Monthly Archives: May 2011

fighting to make friends

we jumped on a tour bus yesterday and did the whole tourist thing for awhile.  saw some monuments, museums, giant landmarks and met a few new people.  since the city doesnt feel fit to trim the trees that line the streets of the city, we were constantly cautioning each other to duck as a branch whizzed by our heads.  some branches got the best of some tourists who failed to heed the cautions, sometimes much to our entertainment.  what?  branches smacking people in the face is rather funny.

my girlfriends little brother got accepted to university for the fall (congrats ya little gaffer) so we decided to celebrate.  we went to a greek restaurant just down the road from our apartment for dinner.  not  even five minutes there and already we had heard at least a couple dozen plates broken.  we learned quickly that it wasnt because the wait staff was especially clumsy but that it had something to do with greek tradition.  we asked our waiter if we could get in on the fun. three plates were promptly brought to our table.  first, they said, we had to dance with them.  so there, in the middle of the restaurant we were taught how to greek dance.  i have the embarrassing pictures to mark the event.  when all the dancing had been had, we got to breaking plates.  those greeks know how to have a good time.

full of good greek food and funny greek memories, we moved on looking for a place to dance with some locals.  being the only white foreigners in most spots we ventured into made me feel more like i was an animal in a zoo than just another patron.  possibly a giraffe.  we bounced around to a few places trying to find the right atmosphere and more space (they really like to cram themselves like sardines into places).  we found a small, chill reggae bar near our place and chose to relax there.  everything was going great until out of nowhere someone pushes me.  i turn to see a large, angry mexican hombre yelling something at me in his native tongue.  within seconds theres half a dozen people standing between us using more words i dont understand and your basic sign language to calm the situation down.  theres a brief stare down and the angry mexican walks away.

im fuming mad at this point and trying desperately not to go after my would-be assailant.  fight or flight has kicked in and flight doesnt seem to be on my radar.  my girlfriend continues to pull on my arm and plead with me to leave the bar.  i do and we see her little brother off in a cab back to his hotel.  as we walk back past the reggae bar we see the couple who intervened to stop the fight and stop to talk with them.  they apologize for their friends actions and are very warm and kind.  they introduce themselves and we get to talking.  good people.  out of nowhere my would-be assailant comes out of the bar and heads straight towards me.  but instead of engaging me with fists he places his right hand out and in broken english apologizes for his actions.  didnt see that one coming.  he explains in spanish how sorry he is and kat translates for me.  he offers to buy us a drink as a small token of reconciliation and we accept.  we end up enjoying the rest of our night talking with my brief mexican enemy and the couple who proved to be great peacemakers.

as we’re parting ways at the end of the night, the guy who acted as peacemaker (i dont know how to spell his name) takes off his necklace and offers it to me.  he explains through kat that his girlfriend had recently picked it out for him as a token of their love and that he wanted to share that as one new friend to another.  he explained that he felt a strong connection between us and wanted to send me back to canada with something meaningful from mexico.  he didnt want our image of mexico to be that of violence but that of love.  i asked the two of them if they happened to have fallen from heaven earlier and they laughed.  he pointed skyward and said its all for him.  i smiled and nodded in agreement.  it is ALL for him.

we hugged and said goodbyes for about ten minutes, exchanged numbers and contacts and planned to meet up again before we left mexico to head back to canada.  kat and i both walked home, smiles pressed firmly on our faces, still reeling from everything that had just transpired.

just another day in mexico city.

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lust and ted

not much sleep today again.  argh..  zombies sleep better than me.

