Wednesday, August 30, 2006

day of the filet mignon

I just had filet mignon, two pieces, wrapped in bacon with a mushroom sauce, veggies and french fries for less than four dollars. We are staying in a place called the Grand Hotel and it costs less than 15 dollars each night and it is fantastic but hey, let´s get back to the point, I don´t have a lot of time and Wham´s Careless Whispers just started on the internet cafe radio so...

Potosi was insane. There was a festival called Chútillios or something like that with large brass bands with drums and colorful dancers going down the main streets for hours, people drinking the awful local beer like it was their last day on earth. It was somehow related to the festival in Uyuni but much bigger. We stayed in a pension called Compania de Jesus and for 10 bucks we had a nice room but cold with a tv which we could watch the second half of Titanic in Spanish our last night there. We saw so much crazy shit, but stuff that was becoming commonplace, like young boys wanting to shine your shoes, people peeing in the streets and the smell of urine overwhelming you around some corners and the poorest old women you have ever seen wearing the most brightly colored clothes and people with horrible toe nails sticking out of their old sandals. Trust me, I don´t have pretty feet but these people have been through the spiritual ringer. I would feel bad for them but then it would never stop and I would have to give money to all of them or just sit down, overpowered by the discrepancy of the people with some money who have two maids and others who don´t have jack squat and I don´t mean, damn, I have to eat spaghetti again for dinner, I´m talking about kids about 6 years old, after you´ve turned them down for a shoeshine, ask you for 1 Boliviano which is about 12 cents so they can have a coke. We´ve been giving them little candies lately, but mostly to ease our souls.

We went on a mine tour yesterday morning. That might not mean much to you but remember that 8 million people have died in those silver mines over the past 460 years since silver was found just lying around in 1545. One writer called it the ¨mouth of hell¨and for 15 bucks a person, we got a private tour with a guy named Jorge. We went up the hill, bought some coca leaves for the miners, along with soda, pure alcohol and, are you ready for this, dynamite! Apparently it´s the only place in the world where you can buy the stuff and they are indiscriminate about who gets it. We donned yellow rain pants, jacket, boots, helmet and headlamp and went up to the mines. We went inside and had to get out of the way as a boy of about 14 came running by with a wheelbarrow full of dirt. They collect a truckload of the stuff, about 8 tons and get 800 Bolivianos for that. 8 tons of excavated material, mostly zinc and tin and that is worth 100 bucks. They had a small shrine to the devil in there but they called him "uncle" and they gave him offerings of coca leaves and each Friday drank some of that pure alcohol in his honor. He had a relatively large penis and the guide told us there are only men in the mines and that they are machoistas or some other similar Spanish word. Assiyeah just laughed at my big penis line but hey, it was true! We explored a few different holes and would hear footsteps coming through with a faint light and then whoosh, one of the dudes would go by with a wheelbarrow.

We had lunch at the market, some soup and chicken and soda for a buck total and then waited at the bus station for the Dutch guys who never showed and so we ended up getting a taxi to Sucre with a nice Italian couple. Our brakes were having problems halfway into the 2 hour ride and it sounded like the brake pads were worn down but hey, what do I know? We got into town almost 3 hours after beginning and met our host, Wolfgang but he was already full with guests so he was nice enough to take us downtown to look at a few rooms before deciding on Hostal Vera Cruz for 120 Bolivianos per night, 15 dollars. It was nice enough, with cable tv but then, after a fitful night sleep, we got ready to shower and bam, no hot water. We packed up, walked back to Wolfgang´s and after some coffee and bread, his partner made a phone call for us and we headed back down the hill to our now super charming hotel right in the center but we have yet to try the hot water so cross your fingers!

We have another day here and then on Thursday we are flying to La Paz. There ain´t too much more to add, or rather a shitload more and I wanted to surf the net a bit before our time is up. I´ll be in touch! peace...

p.s. Assiyeah got a kick out of Bush´s speech for Katrina victims and survivors yesterday when he said, "I was struck by the beauty of the beaches." Indeed....

