Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman review

Well, in a nutshell, the movie was okay. There were some genuinely enjoyable moments, but I have to admit that my throat was a little scratchy afterward from groaning so many times. I mean, I'm all for the super powers and all, but some of the things he was doing seemed just too over the top--like drinking a Coors Light?!? I'm thinking Superman would be more of a microbrew kind of guy. We went with a group and did have fun making comments throughout the movie, however. Which probably didn't endear the theatre-goers sitting around us.

I remember growing up, my little brother totally worshipped Superman--I mean he was a bigger influence in his life than JESUS! (In fact it might still be that way, but I'm sure he's working on that problem with his bishop.) He's the one who got Margaret and me hooked on Smallville. When he was little, he had a Superman cape that he would wear everywhere--and oftentimes even to bed. Fortunately he never did try to jump off the house, though. My brother and I would exploit that somewhat by making him clean up our room as fast as Superman. He'd frantically rush around the room picking up clothes and putting away toys as fast as his little legs would go. When he'd slow down, we'd say that he must not be Superman because Superman wouldn't get tired like that, which would goad him into speeding back up again. I guess the comic book character you associate with most as a child tells something about your personality. How money-obsessed must my pysche be for my favorite comic book to be Richie Rich? Yikes!

One of the guys that came with us just had a tendon replaced in his knee and was limping pretty bad. After the movie we decided to go to a nearby restaurant to rehash the movie. I totally thought it was right across the street, but it was two blocks away, which wouldn't have been noticeable had we not had someone in the party that was in pain for every step of the way. Oops. Oh well, that's what hydrocodone is for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns

Tonight we're off to see the new Superman movie. After reading the newspaper review this morning, I was a little worried. Fortunately, though, my brother, who is a Superman connoisseur, said he went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Now I'm conflicted as to which way my expectations should be bending.

Speaking of expectations, when I was growing up, I had enormous pressure to get good grades. When our annual standardized testing came around, I remember my mom making us giant breakfasts to make sure we were ready for the determination of our future earning potential. Fortunately I was a shameless brown-noser teacher's pet, so getting the grades didn't pose that big of an obstacle. When I got the top grade in something, I just assumed it was confirmation that I was better than my classmates, which I'm sure made me REALLY popular with most of them. Well, anyway, before computers were very widespread, report cards were always a special form on heavy paper that the teacher filled in by hand. When I got to seventh grade, however, the school started giving out computer-generated report cards. One time, I thought I'd play a trick on my parents by creating an exact replica of the computer report card, only giving myself C's and D's. I remember being totally nervous bringing that home, knowing the fury it would unleash in my mom. Whoo-ee, I had no idea! When I handed it to her, she looked at it for a second, thinking that she didn't understand the format or something--because how could her baby get grades like THAT! Then, as comprehension set in, her eyes turned red, the earth beneath her began to shake, and a rip in the space/time continuum opened up behind her. In a booming voice that shook the house, she asked me how I could have let this happen and what did I do wrong and what I had been doing at school and I was going to be cut off from tv to study all evening every night. I cruelly let her rant for a bit until I gave her the real report card. Despite that, it still took her a few minutes to calm down after getting so worked up. She was pretty mad, even though later we all got a laugh out of it. Man, I was so glad that I didn't actually get those grades, because if I had, I'd have never seen the Simpsons and I probably would have been forced to develop a strong study ethic that would have driven me to getting a Ph.D. by now. Whew! Dodged THAT bullet!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mission sugar rushes

Yesterday's posting and subsequent comments reminded me of how big a deal brownies were on my mission. And not the pot-filled kind, just the basic sugar-laden ones. It seems like every opportunity we had, we'd bake a batch--oftentimes eating the whole thing that evening...just between TWO missionaries! (Walking around all day getting doors slammed in your face really takes it out of you.) Everyone had his or her own recipe, until one recipe, "Buck's Brownies" (named after that immortal mission chef Dan Buck, who tirelessly altered, experimented, and ultimately perfected the brownies made by the missionaries) rose to the top. Everyone knew about them. Missionaries broke mission rules by calling other missionaries for the recipe. Missionaries gained weight making them all the time. Missionaries would run out of money halfway through the month buying ingredients for them. Missionaries broke the Word of Wisdom by adding RUM EXTRACT to them. The Norwegian mission hadn't seen this much of a sensation since 1963 when scriptures with little hand warmers built into them hit the market. (Although much to Buck's and my other missionary friends' chagrin, no one can find the recipe among their mission memorabilia. It was as if they were destined to die with our halcyon days of Scandinavian service and we now have to console ourselves with substandard Betty Crocker brownies. And to think that if someone kept it, we might have the seed recipe to start a brownie empire to rival Mrs. Fields! Blast!)

