Weeks 19-21 in Mexico with A.
Week 19 - City
On the evening of 17th December I went to the aptly-named 'ADO' bus station to collect A - a friend for over 20 years and for the past several a near neighbour too. How wonderful to have him here in Mexico for three weeks: one in Oaxaca city, one at the Oaxaca coast, and one in the capital.
On his first day in Oaxaca we walked into the city over the hill and rented A. a bike. Amongst other things we went to the central market where A. tried his first chapulines (grasshoppers) in the smoky grilled-meat hall.
On the second day we went up to Monte Albán and also visited the lovely Textile Museum where we saw some incredible cylindrical weaving and A. was bewitched by the handsome brickwork. On the third day we went to the Santa Domingo museum and met up with Claire for the Wednesday night bike ride around the city centre. I'm glad I was able to introduce these two to each other.
The next day A. went on the same day-trip Lisa and I had been on (to Hierve el Agua etc) while I resolved the problem of my front wheel having been stolen. In the evening we had a posh fusion supper that involved lots of hibiscus and guava flavours.
Week 20 - Coast
For our second week together we caught a minivan about seven hours south over the stunning Sierra Sur to Oaxaca's coastline, which is known for its low-key tourism (nothing like the Maya Riviera on the Yucatán peninsula). We had a room booked for Christmas at a mid-range 'posada' right on the beach, where I slept in my hammock in our own sandy front yard.
It was A's first time spending Christmas away from his family. Though he was in touch with his peeps quite a bit he seemed to enjoy the fact it didn't really feel like Christmas at all. I think he enjoyed the beautiful beach, reading his book, and watching the world (including a decent showing of gay men) go by. Unexpectedly I felt rather overwhelmed by and restless in the sticky heat, to which my skin reacted with an ezcema type thing that I've never had before.
We went twice by collectivo to Puerto Ángel, once for a wildlife-spotting and snorkelling boat trip with some objectionable Israelis, and once to do two dives with a nice local chap called Adan. It was wonderful to dive with A. again.
Week 21 - Capital
Back in Oaxaca for two nights we headed up the hill to Atzompa with Claire and Stephane. While we were up there A. started to feel under the weather; he was hit by some kind of stomach bug that stuck around for the remainder of his holiday and definitely robbed him of a lot of his energy. While he managed to continue with everything we'd planned it was sad to see him under par.
In Mexico City we had an AirBnB for a week right in the slightly seedy equivalent of London's SoHo. My friend K. from Tottenham joined us for our first night/ day there, which was lovely as I hadn't seen them for more than two years. We went together to the extraordinary National Museum of Archaeology.
Other highlights in DF (Mexico City) included:
- Using the metro numerous times (5 pesos per journey) with no problems at all.
- A circular walk in the city centre on NYE, during which we found a popular Mayan restaurant and had some delicious turkey soup for lunch. We saw lots of murals, two great markets and people selling grapes out of pick-up trucks ready for the Spanish/Latin New Year's Eve tradition of stuffing 12 grapes into your gob at midnight.
- We saw 2018 in on the edge of a large crowd with a view of some excellent fireworks, just two minutes' walk from our place.
- On New Year's Day (also A's birthday) we had a long walk through the city's largest park while having a conversation about our respective values and intentions and whether our actions/plans are in line with these. We also had a short but sweet Facetime with our mutual friend Anna.
- On the first attempt we didn't get into Frida Kahlo's Blue House, so went instead to the house where Trotsky was living when he was assassinated. Fascinating. Then we headed to the Museum of Modern Art, which was excellent.
- On our second day mooching in the city centre we focused on some of the Diego Rivera murals in the courtyards of various impressive civic buildings. Then we headed into the city's enormous main market to buy ingredients for pozole, which was a terrific experience I expect most visitors miss for fear of pick-pockets or whatever.
- During an easy and cheap trip by public buses out to Teotihuacan A. was noticeably subdued. I think a week of feeling under the weather had really taken its toll. Sitting on the top of the Pyramid of the Moon we continued an ongoing conversation about some of the recent events in A's personal life. On a different note, I found it very interesting to see some of the outskirts of the city from the bus.
- On our last evening I attempted to make a vegan (mushroom and courgette flower) pozole for A. Sadly the process was more enjoyable than the result as I did not realise dried hominy needs to be soaked overnight before use. The experience only increased my admiration for the dish!
- On our last day we successfully visited Frida's house, which I'm glad to have seen but found pretty exasperating what with the volume of visitors and being ticked off seemingly in every room, for wearing a cap (I could wear it backwards, apparently), or sunglasses, or going through the wrong door, or not having a permit to take photographs... All in all I came away with the impression that F and D were quite the champagne communists, and you have to wonder what happens to the enormous amount of money the museum is making... Finally we crossed town to an area with two adjacent art galleries (Jumex and Soumaya), neither of which inspired us greatly though we did both enjoy some Tamayo paintings in the latter.
Many wonderful conversations with A. about life, love and sex left me continuing to ponder a couple of themes.
Not for the first time I was struck how much easier it is for gay men (than for anybody else but perhaps especially for queers socialised as women) to find compatible others seeking short-term sexual relationships. While we were in the 22nd biggest city on earth I decided to try out the 'Tinder' app. to see if it might offer an alternative to OKCupid, the tool I normally use to make compatible new connections from hookups to new friends. I was disheartened to find a significant proportion of the women on Tinder (which I thought was essentially a hookup app!) had 'NOT LOOKING FOR SEX' or something as slut-shaming as 'I'M NOT A WHORE LOOKING FOR CASUAL SEX' in their one-paragraph profiles if they had any text at all! These statements may be designed to ward off dick-pic-sending types, but I was not filled with confidence in Tinder's usefulness to this nomadic queer.
I'll admit to feeling fairly glum about this. Not so very long ago I turned my life upside-down ostensibly to explore my sexuality. I did so, with gusto, for a few short years. Since becoming nomadic I have made a handful of compatible new connections (of various kinds) on my travels in Europe and North America, but am wondering if Latin America will prove to be a bit of a wasteland for me in this respect. As I said in my two-year vagabondaversary review back in September, more sex is 'one thing about my current lifestyle that I wouldn't mind tweaking if it were somehow possible!'
Second, and not unrelated to the above, I have been pondering the fact that since my separation from Zoe in 2011 I have basically had begin and end one 'romantic' relationship each year. I have several terrific long- and medium-term relationships (including A.), all of which are platonic. Perhaps my relationship constellation will continue to look much like this, and perhaps that will be alright.