Saturday, August 26, 2006

day of the sunrise

How does one sum up the past four days? Well, we left Tupiza at 9am on Tuesday was it and slowly left the smallish town and soon were climbing improbably on bumpy dirt roads, something that would become more than just a theme on this journey to the fabled gringo trail experience that is known as Salar de Uyuni. The first day was not so oh my god interesting but involved 7 hours of driving higher and higher and then lower and seeing some llamas in our path and basically being out in the absolute middle of nowhere and concentrating on our breathing. Those folk with us were Geraldo and Cristina, our driver and cook who were a couple and had been doing this relatively epic journey 3 times a month for the past 4 years, Alan from the US, Chris and Selena from England and Sylvian from France and of course Miss Assiyeah. The 8 of us were squeezed into a Bill Clinton-still-smoking-pot-era Toyota Landcruiser painted pea green and somehow devoid of the kind of shock one would think necessary on an journey through a country that has ten percent of its roads paved. We have yet to see one really since entering the country but that´s neither here nor there. We were puttering along, quoting movies, speaking mostly in English with some Spanish sprinkled in and about an hour to dusk we´ll pulled into our accomodations for the evening.

Picture yourself in the winter time at 14,000 feet in a valley, a village with a few hundred hearty inhabitants clinging under the wing of a mountain just hundreds of feet higher than they receiving visitors. It sounds rustic, doesn´t it. The few kids we saw were playing soccer on the basketball court somehow as we were getting winded just walking around lazily trying to soak in how remote from reality we were. We saw our room. The 6 of us were to sleep in a dorm room which is fine. It was already getting cold. The room was cold. The walls were white, the beds spartan but Cristina, who was to become a taken for granted little savior on our trip soon appeared with choices of hot tea and coffee, some crackers and cookies. No heater. Some blankets arrived. Our dinner was Milanesa, which is a pounded meat that is breaded and fried and mashed potatoes. About an hour after that the lights went out. They didn´t come on until 7pm, a time we had been reading, drinking, talking by one candlelight and the far off glow of Chris´Ipod and small speakers and poof, they came on. Three hours later they were gone and we were in the dark. A good thing too, because we had to wake up at 6am the next day.

I had slept in long johns top and bottom, sweats, a tshirt and my jacket, gloves (which I had bought from a woman who had knocked on our door the previous evening wanting about 2 bucks for some wool gloves she had made) and my beanie. Come morning I was warm but not doing too hot. After going to the bathroom, my visited extended itself. I got on all fours and prayed to the porcelain god. This was my first real experience with elevation sickness, an experience I was to repeat two more times in the next 8 hours during our day. I was sort of okay in the morning for the first couple of hours of our driving, past a village that had been abandoned in the 16th century after gold was found and then past some more small remote villages, with just quick glimpses of almost empty dusty streets with the one story houses made of an adobe the same color as the streets and a woman with a heavy load or a curious child watching us go by, sometimes waving back as we dusted his view of the future.

Then it happened again at a checkpoint which put me down for the count and then when we got to the thermal baths, I opted to ¨sleep¨for an hour while everyone enjoyed hot water and ate and as soon as it was time to go, I went outside about 10 feet away and yakked again. Three times the charm baby. The rest of the day is just a blur of missed photo opportunities with cool names, like Laguna Verde and something something Geysers.

Our accomodations that night had a heater in the main room. It was a step up like Eastern Europeans in the early 1900s making their way to start Hollywood felt like a step up. The walls were painted, but I couldn´t enjoy any of it, I was just lying on my bed the whole night and even slept in my jeans without brushing my teeth that night. It was a rough day.

Day 3 started much better, after being hot sleeping and waking up at 3.30 and realizing I had 3 more hours to sleep, we had breakfast and packed up the bags and drove about 15 minutes to Laguna Colorada, a shallow lake with high red mountains around it and borax (stuff used in soaps I think) piled up like little icebergs throughout and flamingoes. I swear to god you would never in a million years picture flamingoes in such a god forsaken place but there were 3 kinds even and we took a bunch of photos of them. Got more chances too, I hope they came out good. I was doing better that day and enjoyed the Rock Tree thingy we visited next, a large rock the size of a big truck but shaped differently that was yes, shaped like a tree, with the heavy end of the rock up in the air. There were other rocks in the area and it was interesting to see such an array of stuff in one general area. All dirt roads, don´t forget, some with rocks the size of watermelons placed like Uboat mines throughout, their smaller but devlish cousins even more frequent.

We had lunch at a place that translated to ¨bad smell lake¨from the sulfur I think and more flamingoes! We had our roughest and bumpiest stretch of the trip as we glimpsed our first salt flat but it took us almost twenty minutes to bump and hop and jump and tilt and carefully baby us past the rocks and uncomfortable angles to the salt flat and then bam, it was smooth as a baby´s but. Too bad it only lasted about 15 minutes and then bumpy again. We passed through a village at 4pm and then by 5.30pm were in our last accomodation, a small charming village on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, all 12,000 square meters of it. We snapped some shots, tried to shower in the absolutely blistering hot water and had a spaghetti dinner and were in bed sometime after 10pm.