One reason I think brownies were so popular was that since we couldn't de-stress with alcohol or cigarettes or get a buzz from coffee, we turned to two legal ingredients for missionaries--chocolate and sugar. We could get a buzz from all the sugar and fat in them that just melted our days pains and problems away. Unfortunately, though this simple pleasure was corrupted into a dark monster. You know how most evil things are really corruptions of really good things? Well, the brownies in Norway spawned an awful, evil, poison. It was called "Sizzle." I'm not sure when it was first forged in the dark places of some disturbed missionary's mind--a mind driven mad by the lack of sunlight in the northern reaches of Norway; driven crazy by freezing weather; pushed to the brink by not being able to watch Baywatch. All I know is that it was a part of underground mission lore long before I got there. Sizzle was everything about brownies that you know and love--magnified to such gross proportions that it became a hideous monster, capable of halting the digestive process in humans and even goats. To make this deadly concoction, you take a basic brownie recipe and half the flour and double the sugar and butter. After baking it, the cook quickly pulls it out of the oven and scoops the thick stew into a bowl (you can't cut it--it's too soupy at this point and if you wait too long, it will turn into a mass more durable than a titanium bar) and pours milk over it. The cold milk hits the hot sugar/butter combination and starts to sizzle. The longer the sizzling, the better the sizzle. At this point, you had to dive right in and eat it as fast as possible before it turned into a brick in the bowl--better that it turn into a brick in your stomach. I only braved the stuff once, and of course it was before a Norwegian wedding reception, so I couldn't eat one Norwegian pastry, treat, or cake because my stomach was still full of a chocolate rock it probably wouldn't digest for another 24 hours. When I told my grandmother about sizzle, she said that it was a good thing that missionaries are blessed that they can withstand poisoning because any normal person would be dead after eating that. Those words of warning have prevented me from ever trying the recipe here in the States--well, that and the fact that I'm no longer capable of processing 12,000 calories in one sitting.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sabbath shopping punishment

Over the weekend, we kept putting off grocery shopping until finally around 5:30 on Sunday afternoon we realized that we'd better get a move on if we were going to have any food in the house this coming week. We headed to Costco (of course, since we're a household of two, where else could we shop?) and got there at 5:50, only to discover that it closed at 6:00! We sprinted in and had to dash from location to location--fortunately we'd made a list, or we would have been kicking ourselves at how much we'd forgotten to get. Actually, that proved to be the most efficient trip to Costco we've ever made.

Despite closing early, I'm glad we have the freedom to shop on Sunday. When I was in Norway, they have strict Sabbath laws that practically close down the country. Convenience stores and gas stations are allowed to open, and some touristy shops, but by-and-large you have to wait until Monday--even if you wanted that sweater or new CD NOW! One store that could stay open on Sundays was Midnight Video, a video store that wasn't too far from us that stayed open until--you guessed it--midnight. I remember breaking one mission rule, and not really obeying the spirit of the Sabbath when we would rent movies from that video store to watch on our day off, which was Mondays. Well, we'd take that seriously and consider our day off to start when Monday did--at the stroke of 12. We'd go to the video store around 11:45 or so on Sunday night and pick out a movie, but not pay for it until midnight--when it wasn't breaking the Sabbath anymore! Weren't we ingenious? We'd discovered a loophole that the 10 Commandments didn't address! (Please disregard the fact that we weren't supposed to be watching movies in the first place--and I can't remember offhand what we even rented, so for me to so easily forget, I'll assume they were all Disney animated films and nothing of a questionable or violoent nature.) We'd rush home with our treasure and make a big batch of brownies and get a REALLY early start on our day off. Now if I stay up past midnight, I'm dragging for a couple of days just to recover. Stupid aging!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Treadmill mishap

Don't you hate it when this happens? It's probably enough for that girl to never darken the door of a gym ever again. I remember one time at a summer camp, we were learning about measuring our metabolic rates and one of the students got on the treadmill when it hadn't slowed down all the way. The exact same thing happening as happened to this girl. It was hilarious (at least to us spectators--not for the guy.) The treadmill was up against a wall and it kept him from flying clear of the treadmill and he ended up sanding his forearms for a few seconds until the teacher could unplug the machine. For the rest of the summer camp, he had scabby reminders of the ordeal. And we had scabby reminders to taunt him.