i woke up this morning and saw it staring me in the face as if to say, ‘are you going to read me now or what?’  a book i promised myself to read has been sitting there collecting mexican dust (or pollution) on the shelf for too long now.  i throw on some clothes, grab the grumpy book and head out into the mexico sun.  i venture into the neighbourhood and find a park bench along one of the walkways.  there i sit under the shade of the trees and, rather excitedly, get back into my book.  however, a problem arises: theres too much foot traffic for a keen people watcher like me.  my eyes are ripped from the page every time a new creature moves by my view of sight.  i say creature and not person because people arent the only things catching my eye.  dogs of all shapes and sizes running up and down the path vie for my attention and im all too happy to oblige.  small lizards dart past my feet and up the nearby tree daring me to chase them.  im more than half tempted.  birds swoop and dive in random fashion singing all the while.  this is far too distracting a place to read for a self-diagnosed add patient.
a pretty girl in a flowery dress passes by.  she darts across the street in front of a few cars and a man on a motorcycle.  its the latter mans reaction that catches mine.  for almost 40 feet his head turns to continue looking at the girl in the flowery dress.  thats 40 feet with his head turned while driving his motorcycle in mexican traffic.  hes either really smitten or nuts, but most likely both.  ive already seen his reaction a million times over since i arrived here two weeks ago.  ive seen it in taxi drivers, bartenders, businessmen, policemen and any other occupation or non-occuptation a man might hold here.  whether they realize it or not, or simply care nothing to hide it, their eyes burn holes through women (not literally).  if lust could burn for real, youd see it here in mexico city.  now, to be fair, canadian men do take in their fair amount of glances on the opposite sex.  its not the same here.  here casual glances are replaced by blatant, in-your-face, lustful stares.

a quick look through the city and its apparent why.  no guess-work needed.  walking by any one of the thousands of magazine stands in the city you are bound to see a lot of two things: sex and violence.  dirty and smutty magazines are plentiful enough to garner their own sections while the most heinous violent acts make front page news, graphic included.  just the other day i saw a woman, her head blown to pieces, on the front page of one of the major newspapers.  sitting close by that picture sat barely clothed bodies of women wrapped in plastic magazine covers.  the two images coupled together.  now im no fancy psychology or political expert (i just pretend to be) but it seems to me that this culture is indoctrinated to objectify the female and desensitize everyone the use of violence.  its scary, really and something im not sure many inside the culture are aware of.  (note: i just arrived two weeks ago so im not sure how valid my experience is)  children growing up in this environment are exposed and forced to accept these sinister characteristics as ‘normal’.  women who dress for comfort because of the heat are subject to demeaning stares and comments.. or worse.  i researched online a bit and found that six in ten women have experienced sexual violence in their lives.  60% seems like a pretty high number, no?  a chilling thought, especially when my girlfriend studies here at the present.  my very pretty girlfriend who unfortunately is at the end of many of the stares described above. i guess i better start practicing my kung fu more.  self note: search craigslist for ‘numchucks’ after writing this blog.

despite that, i really like it here!  all the people ive met have been incredibly friendly and inviting.  even though my spanish isnt what some would call ‘fluent’ (i can count to ten!) people have been patient while i stammer around looking for the right words. i dont want to knock mexico or even mexican people.  not at all.  this is simply an observation from a disturbed foreigner staying in a foreign country with disturbing cultural tendencies.

thats all.

lucas + mexico = awesomeness

ps. theres a spider that lives in my shower.  i named him ted 4 days ago.  its a beautiful friendship.

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riot policia, park chess and grocery delivery boys

its been almost two weeks now in mexico city for me.  the days are getting hotter though the locals dress like its winter.  i walk past three-piece suits in my flip-flops, shorts and cut-off shirt.  me, dripping sweat while they look as cool as cucumbers.  im not sure what their secret is.  ice in their underpants?

as im sure most know, soccer (aka. futbol) is huge down here.  its not surprising to see a kid or two dribbling a ball down the sidewalk or a game on as you pass a restaurant or bar.  the university team won the championship a couple of days ago and the whole city went bonkers.  literally.  people hanging out windows waving flags, drinking beers and honking horns, a couple dozen people per pickup truck (no joke), all geared up in their soccer jerseys.  if i hadnt known better i would have sworn they had all won the lottery.  we went downtown to where everyone was celebrating to take in the festivities.  millions and millions of people packed into the streets waiting with intense anticipation for the tour bus carrying their futbol heroes.  when they finally arrived it was like a rock band had just hit the stage.  in order to prevent chaos hundreds, if not thousands of police were called into keep order.  ive never seen so many riot police before, shields and all.  things got a bit testy in some spots but for the most part things went smoothly.  i convinced some riot police to let me take a picture with them.  in broken english they surprisingly said yes.  nice policia.

