Last Day of “Freedom,” MY FIRST DAY AT WORK AT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, & the Last Chapter of My Magnificent Trip to Mexico (Merida, Cancun, Bungee Jumping, Isla Mujeres & Montreal)

Shalom,

 

So today is my last day as an untethered young buck. Tomorrow I start my job as Junior Program Officer, affiliated with the Joint/Union Management Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion in the Public Service, in the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Canadian Federal Government! Now how prestigious (and intimidating) does that sound? I’m so excited about it! And a bit nervous! And not really sure what to expect! But definitely ready to begin! Wouhou!

How am I spending my last taste of freedom? I woke up early, as I’m trying to reset / regularize my sleep schedule, and sipped iced coffee while reading about The Challenge (the finale of its spinoff Champs vs Pros aired on Tuesday night, and the new season premieres in less than a month). Then went for a short bike ride, got the newspaper, and ate a late breakfast out on the balcony while completing the crossword and reading some articles. Now I’m working on this blog post, going to yoga at 5, and I have my weekly Pandemic Legacy game later tonight. Then likely an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 (just witnessed the iconique Laganja breakdown, and okurrrr mawma, it was everything, just too f***ing much, SUCH a disaster) and an early bedtime – because tomorrow, I’m at the office at 9am! Whuuttt! Insanity.

And considering how I’ll be out of town all day Saturday & Sunday – I’m helping Tsarina Tsybina move to Toronto by renting a car, picking up ridesharers, driving to Montreal, loading the minivan, heading to T-Dot, listening to the S-Town podcast, sleeping overnight, attending the Pride Parade, then driving back to Ottawa Sunday evening – I need to finish up blogging ‘bout Mexico. I know I sound like a broken record by now, so I’m just gonna get it out of the way, so we can move onto other topics. Plus, after tomorrow, I feel I’ll have much more to discuss – and also much less energy to do so. I know starting working again is going to be exhausting and have a sharp learning curve. I’m prepared for it, but I’m not necessarily looking forward to the adjustment period. Plus I want to continue hitting the gym, so hopefully I’ll have the wherewithal to do that. But it’s that famous paradox, isn’t it? Working out actually gives you more energy, despite everything you expend in the process. I suppose it’s about putting your stamina to the test, depleting it, so you have more in general. I’m not totally sure. But I hope that the past six weeks have conditioned me to be able to last longer and be more energetic.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

 

Day 11: Merida & Cancun

 

Woke up early, enjoyed the quality hostel breakfast, packed my stuff up, and put it “closed with a key” (cerrado con llave) in the locker. Then hurried down to the main plaza, where there was a free walking tour, which are a great way to explore a city. You can wander around yourself, certainly – and that is what I predominately do – but then there’s so much nuance and history and interesting factoids that you miss when you don’t have somebody there to explain / introduce it to you. I was meeting Fritzi there, and we even waited up for her, but she never showed. That’s one frustration of traveling abroad. You get so accustomed to being able to communicate with others at a moment’s notice when you’re back home – due to WiFi or data on your mobile – so when you’re without that, it goes back to the old-fashioned ways of doing things, pre-cell phones. I kinda like it, though. It’s a return to simpler times. If they show up, great – and if not, well, you can’t get upset about it. These things happen. And it turns out that there were actually two walking tours departing at the same time nearby each other – so she went to the other one, where she was also wondering where I was. Shame, since I wanted to hang out with her again, but what can ya do?

The walking tour was very informative. We learned about the big Cathedral, toured the church, wandered through a free museum in a government building, and checked out the brilliant architecture of other edifices in the city. Lots of wealth families lived in Merida once upon a time, due to the production of sisal, a plant fibre that is woven into rope. The industry boomed and richesse came with it – along with opulent homes and colonial architectural details and luxe living spaces. As well as enormous haciendas outside the city, that I unfortunately missed out on (you can’t do it all). Nowadays, many of these have been converted into upper-crust hotels and palatial estates for the bougie travelers to enjoy. Me, I prefer that hostel and couchsurfing life. All the better to meet people and truly experience an area!

We also walked down this road in which all the shops had these fish tanks / terraria with these cockroach-looking bugs in them for sale. The kicker is that they were all bejeweled, with gold chains and sparkly gems and the like. They’re called makech, and the apparently immobilize themselves when they’re touched. So the idea is, you hang them on y our top like a brooch, and it just dangles there without crawling anywhere. And when you put them back in their cage, they resume movement. It’s living art, a bit macabre, interesting, eye-catching. Like the blinged-out roaches on America’s Next Top Model. I wouldn’t personally do it, but I do think it’s cool.

And the legend behind it is that there was this affluent father (maybe a king?) with a daughter (possibly a princess) that he gave anything she ever desired. After his conquests, he would always bring back a gift for his darling daughter. Except one time, she wanted one of the slaves (or maybe a prisoner) that her father won due to his victory – but he wasn’t having any of it. She disobeyed him, went behind his back, and had a torrid love affair with this slave – only to be caught by the king. To punish her, he turned her lover into a beetle, and the markech adornments were born! Quite the unique souvenir, they would be. But unfortunately, the shopkeepers even charged for you to take a picture of them, so I have none. Google-image search that ish if you’re so inclined.

Our lovely tour guide also told us the history of those white twin-chairs you see everywhere. Similar to the previous old-fashioned story, a father created these chairs so that his daughter could sit and talk with her lover, but they had a barrier between them so it wouldn’t go too far. And of course, the father could sit and watch them converse. How creepy and overbearing is that? #SmashthePatriarchy! Nonetheless, the seats are pretty cool and unique. Another standout image from Merida.

We ended the expedition at this great museum / artists’ residence in a converted old abode. Merida is a very popular city these days with young adults. It seems a bit hipster to me, actually. Very artsy and new-fashioned and up-and-coming. Like Bed Stuy. With artisanal ice cream shops owned by Polish immigrants to trendy art galleries to expensive espresso to La Negrita Cantina. It’s good stuff. Keidan really recommends it. Me, I didn’t love it, but I’m still glad I visited.

After that, I tipped the guide (since it’s not actually free, and she deserved it anyhow) then had to dash. I had bought my bus ticket the day prior for 1pm, and so happy I did, because every seat was taken, and all of the other passengers had kids and snacks and blankets with them. They’re resident pros, on the long bus ride from Merida to Cancun. Like 4-5 hours. Thank Dios there was air-conditioning.

Oooohh! Two funny stories. I bought the ticket from a travel agent off the main square, but due to my annoying frugality instincts, I missed out on a much cheaper one early in the morning, because I didn’t trust her word and walked to the bus station to check it out myself. And by the time I got back, there were no vacancies left. Of course. Don’t get me wrong, I like how I’m money-savvy and don’t go throwing it away – because then I can afford things I really care about (like travel) and not just be profligate with impulsive purchases or eating out – but it does annoy me sometimes. Just another characteristic of mine I’m working on.

Anyway, the funny story is that after I made the transaction, this woman asked me about my nail polish (which was orangey-red at the time). She spoke no English, so what was already a dicey conversation became more difficult. I told her I like the colour, and me gusta romper las expectaciones del género (I like to break gender expectations), and why not? She probably asked if I’m gay too, so I told her, “Soy bi,” pronounced like “bee.” Maybe I said “Estoy bi” ? I don’t exactly remember. Hispanoblantes – help me out here. Do you use ser or estar when discussing sexual orientation? Because sexuality is fluid sometimes, but for most people most times, it is a staid and consistent identity. So which is preferred?

Regardless. That’s me. Being a tiny bit gender non-conforming & educating about queer issues wherever I am! Can’t stop / won’t stop.

The other amusing anecdote is more cringey than funny. After the walking tour, I’m on the hunt for a cold coffee, so I can actually accomplish stuff on the long bus ride. Plus, it helps with the heat, and you know how I love my iced americanos. So I pass this place which has a sign promoting their special – a croissant and a coffee for, I dunno, 40 pesos? A good price – comparable to the other places, but with a lil pastry thrown in. I needed a snack too, so it was perfect. I go in, and inquire if I can get it to go, and order an iced espresso with un poquitito de leche and a croissant to this woman. And then this man comes over, and he asks for my order too, so I repeat it. He describes the croissants with more detail, so I order one with cheese and pesto. Uhmm, yes please!

It takes much longer than expected, and I’m fretting because I don’t want to miss my bus, and then he comes out with this big box – the croissant sandwich and fries and the coffee to go. And a bill, for much more than the sign said. And that’s where the chagrin/humour comes in. Apparently he told me the special was just a regular croissant (which is what I wanted, cool) but offered the other, fancier, pricier sandwiches, and since my Spanish is imperfecto, I didn’t follow that it wasn’t included in the deal. Even the coffee was more expensive! Because apparently he gave me a double, when I didn’t ask for it. Ugh. Like the guy who tried to rip me off / overcharge me for the cold brew in Tulum when all I wanted was espresso over ice.

So this guy doesn’t speak English and won’t back down. I tell him to get his manager – who also is only monolingual – and for the entire ordeal, I’m really stressing out about all the time it’s taking. I even considered just leaving everything there, giving a couple coins for the little bit of coffee I drank, and peacing the F out, because my departure was looming and I still had to collect my stuff from the hostel and then hustle to the bus station. I wasn’t trying to get chased by the policia, though, so I opted not to sip & dash. The manager sided with me and just charged me for the coffee (which was still more than their sign said, but whatever, I’m not going to squabble about a buck or two), so I paid up, kinda enjoyed how she let me do that when the other employee was so upset (why so pressed, bro?), and get the heck outta dodge.

Actually ran into the two older Canadian guys at the bus station, too, serendipitously – Robin and his travel companion – then got a lil snack of empanadas from an adorable old lady on the side of the road, and another coffee, then boarded that bus. Watched Scream Queens and listened to a podcast and eventually got back to where I started: Cancun.

Checked into the same hostel, was happy to see my amigos who work there again (Daniel, Martin, that Canuck guy with the tattoos and his wife), dropped my bag off, and found dinner. Went to La Res Sabrosa, by recommendation of Daniel (and corroborated by TripAdvisor), and enjoyed a phenomenal alambre – which, as Wiki says, is “grilled beef topped with chopped bacon, bell peppers, onions, cheese, salsa and avocado.” Kinda like the orden I got on my first day in Mexico – a make-your-own taco platter. Delicious.

Then I picked up some canned cocktails from the 7/11 across Avenida Tulum, hopped on the R2, and went to the Zona Hotelera. I first went to Playa Tortugas, where the bungee jumping place is, and managed to get there in time to actually see somebody jump and inquire about the process, rates, experience, etc. They told me I could do it right then, but after the dinner I just had, I didn’t think it was the best idea. Plus, I wanted to do it during the daytime, so I could enjoy the panoramic view from atop the tower. And to be honest, I was cowed. So I reserved my spot for the following day. Oh, and they even offered me a discount before I opened my mouth to ask about it. Immediately knocked ten off the price, for only $50 US. Now that’s a deal!

For the rest of the night, I wandered around the Zona, sat on the beach, sipped my drinks, read my book, watched some of the debauchery at the biggest clubs there (Coco Bongo, La Vaqueria, Mandala), and eventually meandered back to the hostel, where I chatted with the other guests and sat on the outdoor patio and ate everything up. What a life.

 

Day 12: Cancun & Bungee Jumping & Isla Mujeres

I woke up especially excited for the day. I enjoyed the breakfast, sun-screened, psyched myself up, grabbed an iced coffee, caught the shuttle, and headed straight for Playa Tortugas again – before I lost my nerve. Marched right to the Adventure Bay kiosk, signed the waiver, paid the fee, and took a couple minutes to gather my thoughts. But after I came all this way and announced it on Facebook and Snapchat and made my mind up, there’s no way I was backing down.

So I climb up the steep wooden stairs, get 80 feet above the water, and really enjoy the view. It’s gorgeous. White sand beaches, turquoise waters, the sun is shining, I have spectators watching from the beach below. I convince the instructor the take some pictures of me with my own phone – probably against the rules, but whatever – then get the photographer to carry it down safely for me. Get strapped into the ankle harness, and it’s surprisingly weighty – but that’s reassuring. You’re not dealing with peanuts safety features, here. And believe you me, I did my research into the company before signing up. I’m not a total idiot.

Then I pose for more pictures with the official photographer, squinting in the sun, and then walk the plank. The instructor is there the whole time, so I’m not completely scared out of my wits. He already told me all about how the process would go, what I had to do, the proper poses, etc. So I was prepared, and not scared. My heart might have been beating pretty fast, but I felt remarkably cool-headed. I get to the precipice of the wooden platform, toes gripping the very edge, and gaze out upon everything. It was such a remarkable sight, absolutely gorgeous. Paradise, heaven on earth, everything.

I wave at the people watching 80 feet below, spread my arms as I’m supposed to, and that’s when my heart jumps to my throat. I get an immediate surge of total terror, my instincts telling me that this is super stupid – but I’m positive it’s safe, and I watched other people do it, and I know that if I overthink it, I’ll get in my head and be too pusillanimous to do it. So I push the fear out of my mind and fall forward with zero hesitation. Legitimately – I wasted no time. And was impressed with myself for doing that, when I’ve suffered acrophobia for most of my life.

And, literally in the blink of an eye, the initial fall is over. I remember at the last second to go into the dive position, I splash down in the Caribbean Sea, then rebound back up, bungeed afloat, and bounce around a couple times. It’s hard to gauge where in space I am, since all the brilliant colours are blurring together, there’s salt water in my eyes, and I’m moving fast. I catch glimpses of the boats in the marina, the wooden tower, the beach, the sky and horizon and ocean, and before you know it – I’m reaching out to grab the ring they held out, catch it, and am slowly towed back to terra firma.

When I’m on my back on the pier, I immediately use the bottom of my “Living Young, Wild, and Free” frat tank top (SUCH a bro) to wipe my eyes of the seawater that got in them – and apparently everybody thought I was crying and taking care of my tears. Nope, that is not what happened. I loved every second of the bungee jump, and was disappointed that it was over and done with so soon! I definitely want to experience it again, but next time from higher up. This one was only 70-80’ of a plummet, which seems like suicide when you’re standing on the brink – but it all passes by in such a hurry. So I can’t wait to do it again.

I was the first daredevil of the day, too – so that was quite the way to shake up my morning!

And then, after riding the afterglow for a while, marveling that I had the courage to do that – when I was all alone and had nobody there to cheer or encourage me – I bought my ticket to Isla Mujeres, boarded the ferry, and sailed the ocean blue. They even had live music on the boat, which was pretty cool – this guy playing the guitar and singing covers in Spanish. Neato mosquito.

For those of y’all who don’t know, Isla Mujeres is a very popular tourist destination in Mexico. Common for those that get to the country via cruise ship. It’s famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving around a coral reef of it. But it also features this underwater museum called Musa – in which sculptures were created and then sunken to the ocean floor, for people to see through goggles and with air tanks. Awesome stuff, especially with how the various flora + fauna cover these statues and kind of “reclaim” them. It was established in order to compete with the reef, since all the tourism it receives takes a toll on the health of the coral and plants. Such a shame for that to happen, so I love this initiative they thought of. Where else can you go see art underwater? Probably somewhere, I’m sure, but it’s not too common.

However, I didn’t do any of this. It was my last day in Mexico, so I didn’t want to take out tonnes of pesos to afford all these expeditions and risk having leftover currency. My big #yolo expense was the bungee jumping, something I’ve been wanting to try for years, and the tattoo, which I’ll discuss later. So instead, I wandered around the town section of Isla Mujeres, which reminded me of Hilo, Hawaii. A nice beach town, baked by the sun, with lots of kitschy shops and restaurants with outdoor patios and people lazily walking around.