Shave already

Every once in a while--like twice a week at least--I see someone on the bus that if I were ruder would get out my camera and take a picture. Two incidents this week had me wishing that I had one of those secret agent spy cameras, because what I saw made me cringe, and I just wish I could have shared the moment with the internets. Both of these incidents have to do with hair, but oftentimes they have to do with poor clothing choices, odd piercings, pornographic tattoos, or festering wounds. You never know what you're going to be entertained with when riding public transportation. Anyway, first incident: I learned first-hand why men with beards should shave below their jawline. A guy got on the train who just grew out a beard with maintaining it in any way--you couldn't tell where it ended. It wasn't long enough to just hang down like Santa's--it was just a solid mat that disappeared under his t-shirt. Talk about a missing link! Intelligent designers HATE when they come out in public. There's a guy at my gym who would have this problem, too, but he evidently took matters into the 21st century. The solution makes him look fine when he has a shirt on, but when he takes his shirt off, you can see that he's had electrolysis done on his neck and upper body to prevent gorilla back and chest from sticking out from his clothes. Well the effect in the locker room is a guy wearing a white dickie around his neck or one of those Elizabethan collars. Hopefully he's just saving up for the full procedure.

The second incident involved a guy who really needs a significant other to remind him to shave his neck. I sat down behind him on the bus and couldn't avoid looking at the mat of fur that came off the top of his head and disappeared down the back of his shirt. It was then that I was cursing my camera phone, because when you snap a picture, it makes a loud camera shutter sound--presumably to prevent people from secretly taking pictures of other people. Imagine someone who would do... oh wait. Oh well, you'll have to be content with the written descriptions.

If I ever fall victim of either of these problems, I hope someone will tell me. And at the rate that my hair is migrating off the top of my head, I'm sure I'm in a high-risk category.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

4th of July preparations

We've been thinking about getting out of town for the Fourth of July. I looked at a lake in eastern Oregon that has lots of cabins. Unfortunately there weren't any available, so we're still looking. It's probably for the best, as if we did find a vacancy, the area would be so crowded that it wouldn't have been enjoyable anyway.

Which reminds me of a Fourth of July my family spent one time in British Columbia. Ahh, nothing like celebrating America's independence by leaving the country. We stayed at a really nice provincial park and there was only one other group of Americans in the campground. The area was completely thick with crows that squalked us all awake every morning. Well, one morning, we heard the American kids laughing and causing a ruckus nearby, and when we walked over to them, they had started throwing rocks at a crow, hit one, and after it had fallen to the ground, continued to throw rocks at it, killing it. We were so disgusted--we ran them off, but it was too late. What a great way to foster international goodwill! At least we're doing a better job with fostering goodwill in Iraq... oh wait--never mind.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Diaper dash

Last night, we had to make a pilgrimage to Target and so we called our friends who just had a baby to see if they needed any formula, diapers, bourbon, or whatever. Well it turned out they did need diapers--evidently babies poop...A LOT! And they were running low. They asked for newborn, and when we got to the store, they had a size 1, which we thought must be the smallest they come in. When we got back with the diapers, they were way too big--who knew that the difference between a diaper for a 6-7 lb. baby and a 8-14 lb. baby would be so big?

