|Posted by Couch Hoppers on June 21, 2011 at 6:54 PM||comments (0)|
Filmmakers Tyjon and UK board the plane to Mexico City, Mexico. They sit in 1st class and sip Mimosa. The flight attendant behaves strangely. While taking their food order, he falls asleep. The passenger across the aisle mouths the words, "Fu**ing Jerk." The odd behavior doesn't end there. When reading the announcements, the flight attendant pauses after every paragraph; the one-minute alert turns into a ten-minute draining, slurred speech. Later, he explains that he is exhausted and has had only a few hours of sleep.
Deplaning and entering customs with documents, they greet the Border Patrol agents. "How long are you here? What is the nature of your visit?" Exiting, they must convert their US dollars to pesos. After trying to retrieve money from three ATMs, they want to call it quits. Finally, they realize that they failed to enter all the information on the prompt; once entered, the money spurts out of the ATM.
Where will they stay? A resident suggests the Zocalo area, the safest area for tourists. After numerous calls to hotel attendants (some with little or no English), the fillmmakers retire for a night in the airport, sleeping in the uncomfortable chairs and later transitioning to the floor.
Awake. Sore and stiff. Morning breath and unwashed bodies. The filmmakers dash to the nearest restroom to tidy up a bit. The quest to find shelter restarts. This time, they find a reasonable hotel called the Reforma Avenue Hotel. "Follow the signs in the airport that read authorized taxis. Only take these taxis because others can be very dangerous," a Mexican clerk warns. Tyjon and UK follow the marking for ground transportation and end up outside (with spring-like climate) as taxis line the curb. 145 pesos to the nearby hotel. They enter the taxi, keeping all belongings with them. Minutes later, the taxi driver drops them off in front of the 2-star hotel. Tip: 20 pesos.
Tyjon tries to negotiate a room for 2 persons. The Spanish speaking attendants beckon for an African woman to converse with her. Finally, 599 pesos nightly, room #803. A bell boy leads them to their room as he smiles the entire ride up the elevator. What the hell? Tyjon tips him 20 pesos.
Inside of the room: dirty carpet, dingy white wall trimmed in pastel blue, fading flowery bed spread with a huge hole (weed smokers, perhaps??), small TV, shower with gold knobs, filty shower nozzle, and ancient photo on wall. Digress, you get what you pay for.
After showering and dressing, the filmmakers head downstairs to the lobby to eat complimentary breakfast: tamales and atole (traditional Mexican and Central American hot drink made from corn), eggs, rice, corn, French fries, pasta, chicken chunks, hash browns. They meet Emmanuel, who is in Mexico on a business trip. He warns them not to go to Zona Rosa, Trepito, or Buenos Aires areas because of frequent crime. He tells them of the notorious La Familia, one of the countries most powerful crimianl gangs and suggests taking a taxi to Zocalo.
The taxi driver drops the women off in the downtown area of Zocalo, where protestors crowd the square. Equal job opportunities. No war. Just peace. A dummy dressed in an Army uniform with a Nazi symbol on his forehead dangles from a string at one of the booths. Mock graves painted black and made out of cardboard line the concrete. The women witness a Vodoo ritual as a man puts white powder on the faces of his victims, blows smoke in their faces, chants, and swats them with a plant. Below him, sits a skull surrounded by onion peels and fruit. UK spots a guy pushing a huge accordion down the street. He plays a Mariachi sounding tune for her. In return, she tips him and poses for a photograph.
Tyjon tips a Mexican dancer and he and his two sons, dressed in feathers and leather and half-naked, perform a traditional dance. A vendor, selling freshly squeezed orange juice on the streets, entices the filmmakers to purchase a cup. Delicious!
The women enter the Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful architecture with steep columns and a well-defined structure. Visitors and locals gather to pray inside at the altar. A statue of the body of Christ appears human-like. A faux waxed body of Mary lies in a glass box. A repetence booth sits in one of the corners.
A group of students interview Tyjon outside of the cathedral. "Why did you come to Mexico? What do you like about Mexico? What do you dislike about Mexico? What is your profession? Where is the best place to eat? Would you come again?"
