ano novo!

one thing that was beautiful that i don’t think i ever wrote about was one day after chirstmas in Buenos Aires. andrea and i were shopping for our white outfits to wear on the Copacabana beach for new years eve.. from every tall building that lined every busy street there was torn paper floating down like snow. fluttering like butterflies tossed by the breeze. we were confounded. in the end we deduced that the portenos have a tradition of tearing up their calendars from the year and throwing them to the streets. magical and celebratory. the new year felt full of potential. and we were headed to Brazil.

feliz ano novo !

watching over…

i am traveling with these guys in spirit.
Halloween has just passed and my berfday is approaching.  my memories from this time last year are vivid, in Buenos Aires.  as tired of that city as i became, i miss it desperately at times.  i am compiling a “best of” list for yet another friend who making plans to spend some time there, and i am JEALOUS!  he’s going to have so much fun.  i think it’d be really fun to go back for a two week vacation.  or one month.  or two. 
well, that is not going to be a reality anytime soon.  lots to do here!  my new job is a good one.  i’ve gotten used to my office.  not really gelling with my co-workers yet but i haven’t been making a real effort.  i’ve been so BUSY! with deadlines!  um, yeah… so what am i doing posting right now?  i got distracted!  well, better go.   i will fill you in on Halloween and all that later.  ta ta.

convencion de malabres! the best of times..

hey, my traveling friend andrea found these vids of the circus convention near Buenos Aires that we went to last year.  have a look, turn up the volume.

1 – 10ª convencion de malabares 2 Talleres

2 – convencion argentina 2006 3 Desfile y Gala

3 – 10ª Convencion de malabares 2006 5 Cabarets

so fun.  time for some ants on a log.  c y’alls.

wrote this in my journal a couple nights ago…

“my last night in south america.  wow.  crossing the dirt intersection after dinner, motorcycles wizzing by and palm trees bending in the evening breeze, i was thinking to myself “i will miss this.”  the grit of it all.  the exploration and strange delights.  the weirdness.  day to day, week to week mystery of where i am going.  trying new things.  stumbling into adventrues.  i don’t know why this outlook can’t continue at home…  i think we settle into our surroundings and strive for stability…  i miss a little of that too.  can you have it both?  we’ll see. ”

to you who are reading this, thanks for following along with me.  thanks for making yourselves known too.  the messages and emails meant a lot to me.  i know my absence was small in the scheme of most of your lives – but i assure you i felt your absence daily.  looking forward to filling that void.  hope we can visit soon.

my plan is to live at home in Chardon with my parents for several months.  mom has the summer off and i hope to work with my dad on projects.  i’ve enjoyed recording life here so i will continue to do so!
more fun to come, right!?

si, por supuesto!  xo

“its the jungle baby! and math is your machete” – mr. ricci

macheteafter two weeks the jungle chewed me up then spit me out with all my limbs intact. no malaria (yet), avoided snake bites, being swallowed by jaguars, didn`t fall off any cliffs or sink in mud. no bug maggots under my skin. no poison darts, etc etc… not to make it sound boring though! there was always the threat… i am just a survivor. i wrestled caimen before breakfast. not really. but i often wrestled a young cappybara before bedtime.
a stay in the amazon was a great way to end my trip in South America. what a mess of contradictions! quiet and relaxing but noisy and ruckus. solitary but dense with life. physically demanding work then generous submission. blistering heat then damp cool or thundering storms. bounties of food and water but you had to work for it.

