Saturday, June 30, 2007

RENdom Photo of the Day

India has the second largest population in the world at 1.1 billion. It also has the largest employer in the world, Indian Railways which has a staff of 1.6 million workers.
A snake charmer in Varanasi, IndiaHe's known as a man of the people, a freedom fighter, but........Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Friday, June 29, 2007

RENdom Photo of the Day

In many cultures around the world, it's considered rude to shake hands with your left hand, always shake with your right. This is because the left is used for wiping after going to the toilet.
the sun sets in Torres del Paine, Chile
Speaking of right hand men, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

RENdom Photo of the Day

Did you know that the official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar? If you pay in dollars, they'll give you change in either Ecuadorean coins, or US coins, or a combination of both. There's only two other countries in the world (not counting former US territories) that have officially adopted the American Dollar. If you can name them, I'll give you a cookie.
Local Ecuadorean kids at a cloudforest hostel I volunteered at in Las Palmas, Ecuador

I can't remember, but has anyone seen our favorite Latin American, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back by popular demand - RENdom Photo of the Day

All of those surveyed agree, they would like to see the RENdom Photo of the Day return to this blogsite (based on 3 people surveyed, names withheld per owner's request). And with a total of 17,632 photos taken on my last trip, that's an equivalent of 48.27 years of photos (also factors in leap year), certifying that these Photos of the Day will outlive a few of us old fogies. Also, there will be fun (up for opinion) and interesting (guaranteed more intriguing than watching paint dry) facts with each of these entries. Sometimes these facts will relate to the photo, most of the time, they'll just be plain gibberish nonsense. So without further adieu, let's give a warm welcome back to today's photo of the day:
The beautiful golden Buddhist Temples in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

In Burma, they smoke these cigarettes called cholots, which is tobacco wrapped in banana leaves and stuck together with honey. You know who introduced this one to the natives? None other than Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm a mess

I arrived in Oakland Saturday night at about 8:30 PM. Taxiing to the gate, I could see the San Francisco skyline in the distance against a light auburn sky. Unusual, no fog. My heart was racing, and I felt this general uneasiness running through my body. The plane suddenly felt cramped and claustrophobic as I was struggling to find my breath. I took the BART to San Francisco, and when I got outside in the Civic Center, I felt like I was hyperventilating or was about to faint. I was finally home......yet it felt strangely foreign to me. Everything is the same here as when I left it, but it felt different.
Maybe I'm the one who has changed?
Walking in the cool San Francisco air with my backpack for the last time felt like a strange dream. I felt like I was outside of myself, floating above watching this traveller stumbling along, confused and puzzled by his surroundings. When I arrived home to an empty void of a room, that is when emotional overload and confusion nearly broke me down. I was both overwhelmed and sad. Overwhelmed at having to piece back my room, to piece back what seems like a former life. I felt like a detective re-enacting the scene of a crime with fragmented clues of my past. I felt sad because now it really feels like the trip is really over. Emptying the contents of my backpack felt like putting a good friend to rest in its final resting place. I dealt with this emotional breakdown the best way I know how. I went out and got drunk.
Maybe I haven't changed?
I'm glad I was in San Francisco for only 36 hours. The slow assimilation is helping me blend back into society as I knew it. I did have a chance to meet up with some old friends. A few were genuinely happy to see me and hear about my trip, and I love them for that. For others, the conversation was awkward at best. It seemed like the conversations were the same as when I left. A one-sided outpouring of the usual old fare, I'm having this problem with my bf/gf, or so and so and so said this and that, or blah blah blah me me me. When I spoke it was just a pause for them to catch their breath before the next complaint/gossip session. When I spoke about my trip, at times it felt like a methodical job interview, more than it did a conversation amongst friends. I don't know why I sometimes feel comfortable amongst strangers in a foreign land than amongst my own people. I felt like running far, far away. But that shouldn't come as a surprise since most people are the same as when I left. In all fairness it's not something that many people can relate to - taking a year off.
Maybe I'm the one who has changed?

But don't feel sorry for me. I put myself in this position. And don't feel angry towards me. Many people tell me they're jealous, or I'm so lucky, or I'm so spoiled. But no, this was something I badly need to do, and I took all the necessary steps and sacrifice to make it happen. I'm just going through the withdrawal phase right now, trying to deal with this 'strangeness' that has overtaken me. And it seems like nobody understands what I'm feeling unless they've had the same gap year experience.
Maybe I'm the one who has changed?
If anybody knows of a Gap Year Anonymous or a Vagabondaholics support group, I'd love to hear about it. But right now, I'm in the east coast splitting time between the folks house in New Jersey and visting friends in New York City.
On a hunch, I think in NYC, I might finally find out, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 11::Life Back in the United States of America ...

