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 booking.com, 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.

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