Running to Stand Still

Posted by Cila Warncke

Blogging is like exercise: addictive, once you get the hang of it but dangerously easy to leave aside when life gets hectic. There is little to say about my several weeks’ hiatus apart from: stuff happened. Mexico. London. Ibiza. Plans made and then unmade for journeys to Ireland, the States, Mexico again. There were patches where I was seriously considering going to the nearest airport and buying a one-way ticket on the first flight to someplace I’d never been before. I got a little caught up in the idea of someplace new. A succession of adventures, coincidences, gin & tonics and long conversations with friends nudged me into the realisation that the ‘someplace new’ I need to explore is Ibiza – and my own motivations.

Home to Ibiza

Home to Ibiza

Jumping on planes is A) more fun than jumping off them and B) only very occasionally an antidote to chronic discontent. I tried it with Mexico and couldn’t, at the end of 14 weeks, figure out why the hell I hadn’t learned anything there. Why I had come back as bored and irritable as I’d left. A few weeks rattling around in the Mediterranean sun, making fantastic new friends who kickstarted my brain from its tropic slothfulness into frisky, if somewhat tentative life, suggests that my problem wasn’t where I was but how I was thinking. Somewhere between Ibiza, E17 and Merida, I completely lost my bottle. Not that you’d have noticed, necessarily. I was still walking around spouting opinions, still capable of summoning enough bravado to actually get from E17 to Merida, but there was something missing. The best lack all conviction.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, how I wanted to live or who I wanted to be. I was stumped. Then I got the following advice from a smartarse filmmaker:

Whatever you decide, feel good about it. Feel amazing about it. Feel as if you couldn’t have made any other possible decision. As long as you do that, everything will work out exactly as it should.

When I started to think like that suddenly the stubbornly wedged pieces began to fall into place. The decisions I fight the hardest are usually, in retrospect, as easy as falling over. It’s like standing at the top of a high dive. Turning, fretting, pawing at the board to buy time. Praying for a heavenly waterslide to appear. It never does. So I jumped. And my fear-hazed, pinched-in little world bloomed. There is much to be determined, questions to be posed and answered, work to be done, but it’s okay because life is exciting again.

Swine Flu – Notes on a ‘Pandemic’

Posted by Cila Warncke

I find it very difficult to take seriously an alleged nationwide emergency that I find out about by reading the Guardian website. Surely if swine flu or influenza porcina as the locals call it, were a hovering shadow of death across the fair land of Mexico someone would have thought to mention it? It was Saturday I happened across the UK headlines. The first local clue anything was up was the bored-looking attendents wearing surgical masks (tapa bocas) while handing out leaflets at the coach station when I returned to Merida on Monday.

Awful, isn't it?

Awful, isn't it?

Yucatan is for all intents and purposes a separate country, and the only reaction here seems to be mild boredom. The schools are shut, a fair few of the businesses (presumably because someone has to be at home to mind the kids) and the morning tae-bo class at the local stadium has been called off. This means us runners can hang out at the edge of the track and talk without being blasted by pumped up mariachi music, which is kind of nice. Jaime, my 10K buddy, put things in perspective: “They’ve shut the restaurants in Mexico City, but not the Metro.”

When he said that my already limited interest in swine flu bottomed out. The Mexico City Metro is a cross between a batteryfarm and a sauna. It is one of the most horrible, germ-spewing environments I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. If they haven’t shut the damn thing down they clearly aren’t that bothered.

Mexico City is a teeming hellhole. A city of over 22M people set in a natural bowl so every particle of smog, filth and germs sinks into lungs and skin. The fact 150 people have died after having flu symptoms is nothing more than a statistical blip. If this flu were anything to worry about there would be a lot more than eight confirmed deaths. As for the people who’ve travelled in Mexico and taken the flu home? People get sick travelling. I had terrible respiratory illness within 72 hours of landing in Mexico City purely from the poison air.

The hysteria is a massive PR job on the part of the drug companies and the WHO (aka the OMS Organizicion Mundial de Salud). It’s a slow news week, someone felt the need to stir shit up and hey, bird flu was fun.

