Monday, December 11, 2006

Birthday Week - - - Pretty Much the Best Birthday this Year!

Back in the States now means that I can celebrate my bday with friends and family instead of backpackers from a hostel in Argentina.

Birthday Week began on Monday with the new job at Offutt. Pretty excited to put all that education to use and get back to work! That month long gap between jobs was ok, but it was making me go bonkers. This job should be a great challenge and a great opportunity to learn lots from a group of talented and motivated IT professionals. This will be a great chance to excel!

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty quiet. Kinda laid low and read a little bit.

Thursday night was great! A top Thursday if you ask me. Jamie, Rafal, and I drove out to East Lincoln aka Village Pointe for the Rocky Balboa sneak preview. Security was pretty intense: metal detectors, night vision monoculars and Confidential Security waiting to examine people as they came through the queue. Oh boy, the badge they had looked pretty had an eagle on it and a logo in a bold font. The movie was great and I feel satisfied that the Rocky story has come to an end. Especially since Rocky dies at the end of the movie. I hope they do not use the scene at the end where his son puts Rocky's gloves on his grave but then picks them up as a symbol that he is going to pick up boxing and step into the ring. Oh, Kevin Cougler from the local sports radio station here in Omaha gave us the tickets after I showed him the foto of Linus with a Rocky tattoo. We called the kid Linus because he was walkin the 26mile Inca Trail with his sleeping bad untied, he was carrying it like the Peanuts character. Im sure this dude is pretty excited about Rocky gotta be if you ink the protagonist onto your shoulder!

Thursday finished with some Couchsurfers from Portland. Jenn and Robert were two cool hipsters who had a knack for thrift store shopping, tattoos, saying the word, "man", going to village inn, and smoking cigarettes. They were ok...just a little strange.

Friday was the big day...Bday! Number 21, the seventh time around. Jamie was the first to call me. Man, she beat out the entire family! This girl's a keeper! My parents and my sisters were all like, "I can remember when you were this big, Jimmy." I had dinner with Ma and will have cake and ice cream with both Ma and Pa when he gets back from the farm. Friday evening we all went to Bright Eyes and listened to some great music by Conner Oberst. This concert was great, much better than the cold and rainy concert last May.

Saturday was another stellar night. Two words are all I hafta say. Turtleneck Party. My friend Ian suggested a Turtleneck and Mustache party, but I sent out the invitations too late for anyone to grow a decent stache. Lots of great stories and good times to go with all the ridiculous turtlenecks and whatnot. Jamie and I got some pretty weird stares when we entered the Underwood Bar with matching sweaters. People thought we must have robbed a 4th grade teacher to get these premium sweaters.

Birthday Week 2006 was a success. Much better than BW 2005 where I shared it with two Dutch girls, an Aussie, and a Brit at a crowded hostel with no fans to circulate the hot Argentine summer air. Fotos to come soon.


Friday, November 10, 2006

What a Travel Website Should Be

Quick entry about what a website dedicated to traveling should be.

My buddy Rafal and I have been throwing around the idea of hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. This is a 22 day, 180 mile trek that leads to Mt. Everest base camp through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the world. While researching the idea we ran into some pretty sweet websites, this one stands out as the best that I have ever seen.

This guy is big time. I really enjoyed his entries, how he described his entries, how he made you feel like you were right there.

It makes you want to buy a ticket to Kathmandu and start hiking.

For Rafal, this trip is a priority and he is planning on doing it next September. I however, am on the other side of the coin because I need to establish myself - getting a job, doing well at what I do, and doing it for a coupla years.

life's all about trade offs...traveling gives you lots of freedom and exposes you to things you never imagined. But right now, i am trading travel experience for work experience that will help me reach my future goals.

Vamos a ver, no?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

fix my feed!

dear blogger

please fix my feed

james feed settings out. is what you can put into your reader

can't stay out of the paper...

i was readin in the Omaha World-Herald, Omaha's finest news source, about the six-degrees of separation. The six-degrees of separation is the idea that we are all connected in this world through six people or less. It may or may not be true, who knows...but it does seem like a small world when you run into people that know you or knows someone that you know from a past experience. When the OWH ran an article about the Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon and asked for reader submissions, I jumped at it - I shared some of the stories of the folks I ran into while traveling. In all, I ran into two people that I knew from past experiences and ran into three people who knew people I knew.

This was a pretty good story that ran last week...Sharing it with my massive blog audience is the least I can do, eh? Pretty much the best story ever, if i do say so myself.

Published Sunday
October 29, 2006

Strangers sometimes shockingly familiar


Whether in Omaha, Mexico or Walt Disney World, it's a small world.

Readers shared their small-world tales after our Tuesday story explaining the six degrees of separation theory - that we're all linked by no more than six other people.

Read on to see how things like Disney World name tags and the Homy Inn, an Omaha bar, played a key role in linking people.


I thought I would tell you a little story of how I have bumped into people while traveling.

About a year ago I took a seven-month trip to Central America, South America and Antarctica. On each continent, I ran into someone that I knew, or knew someone that I knew.

For example, I was walking on the streets of Cuernavaca, Mexico, when a car passed me, it stopped and backed up. I thought that was pretty strange . . . When the driver said, "Hey, are you from Omaha?" I did a double take and realized it was a friend of a friend of mine who now lives in Cuernavaca. Pretty strange, eh?

A couple months after that, I was in a bar in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, with a group of international travelers when the performer at the bar asked us where we were from.

I mentioned the U.S., and she said she knew one American, from Nebraska. I told her I was from Nebraska. She said she knew someone from Omaha. I said I was from O-town.

She mentioned the guy's name and I was like "Holy Smokers! I know Tim, too!" She happened to be my friend's roommate when they were both living in Spain about five years ago.

A girl I chatted up during a Zodiac (boat) ride began talking about Omaha and how she was dating a guy from there. She mentioned his name was Todd and how he always went to a bar with champagne on tap and went to school in Omaha with the funny district name.