we went to a giant park near our neighbourhood to explore and catch some rays.  we found a group of locals playing chess and were beckoned to join.  a six-year-old little mexican boy by the name of martin challenged kat to a game (smart boy).  he says something in spanish, she laughs and the game ends.  i ask her what he said.  ‘he told me i was dead.  i got trashed talked by a six-year in chess’.  she piggy backs him around for a bit while i take revenge on his older brother.  booyah!  next stop in the park was sleeping garden.  a cornered off spot in the park equipped with music, fluorescently painted lounging benches and stacks of books.  we picked a bright yellow bench and relaxed.  i think i may need to introduce this to canadian culture when i get back.

deciding that eating out every day was probably not a good budgetary plan, we hit up the superama grocery store to fill our little 2 x 2 foot fridge.  we went a little overboard and bought too many groceries and found ourselves at 11pm with a kart full of groceries and no cab to bring us home.  a young mexican guy who worked at the store must have seen the look of puzzlement on our faces and intervened to help.  he convinced his boss to let him bring our groceries home for us then bring the kart back.  ive never seen such hospitality from someone i had never met before.  we talked as he pushed our kart down the middle of the street, cars dodging us as they sped by.  his english was pretty good so we were able to talk about everything from sports to weather in canada.  thanks, benjamin.

tonight im off to a small (tiny more like it) local bar where they actually put basketball on their tvs and not soccer.  at least some people here watch good sports!

ps. completely unrelated but still very much important.. please pray for the people in joplin, missouri who are literally rebuilding their lives today after a massive torando ripped their town to shreds.  article attached below.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1389737/Joplin-MO-tornado-At-89-dead-twister-cuts-4-mile-swathe-Missouri-town.html

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la vida en mexico

apparently, im a giant.

walking through the streets of my new neighbourhood in mexico city, one whisper turns groups of heads.  at six-foot three inches i never felt that tall back home in canada.  i always saw my height as pretty average, especially having grown up playing basketball with friends who were much taller than i.  here in mexico city, im pretty much a skyscraper.

we spent the second night in mexico outside the city at a birthday party for a guy who was a friend of a friend of a friend.  i had been slightly apprehensive since my spanish is still at the beginner level and was worried that conversations might be hard to come by.  boy, was i wrong.  with the help of a few translators and our own made up sign language, i was able to talk with anyone i wanted to.  i talked at length with mexicans and other foreigners about everything, from mexican culture and politics to why i shouldnt drink the tap water.  mariachis (mexican band wearing suits) showed up and the party kicked it up a notch.  guitars, violins and jovial singing broke out.  people know how to throw a birthday party in mexico!

the switch from dollars to pesos has been interesting, to say the very least.  seeing your basic sandwiches and burgers for 120$ on the menu at first was a bit weird.  taxis are super cheap here (a couple bucks usually) and the drivers are quite the characters so we’ve been using those often.

though i havent seen many homeless yet, 1.6 million children are orphans in mexico.  i still cant wrap my head around that number.  women mostly panhandle here with their little children wrapped under a blanket with them.  theyre mostly ignored for passerbys.  its enough to make you want to cry..

i need to go hydrate now.  im still trying to get used to this heat.

adios a mexico (bye from mexico)

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latin america or bust

adios, canada.

im sitting here in vancouver airport listening to audio spanish lessons while i wait for my flight to board. i have awhile to wait seeing as i got here plenty early. 3 hours early. better than late, i suppose. the voice of the woman speaking spanish through my headphone is starting to annoying me. the man sitting across from me is giving me funny looks as i try to mouth the proper pronunciation. i think i need a nap.

in 12 hours ill be stepping out of a plane and into a city of 22 million people. im leaving behind the rainy days of may in vancouver for the heat and humidity of mexcio city. i feel thats a fair trade for me. im ready to have a decent tan, wear shorts with flip-flops and enjoy some fine mexican cuisine. more than that, im looking forward to spending some time outside the western norm. see what life outside the western bubble looks like. im looking forward to learning the intricacies of the spanish language, bartering back and forth with street vendors and playing some futbol in the dirt with some street kids. im sure ill find some homeless friends along the way as well.

wish me luck and fire a few prayers up for me when you have a chance.

here i come, mexcio..