Tyjon and UK settle down to eat at McDonalds. They meet and converse with a Jehovah Witness from Florida. She has been living in Mexico for 5 years and ministering the Word. She gives them pamphlets and tries to convince them to do the same.
The women head back to the hotel. The taxi driver stares at UK through his rear view mirror. Scary, of course. He quotes a higher price for the taxi and Tyjon gives him exactly what she pays on the way to the square. Scandalous!!!
Back at the hotel, the filmmakers settle for a pitcher of Margarita. The hotel server asks, "What kind of liquor to make it with?" Awwww, hell naw. Is this Mexico? Are you serious? UK points to the Quevo Gold and the server mixes the drink, squeezing a lot of lime juice in the potion and adding a lot of salt to the brim. Please..... hold the salt and lime juice next time, DAMN IT!
Since Day 1 was spent in the airport, the filmmakers strike out again to complete their 48 hour mission of immersing in the culture. This time, the hotel attendants suggest going to a nearby restaurant-slash-club, Black and Black.
The filmmakers walk downtown and find it just a few yards away from their hotel. Yellow painted walls with a dance floor in the middle. They order Margaritas and "chips" (French fries). Waitresses dress in 4" belts, drawn tightly and appearing as sunken waistlines. Mixed sounds of R&B played in the States, flamenco, cuban, and salsa pound the speakers.
They retire to their room and fall asleep.
MEXICO CITY: EXCITINGLY BIZARRE.
|Posted by Couch Hoppers on April 4, 2011 at 4:12 PM||comments (1)|
Tyjon and UK board the plane, lounge in plush seats, eat fine meals, and converse with strangers. All the lavishness ends when they deplane. Welcome to Dakar, Senegal. They walk through a dilapidated airport and are greeted by an English speaking Senegalese. “How are you my sistahs? Is this your first trip to Dakar?” he questions them. The stranger telephones the host family and he takes them outside in the darkness to greet them.
The filmmakers get in a run-down car, with the back window held up by duct tape. The driver whips through the pitch-black town at 3 AM. He stops at a bakery for warm, fresh bread. Bumpy roads. Weird smells. They finally arrive at the host families’ home. The family, The Gaye's, greets them as they emerge from their rooms one by one. A mother. A husband. A son. A daughter. 3 little girls and their auntie. A maid.
The filmmakers eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the family. Intimate setting. Same plate. Use your fingers or silverware. They learn a few French and Wolof phrases. "Terenga" means hospitality in Wolof. The oldest son, Babacar, teaches them how to make homemade tea.
They sail on the Coumba Castel to Goree Island, an ex-Atlantic slave trade. A tour guide quiets them, "Don't say anything to guards. They think you Senegalese and you pay half fare." Frequented by tourists from all over the world, the island exhibits a slave mansion, restaurant, old church, and art galleries. Inside of the cave where thousands of slaves were housed, UK senses their presence. She looks out of the DOOR OF NO RETURN, a door where slaves were either thrown out to the sea in shackles or loaded onto ships but never returned to the island again. After the tour of the cave, the filmmakers cheer for the Senegalese handball (similar to American soccer) hometeam as a rowdy crowd gathers on weekends to watch them compete.
Tyjon and UK participate in a high school fashion and talent show. They try on beautiful garments and dance to the sounds of R&B artist and songwriter, Akon, and Mbaye Dieye Faye, singer and percussionist.
They board an upkept colorful bus with the Arabic words, "Alhamdoulilah," meaning "All Praise is due to Allah" painted on the front. A man sits behind a small cage, collecting bus fares. Once downtown, they stroll to the exterior of the president’s mansion and pose with a guard who appears mannequin-like. No smile. No movement.
Back in the village, Abdul, a well-spoken Senegalese banker and friend of the family, leads Tyjon and UK to the market. On the way, schoolchildren stop and pose with UK. They are fascinated by the still and video cameras. A witch doctor, wearing a towel on his head and sunglasses, spits loudly on the megaphone, chanting and praying.