Not that this total nonsense doesn’t have its good side. My boyfriend is off work so we’ve had two days of painting his office, eating popcorn and watching DVDs (because the cinemas are all shut). Also, it prompted me to go and look up the defintion of “pandemic” — an unjustifiably abused word at the moment.

Medicine. Epidemic over a wide geographic area and affecting a large proportion of the population: pandemic influenza.

Wide geographic area? Possibly. But a large portion of the population? Hardly. According to The Economist there are 99 confirmed cases in Mexico, 91 in the US and 19 in Canada. The only other nation in double figures is Spain, with 10. I would love to hear the mathematical justification for construing those numbers as a pandemic.

One down, the Great American Short Story collection to go

Finally! A day off

Finally! A day off

I suspect my four blog followers are down to one or two now, thanks to my egregious neglect. For once, it’s not wilful laziness on my part. At least not entirely wilful laziness. Right after my last post Britney-blizzard struck and my lovely interlocutor Helen Skyped me a bunch of revision notes. A rush of freelance work (most of it odious) came rushing in at the same time. So I did the usual: panic. Cue 10 days of hyperventilating, staring at my laptop screen until my eyes wouldn’t focus then working more anyway (hurrah for being able to touchtype! It’ll come in double handy when I go blind) and going to bed every night with an unwritten-word tornado churning in my head.

It got done, somehow, in a flurry of strong coffee, biscuits, midnight MSN chats and the odd sneaky drag of a menthol. My last deadline proper was this morning. It was a strangely silent afternoon. Having no pressing work is far worse than having too much. After exhausting the entertainment potential of Facebook (about seven minutes) and a largely unsuccessful bash at making cheesy potato mash patties I decided to start studying for my UK driving theory test. Abandoned it to go running, then spent half an hour reading hostel reviews online.

I have a half-baked lot of short story ideas I want to tackle next but can’t bring myself to put my feet properly under the desk just yet. Hence blog-waffle. Ten days of hard writing-to-order has squished all the creative cells in my brain. They need a little time to ping back into functioning order, I figure. That, or I’m being lazy.

It’s Britney, Bitch

Posted by Cila Warncke

Answered prayers?

Answered prayers?

Though rarely alluded to, I suppose most of the four people who read this blog know I’m holed up in Mexico with the intention of turning out a book on the many facets of pop culture bellwether and post-modern princess in the tower, Britney Spears.

To my surprise/delight/terror I seem to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of accomplishing my self-appointed task. I have written 14-and-a-half essays-come-chapters titled things like: “paparazzi subject”, “mother” and “American Dream”. Half-biography, half-theory, it unpicks Britney’s many lives with a view to understanding what we think about her says about us.

Now the “send to agent” line is actually in sight the usual surge of paranoia and pessimism is troubling the sandbags. I don’t want to let it go for a number of reasons. Principally, and selfishly, because I like being able to say: I’m writing a book. Practically, because once I do the odds are fixed: 50% it gets a deal, 50% it doesn’t. No kidding.

I am trying to keep myself sane at least long enough to zip the file and fire it across the pond. Clinging bravely to the wall behind my laptop is a Post-It with one of my favourite quotes (borrowed by Truman Capote for the title of his unfinished novel):

More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones. – St Teresa de Avila

A useful reminder, whether the prayers are answered or not.

Chichen Itza – welcome to Maya Disney

Posted by Cila Warncke

Hell is other people, according to Sartre, and he never even visited Chichén Iztá.

Welcome to the show

Welcome to the show

Despite the overwhelming quantity of tourist press I was looking forward to seeing Chichén Iztá, the “new wonder of the modern world”. Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc whetted my appetite for picturesque ruins and walking across straw-coloured grass beneath cornflower skies, eagles overhead, lizards below and so forth.

