Wednesday, 26 November 2008

International Buying Nothing Day

International Buying Nothing Day, held annually [...], exists to try to remind people that those seemingly innocent purchases add up to poverty in the developing world and environmental problems for the planet.
"People like to think when we buy something, we're helping the economy, but the idea we're also killing the planet is not something they've thought about."
Kalle Lasn, author of Culture Jam and co-founder of Adbusters magazine
Researchers often liken the different shopping behaviours of men and women to hunters and gatherers: men go out to "kill" an item they need right now, while women "gather" items for future needs, whether tomorrow's dinner or next year's Christmas gifts.
The European Environmental Agency [sic] concluded in 2003 that European environmental progress is at risk from the "unsustainable economic development" of consumerism.

from holland herald

Stopping Overshopping

Mission statement and Vision
— it's as simple as this

It's from Ecoturismo Comunitario Capulalpan in Capulalpan de Méndez, state of Oaxaca, Mexico. A tiny company run by an Indigenous community. Who knows what it wants — clear and simple. And therefore fulfillable and doable. A lot of companies and public services can learn from that.

Simple as that.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Vildledende overskrift

Så har ritzaus journalister igen ikke gjort det, de får penge for, tilfredsstillende. I denne artikel får de det til at lyde, som om Hoffenheim med ti mand slog Köln. Sandheden er, at Köln faktisk fik en mand udvist inden Hoffenheim gjorde.

Jeg forstår ikke, at ritzau kan have danmarksmonopol som nyhedsbureau.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Wherever I Lay My Hat ― That's My Home

Puebla, 11 November

The above chorus, from a wonderfully atmospheric Paul Young hit, is actually about being a 'man of the World' in terms of women; but I will use it in terms of, well, the World.

Yesterday evening felt like an anticlimax. After fifteen exciting, tightly packed, intense, and very inspiring days in Oaxaca ― I have not spent that long time in one place since my childhood when My expat Family went to the, er, pat during almost every school holiday to see further family and friends and acquaintances ― I had an enjoyable ride in a comfortable leaned-back seat of a surprisingly quiet coach (they played DVD after DVD but are smart enough to offer headphones for people to hear the sound) through semi-highlands to Puebla. A 4½-hour ride, meaning it got dark by halfway, so I turned to my DVD too, watching it on my laptop. All of it very pleasant, and I felt I said goodbye in a good manner, and with a sensation of completion.

Then came the anticlimax. My hotel in Puebla. I don't know what it was. They gave me a suite, i.e. a very big room on the corner. Probably because I arrived late and they only had that room left. There was just something about this place, know that feeling? I(t) felt uncomfortable, uninviting, not right.

And this to an extent that I felt like getting out of this town as soon as possible. Just do my 29 assignments for V!VA, estimated as three days' work, and go somewhere else, though I had not planned to.

But morning comes. With it, the Sun. (Actually, it's more like the other way round, but you get the picture). And with that, a light and bright and new-day look at things. So much that I got nothing done, nothing. Except from finding a hotel that does have WiFi ― I used to write that 'wi-fi' but V!VA wants it this way so I might as well practice ― in the rooms themselves. That was another thing that's wrong with the first hotel, only WiFi in the reception area, and not for free despite what it says on, and it actually didn't even work! So I have booked a room at that other one, Hotel Santiago it's called, from tomorrow night. Too polite to cancel the second night of my 2-night booking at the first place. It's called Hotel Aristos by the way, might as well mention it. As the last typing space I'll waste on that place.

Appropriate name, Santiago. 'Cause it reminds me of the first place I ever set foot outside Europe in my adult life. Santiago de Chile, something like 7 years and 11 months ago. My very first photo was one of Chile's flag blowing in the wind just outside the airport.

And Latin America became a drug. Only in two of the last eight years have I not gone there. And in both years, something was missing. Again, that thing you just cannot explain, only in this case it's positive.

Tonight, I had another encounter with Chile. I still have to find out what the relation is, but the café just on the other side of the street from the (first) hotel, Teorema it's called, I could see it from my window, serves Chilean empanadas, and inside, Chile's and Mexico's flags hang on the wall together as in friendship.

It's a very cosy little place (sorry, V!VA, USAmerican spelling: cozy), guests are surrounded by book and CD shelves, and there is live music every night. I went there for dinner with the book I'm reading, to relax after my relaxing day and before preparing my busy (not buzy, oddly enough) day tomorrow. As a matter of fact I'm just on page fiftysomething of my first of four books I intended to read on this trip. That's how buzy it has been.

