shaped what now-a-days is known as Spanish culture. The reader will also learn how not all Spanish provinces grow up speaking Spanish and the current international trade obstacles faced by young Spanish professionals. This chapter will take readers on a tour of the last Christian outpost in existence during the Moorish occupation of Spain.

Chapter 27

Beer Tour in San Miguel

Brian is forced to learn an entire course load of work in under ten hours. His roommate stays up all night to try and prepare Brian for the upcoming week of finals.

 

This chapter will highlight the hospitality offered to bar patrons in Spain. Also revealed will be a look into the European personality and how Europeans are more in touch with the inner-feelings and are more inclined to offer them to others. This chapter will also describe the immaculate conception of a marketing project that seemed doomed after its initial success. This chapter also deals with the difficulty in leaving a place that one is very fond of.

Chapter 28

Indian Restaurant by Day, Club Camaleon by Night

Brian moves to Portugal to start his internship at a casino on the island of Madeira in the middle of the Atlantic. While not touring the many discothèques owned by Brian’s co-workers at the hotel, Brian watches Venezuelan television stations to learn about current events happening around the world.

 

This chapter depicts a foreigner’s arrival to an island most people couldn’t locate on the map. This chapter describes the experience of a foreigner in a country in which he cannot speak the language. This chapter describes the hierarchy that exists in hotels as well as the tasks performed by a person who can’t even properly slice a tomato. Also provided is an overview of the most prominent night clubs on the island, as well as the women who inhabit them. This chapter describes what it’s like to get worked on by a Portuguese surgeon who cannot communicate to his patient in their native language as well as an overview of the difference between Portuguese and American doctors. Also discussed is the overly humane treatment of hooligans by Portuguese police.

Chapter 29

No Size Medium Underwear?

Brian gets a job offer in Dominican Republic, and upon arriving to the island, he is alarmed to learn the hotel is run by the French and can only marginally communicate with his co-workers. He becomes friends with the only two other people at the hotel who speak English, a Greek tennis instructor and his Israeli assistant.

 

The chapter describes the sharp contrasts that exist between the two different hotels (Club Adriatic) in Mexico and Dominican Republic, I worked in. The readers will learn about the best spots to snorkel in Punta Cana as well as a sample of village life in Club Adriatic. Three Dominican cities will be described; Bavaro, La Romana and Higuey. The influence of Haiti on the Dominican Republic is also discussed in detail. Tips are given to the traveler when they face a life and death situation after falling asleep on an air mattress in the Caribbean Sea. This chapter describes two popular industries in the urban parts of the Dominican Republic; rotisserie chicken and pirated DVD’s. Also discussed is the struggle by a foreigner in obtaining the desired services and products.

Chapter 30

Patience

Brian returns to Mexico to recapture the Mexican girl he originally tried to impress three years before by claiming to be Kelly Slater’s second cousin.

 

This chapter describes the author’s final run-in with his one true love. This chapter describes exactly what makes Latin girls different from any other girls the author has met. Chapter deals with the inconsistencies faced when comparing an actual woman to someone who he has been corresponding with via the internet.

 

To buy the book, Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man, please just Google the title.

 

           

Goodwill Hunting in The Candelaria, Bogota

January 13, 2013

The Candelaria is the place where the “Tomato Bait Trick” first got its roots in Bogota. The usual price of a tomato in Colombia is 200 pesos or $.10USD. But when a tourist goes into a grocery store owned by gutter snipes the tourist is charged 1,500 pesos ($.80USD) for a tomato. Most tourists are happy to pay this amount and actually shake the grocer’s hand after the sale. The problem occurs when the same tourist goes into the same grocery store a week later and buys the same tomato and is charged 200 pesos the second time. This has the effect of making the tourist so enraged with anger that he runs through the store opening all the cans of tuna and throwing them in the grocer’s face.Image

The heart of the Old Town (also known as the Candelaria) is on 11th Street. This is pretty much ground zero in Bogota in terms of universities, government buildings, The Presidential Palace (La Casa de Nariño) and cathedrals. I have a friend named Dennis in Candelaria who is renting a room one block from the President’s house for $15OUSD a month. There are armed guards that sit out in front of his house at all hours of the day and the street in front of his house gets blockaded against traffic every day after 6pm. Where else can you live and get Presidential armed guards sitting out in front of your house for $150USD a month?  Dennis says the only design flaw is the fact the Presidential Palace is located right in the heart of the downtown. For security purposes it would be better served to be twenty minutes outside of Bogota. On the other hand, if this was the case he would lose his armed guards so he’s not sweating it too much.