Entering the market with tents and tents mashed together on a section of a corner, Tyjon and UK greet everyone. Merchants are on guard and ready to sell. Medicinal herbs bombard the shelves. Meat, ready to be eaten, hangs from wires in the booths. Clothing and shoes occupy one of the booths, while household products line the table next to it. Walking through the hustle and bustle of the markets, the filmmakers stop and taste a spicy fruit called “madeu.” Hot!
An educational and spiritual journey: DAKAR, SENEGAL, the westernmost tip of Africa. The Gaye family parts with hugs and kisses. Tyjon and UK depart the house as the mother of the family pours a bucket of water on the floor for their safe return and good fortune.
|Posted by Couch Hoppers on April 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Tyjon and UK travel to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the oldest European city in the Americas. A tourist recommends a newly renovated, reasonably priced hotel close to the airport and gives them a brochure. A taxi driver greets them in Spanish; they point to the map on the brochure and then jump into the taxi as he heads to the hotel. Tyjon negotiates a reasonable fee with the driver and he agrees, dropping the two women off at their hotel. They check in. They tour the facility. Surprisingly, the brochure was a bunch of bullcrap. No indoor heated swimming pool. No sauna. No complimentary buffet.
They meet the day shift hotel crew by the outside swimming pool. The workers are fascinated with the video and still cameras. They smile toothless grins and ask questions in Spanish. “We speaka un pequeto el Spanol” Tyjon and UK confess. After the interesting one-way singalogue, they crash in their hotel room. Only two hours to rest, they change and eat at the restaurant in the hotel lobby. They order soup and sandwiches, the cheapest items on the menu. When they receive the bill, it’s a whopping $62 USD. The waiter explains that the gratuity and taxes are included.
They call a taxi to take them downtown. They view historical sites in an Old District called Zona Colonial (The Colonial Zone), including,
Cathedral of Saint Mary, the first cathedral in America
Alcázar de Colón ("Diego Columbus' Palace") where Diego Columbus, son of Christopher, lived when he was governor of the Spanish colony
Monasterio de San Francisco ("St. Francis Monastery"), an church and place where monks lived (monastery); now is partially destroyed
Hospital de San Nicolás de Bari ("St. Nicholas of Bari Hospital"), the first hospital in the Americas; now is partially destroyed
Palacio del Gobernador y de la Audiencia ("Palace of the Governor and the Court"); now is a museum
Museo de las Casas Reales ("Museum of the Royal Houses")
Fortaleza Ozama ("Ozama Fortress"), the oldest fort in America.
Tyjon and UK witness a funeral procession at an old church with hundreds of colorful flowers. UK discovers a working phone in a tree. Strange, but convenient.
Tyjon meets a long time friend as though “he” thought. The man has extensive dreads flowing down his back and sips on a bottle of whiskey. He speaks perfect English, though he spits while saying every other word. Tongue soaked with alcohol, he convinces Tyjon that he met her at a concert in 1970. Interesting, she wasn’t even born. She finally ditches him.
Tyjon & UK continue their walk downtown. They met a beautiful Indian male model with a buff chest, weighing less than a hundred pounds. He must have only worked his upper body. He poses, wearing a red tight shirt with the top three buttons hanging loosely and a cigar in his mouth.
“Exscoose me, excoose me,” a native interrupts them. A young guy carries a shoe shine kit and begs to shine Tyjon’s shoes. “You let me shine shoes, you pay tomorrow,” he confesses. Tyjon has on sandals. However, he insists to shine them and demands her to pay him the next day. He follows the women around, explaining over and over that he learned English on his “compucher.”
The filmmakers meet up with some Atlanta Georgians, who invite them to a local beach, where guards parade the sands with machine guns.The biggest thief is a two-year-old girl, who steals Tyjon’s T-shirt, dances around in it, and stains it with lollipop juices.
The filmmakers meet Miguel, a native of Santo Domingo, who now lives in the US. He teaches Tyjon and UK a few Spanish phrases and explains the ongoing feud between Dominicans and Haitians.