South America… a short video

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to fly home today. As this trip comes to an end, and another trip is in the planning stages, we will continue to tell tales from the road. So stay tuned…

Here is a short video showcasing some of the things we encountered during our travels in South America. Without cheating, can anyone name what 80’s movie this song is from? If you enjoyed this video please share it on your feed. Thanks everyone for following…

The Waters of Unknown Emotion

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G’mork:  Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.

Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?

G’mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.

Atreyu: What is the Nothing?

G’mork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.

Atreyu: But why?

G’mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!

…looking at the blog, reading posts from way back in the beginning, recalling people and memories that had slipped to the back of my mind…

I am in a daze flipping through pictures, in an attempt to reconnect with those moments “on the road.”

People ask, “Are you sad that it is over?”

“I don’t know.”

Sad feels too committed. I would rather wade in the Waters of Unknown Emotion: slightly dangerous, but equally exciting. The Waters of Unknown Emotion- It is like a land you would find in “The NeverEnding Story”, next to the Swamps of Sadness. The Swamps of Sadness– no way, not going there.  That is where the horse died: it just got sucked in and was never to be seen again. Perhaps you will find me basking on the Beach of Nostalgia, the swamp is behind me but the sound of ocean waves is nearby. I am just laying out, soaking in the rays of places and people past, feeling their warmth engulf my body as the sunshine penetrates my skin. My golden tan will hold me over as I envision the frigid winter weather that lay ahead (I am going to be digging myself out of emotional snow banks this winter). Come on, I must defend against the Nothing. Oh, and don’t forget my luckdragon…Lupe.  A fictitious flying dragon with a wingless elongated body, possessing neither magical talent nor immense physical strength, but distinctive in its unfailing serendipity” (www.wordnik.com). Yup. Right on.

Falcor (the luck dragon): Having a luck dragon with you is the only way to go on a quest. 

Not a child of the 80’s? Confused about the NeverEnding Story references?  Watch this: Neverending story trailor

Cold is okay, though. I will adapt, I always do. Shoveling is good exercise.

I try not to make situations too loaded. I do not want to invest too much emotion into an “end” because then it is just that: an end. From the get go, I had a strong desire to view this “trip”, “journey” (or insert your favorite related word) as a continuation of my life. I struggled to feel settled with this idea of “getting away” and then “returning” and was resistant to identify with concepts such as wanderlust, or any other romanticized notion that communicates a sense of escape, dreaming, and my personal favorite, “head in the clouds”. As G’mork stated, “Fantasia has no boundaries.” It is alive in all of us (all the time), but sometimes we need to go a quest to experience it’s true strength. And upon return, we are inspired, invigorated, grateful.

Besides, I identify more with the image of my head hovering above the water’s surface as my legs kick to keep me afloat- sometimes it is relaxing, sometimes it is exhausting. You have to find your rhythm. Although if you hand me some kid of floating device- I am golden. I could float around forever.

 The Childlike Empress: Bastian. Why don’t you do what you dream, Bastian?

Bastian: But I can’t, I have to keep my feet on the ground!

The Childlike Empress: Call my name. Bastian, please! Save us!

Bastian: All right! I’ll do it! I’ll save you! I will do what I dream!

Can’t it all be a continuum? All experiences will be gently protected under the umbrella of life, as opposed to this concept of leaving reality and then having to “go back” (wait for sound of heavy sighs).  In reality, when we refer to reality, or the return to “the real world”, are we not just referencing the concept of responsibility? People have strong opinions regarding the topic of responsibility. I think I may be considered irresponsible for even introducing the topic.

Bastian’s father: I got a call from your math teacher, yesterday. She says that you were drawing horses in your math book. 

Bastian: Unicorns. They were unicorns.

Bastian’s Father: What?

Bastian: Nothing? 

I feel your pain, Bastian.

I still don’t know. Can it be a continuum? Will it be a continuum? Or am I just over analyzing all of this? Most likely the latter. I am going with the Einstein quote these days, “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  He was a smart guy.

We are on week 6 in Buenos Aires. The reality of returning to a different way of life (that is how i am framing it today- “a different way of life”) has started to reveal itself.  Already I find myself zoning out to CSI, and giddy with excitement about watching Girls (a series I had never seen due to our absence of cable.) Wow, we have HBO! Slowly I plug back in, and part of me hates another part of me for finding comfort in David Caruso’s face, and excitement from Lena Dunham’s escapades.

I am nostalgic for those slow, hot days in Central America when all I had was a papaya and a book. Conversations of “remember that?”, pervade the daily chatter.

