The maori mexican flying kiwi unda down unda.

My most sincere apologies amiguitas y amiguitos, as I have not written in these pages for a long time. Do you know that feeling when simply you think you have so much to do/think/procrastinate and leave that simple task you wanted to do and realized that you thought of something in 2007 and it is already 2017? Well, you might call it lack of inspiration, motivation, time, even excuses or that actually your mind has gone somewhere else. Well in my case? I just couldn’t find or better say didn’t feel the proper time to actually sit my ass down and write. But oh how unfortunate you are now, as this feeling has arrived and my now again cute ass is ready to be seated again.

The land down unda’ a land down unda’. A place where it is possible to breathe the freshest and cleanest air of the planet and even buy it on the duty free zone at the airport to give as Xmas present. The magical land of the ultimate adventures, badass war tattoos and war cries, a hilarious English accent, rugby on every corner and #gandalf.

Yes. New Zealand. ***makes Haka noises***

-The bloody hell were you doing there mate?- you might ask. Trust me when I say I was as surprised as you when I discovered that 0.4% of my genes are originally from Oceania which of course includes NZ***finishes the Haka***. To be sincere, I have always been curious about this faaar far away part of the world; as mentioned above, it just sounded like a too good to be true place. I recall a TV commercial in the 90’s where a lad was being dropped down from a chopper into a mountain, started skiing, passed cool caves, finished on what seemed to be a jungle, changed his outfit to a swimming suit, and then caught up with a lady in bikini, grabbed a board and started surfing. I mean how fucking cool does that sounds? And of course, #gandalf. So I was more than ready to snowboard and surf and potentially meet my NZ lover as I would yell to demons “YOU SHALL NOT PAAAASS!”. All in one day.  Hell yeah.

As this didn’t sound incredible enough, life gave me a marvelous and hilarious kiwi friend, someone I could basically say is like the sister I always wanted and never had, including the part where we can both deal with complex unsteady aerodynamics problems, fail miserably, still make the engine work properly, drink Gin like actual beasts and dream everyday to explore and conquer the world. Universally known as “Jenbla”, I had the great honor of being hosted by herself and her family where for about two weeks, we did a brilliant road trip all across from Christchurch down to Wanaka, Queenstown, to the west coast and the back to CH. You want a real advice for your next trip? Hang out with the locals, there is truly no way to know the culture of a place than with them. It is not only because they live there, it is also because when there’s a foreigner on the game, locals also discover their country. It is an actual win/win scenario.

NZ didn’t disappoint me as there is a huge Gimli stone statue right on the airport of Auckland. What a way to start I must say. So yeah, after spending a fantastic weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina with another of my dearest lads (gracias #che! volveré hermano!), after 18 hrs, there was I, landing in Christchurch, ready to see kiwis, penguins, climb, hike, snowboard, surf and dance the Haka as soon as Jenbla came to scene. Literally, after 25 minutes of landing we were already hiking the closest hill haha. Had then a cultural day as I wanted to know a bit more of the culture of the country so we visited the natural history museum, got staggered by the maori culture and heritage, the importance to the people about it and well, I just love museums.

I must say that NZ is sooo fucking expensive haha. Beers, clothes, fun activities, gasoline, transport, food. Everything is expensive but absolutely fucking worth it. The best way to travel around the islands is to rent your own car or camper van and then up to the road as it goes. Asking for rides on the roadway might also work, just consider you could freeze to death after 8 PM during winter. Great extreme sport though. Despite making sure you have enough money, people’s mega friendly, chilled, relax. Have you seen Thor 3? The bloke made out of blue rocks? There you go, that’s a true NZ spirit right there. So what you waitin’ broh? Wanna come?

So off we were from CH to Wanaka! a small gathering point village where it is possible to do kayak, snow sports, helicopter/plane rides, hiking/trekking/climbing on hills, mountains and glaciers, Mt. Iron, Roy’s peak and Rob Roy’s glacier are just some examples of those; you want mighty thunder thighs? You want to climb, not feel your legs because of pain, sweat at minus degrees and still look at a beautiful scenery? This is the place to go. And of course a zillion amount of lakes and sheep. Sheep every-fucking-where. Not to mention that when I got the wheels, as you drive on the right side of the vehicle, I almost got ourselves killed but nothing to worry about, besides Jenbla’s panic attack, my extreme crazy cat reflexes saved us and got us on time for dinner. Simply brilliant, I really loved it.