the Picaflor cast: Laurel Hanna built Picaflor (“hummingbird”) about 8 years ago. her passion is protecting this bit of primary forest from loggers. the land is a conservation under attack from neighboring farmers who want the biggest, oldest trees and to hunt the wildlife. it is buffer zone along the protected Tambopata Reserve.
Laurel’s husband is Pico. a peruvian, his grandfather used to harvest brazil nuts on the land. Pico often prepared the meals (lots of pasta or rice with onion, tomato, pepper and soy meat. fried plantain chips. lemonade. the occasional panqueka, egg salad, or custard.)
Piquito (little Pico) is their 3 yr. old son. i don`t know what a normal child of that age is like but sometimes we had to remind ourselves, he’s only 3. he was incredibly knowledgeable about the jungle. i was amazed how his ears could pick out the slightest chirp and he’d identify the critter. he’d predict the weather, etc. play for him was to help with whatever work you were doing. it was actually very interesting for me, if sometimes trying, to have him around. at first i thought his presence would be the biggest challenge for me. he had some volume issues… but he was a very cool kid. and sweet. and ONLY 3, after all. around here, by age 7 children are expected to carry their own weight and help around the farms. piquito and ron
then there is Ron. more a family member than a pet. Ron is a 15 week old cappybarra that the family adopted when they found it abandoned as a newborn. they grow at an amazing speed and are very social animals. he is SO. FUN. and cute. playful. he comes and goes at this age… wanders back muddy from the riverbank to find a finger to suck on.
and Chick Chick. (shudder) el diablo. i was tormented daily by this psychotic, chicken-sized beast. it is a wonder they haven`t eaten him yet. they adopted him as a cheeping chick with deformities. i will have to get the name for his type of bird but they are territorial and bad natured. chick chick has a scary twitch. all agree he’s not normal, but laurel takes pity on him. i go for his neck…
Campeona, the cat, kept the rats at bay. she was practically a jungle cat… you could see it in her eyes as she flew by your head to cling to the mesh window, then dart into the darkness. during the day she was a lap cat.
other animals that visit the house or live there: bathroom bat (which i think Campeona ate last week), guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, quails, giant toads, gecko that pooed in my room each night, Priscilla the long-hair mouse opossum, porcupines, agouti, butterflies on the handrails, and the tarantulas at the water pump. oh, giant cockroaches and other bugs and spiders.
there were no researchers while i was there, but a crew of volunteers: Steve (retired -AU), Kelly (NZ), Katie (ENG) & Thomas (AU), and me. the men were carnivores and the women vegetarian. weird. there was one building where we lived. Laurel (whose father was an architect) designed it in the local vernacular. (see my pics.)

my first three days began at 4:30am with “i think its nearly morning, mom.” then i moved to the guest bungalow. days began at 5:30 or 6 depending on if i got up for a hike before breakfast. bread and jam or porridge or cake. help feed the animals. work till 11 or so. sometimes i made lunch, bread or cake. after lunch i was free to do what i like till 4pm when we took turns pumping water to a tank up the hill. that was fun, haha. looking back it was a struggle that united us all… rewarding? good exercise anyway. shower then free till dinner around 7. it gets dark after water pumping so we’d usually gather in the library with candle light.
my free time consisted of hiking, reading, writing, drawing, banjo, card games, or napping. playing or reading with Piquito. sometimes making dinner. checking the garden and chickens (lots of good bugs there). hammock time. and doing laundry. work was in the garden, finishing the solar cooker, trail clearing, stapling wire mesh for walls, and cooking. it rained a couple days… it’d be cold and everything damp. it was only really hot two or three days.

the jungle was HUGE. DENSE. NOISY. you could hear animals all around but it was difficult to see them. still, i saw a lot of cool stuff. monkeys, rodents, reptiles, birds, and bugs. maybe its the architect in me, or having grown up amidst a forest, but it was the jungle itself that was my main interest. the odd trees, ferns, vines and flowers. fun stuff.

very excited for my next adventure in Washington, DC. begins on Saturday. looking forward to seeing you all. xo

Machu Picchu!

i met sean in the chaos of the Lima airport. it was great to see him again and i felt speechless with happiness. we flew to Cuzco early the next morning. Cuzco is brilliant. we stayed mostly in the old part of town, hiking up and down narrow cobbled streets between ancient Inca stone walls. just getting to our hostel was exhausting at that high altitude. we really needed the first three days to acclimate. we bought a pass to visit the cathedrals around the main plaza. the tours were dense with information and amazing art to interpret. no photos allowed i am afraid. somewhere we read that Cuzco is a mix of pagan past, catholic solemnity, and latin fiesta. i think that is a good start to an explanation. sean was a walking target for shoe shiners. i was a target for the girls trying to sell spa packages. and there was always a little, wrinkly, toothless lady with a llama around if we stopped anywhere for too long.