I remember when my little brother and sister were in diapers and my mom used cloth diapers. Invariably there would be the complete blow-out diaper that had to be soaked before it could be put in the washing machine. I remember the pain of dashing into the house with a full bladder, only to open up the toilet and, horror of horrors, find a poopy diaper soaking in the toilet water!!! Since I was only 7 or 8, I did what any kid of that age would do--I just used the toilet anyway. In my little kid's brain, I figured that I was just dirtying the diaper up a little more and that mom would magically take care of it. No wonder disposable diapers have become such big business. If you're reading this, mom, I'd just like to say sorry.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Flashback to the 80's

Last night, we rented a DVD from the first season of Remington Steele. I remember watching that show religiously during those halcyon days of my youth. My brother and I even had goldfish named after all the cast members. Watching it last night, I realized that as a 10-year-old, the entire sexual innuendo going on was COMPLETELY lost on me. In the one episode we watched, there were THREE scenes where there is heavy breathing and moaning, only to have the camera pan over to Remington and Laura searching under the seats of a car or taking apart an engine. As a kid, I'm sure I just thought that those were the noises mechanic must make. Oh how naive was I! Well, in my defense, I DID grow up on a farm in Idaho!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cruel tease

This morning as I trudged into work, I read a quote from Luke Perry, who stars in that new series about the group of friends that win $389 million in the lottery and how despite saying that it wouldn't change them, it really does. He listed several things that he'd do if he won the lottery, including raise 1,000 head of cattle, build an arch bridge, and ride cross-country on a horse and write a book about it. That got me to thinking about what I'D do if I won the lottery--and not just travel, but actual random acts that always intrigued me. Like formulating my own recipe for a delicious cola that is even MORE refreshing than Coke or Pepsi. I'd only use cola beans harvested by monkeys, and sugar grown in special hydroponic tubs from Antarctica. Unfortunately each bottle will cost over $700, but once you taste it, you'd be willing to pay $750!

Well, when I checked my stocks this morning, I almost had a heart attack. This is what I saw when I logged in;

Needless to say, I'm used to this number being MUCH lower. At first I thought something happened over the weekend and that we were rich, Rich, RICH! Then I thought, "I'd better hurry and sell these stocks before they crash." Then reason took hold and I realized that there was a glitch in the portfolio tracking site. Now I should sue MSN: Money for the emotional and psychologial damage those 3 seconds inflicted upon me! I guess the world will have to continue its anticipated wait for Jeremy Cola another few years.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stupid Portland weather

Don't you hate it when you check the forecast and says overcast but no rain so you wear your shoes that have a split in the sole that you can't wear during wet weather because the water seeps in and soaks your sock so you only can wear them during dry weather and on the way to work it starts raining and you get to work with a wet sock? I hate it when that happens.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

One of those "disgruntled Mormon" pictures

This is a picture that Margaret took of me outside the St. George Temple. We weren't allowed inside since the management had already heard about what we'd done in Las Vegas the day before! So much for "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!" Anyway, I love this picture because it looks like one of those pictures you always see in the paper where someone has some problem with an organization so the photographer takes a low-angle shot of the person with an iconic building behind them. With that in mind, I'll caption this photo like this: "Jeremy's crusade to bring caffeinated Diet Pepsi to the Brigham Young University campus has put him at odds with church leadership. He claims the caffeinated Diet Pepsi is a 'metaphor for liberalism and free-thinking', both treasonous concepts likely to get him a church calling as Word of Wisdom enforcement officer or involuntary 'volunteer time' at the local Republican party call center."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The ill-fated weapon of mass destruction

Here's a picture of the tomahawk that was seized at the airport. We have four photos of us in various poses with it. That's all we got for our $20 (that and the memory of wielding that knock-off Aztec weapon, and fantasizing about single-handedly repelling the Conquistador invasion and preserving Montezuma's Aztec Empire only to be sacrificed to Queztocoatl in gratitude... What? Don't tell me you would have thought the same thing!). I love the kids in the background with their "look at the stupid American" expression. It was an expression we saw there, on the bus back into the city, on the subway, in the hotel lobby, and at the airport. I guess it was the Mexican equivalent of wearing those stupid foam Statue of Liberty hats. No self-respecting local would dream of getting within 5 feet of one of those things!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wrong turn

