Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category
A drawing done with the Brushes app on top of a crappy resolution photo taken with an iPod touch somewhere over the state of Campeche in Mexico.
More finger painting here.
I spent the last fortnight in Belize. It was my fourth trip to the country. Didn’t take so many photos this time, but I did a lot of drawings. I’ll do a couple more blog posts about my trip, including those drawings, but for now, here’s some photographs.
Crossing the border between Mexico (right) and Belize (left) on foot:
The jungle trail after a night of heavy-ish rain at the wonderful Hickatee Cottages in Punta Gorda:
A downpour at Hickatee. It was wonderful:
Belize seems to be full of signs trying to get people not to litter. Most of the signs rhyme:
A chicken looking at mangrove:
The road to Hopkins. There aren’t many buses from the main Southern Highway, so I’d been advised to hitch a ride down the four-mile road. Ten vehicles passed me by before, 45 minutes into my hot and very sweaty hike down the road, a very pleasant young man called Johnny gave me a ride:
The view from Tipple Tree Beya, the guest house where I stayed in Hopkins:
A backpacker hostel in Hopkins. Only 50 cents a night:
Clouds being cloudy:
Rush hour, downtown Hopkins.
Virtually all of the buses that transport people around Belize are old Blue Bird school buses. This is the one I took from Belize City back over the border to Chetumal, Quintana Roo.
I’ve not travelled around the country as much as I’d hoped in the time that I’ve been in Mexico. Still not been to the coast, not been in up north at all, but I spent a few days this week visiting Oaxaca. It’s a pretty place. And hot. Kinda too hot to do much, frankly. I was there from Tuesday afternoon until Saturday lunchtime, and it was tough to have the energy in the baking-hot weather to do more than one thing a day. Normally when visiting places, I’m pretty get-up-and-go about stuff. Not in Oaxaca. It seemed to get hot around 10.30-11am, and it’d stay that way until sun down. Sight-seeing was exhausting and sweaty.
I’ve been having itchy feet recently, and when I was at the big bus station here in D.F. a few weeks ago, I really got the urge to go on a long bus journey. When I was doing my travelling around in 2008, bus journeys were something I really enjoyed. I love the feeling of having a less-abstract concept of the distance you have travelled. I could’ve paid a little bit extra and taken a one-hour flight, but that’s no fun. Six hours of Mexican landscape was what I wanted. Sadly, though, the window seat I booked was covered with a patterned part of the bus company logo.
Right, seriously, bus companies: listen up! Nobody gives a shit about your logo if it’s covering the window. The word window pretty much means something that you can look out of. If you cover that up, you are completely and utterly disrespecting your customers. So for six hours, I had to look out of a thin sliver at the front of my seat area which wasn’t covered in a dotted red pattern. For about an hour of the journey, the bus winds through some mountains. I’m not overly good with heights, and seeing just a thin sliver of very-low metal barrier in front of a huge drop did nothing for my enjoyment of the journey. I put my head down and watched an episode of Game of Thrones on my iPad and waited for flat land to re-appear.
I was visiting my friend Sam. He lives in the north of the city, up a hill with small houses painted in bleached bright colours, and narrow cobbled streets. Getting to and from the downtown area involved waiting on a corner, any corner, and hopping on a bus. As in Mexico City, the buses in Oaxaca would likely fail most road-worthiness tests in other countries. They are loud, too. Not just the vehicles, that on the cobbled uphill streets occasionally sounded like parts would fall off; but the music, too. The buses seemed to be privately owned, not part of a company that runs things. So each bus driver does what the heck he wants when following his chosen routes. That often means playing music or having loud conversations over the radio. And one time, I saw a driver using his cell phone. Nice. Plus the buses often have a salesman. Some guy who’ll sit in the front passenger side seat and shout the destination of the bus to people on the street, drumming up trade. And because these are private buses, they want as many passengers as possible. This is often frustrating if you are already on the bus. In busier parts of the city, the bus will kerb-crawl while the guy shouts out of the window, hoping for one more passenger.
