Yearly Archives: 2011

Traveling Recap–Did it Change My Life?

As my travels are winding down, I have started doing a little reflection on my trip.  16 months away is a long time to be away. Was it life changing?  Not in any dramatic way [although I did make one big decision as a result of my volunteer experiences].  Did I make a difference in some one else’s life?  Maybe on some small level for at least the time I was there.  I can’t say what happened after I left.   Did I meet my goals?  Yes. My goals of the trip was to have fun, engage in meaningful volunteer experiences, and meet new people.  I am a little bit torn.  In one way, I feel like I could go on traveling forever.  There is a great big world out there, and this experience has taught me that I have only seen a tiny part of it.  In another way, I am ready to start down the path of my new career.  I am a little bit scared.  It will be a long road.  I don’t know when I will be able to travel again, especially like this.  I feel conflicted about going “home.”  I don’t really have a home.  I have friends that I want to be near.  I can’t wait to see the children in my life, and how much they have changed.

Wandering without being lost–Laguna Miscanti, Atacama Desert, Chile 2010

There are things I have missed–such as having a regular study spot, sleeping in my own bed, taking a bath in my own bathtub–hot water and all,  and of course my kitties.  I have people who I want to see although I have learned I can make friends with nearly anyone.   So in one aspect I am ready to get home, tackle what I need to tackle in order to meet my goals. Another part of me says traveling is so easy–much more so than real life, so I should continue doing that.  I think my next international trip will be to some part of Eastern Europe.  I am not sure where or when, but until then I have a little more that half of the United States to explore [and now I have new friends in previously untraveled parts of the country].

Thinking about what to do

Since I know the questions will be coming, I spent a few minutes in thought about the best and worst parts of my trip.  Here goes:

Andean Condor in flight

Highlights: unexpected almost free trip to the Galápagos Islands, Iguazu Falls, seeing Aconcagua, being at the end of the world
Low lights: catching malaria during my first month of my trip.  I didn’t show symptoms for about 6-8 weeks though.  Or at least that’s the best guess based on when I was entering and exiting the Amazon.

Blue footed Booby

Thing I wish I hadn’t lost: my head lamp… I actually know where I left it; I was just too far gone before I realized it. I have been in the dark ever since then.
Thing I wish I had lost:  I never used my rain poncho.  I gave it to some kids and they had a blast playing with it.
Most useful items: Zune with speakers, Swiss army knife, sheet, travel pillow
Least useful items: camera accessories (I used them because I had them, but I would have been fine without them), umbrella
Best new food: Manjarblanco with apples…. mmmmmm
Worst new food: cuy–too small, too little meat, too much work, and too greasy

Santa Catalina Monastery

Funniest moment: “beerbombs”–how my Brazilian friend Henrique pronounced/understood the explanation of “beer-bong”
Scariest moment:  There were two:  1. Being pounded into the rocks like a rag doll with a surf board tied to my feet, not being able to catch my breath, or regain my balance, and looking back and seeing nothing more than a wall of water coming my way…really thought I might die that way.  2. Being kidnapped by rouge taxi drivers crossing the border from Peru to Ecuador who tried to extort money from me.
Favorite place visited:  Angel Falls, so remote, so beautiful and Usuhaia… for the same reasons as Angel Falls

 

Lake Titicaca

Least favourite place visited: the midad del mundo monument… so overrated
Favorite new activity:  para sailing… its like floating in the air
Least favourite new activity: Surfing
Favourite countries: Argentina and Colombia
Least favourite countries: Paraguay and Ecuador
Favourite cities:  MendozaAR, and Santa Marta, CO
Least favourite cities:  Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro, BR (just too big)

Cartagena, Colombia… one of my favorite cities

Conversations from a bar

Every empty bottle is filled with stories.

–a conversation that occurred in a Colombia bar in August, 2010.

Colombia is a beautiful country.  The Andes Mountains, the Amazon jungle, the Cocora valley are all amazing. In addition to the natural beauty, Colombia has beautiful people.  Some of them are naturally beautiful and some of them–well, they have a little help.  The plastic surgeons in Colombia do a fantastic job. Medellin is my third stop in Colombia.  It is kind of like Goldilocks and the 3 bears.  The weather in Bogota was too cold.  The weather in Leticia was too hot, but the weather in Medellin is just right. The days are warm and the nights are cool. It feels like fall [or spring].

