Monday, June 22, 2009

Cultural Ruins Of Ruined Cultures

Sammy In North America

I'm home now. Have been for almost a month. I doubt anyone is even checking this thing anymore, because most of you who read it I have seen, so I won't go into great tales of returning home from abroad and all that goes along with that. Instead I have included a few pictures from my final full day in South America which I spent at Macchu Picchu.

This is Sammy in South America signing off...

Macchu Picchu at 6:00 in the morning.

Monday, May 18, 2009

One More Photo, Just For Immaturity's Sake

Church boobs!

The Lucky Hundred

Once again I am very behind on the chronicles of this journey, and once again I am not in the mood to play catch-up, so how about another story?

I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia from Buenos Aires on April 29th. Once through customs I was met by the glorious, smiling face of Mega Shauna who quickly took me under her well seasoned Bolivian traveler's wing, and whisked me away to our very nice hostel, and then to dinner. After dinner we slept, and woke up early the next morning to go to the chaotic, sprawling El Alto Flea Market, where local La Pazians do their thrifty shopping. Besides the very obvious reasons such as credit cards, cash and driver's licence, there is a very special reason why I never want to lose my wallet. Where did that comment just come from, you ask? Bear with me. The reason that I, more than the average person, does not want to ever experience the losing of my wallet is because of the Lucky Hundred. What's the Lucky Hundred? Well...

Shortly after my dad died, my stepmom Caroly handed me a note with a hundred dollar bill wrapped inside of it. The note reads:

"Dear Sam, Your father won this gambling, and carried it after that 'just in case.' It comes to your wallet with lots of love. -Caroly"

I have been carrying this hundred dollar bill around with me wherever I go for close to six years now. There have been a few rare instances when I wondered, "Is this it? Is this the moment to use the Lucky Hundred?" And have always recognized that no, it isn't. I will have no doubt when the right time is, because it will probably save my life, or at least my ass.

So there we were, the El Alto Flea Market. Overwhelmed would be one way to put it. The overwhelm of coming directly from sea level to over 12,000 feet, the overwhelm of a huge outdoor market, more massive and hectic than any I have ever seen, the overwhelm of a brand new currency. So yeah, we'll stick with overwhelming. After about fifteen minutes of meandering past the many booths, we walked through a narrow passageway to get to a new part of the market, and two things happened simultaneously, well actually three. The first thing was that an old Bolivian grandmother walked directly into me, dropping her broad, ancient shoulder into my mid-section, and while I was left wondering why she had done it, someone squirted me in the face with some sort of thickish liquid (please don't ask me what it was, because then I will have to think about the many unpleasant possibilities, and I would rather not). So there I was, wiping my face, massaging my torso, and looking around me to see who had done it, when suddenly it all hit me and I raced my hand around to touch my back pocket where I keep my wallet, and you guessed it, it was gone. A masterfully executed sequence of events had left me totally distracted while the third simultaneous act was carried out, which was to remove my wallet from my pants. I looked around to spot the culprit, and all I could see was an ocean of equally accusable, and equally innocent people. My first thought? Not my ATM card, which is obviously a critical piece to my travels. Not my driver's licence. My very first thought was, "FUCK! The Lucky Hundred!" And accompanying that thought was a complete crumpling of my spirit. I called to Mega Shauna, and told her what had happened, and we hugged, and began looking for an appropriate spot amongst the masses to have a good old cry, when suddenly a man tapped me on the shoulder. I swung around to face him, my nerves all a jangle, and there he was, holding my wallet in his hand. I grabbed it from him, tour it open, saw that everything was in there, including the Lucky Hundred, whose identity was concealed by the dirty, smudged letter written by Caroly in 2003 that it was wrapped in, and then I hugged the guy. Most likely this was the exact man who had stolen the wallet to begin with, and upon opening it, and seeing that there was no money inside (ha!), he decided to return it to me in the hopes of a tip. I didn't care. I hugged him, shook his hand wildly, and yes, even gave him a tip.

