Mexico: Part 1

Now I know that I said before I left that I would try and keep my Mexico blog as short as possible. And I will. But I still doubt I can fit nearly 4 weeks of travelling into one sitting of writing, so this is Mexico... the beginning.

Well it all started back in London at stupid o'clock on June 24th. Trains got me to Victoria station promptly enough that I had a bit of time to kill. Why is it you have to pay to urinate nowadays? It's illegal to pee in the streets and you have to pay to pee in the station. Surely these little toilet turnstyles are a health and safety risk anyway in todays world. Jumping over the turnstyle in Victoria station with a massive backpack on... I could've been seriously injured. I might've got that one for free, but paying to urinate was something that I had to get used to in the coming weeks. They don't believe in free toilets in Mexico. Anyway, Easybus got me to Gatwick with time to kill, and off I went to New York.

One thing that confused me about this journey somewhat, was that how can a plane that takes off on time in London, arrive in New York 30 minutes late? Did the pilot take a wrong turning over Iceland or something and started going to Russia instead? Anyway, that put me back a bit.

Empire State Building The plan for today was once I landed, I'd go to the hostel and check-in, before heading out to Penn. Station just a 12 block walk away, to meet Jess. On paper it seemed like I had plenty of time to do so, but god-damn New York can be inefficient sometimes. First thing after I get through customs and collect my bag, and after seeing a couple of guys pushing and shoving each other seemingly about to have a fight before being split by security, I head straight to the information point, and get served by this girl with a moustache. Poor girl can't've been older than about 21, so I can see 30 years from now she's going to be one of those woman that scares kids with her excessive facial hair. She should probably think about getting that waxed. She tried her best to explain to me where I should be going to get the underground to 23rd Street, but it was kind of hard to concentrate on what she was saying, what with the whole moustache thing, so when I get to the airtrain, I had no idea where I was going. So rather than get lost on the New York transit system, I decided to go downstairs and book for a shuttle instead.

Now if you go and book a shuttle in JFK, the typically brash New Yorkers behind the counter just read you a list of companies that will take you to downtown. No times or anything like that, just a list of companies you've never heard of, and you have to randomly pick one. Great system. I was thinking, what with JFK being a pretty busy airport, that a shuttle would be going to Manhattan every few minutes. Apparently not. With the shuttle company I picked, I had a 50 minute wait. And with that 50 minute wait, I had time to look in detail at the underground map, allowing me to figure out where I should actually be going. So without a word to anyone; it wouldn't be worth the hassle of cancelling to these slightly angry girls booking the shuttle, I headed off to get to downtown via public transport. So somewhere in JFK terminal 4, there may still be a bus driver looking for me.

Times Square Now for some reason, New York seems to think it a good idea not to put up any signs or information anywhere. Ever. So negotiating the metro can prove a bit of a challenge. Luckily I had a map from moustache girl, so I was able to navigate my way through the ever inefficient New York underground. The problem was by now, however, was that I was borderline if I had the time to meet Jess at the station. I eventually get out of the underground on 23rd on a really fucking tight schedule. Being my third time in New York, and being in such a rush, there really was no wow factor. I literally came out of the underground running, concerned more with being on time to the station than of being in New York again. If you forget one thing when you travel, why is it always the first thing that you'll need. I wanted to dump my stuff, then run off to the station, but what had I forgotten? The only thing that I forgot for this whole trip, a padlock. Now it would be too much to ask for a hostel to sell a padlock for the lockers they use, so I had to run across to the pharmacy across the street just so I could lock my things away.

Of course paying for something is such an inconvenience for someone who works in a store, they're going to be as damn slow about the whole process as they can. I eventually got my padlock, spent about 5 minutes sawing at the unnecessary packaging with a key, and got my stuff locked away. By this point, I didn't have the time to get to the station, so I decided that the best thing to do was wait out the front of the hostel. That way, although Jess might be waiting at the station for me a little while, at least we'll meet eventually. I was stood out there a good 25 minutes though, and I wasn't even sure if her train was on time. It could've been delayed for hours, and if I was to continue waiting I would be stood out the front of a fucking hostel for hours. At least if I went to the station, I could find out the status of her train. So eventually I decided to walk to the station, keeping my eyes as open as possible in case she was walking the other way. And sure enough, at around 25th street, we bump into each other bang in the middle of the road, meaning we embrace with traffic going right by us. But after all that planning, we bump into each other in the middle of the street. It's strange how things work out.

