Early in the last year, I made a a silent yet stolid agreement with myself. I would write as much as possible.
I have always known that I wanted to write. The papers presented to the mr and ms. in partial fullfillment of the course to the stupid little sketches in 8th grade to brit lit. and all the shebers howard. To the jj johnson even though he was a dick. To the shhissel and Mr. Syr.
It was the Timne’s class that was the best. We read Frankenstein and the Romantic poets. She wrote that book when she was 18 with bysshe her bo and the byron lord.
I had so much respect for that monumental accomplishment.
Anyways, I could never commit to writing more than 10k on any given story.
Last year in february I took Christi Kruugs Wildfire Writing class at Clark college. It worked.
Since February last year, I have written 100k+ in freewrites and 65k on my first novel.
She instituted Moto Man Mondays as part of her content while she is on her Peace Corps Contract in Cameroon. Posting consistently is a challenge for me. Once I get started the content is easy to generate, but it helps to have a unifying idea so that I am not just posting random stuff. I also looked at some of my statistics on my dashboard, I only use free wordpress stuff cuz I is broke, and most of the posts that get views are stuff from Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Very little people care that I did a bunch of yoga or whatever life challenge I am putting myself through. Though there were quite a few views from the Vegan stuff.
Thus, Photographic memory mondays gives me a little bit of structure, which despite my mild ODD/stubbornness, does allow me to operate at a higher level and aids my writing. I despise structure that is forced upon me, but also thrive under it if I can stomach it without rebelling. A wildfire creates tons of energy, but also causes tons of damage and devours its own life force. While a torch can light your way, a candle can evoke peace and reflection and a furnace can produce heat and energy needed for creation. And that is why I have added this little bit of structure a bit of direction for this curly soul.
Energetically I am classified as fire, though I despise classification, which is why I present this in this way.
Even with this structure imposed, I still completely forgot to post last week. The mad rush during finals is exhausting some of my already limited organizational faculties.
And now without further ado, Photographic Memory Mondays #3 8-25-14.
This weeks theme is….Mountains.
Wherever I go, It seems that I seek these particular features out.
I know it is tuesday again. What can I say? My spirit animals are an owl and a spider. Both dark-liking things. And I know, I was disappointed a bit when I found out. I thought I saw a Mountain Gorilla in a yoga nidra recently and I have always considered myself monkey like. More an animals later, if I get to it. (disclaimer- the owl and spider are very powerful spirits etc. I read about them in depth and can definitely see why).
And now back to the photographic memories.
A Note on the Format. I am working on it. I am more of a writer than a design man and more of a talker than a writer, thus ramblestiltskin.
There are so many memories that I have not shared from my travels. Each of them feels like a lifetime and seems it would take a lifetime to catalog. This is my way of focusing the ADD brain into something constructive. A picture is worth a thousand words, but each of those thousand is different based on whose perspective is shared. Hence, The Photo and snippet style. It also breaks up the 1600+ words into bitable chunks. My copy is often overwhelming in volume. Mainly, this is because I do not edit. If I edited these, I would never post them. I will save that for any future guest posts or books, crosses fingers.
And if you have made it this far, I applaud your tenacity. As a voice/audience finding exercise comment below telling me your favorite memory. The memory with the most votes will get a full 1600+ post delving deeper. Maybe I will be on a limb, out to sea, up a creek etc. but I will post on any of them with the most votes no matter how silly or mundane. I will consider it a writing test of agility.
This is a phenomenal article about the complex situation faced by the food system. The article focuses on chocolate, but the ideas can be applied to a multitude of industrialized rainforest crops. The ideas of the challenges placed on the environment by industrialized crops and population growth can be applied universally.
It is the common practice for many avid travel bloggers to focus on and highlight the amazing, unique and adventurous experiences they seek out while abroad. This is understandable, they make for great stories. The unique and fantastic adventures like diving with whale sharks, watching the sunrise from one of the peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, or hiking to Mach Picchu on the Camino Inca.
These are certainly moving and awe-inspiring tales. They deserve to be told. These are the moments that inspire others to get a pack, stuff it way too full, buy a ticket and take the plunge. However, these hallowed and magical moments are rare. Wait, check that, not really rare, for any traveller will experience many of them. However, when you look at the daily life of a traveller, they are few and far between. There are so many other notable moments. While Machu Picchu may be the reason you go to Peru, the laid back lifestyle and the ridiculously fresh fruit may be the reason you stay.