What I saw of the downtown area is fairly compact. It’s pretty, too. Sam recommended a coffee shop, Café Brujula, and I began every day there. Delicious organic cappuccino, which I took to go, and would sit in the shadow of a big church, back and arse against the nice cool stone, hiding from the sun. Sight-seeing was slightly retarded by the presence of a big protest by teachers in the city centre. The whole of the Zócalo and its surrounding streets were full of people, tents, signs, and tarps strung over the roads to shade the protesters. They wanted stuff. Not sure what. They’ve been there for a week or so already, apparently. It all seemed quite sedate there, just people sat around not doing much. Mostly not teaching children. It did make it very tough, though to see what one would normally see as a visitor. It was slightly frustrating, but, y’know, the teachers and their students’ educations are more important than me missing out on seeing a nice store or museum or something.
The timing of my visit was to coincide with the Diablos Rojos, my local (and favoured) baseball team, playing a series of three games down there. I won’t go into detail, just that you can see some photos of the lovely ballpark over at Flip Flop Fly Ball.
Anyway, onto the important stuff: the stuff that went into my mouth. Food and mezcal. Oaxaca’s food was delicious. It didn’t really help the lethargy I was experiencing because of the heat, either. Big lunches every day. Mole amarillo, mole negro, mole colorado. All fantastic. calendas (spinach-y leaves stuffed with queso Oaxaca), swordfish sopes, and tacos de chapulines. That’s grasshoppers. A small plate of hundreds and hundreds of fried grasshoppers. Grab a tortilla, and a couple of spoons-worth of grasshoppers, some guacamole, some salsa. Roll that shit up and mmmm, mmmm, mmmm! Delicious.
Likewise, the Mezcal. I’m a fan anyway, but on Friday night, we went to a wonderful place called Mezcaloteca. An appointment was necessary, and duly made. When we arrived we had to ring the doorbell to be let in. Inside it was beautiful. A dark wood L-shaped counter with green bankers lights dotted along the bar, and old drug store-style shelving filled with bottles of clear or brown liquid with white labels. We were there for a mezcal tasting. For 100 pesos (£4.54/€5.62/US$6.98) we each got three shots of different mezcales. The guy stood with us the whole time, explaining which variation of the maguey plant were used for which mezcales. Our first two shots, we both had one a piece, but for our third shot, he poured two different mezcales out that we were both to try. One of them was 20 years old. The other was, I think, 15 years old. One of them, there were only 75 litres produced, the other, only 50 litres. They were both amazing. And there’s a moment when you are taking a sip of something that there is so little of in the world, a moment when I felt very honoured to be drinking it. After our three shot tasting, we wanted another drink, so he allowed us to split another three shots for extra tasting. Should you ever be in Oaxaca, I thoroughly recommend going there. It was the best thing I did while I was there.
For the homeward journey, I had a better view. I sat on the other side of the bus so I could see the mountains that I missed on the outward journey. And, it didn’t look that scary once I could see it all. It’s a beautiful place, Mexico.
(Some of the photos used above were taken with the iPod. The iPod camera is kinda shitty, thus the ropey quality. Annoyingly, though, I’m often too lazy to get my camera out of my bag when my iPod is right there in my trouser pocket.)
I moved into a new flat at the weekend. I’m loving the view from the balcony. I can see the mountains on the edge of the city; and every night, there’s a sunset behind the World Trade Center.
My grandfather, looking sharp.
Over the weekend, my flatmate’s cat has been interested in the sports I’ve been watching on the telly. (I use the word “cat” instead of a name, cos I don’t remember the names of either of her cats. In my head I call them Althea and Donna.) Here’s some photos of Donna watching the Manchester derby.
The referee is under her paw in this photo:
She’s a good cat, she’s helping out the City defence.
She’s confused here, because the ball had gone off the edge of the screen, so she went ’round the back of the telly to try and find it.
No-one wants to be that close to Alex Ferguson’s blotchy face. Poor kitty…
Bigger versions of the photos on my Flickr page.
After the awesome Under-17s World Cup semi final between Mexico and Germany, in which Julio Gomez became something of a national hero, when he scored the first goal, suffered a head injury after clashing heads with a defender trying to head in the second goal (it went past both players and into the net anyway), being stretchered-off, to be bandaged up, covered in blood, and with the game at 2-2, scored a spectacular winning goal to give Mexico a much deserved place in the final; after that, whatever followed could never be as exciting. And the final against Uruguay wasn’t as good, but it was still a very enjoyable game to watch. Mexico won 2-0. As soon as the game was over, my friends Sam, Lina and I went to the Ángel de la Independencia in the centre of the city to join the celebrations. It was spitting with rain when we left the flat, and the sky turned dark, thunder, lightning, and it pissed it down. But that wasn’t stopping anyone from celebrating. We live quite close, so we got there quicker than most, and there were already a couple of thousand people there. It was fantastic fun. Once all of our clothing was wet, there was little to worry about. It was quite the fun experience. I wonder if English people would’ve rushed to Trafalgar Square in the pouring rain if we’d've won the Under 17s World Cup..? Sadly, I doubt it. More photos on Flickr.