We were awakened at 5.15am and were soon driving on the Salar de Uyuni which is a salt flat fairly slowly as the reddening to our right got bigger and bigger. We stopped to snap some shots, then a bit later for the actual sunrise and got some sweet shots, the kind that go on the front page of the photo album afterwards and then visited the Isla del Pescado, so called because from the air it is shaped like a fish. It was a nice little 45 minute leisurely hike around cactus and ancient coral and then we went to the Salt Hotel, where the whole place was made of salt! I forgot to mention that our last night´s accomodations had beds made of salt (no, not the blankets and pillows silly, but the bed frames and what we basically slept on that was underneath that mattress and there was salt on the floor or rather, was the floor)! It was crazy seeing whole rooms made of salt with bright South American blankets on the beds. We then went outside and started taking crazy pictures because there is no sense of perspective on the salt flat so we got someone to go 50 yards away and then act like they were hanging on the arm of someone else that was standing closer to the camera. You get the picture. We were like kids with a new toy. A quick finish of the salt lake which included highlights of Chris´determination to pick a good-sized salt crystal from one of the small holes with water in it and after lunch, we got dropped off in Uyuni, we being Assiyeah and I, in front of a closed tourist office in a windy, dusty, barren looking place. Ciao, adios to our new friends and now what.

We looked for the nice hotel that I had promised Assiyeah. Booked. We walked around the corner and found a nice place for 20 bucks, including breakfast and hot water. Hey can´t take that for granted. Then it turns out that today is the biggest day of the year for this village of 15,000 people (as fireworks just went off outside the internet cafe door again, the bass drum and horns fading out as a new set will fade in within a minute or so), a festival to their patron saint or the virgin for this town, it´s hard to say. I got some money at the Western Union and we checked out the brightly clad teenagers and kids, wearing what looked like where coats with dragons embroidered, or cowboy boots and special dressed for the day or panda bears or god, it´s just too weird. We took a taxi out to the Cemetery of Trains, the first set of trains that were in South America and now they´re all rusted and graffiti but make good pictures, came back and watched more of the parades, just had a fat dinner for the two of us which included a pitcher of fresh squeezed orange juice, steak with mashed potatoes, chicken and french fries and a hot chocolate for Assiyeah, all for about 10 dollars including tip.

Tomorrow we are off to Potosi, the highest city in the world at 4,000 meters. You do the math. We´ll be in touch. My lips are chapped, I´m exhausted but glad to have just experienced this and brought to you in your homes or wherever you are. Cheers.

Monday, August 21, 2006

day of the lip

My lip is f*cked. I got like a sun and wind blister on it and it looks like I got me some herpes! haha

We are in Bolivia and there is quite a bit to tell. I had a photo exhibition two nights ago in Tilcara, Argentina. There were 7 pictures in the cafe/bar and we had homemade gnocchi for dinner and met some people from spain and finally around midnight the place got packed and some live music started. I sold one of my photos to an architect from Madrid named Rowina. Unfortunately she couldn't take the photo with her because our host in Tilcara/owner of the bar where we were in wanted that one and so I will have to mail it to her in October. She got a steal, just 10 bucks for it but I just wanted to make a sale and also things are much cheaper in Argentina. The live music was like an Argentine Jack Johnson and it was fantastic. Too bad we had to leave at 1.45am because we had a bus in the morning.

Our bus left at 11am and we travelled across highlands, pampa I guess it's called, about 10,000 feet and it's hard to believe that people exist in that element but we saw some settlements along the way and wihtout much hoopla we arrived in La Quiaca, the border town with Argentina and Bolivia. Immediate a young boy asked if we wanted a guide across the border. I said, heh? I went inside to ask the tourist office about walking across the border and she gave us info and then I asked about the little kids asking us about guiding us across the border and she said that they only want to rob you. Oh thanks, I said.

We met an English girl who wanted to walk across the border with us. She's been travelling for a year and a half and it was amazing to hear her casual explanations of places she's been. Then we got the chance to meet another girl, this one from Australia while we were all waiting in the line to cross the border. This will officially go down as the slowest border of all time! It took about 90 minutes for a 45-person line to get through and all the while these little boys of 6 or 8 years old are asking us for food, money, to help us. Piss off, was basically my answer. I try and have compassion but piss off was still my answer.