So the day ended the opposite of yesterday. After enjoying my meal, my book, the place, the music, I strolled out in the streets instead of just crossing over to my hotel. Walked slowly, just enjoyed the warm air, the certain calm that even a noisy/noizy Latin American 1.5-million city can have in evening backstreets, and life.

What I mean to say with all this, for those who have managed to actually read this far (drum roll and applause, respect!), is that things are what you make them, and not always what they seem. I could live here. Maybe not Puebla, but Latin America. Somewhere. Feel at home in most places. Somehow.

Wherever. Home.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The travel writing boot camp so far ― and
These little things that make your day

Oaxaca, (Monday 3 through) Thursday 6 November

'Intensive' is the first word that comes to mind. It is interesting, inspiring, sometimes slightly frightening but in any case motivating and exciting. One thing is what we learn, not many surprises there, apart from my English not being quite as good as even I thought. Another thing is getting out there in the afternoons and actually do the research, visit places, jot down notes and then write. And re-write, cut down on words, re-read, and finally submit. And then receiving critique, or useful feedback for improvement as I experience it.

Apart from what I submitted in yesterday's blogpost, here's what I've written so far:
Two blocks south of Zocalo, Hotel Casa Cue is close to everything and yet on a spot not overrun by tourists. There is free and reliable wifi in the lobby but do bring a sweater if you get carried away surfing, as the main door is always open. If only rooms facing the street are available, try to get one facing Aldama rather than noisier Miguel Cabrera. And superstitious souls need not worry - instead of a room 13, there is a room Y2K. Good value, especially as prices are not higher during peak season.

If you like art, Parador Monte Carmelo might be your choice. The restored mansion has spacious rooms with rustic wooden doors and furniture, including the king-size beds. Ornamented iron chairs and tables furbish both the large patio with its stone fountains, and the even larger terrace with a view on the Santo Domingo temple, just two blocks away. There is even a gallery shop presenting local art. Service is smiling and very friendly. Only hatches: Unstable wifi and blown-up prices during peak season.

These are the texts as I submitted them. I link to the improved ones once I publish them on V!VA Travel Guides' website. The concept is actually better than for any other travel guide I know: As each book is printed on demand, meaning it does not physically exist when you order it on but is printed specially for you, guides are updated every 6 months!! Plus it's based on the experiences of many contributors, and only companies actually recommended by V!VA are offered to advertise. In other words, those who get good reviews can advertise ― not the other way round… A good way to run and finance a product on a market with fierce competition.

Competition must be fierce among travel writers as well. A lot of people dream of that: see the World, and earn money by doing so. Therefore, it is a buyer's market, and especially two or three of my fellow boot camp students are really good. I mean, they're all good, but some really should earn their living this way. What's funny is that two of the other students are half Danish (without speaking it though), and another one is from former Danish colony Saint Croix in what is now the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And there's another European as well, from the Isle of Man! When I heard, my reflex was to say: 'You know Rick Wakeman then!?'. And she does, almost, she knows his daughter! To add to the coincidence, I was wearing my Yes T-shirt (the one I'm gonna get rid of, as it is too used, like all the clothes I brought) today, of all days, when I meet someone who knows my favourite band's keyboard player's daughter.

That's the little big thing that made my day.

Life as a travel writer-to-be

Oaxaca, Tuesday 4 November

Yes I know, there are a few days of my trip I have not yet blogged about ― I will catch up very soon. It has just been so intense that time barely allows me to relax, let alone blog.

Today, I learned how important doing pre-visit research can sometimes be. On day 2 of the guidebook writing boot camp, the afternoon's assignment was to review two activities, activities being defined as something visitors can spend their time doing (excluding eating and sleeping).
I already had two ideas in mind: the Coffee Growers Association of Oaxaca (Coordinadora Estatal de Productores de Café de Oaxaca ― CEPCO), whose address the Reality Tour's interpreter Jason had given me as a visit there was not included in the tour, and the petrified waterfalls that I had seen on a poster in a tour operators window.