Kudos to the police force and private security in Bogota. In no other place in the world can you run into 50 cops standing in the middle of every main square, 3 at every bus stop, 1 in front of every ATM and 1 or 2 on every bridge.  The police force in Bogota’s best attribute is just to be present everywhere. They are always ready to give directions or assist you in any way possible. Who says they are paid just to stand around? The best way to prevent crime is just to have police everywhere even if they aren’t actually doing anything besides helping old ladies cross the street. Who says they have to do anything at all? I say they are doing a great deed just by getting up in the morning, putting on their reflective jackets and standing next to me while I am waiting for a bus. People in Bogota should be required to tip the cops 5% of their salaries.

On 22nd Street is the US Embassy. As you walk up to the Embassy 40 or 50 guys on the other side of the street will start yelling at you, “Fotocopias, LLamadas, Forumularias!” (Photocopies, phone calls, official forms). After you show the doorman your passport and appointment password number, you will be allowed to enter the compound. The US Embassy is one of the few places where chickens are allowed to roam freely in the city. In this respect the USA really took their job seriously of researching local customs and doing their best to merge with the landscape. Once you get past the chickens the Embassy is all business. Many of the light have rotating lampshades on them that film everything which is going on in the compound. All the security gates are guarded by men with shotguns and behind the gates are safety ramps that look like open drawbridges you to thwart would be assailants that ram their way past the gate. Any vehicle wanting to get past the gate is pulled over first, the trunk of the car is opened, the back doors opened and the rear seats are  thoroughly checked, a mirror on wheels is slid underneath the car and the hood is popped and the engine is examined. After the car is parked, the person then needs to go through two sets of metal detectors. Each of the metal detector areas have massive doors that weigh at least 1,000 pounds. When swinging these doors open and shut you feel as if you are entering a nuclear submarine. Once yo get passed the metal detectors you are in the waiting area. There are two lines in this area, one for American citizens which usually has at most 20 people in line. Then there is the line for everyone else that  looks like the will call window for Rolling Stones tickets.Image

On 34th Street is located the main Planned Parenthood Clinic of Bogota (or “Profamilia” in Spanish). With 34 clinics nationwide, Profamilia is a major provider of family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services in Colombia. Its services, which make up 70% of the country’s family planning capacity, includes contraceptives, fertility treatment, breast exams and mammograms, Pap smears, pregnancy test, STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and HIV prevention and testing, gender-based violence screening and referral, abortion, HPV vaccination, and cervical, uterine, and breast cancer prevention programs.

Profamilia offers subsidized, youth-friendly services in centers specifically dedicated to young people. They have over 1,500 active peer educators who have received intensive training in order to provide sexual health information to other young people in schools and youth centers. Profamilia’s youth programs encourage young people’s involvement at all stages of program planning and implementation. It also has two youth members on its Board of Directors.

Profamilia has an extremely high profile in the country. The government frequently asks for its opinions on sexual and reproductive health issues in Colombia, and Profamilia is a frequent source of information for nationwide media. In 2009, Profamilia was part of a coalition that opened the first LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community center in Bogotá. Their advocacy efforts convinced the Mayor of Bogotá to open and fund three other LGBT centers in the capital city.

On 50th Street there is a business that seems to be from the “Wally and the Beaver” generation. Who would have thought that in this day and age there would be a need for a vacuum cleaner clinic? But true to the spirit of Latin America and their love for using items log ago deemed outdated in other societies (i.e. Nintendo Entertainment Systems, Polaroid cameras, cassette players, floppy discs) in Bogota there is a Vacuum Cleaner Clinic (Casa de las Aspiradoras in Spanish). Having one of these businesses in Bogota is a testament to Colombia’s loyalty to obsolete technology. I myself enjoy partaking in the same behavior, I still make my own mix tapes and play them in my 1993 Ford Ranger.