As with all losses, there is that transitional space where you have to organize the experience.  You need to find a shelf for the books, a box for your letters, a closet for the clothes. The idea of everything being scattered on the floor can be unsettling (as I sit in this rental apartment with my belongings strewn about). It’s a heaping pile of mess and there is nowhere to put all your crap. And in the end you have to accept it (the mess), or be riddled with anxiety. I have a feeling all my crap from the last 15 months will lay out for a while. I have not developed a storage system for an experience such as this. It is new. And with that comes opportunity, perhaps even the possibility of invention!

The book shopkeeper, Mr Coriander- one of the only people to have been to Fantasia and returned, explains:

Bastian: What’s that book about?

Mr. Koreander: Oh, this is something special.

Bastian: Well, what is it?

Mr. Koreander: Look, your books are safe. While you’re reading them you get to become Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe

Bastian: But that’s what I like about ’em.

Mr. Koreander: Ahh, but afterwards you get to be a little boy again.

Bastian: What do you mean?

Mr. Koreander: Listen. Have you ever been Captain Nemo, trapped inside your submarine, while the giant squid is attacking you?

Bastian: Yes.

Mr. Koreander: Weren’t you afraid you couldn’t escape?

Bastian: But it’s only a story.

The sadness, reality that things will be different, hovers and you just leave it there… hovering… until that moment when it kicks in…”things will be different.” Ah-Ha!

Things will be different. I can handle that.

But at the same time, a part of you knows that things will be exactly the same. Ugh (heavy sigh).

And the cycle continues.

So, How long till we get out, again?

“Human  passions have mysterious ways, in children as well as grown-ups. Those affected by them can’t explain them, and those who haven’t known them have no understanding of them at all. Some people risk their lives to conquer a mountain peak. No one, not even they themselves, can really explain why. Others ruin themselves trying to win the heart of a certain person who wants nothing to do with them. Still others are destroyed by their devotion to the pleasures of the table. Some are so bent on winning a game of chance that they lose everything they own, and some sacrifice every thing for a dream that can never come true. Some think their only hope of happiness lies in being somewhere else, and spend their whole lives traveling from place to place. And some find no rest until they have become powerful. In short, there are as many different passions as there are people.”

Prologue (The NeverEnding Story)

 

Works Cited 

“Luck dragon”. Wordnik.com. 2014. http://www.wordnik.com/words/luckdragon (10 December 2014).

The Never-ending Story, Dir. Wolfgang Peterson. Perf. Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach. Neue Constantin Film, Bavaria Studios (in collaboration with); Westdeutscher Rundfunk.  1984.

“Never-Ending Story Clip- Gmork Scene”. Online Posting. YouTube,10 December 2014. Web. July 25 2007.

McDonalds in Colombia Video

As some of you already know, we have a love/hate relationship with McDonalds. Although we don’t eat McDonalds back home, while traveling we have definitely taken advantage of the free internet and familiar paper cup of coffee. “Im loving’ it,” as the catch phrase goes. Sometimes its just easier.

“Im hating it,” when I walk in hungry and eat a little too much, more than I initially intended to. I exit the colorful building, hunched over and shamed. Its even hard to look in the eyes of the homeless parking attendant, but I hand him some pesos anyway. Then I would drive down the road and wonder where it all went wrong.

After visiting McDonalds on an international level, its cool to see the different food specific to each country. In Colombia you can order yucca fries while in New Mexico you can get green chile on your burger. For breakfast in Buenos Aires you will order a media luna, (Argentine croissant) and in New York you will get bagels. The little differences are nice, but the one thing they all have in common is the shame and regret you feel after eating a meal at McDonalds.

Using the Bathroom in Mexico

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The sun was freshly set when my stomach began to bubble. I felt the “plato del dia” sink low, to the dark haunting depths of my bowels, making its way to the end of the line. We have all been there. This can happen after eating 3 Brothers Pizza on the Jersey boardwalk, or even in your own home. This specific instance, while at high elevation in a Mexican forest, we were able to pull into a roadside posada during the early evening hours. Not wanting to drive at night, and desperate for a place to camp, we approached a small bundled up Mexican gent and asked for permission to camp in his lot. He was enthusiastic regarding our request, and welcomed us to camp for the night. We had been traveling Mexico via automobile for the past 3 months. This was just another day on the road.

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I strolled to the restroom just like I had done a million times before. I did not have much time to spare. The restroom was in my peripheral vision and appeared to be vacant. This was child’s play- no worries. I will mail the package, then resume my evening plans of sipping cerveza and discussing tomorrows drive to Oaxaca.

I finished my restroom meeting and reached for the flush handle. It was night time and there was no functioning light source. I pulled out my flashlight and inspected the situation, soon to realize, a flush handle did not exist. “Ok, just relax,” I thought to myself. “I can solve this riddle. I can pull the plug up from inside the tank and then be on my way.” Next, to my continued amazement, I shone my light to the depths of the tank and startled the insects inside. Not only was the tank bone dry, but there was a golf ball sized hole in the bottom where I could clearly see the grey concrete floor below.