I hit up Playa Norte, which was highly recommended by the travel sites, and plunkered myself down in the shade of a palm. Read my book, enjoyed the sights, breathed in the fresh air and luxuriated in the sea breeze. Eventually I stashed my stuff in a bush and went in search of this mini-reef I overheard some Americans discussing on the ferry over. Splashed along in the water with my goggles and Speedo, swam underneath this bridge that connected the glitzy hotel Mia Reef to the rest of the island, and found an aquamarine wonderland. There were rocks out where the waves reach the lagoon, kinda like a natural breakwater, and all around them were all these adorable fish. I floated near them, loved their flashy colours, and even spotted some turtles, swordfish, and a flippin’ barracuda! Fortunately I escaped with all my limbs and bodily integrity.

Then returned to my stuff, which luckily was all still there (in addition to my fingers and toes), laid down on the beach to dry off, then went in search of food. Stopped in a store to ask a local for recommendations, but they place he advised was nowhere to be found. So I strolled down the pedestrian roads, checking out all the menus, and wow, was everything overpriced. Which goes hand-in-hand with how touristy the area is. To be expected. I ended up at the place that looked the most authentic. It was small, literally ran out of the kitchen of somebody’s residence, the menu was nothing fancy, and there were (what appeared to be actual) Mexicans eating there too. Always a good sign when the locals patronize the same restaurant!

I had guacamole and a quesadilla, and it was all delicious. They had a serve-yourself salsa and salad bar, as well, so I capitalized upon that too. I wish I knew the name of the establishment, to recommend to you all, but I can’t even find it on Google Street View. Ah well.

Then back to the ferry station, but I apparently misread my ticket and had to kill another 45 minutes. No problem, though! More exploring, got an iced espresso, and sat watching the boats go in and out of the marina / reading “Truly Madly Guilty.”

Then boarded the board, was treated to more live music on the ~sunset cruise~ back to the mainland, and I even managed to get back when Adventure Bay / the bungee jumping place was still open! So I went straight for the photographer’s stand and tried my best to haggle them down. The prices they charge for their photos is nigh criminal. $35 for like 30 photos? Yeah, it’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.

The lowest he would go was $25 for the photos and the video for it, when I only wanted to give a twenty. So I played hardball, and was just like, “Well, fine, no deal. It’s either you take this $20 and give it to me, or I walk away, you delete the photos and make no money. They’re worth nothing to you. Might as well make some more cash before you close for the night.” And no, that was not all in Spanish, because I don’t think I’m that skilled at my second language (just yet). But it worked! And now I’m the proud owner of some hi-res pictures AND the video of me defying death! Yay!

Satisfied, I returned to the hostel, showered off, researched tattoo parlours, then struck out on the hunt. The place that was best reviewed was unfortunately closed when I finally managed to find it – after serendipitously running into my Canadian pal Robin (from Merida) AND wandering through a city fair / block party – so I stopped in this trendy-looking menswear store that sold expensive Speedos, asking for another recommendation. It happened to be just around the corner, so I headed straight to Placer y Dolor (Pleasure and Pain). Met with the artist and tried my best to explain the idea in Spanish, which was not as easy as it sounds, despite how simple the design was going to be. He quotes me a price, but again, I’m playing aloof – and it works out again! He immediately drops it down to about $40 US, if I do it tonight.

So I tell him, great, I need to take some cash out though. And I wanted to walk around and mull it over for a bit, before submitting to being poked with a needle many times over in an LDC with somebody who I couldn’t communicate with that well. But, you know what, I read the reviews, it had numerous positive testimonies, and whatever, no biggie. So I did it! And I have no regrets! It was quick, cheap, not excruciating, and still looks good! Yay!

I got the outlines of two equilateral triangles pointing to each other on the outside of my left wrist, where my watch goes (and can cover it if I need to). So it resembles a basic, geometric hourglass – but the upside-down triangle stands for queer pride as well, and the right-side up one represents delta, for change. And incidentally, the two of them together also mean fire and water, or balance / duality / etc – but that was just an extra +1, not the reason I went for that design. And now it’s tattoo #7! To tie up with my body piercings! (3 in each ear and 1 nipple)

Finally, with my ultimate night in Meh-hee-ko, I got some more cheap-ass tacos al pastor along Avenida Tulum, at the place the Kiwi Couple recommended way back when, then sat on the patio with the hostel workers / guests, and soaked in the lovely balmy night air one more time.

 

Day 13 & 14 & 15: Cancun + Montreal + Ottawa

Wake up, last hostel breakfast, grabbed my stuff, got a final iced americano, schlepped to the ADO station, got to hang out in the air-conditioned premium lounge reading about Drag Race, listen to the Brain Candy Podcast en route the airport, then only have about a half hour to wait at the gate (since it took me an unexpected while to check in at the counters, Dios knows why, I had only a carry-on). Have my layover in Philly, take my time walking through all the terminals looking for lunch, finally settle on an iced coffee and bagel from Au Bon Pain, the cashier says she thinks my conch piercing is cute and I’m adorable, aw thanks girl, then jetset to Montreal.

It takes forever going through customs, but eventually I make it through, hop on the shuttle to downtown, meet beautiful KyKy at Ganadara, grab the key, and finally relax when I get to his place. He surprises me a half hour later, as I’m sitting in just my underwear on the couch, resting before I got the energy up to shower – but he brought food from the restaurant! Awwww what a darling! ❤

Crash soon after, despite my intentions to go for a walk and experiencing the city that still feels like the most like home to me. Sleep like a log, wander round the city, indulge in another decadent but delicious poutine from Dirty Dogs, do some sightseeing, meet up with Ky & Mike MF Chan at Brutopia for a 5a7, love the raspberry beer, bus to the Mile End and hang out with Bren “G-Frog” Prouse for a lil while, play some Sm4sh, then metro to Atwater Forum to meet Ouliana to finally see Get Out (since Ottawa is severely lacking cinemas in its central core). We stroll back along Ste-Catherine afterward, get a quick bite from Burger King (I clearly was #cleaneating during these couple days), and plan how we’ll move her to Toronto during June. Well, guess what, that’s happening tomorrow! Believe it, squirrelfriend!

With my last day, more aimless walking around, get a banh mi with Melody (who out of nowhere gives me free nail polish – WOW thanks so much, the white paint is exactly what I wanted!) at the perennial Vua, grab coffee with Torchic, then get my rideshare back to lovely ol’ Ottawa. And the rest is history: the post-travel blues and unemployed doldrums and not loving my life situation, especially after how spectacular Mexico was.

 

 

And that’s that! The remainder of my travel blogging about Mexico. Who knows when the next exotic trip abroad will be? Not until November at the earliest, since that is when my casual contract with the Treasury Board ends.

Bi the gay, I had my first day on the job today – which I’ll discuss in more detail later – but a quick summary:

Everyone was very friendly, all the documents I was given to read (a huge amount) interest me, I have a nice private office/cubicle, it’s not hellishly open-concept, I met my colleagues and my boss’s boss, received uplifting and flattering advice from my supervisor, got the security badge to enter the buildings and my own laptop and email and login info etc and feel so legit about the whole thing. And ironically, the dream I had right before waking up at 7:30 this morning included my previous boss assaulting me and me feeling powerless to change it, but still giving an impassioned and affecting speech about it to the crowd gathered there. Hm, how telling is that, huh?

I now work Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30, and it’s not micro-managey, and I don’t feel defeated or even that daunted by anything. I’m absurdly excited about it. Can’t wait to truly sink my teeth into this Diversity & Inclusion Task Force work! Yay!

 

Ciao for now. I’m off to gym, shower, and then head to Ernie’s for the RPDR Season 9 Finale with frands! Sickening!

 

Love y’all,

 

– Jefe

EXCITING JOB NEWS (I’m Finally Starting !!), Hard Introspection, Powerlifting, Outreach, & Other Details about My Lovely Life

Hello!

 

It’s 7:30 on a humid Saturday evening, and I have plans at 9. This is probably a really bad time to start a blog entry, but that’s k, ‘cause “the longest journey starts with a single step.” (How’s that for an overwrought opening?)

I slept in once again today and took my time waking up while reading about the new season of The Challenge XXX Dirty Thirty. Veronica’s return! Tori Deal is finally debuting! And filming just wrapped a couple days ago, but the premiere is gonna be July 18th! What!

Literally, finding out about that quick turnaround and impending premiere was the sole piece of good news I got last weekend. I had an uncomfortable phone call with a friend, which inspired lots of introspection and self-reflection and second-guessing myself afterward. Which isn’t great for me, since my self-esteem has already been lower than normal, on account of my being unemployed and uninvolved and “Wasting My Young Years” (by London Grammar) for the past 2.5+ months. I already struggle with being sure of myself, and although I come across as supremely confident and even uber-cocky sometimes, it’s an act. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? And that’s what I do in some social situations, especially in large groups when I don’t know anybody.

It was a malignant conversation, though. It came from a place of concern, like tough love / hard truths. And I appreciate it, and also that my dear friend had the cojones to bring it up to me. Because it was not a fun phone call, by any means. But still important to have, and it has helped me see some of the error(s) in my ways and desire to try harder / do better. No pain, no gain right? You gotta struggle to get that success. And that’s where I am right now.

Reading the entirety of Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” in a 24-hour period this past week also aided me in coming to terms with this rough talk I had with a close pal. Pain – be it physical or psychological – is helpful and necessary because it tells you that something is amiss or in need of amelioration. And if my amig@ didn’t bring up what they did, then I would continue comporting myself in a less-than-spectacular fashion. So I’m grateful for it, even if it hurt in the short term.

Funnily enough, in the week following this strained convo, it became clear that not one but two (other) people that I respect and like and get along with were upset by a snarky comment I made in a group setting. Of course, I meant no harm or malice by it, but the result was the same – I was too cavalier and they didn’t like what I said. So I felt bad, was contrite, and apologized to them. Several missteps along my path, certainly – but the important part is that I take it seriously, don’t let the criticism destroy me, understand it for what it is (somebody who cares about me bringing up a behaviour people have found troublesome, out of concern for my success in future relationships), make some changes, and keep on truckin’. So that’s me. Flawed, certainly, but working on it. Nobody’s perfect, and I’m still young and have some growing up to do / stuff to learn.

Anyhow.

Another annoyance for me this past week/end was how the security clearance was continuing to take a while. I know things in government take time, and it’s all part of the bureaucratic beauty of it, and it’ll be worth the wait ultimately – but dang it, I’m growing impatient! I want to start working and am eager to learn about what all is going on with the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and am so ready to begin! I finally got the record check back from the UK, last Wednesday, and I immediately rushed over to the TBS building to hand it off to Dyllan, the administrative assistant who has been helping me with the paperwork throughout this process. The document ended up taking nine days, when their site said it would take two working days (minus the days of receipt and dispatch) if you paid the extra $70… Which I did. Aggravating.

And that wasn’t the last step in the process either, as I expected / was hoping. I had to wait until Monday for more progress, which manifested as an invitation to a security clearance interview on Thursday afternoon, to obtain clarification about some “discovered information” that arose during the rest of the process. I asked my friends who are in the know about this, to get their input / advice, and none of them understood why I had to go through with that, since I’m only going for the most basic level of security clearance. So I fretted about this all week, but also knew that worrying wouldn’t help anything, and what happens, happens. I went into the interview with my head held high and hoping for the best. Again: fake it ‘til you make it.

Turns out all my apprehension was for naught. The questions they asked me were the ones you’d expect in such a tête-à-tête – if I’ve ever been arrested, where I’ve traveled in the past five years, my citizenships, why I decided to move to Scotland, my work history, etc. It was pretty gayforward, and the woman said she would write up a report to be submitted to her supervisor for their approval, and I’d likely hear back by Wednesday. Cool. More time to wait / be patient / worry that this job ain’t a slam dunk after all (because if this doesn’t work out, then what will I do?!?!) – but the bright side is that it is a step forward. Another hurdle jumped and getting closer to the finish line. So, I’ll take it!

Then the next day, I was just doin’ my thang, listening to new music (Todrick Hall, Halsey, Alaska Thunderf*ck 5000) while power-lifting at the gym (I hit 310lbs on the leg press while doing 3 sets of 10 reps, and moved up to 175lbs on the back squat, 3 sets of 6 reps), and, lo and behold…

I got an email!

From Dyllan!

The day after the interview, and not this coming Thursday, like I expected!

And he told me that MY SECURITY CLEARANCE HAS BEEN VALIDATED!

And I start work next Friday !

And will find out more details / get my letter of offer on Monday or Tuesday! (And would begin earlier, but my boss is away for the most of the week)

 

So, like Etta James says, “At last!”

It really looks like I’ll finally get back on that employment horse by the end of the week, and I’m really looking forward to it. I know I’m going to miss my slow, idle days – waking up late, doing crosswords on the balcony, taking leisurely bike rides, watching TV until 3am, the works – but I’m very excited about working again. It’ll feel good to earn some money, accomplish something every day, learn new things, become a better, more capable person, and feel like I’m making something of my life. It’s definitely going to be a sharp learning curve and a rough adjustment period – getting re-accustomed to devoting so many consecutive hours towards work tingz and waking up early and preparing lunches for the week and dressing professionally – but I can’t live a lazy, unattached existence forever. So, bring it on. I’m ready. Switch-up!

The 90 days of my casual contract will take me until late October / early November, so I suppose my big trip Down Under before my 26th birthday will have to change a bit. Alas. No big deal, though, because I am very happy and grateful that this opportunity is finally going to happen. It’s been about three months since I finished at the CCGSD, and all that freedom has been too much of a good thing. Plus, a government gig is the golden ticket here in Ottawa. Not sure if I’ve said that so far, but it really is what many people clamour for. It offers job security, dependability, benefits, a good salary, and work that you know makes a difference. And while mine might just be a temporary position for now, I’ve heard from numerous people that if your superiors like you, then they will find a way to keep you / bring you on for a longer-term post. That’s what I plan to do, to leave a good impression and do an exemplary job and make myself valuable so I can continue fighting the good fight. And even if that doesn’t happen, despite my best efforts – then I’m already internal to government, and thus more able to land other contracts with greater ease.

All that means that it finally seems that Ottawa is my permanent home now. And with a reliable job commencing very soon, I can stop living in this state of arrested development. That is, jumping from place to place without signing a lease, not accruing furniture, functioning with the little stuff I have here in the city (and not all that’s back in Nova Scotia), etc, etc. The place I’m in now is only a sublet for the summer, so come September, I’ll be moving again. So that gives me time to feel out this new gig and decide how much I want to set aside for rent. And then maybe I can move into an unfurnished place, take my stuff + furniture from the Nova Scotia house, sign a year-long lease, and live my best life. Hang the Dali prints on the walls, get my board game collection into the city, and make a home for myself. And I might even opt to live solo, which to me seems like a move into adulthood. We’ll see, though. The prospect is exciting to me. Now I can finally gaze into the future, do some daydreaming, wonder what life will be like in the coming months and years.

 

 

So there’s that. Obviously a great piece of news to receive, and it started my weekend off with a bang. Then I went to Tim Jolly’s place to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and play some games, and that was fun as always. The previous Friday, I watched it with Colin & Riyadh at their friend’s place, and also enjoyed that. I then headed to Frayme’s Housewarming Party, where we played Werewolves! My favourite! And yesterday, I checked out the Club Day for the Ottawa Wolves, which is our local inclusive rugby team, which various friends of mine play for (Miguel, Vanessa, Jackson, Owen, Matt, Chris, Tyler, Nich). It was my first time seeing rugby played, and it was actually fun to watch. Like more hardcore football with fewer rules. Good stuff. Seems like a great release and workout, and it definitely piqued my interest and a desire to try it out. But then I remember how Nich broke his collarbone and Matt torqued his leg and Vanessa has a bad concussion and Daniel Prinn fractured his arm, and I look at the huge dudes that are on the team, and I decide that it probably isn’t the sport for me.

However! I do want to get more athletically involved, and keep up with this new fitness kick I’m on (with weightlifting, yoga, and cycling) – so maybe I’ll go out for the Gay Ottawa Volleyball league, or challenge some people to squash, or look more into that community Quidditch team, or hit up one of Ottawa’s three (!!) rock-climbing gyms. Summer gives me more energy, and I want to capitalize upon that while I still have the wherewithal.