So, luckily for you, if you are the kind of person who enjoys actually fixing things instead of throwing them away and buying a new one. Be sure to bring your broken vacuum cleaner with you on your next trip to Bogota.

As you travel towards the North of Bogota the street numbers increase. Located on 54th Street is El Campin Stadium where the most famous football team in Colombia plays “Los Millionarios.” When the team was formed in 1946 a million pesos was probably a good amount of money. Now-a-days to be a millionaire in Colombian pesos isn’t quite as prestigious as in past years. 1,000,000 Colombian pesos now-a-days is only worth $552USD currently. Maybe a better option in terms of long term value would be to name the team the “Owners of Beachfront Property.” By the time you are North of 76th Street the condition of the roads improves, there are less Goodwill Hunting types walking the streets and hardly are stray animals. The famous Red Light District starts around 82nd Street and this part of the city is full of high end tattoo parlors, Hooters Restaurants, Dominos Pizzas and as well as the headquarters of the Discovery Channel for Colombia.

On 97th Street you come to the Americo Vespucio statute. If you are traveling by bus past this statute you will want to get a good look. Vespucio’s greatest accomplishment would probably to have ridden on the coattails of Christopher Columbus to the new world and have been the only person with enough common sense out of all the explorers to realize that the extent of South America was actually longer than they originally thought instead of the prevailing belief that there were two unconnected continents below North America. Even to this day, the number of his actual expeditions is sometimes disputed and shrouded in mystery.

Thus, if you take a close look at Vespucio’s statue, as you pass by bus, you will notice that the statue’s head is missing and full of graffiti. This is no doubt Bogota’s response to his lackluster career and a stern refusal to celebrate Europe’s pillaging of the new world.

“Just because you may have been the least dim-witted in a group of scurvy-ridden sailors, that still doesn’t win you a star on the walk of fame in the capital city,” the graffiti seems to retort. On the other hand it could just be random vandalism with no deeper meaning.

After staying in the Candelaria for a few weeks it was quite a shock to me to get in the Transmilenio to 145th Street and see nice buildings, well-maintained streets and new apartment buildings. In terms of US cities, I would say Candelaria is similar to Coney Island while Suba in Northern Bogota is similar to Westchester County (an affluent suburban area to the North of New York City).

Bogota’s history of mayors has been memorable. The current mayor, Gustavo Petro, most famous move has been to uphold the long-standing “Pico y Placa” (Peak and License Plate) law. This is an law that forbids cars with a license plate that ends with an odd number to drive on odd days of the month between 6.00am-8.30am and from 3.00pm-7.30pm. If the car’s license plate ends with an even number the same rule applies on even days. This law only applies from Monday through Friday.

Bogota even experimented with another law that banned drivers with less than two people in the car from circulating in the downtown part of Bogota (40th Street to 10th Street) between 6.30am-8am and from 5.30pm-7pm. Any solo driver caught driving in the downtown during this time was given a fine.  The law was a little ahead of its time and a lot of angry people made the government repeal this law.

The way to tell how well this law has worked is to get on the highways during the weekends. The traffic is easily twice as slow as during the week. Therefore making Bogota one of the few cities in the world where drivers actually save time getting on the highways during rush hour.

The second biggest issue in Bogota is the cell phone theft. The government has green lighted some high impact TV adds to combat the problem. The most famous one takes place in a woman’s apartment at 1am. Earlier that day she bought a 2nd hand phone from a street dealer at a price too good to be true. Later that night she gets a phone call at 1am. When she looks at the caller ID it is blank. When she answers the call, the receiver reverberates a shriek in a creepy high-pitched alien voice which knocks her back in bed and sends some shock waves through her bedroom.

Of all the mayors in the modern history of Bogota the most ahead of the curve was a mayor named Antannas Mockus. Just to have been elected mayor in the first place with a last name that sounds like “mocos” (boogers in Spanish) is a pretty impressive feat. Mockus not only has a strange Lithuanian name but he is also bearded and looks like an Amish Unabomber.