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one simple question

i want to pose one simple question and see what people think:

what is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

ok, two simple questions..

do you think you could be the one that makes that change?

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an ode to my mom

i remember one year i made this ‘contraption’ for my mom on mothers day. it was a kleenex box if i remember right. i cut a window in it, placed a scroll of paper inside with a handle on the outside that turned the paper. on the scroll i wrote how much i loved my mommy. pictures included, too.

id like to say ive stayed that creative since then ( i was 7 at the time) but im pretty sure thats when i peaked. ive never been able to top that. not sure i could.

this year a continent of land sits in between my mom and i. i cant spend it with her and thats disappointing. so my thanks and love will have to be through words and not hugs.

for the record – my mom is awesome. that big kind of awesome that trumps all your parents awesome. i remember seeing a shirt one time that read: my dad can beat up your dad. i think i need to get a shirt that instead says: my mom is more awesome than your mom.

i remember her picking me up at my elementary school for lunch to take me to wendys for lunch (i loved wendys) just because she wanted to be with me and see my big smile when i got my frosty.

i remember her putting me in as many sports as she possibly could, sacrificing whatever she had to do it. she would be the loudest cheerleader on the sidelines, running up and down the court or field following the play.

i remember her waking me up in the middle of the night to go lay in the backyard to stare at stars together, talking about God, life and love. sometimes we would wonder aloud if the object we saw move in the sky was a ship from another planet. our imaginations were similar.

i remember all the books we read before bedtime, camping on the beach and making up our own board games (which were better than the ones we bought!).

i was a lucky boy growing up and im a lucky man today.  i wouldnt be who i am today without her.  im lucky to be able to say that my mom has been my best friend.

thanks, mom.

i love you.

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let the marriage jokes begin..

voices carry a lot in joes new house, so when i woke up early on saturday morning i could easily overhear him talking on the phone with someone about ‘the big day’. you wouldnt tell it by talking to him. he remained calm and collected as per usual. according to joe, the past year since he had proposed to stacy has flown by faster than he had anticipated. not too fast though. now we stood in his kitchen eating mini wheats and drinking timmys a mere 3 and half hours before the big moment. i asked him how nervous he was and he shrugged his shoulders. ‘whats there to be nervous about?’

oh, just the whole ‘marrying someone and being with them for the rest of your lives’ thing. he faked calm better than anyone else id ever met.

youtube saved the day early on, though id like to take all the credit. there were 5 guys in the house and no one knew how to tie a tie properly. typical, right? a few clicks and a 6 minute demo later i was well on my way to tying some pretty slick double windsor knots. lucas + youtube = unstoppable.

the ceremony was incredible. never been part of or seen a better wedding in my life. eat your heart out british monarchy! maybe im slightly biased since both bride and groom are two of my closest friends. i may or may not have actually welled up a bit at points during the ceremony. guess im just a sucker for love, eh?

pastor fred leans over to joe and whispers, ‘i dont care what all those people across the world were calling that wedding over in britain. this is the real royal wedding’.

after the ceremony came pictures of the wedding party. picture after picture after picture.. 2000 pictures later (!!!) all the guys were starving (mini wheats didnt cut it) so we took off for burgers and milkshakes at a 50’s diner, our faces partially cramping from smiling so much. the things you do for your friends.

reception was amazing. great food, great emcee and much love. being the best man meant i had to give my first ever speech at a wedding. in classic lucas form i waited till the night before to write my speech, still convinced i work better under pressure. deciding not to fully roast them both (lord knows i could have!) i decided on a half roast/sentimental speech. im a nice guy like that. it garnered a few laughs, a couple sigh’s and a few ‘huh’s’. editing what you write is clearly important. who would have thought?

my best friend and my other very good friend are now married. the two of them really couldnt be better for one another which makes it that much better.

congrats joe and stacy. praying that the two of you have a wicked awesome long and fruitful life together. and i hope i can be there to celebrate life with you.

ps. i caught the garter!

pss. im not sure if thats a good thing or not..

psss. i just looked it up. oh man..

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