We walked across a small bridge that had a sign, one sign which said Argentina and the other Bolivia and I thought that was cool. We crossed the border and walked up a tiring hill to the bus station. Just as we were getting close, a piece of shit looking bus stop, yelling out Tupiza. Tupiza! That's where we were going. Hey, are there still seats for us, I asked. Of course, she said and we got on the bus but people were sitting on the arm rests and had to get out of our seats when we got on. Not really sure what that was all about but it was a dirt road. 90% of the roads in Bolivia are unpaved and it felt like a constant jiggle with the occasional bump of major proportions because of a lack of suspension. We also got a flat tire about an hour into the journey, which last 3 hours and cost 1.25dollars.

We got to Tupiza, walked to the hostel, got our room, walked around this quiet town that is at 3.400 meters and we had dinner at a place called California. I ate llama meat and it was pretty good! I took a long hot shower last night and slept like a rock, something I needed dearly and today the weather is beautiful and we just booked our first tour of the trip!

We will go on the Salar de Uyuni jeep trip for 4 days and 3 nights. All the food, drink, hotels *if you can call them that*, entrances into the national park and driving for 100bucks per person. We are going with the English girl we crossed the border with, a guy from Colorado and a dude from English who were on our bus yesterday from the border and a guy from France I think.

My lip, as i said, is dry as hell and for the rest of the day we are going to buy some warmer clothes because it is going to be freezing in our cheap basic accomodations they called it and some lip stuff. I may not be able to give an update for a few days but at least you know why.

Check ya later!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

day of the humahuaca

Howdy from Tilcara! What a place, it reminds me of an old Arizona mining town. None of the roads are paved, there are about 5000 people here and I just saw my host walking past the internet cafe on his way to his bar, a charming little place called Los Tientos.

It was strange, leaving the civilization of Salta and a wonderful beautiful house and getting to what is essentially a village on a road that leads from civilization to the middle of nowhere. Our host, Josema, is a super nice guy and we had beers and Italian food at his bar last night. He also showed us coca leaves and how you chew them to help with the elevation. We didn´t quite get it right but we´ll try again tonight. Don´t worry ma, it ain´t cocaine, okay?

We took a bus to Humahuaca today, about an hour away, another of these villages further down the road to nowhere (actually bolivia). It was much more touristy with paved roads and all but we had a great time.

I may actually have a photo exhibition tonight in Josema´s bar, it´s not for sure but we talked about it last night and it could be fun, that is if I can stay up late enough. We ate dinner at 11.15pm last night and people didn´t start coming to his bar until about midnight!

My lips are chapped, I bought some of my first real souvenirs today, a small silver ring because I lost my black o-ring in Salta, a cool woven belt and also a small tapestry to hang on the wall.

We are off to Bolivia tomorrow, pretty exciting. This trip is not easy but I am enjoying every single second of it, especially because of moments like earlier when we asked for directions to visit the pre-Inca ruins above the village and ended up having homemade yoghurt and granola snack there. HmmmmMmmmmm. The people have less in general and in a way it makes them much more willing to give everything. I like that, it is really inspiring.

Much love to ya´ll, go Dodgers!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Day of Publication

guess what? I got published today. It is not a big thing and it won"t even cover the first payment on that car I do not even need but still, my problems the German authorities have finally begun to bear fruit and boy oh boy are they tasty, kind of a mix of Bundesliga meets Mr. Beamter. If you do not get the silliness at that attempt at humor then you do not live in Germany.

Anyhoo, go to www.expatica.com, choose, Germany as the country of choice and then to Relocation where the article should be displayed with the fairly alarming title, Screwed by the System.

Enjoy. Off to Tilcara today and by Sunday afternoon we should be in Bolivia, the 30th country I will have visited. For any students reading this blog, that was correct usage of the future PERFECT (edited from ´present´because I can be stupid at times! hahaha)tense. Learn it, live it, know it. By the time I come back, you will have learned it, right? Look I did it again.

Adios

Thursday, August 17, 2006

day of the dog

We have had a day and a half in Salta, a wonderful colonial town without a whole bunch to do but that's okay. We had to change buses on the way here and it was a cold day and it felt like our time in the sun was over, so to speak. When we arrived here in Salta, we took a taxi to Dieter's house which was about 5 minutes away. We were a bit shocked, to say the least, when it appeared that they had the nicest house in town. He greeted us, introduced us to his wife, Carola and son Sebastian and then showed us to our room which was at least as nice if not nicer than any place we have ever stayed at with hospitalityclub. We felt like we had just stolen the opposing team's mascot and were harboring it at the Waldorf Astoria. We were happy.