So as soon as we were released from class, I ventured out in the Sun into the not-at-all touristy streets North of the centre to find CEPCO. Turned out to be further away than expected, and when I finally got there, all I could find at the address was a building site. Luckily, a car with the Ita-Teku logo (a model farm; the name means 'Flower Of Life') showed up, and I asked its driver whether I was at the right place and could visit. I could, and I did have a talk with one of his colleagues in the office inside what had looked like a building site ...only, there was actually nothing to see. It would be possible to visit some of the plantations but not for tourists. So nothing for the guidebook assignment here. Still, I did not leave totally empty-handed (or rather -headed) as I got some information about the whole organic coffee growing and fair trade business, which can turn out useful for my professional future.

Heading back towards the centre, I popped into this really plain and good and friendly and ridiculously cheap restaurant. I later used it for a review ― here's the draft:

For cheap and excellent local fare, try La Casona de la Abuela in Colonia Reforma, a little out of the centre. In return you get friendly and fast service and a lunch menu of the (week)day with three starters and three mains to choose from, as well as a small dessert and fruit water ― all of it for $3. The modest size of the place along with its red-brick floors, dark-wood furniture and a couple of black-and-white photos of Oaxaca buildings create a cosy atmosphere. It is all very clean, including the toilets, which even have seats. The oversized television is always on, competing with the occasional busker.

It must have been about then, while sitting at the table reading the copies I had made from a German and a French guidebook, both borrowed from colleagues, that I discovered that I could not review the other activity I had intended to, either. We had been given five or six that were already reviewed. On this list was something called Hierve el Agua, and it turned out this is the name of those petrified waterfalls. Damn. At least I got a 'free' restaurant review. What's more, when l left the place, I saw a house on the other side of the street decorated with a nice drawing of a toucan. The green party! Wow! Interesting that they do have one here. Cross street, enter house, improvise Spanish, ask for brochure (some story that I'm a member of Los Verdes de mi país, Luxemburgo), got brochure, and smiles, out of house, continue downtown.

The great thing about those chessboard city designs they have in the Americas is that you can just zigzag in the general direction you want to go in, and you'll usually end up in the right place. And if not, you just zigzag back a few blocks. This also allows you to venture down unknown streets without the risk of getting lost like you would almost inadvertently in Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Brussels. Heading downtown brought me to a big crossroads where there was a big stadium on one corner. I asked some teenage boys whether it was fútbol. No, it was béisbol. ¿Hay un, eh, match hoy? I jumped on the opportunity to use it for my activity review. But damn, they're between seasons. Continue venturing.

OK, what else is in those guidebooks, lemme see. Oh, a museum for graphic art. Sounds interesting, and it's in the centre. Looking for it, I passed the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, and saw that the last tour of the day was in ten minutes. Cool, and the museum only closes in three hours, I have my two activities!

So I thought, 'cause I used the ten minutes to just go'n'see what this Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca looked like from the outside, and guess which single day of the week it's closed! Right, Tuesdays!! Actually, it didn't even annoy me that I don't know any swearwords in Zapoteco. I just took things as they came, and were. As a travel writer, like I guess with most other roles and situations in life, you gotta cope and take things as they come.

The Jardín Etnobotánico was actually quite interesting, and good for my Spanish too. I did the tour with a fellow student who had suddenly shown up, also in need of a last way out ― the next day it turned out we were four out of ten who had written about that garden. Here's what I submitted:

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca
Moving a massive 1000 year old cactus includes putting a newsprint ball on every single spike. This Biznaga as it is called is a highlight of the garden's impressive collection of 9500 cactii and other plants, covering 450 different species. Located in the Santo Domingo temple's backyard, the garden is a pleasant place for a relaxing walk away from the city streets. Visits are only possible as guided tours. For those with a decent level of Spanish, tours are more frequent, half the price but also half as long (one hour) as the English tours which are only three times a week.

As we have to keep reviews down to 80 words as a guideline, there will always be interesting facts that you have to leave out. It's called 'kill your babies' (some say 'darlings'). One of several things I don't even mention is the next-door Hemeroteca Pública de Oaxaca "Néstor Sánchez H." where people can read local and national newspapers and magazines for free, they just have to register. I somehow found that pretty cool, and a Galería de periodistas ilustres de Oaxaca decorate the walls in the two small reading rooms, which are open every day from 9 to 20. Amazing. In fact, the french guidebook mentions the place!