This past week, while in St. George, Utah, we took the opportunity to see some sights around the area. Normally when we go down there, we spend the whole time in Zion National Park, but with a whole week, we decided to see what else the area had to offer. Surprisingly we found more than the St. George temple, Brigham Young's winter home, and the St. George tabernacle (three sites on the Mormon history tour that we ended up visiting during our stay--partly because these sites were well-air conditioned and the temperatures while we were there were WAY past 100 degrees!) One day we planned a loop drive that would take us to Gunlock State Park, the Mountain Meadow Massacre site, Honeycomb Hills State Park, a ghost town, and some petroglyphs outside Cedar City, Utah. Anxious for a fulfilling Utah history tour, we carefully plotted the route and we got an early start, as we wanted to be in Cedar City around lunch time. Everything was going fine until we couldn't find a fork in the road that we were expecting. We drove and drove and DROVE--finally coming into a valley that was absolutely COVERED with joshua trees. Margaret looked at the map and noticed a point of interest on the map called "Joshua Tree forest." Unfortunately it was the other road than the one headed to Gunlock. At this point we were only a couple of miles from Arizona! We snapped a few photos of the forest, because it WAS impressive, and turned around and drove the 30 miles back towards St. George.

There's a tiny Indian reservation just outside the city, and we stopped and asked someone how to get to Gunlock. He told us directions and since it wasn't too far back, we decided to give it another try. My aggravation when we got to the fork in the road we were lead to was complete when I noticed something lying by the side of the road that I hadn't seen the first time we'd driven by it--yes, the road sign saying "Gunlock ->" At that point we were WAY behind schedule so we ended up only seeing the Mountain Meadow Massacre site and then rushing to Cedar City because we were starved. So much for our fulfilling Utah history tour. Our pioneer ancestors are probably rolling in their graves at our lack of desert navigation skills.

On the way back to St. George, we stopped at the northern part of Zion National Park to go on an afternoon hike. We started out, but the bugs were so bad that we were forced back into the car and ended up just appreciating the canyon from the air conditioned comfort of the rental car. This picture is one of the bugs in that canyon. We were driven away by biting flies, but if one of these hornets or wasps or insectoid alien-things or whatever it was were to sting us, I'm sure it would have been more like an injection than a sting. Notice the finger in the picture for size comparison! I wasn't even aware that bees could get that big outside of Starship Troopers!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Mexico CIty: Day 3

Sorry this is so late. We've been in Utah all week and while the condo we were staying in had wi-fi internet access, the antenna on my computer was shot. I desperately wandered around the place looking for the transmitter, as I could connect if I was within 3 or 4 feet of it. Alas, I never found it, so I was untethered from the internet for AN ENTIRE WEEK! Talk about withdrawals!

Any, the conclusion of our Mexico City trip: Day 3

On our third day of our trip, we planned on going to the National Museum of Anthropology. We decided to just pop in at McDonald's, since it was on the way to the subway station. We ordered an "Especialle" and it was great! The scrambled eggs had peppers, tomatoes, and onions in it, and it came with two "mollettes"--an english muffin spread with refried beans and topped with cheese, then toasted. It came with fresh salsa to put on it. The food was really good, but I couldn't help but feel totally typically American to come to a foreign country and eat at McDonald's. After breakfast, we hopped on the subway and made our way to the museum. We were supposed to get off on a stopped called Chapultepec. Since I just looked at the map and saw an unpronouncable Aztec word that started and ended with a "c", I had us get off at the Cuauhtemoc stop. When we came up to street level, we asked where the museum was and found out that we were too far away to just walk to it, so we had to get back on the subway--and were out another 36¢! Well, we finally made it to the museum and it was incredible. It was separated into the main groups from Mexico: Aztec, Toltecs, Mayas, etc. They had some amazing pieces of art, pottery, building, etc. Most of the signs were in Spanish, so I would just hop around hoping to find one of the few signs that was bilingual. Our guidebook recommened at least two hours at this museum, but we could have easily spent an entire day there. After a great lunch buffet at the museum (where they served some really colorful jell-o suspended in clear jell-o!) We headed back for some final souvenir shopping. We hit the streets again and Margaret got some shoes and a skirt from some guy under a tarp. We also stopped at the Merced--a GIANT market (claiming to be the biggest in Latin America) It was pretty overwhelming. I took off my backpack and was just carrying it in the front, because I didn't want to tip anything over with it. Some old lady gestured to me to put it back on signing someone snatching it out of my hands and running off. Fortunately nothing like that happened while we were there. It was funny, though, to see little old ladies selling stickers right across from booths selling hard-core pornography. When we finally got back to the hotel, it was dinnertime, so we unloaded our stuff and decided on a restaurant nearby that we'd found in the guidebook. Of course the restaurant was closed for renovations, so we wandered around and found a little local restaurant that was probably like a Denny's to the Mexicans--basic food and cheap. I tried something called a "huarache" that was really, really good--it was a thick corn pancake spread with refried beans and covered in green sauce. After dinner, I asked Margaret to order one of the cookies that they were diplaying up front. We couldn't remember the word for cookie in Spanish, and I told her that it was "biscuit" in French. She thought that the Spanish must be similar, so when the waiter came back, she ordered a "biscuit" and specified the one furthest to the left (since those were the sugar cookies that looked particularly good). The waiter looked really confused and couldn't believe that we were only ordering one to share, but Margaret pressed, and the waiter left and came back with, what else, a buttermilk biscuit! We got a good laugh out of it, and felt obligued to eat the biscuit.