Like the up-to-the-minute fella I am, I’ve recently been enjoying the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album. Quite good. And I’m especially enjoying hearing an accent similar to my own. Well, it’s not the accent, it’s the words, and some of the pronunciation. Phrases like “got a face on” totally remind me of being back home. And the song title “Mardy Bum” makes me smile no end. And hearing the word “doesn’t” pronounced like “dunt” and, in the same vein, “couldn’t” becomes a word that most people find rather rude.
Long weekend here, like most Easter-celebrating countries (although, interestingly, the weekend here was Thursday-Sunday, not Friday-Monday) so I got out of the city for a couple of days. Went to a town called Puebla which is a couple of hours away, east-southeast of here. I went with my pal Sam and his parents. We went because we wanted to see some baseball. One of the things I’m hoping to do while I’m here is see as many ballparks as possible. With the well-documented issues in the north of Mexico, there are some ballparks that I won’t be visiting; it’s just not safe enough. But nine teams of the fourteen teams are in the south. Sam and his dad are Tigres de Quintana Roo fans, and they were the visiting team, in town to play the Pericos (Parrots) de Puebla.
Up at 6.30 am on Friday to meet Sam, get the Metro to a bus station, then bounced along the road in the fairly filthy bus seats (felt dirty and damp like when you’ve worn the same pair of jeans for way too long) to his folks’ place north of here in a tiny village called Oro del Agua. Uchepos (in the same family as tamales) for breakfast, and we were off on the fairly new road that skirts the city. And considering it was a holiday, the road was pretty darn empty. A nice trip through the yellow-ochre countryside, past Popocatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, a pair of big volcanoes, and into the Puebla metropolitan area.
Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico, but as a weekend visitor, one didn’t really get that feeling. All I saw was the cute downtown area and the view from a taxi window as we went back and forth to the ballpark. We dumped our stuff at the hotel, and went straight out to walk around and get some food. The downtown area is old and pretty. Apparently, Puebla is famous for it’s crafts and tiled buildings. Lots of very beautiful pottery and stuff. And the tiled buildings were lovely. In fact, lots of pretty buildings.
We went to eat at a place called Mesones Sacristía. And I ate my favourite Mexican dish, mole poblano, which originated in Puebla. Fa fa fa fucking delicious it was, too. That big lump under the brown sauce is a chicken breast. That some big ol’ chicken titty right there.
I was stuffed after that. But, one must solider on, and soldier on I did. To the ballpark for some baseball watchin’. The Pericos ballpark, Estadio de Béisbol Harmanos Serdán, stands in the shadows of the way larger soccer stadium, and it’s a nice wee park. Baseball here quite clearly isn’t awash with the money that the major leagues have, and you can see it in the ballparks. The two I’ve been to so far are old, rough around the edges, functional. But this one is way nicer than the capital city’s park. It’s smaller, so seven or eight thousand people seems like a lot, and the atmosphere is better. Part of that, I assume, is down to the friendliness one experiences when one leaves a huge city.
For the first game, we sat around the third base line. It was baking hot, and we found four seats that were just about in the shade. But that had us sat right behind the dudes with the drums, sirens, and big flags. Not as bad as one would imagine. They made a lot of noise and kept the crowd pumped up. And rather that that incessant blaring of music of the PA, (although that did happen, too). It’s one of the things I find strange about baseball in the majors, especially coming from a European background of watching soccer: as the crowd gets going with organic chanting, singing, cheering, the dude in control of the PA will completely destroy it by pressing the We Will Rock You button.
Anyway, the Pericos got off to a great start, Mauricio Lara throw four no-hit innings. In the fifth, he loaded the bases, but got out of it without coughing up any runs. By that time, they were 3-0 up, and tacked on a couple more in the bottom of the seventh as the sky darkened, and the rain came lashing down. Absolutely pissing it down. The tarp came out and, oh, it kinda only reached over half of the infield. They didn’t even bother covering the mound. I assumed there was no way the game would be finished, yet no announcement came, which seemed odd as the third base and home plate areas became big puddles.