So what about my second review? No Fair Trade coffee plantation to visit, the petrified waterfalls have already been reviewed, the baseball season is over slash hasn't begun, and the graphic arts museum is closed today. Good that I was here last week. So I wrote about the organic mezcal producer, cutting down the below blogpost to:

Mezcal Real Minero
Chicken breast liquor anyone? Mexico's only producer of organic mezcal markets this and six other varieties, and offers guided tours. They are in Spanish and led by Graciela Ángeles Carreño who runs the family business. On appointment, she will take groups of at least five through all phases of cultivation and production. The very interesting tour includes visiting the agave fields and the palenque where distillation takes place, as well as tasting three types of mezcal, a hearty lunch and a small gift. Decide in advance who will drive the 40 km back to Oaxaca.

It's an intensive course, an intensive life as a student…

Monday, 3 November 2008

The secrets of the agave and the ambiguity of cemetery tourism

Oaxaca ― Ocotlán de Morelos ― Santa Catarina Minas ― Oaxaca ― Xoxocotlán ― Oaxaca, Friday 31 October

It is difficult to find an appropriate title for today's ― short ― article. The two main events were a visit to an organic mezcal producer and to a cemetery on Day Of The Dead.

Dating back to Prehispanic times, mezcal is a distilled liquor made on agave, or maguey as the plant is also called. Yes, tequila is a type of mezcal, but Oaxaca's indigenous will tell you that this highly commercialised drink is no way near the quality of the mezcal produced in Santa Catarina Minas by Productores de Mezcal Real Minero.

The Global Exchange group went there after breakfast in Ocotlán and had a very interesting guided tour by highly knowledgeable Graciela Ángeles Carreño through all phases of cultivation and production of the family's organic mezcal production. There are 14 different sorts of agave. They only blossom once, and for some sorts it takes 30 years. This also means that you can only harvest their fruits once, and you actually can make use of the entire plant.

What is also interesting is that Mezcal Real Minero cooperates with other local producers from all over Mexico, in order to have a common quality label, Real Minero being the only organic producer though. One of the customers is the governor of Oaxaca… which is kind of tragicomic, as he is not exactly supporting the indigenous people.

Mezcal Real Minero comes in many varieties, the most surprising probably being the 'chicken breast' variety. Yes, apart from different fruits that are actually in the mezcal while it is heated for 24 hours, a chicken breast also delivers to the taste, without being in the mezcal itself though.

After an excellent lunch at the family Ángeles Carreño's, and tasting of a few of the varieties, I finally got to buy postcards and stamps back in the city of Oaxaca. As it had become rather urgent to send some of the cards, for example one was a birthday card for yesterday, I stayed in the post office writing the cards, so I could send them immediately, mailboxes not being exactly a common sight in the streets of Oaxaca.

While I was writing, more and more young people came in, preparing and putting on their costumes for the Day Of The Dead Celebrations. Again, a bit like carnival, which is not really my thing ― but the costumes here seemed genuinely homemade, and this very well. As always with one predominant theme: death.

In the evening, after another simply delicious dinner at a local home, we got to finally see this unusual and impressive celebration in Xoxocotlán, a Mixtec community. There was an exhibition of big sand paintings. Theme: death. They were very colourful and imaginative. The most impressive experience though was visiting the cemetery. Imagine a cemetery at night, every grave decorated with bright orange flowers, candles and skulls. Some of them with relatives sitting at the side. Add a multitude of tourists with flashing lenses, and big boots of which only the few tried to step between the graves instead of walking over or even on them.


Glossary: spices = especias

Beetle count: 314 (thereof just 5 'New Beetles')

Today I will not explicitly ask you to vote.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Helping a radio station, eating grasshoppers, and dealing with death (no relation)

Oaxaca ― Zaachila ― Xoxocotlán and back, Thursday 30 October

A day full of Sun and great experiences. But first a few thoughts on our dependence on electronics. Sometimes I try to be too organised, and therefore I forgot my camera on this beautiful day, of all days. Plus I have almost no battery left on my cell phone, that is to say my clock and alarm clock as I cannot connect over here anyway. The good thing to all this is that I could just walk around with an even more free mind as I did not have to think of taking photos. The only time it annoyed me, and this only slightly, was when I saw election posters for a guy called …Lenin! And this was from the minibus, so I couldn't've caught it anyway. So again: never mind. Just enjoy the Sun. And the below picture, taken in the evening as I did carry my camera again. It's a Day Of The Dead altar, taken from a slightly experimental angle. So you only see a bit of it and thus get a bit of an idea of this almost surreal celebration that is upcoming but has actually already started, with the altars, and performances on the central square by dancers with one half of their face masked as a skull.

