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Miami (see on map)
Ted from Margate, close to Miami offered to lodge us from the 20th of December to 13th of January, when we had the flight to Mexico. We had offered to pay rent for the room but he refused to accept and just asked me to help him in return to fix some things in the house. We left Naples 3 days before day 20, but luckily we were staying in Miami with another woman of Couchsurfing. Brandee was a traffic policeman and was engaged in many groups of Meetup, a web bringing people with similar interests together. We went to two meetings with Brandee: one night we visited several art galleries and one night we played several games at the home of another lady. Two days later we went to another meeting with Ted, this time at a meeting of atheists. Before, we had to bring the car to arrange in a workshop, exactly the day we had to go to the house of Ted. We had to pay $ 450 to change the fuel pump, but expected to recover by selling the car, and we started asking $ 2000 through Internet.
We celebrated Christmas at the home of a man of Couchsurfing, Thom, who had offered to host a party at his house. Thom had not consulted how many people will come and thought that only will come about 2 or 3 people, but in the end we were about 30, but it was not a problem, because there was enough space and food and drinks for everyone. During the meeting I had several interesting conversations, but would emphasize that I had with a girl and a Jewish man, who were interested in my views on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. On the one hand, demonstrating that the Jews had a right to Israel for historical reasons, for 2000 years before these lands were inhabited, but I answered with the same arguments Native Americans, or Indians could claim the entire territory of the United States because 500 years ago had inhabited the land. Anyway, I defend the existence of a state of Israel, because, like the Native Americans that can do nothing against a population already established, it would be unfair to the Palestinians to expel all Jews from Palestine or Israel, but should reach a political agreement in achieving peace. In this respect, the two accused Palestine and Arab Countries for the absence of agreement, but I told them that the Palestinians seemed very concerned to negotiate borders, such as permitting the proposed boundaries for 68, but not the Israelis. And I ended up asking ´what solution would accept the government of Israel?´ and I knew how to respond, assuming that the Israelis were only interested in further tightening the string to get the maximum field in the far future, when they finally sign a final peace agreement. It was curious to meet two Jews these days, both with a sense of identity that did not leave for nothing in the world, including one that surprised me was defined as a Jew in spite of not believing in God and another is defined as homosexual Jewish and every Saturday went to a gay synagogue.
After celebrating the New Year in Miami, dining at the Hard Rock Café and watching the fireworks with some friends of Couchsurfing, we stayed a few days at the house of Ted, spending many hours in front of computer writing the book of Africa. Fortunately, some nights Ted took us out to dinner with his friends, skeptics and atheists, knowing one of those nights James Randi, an American who worked in the fifties as a professional magician and escape artist, but who rose to fame as a skeptic, unmasking in the eighties the psychic Uri Geller, accusing him of a charlatan who used known tricks among magicians to pass them as supernatural powers. Previously, in 1968 James Randi had offered $ 100 from his pocket to the first person who could provide objective evidence of the paranormal, an award that eventually grew to 1,000, 10,000 and even $ 100,000, which were small in 1996, When Internet pioneer Rick Adams gave a million dollars to increase the challenge and pressure on the parapsychologists. Thinking that the character was important and interesting enough to write an article for a Spanish newspaper, a few days later I went to meet him and made him a very interesting interview (www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUldQZNs1X0).
Finally, a few days before leaving for Mexico, we sold the van to a Dutch couple for $ 1,600 a good price, then taking into account the purchase price and all repairs and expenses that we had in the car, it had cost us an average of $ 7 a day, much cheaper than renting a car. A couple of days later we did several farewell dinner with some friends we had made, and we had a dinner on the last night that Ted invited us again. Ted definitely was a splendid host, like many others we had stayed with in the U.S., with the difference that with Ted we had a chance to learn much more about his affable nature and his generosity because he had agreed to lodge us for a longer time. The last night he refused letting us take a taxi to the airport and woke up at 4 in the morning to get us there. Along the way we expressed our gratitude for his hospitality and insisted that he should come to visit us in a year and a half in Catalonia, where we would try to reward him for all the help he gave us.
Ciutat de Mèxic, D.f. (see on map)
We arrived to Mexico City, taking care not to cross any drug dealer or corrupt police and mindful of not falling into any traps and dangers that we had been warned from the United States. However, the landing was very quiet and we only had to face an unexpected inconvenience: the height of the city (2240m). In the early days we were puffing to a minimum effort and we suffered occasionally of headaches of more or less intensity. As for the drugs and the daily shootings in different parts of the country, different friends reassured us that the drug traffickers laundered drug money to build hotels and do not want to scare tourists because they are another good source of income.