I'm having a hard time adjusting back to life in America. Even though my passport says I'm an American, in some ways, it's the most foreign place I've been to.
Everything here is so big.
Bigger cars, bigger highways, bigger mega-mall shopping centers, bigger portions of food, big industrial, feed a family of 100, size bag of potato chips, bigger people......
It seems that 'bigger is better' is the m.o. of this place.
Bigger, faster, flashier, more not less, image first, liability, lawsuits, play to win, no room for second place, marketing strategies, second quarter losses, a pill for everything, cure-alls, no need for exercise diet pills, purple-pill side-effects, disposable everything, astronomical gas prices, is it really a cultural wasteland, guaranteed weight-loss diet programs, instantaneous microwavable 5 minute dinners, anti-aging reality bending wondercream, paris hilton-britney spears-angelina jolie-enough already, 1001 television channels, news programs with 3 screens-2 scrolling ticker tapes-and the yap yap yap of 2 arguing pundits, beeping blinking gadgets..........and cars. Soooo many cars. So many one passenger cars stuck in traffic, just sitting there, not moving, windows closed, all by themselves, one after another.
This is the overstimulation my mind has been going through, leading to a near mental breakdown. But this isn't a rant about hating America. More of just me and my body adjusting to a new foreign experience, similar to adjusting to malaria biting mosquitos in the Amazon.......My first 10 days back has been spent in southern California. Part of the time in Long Beach visiting family, and the other half in Newport Beach in Orange County. Newport by the way, is one of the most sterile places I've seen and something far from anything based on reality. A 5-series BMW is the minimum status quo. Anything less is below poverty line. Fake boobs, plastic surgery, $100k sports cars, McMansion developments, designer brand everything, 4 year olds with a nicer wardrobe than myself,...all of this dot the landscape. I feel like a stranger in a strange land. But tomorrow, I head to my 'home' home for a couple of nights, San Francisco. I hope the city by the bay still feels like home. During my travels, I've really missed this great city. The food, the neighborhoods, the views, the left wing liberalism, and even the fog. I just hope I can still fit in there........
or maybe it's a sign to move on to the next place...........
......or on the other hand, maybe I should take one of those cure-all feel-good pills to dull my senses, leaving me numb to the reality of the world, and sitting comfortably in front of a seizure inducing television set eating a humongous bag of Frito-Lay goodness. Thank you for taking the time to share in my evolving depression.
Easily the best thing about being home, family. My sister Mary Ann, and my nephews Hamilton (hamboy)and Dawson (doughboy). By the way, after witnessing life with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old, I have a new found respect for mothers.
Hamboy is a future model for Bounty Paper Towels
It's so funny that 10 days ago I was writing about being homesick. Now I'm writing about being sick of home.......I'm such a pain in the ass.
I'm in a warm, happy place, I'm in a warm, happy place, I'm in a warm, happy place, I'm in a warm, happy place, I'm in a warm, happy place, I'm in a warm, happy place, ...... Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

written 9 months ago in china

hey morgan, i wrote this in my journal on 21 september 2006 while i was in china. does any of this ring a bell?
the national pastime basketball is popular here. so is table tennis and badminton. but the most popular pastime in china has to be the art of spitting (or 'hocking loogies' in certain dialects). it is extremely popular amongst men over the age of 45. they've perfected the art. it seems that with age, you get better and the phlegm rousing 'hooockkk' sound made prior to the actual spitting. you know the sound when you've got a cold and you need to get the mucous out of your throat? yeah, it's that sound that they make all the time. you hear it everywhere in the street, on the trains (that's the worst), in buildings, in moving vehicles, and at all times of day (especially in the morning where the hocking is a substitute for a rooster wake up call). i didn't actually believe it when my roommate carolyn told me that everyone spits and hocks in china, but it's true. anyone who has been here can attest to it.
now, most of the time, it's males who participate heavily in this sport. about 14 out of 15 spitters are men. but don't get me wrong, there is some real talented females out here. one time while waiting for a bus, one middle aged lady,
and spit.
then she blew a snot rocket (this is extremely popular out here as well, but not as well practiced as 'hocking loogies'). unfortunately she didn't get it all, and had a 'hanger' swinging from her nose like a pendelum. i looked at her, she looked at me. we made eye contact. i telepathically sent her a message, 'jesus, now what are you gonna do?' she received my message and proceeded to wipe it on her jacket and fling it onto the street.
what a pro. touche, checkmate.
she showed me. so ladies, don't be discouraged. there's a lot of female talent out here as well.
but i must go now. i need to practice my tossing, and i'm working on spelling out ...with my hocks...... Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