Despite of all the obstacles he served two non-consecutive terms as the mayor of Bogota from January 1st, 2001 – December 31st, 2003 and from January 1st, 1995 – December 31st, 1997.  During his time as mayor he was a stern proponent of highway safety.

Mockus’ first order of business when he was elected was to reduce the number of people getting run over by cars. In order to reduce the number of fatalities of pedestrians run over and killed by motorists he decided to place a star on the road in every place a pedestrian was killed by a motorist. After doing this many people were surprised to find out that the highest amount of fatalities occurred on the streets underneath pedestrian bridges. Muckus also hired thousands of mimes to simulate getting run over and killed at the busiest traffic lights in Bogota. I am not sure if the mimes threw themselves on top of stopped cars at the intersection and then died right there on the side of the road but would really be interested in seeing this project first hand. Muckus’ initiate had a dramatic effect in terms of making the public aware of the places they were most likely to get killed if they tried to make a mad dash across the highway. This initiative was also highly entertaining for people waiting at the red light on their way to work.

Muckus also wanted to increase the number of people wearing seatbelts in cars. In order to do this he approved the airing of a TV commercial showing the effects in slow motion of having a crash where 4 of the 5 passengers have their seatbelts on and the one person who doesn’t ends up bouncing around the car and killing the other passengers during a crash. He didn’t stop there. He was also very concerned about the number of DUI’s that were happening around the city. To try and reduce this number he placed crush cars (from drunk driving accidents) on the sides of all the major highways with mannequins inside. This initiative had the effect of outraging pretty much everyone in the city a severely cut down on the number of DUI deaths in Bogota.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Food Fight At Les Roches International School of Hotel Management

January 3, 2013

Fearing that I would become a miser and perpetual drifter in Mexico, my grandmother offered to pay to send me to Hotel Management School in Spain.Image

I checked out a school online called Les Roches, Marbella. Les Roches International School of Hotel Management is a private university with two campuses. One is in the Swiss Alps in the Canton of Valais and the other is in Southern Spain in Marbella. Nothing against Switzerland, but I was more interested in living on the beach in Spain.

The first paragraph from the Les Roches Marbella home page reads:

In selecting Les Roches Marbella, you have made a careful choice for your future. We understand your expectations – to start a successful career – and, consequently, our responsibility: to make it happen with your help and dedication. Within this extraordinary multicultural context (over 30 nationalities are present on our campus), you will take your first professional steps with fellow students who share your eagerness to discover an exciting career path. There will be plenty of hard work (starting right here…) but satisfaction and rewards will abound.

The first week of hotel management school was out of control.  I didn’t have the right kind of suit to go to classes, so I borrowed one from another student.  It was his from his freshman year, so I walked around with a freshmen stamp on the chest of my suit even though I was a Post Graduate student.  It had a small rip right below the collar on my back, which slowly got bigger each day. None of my electronics worked with the voltage converters I bought. I couldn’t plug my electric shaver in, play my CD’s or charge my camera up to take pictures.  All the handouts from my teachers were in the European paper style with a five-hole punch, so they didn’t fit into my three hole punch notebooks from the United States.  I ripped holes in the handouts so they would fit into my binder.  The Euro bills were too big to fit into my wallet, so I had to fold them lengthwise to keep them from sticking out of the top of my wallet.

While not attending classes, all students had to work in the school restaurant a couple hours a week. While we weren’t working, we could enjoy a three course meal at the school restaurant which was staffed by freshman students. The mistakes in this restaurant were legendary. Sometimes it would take an hour just to get our appetizers served. We never order soup at this restaurant because it was guaranteed to get dumped in your lap. It was “a learning experience” for the students, so we couldn’t really complain, that much.

One day in class our teacher informed us that we would be divided into groups of five for our class projects. My group’s project was to create a hotel anywhere in the world. We had to decided where it would be located, how much land we’d need, what it would cost, how we would market it and to whom, how much we would charge, how we would hire the employees, and finally, we would present a drawing of the hotel as well as a detailed floor plan of the kitchen and dining areas.  We would present the final project in five months.