It is the little things that both cause the most discomfort (carrying around your own toilet paper) and bring the most joy (sipping freshly bended juice while walking the streets of Cusco.)
On to my ordinary adventure
I have been looking for the chance to get a straight razor shave since before I could sustain a beard. Perhaps the inception of this desire was caused by my viewing of “Gangs of New York” when I was in high school. The scene when “Priest” Vallon, played by Liam Neeson shaves before the opening battle scene. He then hands the blade to his son who begins to wipe the blade clean, but stops his hand saying, “the blood stays on the blade.” For some reason the gravity of this scene inspired a desire to experience a straight razor shave. And luckily for me, none of my blood ever touched the blade.
The desire to find this experience came about a year after I saw that article in Blue Magazine which inspired the dream of visiting Machu Picchu, you can read more about that here…
…it is a 4 part post with lots of photos for your viewing pleasure.
Since both of these dreams were inspired around the same time, and so long ago, it is fitting that I would fulfill them both on the same trip.
My first international haircut was in Salta Argentina by a guy who was so fast I could have sworn he had scissors in both hands. he didn’t even use clippers, just scissors for a cut that was pretty short. An artist indeed, he even had trophies on his walls, Barber trophies. I asked for a shave, but didn’t know enough spanish at the time, so i couldn’t get the straight razor shave here. So my face would have to wait for that immaculate feeling, I had only dreamt about.
A little more than a year later, on the later stages of my trip to Peru and what would turn out to be Bolivia, another opportunity arose. A friend of mine had the idea to get mustaches for the upcoming trip to Bolivia and the last few days of Movember. We found a place a few streets from Avenida del Sol and had it done.
My beard was getting long and itchy anyways, and though I have never been a mustache man, I figured I might as well get one where I knew very few people. It would be less embarrassing that way.
The feeling was amazing. I have never had a shave that was so close and smooth. The blade feels like a massage and the shaving cream is incredibly soothing. I had expected it be mildly painful, but it was more of a soft caress. At the end the Peruvian barber rubbed my face with a moisturizing bar of…something and there was also a hot towel involved.
A week later I got the chance again in La Paz, Bolivia. There is a much smaller tourist to local ratio in La Paz and I was able to find a nice off the path Peluqueria for a 10 boliviano mustache ridding shave. After a week, I couldn’t stand looking at myself without cringing and I also wanted an excuse to get another straight razor shave before my trip was over. There are some differences between the one I found in La Paz and the one in Bolivia. Mainly it was how the skin was handled after the shave. In La Paz, the peluquero rubbed my face with alcohol afterwards to sanitize it. There was no hot towel, but he did rub my face with lotion which was an interesting experience.
It was a fine shave, and while the loss of mustache may have saddened a few patrons at the Adventure Brew Hostal, where I was bar tending, its absence made it a lot easier to look in the mirror.
It is this kind of daily difference that makes life exciting while abroad. Each locale will offer its own unique eccentricities and variations on the common experience. Like the San Pedro Market in Cusco, with everything including the butchers under one giant tent, to the markets in La Paz in the middle of the street, there is always a new way to experience daily life.
Note on Straight Razor Shaves
Unfortunately, for the majority of the last ten years, most places in the United States that I searched had lost the art of the straight razor shave at the barber. It is risky and can be dangerous. Recently, I discovered that there is a surge, a renaissance of sorts, for this time honored tradition. I discovered quite a few places in Portland that are bringing it back.
The Modern Man Barbershop – themodernmanpdx.com
Hair M hairmgrooming.com -includes a face massage
And check out this post from “The Art of Manliness,” blog that waxes philosophical and photographic on the experience.
It is perhaps the best kept secret, from US citizens, in all of South America. There are many reasons why people, especially United States citizens, choose not to go to Bolivia. There are many other interesting places to see, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia. Bolivia has the touristically unlucky proximity to Peru, one of the most famous destinations in South America and Chile and Argentina are two of the most expansive. This makes it easy for people to skip over Bolivia. A visa for US citizens costs 135 dollars. This is a lot of money when traveling abroad. It is more than the weekly allowance of most travelers and it can make it hard to justify the expense. They also have a rarely enforced requirement of a yellow fever vaccination certificate. This is a rule that I have never heard of enforced. For these, and other reasons, people tend to pass over Bolivia when anointing destinations worthy of travel.