A funny thing happened at a bar last night.  I went out with some English/Australian guys that were staying in the same hostels [Funny story:  We had actually met on the cable car that goes to the top of the city.] So at some point during the evening after an indeterminate number of drinks, in an unidentified bar, a conversation much like the following took place:

Guy 1:  “Are those real?”  (referring to boobs, but not mine of course)
Me:  “Nope.  No way”.
Guy 2:  “Yeah.  I reckon.  You can tell the difference.”
Guy 1: “Aha ha.  I agree.  Definite difference in shape.”
Me: “Yeah.  But there’s no way that they could be real.
Guy 2: Compare hers (Colombian chic) to hers (mine).  Definite extra perkiness. No offense” (referring to Colombian chic)
Guy 1: “I’m still not convinced.  They’re too good to be real.”
Me: “Why don’t you just ask her?”
Guy 1: “Huh?”
Guy 2: “What?”
Me: “Just ask her”
Guy 1: “That would be funny.”
Me:  “Yeah.  Go on.  Or I will.”
Guy 2: “I don’t know.  That’s pretty random.  Imagine if someone came up to you and…”
Me: “C’mon’.  It’s the only way to settle it.  Fuck it.  I’ll do it…”

So somewhere, in the night, after an indeterminate number of drinks plus a few more, in the same unidentified bar, another conversation, much like the following, took place:

Guy 1: “What the fuck did you touch them for?”
Me: “She said I could.”
Guy 1: “And so you just grabbed them?”
Me: “Yep.”
Guy 2: “And?”
Me: “Real.”
Guy 1: “Definitely?  Did she say so?”
Me: “Yep.”
Guy 2: “What did she say exactly?”
Me:  “They’re real.  Good hmm?
Guy 2: “In English?”
Me: “In English.”
Guy 2: “Fuck off”

Me :  You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever touched a pair of boobs other than my own…

busty plastic girls
These are definitely fake

Conversations similar to the one above are, probably, not uncommon in Medellin.  It is, apparently, the plastic surgery capital of the world in a country that is probably the most plastic surgerized in the world.  Or at least close to.  Such a place has a significant reputation to live up to.  However, Medellin does it with aplomb, cosmetic surgical intervention striking you anywhere you turn.  Seriously, fake boobs are everywhere. They are more normal than natural boobs.  If you don’t have them, you’re the odd one out.  Old woman have them.  Girls far younger than the legal drinking age have them.  Yes, I even saw a cat that had them (this may or may not be true… this may or not have occurred at the bar).  I read somewhere, but I now don’t recall where, that the prevalence of silicon in Medellin is largely due to Medellin’s former status as the center of the world cocaine trade.  Don’t ask me why that means fake boobs all over the place – I guess drug lords liked them big.  In any event, the reality remains, and it is one scary, bouncy and far too perky reality.

packin fellas
The same can be said for the fellas

The theory attributing Medellin’s curvaceousness to the drug lords is a popular one.  However, my own personal theory is that the female of residents of Medellin are paying homage to the great Colombian artist, Fernando Botero.

Medellin born and Medellin raised, Botero’s sculptures dominate the public artistic landscape of central Medellin, his ludicrously proportioned, voluptuous and humorous bronze figures in the Plaza Botero in particular a highlight.  If you are not familiar with Botero’s work, I can probably sum it up for you in a single word – fat.  Not ‘ph’ fat.  Just plain old ‘fat’.  Like everything being seen through one of those crazy mirrors that makes everything look fat. Not ‘ph’ fat.  Just plain old lazy bastard fat.  Having viewed a reasonably large collection of his work in Bogota, it’s clear to me that his work is at its most impressive in sculpture – the central focus of his work, the roundedness aka ‘fat’, most effective and striking when experienced in three dimensions.  Fat.  Not ‘ph’ fat.  Just good old ‘if it sits on you it’s going to hurt’ fat.