This explanation of why the wallet was returned is a likely one, but I don't think it explains it all. More than anything it was because of the Lucky Hundred. I'm sure of it. That goddamn bill has so much mojo on it, and is so dear to me, and came to me through the purest of means, that there is just absolutely no way that I was meant to have it stolen from me on an April morning in Bolivia. That is not the correct ending to the story of the Lucky Hundred. The world can be a cruel one. Many things don't make any sense. But I have to believe in my heart that the world is a better writer than to allow such a crummy ending to a story that was laid out so smoothly, and with such potential. The Lucky Hundred is tucked neatly away in my wallet still, the ending to its legacy still unwritten, the potential for a wild ending still intact. When it happens, could be tonight, could be sixty-five years from now, I'll be sure to help the world write it down. And until then, my wallet will be enshrouded in a force-field far too strong for any thief to penetrate, a brilliant mixture of the mojo from the Lucky Hundred, and my immense paranoia from a lesson well learned.

Some Photos...

It was a nightmare trying to arrange these photos in chronological order, so I gave up. But who cares? Enjoy!

Tierra Del Fuego, March 2009

Crossing the Straight Of Magellan.

The Beagle Channel.

A Peugeot enthusiast in the cold.

The Flag Tree.

A Magellanic Penguin.

Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay, April 2009

And Then There Was Sepia...More Salar

Happier than a dead train...

Mounds of salt.

Train Graveyard.

A much needed mate' on the Isla Del Pescado.

Mega Gauchita Salt Queen.

More Salar...

Isla Del Pescado in the middle of the Salar.

Trippy perspective shots...

I wish.

Salar De Uyuni, Southern Bolivia, May 2009

Salvador Dali's Arbol De Piedra.

Llama in front of Laguna Colorado.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, May 2009

Incan ruins on the Isla Del Sol.

Santuario El Cañi, Chile, February 2009

Brett versus goat...Brett wins. Argentina, January 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Stepped Off The Bus And Landed Directly In Maipu

Whoopsies, I have been a terribly neglectful parent of an internet blog site. Sorry my little blog site, I will try to do a more thorough job from now on.

It is April 24th 2009, a Friday, I am back in Buenos Aires, and I am all by myself save for the millions of other people in the slot canyons of this massive ant farm. But none of them know I´m here.

Last time I wrote I was on my way to Ushuaia, which now seems like centuries ago. But there we were, Laura and I, skipping stones on the Beagle Channel, which is a confluence of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and is as tremendous and beautiful as it should be, given such a job. The town of Ushuaia is perched right on the banks of the channel, and then rises up steeply towards the massive Martial Glacier to the north. We arrived on the first day of autumn, and shortly thereafter it was snowing on us. The Martial Mountains which surround the town were all capped in a shock of white hair, and the leaves of the Nothofagus trees were retreating in waves towards their mulchy death beginning with a deep red scarf around the necks of the old man mountains, into a rush of a golden tunic, straight down to the stretched legs clothed in a naive and basking green. I took two boat trips on the channel, one to see the old lighthouse and the many sea lions and sea birds, including Black-Browed Albatross and King Cormorants, and a second trip 60 KM from Ushuaia to visit a Magellanic and Gentoo Penguin colony. They were so damn cute! We also hiked around in Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego, and I saw my first peatbogs. These tired words are doing no justice to the magnificence, just know that if you are ever considering going to Ushuaia you have my heartiest endorsement as someone fortunate enough to have been.

Once the beauty wore off a bit we started to recognize just how cold it was, so we catapulted ourselves through the chilly sky straight to Mendoza; the warm, wine-producing region of Argentina (I can´t believe I just used a semi-colon. I would appreciate any feedback if anyone knows if it was used correctly and opportunely, or if I blew it. Thanks). Good thinking! It was warm, and there was wine! We even took a bus to the nearby town of Maipu and rented bikes for the day and rode to a few of the wineries for wine tastings, which was spectacular. Maipu is pronounced My-poo, which of course prompted a limitless spree of very mature exclamations such as: ¨Riding bikes through Maipu has never been so enjoyable!¨ and: ¨Hey! I just peed in Maipu.¨ Go ahead, think of a couple of good ones, it´s fun! ¨¡Damn Maipu is hot!¨ Sorry, I couldn´t help myself.

