Posts Tagged ‘zihuatanejo’

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

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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