We grabbed some stuff, aka camera, guidebook and some water and walked into the center of town which was about 8 blocks away. It was still gray and so not perfect for taking pictures but we got a glimpse at the church on the main squre, with it's glorious sun-like gold statue way in the back and the warm blue and mauve colors that pervaded the celings between the arches. As mass was underway, we didn't stay too long to investigate so we went outside to get our bearings. A young guy walked up to us and was pointing at my shoes, half laughing. He was a shoeshiner named Alexander and he had chosen the most creative way to get me to have him shine my shoes. Apparently he was 17 years old and and already had a child. When he learned we were from Germany, the price changed from 3 pesos to 3 euro. We of course didn't find it as funny as he did, because he knew he was joking.

We checked out the busy shopping streets near the main square and then discovered an extremely obvious but beautiful church down one of the streets leading away from the main plaza, the Iglesia San Francisco. An extremely ancient woman informed us the church was still closed for siesta and would open in an hour or so. All right. We were hungry and didn't get very far. There was a restaurant kitty korner from the church that had an all you could eat buffet for less than 6 bucks. We ended up chosing other things from the menu and what good choices we made. It was one of our best meals that Assiyeah and I have ever while traveling on our own. It was so good we took the leftovers with us.

I lost most of this post and was able to recover a small part so here is what I have the energy to retype:

I fell asleep early last night and so of course was up early today. We had a great breakfast, like a German Sunday breakfast while on holiday, slow and leisurely with the all important coffee. We dropped off some postcards, went to the cable car which took us up on the hill overlooking the city, later had some empanadas, a nice second breakfast in a way with coffee, croissants and OJ for a buck fifty, walked around a lot, went to the city's historical museum where we saw old pre-columbian stuff, carriages, weapons and oil paintings of early local leaders.

We checked out the church again and were after accosted by two different shoe shiners, one being a bigger asshole than the other. The red and gold Iglesia San Francisco was full of people and most of them seemed to have dogs. Never did find out why. I bought some sole supports because we'd been walking so much and on the way home we bought 3 avocados, an envelope to mail our roommate's birthday gift and a birthday card. We ate the leftovers tonight and are just chilling now. Sorry for the abruptness but I just had no desire to really get into it again after I'd typed some fascinating takes on a nice place in the NW Argentina. Okay, maybe it was fascinating but we'll never know now, will we?

ciao

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

day 18

at a small internet cafe by our host´s house and only have a few minutes. Nothing to add, actually but life is good here, we have really had a good time on this trip and it is hosts like we had in Asuncion and here in Tucuman that seem to make this place seem less, well, strange. It´s the same as america and europe in the respect that as a tourist you walk around, take pictures, sit and have a coffee, write postcards, eat something, go to a museum, take a taxi, watch people, the whole nine yards but the people here are used to living with much less than where I am from. It makes me feel a bit guilty in a way, me coming from the suburbs between LA and San Diego, essentially having everything a person could ever want in life, seriously, everything and even my childhood was relatively normal for that area. It has made me appreciate where I am from, where I live now in Germany and maybe that is one of the main reasons to travel, to remember how good you have it back home.

Oh yeah, I got an email from the Foreign Authority today, they have granted me another 90 days until the end of November, telling me that my case is on the back burner until then. That´s great because I will be in the middle of all of my work at that time and not only will it be difficult for me to get to the Foreign Authority to discuss this with them because I will be working so much but it is very hard to believe that they will try and make me leave in the middle of a semester. I may even tell my companies, the ones that know about my problem that I will work for free during this time and if everything works out then I will ask for back pay but just to make a statement. This is one of the first times in my life that I have something to really fight for and I feel righteous for doing it. I´m sure they´re not trying to screw up my life, they just want to follow the law but sometimes that is the problem with laws, people only see them in black and white and not the gray area where my case falls squarely in the middle of.

Anyhoo, much love wherever you are, please tell other people to read the blog, we are all living lives and that is the most important thing. Much love and peace!

jason

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Day of the Child

We have arrived in Tucuman, Argentina and you´ve missed a few days so I´ll try and get ya caught up as quickly as possible.

On Friday we went to Aregua, a resort on a lake a little more than an hour from Asuncion. You can never imagine what it is like to leave that city, it never ends and it is tire shop after fruit seller after clothing store after tire shop over and over again, the bus drivers living their fourth or fifth of their lives with us in the back along for the ride.