A week in Mendoza was followed by a 15 hour busride back to Buenos Aires where we spent one night in none other than Hotel Maipu! And it really lives up to its name, I´ll have you know. I am extremely ashamed to admit that now two weeks later I am once again staying at Hotel MyPoo, which I will try to explain later. The next morning we awoke early to catch a ferry across the Rio Del Plata, the widest river in the world, which takes three hours! Three hours to cross a river. In my opinion it is more of a bay than a river, and I think they call it a river just so they can brag about it being so wide, but hey, what do I know? We disembarked the ferry in Colonia, Uruguay, and jumped straight onto a bus to the capital city of Uruguay: Montevideo. Uruguay is the best! It´s a little secret nugget of a country, much cheaper than Argentina, with little beach towns strung out like prayer flags all along the eastern coast. We went to the very northeast to a little town called Punta Del Diablo. We arrived the day before Easter, which unbeknownst to us marks the end of the tourist season, so our first day there it was packed, and the next day the wholetown seemed to have a crippling hangover, and everyone was fleeing, and by Monday morning we had the entire place to ourselves. Punta Del Diablo is incredibly sweet, beautiful and tranquil. The whole town is little dirt roads, street-side food vendors, thatch and tin-roofed shanties of every bright color, and no ATMs. Because there are no ATMs we had to take an hour bus ride north to the town of Chuy just to get more pesos. Chuy is a border town, half of it is in Uruguay and the other half is in Brazil, and without even knowing it we wandered into Brazil, ate chicken sandwiches and french fries and drank Coca-Colas, and then were back in Uruguay before we even realized that we had just eaten lunch in Brazil. Life is fun, and political boundaries are stupid.

After spending almost a week as two of only a handful of people on beaches that stretched for miles, we headed back to Montevideo, and then back across the Rio Del Plata to Buenos Aires, a city which I seem to have a magnetic connection with, because this is now my fifth time here, not including the night we spent sleeping on the B.A. airport floor on our way to Mendoza. Laura left two days ago, and now for the first time in these four months of adventures in the Southern Hemisphere I find myself alone. Not for long though. Sometime next week I will brave the 48 hour bus ride from here to La Paz, Bolivia, where the magnificent Mega Shauna awaits my arrival for yet another chapter in the book of YES!

So normally I don´t do the typical ¨And then we did this. And then we did this...¨ chronological travel accounting, because I know how dull it can be to read, but since it has been six weeks since I last wrote I figured I do a quick catch-up entry.

Oh yes, and how I ended up staying at Hotel Maipu again? Well, there´s really not much to tell, I am a terrible creature of habit and when presented with the task of finding myself a place to sleep in a city of over 12 million people I walked around aimlessly all day, felt socially intimidated by the hostels full of exuberant, outgoing young people, and then retreated to the one cheap, dirty hovel I had already wallowed in.

I endured an impressive, and even cinematically comical bureaucratic circus this morning to get my hands on a package that my mom had FedExed to me, and now am the proud carrier of an I-Pod forthe first time on this trip. During siesta today I found myself feeling lonely and a bit down in my lovely hotel room which is enclosed with four walls that in color resemble a mix of tobacco stained teeth splotched with leprous sores, and so I thought I would cheer myself up with some music, that old dear friend. I forgot how emotion-inducing music is though, and my despair, though made more epic, became tremendous, and I had to flee to the busy-ness outside to get my mind off of myself, and now I feel much better. You try listening to the opening piano notes in ¨Don´t Stop Believin´¨ by Journey, while sitting alone in a gigantic city over 6,000 miles from home, and see how tough you feel. Jerk.

Anyway, the short and sweet of it all is that I am doing wonderfully out here in the big bad world. I set out on a journey four months ago with only vague notions of what it would hold for me, and it has been everything and way way more than I imagined. So that´s that. Until you hear from me next I will be doing what I am always doing: pumping water from the sink into my bottle in dangerous, disease-riddled hotel rooms, watching TV, eating cold empanadas, drinking warm beer, listening to 80´s Glory Rock, wandering through old cities, looking with wide orbs at the magic of it all, and pretending that life lasts forever.