"Oh, District 66," I said.

She was dating a guy that I had been an outdoor education counselor with back at Westside High School.

James Peters, Omaha

Although, they didnt include the story about the ballplayer that I ran into in Panama that I knew from my time at Rosenblatt. I had a special connection with that guy, he bounced a 100 USD check.

Now, if the OWH could just have a decent travel section. When I say decent, I mean I would like to see story contributions from local travelers.
The Omaha area is full of travleres and a portion of the travel section could focus on that very large demographic of students and 20 somethings here in Omaha.
But the OWH has the proclivity to focus 100% of the travel coverage at high class hotels and expensive cruises which insulate you from any real cultural experience.
Where is the portion dedicated to the backpacker on a shoestring budget? I would like the OWH to write an article about homestay programs in not just Europe, but all the other opportunities in Asia, Africa, South America etc...Who wouldnt, besides the editors, want to know about experieces Omahans have had living in foreign countires! Write about returning Peace Corps volunteers or the experiences they have had returning from one culture to another. Omaha is bursting with travelers!!! So c'mon,'s time to step up and reexamine your audience. There IS an interest in traveling in Omaha and there is a very wide audience that wants to read more.
im gonna write my letter to the editor. it's time for a change!

Friday, August 04, 2006

a taste of Bolivia in Omaha...

this story is about the little mishap that happened to me and my friends the other day. What happened reminded me of this time in Bolivia where you think things are going great until the wheels fall off...It goes a little something like this .

My friend Ian is on a road trip for a couple of months in the US before he settles down and gets a "real" job. Ian is a cool guy that had a delicious mullet. The mullet may be gone but the attitude is still there. Ian was a mountain biking guide for Gravity Bolivia in La Paz where we met and got to talkin while riding the World's Most Dangerous Road. Now the WMDR is freakin sweet! It is a one-lane road with two-way traffic, no guard rails, hairpin turns, blind hairpin turns, human stop lights, waterfalls on the road, very uneven terrain and just about every climate. You gotta be a little wacky to ride this 40mile road that's 98% downhill and a little more crazy to actually guide people down it a 100 plus times a year. The ride was a blast and we got to have a pretty good conversation on the way up. I invited him to Omaha to partake in madness of the Thursday Night Ride and he actually came and crashed a few nights in Rafal's and my house. Ian is also the guy that introduced me to Douglas Copeland's Microsurfs, a book that is very similar to Office Space and really helps you keep what is important in focus.

Before this story gets any longer I think I need to point out the coincidental portion of the story, and that is all that the story really is. To get to the WMDR you need to get out of La Paz. La Paz is a bowl shaped city that rests on the Bolivian altiplano at just around 12,500ft. It's so high that you lose your breath walking up the stairs. Well, as our tour group was driving up the steep mountain roads out of La Paz when we had a little bit of a breakdown. No, it really wasn't a little breakdown...but more of a major breakdown where the ride was not gonna continue unless another van came and picked us up. And it did. "Welcome to Bolivia," said Ian. He advised us that vans breaking down in Bolivia is pretty standard procedure and that we would only be delayed by an hour or so. And yea, we waited for an hour while another jeep picked us up and took us to the start of the WMDR.
So Ian gets into Omaha on Wednesday night and Rafal and I are going to introduce him to the Homy Inn. The Homy Inn is the only place in Nebraska where you can get champagne on tap. The true dive bar that. Sad to say it, is sometimes overrun by too many trendy west-O foolios that have popped collars and too much gel in their hair. But most of the time the people in there are pretty relaxed and cool to talk to.
Back to the story. Since my car was makin a little bit of a sound that night I decided to have Rafal and Ian follow me to Exclusive Acura to fix my little Integra. I am traveling on Grover and turning north on 42nd when I hear a deep thud and then there is no power to the wheels. No amount of shifting or on the spot handy work was gonna smooth this one over. There I am on 42nd and Grover at around 10pm with Rafal and Ian pushing me up the street. "Welcome to Omaha, Ian." I said after they pushed me into the Bucky's Express parking lot and I advised them that this is normal. "'s like we are back in Boliva" we both said. I thought it was a pretty funny coincidence that each time Ian and I have been in a car that we have had pretty major car problems. As it turns out, I had a broken axel! no wonder things would go snap-crackle-pop every time I turned the wheel.
Not too sure if this story was even that funny, but it sure was funny at the time. It was also really nice of Ian and Rafal to push my car 60 or 70 meters into the gas station parking lot. thanks guys! It was also very nice of my Dad to help me out and pull my car two miles to Exclusive. thanks dad, love ya!
Anyways, I am now a little bit poorer after replacing an axel. laters!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the top bestest blog entries of all time!

so ive been thinkin about my top entries into my travel blog and thought i would share some with you. Just click on the link and read on to the best travel stories known to myself.

There really is no order to them nor is there any rhyme or reason. I just liked these entries. Still debating whether or not to start adding more stories since lots of folks already know im back and have prolly discontinued reading the blog...vamos a ver

Friday, July 28, 2006

outta control...

holy smokes!
never really thought i would get this much pub from a trip. Check it out! The UNOmaha Home Page! Well, it really was on the it's tucked somewhere into the UNOmaha domain.
Anywho, my buddy Ryan Shank says that I am the only UNOmaha graduate praised for being a slacker and not getting a real job (whatever a real job actually is).
i gotta go on more of these trips!
Africa, here i come! India, Asia and Australia - you're next!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Trip Fast Facts!

Well, it has been quite some time since my last journal entry. I have been busy with lots of things that have kept me from my little blog. So, I've been going through my travel guide and journals the past few weeks and have decided organize a little list of trip fast facts and superlatives...

