Tag Archives: traveling

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.

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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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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.

Sailing to Colombia story

The smell of septic was present. The stale, unventilated air was very hot and sweaty. Any clothing or cloth-like material had an apauling salty dampness about it. A constant creaking and uncertainty, “are these sounds are normal?” It sounds like something important is breaking, but the crew doesn’t seem to be phased by this, so I can only assume everything is ok. You just need to embrace the fact that you are uncomfortable and nauseous because there are not many options at this point. There are 20 passengers on this overcrowded sailboat and 3 gracious crew. Out of the 4 bathrooms one is in our cabin and shared by whomever needs to use it. The more people that use our bathroom the better the chance the flushing system will malfunction, only increasing the septic odor in what I call my bedroom. I attempt to sleep naked with the mentality that whomever enters the room to use the facilities will feel instantly uncomfortable with the presence of a naked stranger and use one of the other bathrooms, which to the best of my knowledge are worse off then the one I sleep next to.

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I could sleep on the deck aside my vomiting wife, but the hard grip tape-like surface is doing a number on my back and shoulders. Besides she needs her space, and I need to sleep below deck with my dog Lupe to ensure she doesn’t mysteriously disappear into the sea during this multi-day open water crossing to Colombia. I could manage to scrounge up a pillow or two for some extra support but the consequences of sleeping on such a surface will make the next day a painful achy one for sure. The last 15 years its been hard to sleep comfortable due to a number of sport related injuries, so sleeping in certain positions seems to be a requirement for me to ensure a pleasant work day.

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Only a few were seasick, my wife being one of them. The smell of puke was not overwhelming. Sometimes on a vessel seasickness is a chain reaction. One person gets ill, than another than another. The stench becomes too much to handle, then next thing you know the entire boat is regurgitating last nights pasta carbonara with raw tuna sashimi on the side. In my opinion, this is not the best meal to feed a boatload of potential sick half drunk humans. But I enjoyed the meal, and considering all of this, the boat in a whole did a good job.

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20 plus bodies are littered on any flat surface that can be found. God for bid you need to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss, you will be tripping on humans in the blackness of the evening, not trying to step on their faces with your filthy moist feet. Besides any excuse in the middle of the night to go outside for a breadth of clean air will be taken advantage of. After breathing and moving in the stagnant thick air for several hours like one of those dreams when everything moves in slow motion, you contemplate just using your own bathroom because it can be quick and easy, and you’re half sleeping in a hypnotic state, questioning if your even awake or just dreaming this. Then after having more difficulty breathing, you enter the bathroom while stepping in 2 inches of unthinkable water, sweating profusely, taking small fast breadths of the septic poop filled air, you decide to parade outside stepping over the bodies while the boat rocks heavily, grabbing anything you can get your sweaty grip on. Your rancid foot only manages to come in contact with a few bodies, and as you accidentally wake these people up by stepping on whatever body parts wind up under your feet, you don’t seem to care. You just need to get outside fast because your suffocating from the hot, wet contaminated air of the cabin. After I take a whizz off the side of the boat, check up on my sick wife, admire the amazing view from the rapidly moving sailboat, you realize how easy it is to fall into the black early morning sea without anybody else realizing until its too late. With a few sloppy foot steps you could easily end it all, better take caution.

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You find one of the last nooks to squeeze into on deck because you need to take advantage of laying down in the cool fresh air, and your too exhausted to stand. The smell of the ocean is refreshing and clean. You are a bit chilly and shivering, but its such a relief from the cabin you decide to see how long you can take the cold night with minimal clothing and no blankets. You could go back down to the black polluted cabin to fetch a sheet, but the chore seems like more work than your willing to do, and during the process there is a good chance your sleeping surface will get snatched by another human. As you lay down and contemplate life and this adventure you decided to embark on, you notice another body slowly shuffling up from below deck going through the motions you just went through. You managed to steal the last possible outdoor sleeping surface so they are forced to stand in their semi slumber while gaffeling as much oxygen as possible. you smile mischievously, stare at the constellations, forget about the hardship, feel grateful for where you are on the planet, and really take in your beautiful view of the 3 am sky in the middle of the sea.

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We could have taken a airplane to Colombia instead of the 5 day sail. But putting Lupe the dog on a plane would involve stacks of paperwork, vet visits, and a possible non entry to the country because her breed has a bad reputation in Colombia. We could not take the risk of non entry because our truck is also on a ship someplace in the middle of the Caribbean awaiting our arrival in Colombia. Plus smuggling Lupe through international borders is a task we know all to well at this point. Since we did the boat, we would not have to pass through any security or authority of any sort with Lupe. So no matter how uncomfortable the over crowded vessel was it was really the only option to arrive in Colombia. Plus we are embarking on a journey where flying might seem like the easy thing to do, challenges are a big part of this trip, and suffering will humble a person. Though the stank boat overcrowded with twenty something year old cocaine filled backpackers was not a walk in the park, I did enjoy it thoroughly, and might do it again if need be. After all, being comfortable your whole life will make a person soft. And soft people suffer when things get tough. The midnight view of the sea and the flying fish hitting you in the chest made the experience interesting and worthwhile.