we woke at 5:30 on the 4th day to meet our guide for the Inca Trail. the first day was the hardest. we both were depleted from some mysterious sickness. i was so worn down i couldn’t even bother to step around the donkey poo in the path. we really didn’t know if we were going to be able to continue. the first day is supposed the be the easiest! at camp the first night we were able to hire a porter to carry our personal bags, and after a solid nights sleep we were able to continue. the Inca Trail was like something from someone’s imagination. like a giant movie set for Indian Jones. my photos try to represent the range of it… but it is impossible to capture the magnitude. i had never aspired to climb a mountain but hiking over the high pass on the second day was breathtaking. it felt awesome. we had an amazing mountain campsite where we watched the clouds roll over and into the valley. someone finally showed me the constellation of the southern cross. that night i dreamt an incan man told me i was out of clean socks. hm. our guide said the land was an old burial site. hm.

day three we were able to carry our packs. we were feeling much better and sean said “now i realize why everyone seemed to be having so much fun!”

oop, outta time. more later. xo

arrived in Puerto Maldonado

the airport is as minimal as you can imagine. touching down felt a little like a scene from a movie or national geographic. from the sky Madre de Dios is flat and densely forested. jungled? ha. i kept seeing glints through the trees and realized there was water under all that leafy green. the rivers are bright orange and finger together to form the Madre de Dios. closer to Puerto Maldonado the clearcut logging looks grossly out of place.

well, i was hoping for a warmer climate but was not prepared for this. 88·F when i walked off the plane. and humid. so basically like DC. “motorkar” is a kart attached to a motorcycle. that was my transport into town. there are not really any cars here, only motorcycles. it took me three rides to find the place i get my pass into the Tambopata National Reserve. my hostel is minimal too. 2 beds in a room all to myself, cept one has bugs. i think when i return here after the jungle i will treat myself to a nice hotel. it will be my last couple nights in South America.

so, what am i doing here?

i have volunteered to work at a research center in the jungle. i hear that my work might include repairing buildings, harvesting brazil nuts, trail maintenance, building a solar oven, and caring for an orphaned capibara. i work 3 hours a day then have free range of the trails in the jungle and the hamocks. a brochure i have says of the region “the wealth of its biodiversity is immeasurable.” 632 bird species (yay!), 1200 butterfly species, 169 mammal species, 205 fish species, 103 amphibian species, and 67 reptile species. i am pretty psyched. i have three long days in Puerto Maldonado waiting for my canoe up the river.

and it just began to rain.

Lima Lima Lima!

… gets another post cause andrea and sarah are with me now.  though we have been mostly been splitting up during the day.  i am doing prep stuff for sean`s visit, for going to the jungle afterward, and finally for my flight home.  today i packed my bike and put it in storage.  it was fun to work on my bike.  i rode it here a little but i have mostly been warned that it is dangerous.  i have a sneaking suspicion that Peruanos are waaaaay cautious.  from everything i have heard.  very over protective. 

i am trying to get last minute vaccinations for the jungle.  i am basically all set though. 

so the big reason for this post is that Val took me out to the most amazing meal.  peru is VERY proud of their cuisine.  i have been hearing about it for a long time, and not just from Val.  i am glad i let her sit me down with a good meal.  for lunch we went to the old local favorite El Mardisco in the Lince neighborhood. 
cevichewe shared:
ceviche de cojinova (white fish chunks “cooked” in lemon and onion with a side of sweet potato, chocolo – this bizarre, giant dense corn – and seaweed)

plate of jalea mixta (battered and fried white fish and calamari with yucca fries) 

we each had a chicha morada (purple maize juice with lemon and cloves)

and a pisco sour (the grape alcohol pisco, corn syrup, lemon and egg white froth)

there was a plate of “popped” giant corn too.  i guess the shell of the corn is so tough it doesn`t explode.  but is kinda fluffy inside.  dry.