Down to Queenstown, where is like everything I just mentioned, times 462. The world’s adventures capital some might even say, and trust me they might not be that far away from the truth. The town is beautiful, quite fancy, still expensive, but Jenbla and I were there to become legends,  to transcend in time and space on stories yet to be written and spoken among our family members and the people of this planet. To become one with the motion of particles and scream so loud we could open interdimensional portals. We became bungy jumpers. 134 meters of insane fun, 8.6 seconds of free falling and free red crying eyes after the jump. We went to risk our lives, jump into the void, feel free, get very close to what is a heart attack, and paid a lot of money for it. Absolutely brilliant. Of course, on a Skype session my mom wanted to kill me as soon as she saw the jump video LOL. #mexicanmomlove

To Punakaki in the west coast we went! And shit I was just amazed how the weather and the vegetation could change sooo much from side to side of the island. We drove a significant amount of hours that day, but it never got tired you know? The great music, the mountains and trees and the very cute Kias. (2nd official bird of NZ). We wanted to be on time to see the clashing of the sea waves to what are called the Pancake rocks. It was unfortunately too dark already and it was quite rainy (apparently always rains on the west coast) but life was benevolent and we had a nice and sunny morning the next day, so after exploring caves and almost dying either by falling off the rocks or getting swallowed by the crazy sea, we saw an amazing show performed by nature and enjoyed our ride back to the east coast.

 

On the way back, we went to a place called “Castle Rock”. Recall the scene on the 1st lord of the rings movie when the hobbitsesss hide with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn under some crazy stones because a shitload amount of crazy crows from Saruman and a Nazgul are flying to hunt down Frodo and make him fall like a bitch? Well that place exactly is where I found myself screaming “MR. FRODOOO!” on the top of one of the rocks as an asian family would stare at me like “UGH these fucking tourists”. At the same time, Jenbla was running all around, hiding in holes like a rabbit and climbing the other rocks. Truly like brother and sister.

Naturally a trip in NZ is not complete until you’ve done a mountain bike ride after fucking climbing zillion mountains and being crazy sour or until you’ve swum on a basically frozen lake, surrounded by only snow, just because it is not fun until you’ve done it and didn’t die. #crazykiwis

I never had so many nature adventures and even better, never shared it with someone who is crazier than me and I feel blessed with life for this. I got thunder thighs and was able the completely cleanse my “smoking years” lungs breathing such clean air at the top of the mountains. Even when I didn’t see any penguins, nor kiwis, didn’t snowboard, nor surfed, nor met my ultimate NZ lover in bikini, I was able to live a true kiwi life experience as I had the chance of doing and living fucking cool adventures across mountains, lakes and sea. Lived as another member of an awesome kiwi family, felt welcomed by all the great people I met there and felt ridiculously happy with life, as I get to be the friend of someone like Jenbla. And I got to yell “YOUUU SHALL NOT PAAAASS!”

You feeling adventurous and with a pinch of adrenaline running through your veins? You feel you cannot breather under this EWWW disgusting quality of air of the town you’re living in? You tired of the routine and feel like a crazy adventure should make you feel alive again? You feeling like being totally away from everyone you know and surrounded by only chilled and cooled people that will say “Don’t you worry my dear!” every single time? You also feel like you have a shitload of money to spend only to get to this island? Well I feel all that, but only feel it, because my account balance is basically on negative numbers, but the feeling is so strong that not only I recommend all of you to fly right now to NZ, I definitely will be back.

You want me to describe New Zealand in one sentence? Well I think there is one:

“Yeah, nah, it’s epic bro!”

Tēnā koe, a hupane!