Because we have all the time in the world. Until we don´t.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Art Project

I made an art project!
All by myself!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Luck With No Name, March 3, 2009

Here I am with these words again.

I can´t really think of much to say except that we´re damn lucky to be here.

Where exactly?

Well I could get specific about where I actually am, sitting on a sandy spit beside an unnamed lake in Chile, but really I just mean that we´re lucky to be anywhere at all.


I could get specific about the miracle of a life-supporting planet dangling like a thought through corkscrewing infiniti, but even that would only be a scratch on the surface.

You. Here.

We could talk at length about the miracle of your parents ever meeting. Or each of their parents for that matter. We could go on and on through the corkscrewing unlikelihood of it all, but why bother? It´s all too vast. Perfection is either all of it, or it doesn´t exist.


I don´t know. If it is luck it´s certainly not the type we humans ever talk about. It´s too big and it doesn´t involve sex or playing cards. Generally we´re not all that comfortable with the really big stuff.

We like to keep it manageable. If we always just stared off into the impossibility of it all we might just forget to do the laundry, feed the belly, punch the timecard.

But that´s all fine. There´s lots to be done on this particular freckle of the Milky Way. Lots to be done to keep our minds off of our unlikely lives, lest we begin to feel minute, even unimportant, which our evolution never would have allowed.

And if everything is perfectly how it is meant to be, which is beginning to feel more and more likely, than we can feel as lucky as we like. We can decide to look no further than:

Pretty sunset, a green bug on my arm, friends, a lake with no name, young man watching his thoughts roll in like the salty tide sitting in the Valdivian Rainforest who somehow still has a pair of dry socks on.

I must be the luckiest guy on this whole damn freckle.

Laguna Negra, Santuario El Cañi, Chile. Valentine´s Day

Dear Mom,

I saw mountains on the moon last night.

I was just about to drift off to sleep beside the shore of a Chilean Lake when that fat, old battlefield came peeking over the granite to the southeast.

The umbrella top of an ancient Araucaria Tree was silhouetted perfectly by the three quarter moon, and I reached into my pack for my binoculars, this certainly being an occasion deserving of a closer look.

I think it was more startling not to see the long neck and head of a Brontosaurus go drifting in front of the moon than if it had.

Once clear of that Jurassic Tree I could see fields of craters and long, shadowed valleys. On the upper left side, where the earth´s shadow had taken its bite, I saw a frozen range of silver mountains with a backdrop of infiniti.

It was like one earring in a set that I´ve always meant to give you. Finally a gift deserving of your love.

It was neither a holding nor a pouring moon, as you´ve told me about from your midwive´s folklore. No, it seemed postpartum if anything, still swollen with milk for the suckling heavens, or maybe for me, or at least for that night-black brontosaurus.

Momma, you who greet people at the gates of the world, I wanted to give you that moon with its sunlit mountains. Trouble is I couldn´t quite reach it, so instead I´ve written you this letter, and will probably continue giving you Earthly attempts at earrings that could never say enough.

South Like A Stone

Rio Gallegos. March 19, 2009

The Sierra Institute chapter of the journey is now behind me. I am no longer assisting any teaching other than my own. I have much to report about the entire second half of that incredible story, but for now, an update on my current whereabouts.

I left Bariloche the day before yesterday with my new friend Laura from the trip. After sinking like a stone southward for 28 hours we arrived in the small, off the map town of Rio Gallegos, and tomorrow morning early we will be back on a bus to travel another 12 hours to the southernmost city on Planet Earth, Ushuaia, in Tierra Del Fuego. South. The early morning´s phosphorescence was very predictably going to be out my left window, and when I awoke with my face smooshed against that very window it looked like a giant school of mackerel had broken the water´s fluidity and spangled the sky in tangerine tracers and apricot ripples. The southernmost city in the world. It´s a strange thought. We don´t have easternmost, and westernmost cities, but we do have northern and southernmost. Silly humans. It´s as if the rotation of the earth implies a continuum while the still poles are seemingly static, when in reality (reality?) we are just a sleepy waterball tangoing with a very lively fireball on a small node of the infinite corpus of the universe. Whoa. I seem to be especially fixed on thoughts of our miniscule little planet out there in the great drapes of space at this moment of my life, maybe because I can watch myself slide around on the surface of glossy maps, I don´t know.