Today's first highlight was the visit to the indigenous Zaachila Radio, an initiative started in July 2006 during the conflict in Oaxaca in order to provide people with information rather than the official stations' propaganda-like approach. Financed entirely by the Zaachila community and working without commercials, its broadcasts and numerous events are very popular. Maybe too popular, as authorities blocked the station's frequency in the end of July this year. Zaachila Radio changed to another frequency, and after pressure from several organisations, a.o. Amnesty International, the old frequency was opened again three weeks later.

The community radio as it calls itself ― as opposed to a pirate radio, which is a commercial station that take a frequency ― has applied for a permission to broadcast officially and hopes to get one by December this year. For this, the station has to pay for even applying, again to receive an answer, and then again for the permission itself. All in all 10 000 pesos, or some 600 € or 800 $. The permission is valid for 7 years but can be withdrawn at any time for whatever reason. Should this happen, the whole procedure starts all over. And as an indigenous media, money and bureaucracy will not be the only obstacles for Zaachila Radio.

With a permission, the station will switch to a more powerful antenna with a 100-kilometre reach. As it is now, it reaches 15 kilometres and therefore remains very local. Of the community's 28 000 inhabitants, just 1% speak Zapoteco, so the station's programmes ― from 12 noon to 8 pm every day ― are in Spanish. However, in an attempt to revive the Zapotec language in the community, the station is beginning to broadcast the introduction to and ending of programmes, as well as to make announcements, in both languages. This is a way of promoting Zapoteco little by little.

Another effort to raise awareness in the community is to broadcast 'radionovelas', i.e. soap-like radio drama series, on women's rights and other social issues. The chosen series come from the Cañada municipality in the Northern part of the state of Oaxaca as well as from Argentina and Costa Rica, and Zaachila Radio has high hopes for this initiative.

Given my 'weakness' for communication and, I guess, also my experience with bureaucracy and long procedures, I think this brave little radio station deserves some support. And not only moral support, also financial, so I contributed with 500 pesos as at least a little help to get that official broadcasting permission. I think the committed people behind Zaachila Radio, and the whole indigenous community, deserve it, and I look forward to hear news about the permission.

Listen to Zaachila Radio

Another personal gain from the visit was that I forced myself to write down my questions to the radio's representatives in Spanish, with the inverted question marks and everything, even though only I would read them. Being here in a Spanish-speaking country for three weeks teaches me more than the lessons of grammar I miss while I'm away. Plus I think it is more fun to learn it by immersing myself in it. That's the way we all learned our mother tongues, and I do believe there is no better way.

It also came in handy on the market. To prepare for Day Of The Dead, each member of the Reality Tours group had to buy something for the altar we were going to build in the hotel. Now, I am sure there is plenty about this special celebration on The Net, and much better than I can describe it, so I won't go into details other than those that come with my descriptions anyway. Each group member drew a little piece of paper, and I got an easy one: nuts. The market bursts with nuts. As well as fruits and vegetables and plastic toys and meat and bread and alive turkeys and two-metre high sugarcanes and candy and candy skulls and chocolate and chocolate skulls, not to mention the flowers which are also very important on any Day Of The Dead altar. Actually, of all the mentioned things, only plastic toys, meat and turkeys don't belong on the altars. But in addition to the edible skulls, you see little figures and sceneries in which skeletons act in everyday situations. A skeleton at his desk working on the computer (I thought about buying that one for work…); a skeleton with a fancy haircut and wearing a dress walking, er, her dog (who, oddly enough, is not a skeleton); a skeleton couple dancing, you name it.

So nuts was an easy one. So easy that I bought three different kinds. And had time to stroll around in the narrow paths between the booths and the locals, the tallest of which barely reach my chest. The tent-like things covering the market are understandably set up by and for them, so now I have an idea what it must be like to be 2 metres or above in Europe, having to bend your head and sometimes your back and knees just to be able to move forward. It was a relief to spend a few minutes in the real market halls selling meat and bread. It was nicely cool, there were few people, and I could walk upright. And breathe my impressions, enjoying Latin America. 'tis good to be back here.

Unfortunately I'm not the only one who thinks so. I had to help three fat (sorry but yes) and arrogant lady tourists who hadn't even bothered to learn a few numbers in Spanish ― I basically had to translate prices for them for ten minutes before I could finally see what the poor man was selling myself ― before I found myself buying two colourful little flutes. No idea what I'm gonna do with them 'cause you certainly can't play anything hearworthy on them, but I also bought two just as colourful rattles made of dried squash shell for the twin nieces I'm looking forward to welcome in January.