All the while, the crowd, though, kept themselves entertained. Most of the people in our section were chatting away to each other, and a gregarious fella kept inviting ladies to dance in the aisles. An old timer was dancing on his own, too. Over an hour after the players left the field, the grounds crew came out, removed the tarp, put more dirt down, repainted the lines, and the game resumed. One final out in the bottom of the seventh, six straight outs in the eighth, and a fly ball, single, and double play ended the game. After a ninety minute delay, the game was over in fifteen minutes.
Feeling not that great after a belly full of mole and cervezas, bought some Tums, and we had another wee walk around. Lots of tourists. A fair amount of Americans and Europeans in town, too. Still, it was Easter, and it was around 9 pm and a lot of restaurants were closed, so we sat down on plastic seats next to a woman making chalupas on the street. I have a bit of a thing about having dirty or sticky hands. And watching this woman make chalupa after chalupa with greasy hands made me cringe, just thinking about what it would be like. Pretty tasty stuff, mind.
An early night, which was a good thing, seeing as though around eight in the morning, a loud van kept driving down the street. It was selling gas and blaring music and shouting that gas was for sale. Huevos mexicano for breakfast, and then we went on a tour bus around the city. Look! A church! And an old building! And another! All pretty, and it’s a nice quick way to see the city, but my mind tends to turn off and focus on other things. Tthat handmade sign, the table in the room, that guy’s jeans, and—who am I kidding?—the view of that woman’s cleavage from the top of this open-top bus.
Time for more baseball. My Tigres-supporting pals were hoping for a better showing than the four hits they got on Friday. Back on the third base side of things. Another thing that is different in Puebla is how the beer is served. In Mexico City, it’s in paper Corona-branded cups. Here, there’s no mucking about: they give you the can.
As with fans in Mexico City, there are plenty of MLB teams represented in merchandise. Some of the merchandise, though, isn’t spelled as well as one would hope.
The guy above wearing the Cleeveland Indians t-shirt, I asked him if I could take his photograph. I spluttered in crappy Spanish that a good friend of mine is an Indians fan (true), and that I hadn’t seen many Indians fans in Mexico (exaggeration) and it’d be great if I could show him there were fans here (lie, I just wanted to take a pic of his badly-spelled shirt). He said no, so I spent a not-insignificant amount of my camera’s memory card taking high-speed burst photos surrupticiously, eventually getting a pic as he left to get some food.
That same Indians-supporting friend and I share an interest: baseball caps which feature a character wearing a different cap. The Pericos have such a cap, so I went to the store to buy one on Friday. At the time I was wearing a Montreal Expos cap. A shop assistant excitedly pointed out that they had an Expos jersey. I got the distinct feeling that it had been hung up in the racks for a while. They didn’t take credit cards, so on Saturday, I went back, bought the Expos jersey, and a rather excellent book, “Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano.” Full of statistics of about every LMB season up to 1992. Bedtime reading for quite some time to come, and hopefully, I’ll get a graphic about Mexican baseball out of it, too.
I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this, but whenever I go to a new ballpark, I like to walk around, watch the game from various parts of the park, so my pal Sam and I went for a wander to the outfield bleachers. The batter’s eye has a walkway connecting the left- and right-field bleachers, which was, rather understandably, fairly intriguing. (Just in case: the batter’s eye is a dark area behind the outfield fence so that when the pitcher throws the ball, the batter has a better view of it; kinda like the white screen they use in cricket.) When I got dead center, I crouched down, rested my camera on the wall and started snapping away.
And then came an announcement: “A las personas que están en la zona negra, las invitamos a pasar a sus lugares.” A couple of the players turned around, and my mate said, “They’re talking to us, we have to move.” Obviously, we shouldn’t really have been there in the middle of the batter’s eye while the game was in progress, but, y’know, you put a walkway there, you’re essentially inviting gringos to take pictures. I did feel a little guilty, though.
