Tuesday, August 5, 2008

South America 2008 #7

Sick, Alone, Bug Bitten, Hungry, SOMEBODY HELP ME!!! (8/5/08):


i realize this is long, for those of you who dont wanna scroll for the link, here are my pictures. if you make it to the bottom though, its worth it. i ate poo.

its been a while. last time i wrote i think i was still in chile, it was in may or something... since then ive gone back to argentina (for the third time), up to bolivia, and now over to peru. also, my mom has come and gone, she was here for a total of 9 gloroius weeks, and kelly came down for a 2 week trip in the middle of her work but has returned to the grind as well.

so, i dont really know how to format this one, since there is a lot that happened. its gonna be a random mess of stories, but i try not to bore with descriptions of beauty and whatnot. maybe i should just tell the funny stories and list all the weird things ive put in my mouth??

anyways, mimi arrived and i met her in santiago. she got to meet the friends i had met there in the previous month and a half, and she was quick to make us a french toast breakfast that really made me appreciate breakfast in the US. we headed over to mendoza in argentina after a while and ended up staying there for 8 whole weeks (she was only going to come for 4!). we stayed with 2 families there, each for 4 weeks and it was great. we really enjoyed living with the second family a lot, we both got along with lidia and alejandro (the rents), their daughter ana and her bf diego. for some reason (well, i think its obvious) they nicknamed me "Dios," probably due to the mean flan and cookies i whipped up. or maybe it was cause i fixed the heater only electricuting myself once and ripping the socket out of the wall twice.

the school there was great too, i loved my professors and everybody that worked there. the other students at the institute werent too shabby either, and aside from the people from mendoza, i made some good friends with a few fools from around the world. i had 2 professors for the whole 8 weeks, each for 2 hours a day. it ended up to be like i had 2 friends that HAD to hang out with me and correct my grammar, and there was one week where i think the only things i learned were dirty words. luckily it was low season and i was in a more advanced class so i had a lot of classes by myself (max was 3 people), so it helped me a lot. my mom's spanish went from a 0 to an impressive 36 i would say, we were proud to see such an old woman learn something new!!

story: one sunday, i went to a thermal spa thing in the mountains (ahem, the andes), and it was going super duper. i had signed up for a massage after lunch, and it was my first one really so i was a bit nervous about what to do about being naked, etc. on the way to the massage house, i asked my friends what happens when a male has a pretty woman as his massager (cant spell masseuse) and he needs to hide his liking of her. they assured me i wouldnt have a problem and that guys are generally on their stomachs anyways. well, all of my fears went away when my masseuse was a dude... whose english sucked. and he didnt believe me that i spoke spanish, insisting on english. he told me to take off all of my clothes and to lie face up on the bed. yes, i reassured that i needed "todo" my clothes off, and he said yes. i assumed that he confused the word "up" with "down" so yadda yadda yadda and i was lying face down on the bed when he came back into the room. annoyed, he said "i said face up," so i uncomfortably turned over and felt like a beached whale must feel: vulnerable and ashamed for getting into such a stupid position. so i was doing my best to NOT make eye contact with that guy and find a place to un-awkwardly rest my hands as he was screwing around with his instruments, and after a minute or so he poked my shin and asked me to turn over cause that part was over!!! it was just a free show! AND, about 2 minutes after starting the massage, he asked me if i had any underwear to wear (since he didnt give me anything to cover myself) and i told him that everything was sitting on the floor LIKE HE TOLD ME TO DO, so he threw a blanket over my "middle section" and continued. 5 minutes later he asked me if it was my first massage, i guess it was pretty obvious i was that big of a n00b. that week at school, the girls i went with leaked the story and i had to tell it to everybody who worked there while we were eating lunch. massages suck.

anyways, other things happened there... my friends took me out dancing a lot, more than ever in my life! dont worry, i still prefer throwing rocks or something. one night, i was moving around somewhat but i was like a foot and a half above everybody, so i tried to get off of the step that i was on... until i realized that EVERYBODY IN THE CLUB was a foot and a half shorter than me. i then danced the rest of the night from my knees. the mendocinos like to stay out til 6, then hit up a hot dog restaurant til about 730 or so... so i did that a few times as well.

im only throwing this in here to make a few of you jealous, but i also went skiing in june in the andes.

finally, the time came for mimi to go back to work and i decided to move north from there. it was another tough round of goodbyes... i really liked the family, friends, and professors i had in mendoza, but i went to the north of argentina with 3 others from the institute: laura from florida, nate from tiawan/north carolina, and miles from new zealand. we rented a car for a week and toured around the deserts, and had a fantastic time. there are pictures of the beauty, and unfortunately we dont have recordings of the things that came out of miles' mouth, but they were priceless. especially when he was pissed out of his tree. we saw some really amazing rock formations in the desert up there, and our "gaucho car" performed really well (ie we beat the hell out of it and it still worked). we crossed our fingers every time we blindly forded a river and we took it over a 16,500 foot pass (where i had my first over 16k mate) that was a road of a little dirt and lots of huge rocks. im surprised it still had an oil pan when we returned it cause we only saw 4x4s up there.

on the trip, we saw some vineyards, native ruins, salt flats, llamas, y un poco de todo. one night, the guy who worked at our hostel took us midget hunting at 2 am in the hills behind town. the strategy was to throw rocks at the bigger rocks and maybe the "duendes" would come out of their hiding, or maybe they would just throw rocks at us. i didnt find any though. another night we were staying by a lake and i went outside to see the stars and the frogs sang for us a beautiful little diddy ALL night, it was quite mesmerizing actually.