So tomorrow we cross the Straight of Magellan, and in the evening we will arrive on the banks of the Beagle Channel, and when I have had a moment to grock Tierra Del Fuego, I´ll be sure to tell you all about it...Suerte.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Junin de los Andes

Sitting in an internet cafe´in Junin de los Andes, and not thinking of much to say, so how about a journal entry written while I actually was where I am trying to write about?

January 16th, 2009 (weird)
Los Vertientes de los Radales, Estancia Ranquilco, Provencia de Neuquen, Argentina, South America, Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, Town of Infiniti, State of Mystery...

This place seems to be wittled down to its adult teeth, and even some of them have started to go. That whiskey wind and old tobacco sun have taken their toll throughout the years, and perhaps we don´t choose our vices afterall. The condor shit builds up in long white lines beneath the roosts, and these cliffs, which I´ve already likened to decaying teeth, seem to have the eyebrows of an old man. And now I´m guilty of anthropomorphizing the anthropomorphism. It seems we´re married to these lenses. The goats grazing on the slope to the south look like a herd of pygmy polar bears, and the moon in the morning blue sky a thumbnail caught between the folds of dimensions. Speaking of things breaking through often uncrossable barriers, the veil between this world and the next seems to be especially flimsy at the moment. The dearest people in my life who have stepped out of their bodies into the nakedness of spirit (a fancy way of saying: those that have died), have been visiting my dreams just about every night, especially Hodi, and I have been getting hugs that I thought were lost to me forever. I sat on the sheep so it couldn´t get away as Brett plunged a knife into its jugular and I held my hand against its heart as it went through its final beats, and suddenly life seemed little more than a fancy vanishing act. Perhaps I will have engraved on my tombstone: ¨How´d I do?¨

This is a prickly place. Seems evolution held a competetion in the best spine and thorn category right here in these mountains. Even the soft looking bunch grasses give you that itchy sort of poke that can peel away a layer from the weaker parts of one´s sanity.

Brett and I have been perusing his book on stars, and I think it´s got to be the most rewarding and fascinating route to an existential crisis yet. So here I sit, pondering the stardustiness of it all, a medium-sized life form on the crust of a mostly molten planet that´s dangling like a teardrop, or an intergalactic cranberry, on one wing of a tiny spiraled galaxy in the middle (because what isn´t the middle?) of infiniti. These thoughts make me feel like I´m fifteen again, but without the pot. I must be evolving!

Me and Catato

How about a story?

We sent the students off on their solos, which consists of them spending two days and two nights alone without food, a sort of forced suffering in the hopes of an eagle swooping down and telling them all of the elusive answers to propel them into their greatest work in life, but actually ends up being a horsefly killing competition (between the right hand and the left hand), and a lot of grumbling lonesomeness...So there we were, Brett and I, free from responsibilities for a few days, staring vacantly towards our relaxation, when Brett remembered that he needed to walk a few miles down the valley to a puesto where a gaucho lives so that we could order a sheep to be delivered to us for slaughter and eating. Well of course, being the esteemed teaching assistant that I am, I considered internally to offer to do this task for him, but then thought better of it, and remained mum. The conversation dragged onward, and in a moment of extreme stupidity I said, ¨Geez, I really wish I spoke better spanish, because then I could go in your place.¨ And Brett, being the encouraging and empowering man that he is, said, ¨You wanna try?¨

Let´s set the scene a bit, shall we? The place that we spent the past month is a 60 square mile Estancia in Central Argentina, near the border of Chile. The Patagonian Steppe. Very dry, zeric if you will (as you can see I´ve paying attention in class...). The land stretches out as far as the eye can see, rolling spines of mountains, all gold and green from the bunch grasses, with hardly any trees to speak of. The mountains rise steeply up from the valleys carved by the Rios Trocomon and Picunleo, and the massive Andean Condors have their many nests tucked into the caves of the cracked, crumbling, arthritic spires of red stone, and condensed grey layers of volcanic ash.