In order to complete this assignment, we were supposed to tie together everything we learned from all of our other classes.  I was lucky to have gotten a group with some of the smartest students in class. Each one of my team-mates volunteered to do a part. Diego, the Ecuadorian, said he’d do the architectural part, Dorothee, the German, wanted to design the restaurant/kitchen and find the plot to build it on, Yahira from Madrid, volunteered to do human resources, Paula from Sweden would do the marketing, and I was assigned the accounting  part since I didn’t volunteer for any other part.

Our first deadline was three months away, the Friday before Easter break. We decided that each person would start their part of the project. We’d email each other our findings and meet on the weekends.

Initially, everything seemed easy.  Andres got his girlfriend in Ecuador, who was an architect, to mail us a program to design the hotel floor plan. The rest of the group members were all perfectionists, so they re-did their parts multiple times until they were perfect.

Monday through Friday we had classes from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  We also had to work as cooks/waiters/dishwashers after classes, so sometimes our days didn’t end until 11 p.m. When we finished our service, we then had to start on the homework which was due the next day.  After days like these, I was glad that my apartment was just a short walk from school.

Once a month we had an assignment that the whole class of 20 students did together. It was called Event Planning. Basically, we planned a party, bought food and drinks, and charged the other students admission that had to cover our expenses. The week before each event, we’d tape up flyers announcing the dress code, the entrance fee, and what time the event would begin. Our first event was an Andalusian dinner on the school lawn. We had prepared two garbage cans full of sangria, three kegs of San Miguel beer, and a table of mixed drinks.  During the meal, we’d raffle off more hard liquor.

The actual meal was secondary, as our whole school of over 100 people were highly intoxicated within the first hour of serving drinks. Two garbage cans of sangria were consumed in half an hour! After the sangria was gone, people ran into the kitchen to get empty pitchers. The students filled pitchers with fruit from the garbage cans and before we knew what was happening, a 100-man food fight broke out on the back lawn.  The teachers, dressed in business suits, hid inside the school to avoid getting nailed by flying fruit.  In the middle of the food fight, we decided to go ahead with the raffle and we started giving away bottles of rum and Jim Beam to the students.  After all the fruit was gone, we decided to go up to the school bar on the second floor to continue the party. All the raffle prizes were consumed in the next hour, as well as all the alcohol at the school bar. After shutting down the bar, we all got into taxis and went downtown in business suits stained from the party.

The next morning, there was hell to pay.  Our course professor announced in class to all the students that the class was called “Event Planning” and not “MTV Spring Break 2005.”  He told us that there would be no alcohol served at any more events (he later vetoed this rule) and we’d have to do a better job cleaning up next time.  This was a very mild punishment considering we nailed the wine teacher with a full pitcher of juice. Secretly, we made a pact to go even bigger for the event next month.   Image

The dorms were really crazy at this school.  I was glad I had a place to go when things got too extreme. My apartment was the same price as the dorms and everyone in my group was jealous of my apartment. Two of my group members lived in the dorms. The girl from Sweden, Paula, lived far away from campus with her dad. Yahira lived in Malaga and commuted an hour and a half to school each day. The girl from Sweden convinced my roommate Jose to invite her to stay over one Friday night so we could go out with her and her friends to Puerto Banus. It ended up being a great time, but after that weekend, this girl expected to be able to crash at our place any day of the week.  She kicked Jose out of his room so he was now living in the living room most of the week.  I felt bad for the guy but I felt even worse for my own situation.  Not only was this girl in all my classes, but she was also in my Hotel Project group and we also had the same service schedule. On top of all this, she was now living at my house four nights a week.

I got tired of seeing the same faces everyday, so I decided to hang out with people in other grade levels. Two of the ways to accomplish this was to avoid sitting with Post Graduate students for lunch and hang around the dorms at night to meet more students.

One day I bought concert tickets to a local concert in Marbella and invited a girl from a lower grade to come with me.  She couldn’t go, but invited her friend to go in her place. I was really impressed by Spanish girls, if they couldn’t make a date with you, they fixed you up with one of their friends. What a novel concept?