What it seems sure from other friends, including a Spanish man who worked with refugees, is that the following countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador ,...) are much more dangerous than Mexico, with the existence of the Zetas and other criminal gangs. Inevitably I remembered that in Greece we were told that Turkey was dangerous, Turkey felt the same for the Iranians, while Iran warned us of the dangers of Pakistan. Our experience shows that many countries are afraid of their neighbors, but this suspicion can have a real cause, so far we have always been assuming this risk increased smoothly and we had not had any traumatic shock, as if we were a frog who gradually increased the water temperature. If we would have landed in Pakistan directly from Greece surely we would have wanted to leave immediately and would probably do the same in the following countries of Central America. In any case, we avoid this increase in risk and we are taking into account the possibility of being mugged and robbed of computers and cameras, so we are currently doing more backups than ever.
Fast we become confident and we move around the city, but definitely the City of Mexico is very different from any U.S. city. As we arrived we were surprised by the appearance of people, very different from the previous country, where most had a direct descent to the former European colonists and African slaves, unlike Mexico, where almost everyone seems to have some percentage of consanguinity of indigenous or native. I thought about the causes of these differences and imagined two possibilities, that the lands of North America were much more sparsely populated than Central American or English settlers have killed many more native and isolated more in the reserves than the Spanish. Traveling by subway (one ticket costs only 20 euro cents) also gave the opportunity to discover the dynamism of a society that encouraged everyone to work, even doing a miserable job. Every now and then, it appeared a street vendor or a musician, occasionally screaming their chants and going from car to car, keeping us well entertained.
Possibly we would not have adapted so well if not for the hospitality offered to us by our new Couchsurfing host, Jan (the same name as me), an Austrian who was living in Mexico city already for a year, working for the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN, investigating cases of torture, enforced disappearances and other crimes allegedly committed by state establishments as part of the narco-war. Jan introduced us to many of his friends, including Eider, a Basque woman who worked for the Spanish Embassy and invited us to participate in a Basque tambourine party at the Basque community center, a curious and fun tradition of San Sebastian. Jan also took us to other parts of the city, and the last day we drove to the Desert of Lions, a mountain near Mexico City, where we had a barbecue and then we visited an interesting monastery built in the sixteenth-century by the Spanish.
On our own we have visited on different days the area of the Zocalo, the center of the city, where there was a beautiful cathedral, several museums and the National Palace, which boasts with murals by Diego Rivera, which is widely recognized in Mexico, unlike the rest of the world, which gives the highest artistic quality to his wife Frida Kahlo. We also met another girl from Couchsurfing in the Merced market, so extensive, that reminded us of the Asian markets. There, as I was taking photos of the market, an old woman approached me and asked me:
Returning to the National Palace, some of Diego´s murals are depicting the life of the Aztecs or Mexico in Mexico City and the religious center of Teotihuacan. To Teotihuacan we went on another day, by bus, being rewarded with two huge pyramids of rectangular base, built by piling up earth and rocks of medium sized and dedicated to the Sun God and the Moon. I was surprised that the pyramids were similar to some of the ones built in Ankor Wat, Southeast Asia and began to imagine that Asians crossed the Bering Strait about 10,000 or 15,000 years ago and began to populate the Americas, and they must have brought some kind of architectural knowledge that later evolved similarly in both regions. But after observing the museum and recalling the paintings of Diego, I concluded that these populations had to have a much more comprehensive connection. For example, as in Asia and in much of the world, the natives used clothes and were decorated with earrings and nose piercings, painted their houses and temples, used bows and arrows and other weapons, although they were made of stone; they knew how to create ornaments and ceramic vessels, invented about 24.000 BC, knew how to cultivate a variety of cereals, using the same tools although farming was invented before 7000 BC in India and knew grinding grain using calendars, needed to have a notion of passage stations and useful for agriculture, had religions with a similar approach to Mesopotamian or Egyptian, worshiping the sun or the moon, had a burial of the dead, had a highly organized social system; ... Actually, it is much more knowledge that the first American settlers, and the fact that they did not use the wheel (invented towards the 4000aC) and horses, domesticated the same period, perhaps confirms that. But then I realized they used a cuneiform script, similar to that invented by the Sumerians in 3500 BC and working several metals, started working towards the 5000 BC and this is inconsistent with the theory that the Bering Strait was passable by 10,000 BC. So, after reading more I am convinced of the reality of a theory that the American and Asian cultures had some type of maritime contact that had forwarded some of this knowledge.