As it was, a combination of bad navigation skills and bad timing very nearly melted my resolve to venture forth, but I finally happened across the bus station, had a lunch of sopes and chocolate biscuits and settled in for the ride. Bus journeys are one of my favourite things in Mexico. I love tucking myself into a musty seat, armed with random foodstuffs (on this journey, a giant bag of juicy, piquant, freshly-peeled tangerines, purchased off a little boy who jumped on the bus at one of the pueblos with a cooler full of fruit slung on his arm), a notebook, a camera and music. I like watching the sky and the unhurried, unvarying plains of the Yucatan snake past. Better still the villages with their neat, empty squares dominated by pink, yellow or blue colonial churches and dogs sagging in the heat. Beyond the squares lie Crayola-hued concrete block houses mingled with traditional, thatched Mayan cottages.

The signs get bigger and more professional as we approach Chichén Iztá. Cenotes! Artisans! 25km to Chichén Iztá! Taste of Yucatan! Swim in the sacred blue waters! 5km! Welcome to Chichén Iztá! Behemouth tour buses eddy in the parking lot, jockeying for spaces. To the left a giant banner, to the right the Mercado. Initially I feel a spasm of irritation when I realise it’s a few minutes to four, and the last bus back to Merida leaves at ten past five. Should I stay overnight? I decide to buy my entrada and take it from there. By the time I’ve taken two wrong turns in a maze of yapping American children, ice cream stands, gift shops and giant concrete planters my inclination to linger is nearly gone. Emerging from the parado turistico into a gauntlet of voices I resist the urge to turn around and walk straight out.

Basura

Basura

Hey lady. Senorita. Amigita. Mas barato. One dollar. Ten pesos. Cual te gusta? Mixed with: Scott! I’ll be right over here. Did you read this plaque? The other side of the pyramid looks nicer. Get in the picture. Oh my gawd, then he was like…. Sweet Jesus. It’s Glastonbury without the music, or drugs. Or something you’d find in a hotel foyer in Las Vegas. Corporate sponsorship is only a matter of time.

A creatively sunburnt conglomeration is sitting on the cropped grass around the splendid pyramid, El Castillo, as if waiting for the next band to arrive. They are bawling to each other in that peculiarly penetrating American tone. The Justins, Jennifers, Joshes and Jessicas of the world, concentrating and projecting their privilege from the space between the tip of their noses and the point of their chins. It’s a shame, because El Castillo is beautiful. Or would be if it weren’t surrounded by old ladies in sunhats; bare-chested, cigar-puffing goons on day trips from Cancun; and families trailing nappies and bags of pork scratchings.

El Castillo

El Castillo

I am definitely never coming back so getting a couple of dozen photos sharpish is priority. I do a lap of the pyramid, dodging tour groups and whining couples. The only thing I really want to see, apart from El Castillo, is El Caracol – a spiral-staired astronomical observatory. Taking a deep breath I plunge into another self-contained hell of hustling vendors. Everything from jaguar masks to embroidered handkerchiefs is going for 10 pesos it seems. Casi gratis, one vendor points out. Hellonwheels. That’s less than 50 pence. Anything that cheap definitely isn’t worth having. Sucking up a breath I swim through them. Peace on the other side.

El Caracol (snail) is the one outpost of this godforsaken themepark that looks like it might have some magic left in it. I can’t get close enough to tell, exactly, because – like everything else – it’s roped off. The crumbling curve of the tower carries itself with dignity, though, imposing a sort of stillness over its little empire. I flop down on the grass and watch a hawk drifting past. This would be good on a starlit night.

El Caracol

El Caracol

Behind me a man on a moto is mumbling into a radio, urging us in crackly tones to make our way to the exits as the park is closing. Ye gods. On my way across the main square I snatch a glimpse of what I came to see: the setting sun of the spring equinox tracing a triangulated shadow down the side of El Castillo, the undulating mimic of a serpent’s body meeting the roaring stone head at the base of the stairs. The awe-inspiring mathematical, astronomical and architectural nous behind this phenomenon is rather lost in the welter of tourists shouldering for a shot, and applauding when the sun emerges from the cloud. A man in yoga trousers and dreads flexes his bare torso. His girlfriend’s nose is pierced.