Afterward, we made our way back to the hotel, where we got started packing. Everything fit except the obsidian tomahawk. We wrapped it up as well as we could, and decided to just get a box at the airport and check it separately. Well, the next morning at the airport, the airline said they didn't have any boxes that size and that they didn't have a problem with it being in the cabin. Unfortunately when we went through security, they said that the US security would not tolerate it and we could either go back and try to check it or relinquish it. Knowing that it would have been impossible to find a box at 4:30 in the morning in the middle of the airport, we gave up our cool souvenir. At least we had a couple of pictures of it to remember it by. What kind of paranoia have we reached when we're afraid that an Indian is going to take over an airplane with a tomahawk!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Fine print

I just got a refresher course for life lesson 47 in the chapter on purchasing: "if it's too good to be true, it probably is." While in the Mexico City airport, Margaret and I took advantage of the duty free shopping there. There were some great deals--like Mexican vanilla for a few dollars a bottle, or French cigarettes for quite expensive. One thing that caught my attention was a cologne that I really liked. After vacillating for a while, I picked up a small box and saw that it was only $25. Since the other colognes were in the $40 to $80 range, I thought that was is a real bargain and that clinched the deal for me and I decided to get it. Well, this morning while packing for our trip to St. George, I opened up the box to pack it and to my dismay found not a small bottle of cologne but a stick of deodorant! I paid $25 for DEODORANT?!? Sure enough, in a small font in almost the same color as the packaging, the box was unclearly labeled "deodorant stick." And to make matters worse, there's no way I can return the package, being that I got it in ANOTHER COUNTRY! Arg! Now I guess I'll just have to rub the deodorant all over my body in the hopes that it will replicate the effects of the actual cologne, since I checked online and that particular cologne won't be available in the United States for at least a couple more months. Now I know what the crushing disappointment that my Mormon pioneer ancestors found out that they had to colonize Emery County, Utah felt like.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day Two of the Frequent Flier Diaries

The second day in Mexico City started out a little better than the first one--primarily because we got more than two hours of sleep. We decided to go the easy route and get breakfast at the hotel again. At this point I was still a little leery about eating elsewhere. And once again the food was great (although the lack of Diet Coke forced me to drink coffee (which I don't really care for, but during the middle of a vacation is not the most opportune time for caffeine withdrawals--although I forgot to mention that on the first day, I tried a coffee drink that I'd read about in our guidebook called Caffe Olla, which was coffee that was sweetened and flavored by cinnamon. Upon reading the description, I had to try it and it was AMAZING! Margaret took a picture of me drinking some and I had a completely rapturous look on my face--if you've heard of "Better Than Sex Cake" Caffe Olla is even better than THAT!) Anyway, back to day two. We finished up breakfast and since we wanted to see the Aztec pyramids but didn't want to pay for a personalized tour guide that cost too much and went to several other places that we weren't too keen on visiting--like the Basilica of Guadelope, we went to the tourist information booth and got directions for getting there on bus. The instructions were pretty straight forward and game for saving $80 on tour guide fees, we decided to take the more adventurous route--and I'm glad we did. First off, the city bus to the regional bus station was quite an interesting ride, going through parts of town I would be having a heart attack in if we were on foot. When we got to the bus station, we bought our tickets to the pyramids: 54 pesos for the both of us (About $2.50 each!) The ride out of the city was so eye opening. We got to see the slums of the city and the houses that stretched as far as the eye could see that were almost exclusively built with cinder blocks. Some of them were carefully painted and had beautiful gardens, while others were on dirt roads completely surrounded by trash with only a tarp roof. A couple of times we saw people searching through piles of trash alongside the filthy river that ran through the area. It just blew me away that that abject of poverty could exist so close to America. It was then that it struck me at how much the illegal immigration problem makes sense. Here were people digging through trash holding their babies, scrounging up who knows what just to survive. I'm sure risking life and limb to sneak into the U.S. would seem like nothing after living like that. Despite being completely depressing, it was incredible to see and was actually one of the highlights of the trip for me.