And then last night, I met up with David MacMillan at the AIDS Committee, who trained me to be part of SPOT (Safer Partying Outreach Team) and taught me all about HIV 101 and the ACO’s values and history and harm-reduction techniques. Then the two of us went and performed outreach for safer consumption & sexual health at Sashay, which is billed as the “Largest LGBT Party” in Ottawa. It was at Barrymoore’s, this huge converted theatre, and tickets go for $25 a pop. There were go-go dancers and drag queens and coloured spotlights and bumpin’ house music. Seemed like a pretty commonplace club night to me, so I was surprised entry was so pricy – but I suppose living in Montreal for six years spoiled me, because it’s some of the best Ottawa has to offer. Such a shame.

Regardless, I still had a fun time. I ran into a lot of people I knew, including some I haven’t seen in forever – so it was great to catch up with them. I got to check out the Queer Mafia event too, which was right next door at Babylon, so I saw the inside of another venue as well. And strolled through Glowfair, a block party on Bank Street that they had this past Friday & Saturday. And hung out with David M, got to know him more, learned a thing or two, and enjoyed biking through the humid night air. If I didn’t do all that, what else would I have gotten up to on a Saturday night? Watching old seasons of RPDR? That’s exactly right (I recently started season six and am loving it), but that’s also hella boring. Better to get out, hit the town, check out the scene, and do something new that I can add to my resume. And it turned out to be quite the good time, actually!

 

What else have I been up to? Regularly hanging out and chatting with my roommate, Gilmour (as Bailey is still in Sudbury). Hosting trivia each Monday, and still loving that. Board games, naturally. Pandemic Legacy mostly each week with the Lads (Colum, Dean, Luke), and other games other times. I recently met/befriended Matt & Chris, and we played Dominion with the Adventures expansion – one I’ve been wanting to try but didn’t have the chance to. So I really loved that (and won pretty handily, too, no T no shade). Also tried out some of the variations from the Catan Traders & Barbarians expansion last week, with Miguel, Owen, & Nick. Yoga on Thursdays, with Robert, Francois, Denis, Joa, & David/Imad/Coady (the volunteers). I met Julia’s boyfriend Ben recently too, and we really hit it off well. And played some memorable games of Sm4sh – you know how I relish that. Seeing other friends for coffees and catch-ups. Working out. And I suppose, enjoying the lovely weather and spending time outside and keeping myself busy so I don’t get too melancholy. I biked to Hog’s Back Falls one day (as the featured photo shows) and through Gatineau just yesterday (as pictured on my Insta). I’m really liking Ottawa much more, now that everything is in bloom and people are out and about and it’s no longer frigid. So that’s something to be grateful about.

 

 

Aaaaannnddd, I’m gonna wrap it up here. I still want to finish chronicling my trip to Mexico, but that’s nearly finished. Have to discuss my last morning in Merida, Isla Mujeres, bungee-jumping, and two evenings in Cancun. It won’t take long – but I’ll get to it another time.

 

One final thing. I have not heard more back about the reality TV show, but I still legitimately believe that I would be an amazing character for such a program. Unique, outspoken, strong opinions, big personality, fun/goofy/silly, extroverted, singular, a fan of having a great time, ambitious, intelligent, a bit vulnerable/insecure, magnetic. Multifaceted.

So maybe it’ll still work out – crazier things have happened – but as of now, I’m super pleased to have an exciting job starting soon. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s much more important, better for my future, a smarter choice. So, I’ll take it!

 

‘Til next time, y’all. Hope you enjoyed this less intensive update.

Take care now ❤

 

– Jefe

My First Social Event in Ottawa; Underwear Modeling for a Good Cause; Roomie Love; Chichen Itza; Cenote-Swimmin’; & Day 1 in Merida

Hey y’all,

 

It’s yet another chilly and rainy day here in Ottawa. For JUNE. Everyone’s been saying that it’s weirdly unseasonal, and I just heard today that this past May was the wettest on record for Ottawa. Just my luck, right? Spent last year in drizzly, overcast Glasgow and then move to O-Town for the rainiest spring/summer it’s apparently ever had.

And it’s no huge deal, because at least the temperatures are in the teens and it’s not a hurricane. The city is green again – all the leaves have come out – and the precipitation helps with that. So I’ll count my blessings.

I just bought a bike yesterday, though – and I was looking forward to cycling ‘round Ottawa today. But with how nasty it is, I’ve spent the whole day indoors. I even woke up earlier than normal, at 10am, because I wanted to have a productive day. But the weather has sapped me of energy, so instead, I’ve: chatted with both roommates, read more of my book (Into the Water by Paula Hopkins), did a crossword, and played Twilight Princess. Granted, it’s not even six yet, and some of those things are productive… But still. I wanted to take an adventure today. I LOVE to bike, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of my new city. Hog’s Back Falls, Westboro, Vanier, even Gatineau Park, etc. Soon, though.

And with the rest of my day, I’ll make a big batch of EZ-ratatouille (Italian sausage, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onion, and chickpeas) and hang out with Woodsy, who finally took his first exam for the Bar today. Maybe we’ll go to The Loft, the local board game bar? If it were sunny and warm, we’d celebrate with drinks on my balcony or his roof, but alas…

Also, the dang record check from the UK has still not arrived, even though it was allegedly mailed out last Wednesday. I really don’t get it, actually, now that I think about it. I ordered it two Thursdays ago and paid $70 extra for the quicker processing time, which was supposed to take two days. But then they only dispatch it the following Wednesday? And just put it in the regular post? Nothing with airmail or an expedited process? And no tracking number? Like, excuse me, what?! What did that extra seventy cover, then, if it’s still going to take longer than a week to ship to my address? Soon enough it’ll have taken ten working days… Which was the timeline stipulated for the regular service. I feel ripped off, and annoyed. My start date was supposed to be yesterday (June 5th), but because of all this bureaucratic tomfoolery, I have yet to begin. Aaarrgghhh!

I can’t do much about it besides wait, though. So let me stop myself before I get righteously angry. And I’ve been trying to be productive each day to make up for the fact that I haven’t worked in two months. Blogging helps with that, and reading books, and buying a bike, and I hosted trivia yesterday, and I’ve started going to the gym every other day. So I am being a lil industrious bee, but I am really excited to start working. It gives me such a sense of fulfillment, like I’ve actually spent my day accomplishing something – instead of just wasting time on Reddit or sleeping or watching TV. So, again, hopefully this police records check arrives tomorrow. Oh, and did I mention, they can’t send an e-copy? Because of course they can’t.

Let’s move on to better news. The underwear fashion show last Thursday went amazingly. I’m so happy I did it – and honoured I was given the opportunity. We helped raise more than $600 for the Ten Oaks Project, a camp for LGBTQ+ youth. Very pleased about that.

And while I decidedly did not have the most sculpted body or look the best in the skivvies, I still enjoyed participating in the event. We had two pairs each to model, and to show them off, we strutted down the hall, pummelled the runway, and answered some silly questions for the audience and emcee. And that is where I shined. I faked it ‘til I made it, acted like I owned the place, projected confidence, and made everyone laugh with every answer I gave. My friends told me afterward that I had the best stage presence and was the most charismatic. Which definitely made me feel good, because you know, those insecurities don’t quit.

So that was fab, and it was great to see friends as well. Met / made some new ones too.

And then two days after was my first social event here in Ottawa! My roommates and I threw a house party, which I spun as a “Pride Month Kickoff / Hello to Jefe” shindig. And it was quite the banger, actually. Many more people attended than I expected. I mean, I only created the Facebook page a couple days before the actual soiree, so I figured people would be busy and not be able to come out so last-minute.

 

Which I suppose was the case for me. Of the ~50 (or more?) I personally invited, only three showed: Meaghan, Elena, & Mwanza. And, wouldn’t you know it, they were all McGillers that I’ve known for years. Going on eight years, actually, for Meg & E, harkening all the way back to 509 in first year.

How ironic, that of all the people I’ve met in the past seven months of living here in Ottawa…. Nobody attended. That didn’t feel wonderful to realize, and maybe it isn’t exactly irony – but whatever, it’s no big deal. The party was a little thrown-together, people didn’t find out about it far (enough) in advance, and I don’t hold it against anyone.

And that didn’t stop me from having a tonne of fun. It was the first social event I had since Glasgow, essentially (since my big Adieu Do!), and the first party I’d been to in literal months. Also my first time drinking more than a cocktail or two in that long. It’s all about balance, right? So I hung out with my roomies, met their friends, had some laughs, played some games, spent time on the balcony, and just let loose. It was a good time!

Hmm, what else? The gym has being going well, and I’ve already made progress. I love being back into powerlifting. I get to challenge myself, enjoy that lovely endorphin boost afterward, and feel like I’m working towards something better. Hell, I even like having the callouses back on my hands from deadlifting! There’s some primal satisfaction there, and I’m glad to have it back in my life.

Okay, let’s get back to writing about Mexico, shall we?

 

..

 

Day 9: Chichén Itzá, Pisté, Valladolid, & Mérida

Yeah, it was a big day. And it started early, because I was eager to get to the archeological site before the sun got too dang hot and before the tourists overran it.

I get myself out of bed, eat a quick breakfast at the hostel, pack my stuff, stow my bag, grab an iced americano, and hop in a collectivo bound for Chichen Itza (I’m not going to put the accentos in every time). And – again with my luck – I didn’t have to wait at all! I was the last one to climb into the van, so we left right away, and I got the front passenger seat! The best views and most personal space! Yay!

CI is only about an hour outside of Valladolid, which was roughly equidistant between Tulum & Merida, and that was the reason I stayed there for a night. The fact that it had such a stupendous cenote was just serendipity.

So I get to CI, pay the entrance fee (something like 250 pesos, but for one of the most visited and top sites in Mexico – if not #1 itself – that’s nothing), and go in the complex. It’s an enormous site with a lot to see, so it’s definitely worth the price. I didn’t have a guide book or person to show me around, though. So instead, I just wandered around, read all the plaques they had, marveled at the ruins, snapped photos, and ignored all the friggen vendors. Which really confused me, actually. Everywhere around the CI property, (local) people had set up tables with souvenirs to buy… And they all had the same wares to sell! And it was nothing that you didn’t see at all the other souvenir stands in every other city in Mexico! Why they would pay the entrance fee to get into the complex, when they could just set up shop at some market in the town they live in, well, I don’t know. I suppose there are ALWAYS tourists at Chichen Itza, so maybe it’s smart to go where the demand is. Regardless, it annoyed me, because it took away from the magic of such an ancient and remarkable archeological wonder. You don’t see kiosks like this at Machu Picchu or the Alhambra or the Eiffel Tower, do you? NOPE. Oh, and they sold this odd whistle thing, that sounds like a dying cat – but apparently mimics the sound of a growling jaguar. So that was not fun to hear all day.

Anyway. Just a mini rant.

The main pyramid, El Castillo, is definitely impressive to witness. The way it’s designed/built makes it has this echo quirk: if you stand maybe 20-30 feet away and clap, you hear this strange/unexpected sound coming back to you. Every time. I don’t know the science behind it, but it was pretty weird to hear. Kinda sounds like a frog, if I had to name it. Try that when you’re there.

I really wish I had some text to teach me all about the significance of the site and all the structures. They all kind of blend together at the end, without being told about the nuance or meaning. The main pyramid was awesome, though, and the humongous Mayan Ball Court was indeed gigantic, and very humbling to walk through. I saw the cute carved jaguar in the temple dedicated to him, in addition to the famous Chacmool statue – which is the reclining person with their head turned 90° that is common to see. I viewed two cenotes, including the Sacred one (which may been used for sacrifices? because they did find skeleton remains at the bottom), and a bunch of other buildings. This includes La Casa Colorada (red house), La Iglesia (the church, but it wasn’t actually a place of worship), El Caracol (likely an astronomical observatory, but named for the shell-like shape of its dome), Plaza de las Mil Columnas (as the name suggests, it had a bunch of columns, near together, but likely not 1000), and various Templos. A lot of the carving work was remarkably intact and intricate, and faces with engorged noses were a common theme between various structures.

Overall, I enjoyed Chichen Itza, but it certainly wasn’t the highlight of my trip or anything. It was very hot, and I was worn out from not eating the best breakfast or sleeping too much and from walking around all day. I did run into Kirsten & Fritzi here too (more of my suerte), but I didn’t have the energy to hang around with them. So we had a nice lil chit-chat then parted ways. Sorry, girls – even us extroverts get socially tired sometimes. I passed other people I recognized from the hostel as well (including Greg, who was actually in the same hostel as me in both Tulum and Valladolid), but I didn’t say hello. I knew it was going to be a long day and that all the comestibles inside the site were going to be very expensive, so I knew I had to conserve my energy. Sorry ‘bout it.

Anyhow, after I toured the entire site and it was nearing noon, I called it a day. Even though it’s a phenomenal attraction that people come from the world over to see doesn’t mean that I had to stay there longer than I was comfortable. Which was something I didn’t realize until I took several trips by myself. Yes, it’s valuable to visit and experience the important sites a country offers, but just because people love the Louvre does not mean that you have to see every piece of art it has on display. When you’re traveling, it’s at least partly a vacation – so do what you want, and don’t feel obligated to care about something that really isn’t your cup of tea.

But I digress.

Even though Chichen Itza is a massive tourist attraction, it isn’t exactly centrally located. The buses and collectivos back to Valladolid are few and far between, similar to Coba and Tulum. I was already so sweaty and hungry, and I didn’t really want to sit around waiting for it – especially with no food or shade. So I started hoofing it out of the complex, and stuck out my thumb as some cars passed. No luck this time, however, so I ended up just walking to the closest town, Pisté, which was about a kilometer down the road.

Checked the menus at various place but wasn’t sold on anything. Then I struck up a (multilingual) conversation with a couple that was seated at a table outside this restaurant that I was considering, and they gave me good advice. Apparently everybody goes to this one place, La Lonchería Los Arcos, and there’s also this superb cenote relatively nearby too – which has an eatery with tables overlooking the water. Sounded pretty great!… Except I had no car to get there, and it was ~5km away.

So I thanked them and headed further into town in search of Los Arcos. Managed to locate it eventually, despite the oppressive heat, and it looked a bit disappointing, to be frank. Hole-in-the-wall kitchen, cheap plastic tables, and no bathroom. BUT! There was a group of tourists patronizing it, and the two that recommended to me seemed like serious, quality people. Plus I was famished at this point, so what’s the harm? I ordered cochinita pibil, a local dish I had seen advertised everywhere – like pulled chicken cooked underground, served with beans, rice, a lil salad, and tortillas. And to drink, I went for a pineapple-chaya juice. If you recall from my last post, chaya is like a Mexican kale. Very refreshing, and the place was cheap too. If you find yourself in the tiny hamlet of Pisté, for some reason, it’s worth a visit.

Then I waited around for a collectivo and rode it to Cenote Ik Kil, probably the most photographed sinkhole in Yucatan, if not all of Mexico. It has all these vines hanging down, some even reaching the water, 40 or 50 feet below. It was the site of Red Bull Cliff-Diving World Series in 2010, actually. So I’m sure that gained it some exposure.

After you pay the cover (80 pesos), as you’re walking to the changing rooms, you pass this hole in the ground – and it shocks you that that is the cenote. All the way down there! It definitely took me by surprise, anyhow, because it is really deep in the earth – and that’s just until the water’s surface! You can bet that it goes a great deal deeper until the actual bottom. Awesome in that I was in awe.

You walk down the stairs to get to the swimming area, and they also have a section where you can jump into the water from relatively high up. Maybe 20 feet – not as extreme as Cenote Zací, but still something to give you pause / make your heart jump when you’re up there. That didn’t prevent lots of people from taking the plunge, though. I even saw kids that looked to be five years old jump off from up there! Repeatedly! What! Lunacy!

So I’m glad I had the cojones to do it – because if I was too scared, and then I saw these literal toddlers doing it without a care in the world, I would’ve been real chagrined. But, nope, I face my fears.

The water, while a bit chilly, felt great on such a hot day. It was a crowded attraction – due to its popularity and relatively small swimming area – but I still enjoyed my time there. And for the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/fantasy-video-game aesthetics, you can’t beat it.

