Sunday, April 20, 2008
I haven´t updated this in forever but figured I´d do one last post before returning to the states tomorrow. Seems somewhat crazy that this is almost over, it hasn´t quite sunk in yet. I imagine maybe I will start to believe I´m going back when I´m on my way to the airport. I´ve been in Argentina for the last three weeks, and I have to say it hasn´t been my favorite country: everything here is very polished and comfortable and at times I feel like I´ve somehow stumbled into Europe. There was one ski town (there wasn´t any snow when I was there, it was kind of funny to see empty ski lifts going up totally barren, dusty hills with jagged Patagonian mountains in the background) that even had a whole bunch of St. Bernards with those little whiskey barrels around their necks so you could take a picture with them in front of ski lodge. Don´t get me wrong, it´s a lovely country, just not so much my cup of tea. That and the food choices heremore or less consist of hamburgers, pasta, and pizza-- I am yearning for aguacates and ceviche!
In some respects I wish that I had done this trip in the reverse direction. The majority of the people I´ve met in Argentina speak a fair amount of English, and it would have been easier to start out in the expensive country with less of language barrier, so that I could live it up in the cheap countries a few months later with my now fairly competent spanish. I´m still having sticker shock about the prices in Argentina even after having been here for 3 weeks. I find myself saying, ¨If this were in Peru...¨ a lot. I can´t even imagine how hard it is going to be to readjust to US prices!
I started my jaunt through Argentina in the city of Mendoza, which is the wine capital of Argentina. The city is technically in the middle of a desert, but through the magic of irrigation channels it doesn´t feel that way at all: the streets are lined with huge, beautiful trees and the city is awash in nice parks to waste the day in. I couchsurfed with two very lovely French girls and drank a lot of wine and saw a lot of art. The tallest mountain outside the Himalayas is somewhere in the general vicinity of Mendoza, so I took a few days to go hiking around the base.
After that it was off to Bariloche, which is more or less the border of Patagonia, and was undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever been. I met some other pacific northwesterners and went on a crazy backpacking trip through some Patagonian mountains that were the inspiration for the drawings in The Little Prince (which, by the way, I did manage to find a copy of in spanish). After that it was off to the coast to see some penguins, which was actually really underwhelming. I´ve come to the conclusion that all the various penguin movies and merchandise are a lot cuter than penguins themselves. And since then, I´ve been in a big cities, which have never really been my thing. I guess it´s good that I haven´t been too fond of the last few places I´ve been, as it´s making me more amenable to the idea of coming back.
I´ve been in Buenos Aires for about a week. Some of my rugby friends from Portland spent time in Buenos Aires last year, so I got the contact info for their club and have been playing with a local women´s team. Rugby feminino is more or less unheard of in Argentina, most people I talked to about it thought I was joking. There are maybe 8 teams in the whole country, and I had the good fortune to come over a weekend with a six team tournament. So I´ve spent the last two days beating up/getting beat up by a bunch of Argentine women and it has been an absolute blast. I miss rugby! I want to start playing again when I get back to Portland, but I am a bit wary of playing such a contact sport when I need my right hand to make a living.
I can´t load any pictures right now because my camera cord decided to stop working, and I don´t have all that much more to say... So. Yes. I´m heading back to the states tomorrow. Those of you who live in Portland, I´m looking forward to seeing you! I´m coming back with no job, no house, no money, and no real plans, so I´ll have an overabundance of time to see you, give me a call any time after Tuesday and we can frolic merrily about the city.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I don´t really feel like writing and pictures are of course so much more interesting, so I´m just gonna post some pictures.
This is a hut on one of the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. The floating islands are made by tying together blocks of reed roots and then laying down lots of layers of reeds. The islands are small-only about 30 meters across- and most of them have between 5-8 families that live on them. During the wet season the islanders have to make new ¨ground¨one a week, once a month during the dry season. The thing on the roof of the hut is a solar panel. It powers the TV´s inside the huts. It´s a pretty crazy juxtaposition.
This is Lake Titicaca from the highest vantage point in the city of Puno. There were 816 stairs involved in getting up here (I didn´t count, there was a sign).
Procession for Santa Semana (the week before easter) in Arequipa.