After riding through the suburbs of the city for about 45 minutes, we started getting out into farmland and pastures. The fields of agave (for making tequila) and cactus (which they use in cooking) was quite different from the wheat and lentil fields of Idaho. Soon we could make out in the distance what looked like a small hill, but upon closer approach could see that it was one of the pyramids. I had no idea they were so big, but our guidebook said that the largest of them, the Pyramid of the Sun, has the same base as the Great Pyramid in Egypt, but is only half as high. That still made it over 200 feet high! We entered the park and started the mile-long walk up the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun. All along the avanue, there were people hawking items like masks, jewelry, statures, etc. It was like walking a gauntlet to get to the pyramid. And of course they were always taken aback that I didn't speak Spanish, thinking I was Mexican. When we were almost to the Pyramid of the Sun, one of the peddlers tried to sell us these big stone carvings of Aztec figures. Looking at the hundreds of steep steps that we were about to embark on, carrying an additional few pounds was the LAST thing we wanted to do (and by we, I mean ME, since I had the backpack. Climbing up the pyramid was an ordeal--the steps ranged from steep to vertical and fortunately was broken up into several tiers, or our hearts would have burst halfway up. Getting to the top, however, made the effort completely worthwhile. The view was amazing, but more than that, it was surreal to be standing on top of a structure that had been built thousands of years ago and knowing that thousands of people were sacrificed on the very spot we were standing. I have a list of things I want to see and do before I die, and seeing those pyramids was one of them and was an experience that I've wanted to do since I first learned about the Aztecs in grade school.

Walking back to the bus stop, we caved about bought a couple of souvenirs from the peddlers. Margaret bought a very cool obsidian war hatchet that had an obsidian blade at the end of it and had figures of snakes and an Aztec warrior with a carved obsidian face. I got a cool carved obsidian letter opener, but looked enough like a dagger that I was going to tell people it was a replica of the knife used to sacrifice victims to the rain god Tlaloc. We caught the bus back into the city, and I felt completely ridiculous walking around the bus station carrying that tomahawk, but we stuck out as Americans anyway, so I guess we just looked the part. After getting back and cleaning up, we went out to eat at a restaurant recommended in our guidebook that used to be a mansion of one of the conquistadors. It was a beuatiful building and the food was great (although a coke cost 15 pesos and a Diet Coke cost 19--I guess sugar is cheaper than Nutrasweet.

After the long day of riding the bus through the slums of the city and hiking to the top of an ancient Aztec pyramid, we didn't have much energy to do much besides stumble back to the hotel and go to bed.

The adventures and experiences on this day really opened my eyes to the fact that Mexico was a nation of Indians. Throughout the day, I saw many people that looked like tribal members that I know. It was weird, though, how much I could resemble them, yet feel so conspicuous in my clothes, language, and relative wealth. In some ways, I felt more conspicuous in Mexico around people I resembled than I did in Norway, amongst people who were blonde and blue-eyed. I'm sure it was me that was imagining the conspicuousness, too. I guess that's one of the great things about traveling, though; you learn just as much about yourself as you do about the locals. Maybe it was the feeling that a person's situation is so luck-of-the-draw. I could just as well have been born in the slums of Mexico City but through no effort on my part, I was born in the U.S. where I've never know hunger, homelessness, or despair. I certainly made me appreciate our life here in Portland, but it also made me hope for a day when such poverty doesn't exist. Maybe I should take a page from the life of Ché Guevara and help start a revolution!