Eventually I left that too, and again had trouble finding my way back to Valladolid. I wasn’t stressed about it, though. What happens, happens – and if worst came to worst, I could just take a taxi solo and pay the extra fee. No huge deal, and I still had lots of daylight left.

So I stood on the side of the thoroughfare outside the cenote/hotel complex, hoping for a collectivo with an empty seat to pass. After a while, these three girls come out to the road too, looking like they’re in the same situation as me. So, of course, I ask them if they’re also trying to get back to Valladolid, and fortunately they were. Safety in numbers, right?

And after another ten minutes or so, a minibus passes – fortunately with sufficient space for all of us – so we pile in, then promptly doze off on the ride back. Sun + lots of walking + heat + swimming + rhythmic bumping = good night world!

Arrive back in Valladolid, return to the hostel, get recommendations for a restaurant, then have a really satisfying dinner while people-watching and enjoying my contented feeling and journaling. I ordered queso fundido – which is exactly what it translates to, melted cheese. I opted for chorizo on top, and it came with tortilla chips. Like all the other eateries in Mexico, they also serve you an assortment of homemade salsas, so I enjoyed the pico de gallo and habanero sauce too. AND this restaurant also gave me a black bean dip on the house, which was delicious. For my main, I got tacos dorados – which I guess would be like what we call taquitos here. Tortillas filled with some chicken then deep fried, and covered with sour cream and that white crumbly Mexican cheese (Chihuahua?). Decadent, certainly – but after my fondue appetizer, it was a bit too rich for me. But it came with guacamole and a little salad on the side, and I ate those right up. Amazing meal, and also affordable. I miss it 😦

And by this time, I had to rush to collect my bag, thank the hostel workers, and rush off to the bus station. I bought a cold bottle of white tea with mango (necessary), boarded my bus for Merida, watched the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (season 9!), then worked on a previous blog post. Got to the penultimate city of my trip and checked into my hostel, which was La Catedral, right by the – you guessed it – cathedral, and situated right off the main square. And my luck continued, because they apparently overbooked the room I originally reserved, so instead: I was given a private room! With a big double bed! And two pillows! And a comfy duvet! And air conditioning! And let me tell you, it was a dream, no pun intended.

But what I did intend, though, was to drop my stuff off, shower, and then go hit the town. It was a Friday night, I had heard only great things about Merida (thanks to Keidan & Laura), and I wanted to go experience it. However, I was just too bushed. I sipped the lemon tea the receptionist gave me, perused the ‘Net, and luxuriated in the privacy and quiet I never had on any other night of my trip. And then had a really fantastic slumber.

 

 

Intermission

 

The sun came out! Yay! Hope it’s like that tomorrow too!

I hadn’t eaten much all day, since some avocado toast (#Millennial) around 1:30, so I took a break from this. Cooked up a storm – the ratatouille, pasta, and spinach salads – and chatted with Bailey & Gilmour. Cleaned the kitchen, cleared out the fridge, swept the floor, and watched the first ep of Orange is the New Black Season 2. Just finished rewatching the first season last night, so it’s onto the next, in preparation for Season 5, which premieres this Friday.

Then I showered, shaved, and now here we are! Hanging out with Woodsy unfortunately didn’t happen, but whatever, we’re both tired. So I’ll finish up some of this, then played more Zelda or more watch Orange. Because I deserve it.

Also, Bailey leaves tomorrow, back to Sudbury, until August! And she’s taking her cat, Luna! I’m to’ up about it, because she and I really bonded during the party on Saturday, and I highly enjoy her company. Won’t be the same without her here 😦 But I guess this will make my spending time on the balcony easier, since I have to traipse through her room to get there. And Gilmour will still be here, so all is not lost. And by the time I start working (finally), I’ll probably be too busy/overwhelmed to even notice. Still though – will miss you, Bail.

K, back to Meh-hee-ko.

 

 

Day 10: Mérida

Wake up –> hostel breakfast (which was actually pretty great!) –> chat with random guests (two American girls and two older Canadian gentlemen) –> get ready –> go explorin’.

Check out Parque de Santa Lucia, with the giant white couple-chairs that you saw everywhere. Meander to Paseo de Montejo, which is Merida’s answer to the Champs Elysées. A wider boulevard with trees and broad sidewalks and opulent homes flanking it. As was typical, the hostel breakfast only had instant coffee, so I stopped at Sukra, this marvelous café along the Paseo. Had a delectable iced americano – no surprise there – but this one was especially good. And for some reason, I wasn’t feeling the greatest that day. Just tired and not feelin’ it. So I took my sweet time at this café, relaxing, sipping my drank, and perusing the ‘Net for what to do and where to eat in Merida.

Afterwards, I was rejuvenated, and spent the rest of the day walking around the city. Checked out government buildings with their stately colonial architecture and decorations; the cathedral all decked out for La Semana Sagrada (Holy Week, which was a week after I was there); the main square (with the omnipresent large multicoloured sign stating the city name); the public zoo (Parque del Centenario); the brightly painted houses.

Once I got tired/hungry again, I went to La Negrita Cantina, a local bar that was highly recommended. I actually stopped in here earlier and learned about its happy hour – with live music (!!) – so I came back for that. And found the place PACKED. Honestly, when I was there earlier, nearly all the tables were unoccupied. But later on, I had lots of trouble finding a seat, even though the place is voluminous. Eventually I just parked myself on a bar stool, way in the corner. But it was fine, because La Negrita was definitely the place to be at that time, it was a lovely evening, and sunlight was streaming in. I got a mojito, people-watched, and snacked on the free tapas-like dishes they distributed. It was wonderful.

Then more strolling around, trying to figure out how to get back to Cancun the next day, and resting at the hostel, after getting some cheap quesadillas from Las Quekas, right next door. At night, they had an event going on in the main square, so I went to see what that was all about. And there were actual people playing the Mayan ball game! All decked out in (what I assumed to be) Mayan costumes too. Pretty cool to watch, for sure. In this game, you can only hit the ball with your hip, and you try to send it through this hoop, which was about eight feet off the ground. Definitely didn’t seem easy, but it was entertaining.

And that was my first day in Merida! Nothing too exciting, but not every day can be magnificent. Sunshine all the time makes a desert, right? And speaking of, it was actually cloudy when I was there – but I was pleased about that. It was so hot when I was in Valladolid that you could not walk in the sun. So while I was exploring the city, I always crossed the streets so I could stay in the shadows from the buildings. And I worried Merida would be just as sweltering (like, above 35°C with the harsh sun) – but fortunately, I was granted a reprieve! My luck continued 🙂

 

 

So, with those 4000+ words, that means I only have one post left to make about Mexico! I considered doing it now, but it’s already 1am and this is already voluble enough.] Thanks for following along, if you have. And the next one should be a good one – my return to Cancun, visiting Isla Mujeres, and most significantly: MY EXPERIENCE WITH BUNGEE-JUMPING! Definitely not one you want to miss.

 

Sending my love+light. Take care, all of you.

 

– Jefe

Job Update, My Summer Sublet, Tulum, Coba Ruins, Valladolid, Cenote-Swimming, Cliff-Jumping, Travel Buddies, & Modeling Underwear for Charity

Good afternoon,

 

It is roughly 3:30 on the last day of May, and I am sitting on the large balcony of my new apartment, enjoying the sun and a nice breeze.

As for the job, I’m still waiting for paperwork to come through before anything moves (further) forward. Because I spent more than six consecutive months outside of Canada in the past five years – while pursuing my MSc in Glasgow – I had to order a records check from the UK as part of the security clearance process. On my own dime. Totally fair, I know – but it costs $160 Canadian for the expedited process and required a bunch of documents I didn’t readily have, including all my addresses for the past ten years. All just for a piece of paper that attests that no, I did not get arrested or charged with anything while living in Scotland. Whatever, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.

So I submitted my application for that last Thursday night, and since I paid $70 more, it’s supposed to take two working days (“not including the days of receipt or dispatch”). I opted for that because my position should start sooner rather than later; it’s a bit time-sensitive since it’s a Task Force with a lot of work to be done, not many people, and a deadline come September. That’s also what the hiring manager recommended and squares with what Michael said too, and so I obliged. I expected it to be finished Monday or Tuesday, but my new roomie checked the mailbox yesterday – and nothing yet. So hopefully something arrives today, because if not, I’m going to be really aggravated that I sprang for the “Premium Service” and it takes longer than advertised. So we’ll see, fingers crossed.

Once that is in, though – I feel like everything else will fall into place. I got fingerprinted last Thursday and also peeped some correspondence between various people within the department, all discussing and planning how to bring me on board. It was reassuring to read, definitely, that people I haven’t even met are striving to get me started in this position. They even had a tentative job title for me, “Junior Program Officer.” Again, nothing is yet guaranteed. I haven’t signed any contracts or even received a letter of offer. So it is all very exciting, certainly – but I am not getting my hopes up. That’s my kryptonite, if I haven’t said it already. Getting excited about something / having high expectations that almost nothing can reach, and then inevitably being disappointed / let down. It happens so often, so I have learned to “Lower your expectations!” (like the Amy Poehler gif) and be more realistic (pessimistic).

So there’s that. Oh, one last thing. From this e-correspondence I also gleaned that my (tentative) dates of working would be June 5th to October 12th. That’s the 90 days you’re eligible to work under a casual contract. And it would be perfect. Starting next Monday – so I actually have stuff going on, a way to feel accomplished, and will be advancing towards my goals – and it would be ending exactly a week before my 26th birthday.

Which means, by that point, I would have earned all this money and would have no further commitment. So my plan is: work hard, do a great job, save up, and then take a big trip somewhere. To celebrate my birthday, reward myself after my first governmental gig, indulge that wanderlust, and hit country #30 while I’m still 25! And I even want to cross the last habitable continent off my list, so some exploration of Oceania and Southeast Asia is what I’m leaning towards most.

However – you (should) know how I am about decision-making. I hesitate to book those tickets because I have no idea what life will look like come mid-October. And from what I have heard / according to what my gut says, the field of Diversity & Inclusion is going to be “exploding” in importance this year. And I don’t want to have a 3 or 4-week international trip planned and paid for, if that would make me miss out on exciting and lucrative opportunities. One shouldn’t be unavailable for such a long time when they are just starting their careers, especially if the industry is going to be booming during their absence. SO I don’t know. But it would be really nice to do some more traveling, since Mexico was so phenomenal. Same with the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Bremen, Germany was wonderful and I enjoyed Oslo too, but they weren’t stand-out recent destinations – the former because I didn’t have enough time in Deutschland and the latter because it was a bit too pricey for me, and I had less than 24 hours to explore. Anyway.

So, if I am starting my job this coming Monday, I will have much more going on in my headspace and life, and I do expect that reading, blogging, and journaling will fall by the wayside once again. So I want to finish writing up about my Yucatan adventure before that happens.

But before I continue that, I’ll tell y’all a bit about my new living sitch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew sick of my old apartment, on Nepean St. So I found this great place to sublet for the summer, on Sweetland Avenue, in the heart of Sandy Hill – which is the student area of the city, right near UOttawa. And this street is apparently a protected historical/heritage district, so there’s no big apartment buildings along it – but rather nice homes from the early 1900s, including the one I’m currently inhabiting.

My new roommates – Gilmour & Bailey – and I get along great, and I actually speak with them on a daily basis. The fact that there are common areas to spend time in probably facilitates that, but also, we are much closer together in age and have more in common than my previous flatmate. We might even be having a party this weekend! Which I’m absurdly excited about, because I am the one that always has / hosts social events.  In Glasgow it was Werewolves games and scary movie nights and dinner parties and actual shindigs, and in Montreal it was pre’s and more horror flicks with drinking rules and more game nights. But since I got to Ottawa. NO-THING (minus a couple people over for Smash Bros), because, what were we gonna do, hang out in my bedroom and keep the noise down? No thanks. But now that there’s a living room and big kitchen and great balcony – I want to capitalize upon that. And maybe I’ll become the central cog in a social circle again, because I realized recently that my typical role is suspiciously lacking these days. I’m excited about it.

I spend a lot of time out on the deck, reading and doing crosswords and enjoying the nice weather Ottawa’s been having recently. And I don’t have to worry about making too much noise later at night, and I can cook whenever I want to, and the freezer actually freezes things, and the Internet isn’t erratic AF. I’m very happy here. Not looking forward to moving away from here – but fortunately I don’t have to worry about that for a while yet.

 

 

Okay, back to Mexico. Where was I?

 

The Rest of Day 6: Tulum

I wandered more around Tulum after my delightful meal at Tropi-Q. Stopped in a place called Art+Coffee for – you guessed it – an iced americano. The guy tried to give me cold brew and upsell/overcharge me for it, but NAH BRAH, that’s not what I asked for.

I enjoyed that, perused the Internet, and strolled back to the hostel. Got into my swim stuff, dropped by a corner store for some brews, then hopped on a collectivo towards the beach! Walked along the side of the road away from all the resorts before finally arriving at Playa del Paraíso. Stripped off my shirt and shoes and ambled all the way up the beach, to catch a glimpse of the famous Tulum Ruins. It looked like you could swim to the little beach the archeological site offers, but it was nearly dusk, I had my Sol beers, and I didn’t feel like getting incarcerated by the guards for attempted trespassing. So instead, I snapped some selfies, got a kind stranger to take some other photos of me for my gratuitous shirtless Instagram posts, and settled onto the sand, leaning against a fallen tree. Cracked open the foamers, booted up my Kindle, and read more of Ellen Hopkins’ “The You I’ve Never Known” while absolutely adoring my existence at the time. I was so jubilant! The temperature was perfect, there was nearly nobody else to share the shore with (minus a few people, including two women I saw kissing – which also made me smile, because yay, queer kin!), and I was a bit tipsy off the two cans I brought with me. The beer wasn’t even that good – it had lime and salt (flavour?) added to it. I could’ve done without the extra sodium.

But anyway, that didn’t detract from anything. I was supremely happy, the book was enrapturing, and I was LIVING. FOR. IT. Eventually I couldn’t keep my elation contained any longer, so I stowed the e-reader away, dashed into the waves, and went gamboling about the surf. It was momentous. Stripped-down, simple joy.

Sunset was swiftly approaching, so I couldn’t spend too long at the shore, since it would take a while to return to the town section of Tulum. Too soon, I packed up my tingz and started walking back along the coast, then along the road, to the main drag between the beach and central parts of Tulum. Lost my shirt in the process, somehow, and had no hope of catching a collectivo – they were not as common as in Cancun, unfortunately (and unsurprisingly).

It was a long stroll back, that I didn’t particularly feel like doing – so, whatever, YOLO. I stuck my arm out, thumb out, trying to hitch a ride. If it happened, it happened, and if not – well, I had music and podcasts to keep me company on the 40-minute walk back to the Chill Inn Hostel, and a no-quitting attitude.

But it did work out, and only after a minute or two! I was very pleasantly surprised! A nice French couple – from Nice, of course, hence my adjectival use – picked me up, worried that it wasn’t safe to walk along this particular stretch of the road at night. We chatted trilingually for the short trip, in franglaispañol, and it even happened to be a symbiotic lil relationship we had. I was able to help them locate their hostel, Hostal Sheck, since it was one of the ones I was considering for my accommodations, and I just happened to pass it during my earlier wanderings. So, how about that? What goes around comes around. And it felt good to pay them back for their kindness 🙂

Finally, I returned to my own inn, showered off the sand and sea, and googled a good place for dinner. That ended up being La Malquerida, where I had a small table outdoors, right off the pedestrian street – which was perfect for the live music and acrobatics that later started to happen! I had a traditional Mayan dish of fresh-caught fish baked with tomatoes and peppers, served with rice, tortillas, and a salad. Sadly, I forget the name of the meal (that’s what happens when you’re recording all these memories a month and a half later), but I do recommend it. Check my album on Facebook for a photo of it!