Girl on Taquille Island. Fascinating place... I´ll write about it eventually, maybe.
Street art. I love street art.
It´s hard to update this thing because I always feel like I have so much that has been running through my head, but it´s all already in my sketchbook and I don´t really want to rehash it. I guess that makes me a bad blogger because I don´t make much of an effort to write with an audience in mind. I think I´m a little old-fashioned and too accustomed to having a honest to goodness paper journal. Maybe at some point I´ll feel motivated to actually write something substantial in this thing, but I kind of like it just as a glorified slide show.
Friday, March 7, 2008
when the guidebooks say that the wet season gets muddy, they´re not kidding....we hiked to a little village whose name I have forgotten and stayed in a hostel called Jesus is the Light of My Salvation and I met the pet monkey that lived there. At first I though ¨How cute, they´re friends!¨ But then it became clear that there was a definite one sided affection thing going on, and the monkey was not riding the dog in the most chaste fashion.
The ruins of Kuelap. I don´t know why, but Keulap might have been the single most tranquil place I have ever been. Maybe I´m just weird, but I find ruins strangely calming. This one was way up on top of a big hill, and it was covered in big trees and wildflowers. And grazing llamas. I tried to make friends with them, I made a daisy chain for a little one.
After Chachopoyas I headed for Trujillo/Huanchaco. Nothing too interesting to report there... I got really sunburned and felt overwhelmed about being in a big city again so I got a little drunk by myself and went wandering through the shopping district. I went and saw more ruins, this time the ruins of Chan Chan. The city is made of mud and everything is the same color. It´s a rather surreal experience to be surrounded by mud walls that are thousands of years old, makes you really think about what on earth people are going to make of the remains of our civilization when they find it (tangent-- read the book The Motel of the Mysteries, it´s about just that). Hardly anyone was there when I went so all you could hear was the background noise of the ocean.After Trujillo I headed for Huaraz and took off for another four day trek, this time through the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. It´s the most beautiful place I´ve ever been, so I forgive it for being horribly, horribly cold. I half killed myself halfway through the hike with a combination of food poisoning, altitude sickness, and a rather wicked hangover. I spent the next two days of hiking running off into the bushes every 15 minutes. It was lovely. Cold. So cold. All of us in this picture should have thought bubbles that say, ¨just pretend you´re enjoying this right now.¨Aíght enough of this... I´m going to head out in search of food. Until next time,
Friday, February 22, 2008
The weight bench is made of bamboo, and the weight bar is a metal rod with chunks o´concrete on the ends. Such things are standard fare along the Ecuadorian coast.
All the buildings are made of cob and adobe, mostly through the efforts of Yves alone, plus any unsuspecting volunteers who happened to show up at the wrong time. Here´s a picture of the cob kitchen during meal time:
And since that picture doesn´t really show its cuteness, here´s the kitchen from another angle:
Having a kitchen for two weeks was so wonderful! It had all the spices one could ever want, and there was always an entire hammock full of tropical fruits at my disposal. I learned how to make some pretty awesome chocolate mango banana empanadas. And I also learned how to make granola and chai, and how to make cob, and how to milk goats, and a multitude of other fun things. Oh and SHATTERED my previous record for longest period of time without a shower. I think it had previously been 5 days while at burning man, but... heh... 14 days. The hippies are right: you do reach a point where the texture of your hair and skin changes and you don´t get any more dirty, but it is a lie that you stop smelling. Such a lie. I smelled horrible until yesterday when I finally showered.
Volunteers on the farm pick projects that fit their time frame, so I made a cob planter box with sculptures of all the farm animals on it (which I neglected to take a picture of because it was still drying and really didn´t look very pretty yet), and then laid flagstones for a week. I got super sick while up there and ended up unable to eat for about three days, and boy let me tell you-- if you ever want to lose weight in a hurry, get yourself some sort of week long food poisoning that renders you incapable of eating, and then run up and down a mountain hunting for large rocks to lug back to your flagstone project.
On a related note, I had far and away the best valentine´s day of my life: I hadn´t been able to eat for the three days leading up to it, and then, on valentine´s day, I ate a mango. I almost cried it was so good. I think I might still have some sort of stomach parasites because it seems like any time I revert to a normalish diet, my body will have none of it. So I´ve sort of been eating actual meals every other day, with rice in between. It´s really annoying, especially because I can´t drink, and drinking is useful both as a means to meet more people to travel with, and to practice my spanish with reckless abandon. Language pratice, like haircutting and large scale painting, is an endeavor greatly aided by a few beers.
