06 June 2010

El regreso de los Hammett-Morlan | The return of the Hammett-Morlans

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She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back!

Kinsee Morlan, the woman who is to thank for initiating my osmosis into Latin America, has returned to San Diego from her extended Colorado detour. And hubster Jeff Hammett, too!

Gringos setting up camp on the Mexican side of San Diego-Tijuana binational megalopolis is by no means a new phenomenon, but it often happens by way of an unofficial sponsor who shows the newbie that a somewhat normal, everyday existence is most certainly achievable in TJ. Someone to demonstrate how to navigate the chaos without losing your mind, how to adapt to the fact that the only aspect of the city that is consistent is its inconsistency, how to not only withstand but perhaps ultimately learn to love even its most tedious quirks, how to shed the built-in sense of fear with which gringos always arrive. Diving in requires balls. It often helps to have someone pull you in.

For me, that unofficial sponsor was Kinsee, who had more than a year of Tijuana living under her belt when I arrived. She was the first to take me on what she referred to as "urban hikes," where we'd walk through the backstreets of random neighborhoods with our cameras for hours, awash in sights that most gringos never see when on this side of the border. Chihuahuas on roofs. Rust-bucket bulldozers resting in the middle of vacant fields. Underoos and granny panties hanging to dry in the sun. Entire communities complete with schools and cemeteries built atop the city dump. Combinations of colors, patterns and textures that were foreign to our American eyes but everyday prêt-à-porter for Tijuana. The title of the blog she kept says it best: Stairs to Nowhere. I didn't know it at the time, but these treks were essentially the primeval beginnings of Turista Libre.

Thanks, lady.

We now return you to your regular Tijuana programming.

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