day 555::time to go home

i'm feeling a bit tired these days.
see what i mean....
the backpack seems to be getting heavier every day, and the clothes in them are hanging by a string.
i've seen so much the past 18 months, maybe too much. cities and towns i've been to are blending together, and the excitement of arriving in a new place is not as strong.
most of the world will remember me this way - armed and loaded and trigger happy.
the trains, planes, and especially bus rides are getting longer and longer. i'm craving my own bed, a dependable hot shower, and clothing with less than five holes in it. i guess i miss the comforts of home. i'm sitting here thinking about it all, and realizing the thing i miss most are my family, friends, and my dog. along the same vein, i think the thing i will remember the most is not the places i've been, but the people i've met. from the cunning shopkeepers and con artists, to the people offering food, tea, or a ride when i was stranded. from exponentially multiplying crowds of china and india, to the small villages with no electricity. from the people wanting to talk to me to practice their english, to all those i communicated with through a system of hand gestures, head nods, and begging eyes. i'll remember those who did a double take squeam when they found out i was american, to those who realized that all governments are full of crap. i enjoyed learning and experiencing their way of life, different from the west, yet with the same basic needs and cravings that are similar to all human beings. i will always remember the many hugs and kisses of strangers who i can now call friends..........and of course i'll always remember the indian lady with 2 babies who wanted to ((marry me)), after getting to know me for only 10 minutes.......i'll remember her, but don't think i'll miss her.
....hey thea, remember this girl to my right? this shot was taken an hour before we all got sick from too much vino tinto.
but i'm tired and it's time to go i'm running out of money.
exhausted by one too many muslim prayer calls at 5 am......and don't ask me what my hands are doing. i'm not even sure.
however i have no right to complain. i've seen more than most people will ever see in a lifetime. experienced more than i could have ever imagined. but us human beings are funny, finicky creatures. we always want more, and yearn for things we don't have - after all, the grass is always greener on the other side. for me in this case, it's living in a home, not out of a backpack.
i feel excited to return, to catch up with loved ones, to share some of my experiences, and hear about everything i missed back home. i am really really, excited to catch up with my nephews, including the newbie that i've never met. on the other hand, i'm a bit frightened about getting back to the american way of living, which seems a bit foreign to me right now. i'm afraid of getting back to the hustle and bustle of a regular 9 to 5 life, and not taking the time to enjoy just plain living, a quality that seems to come naturally while on the road. hopefully i can carry a bit of that into my daily life. not sure about what the future holds......but i think maybe it's better that way. i'm also starting to feel a bit sad. i'm not sure of what specifically, but maybe a bunch of things. there's something free and liberating about being so far away. sad at the thought of no longer living the adventure of living without a plan. once i'm home and looking at photos, i think i'll realize all that i've absorbed on this trip. and maybe then i'll feel really sad and nostalgic.......stupid jerky human i guess i am a cacophony of mixed emotional aneuyrismic spasms.reuniting in barcelona with friends i made on a camel trip in the indian desert. they're very spanish, which means mucho carne para comidas.
but yes, right now, i am travel weary, craving a certain amount of stability, and ready to return home......but being the finicky human creature that i am, i know after one month of home life, i'll crave jumping on a plane to explore foreign lands once again. i'm just glad this world has so much to offer that you can't see everything in even five lifetimes.
and finally........the last photo of about 20,000 photos taken on this trip. the iglesia in sitges, a mediterranean town just south of barcelona.
but actually, my travels aren't finished. i'll still be travelling the states for the next month visiting family, friends,.....and also, i have a feeling that in the states, i can finally find out...... Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Gaudy Gaudi