Taking a wrong turn towards the exit I happen across the ball court, snap a couple of photos then leg it for the entrance. Time to escape. Getting out is more fun than being there. A man gets on the over-crowded, past-due bus just behind me. I squeeze into a row of Mexican kids. A boy in the seat in front of me gets up, “sientate con tu marido,” he says, gesturing to a stranger. What the hell. I swap seats. “Hi. They seem to think you’re my husband.” The stranger looks at me for a second then we start laughing.

Experimental Cooking, Pts I and II

Posted by Cila Warncke

I love peanut butter with a greedy, by-the-spoonful-out-of-the-jar passion, so when I spotted Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad on my favourite recipe site, 101cookbooks.com I got kind of over-excited.

Being in Merida rather than San Francisco meant a few substitutions. Out went soba noodles, asparagus, tofu, sesame oil, rice vinegar and garlic and in came wholemeal spaghetti, red pepper, chile poblano, fresh spinach, fresh coriander, mushrooms, carrots, sunflower seeds, lime and olive oil. (Only the peanut butter, peanuts, spring onion and chili flakes made the recipe leap unscathed.)

Chile poblano

Chile poblano

I made the dressing using lime juice in place of rice wine vinegar, with plenty of red chili flakes, of course. Everything else was pretty much as you’d expect. Chopped all the veg, chucked the spaghetti on to boil, then added first the carrots, then a couple minutes later the pepper and chile poblano (roughly the size of an ordinary green pepper but with a mild chili kick), then a minute after that the spring onion and spinach. Couple more minutes on the boil, drained and tipped into a big bowl where I tossed it with the peanut dressing then chucked handfuls of sunflower seeds, salted peanuts and coriander in.

It didn’t come out looking anywhere near as elegant as the original version, and to my taste it should have been a bit more peanutty (the lime really cut the peanut-butteriness, so I might experiment with something else next time) but we scoffed the lot so thumbs up.

Jicama

Jicama

I’m on a bit of a local ingredient kick and bought jicama the other day. It’s a big, ugly lump of a root and I had to Google it to find out what the hell you’re supposed to do with it. Eat it raw, apparently. I have my doubts about eating raw anything you could use as a defensive weapon in the case of burglary but when in Rome… so I had a crack. The flavour is decent enough: slightly sweet in a rooty, parsnip-y kind of way. Unfortunately it bears plenty of textural resemblance to raw parsnip as well, which I can’t cope with. I stuck it in the fridge and waited for inspiration.

Roasting, frying and steaming all crossed my mind, but the oven here is a weird little creature I don’t understand and I instinctively felt jicama would be fry-resistant. Finally I decided to steam and mash it. Whacked it into the steamer and pootled off to check my email. Ten minutes later the rigid fruit was unscathed. Twenty more minutes and it was still raw carrot consistency. I refilled the steamer. Ten more, no joy. Boil it, perhaps? Just past 10PM, after half an hour at a brisk boil it dawned on me why Mexicans eat the damn stuff raw. It WON’T cook. Christ only knows what kind of super-cellulose it’s made of, but they should use it in fortifications. Bored of boiling, and hungry, I decided to stir-fry it with red onion, red pepper, spring onion, tomatillos (which, apart from making me think ‘fried green tomatoes’ every time I chuck them in the pan, are sublime) garlic and a tin of tuna. Plus the usual lashings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chili flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper. I drizzled the lot with fresh lime juice and ate it with corn tortillas. It was good, but more involved than I’d bargained for. If I’m going to fuck around in the kitchen for over an hour I want more to show for it than stir fry.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos

Un poco de Espanol – Mexicano vs Castellano

Posted by Cila Warncke

Estoy intentando a aprender Español, pero sigo a paso de tortuga. En este momento estoy abusando el verbo “ir” para describir mis planes. Siempre empiezo mi frases con “Voy a…..”

A paso de tortuga

A paso de tortuga

Normalmente, en un dia, “voy a correr,” “voy a desayunar,” “voy a trabajar,” “voy a la tienda,” “voy a cocinar” y “voy a dormer.” Y algunas veces “voy al centro,” “voy al biblioteca” o “voy al parque.”