The game itself was kinda similar to Friday’s. Except the Puebla pitching was even better this time, Andres Meza throwing a complete game shutout, allowing 3 hits, a walk, and striking out nine. Taxi back to the hotel, Sam and I bid farewell to his folks who were staying another night, and we hoped in a taxi to the bus station to come back to the big city. On the bus they showed the film Are We Done Yet? starring Ice Cube and John C. McGinley. Even dubbed into Spanish, it was fairly easy to see it was a shit film.
(One thing that is interesting for me about this blog post is that I wrote it after doing the purely baseball post, parts of which are incorporated here, that I posted on Flip Flop Fly Ball. I find this blah-de-blah non-baseball writing so much easier to do.)
I’ve been living in a new neighbourhood for two weeks now. And it’s pretty darn nice. The only real gripes I had about my old place—the rather-too-often lack of water, and the consistent organ grinder outside the window—are obviously gone, and in their place… well, I live on a fairly quiet street now. And the water works. Not only does it work, but it’s en suite. Yep, I have an en suite bathroom. And because it’s a pretty new building, my room very much feels like a hotel room. Small balcony where I can smoke. Wardrobe with sliding doors and some shelves for my caps and books. It is an utter joy having an en suite bathroom, though. To be able to stumble out of bed and know that nobody is going to be taking a dump when I want to shower is awesome.
Aside from the stuff indoors, there’s goodness outside, too. My new local Starbucks is only a couple of minutes walk away. This is something that makes me happy. Although the people who work at this one get things wrong a lot. At least twice they’ve announced a drink that I didn’t ask for, and when I told them that I ordered something different, they’ll quizzically look at the cup, and say that, yep, this is your drink. And they get my name wrong pretty darn often:
The neighbourhood has a lot of streets named after writers. It does kinda make stuff easy for me to remember, I must say. And I also get to feel a little bit of Lincolnshire pride when I walk around. Two streets are named after fellow Yellow Bellies: Tennyson and Isaac Newton.
It’s a weird thing, pride. I don’t often feel pride for places. When people I meet talk glowingly about the UK, I point out its flaws. When people ask about Lincoln, I usually use the words “small” and “boring” somewhere in the sentence. I try my hardest to not care about the England national football team. National pride seems like a ridiculous concept to me. I am proud that I come from a country that produced the Beatles, David Hockney, and “Fawlty Towers”; but why should that be more important than being proud of a continent that produced Kraftwerk, Yves Klein and “À bout de souffle”? And if I’m proud of being European, why stop there? Why not just be proud of being part of a pretty darn creative human race? Having said all of that, I do feel a bit of pride knowing that two streets in my neighbourhood are named after people from my county.
And while I’m on the subject of street names. My new street is a side street off a bigger street, Campos Eliseos. Those of you who are more cultured than I will immediately recognise that name as being the Spanish language version of Champs Élysées. Me, though, I am just stupidly happy to live near a street called Elysian Fields because that was the name of the place where organised baseball was first played in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.
And while we are talking about based balls, I’ve done a few things lately on Flip Flop Fly Ball: a chart about the 2010 Seattle Mariners pitching rotation; another about Manny Ramirez’s brief career with the Tampa Bay Rays; and tying all things up neatly (baseball and Lincolnshire), I noticed a similarity between a photo of Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis and an old promotional poster for the glorious seaside resort of Skegness: Side by side and animated. And, from a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to mention it here; and tying different things together again (baseball and the name of my nearby street), an iPad drawing called 1846: A Hoboken Odyssey. Fairly simple, really; a drawing based on the Elyisan Fields mixed up with the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Because, y’know, it’s the dawn of baseball, innit?
The sky, about 20 minutes ago.
A friend of mine called Steve started up a web site a while ago. It’s a very simple, nice idea. It’s called No Movement for Goalposts. He takes photographs of football (soccer) goalposts. And he invites others to do the same and submit them. It’s lovely stuff. I submitted a few photos taken on my recent vacation in Belize, including the couple above. If you like football, you’ll probably like his site. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably end up taking photos of goalposts and submitting them, too. Either that or seeing some posts and wishing your camera wasn’t sat on your desk back home.
Bigger version of the photo on my Flickr.
On a nearby street, Calle Liverpool, there’s a hotel. Separating two parts of the hotel is the thinnest of alleys. That alley has a door. It’s about a foot wide. But it seems to be a fully-functioning door. You can see it on Street View here.
More photos from Belize on Flickr.
Here’s a handful of photos from my Belize trip. On the Flickr.