I told the friend of the girl that we had to be at the concert by 10 p.m. or we’d miss the opening.  She agreed and invited me to go out with some of her Portuguese friends before the concert. It turned out that one of the Portuguese guys I had already met, because I had eaten lunch with him. He was a really likable guy, spoke good English, learned and used my first name in all of our interactions and was always smiling. His name was Tomas and he took us to one of his favorite bars in Marbella, where beers were only 1€ and they had live music.  After hanging out in the bar with the Portuguese for a while, we walked three blocks to the concert.  It was a very formal concert hall and we had great seats.  The singer, Pedro Guerra, spent five minutes between each song just chatting us up about how he hated reality TV, but was always watching it and about how his producer wouldn’t let him take any publicity photos with his teeth showing.

After the concert was over, we went out to eat a huge meal of octopus and potatoes (pulpo gallego). The owner of the bar kept coming over and filling our glasses with wine.  We toasted with her a minimum of twenty times that night and finally left in the middle of the next day. Image

Mexico, Spike Lee, Gabriel Rivera, Edward Norton, Carlos ‘n Charlie’s and a Voodoo Crocodile Farm

January 3, 2013

Some years back I got a job working in a hotel (aka “The Club,” and “The Village”) on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. It wasn’t like working at Denny’s. In this job you didn’t clock in or clock out. It was a job where I lived in the hotel and pretty much got paid to hang out with the guests of the hotel and party with the other employees of the hotel. I started out working in reception.Image

As I got to know more people at the Club, I met some several  Mexican employees who lived in California, Chicago, and Texas but had extensive family in Mexico. One of them was my roommate. He was also the Village Animator (guy who makes hotel guests laugh). He had been raised in El Paso but most of his family members were from Ciudad Juarez. He had such striking features that he looked like a cross between Moctezuma and Jackie Chan.

His name was Gabriel and he was always keen to talk about his experiences in film-making. His most famous story was how he got the job as the stand-in for Edward Norton on the movie 25th Hour. First, I had to ask Gabriel what a stand-in was. He explained that in movies, as well as TV shows, famous actors like Bill Cosby or Marlon Brando don’t like to stand around for 20 minutes while photographers adjust the lighting and the co-stars practice their lines. What a stand-in does is dress up like the lead actor and say the lead actor’s lines so the rest of the cast can rehearse their lines before filming. The 25th Hour is a movie directed by Spike Lee about a three strikes drug offender in New York who has one day left to live as a free man before being sent to jail for life. In the movie, Edward Norton flees to the El Paso desert to avoid serving life in prison. The dessert scenes are shot in the harshest most remote parts of the El Paso dessert. No New York actors were willing to travel to El Paso just for a small role as the stand-in. Gabriel knew this so he sent his resume to Spike Lee’s production office. Spike Lee’s production assistant called Gabriel a few days later. She thanked Gabriel for submitting his resume but explained that unfortunately the stand-in role was already filled.Image

“Who got the role?” asked Gabriel.

“A man named Richard Jenkins.” She replied. “The only problem is that I don’t have a picture of him on file.”

“Richard Jenkins? I know him from high school, he’s short, fat and full of pimples.”

“Oh really?” replied the production assistant. “What do you look like?”

“I’m tall, dark and handsome.” claimed Gabriel.

“Can you come to the set tomorrow so we can meet you?”

When Gabriel came to the set in the El Paso desert the next day, he met the production assistant and was given a walkie-talkie and told he would be notified when it was time to work as the stand-in. He clipped the walker-talkie onto his belt and went to the catering truck to get some food and water. While he was waiting in line a voice started radiating out of the walk-talkie, it was Spike Lee.

“Where is Edward Norton’s stand-in?” asked Spike.

“He’s over at the catering truck.” Replied the production assistant.

“You hired a Mexican as a stand-in for Edward Norton?” asked a totally flabbergasted Spike Lee.

That’s how Gabriel got his role of stand-in for Edward Norton, even though he had no idea who Richard Jenkins was and looked nothing like Edward Norton.

Gabriel was one of my closest friends in Ixtapa and whenever his mom came to visit from El Paso she’d always call us first and ask what she could bring down from the US for me.

