Saturday, November 29, 2014

Durante mi Viaje

Clouds in the sky over Cholula

No, my heart is not asleep
It is awake, wide awake,
not asleep or dreaming.
Its eyes are open wide
watching distant signals,
listening on the banks
of a vast silence.

      --Antonio Machado

For the past few days I've been in in Cholula and Puebla and I have had time to reflect on the experience of travel, and particularly on traveling alone. 

I have had no classes or meetings with friends while I've been here. I have been staying in the home of Martin, a 29-year old Frenchman, a perfectly nice fellow. 

I've been dealing with the inconvenient fact that I cannot figure out how to unlock his front door, either to get in or out, which means I had to rely upon him to be present. 

Soon it will be in the past, as I am leaving tomorrow morning for Oaxaca.

There seems to be a theme operating though.  I had come to Cholula in the hope of connecting with a particular Dharma community here. That never happened, though I did spend an evening with another group who are students of Mingyur Rinpoche. They were friendly people and the group felt harmonious and warm. I'm glad I had a chance to spend a few hours meditating and talking Dharma with them.

Traveling alone is just like living alone, but it does have an additional challenge, the challenge of being in new places, with new people, new foods and new customs-- and perhaps not knowing the country's language at all, or barely.  One lacks the comfort afforded by familiar places and people.

A beautiful old building in Guanajuato's Presa neighborhood
Of course, that is part of the allure of travel. As science fiction writer Ray Bradbury quipped. “Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” 

Yes, the esthetic of lostness is a good way to place some of the feelings that arise when traveling.

The Observer, the Outsider and the Sense of Belonging

Upstairs walkway in the Museo Amparo in Puebla
Wherever you go, there you are. That never changes.  So of course habitual patterns, perceptions, choices and responses just keep on popping up. I find that  being in unfamiliar places affords me a lot of good compost for tilling the fields. In my journey, I am an observer, and I sometimes feel as if I am an outsider. I am an outsider, a foreigner. I am a visitor from some other place and way of life. 

At the same time, I notice that I have an innate sense of belonging and that when I open up into feeling comfortable and at home in that way, it feels good. I spent many years feeling alienated and for me that is no longer so useful. 

I am at home when I relax into being right here in my body/mind, and all the concepts about being a foreigner and outsider just kind of melt away.

Traveling alone gives a great deal of opportunity for practising openness, maintaining vigilance, and breaking through language barriers with body language, smiles and positive intention.

The view from the roof of another Puebla museum

The well known travel author Pico Iyer writes, "Travel has woken me up, in many ways. It's taught me how provincial I and my assumptions are. It's expanded my sense of what is possible among human beings and in terms of human kindness (and at times its opposite). And it has shown me a whole other way to live, without a steady prop, not hemmed in by familiarity, and living according to the principles and challenges I most respect."

A church in Cholula
 Not hemmed in by familiarity...without a steady prop....these are things I think about as I move from one place to another in Mexico.

 I have a steady prop, but it is not the steady prop of familiar surroundings, friends and routine. It is internal, a sense of interconnectedness, belonging and peacefulness within.

I have learned things about myself since I set out. In some online conversation with friends, I realized that my sense of adventure takes the form of curiosity about art, culture, history, healing,  mysticism, architecture, agriculture, clothing and food.

Wherever you go, there you are.

I am going to be sorry to leave Cholula mainly because I have grown fond of eating at Koatlique Pachamama, a tiny restaurant that serves wonderfully good food and pulque, an ancient alcoholic
One of the folks at Koatlique Pachamama
beverage made from the maguey plant. A fellow who came to cut Martin's hair one day urged me to go there and to try to pulque and the food.

I really dislike eating at overpriced tourist places, and I thought I should check this place out. I am so glad I did.

The food is marvelous, very inexpensive and very fresh, healthy and traditional. The pulque comes in three forms. I chose natural, which seemed to have a low alcohol content. There is the distilado form, which they told me is like tequila.

That natural pulque is delicious--cloudy white, a bit foamy, a bit sour and sweet. It feels very good to drink it.  It has been used since ancient times for many maladies, and once was drunk only by leaders, elders, pregnant women or ill people.

When beer became popular here, pulque production dropped, but now some younger people are devoting themselves  to making it again.
A hillside near the big cathedral in Cholula
Cholula is famous for The Great Pyramid, the largest pyramid in the New World, over which the Spanish built an immense cathedral. There is also a volcano in the area, and every day I saw the smoke rising from it.

I am leaving tomorrow morning for Oaxaca, a day earlier than I had planned, because there is a national strike that is supposed to happen on Monday, December 1st. If so, it will probably close the roads in and out of Oaxaca. My bus trip from Guanajuato to Puebla was very comfortable, and I imagine this upcoming bus trip will be, too. Mexico is famous for its excellent bus service between cities.

I am being cured of the museum deprivation I experienced living in southern Oregon! I went to two wonderful museums in Guanajuato and since I arrived in this area I have been to four museums, two in Puebla and two in Cholula. The Puebla museums are housed in incredible old edifices from the eighteenth century.

It was Thanksgiving day when I visited Puebla, and I had a festive meal at an elegant restaurant next to the Museo Amparo. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. The Big Kahuna and two of his friends were at the next table, which was entertaining. There was an incredibly handsome waiter. Pink walls. Beautiful plants. A fountain.


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