Here are some of the trip fast facts:

  • # of Days on the Road - 203
  • # of Folks from Omaha that Ran Into - 2
  • # of Folks I Met That Knew Someone I Knew - 3
  • # of Journals I Filled Up - 2.5
  • # of Blog Posts - 75
  • # of Post Cards Sent - 179
  • # of Pictures Taken - 6000
  • # of Pictures Ill Print - prolly half of them
  • # of Buses Taken – 30-35
  • Miles Traveled Via Bus - lots
  • Miles Traveled Via Plane – 20,248 Miles
  • Miles Traveled Via Boat – 3192 Nautical Miles
  • Miles Traveled Via Train – 412 Miles
  • Total # of Hours in Transportation – 408.5 hours That's 17 days!!!
  • Longest Bus Ride - 58 Hours from Santiago, Chile to Rio de Janiero
  • # of Different Hostels I Stayed at - 38
  • Best Hostel - America del Sur in El Calafate, Argentina - it was like a ski lodge
  • Worst Hostel - Hostel Nunez in Santiago, Chile...It was similar to the St James hotel from the movie Big
  • Worst Hostel Experience – Cordoba Backbacker's Hostel. Sharing a 10'x10' hostel room with three others. It was about 90 degrees and there was no ceiling fan in the hostel. You would sweat like Michael Jackson at a playground. And to make things worse, there was a hippie learning to play guitar at 330 am. I now dislike the Beatles even more!
  • Cheapest Hostel - 2 bucks at the Templo Del Sol on Lake Titicaca…and then The Raj tried to talk him down to 1.75 per night..c'mon!
  • Most Expensive Hostel - Hostel Copa Charlet in Rio - 12 bucks
  • Least Helpful Hostel - Hostel Copa Charlet in Rio - 12 bucks a night
  • Hostel with Best Kitchen - Freestyle Hostel, Ushuaia, Argentina
  • Hostel with Worst Kitchen - Copa Charloet, Rio, Brazil (they had like 50 plates, no silverware and like two cups that they never really ever washed out)
  • Hostel with Best Beds - Freestyle Hostel, Ushuaia, Argentina - very long and good for tall people
  • Hostel with Worst Beds - Copa Charloet, Rio, Brazil (they were upholstered with a plastic material that should be used to upholster car seats)
  • Weirdest Hostel Owner - La Paz, Bolivia - You would hafta pound on the door for 15 or 20 minutes, wake up everybody else in the hostel before he awoke and let you in. Meanwhile, you are looking up and down the empty street at 4am and hoping that you are not the target for a mugging.
  • Embarrassing Moment at a Hostel - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, realizing that it was me that was causing the unpleasant odor. My shoes were a little smelly that week.
  • # of dance clubs visited - like 8.
  • # of soccer games attended - 5
  • # of Peace Corps Volunteers met - 8
  • # of Jugglers met - 20
  • # of Unicycles rode - 3
  • A Very Frustrating Moment - Hearing my buddy Dan from Seattle call home for Thanksgiving when we were in La Paz, Bolivia. Hearing the joy and excitement in his voice really got me excited to call home. After he was done, I used his phone booth to call home and reached everyones voice mail! Nobody was picking up the phone. Drats! Away for Thanksgiving and the six numbers of people I want to talk with are not there. Man, that was a bummer.
  • Funny Moment - Meeting a kid on the Inca Trail who we nicknamed Linus because he carried his sleeping bag just like the Peanuts character. This guy was in love with Rocky Balboa and let everybody know about it. His Rocky Balboa tattoo looked more like Johnny Depp than Sly Stallone. Allison from California put it best when she described the tattoo as a process of "wad up a picture of Rocky and put it in your pocket for a coupla days, then goto the tattoo shop with that image" That is how bad the tat was.
  • Most Comfortable Time - Having my own room for two weeks on the way to Antarctica. You didnt hafta worry about a thing.
  • Luckiest Moment – Scoring a plane ticket at the last moment in Chile when all the buses were sold out for almost a week. A little kid noticed our dilemma and hooked us up with a pass that moved us to the front of the queue.
  • Strangest Moment – Sitting at a bar in Rio and noticing that the guys I'm with and I are the youngest guys in the bar by 15 years…but not the youngest people in the bar. Then it clicks that all these beautiful girls are hanging onto these ugly anglo bar. I got out of there.
  • THAT GUY! The Raj from England and Lee from England are tied, both on the Antarctica Cruise. But I would hafta say Lee's attempt to dance drunk with every girl, drink everybody's drink, and then end up with his underwear pulled down walkin around really earned him the rite to be THAT GUY!
  • Best Food Ate
    • Argentina's Bife de Lomo or Bife de Chorizo
    • My host mother's Mexican cooking.
  • Worst Food Ate - Cow Stomach & My host mother's liver she prepared
  • # of Times Sick - 4
  • # of Times Drunk - 0
  • # of Times Buzzed - Plenty..
  • # of Magnets Purchased - 35 or 40
  • # of Books Read – 8
  • # of Times Solicited for something – lots
  • Cheapest Beer – Argentina – 66 cents for a liter of Heineken
  • Nicest Stranger I met - Meeting an 80 year old great-grandmother named Olympia in Cusco, Peru who gave me a great Peruvian history lesson about the former Peruvian President Fujimore
  • Nicest Hosts – My host family in Mexico was so nice. Their family unity was very strong and reminded me of mine. Eating dinner with all of them the last night I was there made me miss my family.
  • Funniest Two Ladies I met – Jackie from Florida and Janice from Boston
  • Nicest Group of Folks I met – Gotta be the locals that I met…then the Aussies I met.
  • Annoying Person – That's Nothing Sid from Chicago
    Biggest Jerk – Freestyle Hostel owner's son who was all about being a one up.
  • Strangest Person I met – A sailboat captain with a scary 'stache who really wanted to tell me all the fun times you could have swinging in Buenos Aires. Yikes…
  • Group I Always Wondered About but Could Never Have a Real Conversation – The Israelis
  • Items Taken on the Trip
    • Pairs of Pants - 2
    • Shirts - 3
    • Pairs of Socks - 5
    • Pairs of Undies - 5
    • Rain Jacket -1
    • Fleece Jacket - 1
    • Big Backpack - 1
    • Day Pack - 1
  • Most Useful Items
    • Pocket Knife
    • Battery Charger for Digital Camera
    • Ear Plugs
    • Eye Cover
    • Alcohol Gel
  • Least Useful Items
    • Large Sleeping Bag
    • Super Bubble Bubble Gum
    • Emergn-C fluid replenishing stuff
  • Things Stolen or Lost
  • Ipod Shuffle

Here is a list of a few superlatives that I gleaned out of my guidebook and visited .