 

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The italo-messicano bergamasca bloodline

Do you remember what it felt like when being a kid and entered to your favorite toy store? or a candy/ice cream/video games store? or going to the concert of your favorite band? or entering a selected whisky or wine store as the alcoholic I am? Most of the times, it becomes an unexpected and amazing surprise in those cases, and such feeling is what I got as soon as I landed in Bergamo.

Bergamo is a medieval city located at the northern part of Italy, 52.2 km from Milan, right in the middle of the mountains, and distributed with an old town at the upper part of a mountain, and the downtown all around the mountain. As any medieval place, there are huge fortress walls that used to protect the city from thieves and war. Specifically, from the Venetian army and the Cyprus war. A lot of gardens, vineyards, and mountains surround the city. The chilly fall mornings and afternoons, plus the red leafs, the stone roads, the huge stone arcs and the red roofs, make my arrival to the city, a magical and astonishing one.

“Oh mio dio!” said the taxi driver as he found out why I came to Bergamo in the first place. A fat, big, with a lot a beard and a fantastic laugh italian sir, that immediately started to ask me what I knew and gave me advices of where can I search/ask/go. “Ciao italo-messicano, benvenuto a Bergamo!” he says as he lefts me in the door of the hostel.

The next day, a chilly and cloudy, yet fresh and nice morning wakes me up, and I found myself walking to the “Archivio di Stato di Bergamo” to ask the whereabouts of my bergamasca ancestors.

A lovely ma’m is at the reception lobby and welcomes me with a cute smile and blushed make-up cheeks. Her name is “Maria Gracia” and as I remembered all my italian, courtesy of “L” and of “Enzo Gorlomi” I explained my story and she becomes very curious and interested in what I’m looking for. I ask her: what is your favorite thing of Bergamo? and she responds: “Everything!” She tells that she travelled a lot when she was young and wild, that she was very curious about traveling around the world, about meeting new people, but specially to have memories to share some day. I do ask her: “do you think if we all were optimistic, the world could be a better place?” to what she responds: “are you a Jehova witness or something? you’re just too optimistic to be normal, and they asked me the same question you just did. You won’t convince me to join you!” while laughing, to what I laughed very loud too, I said that “holy water” makes my skin burn instantaneously, more laughs, and in the end, she just stated that traveling indeed makes people better human beings, and that going back home in peace is the most important thing in this life.

It surprises me very much, that one of the managers explains that someone, at some point in the past, went already there to search the origin of “Maqueo”. The research is however unsuccessful and they actually said that “Maccheo” does NOT exist. (Imagine a scene of me screaming in my knees NOOO! dramatically). They explain that they have records only after 1822 and that anything before that is extremely difficult to find, or at least I would require way more info than what I had, which was not much. They also confirm that surnames like “Maceo”, “Macchio” and “Machio” might exist but are definitely NOT from Bergamo; however “Macchi” and “Maccali” pop up and gave me some hope. They advise me to go to the cathedral and ask for the “Archivio Diocesano” and search for these names. If they were born and baptized in Bergamo, they would have it there, so off I went to the “Citta’ Alta” or upper town, right in the heart of Bergamo, as I ate an insanely orgasmic tasty ice cream of strawberry and figues and something else.

After walking for about 30 min, taking the “funiculare” and being totally speechless by how beautiful this place is, I arrived to the clerical archives and ask the lady in charge. They make the search and find that indeed, they were not registered there, they say that there are “Maccali” records in Milano, but “Macchi” might be in any neighbor villages of Bergamo. Basically, impossible to know, at least just in a couple of days. So I feel dissapointed but somewhat excited, and decide to make another research on my own in the internet and also to ask my family. I needed more.

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Il duomo di Bergamo

Then, I found a mexican book that clearly says that two brothers called Julián and Esteban Maqueo, originally Giuliani and Stefano, from Italy, arrived to Mexico in 1830 to Oaxaca, both from the Garibaldi army, still wearing the uniform and the belt with the golden spread wings eagle and stay there to work as merchants. It also says that Stefano was known as “the traveler”. It was still before 3:00 pm, which is when the state archive office closed and off I went there, to ask for any military records of that time. As I arrived, the reception lady and the managers smile and say “how did it go??”. I explain everything, and they sadly state that they only have military records after 1870. However, they tell that the “Museo Storico di Bergamo” has a lot of information regarding participants, people, places, maps, of the garibaldini army and movement, so they might be able to help. A tiny beam of light is in my head again, to what I decide I’ll give it a shot saturday morning.