This is madness.
Bolivia is home to some of the most beautiful mountainous regions in all of South America. The gigantic city of La Paz sits in the shadow of Huayna Potosi and the Codillera Real unchallenged by altitude. The city itself stands at 12,500 feet or 3640 meters.
La Paz is a city built for trekking tourists. The food is not as good as Cusco, which isn’t really a fair comparison, since Cusco has some of the best food in the area. It is the trekking that you need to take advantage of. Like Cusco, there are agencies everywhere.
Unlike Cusco, the agencies are actually affordable. And the variety of experiences is vast. You can mountain bike down 3,000+ meters, thats right 9,000+ feet) in about 3 hours ride time on the Death Road just outside La Paz. They even have single track mountain biking available for real mountain bikers.
You can climb Huayna Potosi about 6,000 meters.on a multiple day trip.
Also just outside of La Paz. The salt flats at Uyuni beckon, with 1-4 day options. You can paraglide, rappel, and bungee jump all in the same day. There are options to add ziplining and visits to animal refuges to a death road package. Jungle treks are available as well. Let’s not forget a visit to the Island of the sun, the most beautiful island on Lake Titicaca.
Each of these experiences can be done for half or less than the average trek that originates in Cusco. So if you are planning a trip to Peru and you have adventure in mind, visit La Paz. There are many options for Hostals. and your stay will be cheap. You can get by in Bolivia for about half or less of what you would spend for the same things in Cusco. And much less when compared to Chile and Argentina.
I spent the great majority of my 10 week trip in Cusco, but the two weeks I spent in Bolivia were worth it. I spent a week in La Paz. A few of my friends from Cusco came with for the weekend and we had a great time doing the death road trek. We rode mountain bikes from 4,700 meters to about 1,100 meters.
It was incredible. We started in the snow and ended up in the jungle below. The ride was easy and the bikes were pretty decent for the price we paid. With this trek you don’t have to be extravagant, but you can definitely ensure enough safety with a middle of the market priced tour company. The bikes at the bargain places may have issues, so steer clear of those.
While safety isn’t number one on this trek, they do give you plenty of gear to protect you in case of a fall and the guides take picture while you are riding. Tourists are banned from taking photos, because a few unlucky riders have tumbled off the road in the past. But as long as you aren’t an idiot the trek is very safe.
The death road got its name when it was the only road out of La Paz and was used by cars, which it is quite narrow for. There is plenty of room for bikes and there are no cars on the lower half, which includes the old road.
It was nearing the end of my trip, because this was the beginning of December. I was almost out of money. I needed something to help me out a little and I got pretty lucky. As it turns out the hostel I was staying at, The Adventure Brew Hostal in La Paz, trades rooms for bartending service. It makes a lot of sense, because they need people that speak english and a lot of business is done at night in the bar. The hostal is also unique as one of the few places that has a microbrew. The brew, called Saya, is pretty decent when it is not too foamy. It reminds me of simpler NW brews. They have Amber, Negra, Dorada (sort of like a Kolsch), and a lager. When I was there they only had Amber and Dorada. But it was the best beer I had in both Peru and Bolivia. And it actually came from the tap instead of a bottle like the beer in Cusco.
I worked for a week in the bar which made my trip a lot more cost effective. I had 3 night shifts and 2 day shifts, easy. The work was simple, the night shift could be pretty busy, but the day shift was slow. I usually spent most of the day watching movies or UEFA Cup matches. This is a great trade for anyone looking to stay in La Paz for a while longer. You can’t do a lot of trekking because you have to work, but it makes exploration of the city pretty easy. And you meet literally hundreds of people.
After my week in La Paz. I met my food buddy from Cusco, Amy, at the Bus Station and headed to Copacabana with Isla Del Sol in mind. My friend Javier from Argentina was the first person that told me about the island of the sun. After visiting Amantani on the Peruvian side of the lake, I thought that I wouldn’t get the chance to see it. My trip to Bolivia made this small dream a reality. And so I after arriving in Copacabana we ate some food, visited the ATM and boarded the 2 hour boat ride to the island.