I contemplated just leaving the scene, as is, and later warning my fellow campers to not use the “stall on the left,” but this would only prove that I am not just inconsiderate, but a complete asshole. The poor Mexican man that owned the establishment was extremely generous. He does not deserve such a gesture of disrespect from American travelers, especially those privileged enough to tour several countries over extended periods of time.

This predicament might baffle even the most “off the beaten path” traveler, but after being presented with situations such as these, numerous times, one has no choice but to educate him or herself on proper 3rd world bathroom use. This includes the ins and outs of how a toilet properly functions. One becomes an “amateur plumber,” in a way. You will soon leave these situations confident and coming out on top, literally.

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some tips:

-Bring your own toilet paper: Toilet paper is usually absent from both public and private bathrooms. On occasion,  you can purchase it on the spot, but it is always a good Idea to keep a roll handy when traveling. There is no guarantee that a given location will have some to sell, and exiting a bathroom with only one sock or sleeve will make you an easy target for possible humiliation.

-Keep spare change handy: Often times you will need to pay to use the restroom. It is never much, but it is indeed a reality.  Also note that having to break a 100 peso bill might prove difficult for some establishments, not to mention the lack of enthusiasm from the attendant to finish the transaction quickly. In this situation time could be your worst enemy.

-Toilets missing water tanks are still functional: When presented with this predicament, you can flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water in the actual bowl, or in the hole where the tank once lived. Most likely there will be a giant drum of water outside the bathroom with a smaller scooping bucket for doing this.

-No toilet seats are common: In this situation, one may develop his or her own methods to cope with the inadequacy. You can do “the hover”, which can be tough on the thigh muscles. There is also “the one-cheek lean”, which people have mixed feelings about, but after a quick bowl rim cleaning this might prove to be sufficient.

-Do not flush toilet paper: The plumbing in most countries South of the border can not handle toilet paper. There will be a receptacle usually within arms reach. In the rare case the receptacle is absent, you can either throw it in the corner, or take it with you and find a trash can. But do not flush, because clogging a toilet can prove to be  not only embarrassing, but also a messy job to clean up.

Sometimes one needs to step out of their comfort zone and see what’s around the corner (no matter how dark it may be). You might have to sacrifice luxury in order to get a unique travel experience. Roughing it proves necessary in order to get things done when things get rustic. And to conclude the story above: I managed to find a large drum of water outside the restroom. After using the “pouring water in the bowl method” I was on my way.

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Bonsai Asado

We were lucky to be guests to an asado (Argentine BBQ & national dish) being hosted by our friend Jorge, one of South America’s top bonsai masters. Jorge’s garden is like a bonsai forest, with a number of pint sized trees that will consume whoever enters. He walked us through the forest and showed us some prize winning bonsais, along with a bonsai he planted from a seed as a child.

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We met Alan (Jorge’s son) back in the states when he was traveling. Now that we are in Buenos Aires he invited us to his family home for the asado. The asado included various cuts of meat, both beef and pork, as well as blood sausage, chorizo and plenty of bread and wine. We stumbled out their door as full as can be.

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Be careful not to step on Penelope when roaming the garden. She may be a tortoise over 40 years old, but she deserves respect.

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Photos of the Buenos Aires Streets

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Wandering aimlessly around Buenos Aires you might come across a nicknack strewn mercado, Che Guevara merch, doll heads, and old buildings plastered with graffiti. When you want to take a break from that, there are plenty of museums to peep, or just enter one of the several salami shops and gaze at the selection. Theres nothing like relaxing in a grassy well manicured park, cutting up salami and bread after a day of street walking.

The Unkempt Tombs of Recoleta Cemetery

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Poking your head inside dilapidated mausoleums, one cannot help to be somewhat overwhelmed by the haunting presence and cryptic smells of expired Argentinian citizens. Although most of the tombs are well maintained, there are still a large amount that prove to be dilapidated and unmaintained for several years past. Broken windows and doors, spiderwebs painting the innards of the walls, and weeds growing between the caskets. “Beauty from neglect” might be a phrase that comes to mind when describing some of these tombs.

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Recoleta Cemetery, hailed one of the worlds greatest cemeteries (voted by the BBC), is the resting place to several notable people. Past Argentinian presidents, Nobel Prize winners, Eva Peron, the founder of the Argentinian Navy, and the granddaughter of Napoleon just to name a few. With close to 5000 mausoleums closely knit within the grounds, you can spend hours walking the narrow alleys getting lost and peeking in both the ramshackle as well as the well kept structures. To my surprise several of the tombs contained a staircase heading underground into the dark bowels of the earth, most likely containing one to several caskets, and possibly entire families.

click below to view photo gallery

LIFE ON THE ROAD

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