The shadow under the palm

Palm tree

Palm tree (Photo credit: naggobot)

I like not using the Internet everyday. It can be a social lifeline, but it’s like a life that needs to be maintained and monitored, by sitting still and gazing into another world, which is this world.

My sister arrived at the bus station, after not having seen her for a year it was as if no time had passed. We all went out for pizza.

In the morning I went to yoga and the teacher said, in translation, Anything that your mind keeps coming back to, let it go. We had breakfast in a cafe at a dim table under a loft. In the evening we circuited the block and found a taco stand and torta cafe.

The road to X— starts along the side of mountains covered in short bushes and white dust. We passed quarries, so maybe it was quarry dust. It was dry and people-less. The road turned a bend and the mountains were covered with green trees. Further along there was valley below and also peaks far above with meadows and a house here or there.

The town was unexpected, plenty of hotels, but more a working centre. We had a corn with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili, and tortas.

I read a book The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam. Shankar says Researchers scraping beneath the bright circle of conscious thought slowly came to realise the circle was really a hole that sat atop another structure. They eventually found an entire pyramid of unconscious brain activity… There are many aspects of the hidden brain that are permanently sealed off from introspection. Unconscious bias is not caused by a secret puppeteer who sits inside our heads, but the effects of bias are such a puppeteer exists…

In situations that do not require conscious intervention, the hidden brain simply responds to what it sees without informing you what it has done. Vedantam personifies the conscious brain as ‘you’ and the unconscious brain as an other. This means you are your thoughts, the hidden brain is the attentive and unnoticed assistant, but the hidden brain is also you… just, not you, because you can never experience how it works.

In the morning we walked to the castle of surrealist sculptures and staircases in the jungle, and regressed up a very steep hill. The way back was misty and the bus was slow.

The next morning was cold and overcast. We three took the bus to D.F. and a plane to P—, which was uneventful, short, but traumatic as all leaving lands are. Our hotelito room had a thatched roof and loft. We had drinks on deck chairs by the water, I had a coconut. The heat muffles everything and made us feel more lethargic and relaxed. We went out to a beach side bar, and a library bar, and discussed cheese smuggling with a Canadian man.

We read by the pool the next day, and walked along the beach to a smaller beach, along a cliff path populated only by teenage lovers, crumbling concrete bridges, and waves, which was also traumatic. The beach turned out to be safe for swimming, but also full of people and fuel smells from boats. We had some Coronas and a lie down.

In the morning we had breakfast by the hot sand and carried our bags along the boulevard to the main road, where an onward bus stopped. We sat under a mango tree with a carver man who was drinking coke, near a trailer of many young and smelly puppies for sale.

People were transporting bags of limes and baskets of bread on the collectivo, and then the van stopped and the driver got out and started to brawl with a foreign looking man, which traumatised us. My sister reported hearing two foreigners next to us complaining about how dodgy the taxi drivers here were, and on the lane to our cabins two men digging coconut shells asked my friend if we wanted to buy cocaine. So went to our cabin and then walked along the quiet beach to a bar where at least some other people where sitting, wondering what kind of place had we come to. There were other foreigners, but surely they were fearful too, because they all disappeared not long after sunset. I sat on the porch before I went to bed and a police truck with men on the tray patrolled the road. Nothing felt right.

But in the morning the sun was bright and the sea bluer than ever, and we carried on as bravely as possible. We walked to a beach we’d heard about that was a little cove with a headland and two openings to the sea, that was popular with nudists. As planned, we went for a swim.

We came back and the staff at the breakfast were surprised by our ordeals yesterday, it is not common here. People don’t generally have ill feelings towards foreigners, and if we walk the other way along the beach, we’ll come to ‘downtown’. It seems more tranquil.

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