In Barcelona, there´s only one superstar architect. And no, it´s not me, since I´m only a visitor, not a permanent resident.
Barca is synonymous with Antonio Gaudi. His ostentatiously, free-flowing, curvy, organic buildings and influence can be seen everywhere in the city.
Like these - eso:
a church in Parc Güell

mosaic details of a curving bench in Parc Güell, a swath of land consisiting of nothing but Gaudiness
curvy tree influenced colonnade in Parc Güell
his buildings look sort of like something out of a fairy tale. Or maybe he discovered acid in the early 20th century and didn´t tell anyone about it.
yeah, homeboy was tripping. Casa Batlló
his most famous project, La Sagrada Familia. Started in 1882, only about 55% complete, and I hope I´m alive to see it when it´s 100% complete. Not shown is a 170 meter central tower yet to be constructed.
construction zone in progress.
the interior of the nave, which he said was influenced by nature - the feeling of walking through a forest. I still say it was hallucinogens.
you can climb one of the towers, and view the other towers. Not seen in photo are the bells that started ringing once I got to the top, inflicting permanent ear damage.
I was so happy to arrive in Spain, so that I could practice speaking Spanish, something I haven´t done since I left South America last September. It´s such a romantic, beautiful sounding language, and not as harsh as English. But at first, I had trouble understanding the Barcelona accent. As well as trouble reading signs on the metro. I later found out, that many if not most people out here speak Catalán, a language similar to French and Spanish combined, thus making it Franish. A combination that leaves me lost. Oh well, I´ll just have to practice Español at the taquerías in San Francisco when I get back.
ironwork influenced by A.G.
For music to your ears, that´s beautiful in any language, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Barca Behind the Scenes

With one week left on my journey, I'm slowly getting back to westernized living, by spending my last days in Barcelona, Spain.
That's the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, in the middle, dominating the skyline is the never ending Antonio Gaudi project that is the Catedral de Sagrada Familia, and up front is Mr. Happy and the Three Pumpkins.
Looking the other way from the top of the hill was a photo shoot going on. Looks like a blonde based hybrid of surfing meets tai chi.
It's a nice transition between the third world mayhem that I've grown accustomed to, and the Americanized American-ness that I'll be thrown back into next week. I've also reunited with some old amigos of mine from San Francisco now living here in Barca - Ricky y Paola y Pek. I knew them from our little dog walking posse at Buena Vista Park back home in San Francisco, and they've been living out here for about a year now (Ricky has duel citizenship, Mexico and Spain. The Spanish citizenship grants him the platinum card of passports, an EU passport. I'm so jealous).
By the way, Pek's the dog in the middle. Pek means dog in Mayan.
They've been kind enough to let me crash at their apartment, and I promised to cook for them in exchange. So far, they're still alive, so I haven't been booted out for food poisoning. It's nice to have hosts here and be able to get off the tourist trail and not be just another tourist. Tourists are something I've grown to detest on this trip, but in an undeniable masochistic way, something I will forever be. Oh the irony.
Avoiding the call of the Dark Side. Tourist lines and open roof double-decker busses.
This was one of my favorite off the beaten path things to see - Casa Okupa, or in Inglés, squatter houses.
Occupy and Resist, painted on the roof of a squatter house in Barca. I love they're subtlety in remaining underground by not calling attention to themselves.
The squatter rights here are a lot more favorable than in the states, and they have a whole network of them throughout Barcelona. They are composed mostly of artists, activists, socialists and freeloading building occupants. All traits of my favorite type of people, and a prerequisite for Global Transmission membership. They are notorious for throwing great parties and art exhibits, which we sampled a bit of this past weekend. The funny thing, is they've got an entire schedule printed out on display in front of the squatter houses. It lists the times of parties, art openings, social gatherings, etc., that are happening at different Casa Okupa locations. With this type of organizational skill, don't you think they'd be able to apply this talent to a real world function, such as, say, a job or something?
Upon closer inspection, read the black sign about tourists that they have hanging. If you think about it, they make a valid point here.
But then again, who am I to talk about work, when I've been on the road for a year and a half avoiding reality. Oh the irony.
They've got great graffiti and stenciling out here. Of course, this is all based on personal opinion. Here's a graffiti sample.
and a stencil one.
For those of you who don't know, the 'BCN' stands for 'Barcelona'. And the 'is' stands for 'is', and finally the 'Dead means 'Dead'.
Thus completing the sentence, Barcelona is Dead.
That reminds me, is Che dead?
If not, then Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

i heart morocco

just left morocco.
even though i'm from san francisco, i left my heart in morocco.
but i will return to this beautiful and incredible country. i'll keep the photos as a souvenir, and hey morocco, you can keep the heart as a souvenir for yourself.
orgasmerrificalclimaxtic Dónde está Ché Pelotas?