 

Day 7: Coba & Tulum

Tulum is well-known for the Mayan ruins it has nearby, which are absurdly picturesque and popular with tourists. If you’ve ever seen an ad for the Mayan Riviera, there’s a very good chance it had a photo showcasing the Tulum Ruins, since it is such a mystical, magical sight. (Indeed, I just google-image-searched that phrase, and I was vindicated)

However, despite all that pulchritude, I decided not to go. The sun is no joke on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the trees (and thus shade) are few and far between at this archeological site. That, plus how crowded it would’ve been, due to its renown, plus its higher price of admission, led me to opt for the Coba Ruins instead. They’re only an hour away by bus, less well-known, and consequently cheaper and less overcrowded by turistas.

Moreover, the best feature about them over those in Tulum is how they are situated in the jungle (so, more opportunities to cool down and less risk of sunstroke), and you can climb the actual pyramid!! You used to be able to do that at Chichen Itza, but they shut that down several years ago. For sure it was hastening the erosion of these World Wonders, and it can definitely be hazardous. The pyramid I mounted had steep stairs, worn down by history and humans, and it was a bit of a perilous ascent. They had a thick rope to assist with going up and down, but even so, I kind of crab-walked when I was descending, on all fours. Wasn’t trynna to take a tumble and screw up the rest of my “trip.” (There’s another pun for ya)

It was quite the unique experience to be on top of such an ancient structure, and I definitely recommend checking it out. The views were wonderful, of course – green all around – and being so high gave you access to a great breeze, to help dry off the sweat that climbing up invited.

The rest of the site was pretty cool, too. Was kinda like Tomb Raider, with all these ruined pyramids / Mayan ball courts / other buildings emerging out of the jungle, covered in vines and with an “undiscovered” feel to them. They also had various “stelae,” which – to my understanding – are large carved stone tablets that recorded legends, or stories, or histories, or something? In any case, they were interesting to see as well.

There isn’t too much I can say about the ruins, as I didn’t have a guide to teach me about them – neither the book nor human version of that. So I enjoyed wandering around it, and that’s that.

Like the collectivos in Tulum, there weren’t many buses commuting to and from Coba either. I tried hitch-hiking again, since I had such luck with it the previous night, but no dice this time. The cost for a cab ride was prohibitive, and #DumpUber, so I bought a bus ticket then went about killing time. There are apparently some magnificent cenotes near the Coba Ruins, but unfortunately I did not have the time to go check them out. Sad! If y’all are going to be in the area and plan on hitting up Coba, you should definitely consider renting a car – maybe with some friends you meet at the hostel. That would greatly facilitate this lil day trip, and then you could spend all the time you wanted at those beautiful sinkholes.

However, I did not try this tactic. So instead, I strolled around, looking for a bite to eat. Settled down at another outdoor table and ordered an iced coffee and “stuffed avocado.” It came with tuna salad, peas, corn, and lettuce. I took a pic but it was not a photogenic meal. But still affordable, yummy, and healthy. Then wandered back to the bus stop, read more of my book, and awaited the damn ADO in the hot, hot heat. Like those in Spain, these buses played random shows/movies with the volume turned up disconcertingly high, and they were in Spanish, of course. On the way in, it was Sleeping Beauty – so I had “Once Upon a Dream” stuck in my head all day – and on the way back it was some sad, darkly-hued film about a woman’s child literally disappearing/dissolving, and then she walks up to this wild lion, that is in this random marina for some reason, because she is so distraught. Like, what ???? Quite odd, that was. So I took a lil siesta instead.

Finally got back to Tulum, booked my bus ticket to Valladolid for the next day, and returned to the hostel to decompress a bit. Chatted with the friends I made – Kirsten and Fritzi – and started planning where to go for dinner.

Then I hopped in another collectivo en route to La Eufemía, a hipster hangout highly recommended by the hostel workers. And, wouldn’t you know it, as I hop out of the minibus, I hear somebody call my name! What! How small is this world! It was Serina & Chelsea, the two Saskatchewan-ers I met back in Playa del Carmen! I knew they were in Tulum as well, but for our paths to cross like that… Wow. They had just been at the same place, too, which made me feel good about my choice.

It’s this small taquería right on the beach, with mattresses to lie on, lounge chairs, a couple hammocks, bumpin’ music, and good food and drink. I went for a quick dip to rinse/cool off, only to find out that there was seaweed everywhere. This wasn’t an issue the previous night, at Playa del Paraíso, but maybe the establishment/tourism board has to remove it themselves? And since La Eufemía was such a hippie place, they wouldn’t do such a thing, disrupting nature like that. That’s the conclusion I came to, anyway. So I’m not sure if going for a short swim actually made me any cleaner, but it did feel good to not be overheated anymore.

It was Happy Hour when I was there, too! So I had two mango margaritas (with a spicy/salty rim) and a bunch of tacos. It all was quite enjoyable, but it might’ve been the most expensive meal I had on my trip, at more than 200 pesos. But whatever, do I care? How often do I get to sit, eat authentic tacos with fresh seafood, sip on a strong cocktail, and enjoy such a priceless view? The answer is: not often enough! So I was happy to pay it. Then I stretched out on one of their beach chairs, read my book, people-watched, and witnessed day transition to night. Superb.

When I finally left the place, I once again had a miraculous / lucky return to Tulum town. I somehow managed to catch the last collectivo for the night, with only a minute to spare from when I walked out of La Eufemía to when I hopped on. I don’t know what it was about those couple days, but the stars were definitely aligned in my favour. (Or maybe it was cosmic recompensation for being so lost for my first couple hours in Tulum, who knows?)

Then: back to Chill Inn, shower off, lotion up (I was still sunburnt and peeling), and wander around more. I visited Serina & Chelsea at their hostel, the Weary Traveler. Which was definitely a hoppin’ place, and maybe I should’ve stayed there instead. Ah well, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s not like the Chill Inn was horrendous. But theirs had a free cocktail hour, live music, many more people, a pool, hammocks, etc, etc… So if you’re going, look into that.

We hung out a while, I grew jealous of their digs, then Serina & I went walking around a bit. She bought some instant noodles – fideos, a word it took me a while to remember – and then we parted, sadly. Haven’t seen her since 😦 Miss ya, girl!

I then went to a hole-in-the-wall I read about, that had dirt-cheap food. It was either four tacos al pastor or guacamole for 80 pesos, so I went for the latter, since I had had plenty of the former theretofore. It was delicious, certainly. Just wish I would’ve had enough coin to go for both! I sat at the plastic table on the sidewalk, wrote in my journal, then had two random men next to me start speaking to me in Russian. Um, excuse me? Do I look like a Muscovite? Not exactly. Funny nonetheless. They asked for my recommendations for what to do in town, and were telling me about this amazing thing they heard about. I got excited – because maybe I could rise early the next day to check it out?! – but it turned out to just be the cenotes in the area. Disappointing.

I moved onto a street cart after that, with the 70 pesos I had left on me, and asked the lady working it what I could get for that. She made me a yummy torta con pollo – like a grilled chicken sandwich, with two mini sachets of red and green salsa to accompany it – and I went back to my hostel, enjoyed my snack, and watched Scream Queens. A great way to end the night.

 

Day 8: Tulum & Valladolid

I woke up, chatted with some hostel-mates over the delightful free breakfast they served (a cute yogurt + fruit + granola, and the previous morning’s was a delicious savoury crepe with cheese and mushrooms), packed my things, and made off for greener pastures.

I went to Café Ki’bok, which was another establishment recommended on TripAdvisor. Had an amazing iced americano and used their outstanding WiFi to torrent the new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Challenge. It was, no joke, six times faster than what I had at Garry’s place. And this was in a small coffee shop in a little town in Mexico, so….. (frog emoji) (tea emoji)

Then I returned to the taquería that helped me out so much on my first day and devoured like 8 yummy tacos. They were all cheaper than 20 pesos each, with some interesting fillings like potato&chorizo, eggs&chaya (like a Mexican kale), and the usuals like chicharrón and salchicha. It’s called El Canaston, and you need to patronize it when you’re in Tulum. Cheap, delicious, environmentally-friendly, and run by darling people.

Then to the bus station, then on board, finished my book, listened to Sam Smith, and eventually got to Valladolid. Struggled through the sweltering heat with all my stuff and found my hostel, Tunich Naj. It wasn’t my first choice: everybody recommended Hostal La Candelería, which is where Kirsten & Fritzi were staying, but it was all booked up when I went to reserve a room. Oh well. I only spent one night there.

Valladolid is inland, so there’s no sea breeze to help keep things cool. Same with Merida. So this part of my trip was especially moist. Fortunately, there is a phenomenal cenote right in the middle of the city, which happened to be a short five-block walk from my hostel! So I unpacked, changed into my trusty Speedo, and made a beeline straight there, after getting sweaty in the process of lugging my backpack around.

It’s called Cenote Zací, and it was my favourite one of the trip. Also the biggest, the most spectacular, the least crowded, and the cheapest – an absolute steal at 30 pesos. So you need to make that happen, if you’re in town. And, continuing the trend of it being a small world or my luck coming through in these couple days – as I’m walking down to the sinkhole, I run into Kirsten & Fritzi! I suppose Valladolid is a smaller town without all that much to do, but still, it’s quite something that I had these serendipitous meet-ups during my trip. That’s the magic of travel.

And I’m even happier they were there, because their presence (and Kirsten’s accompanying me) gave me the nerve to jump off a cliff into the water! Cenotes are hella deep, so there’s no risk of hitting the bottom – but still, it was quite the distance to fall before smacking the surface. Maybe 25 feet? And naturally, it looks a lot higher when you’re actually up there, about to “take the plunge,” than from afar. Both K and I did it, and Fritzi was nice enough to take photos and record it, and oh WOW was it thrilling. It was a bit painful, hitting the water from such a height – and my arms were reddened from the impact – but wow, there’s nothing like that adrenaline rush. I ended up jumping off three different times, and it was a hell of a time. The girls were telling me others leapt into the water from even higher – from atop this tree on the outside of the cavern – but NOPE, forget that. It would involve climbing the tree, jumping out instead of just down, and avoiding the rope at the bottom. Who am I, Brendan Prouse? No thanks, I’ll pass. “Challenge by choice,” right Emily?

I really enjoyed swimming around and cooling off. It was a stupendous place to spend a sweltering afternoon, being in awe of these natural wonders, and watching the light shift over the cave’s walls. I encouraged others to cliff-jump too, and clapped when they surfaced after. Some of these were a group of Italian girls, one of whom later asked me about my nipple piercing, if it hurt, as she was gonna get hers done soon. I’m always glad to be a source of information, and it’s a surprisingly common question I get – but this usually comes from people I know, and not total strangers. Pretty funny, though. I guess I look approachable enough?

When the cenote closed for the day, I went back to my hostel, showered, changed, and struck out for dinner. The receptionist told me about this place, La Selva (the forest), which corresponded with TripAdvisor’s recommendations. When I walked in, though, there was nobody else there – which is never a good sign when you’re looking for a restaurant. I wasn’t cowed, though (and was also famished), and it turned out well after all. I ordered essentially one of everything from their menu, since the prices were that good (20-30 pesos). I got a cheese empanada, a meat one, a salbut, chalupa, sope, tostada, and one other thing, and oh wow, it was delicious. I used a bit too much habanero sauce on these, so I was perspiring from the heat, but everything was yummy. Lots of deep-fried goodness.

Then wandered ‘round the city, picked up some canned cocktails from a neighbourhood grocer, sat in the main plaza (Parque Francisco Canton) and started a new book – this time Liane Moriarty’s “Truly Madly Guilty” – while sipping on a margarita and gazing at the city’s cathedral, all illuminated. Then walked to the Convento de San Bernadino, an old nunnery, which had a light show projected onto it, detailing the history of Mayan civilization, Spanish colonialism, and how Valladolid came to be the place it is today. Nothing like free entertainment, especially on such a balmy night!

Finally, returned to the hostel and watched the new ep of The Challenge: Invasion outdoors, while drinking a cuba libra. Then packed it in for the night, turned in early, because the next day, I was up at 7:30, to get to Chichen Itza before it became too crowded and hot with the midday sun.

And that is what I will write about next! Because I’m over 4550 words and have been hungry for hours and it’s already after 10pm and I want to get off the computer and watch the new episode of The Challenge – but this time it’s Champs vs. Pros!

 

 

Finally: I went to various other CrossFit classes with “Woodsy” at KRX Fitness, to make the most of the two-week trial they gave me. Really liked it (and was surprised at that), and I did see progress in myself, especially with my stamina… But it costs $125 per month and has limited hours. I prefer to go at my own pace, anyway, so I just signed up for another two-week trial yesterday, with Anytime Fitness. Back to regular weightlifting (back squat, deadlift, chest press, bicep curl, leg press, tricep press-down) with all the time I need for rest between sets.

But I’m glad I got to try it out, as I’d been curious about CrossFit for years (thanks to The Challenge, honestly). And it was fun meeting the other people who patronize that gym, particularly Carolyn, the trainer. She’s a sweetheart and I miss her 😦

 

One last thing: thanks to Ernie, I found out about an underwear fashion show tomorrow, sponsored by Stroked Ego and taking place at Lookout, to fundraise for the Ten Oaks Project. Sounds like something I wanted to check out anyway, but like with trivia – why spend my own money to do something when, instead, I could get paid for doing it myself? I messaged the organizer, and voila, fortune favours the bold, I’ll be modeling some underwear on the runway tomorrow! Alongside all these ūberfit GOV players, sure, so maybe I won’t be looking the best – but whatever, it’s a different aesthetic I have going for me, no más. Is #Dadbod still in?

So if you want a fun night AND to contribute to an amazing cause, come out to Lookout tomorrow! Doors open at 8 and it’s only $10! Come support the kids and keep me company / distract me from the fact that I do not have an eight-pack like the other models !!

 

‘Til next time darlings. And keep your fingers crossed that this UK record check comes in pronto!

 

All the best,

 

– Jefe

Some T about My Governmental Job Opp, A New Home (for the Summer), CrossFit, & More Mexico/Travel Ramblings!

Oh! Wow! I didn’t see you there! Funny meeting you in a place like this.

 

Anyhow.

 

So I have amazing news. I am quite sure that I have landed a job in government, working in Diversity & Inclusion, on a casual contract basis. Which means I have 90 working days at my disposal, and once I deplete those, I can’t work in the same department until the start of the next governmental year.

Which might not seem ideal, but people do that throughout their entire careers, without ever having periods of unemployment. They just go from casual contract to casual contract to cazh-con to CC, and then the year begins again, and you can return to the original department!

And once you are already in government, it becomes much easier to get other jobs within it. So this opportunity is a foot in the door, along with many other benefits. The work is something I care passionately about – how to encourage diversity, enhance inclusion, and dismantle obstacles to both in the workplace – and also an area I will excel in. I bring expertise to the table, particularly related to the LGBTQ+ angle that is so emergent these days. My future department wants to be proactive in their policies, to be on the vanguard of the movement to increase Diversity & Inclusion, and I will aid in that.

The job will also involve a good amount of research, collecting data, analyzing it, synthesizing it all into a coherent report, and publicizing the findings. More strengths of mine, thanks to the three papers I did that involved performing my own empirical research, with my master’s thesis as the obvious example. My experience with online content creation – through social media and blogging for the Lambda Foundation, Camp Wynchemna, and as part of the AUCC Students for Development grant I received to be an intern at Nexos Voluntarios – will also prove useful in this position.

The 90 days will start sooner rather than later, since the Task Force I will be a part of must create that report by September – and from what I understand, at least one person (but maybe two) of the already-small group is on leave. So it’s a bit time-sensitive, it seems, so I’m hoping to hear back from the woman next week and maybe even hit the ground running by Wednesday. I got a phone call the day after the meeting, in which she asked for my full legal name and date of birth – which I take as a sign that they are starting the security clearance process for me. Which they wouldn’t do if they weren’t serious about this / moving forward with my hiring. So I’m super excited about this!

And this casual contract will take me until the end of the summer, and with any luck, I’ll have found another position by then. I’m optimistic, and very excited about the whole opportunity. It came at a great time, too, since last week I was literally pounding the pavement, handing off resumes to all these restaurants to be a server, just so I had something to do / a reason to get out of the house.