Wall Street While all this was going on, I got an anonymous text claiming that someone was going to be an hour late. Meeting two people tonight this was a little unhelpful, but it turned out to be Janice who was running late, which meant that me and Jess had the time to drink some beer and catch up somewhat before she arrived.

That was how New York started. It was kind of hectic and kind of stressful, but as the old saying goes, "there's nothing a beer won't fix." I may've made that up.

Once Janice arrived and got checked in, we spent the night in a bar called Flight 151 on 8th Ave. It was a nice bar, and for tonight at least, everyone got along great.

In the interest of keeping this Mexico blog short, seeing as we haven't even got to Mexico yet, I'll just say that the next day, we did a shit-load of tourist crap. Empire State building, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Central Park etc. Nothing really worth bragging about. In the evening though, things got a little more spicy.

To start the night we got some alcohol and drunk a while in the hostel. We met a couple of other people and closing in on midnight, and running out of alcohol, we again went back to Flight 151. Now I never remember Jess as being a big drinker back in Halifax, but last night she'd put me to shame, and she was knocking a few back again tonight. She probably won't appreciate me saying this, but once she'd drunk a few, she seemed to get pretty confrontational, especially with girls. Both Janice and Jess are very set in their political views. They both feel strongly in their views, and no amount of persuasion is going to sway either one of them. They're both wrong, but like I said, they won't change their minds, so why bring it up? They didn't see it like me though, and after the alcohol had flowed, had a right barney in the pub about something political I couldn't care less about. Kind of made things a little uncomfortable for the rest of the night, and I bet the two guys we'd me at the hostel were wondering what they'd got themselves in for. Jess put the cross-hairs on the actually really nice and pretty hot waitress, who'd been able to put up with me drunk for 2 nights as well. Why I'm not sure, but the night ended quite abruptly. Such was the animosity now between the two girls I was with, that they walked off in different directions out the bar, which put me in an awkward situation. I went with Jess, quite simply because she was closer. And I don't know why, what with it being pretty late at night by now, but we decided to go and see Times Square, a 22-block walk in each direction from the hostel.

Before everything had turned to shit the previous night, we had agreed that we'd spend the morning doing different things just based on the different things people wanted to do in New York. Sean was arriving about 1, so we'd reconvene then. My choice of things to do in New York was lay in bed with a hangover and clear my jet lag. A good choice if I may say so.

I was wondering whether or not we'd be able to co-exist as a group after the fireworks the night before. And sitting munching a Subway in the hostel at 1, there was still no sign of anyone. Sean arrived, and then shortly after, Janice with one of the guys from last night. I was expecting her to mention Jess in at least some capacity, but what she said, I really hadn't expected. At around 7 that morning, Jess knocked on her door, because her cousin had been shot and she was leaving straight away to go and see him. By the time I heard this, she was probably already back in Boston. Now I don't mean to sound insensitive, but why the hell didn't she tell me this? I'd known her nearly 2 years now. Janice had known her about 36 hours, and they hadn't even got along for much of that. Yet she told Janice and not me. Strange. I'll get over it though. I'd guess she wasn't thinking too straight at the time, what with the whole cousin thing, and probably a massive hangover.

UN If nothing else, this then ensured that their was no need to deal with any repercussions from the night before. We spent the rest of the day going to, and touring the UN. I'm not sure why, but Janice really had a hard'n to see the UN. I'm not going to lie, it was absolutely rubbish. I won't go into the details of why. If it was boring to see in person, then it'd be even worse to read about second hand, but just know it was rubbish. If it's any indication of actually quite how bad it was, the highlight was an ice cream machine that they have in the basement. It was the kind invention that you'd come up with if you asked a 5-year old to design an ice cream distribution machine. First off, a horizontal freezer door opens. Then, a device attached to the tube, looks around the freezer and finds the ice cream you've selected, before sucking like a vacuum cleaner to pick up the ice cream. It then manouveres back to front and drops the ice cream before setting back to where it started, and the giant freezer door closes again. It was absolutely awesome. To the point I even took a video of it. Until I work out how to rotate videos, it'll play sideways. But for now, it's located here.