We did a huge loop, hiking for a little over a week before we reached our basecamp at Laguna Negra, a gorgeous deep blue lake held in a glacier-carved bowl surrounded by mountains. Throughout our hike we would occasionally come across a puesto, which is a little hut made of thatched ñire (the dominant tree species of the area. A close relative of the oaks, which mostly grows in thick, shrub-like clumps) branches and stone where a gaucho, an Argentine cowboy, lives and herds his animals. There are no roads here, no towns, no nothin. These guys live miles from their nearest neighbor, and spend their lives moving huge herds of goats, sheep, horses and cows along the sides and tops of these mountains that we were walking.

So there we were, sitting in a little ñire invagination which was our kitchen at basecamp, and suddenly Brett is urging me on to go down and place the order for a live sheep to be delivered to us day after tomorrow. I put on the one nice shirt that I had, tucked it in, washed my face, and had Brett write me out instructions of what to say when I arrived. The two plus mile hike down the valley was beautiful, and suddenly I felt all puffed up with confidence for the task ahead. I began to imagine myself showing up to this puesto, greeting the gaucho with my best manners and phrases, having him invite me in for a mate´, and discussing life in the campo, with the spanish suddenly blooming off my tongue like a spring day after the rains, a true cultural experience was at my fingertips and I was ready! Then I got lost. Like I said, the ñire grows in thick, shrubby clumps, and at its most profilic it creates vast, impenetrable labyrinths. As I neared this still invisible puesto I found myself surrounded by one such labyrinth, and as I crashed around in the bushes, trying to find my way, but constantly hitting deadends, my mind began to wander into such thoughts as: ¨Do gauchos have rifles?¨and ¨Maybe if I just curl up in a ball and close my eyes I´ll wake up in California?¨ Finally I emerged in a field of goats, and knew I was close by. I wandered a little ways further, and there it was, the puesto of Don Troncoso. I walked up, whistling my pathetic, high-pitched, through the crack in my front teeth whistle, which is the only one in my command, and was met by a swirling fury of dog barks, and a mass of giant cows tearing away from me in all directions. I saw the gaucho, who I assumed was Troncoso, brushing his horse near the puesto. I walked up to him, greeted him as best I could, and asked if he was indeed Don Troncoso. He muttered a lot of short little syllables that I had no comprehension of, and I smiled moronically as little beads of sweat emerged on my forehead. I later realized with Brett´s assistance that he was telling me that he was not Don Troncoso, but was instead his puestero, Catato, which I never caught, and I must have called Catato Don Troncoso at least 15 more times throughout our ¨conversation.¨ After a weak attempt at navigating the conversation without the piece of paper that Brett gave me, I reached into my pocket and unfolded the page, saying, ¨Yo tengo instucciones,¨at which time his look of disgust deepened, and I commenced to read to him our request. When I was through we both stood there staring at one another, I said, ¨¿Claro?¨, to which he responded, ¨Si.¨and then I just stood there, and he turned around and began brushing his horse again, and whistling a far superior whistle to mine. We were the only two human beings in miles, and as I stood there holding my instrucciones, and he brushed his horse, and the nearby radio was cranked at full volume shooting out nothing but pure fuzzy static, I couldn´t help but think that this moment was as pure a distillation of true and utter awkwardness as was ever conjured, a manifestation of discomfort unparralled in all other arenas of my life, and I loved it! I began to slowly shuffle off, shouted my saludos, and laughed and laughed at the hilarity of it all as I climbed through the maze of ñire, the maze of ridiculousness, the maze of life.