so.  mmmm.  i am starving now.  this was a really rich meal, lemony.  i didn`t think i’d be able to eat it again for a couple days at least.  not to mention, this place made it perfectly.  i was surprised just HOW RAW the fish was… so i would not want to eat it just anywhere.  i learned that lesson when i tried to get a moqueca at the corner counter in salvador.  being brazilian or peruvian does not MAKE you a good chef.  so, i am hoping Val will take me there again when i stop in Lima before my flight to the states.

hum.  what else?  we went to a parade with some fun dancing and costumes.  there was this little fair nearby of people selling everything imaginable and a couple stages with kids doing dance routines.  weird.  we tried good food and drinks.  last night we braved the the Pizza Ave. where each restaurant sends hawkers running out with menus and promises of free drinks.  it is so unpleasant.  imagine a squad of cheerleaders running at you all talking and trying to coral you.  you need to exercise your zen.  block out everything.  we discussed our strategy before heading in.  this was good.  we walked the length then took the best beer and garlic bread offer.  the pizza was good. 

then we had a crazy ice cream and headed out to Barranco, the bohemian neighborhood.  the bars were empty so we played pool.  Val has dance party plans for us on wednesday night. 
another night i went out with Val and met this military contractor from Iraq.  i hadn`t heard about this underhanded military stuff yet.  he was a tremendous bore, but now i am tempted to go back and ask him more questions.  frightening.

gotta tell you about Valpo

it is true… i skipped a whole chapter.
about three weeks ago andrea and i left Santiago, Chile for the west coast… Valparaiso. 
it was once an important port city.  the port is still in use but the city has feels more like a retreat from Santiago.  It is older and has more character than the resort beach cities to the north.  i will leave you to the Wiki explaination of its history because it is very interesting and caught my attention when i first thought of moving to South America.  before Buenos Aires we had planned to live here.

valpo dooranyway.  valparaiso is a special place. 

a short bus ride from Santiago.  we followed directions to our little hostel in Cerro Alegre (happy hill).  the buses are easy.  the “collectivos” are shared cabs.  the city undulates over dramatic hills.  Cerro Alegre is a popular one for tourism, with colorful murals, cafes, and boutiques.  we spent 4 or 5 quiet days there over Easter weekend.  the hostel was delightful.  a young couple had opened it 5 months earlier.  they had an interesting story.  the bar they owned and lived in in Santiago burned down and they didn`t have insurance.  needing money quick they took bar jobs on a cruise ship.  a heartless job as the ocean is without law and no one looks out for you.  after two years they tried to start an avocado farm but couldn`t afford to dig the holes to plant the trees.  they moved to Valpo and were going to open another bar.  they anxiously waited 3 weeks for the agreement on a place to go through and on the day they were finally going to sign they saw this house and bought it instead.  they are very happy with the change in their lives.  they have a 3 year old daughter (Sophie’s birthday is TODAY!) and a friendly rabbit ( named dulce de leche) that licks your toes while you hang your laundry to dry.  Matias and Constantina are both painters.  Constantina is writing a screen play for a movie based on a story a traveler told them.  the city provides funding to artists if you can show progress.  what a concept.  it is apparent that there is a lot of support for the arts in the city. 

SO.  andrea and i just walked the streets and enjoyed the dramatic vistas, colorful architecture of buildings perched on hillsides.  we visited Neruda’s second home.  we found ourselves in the port where there was a lot of commotion as hawkers competed to fill their boats with riders.  not knowing where the boats went we picked one and learned that it was a tour around the coast, in spanish.  saw a giant sea lion lounging on the nose of a boat.

everything was closed on Easter and then on monday as well.  tuesday we went out to visit Neruda’s third, most interesting home in Isla Negra, just to the south of Valparaiso.  there is nothing else in Isla Negra but the house is on the beach and the beach is one of the most beautiful i’ve seen in my life.  (aunt b. i got you some sand)  it would be a dangerous surf to swim in but i loved it for the crashing waves and swirling, seaweed tides.  very contemplative.  further south is the blue collar beach resort, Cartegena (abandoned this time of year.)