from there, i was almost late to meet kelly the engineer from UCLA in la paz, bolivia... so when we got back to salta i said bye to them and hopped on a quick little 30 hour bus to la paz. for 18 hours, we averaged about 16 mph! bienvenidos a bolivia. it was alright though, the countryside was really nice so i didnt mind it too much.

kelly and i hung out in la paz, where she fell off her bike 3 times and got a black eye, horribly bruised legs, and a scraped up arm. to be fair, i guess i should say it was the most dangerous road in the world... so its actually pretty sweet i think. we told everybody that we got in a fight, and most of them believed us... i didnt know i look that mean! we ate some food that we shouldnt have, and wandered around the city a bunch, it was a surprisingly cool place i thought.
from there, we went to la isla del sol on lake titicaca and hiked around for a few days, going through some really small towns and got to witness how the restaurants of one town got its food. the children get naked and trap tiny fish in a net then dance around them as they suffocate on the sand!! needless to say, i didnt have anymore perrey. our days of 2 dollar hostels and 1 dollar 3 course meals finished as we crossed over to peru and went to cusco, where the main event was eating. we ate too much. one day i think we had 5 meals, and felt gross.

we did a 5 day trek through the mountains here, called the salkantay trail, which goes through some beautiful terrain until machu picchu. on our second day, we went over the 16,000 foot pass in the SNOW which i thought was amazing, and then descended into the jungle within hours. i'd never experienced anything like that before while walking. on the trek, there was a group of about 20 of us, and we all got along really well, it was good fun. i felt bad though, cause the company we went with hired porters and horses to do everything for us (cook, set up tents, carry bags, carry people if they were tired, etc) and i often found myself feeling pretty useless, cause im not really used to luxury camping. my version of luxury is carrying a 48 oz. can of baked beans in your backpack, or sneaking a 12 pack in your roommates backpack. oh wait, that was me. on the 5th day we arrived to the incan ruins of machu picchu thats arguably the best of them all. honestly, i had a better experience in tikal (guatemala), but its like comparing... something tubular with something bodacious. theyre both really nice, and our guide coco gave us a great tour of the place. i especially liked his discussion of the incan theology and the explanation of the incan cross thing. wikipedia it if youre bored at work.

so here i am, a little sick now cause i went to the central market and ate some more stuff i shouldnt have, but its SO good. or maybe it was the juice i bought from some kid that was a mixture of grass, and 5 bottles of something, and then something else hot. speaking of food, i made a list of the gross or interesting things ive eaten on this trip:

-llama and alpaca - great (noel, i did it for you one night and have a fat stain on my sweatshirt for you)
-bbqed cow brain (but not fully cooked) - absolutely terrible. worst thing ive ever tried.
-cow shit - horrible, but better than its brain. shit for brains? story attached below.
-cow intestines - well, i woulndt WANT to eat it, but its edible.
-somethings anus - from way back, like bubble gum with pockets of fat that explode in your mouth. really revolting.
-pig colon - pretty bad as well
-somethigns intestines (lower) - bad
-somethings intestines (upper) - nasty
-blood sausage - probably the best of the gross things. thats why ive had it multiple times.
-a guinea pig - we named him chewey for obvious reasons. felt like i was eating a rat.
-intestine soup - not bad if you dont eat the intestine part
-french fries - a staple with EVERY meal ive eaten in the last 7 months!!

the cow shit soup deserves an explanation. i wrote this to mandy yesterday, so heres a copy:

"oh, ok... the cow shit soup... heres a little explanation: i ordered this stew, adn didnt see that the first ingredient was belly. so when it came it had these weird chunks that looked like lard and onions, but with hair on it. after chewing on it i thought to myself, "this reminds me of the other sick tripe ive eaten" and, then after consulting the menu, it was. anyways, i tried to get down a few more bites, but the problem was more that the food just stunk like shit. i didnt say anything cause i thought my friends would think im gross for eating such a stinky thing, but then i couldnt take it anymore and asked the others to smell and try it. they did, and said it was sick and basically unedible. when i said it reminded me of being in a public bathroom, they agreed and said they didnt say anything cause they didnt want to tell me i was eating shit. i guess what happens is when you do your own butchering and dont know what the fuck youre doing, cleaning out the intestines is not that easy of a task... so sometimes there is shit left in the intestines. and yes, thats what happened. i had poo and belly stew, and it was horrible... but not as bad as the cow brain."

okay, well i hope you enjoyed this email. i applaud you if you are reading this far. i guess this is what happens when i dont write home often and i refuse to start a blog.

oh wait, im not done. future.

so, right now ive got 2 options for coming home. well, 3.

1. use my flight home on october 1st from santiago in chile, in which case id go back south eventually, visit friends down there, and work in the institute in mendoza

2. change my flight home to november 1st or so, and teach a photography class for 6 or 8 weeks in the north of peru to teenagers as a part of a volunteer project. this would give me a month or so to mess around here, where i would either travel or maybe work in an animal rescue sactuary in ecuador beforehand.

3. do the photography thing, but forget about my flight home and take a bus all the way home hopefully in time for thanksgiving.

ha. jealous? i dont know what im gonna do, now that im on my own im taking it easy for a few weeks and gonna figure out my plans, if youve got advice lemme know. so, once i get better im gonna get outta cusco and try to get somewhere less touristy... not sure where yet. the novelty of "traveling" is not quite the same as in the beginning, thats why im more inclined to stay in the same place just to live for a bit instead of continue seeing things.

i uploaded some pictures too of the last couple months, here you go:
pretty self explanatory.

now, i hope everyones doing well back home or wherever... ill be back sometime,