We got there, after having driving down a dirt road for awhile. We got off at the church and I swear once the dust settled there was nothing except the church there that we had asked to be let off at. We walked down a dusty street selling the worst kind of ceramic frogs and stuff but at the end of the street was a small place selling fresh juices so we had one of orange and one of strawberry and two little pizzas. The lady was really nice and it felt great to get out of the sun for a bit. We finally walked down towards the lake and there bought some fruit from a lady and then walked to the back of her small house and there was an old lady she spoke to in Guarani who was painting small ceramic vessels. We bought one to give to our host in Asuncion, I snapped some photos and then we continued walking, past a couple of dead trains and finally the water. It wasn´t safe to swim in but nice to relax next for an hour and then we bought two large bottles of water and took the bus back into town, following the sunset the whole way, watching the day squirm itself into night.

We relaxed at Vivian´s for a bit and then when she got back, we went to dinner at the Paraguayan version McDonalds called Pancholos and then to a disco called Orishas where some cocktails were free and large beers served in champagne buckets cost less than a buck. We danced some salsa and were amazed at how some of the people could dance, absolutely unreal!

The next day we were leaving Paraguay, on the bus to Resistencia and there the waiting began. It was intense how long we had to wait at the border. The bus inched forward, as if unsure of if it wanted to cross, almost an hour sat there and then we got in one line at the Paraguyan exit, another to get the passports back, then another line to enter Argentina and then we had to get our bags off the bus and put them through an Xray machine. While waiting, we met a dude from Freiburg and also two American girls who had just finished their stints in the Peace Corps. We barely made our connection in Resistencia and we got on our nice bus to take us to Tucuman and the first thing we noticed was some chicks smelly socks, dammmmmn, it was like a guy´s locker room in the summertime. And that we were getting no food so we bought some at a quick stop two hours later only to be given food by the bus company about 3 minutes after that. It was airline style food and we had a couple of bites and threw it away because we weren´t hungry anymore.

We slept and I sweat in the leather seats and slept and we woke up at 7.30 this morning in Tucuman. Our host, Bernardo, was there to pick us up, god bless his heart and he brought us to his parent´s house. We have our own beds in a private room and his mom made us breakfast and then his dad drove us around town. He showed us the first sugar plant here in the area and then drove us into the hills for a view but it was gray and overcast so we came back. We bought some strawberries from a dude on the street, went home and I took pictures of the largest pig across the street from Bernardo´s house. Some gypsies live there and they were really interested in us being from Germany. And then we were invited to a going away barbecue of an old childhood friend of Bernardo´s who is going to Spain for two months on Thursday. We feasted on empanadas, I had my first mate, a hot tea drink the people are crazy for here and then we ate so much meat you wouldn´t believe it. there were about 15 pounds of beef and sausage for 25 people and salads and then cake, fantastic!

Now we´re in the city center, it is getting dark and we want to see the end of the Dia Del Niño, the day of the child. The park is full of kids playing soccer, eating stuff, with balloons and toys and parents and people selling popcorn and cotton candy and it is pretty fascinating. All right, gotta get going while it is still light, I will be in touch soon!

adios!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day Asuncion

We are in Paragauy, simply said. Crossing the borders of Argentina to Brazil and Brazil to Paraguay were insane, running off the bus, showing passports, running back on the bus, the only reason our seats were saved were because we had big backpacks on them. We crossed into Paraguay and then I remembered that I might need to go to the immigration. Ya see, they crossed in a good hundred yards and the driver yelled out Centro Commercial and it dawned on me, hmm, we´re in Paraguay but no one controlled us. There were motorcycles and people on foot, nefarious looking folk selling anything that wasn´t nailed down. I don´t have time to get into it but we walked back, got stamped in and bargained with a taxi driver to take us the bus terminal. I was pretty sure he was driving us to a secluded area to rob and kill us but then the bus terminal appeared from nowhere.

We were about to buy tickets for a bus that was leaving in 3hours but then a dude kept yelling Asuncion and so we got on. the 5 hour journey cost 8 dollars. We stopped often and people would get on the bus trying to sell bread or sandwiches and sweets, newspapers. We bought two hard breads and later a sandwich from a person outside who shows their wares to people in the windows. Quite a system. The bus ended up getting packed. I saw a hundred pictures I could have taken of rural Paraguayan life, mostly shacks selling stuff and people sitting outside chilling in the shade and sipping their mate tea.