No es elegante pero es bastante útil. Espero que un dia voy a mejorar… jeje.

Pues, poco a poco entiendo mas y tambien aprendo varios palabras de Español Mexicano que distintas desde Castellano. Por ejemplo, en España todo la gente siempre dice: “venga!” Literalamente significa “come on” en Ingles, pero es utilizado como un interjección – “venga, hasta luego!” “Venga, gracias” (siempre juntos). Pero in Mexico nunca oí.

Acá tenemos “mande!” (de “mandar” – to tell). Si no entiende alguien, dice “mande?” Es igual a “perdón” en Castellano.

Otra frase muy útil es “con permiso” y la respuesta, “pase!” Un ejemplo, cuando paso por la cocina y el dueño esta cocinando hablamos un poco entonces, cuando él va a salir, dice “con permiso”, por cortesía. Y digo: “pase!”

Bueno, algunas otras:

Ingles / Castellano / Mexicano

Cool! / Güay! / Que chido!

Annoying / Pesado / Fastidioso

To chat / Charlar / Platicar

To rent / Alquilar / Rentar

Internet (service) / Wi-fi / Albarca o Inalambrico

Real Estate (agent) / Inmobilaria / Bienes raíces

Computer / Ordenandor / Computadora

To park (car) / Aparcar / Estacionar

Ticket (train, etc) / Billete / Boleto

Mushroom / Champiñón / Honga

Apricot / Albaricoque / Chabacano

Pea / Guisante / Chícharo

Sweet corn / Maíz dulce / Elote

Juice / Zumo / Jugo

Prawns / Gambas / Camarones

(Sun) Glasses / Gafas (del sol) / Lentes

Grapefruit / Pomelo / Toronjo
Cuando encuentro otras, voy a añadirlas!

Carnival, Merida Style

Posted by Cila Warncke

Superheroes on parade

Superheroes on parade

Parties are a great way to get close to people, or places. Something always comes out in the wash of booze and adrenaline. I’d half forgotten about carnival until I went for a walk and found myself in the middle of it, camera in hand. Children, naturally, are everywhere, elbow deep in candyfloss and grease, scuttling between feet. A massive soundstage has drawn a crowd so I work my way through to see the action (not difficult, as I’m a foot taller than anyone here). Across the top of a sea of camera phones I catch what passes for Sunday afternoon family entertainment: a row of girls in go-go boots having a ‘sexy’ dance-off. In the middle of the blur of yellow bottoms and white breasts (the diversion is sponsored, loudly, by Sol beer) stands a middle aged man, high-waisted jeans belted around his ample beer gut, sporting a smug grin as the girls – young enough to be his daughters – thrust their humps, rumps and lovely lady lumps at him. On a massive LED screen next to the stage the Call On Me video is playing, offering larger than life gusset shots for the gentlemen at the back. Wriggling out of audience I feel sorry for the really beautiful little girls running around. They have serious Indian faces, jet black hair and obsidian eyes. It is going to take a lot of bleach and gunk plastered across their mahogany skin to make them look anything like the pornified, dyed blonde ‘beauties’ on stage. I am not optimistic, in the circumstances, that they will spot this press-on-nail femininity for the big fat patriarchal sham that it is.

Objectifica-fun for the whole family

Objectifica-fun for the whole family

Moving along the main street, Pasejo Montejo, the crowd gets more animated. There are stages set up at regular intervals and audience participation is in full flow. There’s sort of thrash/reggae band going on one stage, with a big knot of drunk teenagers in front of it. The singer has enormously long, dirty-looking dreadlocks and a bright robe. He is delivering an impassioned rant about smokers’ rights. “No necesitamos guerra contra narcos. No necesitamos ejercito en nuestros calles!” (We don’t need a war against drugs, we don’t the army in our streets). The band kicks off a rather catchy tune whose chorus runs “rasta solo ganja/rasta solo marijuana”. The occupying army is entirely indifferent to this call for their removal. A police watchtower next to the stage only comes to life when a kid in a blue-and-silver wrestling mask takes a wild swing at someone dancing next to him. The police whistle someone over to break it up the flurry of fists.