Superlatives like,

Highest Mountain in the Americas - Mount Aconcaugua, Mendoza, Argentina
World's Southernmost City - Ushuaia, Argentina
World's Highest Navigable Lake - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
World's Most Dangerous Road - La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia
World's Richest Silver Mine - Mount Cerro Rico, Potosi, Bolivia
World's Largest Salt Flat - Salar de Uyuni, Uyuni, Bolivia
World's Highest Capital City - La Paz, Bolivia
World's Deepest Canyon - Colca Canyon - Arequipa, Peru
World's Longest Country - Chile
World's Largest Capital City, Mexico City, Mexico
World's Coldest Continent – Antarctica

A Little Bit of Pub!

Alrighty! - - Back for another blog entry and this one is one that I didn't even write!
A few weeks ago I sat down with a writer for the UNOmaha Alumni Magazine and chatted about my South American experience. I think the article turned out pretty well. You can check it out at the UNO Alumni Website

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Finding his way By Sonja Carberry

Back in Omaha after a seven-month trek through South America, UNO grad James Peters has cut the hair he let grow into an unruly mop and trimmed his bushy beard to a midnight shadow. In a yellow button-down shirt and crisp jeans, he looks very 20-something Omaha.

But part of Peters is still south of the border.

Though three weeks back in the states, for example, Peters still has to stop himself from putting extra restaurant napkins in his back pocket.

"Toilet paper is hard to come by there," he explains.

Experience and perspective, however, are not. Peters backpacked through a handful of countries on around $8,000, staying in hostels and riding cramped "steel box" buses. He sums up his travel style as "part planning, part improvisation," and "what you do when you have more time than money."

Along the way he filled two journals and a blog with his experiences at soccer games, historical sites, festivals and much more.

High points included mountain biking from La Paz to Corico, Bolivia, on the "world's most dangerous road," spending some surreal days in the desert-like salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, and watching the Perito Moreno Glacier calve near Patagonia, Argentina.

In an unexpected side trip, Peters joined an expedition to Antarctica, where penguins waddled by as he shivered in "every layer of clothing I had."

Some experiences weren't exactly guidebook material. Sitting on a park bench with a homeless man in Santiago, Chile, Peters gave up a page of his journal so the man could write a somewhat confused thanks for what was left of Peters' dinner. And on his last day abroad, on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Peters found out what he'd do if someone tried to pickpocket him.

"I shoved him against a wall, hard," the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Peters says. "I was yelling at him in Spanish, 'What is your hand doing in my bag?'"

Peters' goal, by all accounts realized, was to get outside his comfort zone. "I didn't go to a lot of clubs. I tried to do the things you can't do at home," he says.

Leaving Omaha
Peters, 26, had been living reasonably comfortably, putting himself through college by driving rusty cars and living with "Ma and Pa."

He played baseball for the Mavs as a pitcher, walking on and eventually earning the No. 2 starting post. "The coaches were great," he says. "They challenge you and will not settle for mediocrity, and every year they have improved. UNO is very lucky to have the coaches they have."

After graduating in May 2005 with a bachelor's degree in management information systems, he found himself dodging the inevitable question: "So what's next?"

Peters didn't have a ready answer.

After church one Sunday, a friend of his mother's gave Peters an Omaha World-Herald article about Dean Jacobs, a Fremont, Neb., resident who spent two years backpacking the world. Jacobs had lowered his expenses by staying with host families through an organization called Servas International.

Peters was inspired and called Jacobs to find out more.

"I realized this is something I could do now or when I'm 75," Peters says.

His parents were less than enthusiastic, primarily for safety reasons. "We tried talking him out of it," says Daniel Peters, a 1979 UNO grad (BS, real estate). "But that was almost futile. It was his life and his money."

Peters had saved money through various odd jobs. "All of my friends saved for cars, I saved for a trip," Peters says. He worked as an intern at Union Pacific and did some video editing for a project collaboration between UNO's Peter Kiewit Institute and the National Park Service's Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. He mowed yards in the summer and shoveled driveways in the winter. And he worked in the clubhouse for the Omaha Royals baseball team. "Being a clubbie is like being the minion or babysitter for 30 pro ballplayers," he says. "It's a great job, if you like baseball."

By August last year he was on his way, attending a language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to bolster his college Spanish. On Sept. 10, 2005, he took a one-way flight from Mexico City to Lima, Peru, and officially began his winding journey through Peru, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Antarctica.

It was in Mendoza, Argentina, that Peters used his new membership with Servas, which encourages cultural exchange by connecting travelers with host families. Peters was the 401st guest of Francisco Morón, a well-traveled chain smoker with a guest house and a scratch-happy kitten named Chopin. Morón regaled Peters with stories of his own travels over steak and pasta. They also talked about their families and their countries.

"It really gave me a chance to work on my Spanish," Peters says. "And it just shows you that people are people, no matter where you are. Everyone has at least one good joke."

In Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, Peters stumbled onto an opportunity to join an expedition to Antarctica. "I thought, 'I'm not going to be any closer to Antarctica than I am right now,'" he says.