I am starving and aim for a local cuisine place, to what I ate the famous “Polenta” which is a typical bread of this area and “Casoncelli” which are similar to the ravioli but these are filled with chopped bacon and have butter. A lot of butter. Plus wine of the house and another delicious gelato. I keep walking and falling in love with the city, until I find a local bar at the eastern part of the town, in which I decide to sit down, drink a beer, and start writing in my journal. After an hour, the place becomes packed and I start wondering what is this place. And then, surrounded entirely by italians, I find myself talking with the guys beside me, absolutely nice and cool, they get surprised that I only came to Bergamo to discover my roots, they get happy by the fact that I’m a Bergamasco, they say that I speak very good italian and invite me a beer. Two beers. Three beers. Wine. More wine. Pizza. A lot of pizza. I met A BUNCH of people. All of them welcoming me as if I was another italian of the group.

One of them, called Edoardo Bovati, the typical handsome italian guy you would see in a magazine, both by looks and by personality. An absolutely nice and funny mate that speaks spanish too and I decide to ask him about his life, his experiences, his dreams, his expectations. Born in Milan but grew up in Bergamo, he says that he started traveling when he was 3 years old to the caribbean islands and he remembers so vague details. His first plane he took alone was by the age of 10, to visit relatives in England, and he stated that when being an adult, he first traveled because he felt just bored. Today he assures that he travels because you can learn something new every single day. After wandering around Asia and South America and North America, he says that xmas means Paris, New York or Bergamo, but no favorite city arises. Making the world a better place, means to make environmental consciousness and educate the people better in that way.

As the wine and beer ran off and the weather went down, I walked back to the hostel and pray that the hang over at the next day would allow me to wake up early-ish and to have a bearable headache.

And of course, the prays were useless, and I was struggling my way up by one of the stone stairs at the eastern side of the city and went directly to the Museo Storico. Sad was my reaction to know that indeed the museum was open, but the offices were closed (that’s why they gave me an appointment for monday) but the guy in charge said the Dr. was aware of my case. Again with my best “Antonio Margareteee” version I explained my story and the guy got quite excited and curious about it. It was very interesting to know that there was a group of the Garibaldi army that was sent to Mexico back to 1829-1830, to deal with some loose issues of the mexican independence, the exact date my ancestors claimed to arrive to aztec lands. My eyes got wide open, the headache disappeared and my heart started beating faster. He says that the research needs indeed to be done, and gives me the e-mail address of the doctor in charge and the website. E-mail that I will send tonight. “In bocca al lupo!” he says. “Crepi il lupo!” I respond (thanks again “L”) and he assents and smiles back.

And I spent the rest of the day wandering around the walls, the streets, the secret passages, the gardens, the stone roads. To be quite sincere with you, I have always had a difficult time to define a place as “home”. For me, home is where my parents and my memories are, it is where I have my family, as I would assume most of us do. But it is also a place where I can be totally in peace, and that is the difficult part to achieve, at least in a constant way. These almost 3 days, I honestly experienced quite a lot of deep emotions in this place. Happiness, excitement, anxiousness, frustration, re-happiness, the fact of being totally stunned by the culture, the people, the lovely italian ragazzi, the strawberry and ricotta gelato, the music, the language, even an unusual yet awesome instant crush/love moment that I will write in another time. As “Maria Gracia” said: Everything!.

So right now, being at the “Piazza Vecchia” or old square, right in the heart of Bergamo, I listen to the bells ringing and also to classical music played with loud speakers all over the place. I do dream and think if both my great great great great grandfather walked and wandered around these walls and I just smile. Despite being by myself, I am embedded by a magical italian atmosphere. I do not feel like a stranger. After a long long long time, I feel peace inside me. I feel very happy.

I feel in home.

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