We arrived in Asuncion, changed money and took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi needed 4 attempts to start. We found the hotel, it cost 16.82 dollars a night roughly of course, but that price was 90,000 guaranies. We went out to a nice dinner that cost us a total of 15 bucks, saw some Mennonites in there and the owners spoke German. There´s a big presence of Germans here, well more like from 100 years ago but it was cool. We went to the Britannia pub that was having 2 for 1 drink specials and for 3 dollars including the tip we got two pina coladas. We walked back to our room and relaxed and I think I fell asleep by 9.30 or 10pm I was so tired from the day. I slept badly, and was awake at 6.30am. I went out to get us some breakfast and was able to pay in dollars. You can pay with guaranies, argentine pesos, brazilian real, euro and dollars here, is that insane or what?

We had coffee in the room and then walked around awhile, finding the slums and shanty towns behind the government buildings. I got my shoes shined for a buck, bought two leather bookmarks because I´m trying to buy only small things now and wait for the end of the trip to buy bigger stuff. We saw the president´s house and apparently he was on the move when we walked by because there were military dudes everywhere and secret service looking folk. They were still sipping their mate teas however.

We got Assiyeah a new battery for her camera and then found the internet shop. A buck an hour. We´re meeting a girl from Asuncion who can host us the next two nights. I already paid for tonight so I´m not sure about getting the money back but maybe she can help us. Sorry this seems so rushed, we´re meeting her soon and we´re starving. This is probably the least touristy place I have ever been with the exception of Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine but it´s a tight race.

All is well, we´re a bit under the weather but we´re on an adventure. My folks left yesterday, I think they´re on the plane home to LA now, we had a blast with them and they would be a bit shocked to see how much different our lifestyle is when they´re not around. My folks would not like this place too much, there´s nothing to do per se but I´m taking photos and enjoying myself nonetheless.

Much love ya´ll, we´ll be in touch!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Day Brazil

I visited my 28th country today! We have been busy and there is lots to tell but time is short so we´ve got to get to it.

Yesterday we woke up, had a nice breakfast and went for a walk to the visitor center at Igauzu. It was mostly large green foliaged pictures with drawings of animals and butterflies that we may or may not encounter along the way and soon we were on a slow moving train (5 miles an hour) to the Garguanta del Diablo which means Devil´s Throat. We had to change trains for some mysterious reason and then had to walk a little more than a kilometer over some catwalks that were over water and drying rock. Apparently the water levels of the Igauzu River are at their lowest in 37 years but it dídn´t really detract. We saw two small crocodiles, some cool colored birds, a turtle and then the falls, which were pretty breath taking. It was a perch overlooking the edge and on one side was filled with mist so people over there were looking frizzy and covering camera lens.

On the way back, we saw a bunch of young girls taking pictures with two dudes from Australia, pretty classic. Then we met two people sitting on the train with us, Aaron and Rachel, he from London and she from Sweden. They were the first couple roughly our age that we had met on the trip so far and we bonded with them. there was a brief embarrassing moment after we got off the train because all those same young girls were calling my name with my mom trying to contain her laughter behind them. They wanted a picture with us.

Then all six of us (Rachel, Aaron, Assiyeah, my parents and me, not the young girls) went to the hotel for a nice lunch and then we all took the shuttle into town. My folks and Assiyeah and I wandered around a bit, mom buying an ornament for the Xmas tree and then we left them and met up with Rachel and Aaron. Aaron, if I´m spelling your name wrong, sorry dude, didn´t know how to spell. We bought some liters of beer and the cheapest bottle of vodka in the history of my world, about 1.65 US dollars for 3/4 liter and a 3 liter coke bottle. We walked back to their hostel and sat outside in the charming, candlelit courtyard and had some drinks and great conversation while rock music blared pleasantly into the night. Our remisse, a word meaning private taxi, took us back to the hotel before midnight.

Today we were up at breakfasted and got a driver named Omar to take us to Brazil. It was without complications and it was great to see the other side of the falls, a completely different view and with more commercial opportunities, almost too much but better than the nothing at the Argentine side. We had a great lunch with an even better view while there. I got an awesome photo of a lizard eating a butterfly and we saw some raccoon like animals called Cuanti getting into the trashcans and basically making a scene for all to enjoy. We laid out at the pool for a bit when we got back and plan to chill out tonight.

I learned today that we may need to pay 65 dollars for a visa to Paraguay so that plan has been thrown up into the air. So either we´re going to Asuncion OR Posadas, Argentina next. I´ll keep ya updated. Oh yeah, we saw some monkeys by the hotel today!

ciao!

Friday, August 04, 2006

day 8

We´re off to Puerto Igauzu today, to explore some famous waterfalls, though they may not be as impressive because of drought, and do a daytrip to Brazil to see the falls from the other side.