Peters boarded the Marco Polo with 500 other passengers, some backpackers, but most retirees. After riding a zodiac boat from ship to shore, Peters stood on Half Moon Island to observe chinstrap penguins, seals and albatrosses in what amounted to a real-life zoo.

"You can feel like Ernest Shackelton until you realize you've got three bars on the ship," he says.

Back Home
Today in Omaha, Peters recently mulled over a job offer, trying to reconcile a full-time position and its two weeks' vacation time with his desire to continue traveling. He turned down the offer. "I'd like to see Asia, India, Africa. I'll hit Europe last," he says.

His parents notified him that he has two weeks to move out, and Peters jokes that they'll donate his belongings to Goodwill to give him a push. But he's not too concerned. In fact, he's pretty relaxed.

"I think a lot of people in the states don't realize how good they have it. They're so caught up in materialism and ostentation," Peters says. "In Argentina, they have no money, but they go out with friends two to three times a week."

Peters is still organizing his impressions of South America and the people he met in his third journal and on his blog. It's something he doesn't want to slip away. To anyone considering extended travel, Peters says it's worth every penny.

"You can get more out of that $8,000 traveling than you would out of, say, a car."
Bikes and Blogs
James Peters, who also rides a unicycle for fun, kept a blog of his travels at A few observations:

• "Bolivian Time can mean anything. Ten minutes in Bolivian Time can mean two hours in American Time."

• "South American cabbies must think that gringos are thee laziest people in the world and honk at us all the time. They honk at you when you least need them and are never around when you do."
• "Women spectators at soccer games have some of the most vulgar mouths . . . You cannot believe what comes out of their mouths."

• "Are South American carnival workers looked at as differently as they are in the USA[?]"
• "Be nice to people you meet along the way because I guarantee that you will see them again."

Email author Sonja Carberry at

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Joining the real world...

well, we all knew this day was coming
On Monday, June 12, 2006, I will officially begin my working career...
I'm a little excited and a little nervous about this job.
i will be selling doors, door-to-door.
nah, actually ill be a IT contractor for an election software firm in Otown. I'm pretty sure I will be working with a guy named Michael Bolton and Samir naga-naga-notgonnaworkhereanymore
now it's time to get some rest.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Coming to America...What's been going on and impressions so far.