And a must for any gringo writing home from a spanish speaking country...Enter here: Fancy spanish phrase that inaccurately shows how much I´ve learned, and makes every one who doesn´t speak spanish feel stupid and left out. ¡Bueno!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

And Now A Word On Peugeots

Just as I was struck two years ago, I was again incredibly pleased to see that nearly half of the cars on the roads in Buenos Aires are Peugeots, and many the same model as my own beloved. Even with the many catastrophes with my students, the overwhelm of a foreign city, the deliciousness of the beef, I still have been dedicating many of my thoughts to my dear, old car, which I likely will no longer be driving anymore, after a hell of a run. This past year my job forced me into commuter life, which entailed 90 plus miles a day on Highway 101, and I assumed that the Peugeot would likely not survive the year. I must say I was not surprised, though I think everyone in my family was, when it not only made it through this year of freeways, but never even hiccupped the whole time...The engine that is. The car runs perfectly, but all of the accessories have gone to hell. Two doors don´t open, including the driver´s door, a third door barely opens, but I know the trick, the key is stuck in the ignition and cannot be removed, one window doesn´t roll down, and a few others labor, but function, the sunroof had to be caulked shut, and supported by wooden blocks because it leaked, the heater only works if you´re going over 65, and then it works far too well, the windshield is cracked, the allignment is off and unfixable, the paint is damaged and flaking off, it stalls when you crank the wheel all the way to one side or another which made parrallel parking in SF all year pretty interesting...But, the damn thing runs like a charm, and I have been waiting and waiting to drive it until it wouldn´t drive anymore, and it seems to be impossible. Once my own door stopped opening, and I had to get in on the other side and crawl through it was enough to convince me that it just isn´t cute anymore. When I get back from this trip, after the Peugeot has been sitting beneath the douglas firs in Lagunitas for however many months, I will turn the key, it will start right up, and I will only drive it for as long as it takes to get a new, far-inferior car that will probably break down twice a month, but will at least have AC, air bags and a seat buckle that doesn´t take a few minutes of wiggling to unbuckle. There, I said it, I will get a new car, and I´m sure my family is rejoicing at the proclamation.

And why am I writing pages about my car in an internet cafe in Argentina? Because I put the mental in sentimental, and by admitting to myself that my time with the Peugeot is over, and now admitting it to you all, I now have a long grieving period ahead of me. I learned how to drive that car when I was nine in a parking lot in Petaluma with my dad, and our dog Rosie in the backseat. It was given to me when I got my licence over nine years ago, and now is a part of my identity as critical as my nose, and I´m gonna miss it. And Willy, no, this does not mean you can bring it to the junkyard when I am gone, you filthy assassin...

Okay, that´s enough, I said it would be a word on Peugeots, but it turned into many, many words on just one, extremely special Peugeot...Thanks for listening.

And Then It Happens...

I just prepared my first mate´ since arriving yesterday morning and have only now officially landed...Exhale.

No shortage of mayhem to get me right into things...Sleep deprived, and feeling pretty wretched I arrived at our hotel in BA around noon yesterday only to learn that two of my students had just been tricked into going to a brothel, which they were told was a club with musica, and when they realized where they were, and tried to leave, they were forced to give up $250 pesos (about 85 dollars) by a group of men just to exit the place, which is a long-winded way of saying that they got mugged in their first hour in Buenos Aires. Ironically enough, one of these same two had already been pick-pocketed at the airport, and lost his driver´s licence, his credit cards and a small amount of cash. On top of this, two other students´bags didn´t make it onto their plane, but luckily just arrived at our hotel an hour ago...AND, I woke up this morning to find one of my students sick and puking. Everyone is already calling me dad.

All that aside, the group seems good, I feel old, and it is very surreal to be here. I am staying at the same hotel in BA that I was staying at exactly two years ago to the day, but am now with a different group of students, and have a much better grip on what I am doing. Like all occasions when you return to a place that you haven´t been to for awhile I am feeling the deceptive, falseteeth of time, and simultaneously feel like I´ve never been here before, but also that I never left, and am I really the same person with memories of this place? Very strange, indeed.

It was a whirlwind to get here, and I must say that it feels marvelous to finally be in motion, and to no longer be caught in the steeltrap of anxiety, preparation, concern...Now I´m just riding the wave. The language barrier is as difficult as ever, I tend to have no trouble with creating awkward encounters in my own native tongue, so you can only imagine how I excel here! That´s all for now...