Also, I told my roommate a week and a half ago that I’m moving out, so I’ve been apartment-hunting. Even still, I was hesitant to commit to a full summer sublet, just because who knows where I would be come mid-august? What if the reality TV show came through? What if nothing else in Ottawa manifested, and I decided to work on the high ropes course again? What if I decided to forget the whole thing, fly the coop, and travel the world? I didn’t want to be locked down to an apartment here in O-Town, or say I would take something for the full summer and then have to back out (and thereby let somebody down). So I had decided to move into Julia Conzon’s new roommate’s empty room until mid-July, and then figure it out then.

But now that I (likely) have something until the fall, I can find a place longer-term. And so I did. I’m moving this Sunday or Monday into this really great apartment on Sweetland Ave, in Sandy Hill. I already met the two people I’ll be cohabitating with – Gilmour and Bailey – and even the lil cat Luna. The place is very nice, especially for the price I’m paying. Top floor of a beautifully-designed past-century house, with a large balcony, air conditioning, and even a dishwasher! Plus, you know, some amenities that are commonplace but that I have missed while residing in the current, Nepean St location. Those being a living room / common area and reliable Internet. The place is furnished as well, and G & B seem sweet, fun, and with more in common with me than my current roomie. So I’m excited about it! Yay! (Will just potentially have to buy a TV monitor so I can keep enjoying my BBCan5 & RPDR & trashy MTV shows!)

Speaking of, the finale of The Challenge: Invasion (of the Champions) just aired on Tuesday, and I happened to place FIRST in my league of the official MTV Fantasy Competition! So, from what I understand, I won myself a trip to the VMAs, maybe for two, which are happening in California in late August. Now, I got first place in my own public league, but I am not the person with the most points over everybody who entered. So… I guess we’ll see what happens? I haven’t received an email yet, but it hasn’t been that long since the finale showed. In any case, earning first place is thrilling in itself.

And one more piece of exciting news – I am checking out KRX Fitness, a Cross-Fit gym with a free two-week trial, in an hour with the singular Nick Woodward! I’m a bit cowed by the prospect of potentially puking from (over)exertion, but looking forward to it nonetheless. I gotta push past my comfort zone and “Challenge” myself, right?

SO before I dive right into the working world again, and probably get overwhelmed at the beginning (since I fully expect it to be a lot of work and very challenging, but I’m looking forward to that, so I can grow and learn and become a better worker and person), I should finish up writing up Mexico. So, shall we?

Day 5: Akumal

 

My fifth day started in Playa del Carmen, where I met my hostel buddies up on the rooftop for the breakfast. They were all going to Akumal Beach, famous for being the place where you can swim alongside sea turtles. I looked it up on TripAdvisor, and somebody had recently left a review saying that there was a suspension on snorkeling with the tortugas. But these new travel friends had heard from others that it was still on, and it was a cheap collectivo ride away, and apparently a beautiful beach – so even if I didn’t spy any sea turtles, it would still be a good day. What else would I have done, anyway? I had woken up, planning to go to XPLOR, an adventure theme park with ziplining, rafting down an underground river, a buffet lunch. It was something like $90 US, but for a full day of thrilling activities PLUS all the food I could eat, that price is justifiable. Trying to kick my oft-tight-fisted instincts anyway. Alas, you could not buy tickets online for the day of (no idea why), and I wasn’t going to just appear at the park and hope they had space left – and also pay the full price (~$125) without any discounts. So I switched my plans up last-minute.

So Serina & Meg go first, since they were ready, rarin’ to go, and I didn’t want to hold them up. I told them I’d meet them there, like I did with the Kiwi Couple, and if it were meant to be, then I would find them. And if not, well, I have no trouble spending a day at the beach alone.

I take my sweet time getting ready, meander to the collectivo station, grab an iced coffee on the way, stop in a cute lil café for some food to go, end up chatting with the cashier – who was yet another Canadian – then hop in a minibus headed south. I strike up a conversation with my seatmate, another Canadian, and pick his brain about what’s to do around there. I considered doing XPLOR the next day, and just storing my stuff in a locker while en route to the next town, but through talking with this guy, it became clear to me that – contrary to what I had originally thought – I actually was running out of time. And this was not even halfway through my trip! And was originally worrying that I wouldn’t have enough to fill up my days!

This convenient chit-chat decided various things for me. There was not enough time for me to go to Belize (which would’ve been my thirtieth country), which wasn’t advised anyway. I didn’t even have enough days to justify riding all the way down to Bacalar for a day and a night, even if that was recommended to me, for its idyllic charm and picturesque five-hued blue lagoon. So I made my mind up. It would be Tulum-Coba-Valladolid-Chichen Itza-Merida-Cancun-Isla Mujeres. And that’s exactly what I did, and I don’t regret any of it.

Anyhow, I eventually get to Akumal – it was further than expected – and wander along the white sand beach, looking out for a spot to sit in the shade of a palm tree and also keeping my eyes open for the two girlies. And I manage to find both. Meg & Serina were sitting in the blazing sun, and I wasn’t trying to get even more toasted, so I go and claim a nice lil plot for us further up the beach. I eat my sandwich, smile at the shoreline, read my book, and then shoot the breeze with those two when they meander over. Then I go splashing around the waves solo, goggles on, hunting for some turtle friends. I never locate any of them, sadly (even though Meg did), but I do swim /drift over some coral and other fishies. The water felt amazing, of course, and I fully appreciated how I was in legitimate paradise once again. Couldn’t get enough of it.

[And then while walking back to the girls, some random woman who passes me says, “Wow! That’s a tiny swimsuit!” Like, really? Did I ask you? Is it really that small? No and no, so sashay away. Still good for some laughs tho.]

When the three of us tire of the beach / grow a little hungry, we go searching for a place for a bite, ultimately settling on this low-key cantina with a comida corrida (like a menu of the day, a cheap multi-course meal). I had fish tacos with beans and rice. I figured, since we were so close to the beach, it would be supa fresh. And maybe it was, I can’t remember. The food wasn’t remarkable, but it was certainly affordable.

And then we return to Playa and stroll down La Quinta. I wanted to go back to the Mamitas Beach Club / homosection and swim some more, but the ladies didn’t, so we split. And went and frolicked in the ocean some, and it was all so blissful. I’m missing it now, that feeling of complete liberation from cares & concerns. And the temperature was like bathwater. Amazing.

The night went similar to the two previous. Free Happy Hour on the roof, Meg & I timing ourselves chugging these drinks, giggling and laughing and chatting with everyone, and then our random contingent going on a ragtag adventure. We stopped for delicious & super cheap quesadillas, then meandered to another hostel that both V and I had heard was having a party tonight. We manage to find it (it was all the way across town), climb the stairs, and waltz right in. You know that secret, pretend you belong there, act like you own the place, and people won’t stop you? So I tried that… But unsuccessfully. The party was packed, so if I just moved a bit faster, I could’ve escaped paying the cover. And don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t aware that you had to give money to get in, so I just entered like I usually do at parties. But the doorman came up and seemed a bit angry with me. Like, sorry dude, you didn’t post the price anywhere.

Regardless, it was TWO HUNDRED PESOS to get in. Which doesn’t really translate to much in Canadian money (like $15), and it came with a large (triple) tequila drink… But still, I was salty about it. Only the dudes had to pay, the six of us (3 girls & 3 guys) talked about splitting the difference so all of us only gave 100, but when I went to collect from my friends, the deal was off. Easy to get annoyed by that when you’re drinking, but really, what’s the point? I’m fortunate enough in my life that I really don’t give a damn about losing $7. And my frugality can often be a weakness. So it’s literally whatever.

The party on top of this hostel wasn’t really great, either. Too-loud trancey music (which I’m not into and which prevented talking) and not enough room to really walk around or dance – but still hot bartenders and cool fire-dancers. So Meg & I ditched it after not too long, and the rest of the night was my favourite. We went back to the gay club, which was even emptier and sadder than the previous night, so we did a little tour, snapped some photos in the dance cages they had in there, laughed about the whole thing. Then popped in this super random club right next door that still looked like it was setting up for the night and definitely not open – all their lights were on and people were putting out chairs – but Meg and I just pranced around the dance floor. Literally. Skipping and jumping and doing sloppy pirouettes and somersaults and handstands and acting like we were in the tumbling section of a gymnastics comp. It was SO much fun, so stupid and silly and harmless and enjoyable. The BEST.

It was clear we weren’t really welcome, and the employees/owners didn’t know what to do with two gringos borrachitos just making fools of themselves (they didn’t say anything to us at all, but I feel like I asked “Está abierto?” when we entered) – so we left after not too long, and went in search of some eats.

Wandered down La Quinta, which isn’t really known for its cheap food. We stopped at a pizza/empanada place – I had a shrimp slice – and Meg was hilariously trying to bargain the guy down for an empanada or two. In both English and (basic) Spanish, her Australian accent and all, and she was trying so hard. But he wouldn’t budge! I tell you, it was a sight to behold. And she bought one anyway, and grumbled that it wasn’t even worth the money. EL OH EL.

But we made up for this by going to the old favourite, El Fogón. She got some quesadillas, I ordered yummy nachos, and we had a great time. Even though I spilled some salsa on my pants, washed it off at the sink, and it looked like I peed myself. But I didn’t care at all. It was a fabulous night, my favourite during the entire trip, and Meg solidified herself as somebody I can definitely kiki with / get ridiculous and be silly and have the most fun. Miss you so much, girl!

The friends I made in Playa del Carmen & the wonderful place I stayed in made it the stand-out of the whole twelve days. I had good hostel experiences elsewhere, for sure, but PDC was legendary.

And that brings me to….

 

Day 6: Tulum

I wake up, get breakfast, say adios to my lovely nuevos amigos, then go to the ChouChou Café, an adorable and beautiful coffee shop down the street from the hostel on the way to the collectivo station. Perfect. I sit on the porch, have a delicious shakerito (espresso + ice + un poquitito, no más, of milk), and enjoy the ambiance… Then head to grab a minibus to my next stop, sweating profusely because I’m carrying all my stuff and it is bloody hot out. All part of the charm, though.

I probably chat up my seatmate on the ride down, I’m not sure. I did that various times, because the best suggestions come from the locals. And I get to Tulum and have the most trouble finding my hostel. It was actually dreadful, maybe the lowest part of the trip. I had an address and a pin dropped on Google Maps, and I walked up and down the damn street searching for it numerous times. Of course, this being relatively rural Mexico, there weren’t many numbers on the houses to assist me with locating it. And I even stopped in various nicer-looking restaurants and asked them if they knew where it was, and they had never even heard of it! One guy even used his own phone to Google it, with no progress made, and then TWICE called the number they had given me, but nobody picked up. Like, what?! Am I being punk’d? What is the deal? And it was sweltering out and the area it was supposed to be in wasn’t the nicest and I lost a little bit of hope, to be honest. I didn’t want to wander all the way to another hostel, in hopes that they had a bunk available (since the one that was recommended to me was all full-up), when I still felt I was going to actually find the “Chill Inn Hostel.” And I didn’t want to be charged for the original one, if I wasn’t staying there, or go through the rigmarole of reversing that charge.

So FINALLY I manage to hunt down the place. They did have their number posted, but it was hard to see – and since NONE of the surrounding buildings did, I wasn’t really looking for that. They had ABSOLUTELY NO SIGN outside to signify that, “Yes, international travellers – without working cell phones or knowledge of this area and maybe even no command of the local language – this is the hostel you’re staying at! Super easy to find!” SO DUMB.

I was livid when I entered. And when I expressed this, and told the worker (en español) that there was no sign and how are people supposed to locate it if you’re not doing anything to facilitate that, by putting something at least a bit recognizable outside, all she said was, “We don’t need one. If you know where it is you can find it.” Like, yes, obviously if you know where to look for it you can locate it… But people who have never been to the hostel or even to Tulum will have no idea! And she was absolutely nonplussed about the whole thing. Aaarrgghhh, maddening!

I vented a bit more to two young, blonde girls that were in the hostel too, Fritzi (German) and Kirsten (Dutch). And that wasn’t the greatest first impression, let me tell you. Sweaty and frazzled and – by how relaxed everybody else was – seemingly overreacting. Fortunately that didn’t really appall them too much, as we ended up hanging out later at the hostel, and in Valladolid, and even at Chichen Itza.

I went into my room, cooled off a bit – both literally and figuratively – then went out for some lunch. Maybe I was a bit hangry as well. Probably. Returned to the taqueria with the gentleman who rang the hostel and really tried to help me out, because I wanted to show him my gratitude. Unfortunately, they were out of tacos for that day, so I ended up patronizing that establishment on my last afternoon in Tulum.

Instead, I ate at Tropi-Q, which had an amazing comida corrida for ~120 pesos. If I remember correctly, it was cucumbers with cayenne pepper, then some fresh bread, with papaya agua fresca, then spaghetti with spinach and olive oil, and finally pork with black beans and a Mexican-style ratatouille. Chopped/sautéed vegetables with sour cream and some cheese. Everything was delicious, it was so cheap, and I sat out on the patio and people-watched.

I had a conversation with my neighbour, as well, who was an American woman in her 30s or 40s who just upped and moved to Tulum for two months, to get away from the hustle+bustle of US life. She was studying Spanish and enjoying the beach and just taking it easy. Very Eat, Pray, Love of her, and I value that. Tulum has that effect on people, I gathered. Everyone seemed to absolutely adore the town, and it’s somewhat of a surfers’ paradise. Amy Demone spent eight full days there, just working during the day then heading to coastline at night, and doing yoga on the sand. Tulum is, like, the hot new thing in Mexico. Very trendy and upcoming and hipster. I certainly liked it, don’t get me wrong – but maybe it’s a bit overrated? I don’t know. I didn’t spend the most time there, so maybe I didn’t relax to the extent I should’ve or really took the time to absorb all the town had to offer. I don’t know.

What I didn’t love about Tulum is that it has two parts: the town (which is a bit dingy + dusty, to be honest) and the beach, which is much nicer, greener, and paradisiacal. Which means, of course, that it is more touristy and expensive, with the classier restaurants and beach resorts. And in order to go from one to the other, you either had to rent a bike or take a collectivo – the former which I didn’t spring for, since I never spent a full day there, and the latter which were not as regular as in Cancun.

Still, Tulum was awesome, and definitely worth the visit – because it’s the new thing to do, if nothing else. I’ll finish up writing about it later, as this is at ~3800 words currently & I have exciting plans to grab a drink right now!

 

So there you have it: some T about the job sitch, my new home (printing out + signing the sublease today), and more travel ramblings.

Hope y’all enjoyed. And I welcome your feedback! Do you want more funny stories and misadventures? Or more musings and philosophical insights? Or straight-to-the-point, what-did-I-do-in-Mexico details? Or a mixture of all of them. Let me know.

‘Til next time my darlings,

Love+light,

 

– Jefe

México Mágico (Parte Uno)

Aloha! Or should I rearrange that and say – holaa!

 

So I wrote and uploaded my most recent update yesterday, and I just finished filing my taxes – but I’m at a table outside, sitting in the sun, and just indulged in a grande quarter-sweet light-ice no-dairy iced coffee at Starbucks despite the fact that I’ve been suffering from insomnia this past week and couldn’t/didn’t fall asleep until 5 am last night. So I figured, before I go walking around Ottawa some more, let me at least get the ball rolling on a new blog post, all about my trip to Mexico. So let’s jump right in.

 

 

Day 1, March 29th: Ottawa-Philadelphia-Cancun

Woke up at 3:30 am after only going to bed after midnight. I opted to be hedonistic – have a late-night snack and watch some RPDR – instead of being a good Christian and going to bed early. Whatever, right? I’d get more rest in Mexico.