Overspend on military I have just remembered one thing about the UN I found interesting. There was a statistic that I gained from one of the wall plackards: Annual world spend on military, $780 billion, annual world spend preventing global warming, $8 billion. Does no one else see the problem with this picture? Somewhere along the line, the human species really fucked up running the world. We spend $8 billion in preventing a phenomenom that will essentially end the planet as we know it, shrinking the land mass of an already overcrowded planet and increasing the death levels through natural disasters. Instead we favour to spend $780 billion on ways to kill each other. That's $130 per person, per year, on killing each other. Can no one else see the problem with this picture? The only thing I can say, is that one way or another, carbon level will ultimately come back down. They have to. Either we all kill each other militarily. For $130, you'd think you'd get some return. And with less human influence, plantlife will be able to flourish, bringing with in a reduction in carbon. Or, natural disasters kill us all, and it has the same result. Either way, does this picture not seem wrong to anyone else?

Incidentally, throughout today, and the whole rest of the time spent in New York, we were accompanied by one of the guys we met on the 2nd day. He was a nice guy, but I think we all found it a little strange that he was clinging onto us so much. He literally didn't leave us for the rest of the time in New York, but yet provided no input in how we spent the time. He was merely there. You'd think coming all the way to New York, he'd want to do his own thing a bit. But I guess not. He did say he'd maybe come to Acapulco to meet with us there, which was really strange considering the money it'd cost to go and hang out with a bunch of strangers. But on arrival in Acapulco, we literally had no idea if he was going to show, because whilst in New York still, he'd actually had some money wired over to him that he was at least flirting with the idea of spending on a trip to Acapulco to meet us. Like I said, he was a nice guy, but damn. He was literally there the whole time.

Cheap wine The UN was the main trip of the daytime. Then at night, we once again started off at Flight 151. There's a girl I know from school currently working in Manhattan so she came out for a couple, so it was awesome to see her. Then we even made it to a club, but everyone was kind of fucked by now. The days had been long and involved a lot of walking. Couple that with jet lag, hangovers and shortness of sleep, and people were a bit of a mess. So we didn't last long in the club. My highlight of the night though, was going to a bar that offered 3 wines of each colour. I always appreciate straight talking, so with them all being called either cheap, decent or good, it was easy to make your choice. Never being one to feel the need to flash the cash to know I'm great, we of course went for cheap.

Statue of Liberty The next day we did the statue of liberty. Of course, the free ferry to Staten Island, rather than paying the $10 to get right up to the statue. And that was a good choice. What a rubbish statue! For the fame and the hype that comes with it, I was expecting it to be 10 times the size of what it was. I could build a better statue than that. Much more satisfying were the views of Manhattan that the boat trip afforded. Getting to Manhattan Staten Island, you're greeted by some slightly disturbing murals on the side of a restaurant, of giant birds eating people. It was a kind of weird place though, so maybe that brings in the punters. There is also, much more importantly on Staten Island, a Subway that does any footlong for $5. That's £2.50! That's amazing. Much more worthwile to see than the stupid UN. Any footlong sub for $5! I've never seen anything like it before.

We again went to Central park after this to chill out for a while. The New York heat was something ridiculous. Even just sitting in the park, you'd build up a sweat. But, they do have all sorts of free activities. So after beating Sean at chess, we through around a football for a while.

Killer birds Come the evening, everyone was pretty exhausted, so for the first night so far, we didn't go to Flight 151, instead just chillaxing in the hostel. Plus Janice had to leave for the station stupidly early. And for some reason, I even got up and took her there. Help her carry her bag and make sure she was ok. I guess I'm just a nicer guy than I like to think. It's intersting to see New York at that time of morning. I can't remember what time it was, but I'm pretty sure it was before 06:00. And for "a city that never sleeps," New York is pretty damn quiet at that time of morning. A damn sight quieter than London would be. American's love to make slogans about their cities, that, to put it bluntly, quite simply aren't true. Unless you count the 24 hour McDonald's, New York's reputation is somewhat farcicle. Maybe they should change it. "New York. The city that never sleeps. Except between 4 and 7 every morning."

Central Park Anyway, that was New York. I had a little more sleep before it was time to get our flight. Mexico here we come!

In an attempt to get back into somewhat of a normal sleeping pattern, I'm going to take a break for the night. It's currently about 23:55 UK time. The whole "keeping this brief" thing really hasn't panned out so far. Luckily though I got really drunk in Mexico, so hopefully I've wiped out enough of my memory it shouldn't take too long to write about. Tomorrow, Mexico: Part 2. Which, with any luck, might actually include some stuff in Mexico. What a revelation.

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