Notwithstanding the heavily armed police a man walks past me smoking a huge spliff. It is the only evidence I see of any so-called illicit substances. Everyone is just plain drunk. Sol, despite the heavy duty marketing, is lagging behind Modelo Especial and Tecate as the lager of choice. There is a lot of the slightly wall-eyed, wobbling drunkenness that happens after too much beer in the afternoon. Girls are propping up their staggering boyfriends and children drift after parents who are lost in their own world. In front of the stages playing sentimental Mexican pop everyone is dancing. The Meridians (if that’s a word) are – as one put to me – “small and fat” but that doesn’t stop them getting their groove on. Couples ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents are shuffling in cheerful circles through the detritus of beer tins and Styrofoam food cartons.

Swing your partner 'round

Swing your partner 'round

Everywhere I turn someone is selling something deep fried. Mexico is a cardiologist’s nightmare (or dream, depending on how mercenary he/she is). It rivals Scotland in its fascination with hot oil as a primary method of food preparation. I can almost understand the whole hot-and-battered business north of the border but I don’t understand how people can wolf churros, chips, taquitos, quesadillas and what appear to be pork cracklings in Merida’s tropical heat. An enormous chunk of sienna-orange meat rotates on a doner spit, making me glad I’m a vegetarian. The obsession with fried meat is matched by a passionate attachment to sugar. Paradoxically, they cut the sweetness of fruit by dousing it in salt, fresh lime and chilli powder but they pile sugar into everything else. Even plain yogurt, which took me by surprise; I thought my carton of Activia had gone off until I read the ingredients and realised it was packed with azucar. These lethal dietary attachments explain the general barrel-shapedness. Face it: even rangy, big-boned North Americans swell up like Violet Beauregard on this fare; diminutive Mayans don’t stand a chance.

A lot of dead something

A lot of dead something

As a comparatively lanky drink of water I find myself being steered involuntarily here and there as the low-centre-of-gravity contingent chart their courses. I also keep nearly stepping on children, they’re cute, and I feel bad. Lots of them are dressed up for the occasion. I see a Snow White pulling terrible faces from the kerb. A baby in a cat costume trails along behind her mother while a bumblebee catches the scene from his dad’s arms. The hustle magically melts away when I shy into a cross street. Police barriers at either end keep the traffic off. There is a good-sized knot of curious bystanders at this intersection, though, because there’s a fire two blocks down. Smoke is pouring from a building and there is a moderate but appreciative audience. Everything is a spectacle today. As I walk north three or four teenage boys appear to be changing their tops as they stand on the pavement, then they all duck behind the façade of the hospital. They’re wearing white tee-shirts hand painted with names and an affiliation. Fifty or so metres on, at traffic lights, police appear to have just broken up a fight. The matching tee-shirt crowd storm off down the street, their girlfriends flapping in their wake. If it’s gang violence it looks neither organised nor particularly violent. I can’t even tell who they were fighting with. Some of the tactically retreating party look like they’re still looking for trouble, but none of the bystanders hanging out watching the show take it seriously.

Smoke and twilight

Smoke and twilight

Back in my neighbourhood all is calm and bright. There are families hanging out in front of their houses. At one, two little boys hold bright green parakeets while their father looks on. The paint shop is shut, as is the tortillaria, but Restaurante 7 Mares is open, television blaring above the conversations. The world rumbles on. Merida abides.

Merida – The Good Stuff

Posted by Cila Warncke

There are an awful lot of things I could write here. I am more entranced by Merida every day. Moving somewhere I’d never even heard of a month ago could have gone wrong in so many ways, but I fell right on my flip flopped feet, it seems.

