Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Fiance Wants to be a Cowboy. So, SO badly.

He... really. I mean, look at this:
"I'm wearing this wide-brimmed hat because the sun never sets on a badass."
He never actually said that. But he SHOULD have.

We ventured out to Real de Catorce this past weekend, with our friends C&Y. Real is a town that has basically been frozen in time - it's surrounded by mountains on all sides (no joke, you drive THROUGH a mountain to reach it), blocking off a lot of advances you might be used to - like paved roads, reliable electricity, traveling by car, etc. It is a place that has some legitimate historical and religious significance to Mexico. If'n you ever get the chance, I highly suggest you check it out.

It's about a 5-6 hour drive (4 if you're driving with C, who has no qualms about breaking the sound barrier) from Monterrey, and we made the trek after Fiance got out of work on Friday. So we got there pretty late. If you clicked on that link above that takes you to the wiki page for Real de Catorce, you may have picked up that it is a great place to grow Peyote. This brings us to two really interesting observations:
  1. There are a ton of actual Hippies in Real
  2. If you show up at a suspicious time of day, like late at night, you will be met at the end of the tunnel by a swarm of military personnel with very large automatic guns, who want to make sure you've only got the best of intentions (they were very polite, but a long car ride always means I take a nap, and that was quite a wake up call). Anyway, we passed the drug inspection. Like you were worried we didn't.
There is a ton to see and do in Real, and we had just two short days (we stayed Friday night through early Sunday afternoon). Thankfully C & Y were great tour guides, and were happy to put up with our silly gringo tourist-isms (did you see that first picture of Fiance? he wanted to look authentic). I learned a lot. A LOT. And if I can be really honest right here? Like, 100% honest, they weren't exactly FUN lessons, but I am so thankful to have gotten them. In fact, here, let me teach you:

1. Mexicans will tell you that Real de Catorce is very cold, particularly at night. If you are hearing this as a person who grew up in the Frozen Tundra (c), you'll likely be all "cool, let me throw a sweatshirt in my bag." Dude. Cold was no joke. Along those same lines - there are no heaters in the Real de Catorce hotel rooms. Ha. How could you be so silly to think something so advanced as HEAT would be available to you, stupid American? Anyway, this is how I dressed for bed:
thats pj pants, two shirts, skiiing socks, and a sweatshirt with the hood up. which got neatly tucked under the two thick quilts on our bed. and I was STILL freezing.

It was a really nice room though, in an open-air hotel that was pretty and rustic. And had a bathroom in each room that with no ceiling so you could always hear very clearly what the other person was doing in there...

2. Goose down has NOTHING on Llama wool. Nothing. And even though we looked like matching-couple fools, I stayed warm after this purchase. Also, we didn't realize until after the picture that we totally bought a green and a red poncho.. perhaps this will end up as our Christmas cards.

3. Don't forget your hairbrush. Because Fiance will undoubtedly want to take like, a million photos of you, Glamour Shots By Deb style, and you will probably look pretty ratty for most (all) of them. Along those same lines, I learned Fiance can't take a flattering photo of me to save his soul.
Atop my own trusty steed (you don't call mares steeds, do you? well then atop my horse). Thank you for capturing me in only one photo on the horse, and making sure I have the most DERPY face ever in it.
As we arrived at the hotel Friday night. (approx. 11:30 PM) I actually kinda like that photo. I have no idea why.
4. If you become violently ill from eating authentic Mexican food, pepto bismol isn't going to do crap for you. (Ha. Crap, get it? Okay that was a super gross joke, sorry.) If it's Mexican food that made you sick, cowboy up and ask a Mexican for a Mexican remedy. I thought I was going to overdose on peptos in the span of four of five hours to absolutely no avail. But this stuff? Made me feel like a champ in about 15 minutes.

C is Catholic, and as such, grew up taking frequent trips to Real de Catorce. There are two churches there - once for the Virgin Mary, and one for St. Francis of Asisi. He was excited to share these places with us, and even more excited to share some of the legends that are associated with the spaces. My favorite is that St. Francis (San Francisco), cannot stand to be away from the Virgin Mary, and thus, even thought he has his own church, he (both his spirit and the literal statue of San Francisco) travels every night to stay close to her at HER church. The people move him back to his church each day, and the process repeats. It was a touching legend, and much less creepy than the one about the little ghost kid, so that's the one I'm going to share (trust me, the little statue of the ghost child gave me the icks, you don't wanna know).
This is the church of the Virgin Mary. I am so very sorry to admit that I was so wrapped up in hearing the legends associated with the place, I do not know the actual NAME of the church. The second photo is the moving statue of San Francisco, who was at the time, in Mary's church.