Here´s a picture of me soaking wet and covered in foam during carnaval:
I went on a nice hike to some ruins today. Here are some kids with their doggie and a see saw.
And here´s the view of the canyon. I don´t know if you can see all the waterfalls and what not in the background, there were about 8 of them.
Ok, I´m getting super tired of writing and waiting for these pictures to load. I´ll post more stuff eventually. Love,
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I´ve been hopping about like crazy for the past week or so. After Canoa, I ended up in Puerto Lopez and went to a place called Isla de la Plata that is supposed to be the poor man´s Galopagos. It was alright, but kinda a waste of money for what it was. I did see a lot of blue footed boobies, and learned an important lesson about myself: I do not like guided nature hikes. People walk so slowly! And yes, the first blue footed boobie is perhaps novel enough to warrant a photograph, and maybe even the second, but 20 blue footed boobies later do you REALLY have to pull out your cameras again, people?! I found that about a mile into the trail I was starting to have the really evil urge to run full speed towards whatever was being photographed so as to scare it off. Although a few days after that tour, I met a girl who had a pretty nasty cut on her foot because one of the blue footed boobies bit her, so it´s probably for the best that I didn´t try to chase them.
I got stuck traveling with a crazy man with a stick for a few days. I don´t really want to get into the whole story right now, but should you ever meet a chain smoking 50 year old named Charles who likes to tell you about how he is young and free at heart, just run. Quickly. Due to a tempermental ATM and a small coastal town that wouldn´t change traveler´s checks, I had to go with crazy stick man to the town of Montanita, which REALLY reminded me of any old northern california surf town, only international. Lots of hippies drinking in hammocks, lots of people selling badly rendered drawings of bob marley and pendants in the shape of pot leaves. Think Stinson Beach, but international and packed to the gills because it´s Carnaval.
Oh right, it´s the last day of Carnaval right now. The last three days have been absolutely nuts. Everyone celebrates by (of course) drinking heavily and getting everyone ridiculously drenched. Everyone roams the streets with buckets and super soakers and water balloons and cans of something that is a cross between shaving cream and silly string, and no one escapes unscathed. I saw a nun walking around with a super soaker! Gringos are particularly attractive targets, so I´ve been more or less dripping wet since Friday. Unfortunately this holiday is not conducive to things that shouldn´t get wet (sketchbooks and cameras), so I don´t have much evidence that it happened.
After Montanita I went to Guayacil for a day, and then onwards to Cuenca. Cuenca is a beautiful city and is far and away the cleanest place I have been in Ecuador. Unfortunately no one was around because everyone had left town for Carnaval, so mostly I just walked around a very pretty ghost town. I accidentally watched the last five minutes of the super bowl from a bar in Cuenca.
And now I´m currently in Vilcabamba trying to head to this farm I´m gonna be working on for the next two weeks. It´s silly, but I´m mainly procrastinating on getting a move on because I am deathly afraid of having to try to speak spanish on the phone. But sooner or later it will have to be done.
I´ve been traveling with all sorts of interesting folks from a panoply of countries including Holland, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, Ireland, England, Norway and Australia. It´s been fascinating to hear about the politics and social structures of so many different places, and also to hear the international opinions on what´s going on in America right now. It seems the general international consensus is that our country has managed to fuck up a really staggering amount in the past 8 years, and that no American travelers like George Bush. Yup, seems pretty accurate to me. Oh, and most people cannot seem to wrap their heads around America´s educational system and its health care system.
I´ve learned that people from Holland have very large watches. Like twice the size of any other country. And apparently Bolivia has an amazing selection of watches from the 80´s-- big assymetrical day glow sort of things (I met a girl from Ireland with an 80´s watch fetish).
And if I had to give one piece of advice to anyone wanting to travel to Ecuador, it would be: make sure you have lots of small bills. When going to either the strip club orto Ecaudor, it is crucial to have a bit stack of ones. For the most part ATM´s only give twenties, and then it´s almost impossible to find somewhere to get change without being glared at for being such a terrible inconvenience.