One time, half-jokingly, I said I wanted a croquette set. A couple days later Gabriel walked into our room holding this huge box from the airport, wrapped in tape, showing that it had been inspected in Mexico City by customs. When I opened it up, sure enough, his mom had sent me a croquette set from Texas.

Gabriel knew all the Mexican slang, so each day after work I’d come back to the room with a list of phrases I which I didn’t understand. I’d start from the top, what does, “¡No friegues!” mean? Image

“It has different meanings, what context did you hear it in?”

“I told Paco from the Mini Club that Justin Timberlake was a better singer than Luis Miguel.”

“He probably just meant for you to stop joking around with him.”

Gabriel was one of the most popular employees in the village. A lot of the times I wouldn’t get invited to the parties that the employees had organized around the town or in the village, but Gabriel would always come to the room before he left and ask me if I wanted to come with him. Each time he asked, I told him I would go with him the next time.

Before I knew it, two months had passed and I had never even left the village. All I knew about the outside was what I had heard from the other employees when they talked about going out.

One night Gabriel came into our room in the middle of the night and turned on the light. I woke up to see him eagerly brushing his teeth and fixing his hair. He was very excited.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He explained to me that he had five girls from Vancouver waiting in reception. He had invited them to go to Carlos ‘n Charlie’s that night.

“I also talked with your boss in reception, you don’t have to work until 1 p.m. tomorrow.” He explained. “Are you coming out?”

How could I say no? We walked up to reception together and took a taxi to Carlos and Charlie’s, which was about 10 minutes from our hotel. When we got to the discothèque, there were at least 1500 people inside. Carlos and Charlie’ in Ixptapa has two stages for dancing with a pool in the middle of them. There were so many people there I didn’t realize that we were right on the beach because I couldn’t see further than about four or five heads. The first thing that happened was that someone came along with a clear kettle and started pouring shots into all our mouths. I drank up but couldn’t keep anything straight about what was happening around me. We danced with the girls and hung out with all the other hotel employees who were there.

The night was a success. After leaving the disco, we all grabbed a taxi and headed home. I must have fallen asleep in the taxi because the next thing I remembered was waking up on the bed  between the two girls from Vancouver. I was still wearing the clothes I had been working in earlier that day, which was the only information I had. I looked up and could see that Gabriel was busy talking to the three other girls on the porch.

One girl rolled over and asked me, “Do you always sleep with your hand down the front of your pants?” I looked down and saw, to my dismay, that I had my hand buried down the front of my pants. I quickly sat up and joked about the different sleeping positions men utilize while sleeping. Not wanting to further make a fool of myself, I parted amicably.

From that night on, Gabriel became my wing man. Our goal was simple: We wanted to go to as many beaches/discotheques and chat with as many women as possible during our stay in Ixtapa. Like me, he had never been to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo before and together we knew almost nothing about where we were living.

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo are located 100 miles northwest of Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico and are less than four miles apart. Zihuatanejo is known for its traditional Mexican charm, a place where most families still derive their income from fishing.  On the other side of the spectrum is Ixtapa, a modern city that has only been around only since the 1970’s and exists solely to entertain tourists. Ixtapa derives its income from the bars, discothèques, hotels and golf courses that dominate the landscape.

For our first beach excursion, Gabriel and I took a taxi to a crocodile farm at Playa Linda. Luckily we arrived during feeding time. The man who takes care of the crocodiles is the town eccentric. His name is Tamacuna and he is an old Mexican shaman with long grey hair that is held back by a yellow sweat band.  Although his duties are limited to feeding and caring for the reptiles, he does his job dressed as famous Mexican soccer player Luis Hernandez, complete with uniform, cleats and shin guards. If you pay Tamacuna a dollar, he will let you take a picture of him putting his head inside a crocodile’s mouth. He carries a baby crocodile around in his backpack. While feeding the adult crocodiles in Playa Linda, he takes the baby crocodile out of his backpack and passes it around to the old ladies. If the ladies refuse to hold the baby croc, Tamacuna threatens to put a spell on them. Very few of the women refuse to hold the baby crocodile.Image