This is San Francisco's church. The path leading up to it is a really gorgeous and old cemetary. And since Día de los muertos was celebrated recently, there were hoards of beautiful and fragrant flower arrangements. It's a smaller church, but I liked it best of the two. It just seemed so humble and otherworldly.

I partly wish I had more photos of both spaces to share with you, but while I was there is just seemed so wrong to be snapping photos while others were there to legitimately share themselves with God. So you get four. You understand.

Real de Catorce, as previously mentioned, is nestled in a bowl of mountains. Coupled with the thin air that comes with mountains, and the roads that are not conducive to cars, that equals a lot of really good exercise trudging up and down the mountainside (literally UP and down. My butt got such a workout). But after about half a day, unless you're training for a marathon, you're probably ready to keel over and die. Cue the horses pictured above, which took us out to the first of two mines. There's gold in them thar hills folks. Well, not so much anymore really, but there were two gold and silver mines in the area, and we visited the remains of both.

The morning of the last day we visited the second mine, which is really my favorite part of the whole trip. The second mine is a bit further than you'd probably like to walk, so we hired a jeep. And the driver of the jeep -because we're not in the US where safety practices abound- was happy to tell us that we could climb on top of the jeep to ride down if we like. And we, because we're small children in adult bodies, were all like "Heck YES" (more Napoleon Dynamite, sorry, I'm in a mood today.) It was a beautiful, brisk morning, and the ride down the winding path along the mountain side was fraught with the kind of scenery that you thought only existed in your stock desktop images folder. It was also terrifying, because all that kept you from falling off the top of that jeep when it hit a bump, and hurtling down a couple hundred feet was your own hand-strength and the iron rails on the top of the car. Thank goodness for secure welding practices.

Just some of the view from the way down. Fiance has some great shots on his facebook page, because he was on inside side of the jeep on the way down, so wasn't holding on for dear life and could snap a few more photos. The second pic there is of the devil/demon/dragon (sorry, translating got weird here) that lives in the mountain. You can see his two tiny horns there, and the rest is the slope of his nose.

And then there was this spot where the driver just kind of yelled out the window to duck as he drove through.

When we got to the second mine, we were met by a little boy who informed us he could be our tour guide for 20 pesos (less than two dollars, why not?) He walked us to three different spots that were maybe 100 feet from each other, and mumbled some stuff about why each spot was important through a mouthful of sunflower seeds. But he also showed us this little waterfall right outside the mine, which apparently has very clean water. It was clear in the enthusiasm he exhibited in throwing himself to the ground, that this was his favorite part of his job:
I don't blame him, he did get a pretty enthusiastic reaction from us.
Totally earned his two bucks.

So... wow. There really was a lot to see here, much more than two mines and two churches, and I decided pretty early on that it was important to me to actually experience it instead of living it through a camera lens. But I did catch a few other spots:

another glamor shot, outside what is now a coin/ smelting museum. C told us that a few years ago, it was simply an old, empty building. And if the hotels were all full in Real when you came in to worship at one of the churches, you could sleep there. He had, in fact, done just that a few times.
This is the old cock-fighting ring. Now it hosts concerts (like, mariachi style concerts, no rock bands or anything). I do really love the obvious joke that Fiance went for with the boxing pose in this photo. Judge me if you must.

The only other thing I must mention about this trip, is I had my Spanish moment. The moment in which I realized that I would certainly not call myself fluent in Spanish by any means, but I have become confident that I CAN SPEAK IT. I taught C&Y, completely in Spanish, how to play Rummy 500. It was a fantastic feeling.

Have you studied abroad or visited a place with another language? Did you have this moment?

So that's Real de Catorce. I also have two smaller talking points that I don't have space for anywhere else, so if you care, here they are.

1. For those interested (or who just want to see a doodle), I have learned to back-comb my hair to hide the bald spot for the time being. That's right, I evolved from Donald Trump to Snookie (that is Not SFW really). I'm not ashamed, if you had a bald spot you'd do it too. (I'm totally ashamed.) That said, still taking recommendations on dealing with the bald spot.

2. Mac has a new trick to his repertoire. Which is the very short version to this thought-process: Monterrey is, sadly, not a real safe place. I think we've touched on this before. Mac being here, is not only so that he can stay a part of the family, but also because Fiance and I are both blatantly aware that I spend the better part of my time alone here. Mac, though a lovable puppy once you know him, is intimidating in looks and size. In the off-chance I need that quality in my pup, I want to have the confidence that I can call it up on cue. We also plan to teach him to "smile" on command, but for now... well, even with both of us knowing Mac very well, his bark is kinda crazy, isn't it?
If you're curious, he can also shake, high-five (or high-ten), moon-walk, take a bow, play dead when you "shoot" him, spin, and roll over. He's quite smart.

Mac is typically a very quiet dog, so this was a tough one to teach him. Do you have a pup? What's his coolest trick?

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