It's about 2am here in Omaha and everything is quiet.  Actually, it's always quiet here.  Much different than some of the noises I was used to hearing rambling around hostels in some strange South American city.  I am wired.  I was going to go out this evening and laid down for a nap at around six and woke up around 130 this morning.  Now, it is the wee hours of the morning and I feel a little too refreshed from all the sleep and thought punching out some ideas into the blog update my do the trick and put me back to sleep.  
I have been home for about a month now and it has been an adjustment.  It's nice to be sleeping in my own room and my own bed.  So nice to not be in a bunk bed that has been slept in by a thousand people in a room shared with six or eight or 12 or your closest friends. 
The following is a description of my little journey after the big journey. 
I left Buenos Aires on March 22nd.  It was one of those warm evenings where the weather was just perfect for a little walk in the park, but I had a plane to catch.  I had finally cooled down from that subway goonie who tried to pickpocket me and was preparing myself for the nice 10 hour flight from BA to Chicago during my cab ride to the airport.  It was a strange sensation to be in the back of one of those little Renaults for the last time.  Sitting in the backseat with my fist under my chin and staring blankly out the window I would split glances between the rush hour traffic, my watch, the city passing by, all of the Spanish labeled signs, the soccer fields, and the feeling that it's over. 
The trip was over. 
Even now, I can close my eyes and look back to some events that are etched in my mind.  Sometimes it is people that I have met along the way, sometimes it is the unforgettable scenery, and sometimes it is something that you only think is funny and telling someone else might just not make it funny anymore. 
There is a Kenny Chesney song, "I Go Back" that I had on my iPod during my whole trip that really rang true.  It's about hearing some song on the radio that takes you back to another place and time.  This is so true about these songs, because it's the little things on this trip that bring a smile to my face.  For example, I had a conversation with Mariano, the hostel owner of America del Sur in El Calafate, Argentina. He and I were talking about Rock N Roll and how his first impression of American Rock Music was GNR's "Paradise City."  Mariano was in love with GNR and never really said "I like 'Paradise City'"  He started to rock his head front to back, play his imaginary drum set by whipping his wrists up and down and slowly sang in his baritone voice and his Argentine accent, "Take me down to da Paradise City where da grass is green and da girls are pretty.  Oh, wont you please take me home"  Every time I hear this song it will make me think that whole experience in El Calafate.  Weird how things like that happen.  There are lots of other examples of that.  Like the time I started to kinda sing "The Gambler" while waiting in line at the grocery store in Cordoba, Argentina.  Every time I hear that song from now on Ill think about that.
So I arrive late enough at the airport that there is no queue at the checkin but early enough that I dont miss the plane.  Had a really fun conversation with the security guy while he was going through my backpack and checkin my undies for explosives.  I kinda realized that this was prolly gonna be the last time I get to talk lots of Spanish with just about anyone so I took advantage of it and chatted with Manuel about Riverplate and Boca Jrs for about 15 minutes.  
Getting on the airplane and getting up in the air was a piece of cake, the airline food was great and the entertainment was pretty good as well.  One thing that I kinda kicked myself for doing was the mistake of not appreciating the delicacy of the situation when there was a pretty ladytype sitting in my seat and the seat next to her was open.  Instead of saying, "um, yea, Im in the seat right next to ya," "um, that's my seat" escapes your lips and you are like "Dang it!"  Sometimes, I am not smooth.  Falling asleep and staying asleep proved to be sort of a problem.  The selection of airline music was pretty impressive, the variety of rock, country, and hip hop music American Airlines provided exposed me to music that I had not heard of in my little six and a half month popular culture gap.  The movie titles were great as well, but the only problem was that I kept on catching movies that I really wanted to see about 15 minutes after they had started.  "Walk the Line" was playing but I kept on catching it at the wrong time.  Darn it, this was just like the Antarctica Cruise where I could never catch a movie in its entirety.  I spent my time on the plane between dozing off and catching up on my journal entries.  The cute girl that I could have been sitting next to and who I wanted to talk with looked pretty comatose after dinner and showed now signs of life until the plane was about to land.  Couldn't really do anything there.  Bummer.  Finally, sleep!  Then i awoke right as they were cleaning up breakfast.  Drats! 
One thing that I did not expect to happen was to have swollen feet that were twice their normal size.  Rafal had told me that would happen because you are stuck the same seated position for quite some time and the blood just pools in your feet.  I really didnt think it would be that bad, until I tried to slip on my hiking boots and had to force them in and feared lacing them up.  Yaowza!  Another thing that I was not prepared for was the dehydration, the jet air just dried your nose out and dried your lips out too. 
Made it to Chicago in one piece at about 5am.  All the international travelers were treated like cattle and moved slowly through the lines at customs and immigrations.  I really feel for those folks stamping your passport at the airport.  Their jobs are kinda like IT jobs: you are either a dog or a bad dog.  Got my stuff and then waited in more lines to grab my connecting flight to Omaha.  Still hard to believe that the airport folks make you remove your shoes.  If I had slip-on sandals this would not be a problem, the problem is that I am wearing heavy leather hiking boots that are a chore to take off and then to put on again.  Dozed a little more and then got on the plane to Otown. 
It was hard to believe that I made it back to Omaha in one piece.  I used a little change to call up one of my friends to pick me up and grab a little food before I hopped on another plane six hour later back to Chicago and ultimately New York. My first meal back in Otown was California Taco.  Cali Taco is a great establishment in the heart of Omaha where one taco fills you up during your lunch time visit.  I washed down the taco with large amounts of Dr. Pepper.  I made up for not drinking any DP in seven months that day, think I drank too much because I got sick before my plane boarded later that day.  Loaded up on the Loperimide and was good to go. 
Back in Chicago.  Chicago O'hare Airport was packed that evening and I could not help but notice the proliferation of fat people.  In not talkin about a little bit of pudding under the skin, im talkin about the security guard who cant see his own toes and is destined to have eternal back pain because there is an untapped keg of lard sitting right in front of him.  Holy smokers, seeing obese people was sort of a new experience that I had not seen in South America.  Another new thing to me was all the English language signage.  I thought to myself, "Wait a minute, everything is in English...that's weird."  Another thing that kinda caught me by surprise was that prices are now in US Dollars, not the Argentine Peso.  Sorry, no 3:1 currency conversion rate. 
The long way home.  OK...The trip route home sounds a litte strange.  I went from Buenos Aires to Chicago to Omaha to Chicago to New York City to Houston to Omaha.  I chose this route not because I enjoy touring airports but because I was surprising my two sisters in New York and Texas.  It was actually cheaper to fly back to Omaha first than to change my original ticket.  It was also worth it to see my fam. 
Well, I was definitely not in South America when the cab ride cost me 25 bucks.  I was in the Big Apply, baby.  Everything is expensive here.  My sister was really really surprised to see me. "You're here!" and "Oh my gosh, you have a beard!" and "Man, that thing is scraggly" are the first things that my sister, Sandy, said to me as this travel weary gringo passed through her door into her Manhattan apartment.  
New York City was sort of a shock.  People in South America are warm and easy to talk to.  New Yorkers are not.  You are alone in a crowded city of eight million people.  Folks isolate themselves with their iPods and appear vain with their "Who the f*** are you type attitude."  
I really like to visit my sister and see the museums in NYC.  There is always something to do in NYC.  The problem is that it seemed to be full of North Face posers and ostentatious jerks.  These are the type that are out to impress people they dont even know.  North Face posers really get under my skin because they have these 300 dollar Summit Series Gore-Tex coats and have never set foot on a trail.  It's a ridiculous fashion show.  It is a silent one-up.
Sorry to sound like a downer.  Im usually a really positive person.  One good part about coming to NYC was to see my sister that I had not seen in almost a year.  I had finally met one of her friends that I had only come to know through stories.  Melany was a pretty funny person to hang out with.  It was also nice to see some folks I knew that lived there.  I hung out with my PKI buddy, VInce, and enjoyed a four dollar PBR.  Also hung out with some friends I had met a few years ago during one of my earlier trips to NYC. 
New York was sort of a bag of mixed emotions.  While there was the fam and friends to hang out with there was also the ostentation that reered its big, ugly head.  It all started when I turned on the TV.  My sister has cable and so I tuned it to MTV and came across "My Super Sweet 16."  I nearly threw up in disgust.  The idea of throwing a gigantic party for your bratty 16-year-old just because they want you to made me want to punch these kids and their parents in the throat.  Dropping 100 or 200 THOUSAND dollars for a freaking party made me think, "Wow, look how many mouths you could feed with that and do some actual good."  Look how many people you could have helped.  Instead, you get to see a horrible parent-child relationship where the snot's demands control the parents.  This type of thing just rubs me the wrong way.      
After visiting my sister in NYC, I borded a plane to Houston where my brother-in-law picked me up and I walked into my sister's house to a surprised quartet.  My three nieces and sister were like, "Oh my goodness!"  I had the same expression after seeing how much my nieces have grown.  Things in the Houston suburb are a little slower than NYC, but I still had lots of fun.  I ate lunch at my nieces elementary school and then got invited back the next day to give a little talk about my trip.  During the past seven months, Skyler had brought postcards to her class that her uncle had sent to her from all around South America.  Now, she brought her uncle to class who had been all over South America.  It was fun to give a PowerPoint Presentation to the class and show off lots of fotos to the class.  The third graders really enjoyed penguin pictures as well as many of the nature fotos that I showed off.  It was lots of fun.  
So after surprising my two sisters it was time to surprise Ma and Pa.  What better day to do it than on April Fool's Day.  My brother Jonathan and I had this all planned out.  I showed up to the house and walked in.  My dad was at the kitchen table reading the paper with his back to me.  I gave him a little hug, looked over his shoulder and said "Hey, Pa..."  Pa kinda looked at me for a second with this quizical look, grinned, and was like "Hey...Big Guy!"  The surprise Ma had was even better.  She was in the shower, and no, its not what you think.  I talked through the door into the bathroom and said, "hey there, how ya doin, what's goin on."  But the thing was that she confused my voice for my brother's.  So I had to wait about 10 minutes before she came out of her room.  She was askin my brother to get ready whle she was curlin her hair and stopped in her tracks.  My brother and I were standing side by side and she kinda did a double take.  She kinda cried a little bit while giving me a big hug.  Recieving a a hug from my Mom was really special after a long time away from home.  Ma and Pa had a few more gray hairs than the last time I saw them.  I might have had a hand in that. 
Some of the things getting used to.  Hmm.  Ya know, it's the little things.  Things like having ice in your glass again.  Things like sleeping in your own bed.  Things like buffets.  Things like driving.  Things like hearing songs that you have not heard in a long time for the first time again.  It definitely has been an adjustment and I can see in some ways how people are the same and I have been the one who has changed.  I do a better job at thinking about what Im gonna say before I say it.  I do a better job at speaking a little slower and mumbling a little less.  I thought I had the travel bug out of my system after such a long trip.  But, following some of the adventures of the folks that I met along the through their travel blogs starts to build little itch to travel again.  Rafal was right, traveling is adicting.  My buddy Dean was right, it does change you.  
So now I am on the lookout for jobs.  It is time to grow up, move out, and make some sweet mouhla.  The feeling I get from some of these jobs that I am applying for is that I will get stuck back in a cubicle for the rest of my life and never get to travel again.  Seems kinda intimidating.  Just gotta find the right job that will let me do some international travel on their dime.  If I could get a job using my Spanish, too then that would be even better.  
Holy smokers, this has turned into an marathon journal entry.  It's like 4am and Im still wired.  Well, I think im off to bed. 
Dont worry, there will be more to come.  Random stories that I think everybody will like.  jp