nada mas.  very laid back couple ‘o days.  andrea left me there and returned to BA.  i returned to Santiago on my own. 

my second stay in Santiago was drawn out cause i had to wait till monday for a bus north.  i think i stayed 5 or 6 nights.  one day i did nothing.  tried to save money by stocking up groceries instead of eating out, though the restaurant options in Chile are WONDERFUL!  i rode my bike, visited a winery (Concho y Torro), visited the precolombian artifacts museum, and the ZOO!  i had been hearing strange noises from the roof deck of my hostel and now i know why.  the zoo is set on the mountainside about the city and was great.  i felt like a kid there.  the animals all looked healthy and were active so it was not a depressing visit (except that fathers couldn`t restrain themselves from amusing their children by feeding the animals.  that was hard to stand by and watch.)  the zoo is also home to a lot of rescued animals.  i saw animals i had never heard of.  and all the animals were really close, so i realized just how big a lion or polar bear are.  they are HUGE!  so are ostriches.  i enjoyed the giant aviary the most.  a rainbow of colorful birds in a mountain forest setting. 

i have to mention that the hostel this time around was horrible.  it had been one of the best i`d stayed in and this time there were some very inconsiderate travelers staying there.  some young english bros… such a shame.  the first night back though i met a friend who was heading to Brazil.  fun to talk about the trip he was preparing for.  then i got on a bus to Lima. 

my make-shift Peruvian Bus family and Lima

the 50 hour bus ride between Santiago and Lima, Peru was something of a bonding experience.  i felt like a survivor on that show LOST.  we had a whole cast of characters on board.  at the end i was introduced to the families i had heard so much about and we kissed and hugged goodbye like old friends.  weird and… sweet.  and typical of the friendly people i`ve met in south america. 
today was my second day in Lima.  my hostel is nice and small.  i actually have a room all to myself.  the owner and his two friends who run the place are extremely enthusiastic and friendly.  it is located in Miraflores, where they direct all the tourists to stay.  it is very safe with upscale restaurants and shopping.  i have walked the local sites: parque de amor and the giant mall with cosmic bowling were worth visiting for the view of the ocean…  met up with an old family friend who happens to be studying here for a month.  we had a fantastic Brazilian dinner then out for dessert.  also met up with Val!  she lives here.  she took me to the pedestrian way dubbed “Pizza Ave.” 

santa rosatoday i ventured out to the center and to Plaza de Armas.  it was incredible and i will have to explore there more next week.  SO many churches and eccentric religious icon vendors.  i visited the sanctuary of Santa Rosa.  there are many fun stories about Santa Rosa…  for instance, the devil tried to torment Santa Rosa as she prayed.  he hid in a lemon tree above her but failed to shake her from her meditation.  when he gave up the tree was left burnt to a crisp but it still bore fruit for many years after.  Santa Rosa slept only two hours a night.  her bed was made of two logs and a pile of rocks for a pillow.  to stay awake she suspended herself by HER HAIR from a nail in the wall.  (!!!)  there’s more. 

SFafterward i wandered around till i found the church of san francisco and the catacombs.  the area around there is neat.  the architecture is amazing.  i don`t know what to call it.  look at the photos.  i love the wooden bays typical on the second floors.  these crumbling buildings now house single room operations of printing presses and silk screeners.  building after building, street after street.  bizarre.  somewhere in there is also the china town of Lima.

san francisco church was amazing.  one of the most interesting churches i`ve ever been in.  great tour.  beautiful.  there were friars playing soccer in the courtyard. 

well, i am sorry i won`t have more photos of the areas outside of Miraflores.  i don`t feel safe/comfortable taking out my camera.  and there’s nothing to see in Miraflores. 

ah.  hungry now. 
looking forward to cusco.  sean is meeting me to hike the inca trail to Machu Picchu.  more soon.  xo