Head to the bus stop when it’s still dark, listening to new music (Brooke Candy & Kerli), get to the airport, have my future breakfast (yogurt + granola) thrown out because it was a “liquid” and wouldn’t fit in a 1-litre bag, and wait 10 minutes in a 3-person line at the Express Tim Horton’s only to find out they don’t have Ice Capps, despite what their sign says. Chit-chat with the check-in agent, suspect people are judging me for my orange/coral nails (“Hot & Spicy” from OPI), download The Challenge: Invasion, and fly to Philly. Catch up on Scrabble, complete some crosswords, watch The Edge of Seventeen on the plane, and land safely in Cancun! Customs takes forever, but as soon as I get outside, a smile immediately comes to my face. The weather was so balmy, the sun was shining, there was cheap beer and margaritas, and the shuttle to downtown Cancun only cost $5 US. And I managed to get on an earlier one, instead of waiting another 45 minutes – simply because I asked. Audentes Fortuna iuvat.

So I get dropped off at the ADO station, walk down Avenida Tulum, withdraw some pesos from a Scotiabank – and honestly had no idea how much to take out. I obviously hadn’t slept much and didn’t quite have the conversion rates down. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay any fees to use the ATM – thanks, Global Partner Alliance!

I have no sense of where my damn hostel is, since the street signs in Central Cancun are few and far between. And I’m carrying all my valuables, in a pair of jeans and lugging around my hoodie and leather jacket, and sweating so much. I stop in a 7-11 and ask for directions – and the guy is so kind that he looks it up on his phone! What a sweetheart.

So I manage to locate La Casa del Viajero, knock, no answer. So I just waltz right in, see construction going on, and I’m like… What? Is this the right place? But it was, and this was a common theme of my Mexico trip: things that seemed a bit sketchy or unsure, but you just gotta trust in it – and then it works out for the best. It was the same when the hostel worker (and apparently the contractor/construction guy too), Martin, takes my money but doesn’t have change for me. What can ya do? Just breathe, hope for the best, and “it’s fine.”

I meet some of the other guests, make fast friends with a Kiwi couple, then look up good places to eat – ‘cause I was hungry at this point! I change into shorts and a sleeveless shirt (never to wear anything else during my trip!) and hit the road, heading to a taquería that was recommended on TripAdvisor. I order “un orden” of tacos al pastor – so kind of a make-it-yourself dish with tortillas and marinated pork with pineapple. Came with grilled baby onions, fried black beans, sautéed nopal (cactus leaves), and, naturally, lime, onions, cilantro, and an assortment of salsas (red, green, pico de gallo). I had a Corona too, of course, and I just relished how yummy and affordable everything was. The weather was perfect, there was a great breeze, and I was in friggin’ Mexico. I had no idea I would be there, even a week prior – and I was ecstatic to have made it to my twenty-ninth country. I wrote about this in my journal, breathed it all in, and was smiling so wide. Magnífico.

Then I wandered around, strolled through markets, searched for sunscreen (by asking for “cream against the sun” because I didn’t know the word “bloqueador”), stopped back at the hostel, and then geared up to go to the Zona Hotelera – which is what everyone thinks of when they picture Cancun. It’s the white sand beaches, turquoise waters, huge hotels and nice resorts and bumpin’ clubs. A two hours’ walk from the downtown section, or less than a half hour on these big buses that run constantly and only cost 11 pesos to hop on – not even a loonie. That exchange rate was really workin’ for me during my trip!

I initially headed to the ME – the hotel where Jonna, Jasmine, CJ, Derek, Emilee, Ayiiia, Bronne, & Joey stayed on The Real World: Cancun – and walked right up the entrance to “fake it ‘til I make it” and seem like I knew exactly where I was going… Only to be stopped by a construction worker. The hotel was apparently undergoing renovations and wasn’t open at all. And I rode the bus all the way down to check it out. Alas.

So I put my headphones in and marched all the way back up to the main section of the Hotel Zone – with all the huge clubs. Coco Bongo, Senor Frog’s, Dady’O, Mandala, La Vaquita. They were all blasting music and competing for attendees. But at like $40 US to enter, nah. Even it was open bar. They had scantily clad dancers enticing people to come in, neon paint, black lights – and everything turned up to 11. It was something to see, for sure. But not exactly my scene, especially since I was traveling solo. So I marveled at the debauchery a bit, then walked on down to a private beach. Could still hear the house music, remixes to popular songs – but coupled with the sounds of the waves. All the lights on the water, people sitting on the sand, enjoying the night for all it was… Just amazing.

Then I wandered over to Casa Tequila, ordered a lime-salt-rocks margarita, listened to the mariachi band, and wrote more in my journal. Then walked more around, with all these vendors trying to sell me things and entice me to go in their bars and strip clubs. An easy way to deter them? Just tell ‘em “I’m not straight.” And they back right off, haha.

Then returned to the hostel on a ~party bus~ (lights, loud music, people drinking), got to know the other visitors more (New Zealanders, a Russian, the Quebecker host and his BC friend, Germans everywhere), watched The Challenge, and hit the sack.

 

Day 2: Cancun

I sleep in, enjoy the free breakfast (huevos revueltos con frijoles negros y toast y café instante) out on the patio by the pool, chit-chat, and strategize with the Kiwi couple. I lead them to the stop for the shuttle to the Zona Hotelera (so they aren’t waiting for 20 minutes for one to show up like completely morons, as I did the night prior) and agree to meet them there. I grab a delicious iced americano, purchase some aerosol sunscreen, then ride the bus over to Playa Delfines as well. Once again, I hop off at the wrong time, so I have to walk along the main road through the punishing midday sun. But I was not going to let any of that get me down, because it was a marvelous day in a new country! Why would I be upset about such trivialities! No way, no how. And I even managed to see some iguanas on the stroll over.

I locate the beach, and oh WOW, it is gorgeous! Truly picture-perfect – not too crowded, a great sea breeze to keep the heat index down, nice amenities (showers, bathrooms, umbrellas), and all for free! And I even manage to find my New Zealander friends, which seemed pretty lucky to me. So we spend a good part of the afternoon there, together.

I body-surfed, walked up and down the shore, sunbathed, sat in the sand and let the waves crash around me, bantered with my new-found friends, read Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?”, did some swimming, and did not take any minute of it for granted. It was ideal and idyllic.

We snapped some photos with the multicoloured, larger-than-life city name sign, like those everywhere else in Mexico – Valladolid, Isla Mujeres, Merida – then walked back up the main road, seeking some ruins I saw on the map. Never really found any of them, but we did happen upon the Mayan Museum, which I heard good things about. However, it was their last day in the country and didn’t have money to burn, and we were all hungry, dehydrated, and a bit sunburnt at this point. So we split up – I went to the best taquería on TripAdvisor (Tacún) and had a margarita and arrachera tacos, and they returned to downtown Cancun.

I stopped back at the hostel, hung out in the pool a bit, rested some, realized how damn red I was (I should’ve reapplied), and later did an abortive attempt to go to a local gay club. It was already 9:30 and nobody was there, and I was beat anyway. So I stopped by another bar, which had three tequila sunrises on special for 120 pesos – or less than $10 Canadian. I sipped on those, wrote more in my journal, and eventually meandered back to La Casa del Viajero. Mostly everyone was gettin’ their drank on – barely diluted full glasses of whiskey and cheap Mexican beer and broken mugs etc – so I hung around this chaos for a bit, laughing with the rest of ‘em.

When I travel, though – I very rarely go out, and I was tired from all the sun and heat. So I later showered, applied aloe lotion everywhere (I’m not trying to look like a snake mid-molt), packed my bags, and went to sleep.

 

Day 3: Playa del Carmen

“Playa” was my favourite part of the trip. Thanks to Martin’s advice, I took a collectivo (like a crowded van, like in those professional rideshare outfits) down the coast to PdC for only 40 pesos, instead of a bus that would’ve been more expensive, taken longer, and been less of a cultural experience.

And the midday Yucatan sun is hawt on that day, so carrying my stuff and trying to navigate a new city was not the most pleasant of experiences. But I found my hostel, the Lobo de Mar, pretty quickly – and it was definitely the right choice. I loved it! It was one of those nicer, “cooler,” more social ones. I mean, they had a diving shop kiosk in their lobby, a rooftop bar open to the public (with a mini pool), free water and WiFi and breakfast, comfortable beds, attractive employees, discounts for other local businesses, and the best part – a free happy hour for guests every night! And the price was comparable to everywhere else I stayed, too. I loved it, and a big part of that was that I actually made friends there – facilitated by the gratis cocktails, no doubt.

I drop my things off, do some lite research on where to eat lunch, and go to Cueva del Chango for some grub. Which was also awesome. Great atmosphere – they had a small waterfall, a stream, all these trees, a simulated cave (hence the name), and even a pond with cute turtles. I ordered an iced americano (naturally) and chilaquiles, a dish I had heard lots about (also on Orange is the New Black) and which was recommended on the “female foodie” blog I read. It’s like nachos, but instead of being covered in cheese, it’s smothered in sauce. So, tortilla chips, the salsa you choose, pickled onion, avocado, chicken or beef or egg, and sour cream. Friggen amazing, YUM. I enjoyed that to the fullest, wrote in my ournal, and soaked up the amazing weather.

Then I wandered around the town, primarily on “La Quinta,” or 5th Avenue, the main tourist area of Playa. It’s a pedestrian street with the nicer (and pricier) restaurants, bars, shops, etc. Lots of people trying to sell you things, like always, but still great to walk down, people-watch, and feel some of the AC drafting out of the stores. I ended up down at the beach, of course, and sought out the gay area. When I saw numerous tan and shockingly fit old dudes in Speedos, I knew I had found it. I sat down in the sand, in the shade of somebody else’s (rented) umbrella, gazed around, watched the waves, listened to the house beats coming from Mamitas Beach Club, and read more of Mindy Kaling’s book – eventually finishing it. It was another triumph for her, and I recommend it. I especially loved the chapter in which she has that party out in Astoria and all the drama with her nemesis co-teacher. Amazing humour.

Returned to the hostel, showered off all the sand, and made my way up to the roof to witness the sunset and try to blog. Some randoms up there engaged me in conversation, though – which I (almost) always welcome – but in this case, they seemed like scammers and I didn’t enjoy their company. Luckily, eight o’clock came, I excused myself from the chat, and began my new habit: getting as many tequila cocktails as I could within the hour. I asked somebody if I could sit near her, and as it turns out – she was the friend of somebody I had talked to earlier, down in the lobby! Serina was her name, and we ended up hanging out the rest of our time there – and even in my next stop, Tulum. She and her travel bud were from Saskatchewan – I met a weird amount of Canadians during my trip. Birds of a feather, maybe?

So she and I gab, get to know each other, rub aloe on ourselves, and capitalize upon the happy hour. When I go to get a refill, I ask somebody who is sitting there alone what he is drinking, since it looked pretty fancy. Turns out it was a paloma (grapefruit + tequila), which seemed like a wise enough choice – so I invited him over to sit with us. I also made that offer to somebody else, an adorable Argentine, but he was just waiting for his friends to come up. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I might as well do a good deed. So Serina, bar-guy, and I are all sitting around and enjoying each other’s company, and then this other girl comes over and asks if she can join us. Hmm, another bold one, huh? OF COURSE YOU CAN! And I’m SO happy she did, because she was phenomenal. Her name is Meg, and she is from Australia, and she and I still talk. We hit it off right away and ended up having so much damn fun together. I miss those wild carefree nights in a big way, since I don’t really have them here in Ottawa. Alas.

The first night, we all just chit chat, drank some dranks, and have a good time. I make a point to get to know the bartenders and tip them for each cocktail, to facilitate the rest of the happy hour and the proceeding nights as well. My buddies didn’t do that and were still served – but whatever. 20 pesos for a strong tequila-orange is still quit the bargain, and the two barmen were fun, interesting guys regardless. So that’s me, always being friendly and giving good gratuity. What goes around comes around, right?

Meg ends up chatting with someone else, and our English friend goes to bed early, so Serina and I head to El Fogon (an authentic, well-reviewed, affordable hole-in-the-wall taqueria) for some drunchies. It was all so cheap and so good that I ate at the place four times during my three days in Playa. Completely worth it. And then it’s back to Lobo del Mar to crash.

 

Day 4: Playa

I wake up, hit up the free breakfast on the rooftop, and fortunately run into my new favourite person, Meg! She gives me some advice on cenotes, which are certainly one of the best things about the Yucatan Peninsula. They are sinkholes in the limestone filled with rainwater (or groundwater, or both). So they become natural swimming holes, completely mystical places that look like something out of a Tomb Raider movie, and many of them feature caves and stalactites and other things you can marvel at, through Scuba diving or just splashing around. I adored them, and ended up visiting three throughout my stay.

She recommended Cenote Jardin/Garden del Eden, so I get a collectivo and head right there. I also grab an iced coffee on the way, because the hot, instant stuff at the free breakfasts wasn’t cutting it. And en route, I strike up a conversation with my seatmate, who was an American who had recently relocated to Tulum. I pick his brain about what to do around those parts, but am cautious to annoy him. You know, second-guessing myself like usual. But it was an enjoyable and educational talk, for sure.

I get to Eden, walk down the dirt path… And find out it is closed. On a Saturday, of all times! If you’re going to pick a day to close each week, and you’re a tourist destination, then why on earth would you pick Saturday? Makes no sense to me.

So that’s a let-down. Fortunately, Garden of Eden is situated super close to other cenotes – Crystal and Blue – so I choose the latter, Cenote Azul. Pay my 80 pesos and was immediately transported into a magical natural wonder. Words won’t really do it justice, but it was phenomenal and so picturesque. Crowded too, admittedly, but there was still room to breathe.

So I spend the afternoon there, and it was marvelous. I eat my picnic lunch, start a new book (The You I’ve Never Known by my favourite author, Ellen Hopkins), swim around, take lots of photos, don’t give a rip that I’m in a Speedo when nobody else is, see a certified Olympian, people-watch, and also do two things that scare but also thrill me. I jump off a cliff, maybe 15 or 20 feet above the surface, and I free-dive through an underwater tunnel with various air pockets. And once wasn’t enough, so I repeat the experiences numerous times, even if I the rocks in the tunnel scratched me and smacking the water from that height stung a bit. But I loved it.

I also get a “fish manicure” for the first time, which is where these lil guppies come and eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickles, sure, but it’s adorable. These “fish spas” were also set up in booths along La Quinta for $20 US, which is ridiculous, since I got that stuff for free.

And one more story, so you can laugh at me. As I’m setting up my phone on self-timer, trying to capture a good photo for my daily gratuitous Instagram post, traipsing through the shallows to simultaneously get a nice pose and ideal lighting with only ten minutes to get in position… I misstep, my leg goes into this unseen hole between these rocks, all the way up to my knee, which scrapes my shin up good and gives me quite the bruise. It hurt, certainly – and I felt nauseated on account of the pain – but it was pretty funny. I wish it happened to somebody else, so I could witness such a hilarious accident from an external perspective. But it’s cool, ‘cause I can laugh at myself too. And I am fully aware it could’ve been much worse. My leg could’ve broken, or there might’ve been some scary monster with huge jaws at the bottom of this hole, or I could’ve dropped my phone in the water in the process, so…. I’ll take what I can get. It’s all healed up now, of course, and what’s life without a little misadventure?

I head back around 3pm when I’m getting hungry, flag down a collectivo on the side of the highway, and ride on back to Playa. Stroll around more, check out a thrift shop, spy a Quebecois bar (with poutine, Canadiens gear, and “tabarnak,” so comical), and look at menus to decide where to eat dinner. I end up at this place on the corner by my hostel, recommended by the desk workers and with a discount – but I have my doubts. Skeptical as ever. I double-check with TripAdvisor, though, and that convinces me enough to give it a try. Glad I did, too. Iced coffee again (since I knew I’d be having mucha tequila a bit later anyway), freshly-made guacamole, and fish ceviche. Which I had never really tried before, even if I did spend a summer in Peru. And let me tell you, it was all delicious. The restaurant had a great vibe, too. I wrote in my journal and watched the people around me and had a constant grin on my face. Also, incongruously, the place had this pool in the centre of the eating area, and there was some random boy swimming during my entire meal. Lolwut? Why? Whose kid is this? Hilarious.