A little slice of Merida

A little slice of Merida

I want to say this as a counterpoint to my entirely justified rant over at Irresponsibility about the male gaze. That’s as it is. And it sucks. The good people of Merida shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush though, and they are the majority. It is the duenos and duenas of the little tiendas who are the city’s best ambassadors. I’ve popped into several shops today and in each was greeted with genuine warmth and – when I spoke Spanish – friendly curiousity. The shopkeepers, without fail, smiled, chatted and sent me on my way with warmest wishes. I feel sure if I returned I would be hailed as a friend, which is a nice feeling in a new town.

A Place Called Home

Posted by Cila Warncke

HQ

HQ

It is finally, slowly, occurring to me that perhaps I’m not quite the wandering wonder I long to be. Though I am surprisingly okay with my wardrobe consisting of two dresses, three pair of yoga trousers, two bikinis, three vests and a Gap hoodie my spirit doesn’t exactly thrill at being in someone else’s space. Possibly I learned a little too well at Sunday school that it is better to give than to receive; in any case, I am a guilt-riddled guest. So far on my aventura Mexicana I’ve stayed at two hotels of middling quality and with two very lovely host families who have put me up in much finer style.

The niggling fact remains I’d rather live in my own cold-water shack than in someone else’s mansion. Hence my cross country flight (literally) from the seaside splendour of Troncones to my new home in Merida, Yucatan.

It sticky-hot, the plaster is cracked, the sidewalks are crumbling and I had to kill a giant cockroach in the sink before I could make breakfast yesterday, but it is, for now, home. So far I’ve learned that the cranky cat, Domino, who lives out back never shuts up – not even if you feed him – and that the internet is not to be relied upon (it bounces like one of those awful fairground balls they strap idiots into before flinging them skywards on giant rubber bands).

All of this is relatively insignificant next to the fact I have a big box of a room with a not-uncomfortable bed and two large, unprepossessing wooden tables I can strew with the usual litter of pens, notebooks, sunglasses, slips of paper, water bottles, dictionaries and USB cables. I have rearranged all the furniture so my bed is in the corner, surrounded by desks, leaving a big empty swathe of tile floor. My domain to survey from my queen-sized look-out post.

There’s no getting around the general bugginess of the place, or the smell of drains from the alley behind my en suite, or the mild panic of having to do something about paying the rent, but I like it. I like it because it’s mine. Perhaps I should reconsider that ‘property is theft’ tattoo. Or perhaps not.

Facing up to the narcotic appeal of having a place where I can just be, where I can spend a night being quietly ill from eating off frijoles refritos without interference, where – if so inclined – I can spend the whole day sprawled on my bed in my pants seeing and speaking to no-one, tends to make me more socialist. This psychological kick isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. A right which is, unfortunately, denied to vast swathes of the world’s population by the capitalism junkies who insist people earn a room of their own.

The way I see it, property is still theft. The sense of wellbeing I gain from this room has nothing to do with ownership. It doesn’t belong to me and would make no difference if it did. It could be owned by the government, aliens or an cohort of super-intelligent arthropods for all I care; all that matters is I have the right to stay here and, also, to go.

That is all that’s required. Ownership, deeds, papers are all simply used to buttress excess. People with overblown houses want locks on the doors and legal documents to protect them from the righteous impulses of those who have no house at all. In a state of equality, where everyone was comfortable and had the same basic rights of access and egress, there would be no privilege in ownership.

I didn’t mean to veer off into property rights, but that’s what happens when you have a space where you can sit and think: you do. Maybe that’s why the powers that be would rather keep the masses hustling for rent. It means they never have a chance to sit back and question the fucked-up system that has one hand around their windpipe and the other in their wallet.

What I was going to say is that I have discovered possibly my favourite food-spot in the world. Two minutes away is a tortilleria where you can get a dozen fresh-from the-griddle tortillas for 2 pesos. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up and shuffle around the corner. Dona Mary will fill a plastic bag with a palm-high stack of rich, earthy-smelling corn tortillas. I’ll walk home, warming my hands on the bag, then make a big pan of spicy scrambled eggs, a black coffee and sit cross-legged on my bed, smiling, and eat the lot.