Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Orleans, Louisiana

   I'm not sure if I could ever get tired of the seafood here. I got tired of the smell of vomit and stale alcohol pretty quickly, but not the seafood.

   It was interesting to see just how destroyed New Orleans still is, even after 7 years of recovery. It may seem like a long time, but the people of NOLA are still dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. It has changed the city forever. The central district has grown up, recovered, and flourished, but as we drove around the boroughs, it was stunning how many abandoned buildings and homes still scatter the city. It felt like a mini war zone at times. The people seem to have an amazingly strong will. Even if the city is plagued with desolate abandonment, the people have decided to recover and live on. Because, what choice did they have in the first place?? It's a bright, vibrant city that's rising from the ashes and making itself its own hero, tired of waiting on the promised one that never showed up.

   One of my best friends came down after the storm to help with the recovery effort. He has some amazing stories. And after hearing them, I know that positivity can be taken out of any situation.

   So what can I say about New Orleans? Tourism is a huge part of their local economy and recovery effort. Simply going there, diving in, and being a tourist helps them along greatly. So go drink 5 hurricanes, get kicked out of the casino, and sleep in the street. Eat some crawfish etouffee and suck down some oysters. But more importantly, talk to the locals. Hear their story. Understand why they are still there. And get over your first world problems. 

   I've been to some amazing places, but they aren't all far from home. A unique story, an untold life, an amazing person lives hours, even minutes outside of your front door. And it can be just as rewarding as Tokyo or Argentina. Go see for yourself. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mexico: Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen

    I didn't really go to "real" Mexico. Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen don't even count to some people, visions of drunk frat boys and MTV spring break filling their heads. No drug cartels or kidnappings to worry about here.
    But Tulum IS a major player in the Mayan world. The pyramids and ruins are impressive, but a bit touristy. And Cancun really does have some pretty beaches. And I did break the chain on my rental bicycle and have to walk it about three miles back to the hostel. And it's not like the food was bad. Quite far from it actually, i've hardly eaten better. Sketchy streetside vendors and night markets paired with late night Dos Equis make any trip worth it.
    Mexico City next time. I hear fantastic things. It's a country right on our doorstep, but it has the unfortunate (if not deserved) reputation of being one of the most dangerous countries on the planet. It's a shame, the culture and life in Mexico excites me greatly. I wish it was more accessible. Let me be very clear that I blame a very large portion of the problems in Mexico on the United States' failed drug war and awful mismanagement of resources. How long must we continue policy that is obviously failing? I have a friend whose brother recently lost his life at the hands of the cartels. It saddens me to know that he, along with thousands of others, died not only at the hands of drug lords, but that the blame is shared by US policy makers in Washington. 
    Let's end this perpetually failing policy so that we can start to end the killing in Mexico amd begin to explore this wonderful country. I had a great trip and would love to see more.