Today's second highlight was lunch in the forest. Now that's the short version. The slightly longer one is that we went to the eco-tourism park El Chapulin run by the indigenous community of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán (Xoxo for short, prounced something like 'hrohro'), a wonderful little oasis not far from the Monte Albán ruins, and had a fabulous eco-lunch: chinchilo made of chili, flour and chicken. But not before having tried a tiny glass of mezcal (a distilled liquor made on agaves, for example tequila is a type of mezcal) and more than just tried the snack, a delicious mix of toasted and spiced grasshoppers, pumpkin seeds and nuts. I have wanted to try to eat insects if I got the offer, and this was actually truly delicious!

During lunch, Noemi Gómez Bravo told os briefly about her work as a representative for indigenous women at the United Nations. An impressive woman, having learned Spanish by herself from the age of 14, but unfortunately time was too scarce to go into much detail. It would have interested me a lot to hear about how an indigenous woman is perceived among the suit-clad lads and what results her work had given, and as it is the main idea of this trip to learn and discuss such issues, I will suggest to Global Exchange to time and prepare this better on future trips.

Afterwards, we took a short walk to see the park (which is not a park in that sense, more of a nature area) and did a short canoe trip on the lake. One of the indigenous had to save the most enormous toad that I discovered and which was apparently not where it should be. None of the ladies of our group wanted to kiss it though, despite the chance of winning a kingdom. Oh, that's with frogs, innit? It must have been some prince, given the size of the toad or frog or whatever impressive natural creation it was, now back and safe in its lake and kingdom-to-be.

Back in Oaxaca, caught in a traffic jam ― the city has grown immensely over the last decades ― some of us decided to walk the last blocks to get to the hotel faster. Didn't though, as we were let off the van close to one of the many chocolate shops. And we are not talking Leonidas or Namur here, but a chain of shops called Mayordomo where you get your cocoa beans (or coffee, or rice, or chilis, or any other thing you want) grinded. They can then make you a thick hot chocolate, adding milk or water as you want. Trying to cut down on chocolate, but driven by my untamable curiosity, I just tried a bean directly from its shell. Pure cocoa is bitter indeed but I kinda liked it, it was like crunching a very over-sized coffee bean. Tasty. What lacks taste are some of the chocolate objects on display such as a picture frame, ready to put on your living room table, and what is right out tasteless is the pack with a chocolate gun and chocolate bullets.

But it might just be another sign of how Oaxacans, or maybe Mexicans in general, deal with atrocity or sadness. A way to survive maybe, through a peculiar sense of sarcastic humour, in this subtle yet obvious manner as if it is part of their whole mentality. The Day Of The Dead is the culmination of this, as the altars like the one we built in the hotel and the dances in death costumes on the Zocalo show. And that's where this eventful day ended: on the Zocalo, the central square of the city of Oaxaca, with late dinner and a quick stroll on the market. I had to try those grasshoppers again, so I ordered a plate with guacamole. Turns out they are better as a snack though, rather than shoveling them in in larger quantities. Flushed them down with a mug of beer… I finally found some dark draft beer instead of this girlie stuff that Corona is. Except this didn't taste of much more ― maybe the friendly waitress forgot that I had asked for 'obscura' as she managed to sell me the special offer: Oktoberfest beer and you get to keep the mug. Imagine that, an Oktoberfest mug from Oaxaca! I have never been to the original thing in Munich and I guess now I don't need to…

Due to the intensity of the days on this tour and the 7-hour time difference to the heart of Europe, I have not been able to send a single postcard or make a call. What I did do, for fun, was to change my Facebook profile photo yesterday to the one where I hold the little indigenous boy from the temazcal (indigenous 'spa' place) ― now that can get people up of their chairs or at least their fingers to the keyboard; I had six reactions already.

I will be able to blog more regularly from next week on, when the second part of my trip, the travel writers' boot camp, starts and I have the afternoon to write assignments. And to blog.

New word: mofle = exhaust (on a car)

Beetle count: 183 (thereof just 4 'New Beetles')

Meanwhile, do vote for me ― 5 logos (it's easy, takes just two clicks but they gotta be in the right place). Every day. Thank you.