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It's Election Time in Omaha! That reminds me of a time when.....

Today is election time in Omaha and this reminds me of the time in Patagonia when Chile was closed. 

Rafal and I had just finished a really cool hike to see the three massive Torres del Paine towers.  We hiked about eight or nine hours that day.  About half of the time was not so much a gentle uphill ascent, but more like a take five minutes ever 30 minutes of hiking because the hills you just climbed kicked your fanny.  We wanted to hike, not climb.  Anyways, we saw the three towers and then hustled back to the bus pickup point where we waited about 10 minutes for the last bus back to the city, Puerto Natales. 

When we got back to the hostel we cleaned up and headed out for a night on the town.  Nothing like going out and partying on a Saturday night at the bottom of South America with thousands of people.  Actually, Pto Natales is a pretty tiny town and we thought it was kinda odd that nobody was out at 10pm that night.  Things dont get started until late in South America but none of the restaurants were open.  And the ones that were open were shuttling people out and closing down.  The city center was like a ghost town with no foot traffic nor automobiles.  "That's weird," we thought.  Rafal and I tapped on some windows of restaurant owners who were closing up shop and asked them what was going on.  The store owner said that elections were tomorrow and any place that serves alcohol would close at 10pm, otherwise la policia would issue a stiff fine. 

Well, it was still Saturday night and we were still hungry.  Where can you go when you are hungry and thirsty when all the places that can solve that close?  We searched high and low before finding a gas station on the edge of town.  There, Rafal and I ate in sort of an unhappy and un-blithely disposition.  Service station hot dogs, Fanta soda, and chips do not count as a meal.  We returned to the hostel cold and hungry with our heads pounding from poor gas station junk food.  Bummer. 

The next day was not that much better, except for the hostel.  The egg, butter, and bread breakfast at the hostel was prolly the best thing we were gonna eat all day.  We hopped on a bus and made it Punta Areanas where we searched for a hostel and then waited for about an hour and a half for a little bit of pizza and a sandwich at the only restaurant open during elections.  The place was packed and there was only one waiter for the entire restaurant.  We felt bad for the kid and left him a good tip.  Still no real good food yet. 

Elections really do close everything down in Chile.  It is pretty impressive how the country has compulsory voting and the people got really excited about the presidential elections.  While Rafal and I were waiting for out food, the main drag in Punta Areanas was packed full with cars honking their horns and kids in the backseat waving flags in the air proclaiming their newly elected female president. 

Now every time that elections occur I will think about that weekend in Patagonia.  Yea, we didn't get a decent meal in two and a half days, but we got a few great memories and a new saying for the rest of the trip, "Dont go to Chile, it is closed for elections!" 

Well, I voted today.  Now it's time to look for a job.  Laters! - - - jp

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ask Yourself This...