Then back to the hostel, shower off, put on clean / non-sweaty clothes, rub aloe lotion on myself (as I am still peeling), and get ready for *~happy hour~*. I head up early to get a good seat, use the WiFi to catch up on Scrabble, respond to the folks back home, and upload that douchey IG photo while awaiting the 8 o’clock witching hour and for my friends to arrive.

Veronique, another Canadian I met while abroad, shows up, and we sit with another guy in our room, from Russia. Eventually Meg, Serina, and her pal Chelsea show up (no English guy though, and Argentine guy was with his friends and thus unavailable – but still looking so comely), and it becomes another great night. It’s much more crowded because it is apparently “Ladies’ Night,” but that doesn’t stop me from getting my fill. I even have Meg time me while I down it as fast as possible, reppin’ McGill’s Carnival with a six-second chug. I sing Scottish drinking songs for Meg and Serina, and we are all fabulous bad influences on each other.

This night is more successful than last, in that we actually have a contingent that goes out and hits the town. We seek out a nearby karaoke bar only to find out it is closed, and then wander down La Quinta, seeing what catches our fancy. And let me tell you, there are some LOOOLLLLs throughout the evening, that still make me smile when I remember them.

  • V and her hilariously unflattering romper, dancing in this random rock bar.
  • Chelsea giving the waiter her number, and having me teach her how to say “Eres guapo” to facilitate this.
  • Meg borrowing V’s bike, pedaling away, and shouting, “Adios!”
  • Meg & I going into a tequila tasting shop, and when the guy asks us which we want to try, she says “todo,” trying to get like five free shots.
  • The random convenience store that had the same prices for drinks as the bars did.
  • Us sitting in a Mexican karaoke bar, so annoyed with all the sad Spanish ballads they’re singing (but impressed with some of the voices, including an apparent YouTube star), until Meg & I go up on stage and absolutely slay “Pretty Fly for a White Guy.” Actually. We had the other patrons singing along with us, clapping, and even recording our amazing, upbeat, laughable performance.
  • Me leaving the group to check out the local gay bar (Club 69, because of course, what else would it be called?) for a second, convincing the guy to let me in just to look around – he says “Tienes cinco minutos” – being massively underwhelmed with it, so hurrying back out to link back up with the girls.

And let me tell you, I am hustling back up Fifth Ave to find them, worried that they got lost and were in some random unsafe alley or dangerous situation, and I never do catch up. And in my rush to get back to the hostel to averiguar their safety, I unfortunately do not buy any street food to end out my night. Sad! But the important thing is that they managed to get back all in one piece. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t pass them, but maybe they ran back in order to evade me? Who knows? (But I doubt that).

Well, this entry is already over 4200 words. And it is definitely no longer the day after I filed my taxes at all – but all the same, I am still at Starbucks, just had a grande iced coffee, and am at a lil sidewalk table. There is no way I can write about everything I experienced in Mexico in one entry. And I just realized that I’ve never done that – when I was in Italy, I was always writing shorter updates on my adventures while riding on buses from city to city. So it’s cool! No sweat!

So we’ll wrap it up here, for now, and pretty soon I’ll upload some photos to my Facebook. To give you that true, multi-media experience.

One final point – this week / this life has continued to be hard, and yesterday was a difficult day. I found myself legitimately tearing up at yoga, out of frustration or pessimism or sadness. I’m not sure. But! All’s well that ends well, because I successfully managed to apply to not one but two jobs last night. One at Carleton and one at Algonquin College. So maybe there is a future for me here in Ottawa yet! I didn’t get the Camp fYrefly gig, but I am still hopeful about the reality TV show and the government job. So keep your fingers crossed for me, if you will. Because these empty days, spent in my room all alone, are getting real tiresome.

And don’t worry, I am making a change as well. I can’t expect things to improve if I don’t make an effort or change my ways, right? So I am trying to do exactly that. Hence why I’m at Starbucks, enjoying today’s beautiful weather, instead of cooped up in my apartment.

 

That’ll do for now, cochinita. Hope all is well with all of y’all!

 

Hasta la próxima,

 

– Jefe

Peaks & Valleys: Returning to Ottawa; Job Interviews; Disappointments; & Exciting Opportunities on the Horizon (Including Potentially Being a Reality TV Star!!)

Jambo!

 

So it looks like I didn’t write up about the rest of my trip while I was in the airport. I only had about thirty minutes to wait until the plane started boarding, so I just read more of Liane Moriarty’s “Truly Madly Guilty.” And then when I had my layover in Philly, I took my time walking through all the terminals, looking for the best place to spend my US dollars on some food. Geno’s Steaks was too overpriced, I didn’t feel like supporting the homophobic practices of Chic-Fil-A, and so I just got an iced coffee and everything bagel with cream cheese from Au Bon Pain. You know, my go-to cheap snack since I’ve returned from living in Europe. And when I was in Montreal for a day and a half, I didn’t really prioritize updating my blog, since there were so many people to see… But since I’ve gotten back to Ottawa, there’s no excuse whatsoever.

It’s been a tough time, coming back to boring ol’ O-Town after the absolutely magical twelve days I had in Mexico. Not only is Ottawa a bit dreary and dull (and cold and grey), but it seems even more so in comparison to the sun-soaked, simultaneously exciting and relaxing trip I had in Yucatán. Meeting people, seeing beautiful places, trying new things, thrill-seeking, eating delicious and cheap food, hanging out on white-sand beaches and swimming in primordial cenotes… And then I return to my ostensible “home” and have essentially nothing. to. do. here.

And to make it even worse – it was Easter Weekend, so many/most of the people I wanted to see were out of town. AND establishments were closed, making Centretown even less happening than normal. Even yoga was cancelled, despite the fact it starts at 5:15 on Thursdays, and there is no such thing as Good/Easter/etc Thursday! So frustrating! Thank deity that my weekly Pandemic Legacy night came together last-minute and I was able to see the wonderful Colum, Luke, & Dean (even if we didn’t manage to win a fifth game in a row), so rushing back to Ottawa / leaving Montreal prematurely was not a completely unnecessary decision.

So I had a couple of hard days, struggling to find things to look forward to.

Whoops, didn’t finish or make much headway in this entry the day I started it. Now it’s past 4pm on a Saturday, I have zero plans this weekend, I’ve likely had too much caffeine, and I just disconnected my WiFi – so let’s get this thing banged out!

As aforementioned, Mexico was completely fenomenal, and I’ll write all about it soon. I want to record all the memories here so I don’t forget ‘em. I did manage to journal a lot down there – and read as well, 2.75 books – since I was spending less time on the computer, enjoying the weather, dining at restaurants solo, etc. It provided for that productivity.

But for now, I want to get life updates out of the way. Since I’ve been back, I haven’t really done much of import, and it sucks. That is not to say I haven’t seen some friends and had some great times, don’t get me wrong. Things are not totally dreadful and I am not completely down in the dumps. Part of my mood these days is post-vacation blues, of course. Going from living life to the fullest and seizing the day, back to the minutiae and monotony of my normal life. And without a job or any true involvements to mark the passing days, they’ve mostly run together. Essentially all I do anymore is sleep too much, (binge) watch (trash) TV, read up on things/waste time online, do my ten-minute fitness circuit, and… Dream about the future, I suppose.

So I have no plans this weekend, but that is alright, because I have the palliative of RuPaul’s Drag Race (both seasons 2 & 9) and Big Brother Canada 5 to mollify me (and after . And I can squeeze out some sense of accomplishment from the daily mini workout; reading a bit of my new book (Drinking: A Love Story); eating healthy (spicy Thai stir-fry); doing the Metro crossword; (finally) getting an OHIP card – and calling the hospital to (finally) set up that MRI, to confirm everything in my brain is truly fine, post-encephalitis – and, inchallah, updating this blawg & filing my taxes. And who knows? Maybe some spontaneous plans with friends will come thru, though of course, I’m not holding my breath.

Since I’ve been back, I guess I’ve been a little pessimistic – but to be honest, it feels more like realism, since life can truly suck sometimes. I’ve just been anticipating being disappointed, since the opposite of that is my kryptonite. That is, I often get my hopes up about something, think it’s going to be amazing, and when things don’t reach my (often unrealistic) expectations – I get down, disappointed, crushed. And I know I do that, so I have been trying to manage / lower my expectations. As they say, “hope for the best, but expect the worst.” And, wouldn’t you know it – I’ve been gratified in so doing. Not that it’s particularly satisfying.

In that vein, FIVE times this past week, I had plans with people that were cancelled / postponed the morning of. It happened on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, AND Friday. Don’t get me wrong – these rainchecks were not without their good reasons (exams, essays, exhaustion, etc) – but it is still frustrating and disappointing, since I was looking forward to them. Maybe I should look on the bright side: they were not called off outright, but rather just pushed back to another day. But it’s often meant that the only thing I had planned for a certain day fell through, leaving me with nothing. So, what have I filled it with? The aforementioned pastimes.

And please indulge me one more line of complaint before I move on. In addition to weekly yoga at GayZone, another reason I hurried back to Ottawa last Wednesday night was because I had an interview on Thursday morning, the thirteenth. Which kind of just landed in my lap, the night before my flight back to Canada. I was on my email to check in online and realized I had missed a message from a couple days prior – and it turned out to be a very important one!

Dr. Spencer J Harrison, the Ontario Director for Camp fYrefly, wanted to interview me to be the Coordinator for two arts-based resiliency camps – one for LGBTQ+ youth and another for First Nations adolescents – which are occurring for the first time in Ontario this summer. He is already impressed with my experience and credentials, and thanked me for my contributions to the (queer) community heretofore. I had sent the organization an email back in early February, inquiring if they had any paid positions (since many camps for queer young people only operate with volunteers). And that evidently qualified as me proactively expressing my interest in the initiative – which makes total sense, of course, since what else would my email be considered? – but that wasn’t my actual intention. It was around the time things at the CCGSD started truly affecting me, so I was putting out feelers and seeing what else was around that could potentially be a future avenue for my career.

Regardless. The upshot is that I reached out to them directly, and not simply in response to a job posting or ad they had on their site. Two others did the same, and in lieu of going through the application process, Dr. Harrison decided to simply interview the three of us for the Coordinator position. So that Thursday morning, my first day back, I spoke with him for an hour and forty-five minutes on the phone. Told him about myself, discussed my experience and ambition, walked him through how I would handle certain scenarios, learned more about the camp and the job, and really believe I impressed – or at the very least, performed satisfactorily. I mean, why else would he take nearly two hours out of his day to talk to me otherwise? I was apparently saying something he liked – so, naturally, I have a good feeling about it.

I asked him about the timeline for the hiring process (because of course), and he told me, as I was the last person he had to speak with, he would decide by Monday. However, I haven’t heard anything since that initial interview. I sent a follow-up email on Thursday night, hoping I might get a response on Friday sometime, but nope, nada. So I guess I’ll (have to) be patient until this coming Monday. Normally, I wouldn’t be as pressed about it – since it does seem like an amazing opportunity and two weeks is standard operating procedure – but he told me on the phone that, if I am offered the gig, I would be expected to start the job in the beginning to middle of May… Which is only 1-3 weeks away at this point!

Oh, and did I forget to say? The job is in Peterborough. Meaning I would be relocating for work once again, to a place I’ve never been and where I don’t know a single person. (And everything I’ve heard about Peterborough isn’t marvelous – that it’s even smaller and duller than Ottawa, and undoubtedly more conservative too)

Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW I could do it, and manage to make yet another home for myself, and it would (in all likelihood) be completely worth it for the work I’d be doing. I would have much more responsibility than I’ve ever had for a job, and I am sure I would rise to the occasion, kick butt, and make myself and Spencer proud. The problem is… I just got settled here in Ottawa, and I don’t want to throw away everything I’ve built just yet. While I am not totally over the moon with O-Town, it’s the best I got for now, and I do have people I care about and weekly routines I enjoy (trivia, Pandemic, yoga, etc). I’m not psyched to give that all up so soon.

And this job with Camp fYrefly is only a four-month commitment. So I would be moving for a relatively short-term opportunity. And while it is absolutely true that it could very possibly be a springboard to my career and lead to future involvement, fulfillment, and success in coming years – since Dr. Harrison aims to establish eight camps in the next five years and I would be “getting in on the ground floor” – is such a deracination worth it for me, at this juncture in my life? I am honestly not sure. It doesn’t help that I don’t have all the details about the position, since there never was a job posting and I didn’t actually apply. So, again, all I can do is wait to hear back from him. And I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Furthermore – it’s not like I’m completely bereft of other opportunities, either. I still have a positive sense / good ~vibe~ about something coming through with Louise M, and maybe (fingers crossed) a governmental gig involved with Diversity & Inclusion or employment equity will materialize. I also emailed her this past week, to follow up on the wondrous tete-a-tete we had about five weeks ago. Also no reply yet from her, but my pal Michael G tells me it’s a very busy time for the Treasury Board, and so I’m not fussed about that. (Because she never promised me anything or gave me a specific day or deadline where she would get back to me, so I’m not really expecting anything, you know?)

And finally, this past Tuesday, I HAD A PHONE INTERVIEW WITH SOMEBODY INVOLVED WITH CASTING FOR A NEW REALITY TV SHOW. I saw a tweet from Mark Long – Road Rules OG, Challenge Champion, and smokin’ hot 45-year-old – about casting for a new show on MTV, about twentysomethings living in Austin, Texas. Like a mixture between The Real World and The Hills. And I figured, why the hell not? I don’t have much going on here in Ottawa, I’ve heard only great things about Austin, and I will definitely make for some compelling TV. An LGBTQ+ professional, outgoing, extroverted, unique upbringing, silly, sassy, friendly, funny, honest to a fault, intellectual, maybe a touch elitist, strong opinions and a loud mouth, pretty-masc-but-still-wears-nail-polish, with some emergent interests that might be taboo (leather, drag, burlesque)… So ABSOLUTELY I should be on national television. Queer visibility, amirite?

And also, I truly believe I have good, important things to say, teach, discuss, and call attention to, via mass media. I mean, on the phone call with the casting director, I taught her what “pansexual” means – and we only chatted for about twenty minutes. SO, please keep your fingers crossed for me, about that (and also fYrefly and something with Louise, of course). Because it would be amazing, hands down. A new adventure, living in an exciting city (rent-free, to boot!), cohabitating with other outgoing and interesting and exuberant/slightly ridiculous people, and maybe even potentially having a platform to promote LGBTQ+ identities and human rights. Seems like a dream, no? So I’m extremely jubilant, buoyant, amped up about that. And remembering all of this – recalling the email response I got from them and when my phone rang with a California number – has really perked me up. That, and the sun streaming through my window, new music I just downloaded (a group called Crywolf), and chatting with some loved ones – and now I’m feeling pretty great. Yay! Catharsis and introspection and re-evaluating my priorities and realizing that I am, in fact, a very blessed person with a thoroughly fortunate life (even if it is a tad unexciting in its current state).

Alright, quickly before I close: I went with my pal Michael to the National Arts Centre last weekend, and we saw Vigilante together. It was a rock opera about family, loyalty, old country customs, and cold vengeance, all within an Irish clan. And let me tell you: it was fantastic. Truly riveting, great music, amazing voices, cute accents and dialects (“ma” and “da” and “aye” and “bloody”), hot steampunk/S&M outfits, attractive actors, entertaining choreography. There was nothing not to like! I wholeheartedly recommend it! Go see it!

So that was definitely a bright point in the past two weeks, since returning from Mexico. And, if you’re reading this: thank you, Michael, for making my Saturday noteworthy. I appreciate it!

And to the rest of you – thanks for reading/wading through my low points, my white whining, glimpses of hope for the future, self-assured rambling, work woes, etc. Your support means the world.

Life isn’t all bad. Watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with Colum etc last night, re-meeting & befriending Tony, winning Pandemic Legacy on Tuesday, getting drinks with Nick W, the ACO Clothing Swap, returning to yoga, some warm weather… Things could be a lot worse.

And on that note – I’m going to go enjoy the sun! Have a great one y’all.

Love always,

– Jefe ❤