Okee, I need to dash. Love to all.
Monday, January 28, 2008
I took a night bus from Quito to Bahia, a ride which was supposed to take about 8 hours, but somehow turned into almost twelve. I was listening intently to éveryone´s conversations trying to figure out the reason for the additional four hours, but never quite got the specifics. I think the driver simply got lost. At one point we were going in circles in some unidentified town, and after we drove around a few times and turned around, all the townspeople started coming out onto their balconies to yell at us and try to point us in the right direction. Buses in Ecuador don´t necessarily have bathrooms, so you have to keep yourself dehydrated lest you unintentionally end up going 12 hours without a servicio.
Bahia was a super interesting little town, almost certainly my favorite place thus far. A few years back Bahia declared itself an ecocity and has (to some extent) dedicated itself towards sustainability. How well that ideology translates into practice is a wee bit nebulous, but there are all sorts of fun murals about how we are all a part of the solution and other such nice sentiments. The really awesome thing that comes of this sustainaility is the fact the official form of transportation is the cargo tricycle. The whole town is awash in wandering cargo tricycles. Bahia itself is pretty small: it´s located on a sort of pointy type thing that juts out into the ocean, so the whole town is only about five blocks wide. It is quite possible to find a centrally located cafe and be able to see the ocean on both your left and your right. There is a fairly large hill behind the town, and there is a gigantic looming cross perched at the top of it. You climb up a bunch of winding steps to get up to it, and then you climb the cross itself (there´s a staircase in it) and can see the entirety of the town. I have pictures but can´t load them right now, I´ll add them later.
After a night in Bahia, I took the ferry across to a little town called San Vicente and then headed for Canoa. Canoa is apparently a great town for surfing, but the waves haven´t been so great since I arrived. I got in on a beautifully warm and sunny Saturday and the beach was crazy swamped with people. Various little beachfront bars were all playing very loud reggaeton, and swimming in the ocean was like being in a very warm, loud jaccuzi. I spent my first day in Canoa sitting in a hammock drinking pina coladas, getting up from time to time to go splash around in the ocean. My plan was to continue doing that for the next few days, but it started raining like mad and now the entire town is more or less a swamp. But! It is a warm swamp, so it´s still all good. The locals have a huge variety in their footwear when it gets this muddy: a lot of people don´t wear shoes at all, and some people opt for rubber boots. But some women are wearing like 4 inch heels with little rhinestons on them, and by some miracle they are not covered in mud. It is astounding. Maybe their shoes come with little miniature hovercraft devices.
I went running along the beach at sunrise in the middle of a torrential downpour and it was pretty lovely.
I´ve been meeting lots of interesting people and am currently travelling with a freelance journalist from Norway and an aspiring author from New Jersey. I met some surfers from Utah, too, and then a bunch of people on an exchange program from U of O. I keep meeting people from Oregon, it would seem there are a lot of us wandering around down here. Small world, eh?
The spanish is coming along quite well. While still in Quito I went on a quest to find a copy of The Little Prince in spanish, but none of the bookstores had it! I settled instead on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Reading in spanish is slow going, but I´m learning a lot. Granted, many of the words I´m looking up are not necessarily terms I expect to need, but it´s nice to have such terms as fairy, driad, nymph and witch under my belt.
Conversing in spanish is coming along nicely- yesterday I figured out I´d been confusing the words for tired and married, so it made many of the conversations I´d been having make waaaayyyy more sense. The word for tired is cansado and the word for married is casado, so I´d been wondering why people kept asking me if I was tired. And why they then would reply with such things as, It´s ok, you can have an ecuadorian husband, too.
Ok, well I think I´m going to jump back in the ocean for a bit. I´m heading south tomorrow or the day after and have yet to come up with plans, but that´s really the fun of it. Much love,
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I´m currently in Quito, Ecuador staying with a very nice family while I spend a week taking Spanish classes at a local school. As most of you know, my experience with Spanish before coming here was extremely limited, meaning that I spent three weeks listening to podcasts while biking around Portland, and then another few weeks listening to podcasts while wandering around the hills of Northern California. Amazingly, between that and three days of Spanish lessons, I´m getting by pretty gosh darn well.