Yesterday we wanted to visit Teatro Colon but the tours were booked out so we walked around to Palacio del Congresso then took a taxi over to Museum of Bellas Artes and saw a good mix of European and Argentine art. We had a good lunch at an old school place called Munich. It was in a touristy restaurant area but the only one without outdoor seating and it looked closed but it was in our guidebook and you could see the people inside were surprised to see us, or my hair. I can never tell anymore!

We visited the national church of Argentina and then the famous cemetery Recoleta where Evita and all of Argentina´s famous people are ostentatiously buried. You have never seen such a collection of hugely ornate tombs and sarcophagi, it was disgusting in a way. For dinner, we went to a nice cafe called King Castro and then Assiyeah and I went to the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires, from 1858 called Cafe Tortoni. They had a tango show but we didn´t go.

I could add quite a bit more but people are waiting for me. There is only one computer in the hotel, ya know? But some thoughts about Buenos Aires. There is quite a bit to do here, the taxi drivers have all, with one exception, not screwed us with the price of the ride and they have all been 5 dollars or less which is amazing when you think that it costs 3.50 dollars in Freiburg just to sit in the taxi!

A shitload of dogs and well, their by product, and a chaos that we were removed from because we´re travelling this week with the folks. Buses of all colors going all directions at all times, people running across the street recklessly, 3 taxis in 2 lanes´worth of traffic, people searching through the trash at every corner at night for god knows what. I think they´re looking for bottles and stuff to sell back but a taxi driver told us they´re looking for food. This just a couple of blocks from the ritzy hotel we´re staying in.

Oh yeah, our waiter yesterday at Munich was 78 years old and had been working at the restaurant 33 years. That´s longer than I´ve been alive. And that is something about the city. There are parts of the city that feel like they have not changed one iota in years and years and it doesn´t feel like 2006 here somehow. That´s difficult to explain but it just as easily be 1985 here.

I need to finish packing and figure out what to do with my photos because the ones I sent to cuzco, peru have not shown up which means I´m going to have to carry a tube worth of photos for the next 6 weeks. Joy, but hey, this was my idea, my plan and I´ve got to live with it. Remember, I´m trying to take this photography thing to the next level, including having a ton of write offs for what I´m attempting and so I´ve got to go the whole nine yards. We´ve gone a little more than a yard a this point so it´s time to put on my squeaky shoes, drink some water, brush my teeth and think about our day...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

day anger

howdy folks,

I only have a few minutes because some lady is waiting to use the internet here at the hotel, the same lady who used it for 30 minutes while I was waiting for her yesterday!

We went to an all you can eat restaurant last night, 11.33dollars per person and it had amazing food and a small pitcher of your desired drink was included, as was dessert. The most amazing aspect was that there was a huge corral of people in the waiting area, approximately 40 or so at 10.30pm waiting to eat!

Pops and I played golf yesterday, the cheapest golf course he´s ever played. It was less than 7 dollars to play and we played as a twosome and had no one behind us the whole day, it was fantastic.

More importantly, and why the title of this post is day anger, is because yesterday I got an email from the Auslanderbehorde telling me that my request for a work permit extension has been denied. Their answer was convoluted and contradictory to what my case worker there told me a couple of weeks ago. He had, in effect, told me that it was in the bag and that he was just waiting for something in writing, and then this email comes. I am pissed and angry and I´ve already got some people working on it for me. Somehow this is going to be a big mistake for them. They´re lucky as hell seeing as that I am far away for the next seven weeks and I wonder if that was part of their reasoning for sending it to me now. To their credit, they did email it to me because they knew I was gone but I only have until the first of September to respond. I will not be able to retain a lawyer from such a distance and my first response to them will be to that effect.

Other things of note: we visited the Evita museum yesterday, saw the Japanese garden. I will tell you more of what we´ve been up to but mostly wanted to give you all a chance for some update. You can probably feel that I´m rushed right now, my fingers are flying across the keyboard like a 70´s secretary but this lady with her fake lips is on my back and well, no me gusta!

I keep learning more spanish words everyday and it amazes me how much assiyeah understands. It´s so cute to hear her speaking too, especially because when we first met in greece, she and I tried to speak a whole day in spanish. we only made it until 3pm but we tried, right?

I´ll keep ya´ll updated on everything but keep your fingers crossed. The German government just told me that my way of life, the way of life that has let me thrive for the past three and a half years is over and I´m trying to tell them, nope, you´re wrong, but in a smart, calm logical way, a very difficult emotion to represent when dealing with all of this stuff.

Oh yeah, Assiyeah got a new haircut yesterday and it looks great!

ciao