It´s kind of depressing that two rather half assed months of self instruction have left me with rudimentary communication skills, whereas it took me two years of studying Chinese to get to roughly the same place. But! It´s nice to be able to more or less get my point across and understand what people are saying to me. Yesterday I had an interesting conversation on Ecuadorian drinking and driving laws, and learned that it doesn´t really matter how much you drink before getting in a car, only that it´s a bad idea to drink while actually in the act of driving. And even then it´s ok if you´re a cute girl, but if you´re unattractive or happen to be a man it´s still not a problem, you just have to bribe the police.
I´ve spent most of my time in Quito wandering aimlessly around the city and finding my way to interesting parks. The city is at crazy high elevation (I have no idea as to numbers, but it´s twice as high as the highest city in Colorado) and all the buildings weave their way in and out of the hills. Here´s a picture of the view from where I´m staying:
and here´s the city from waaaay up high:
Pretty, ain´t it?
Yesterday I went to the Oswaldo Guayasamin Foundation. Guayasamin is one of my favorite artists and his style has definitely influenced my works. It was pretty amazing to see all of his paintings in person after having fallen in love with them through blurry catalog images back home. The richness of his brushstrokes and his almost sculptural application of paint simply don´t show through in photographs. That said, I´m still going to post a picture because ohmigod so awesome!
Guayasamin´s portraits have the weirdly bulging dimensionality of Lucien Freud, and his faces and angular interpretations of anatomy really remind me of Dave McKean´s ink drawings. And it´s pretty clear why he´s considered to be the Ecuadorian Picasso. There was a photograph of him sitting on top of one of Quito´s hills with a sketchbook, and it made me really happy-- I firmly believe that one of the most important parts of being an artist involves finding tall things and climbing them with your sketchbook. Anyways, enough rambling about art.
I sort of have plans for the coming weeks. Quito has been quite nice, but it´s been my training wheel city-- I needed a few days to a. realize I actually left the country and b. remember that I´m not really shy. I´m here until Friday and am then headed to the central coast where I plan to sit on the beach and eat mangoes.
Oh! Mangoes! I almost forgot! It´s the tail end of mango season here and there are a gazillion and a half types of mangoes everywhere. Most of you know about my deep and abiding love (some might go so far as to call it a problem) with mangoes, so I am more or less in heaven. My favorite kind of mango thus far is the chupa mango. It´s a small, rather yellowish mango that fits neatly in the palm of your hand. You squeeze it to loosen it up and then bite a hole in the top and suck the entire mango out through it. Soooo tasty. You all should be very proud of my restraint, I have not made myself sick by eating too many mangoes!
Speaking further of mangoes, I am thinking of starting an embroidery project to pass the time. I think I might take some article of clothing and embroider a little mango icon on it for ever mango I eat. I´m going to be spending a good chunk of time working on a super remote farm in Southern Ecuador (and probably again in Chile, near Santiago), I will need some sort of odd project to work on if I get tired of drawing. I figure that by the time I return to the states (which will be on April 22nd, I do have a return ticket out of Argentina), I will own something that is covered in orange and yellow polka dots.
Gah, this is getting super long. Many of my travel plans involve using the wonderful site www.couchsurfing.com, so i´m probably going to be online quite a bit considering I am on the move. So do send me emails and let me know what you are up to. And those of you who are enjoying my subscription to Star whilst I´m away, I expect emails of any breaking news in the world of celebrity gossip. I don´t know how Britney could possibly go any more crazy, but that one never ceases to amaze. I´ve been drawing nonstop and might take some time to scan (most of the internet cafes, at least in Quito, have scanners) some stuff from my sketchbook if folks have any interest in what I´ve been doodling.
One more tangent and then I swear I´m really going. I´ve been encountering a rather funny problem when I try to draw: machismo culture is such that any time I sit down on a park bench to draw something, a bunch of men come over and try to get my attention. When I ignore them they usually start posing and whistling in front of whatever it is I´m drawing and then I don´t really know what to do because if I look up to sketch then they think I´m making eye contact. This is certainly not a situation I´ve encountered before: when I was drawing in China people would come up super close to me and look at my sketchbook from a foot away, but at least they weren´t flexing their muscles for me.
Love to everyone,