When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?
I was in Bariloche, Argentina when I saw these words on a poster while eating at Hostel 41 Below.  It is such a simple question with a very thought provoking idea behind it.  To me the idea is about continuous improvement.  It's about learning new things, taking a chance, and seeing what happens.  Whether they go right or wrong is sometimes important, but it is a learning opportunity.  Questions like this motivated me to create another list in my journal detailing some of the things that have occurred on my trip that were newbies for me. 
In this life I think that people get way too bogged down with the everyday monotonous details, become apathetic, and forget about what is important when they take the eye off the prize.  What is important to me is The Fam, learning, and always trying something new.  So, while eating my yogurt and cereal I began to think and started right there to keep a little list of the firsts
Here are a few...
During this trip some of the things that I have done for the first time include...
  • Just buying a ticket and going. 
  • Getting there, with very little and being content with one space for a while. 
  • Left the house for an extended period of time
  • Learned how to create some delicious Mexican food without a cookbook
  • Became pretty flexible with my time.  It was my money and I was like "im doin what i want"
  • Seen extreme poverty
  • Seen a South American soccer match.  They were all special!
  • I have not had turkey on thanksgiving
  • been proud to speak Spanish and not be self-conscious about it
More to come because im becoming tired. 
But just ask yourself the above question  sometime.
When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

Friday, April 21, 2006

guess who is back!

you betcha!

im back...but ive been busy with all types of stuff do describe my latest adventures...
still to come...
  • The elusive second Antarctica update
  • how i surprised my sisters and nieces in NYC and texas
  • how i surprised ma and pa on april fool's day
  • what ive been doin since ive been back home
now, it is time for a dynamic duo party! Im Luigi and rafal is's gonna be that good!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Surviving a Subway Pickpocket

Throughout my travels I have been pretty lucky to never have been a victim of any type of crime. 
I have only heard stories about people getting robbed/mugged/taken advantage of when they were not alert.  In Bolivia I ran into a guy I had met from The World's Most Dangerous Road bike ride who had been a victim of a pickpocket.  The thief spit on him, when the guy turned around to see what the deal was the thief had already taken his wallet and was escaping.  Losing your wallet sucks...but losing your passport is even worse. 
Hearing stories from other travelers about their bag with all their important documents being picked off when they put it down at a bar or left it in the hostel that didnt have any lockers was never too reassuring.  It always made you a little nervous to carry a lot of dough or anything nice at all because there is always someone out there that will steal it. 
Besides your passport, the worse thing you could lose would be your journal or your fotos of places you went to. That happened to two folks I met along the way.  Remo from Germany had his journal stolen after holding on to it and writing in it for eight months.  The Raj said he had a gun pointed to his head in Buenos Aires and lost some fotos and his journal back when I met up with him and some buddies for Christmas. 
It shakes you up when stuff happens like that.  Yea, insurance will reimburse the cost of your camera...that is no big deal.  Losing a journal and other personal effects that are impossible to replace is what really gets ya.  It's what makes you really angry. 
This almost happened to me on the last day of my trip in Buenos Aires. 
Here is how it went down.  My last day in BA was a busy one.  Busy getting last minute gifts, getting receipts for the Global Refund, picking up the suits I purchased, writing just a few more postcards, getting one last steak, picking up laundry, and saying goodbye to some of the folks that I had met there.  So my mind was a little preoccupied with all the stuff that I had on my list. 
I was in the subway heading back to the hostel around 130 in the afternoon.  It was pretty packed in the subway as I filed in and stood there.  I waited and people watched as the stops passed by.  I used my left arm to hold onto the above railing and had the other hand in my right pants pocket to prevent any foolio from reaching in and snaking the cash that I had in my pocket.  The top of my Arcteryx Bora 80 backpack can detach and become a fanny pack.  It is a very convenient way to stow your journal, a camera, your iPod, and a coupla other things in there because it is small, light-weight and portable.  I positioned the fanny pack strap over my left shoulder and the bag rested on my chest and slightly underneath my armpit.
The subway was boring, noisy, non-air conditioned, and packed.  I was zoning out and doing to some people watching when it happened.  About 10 or 15 seconds before the subway car stopped, the doors would open and people would rush in and out I glanced at my bag from the corner of my eye.  What was weird was that it was about halfway open and there were two fingers.  "Holy Shit!" I thought.  I turned quickly and shoved the decently dressed guy in his 20s into the car's wall.  That got the attention of  everybody on the subway car.  A huge gringo pushing a guy and yelling in a loud and booming voice "Porque su mano estaba en mi bola!!!!...Te vi con su mano en mi bolsa!!!!"..."Why is your hand in my bag...I saw you with your hand in my bag.  The only thing the guy said was "No hice nada"  ( i didnt do anything) in a mumbled voice.
The subway car stopped, the doors opened and I followed the guy down the subway platform.  I look back and chuckle because I didnt bump into anybody exiting the car this time (which is unheard of during peak times), everybody got out of the way of the 250lb gringo as I began to yell and draw lots of attention to this asshole.  He made his way down the platform towards the crowded escalator.  When I confronted him again at the escalator he did an aboutface and walked back up the platform he just came from towards the train coming in the opposite direction.  I was full of shock and anger.  WTF!!  I looked into my bag...iPod? check.  Camera? check. Journal? check?  Passport inside my journal? check. 
There was an Argentinian that stopped and helped me out.  He asked if any of my stuff was missing (none was) and if we should goto the police.  Since none of my stuff was missing and I needed to get to the tailor to pick up my suit I decided to let it go and catch the next train. 
Assholes like that piss me off.  When jerks take advantage of tourists or other folks, it builds an anger in me. And You Dont Want To See Me Angry!  I was trying not to think about what happened the rest of the ride back to my hostel and to the airport later in the day.  But it was hard not to think about it..."What should I have done differently?"  "Should I have hit the guy?"  "I could have really hurt him, why didnt i get a shot or two in?" "Why was I not paying attention" "Did I push someone who didnt do a thing?"  All these things were running through my head for a while. 
This was probably the only unpleasant experience that I have had during my whole trip.  And it sucks to have a memory like that.  Yea, there were taxi drivers that took advantage of me and maybe charged a little too much.  But nobody has tried to rip me off with out my acknowledgement.  I hope nobody gets to run a guy like this pickpocket.  It just ruins your day.  So watch your stuff when you are traveling because it will happen when you least expect it or when you put your guard down. 

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Im Back Home!

ok, folks
just finished up my whirlwind South American Tour and i am now sleeping in my own bed tonight...
cant believe that the trip is already over and Im back in otown...
so much to many people to see...finally get to hang out with the fam and sleep in my own bed. 
wait a minute...what day is today?
April First you say? 
That's Right...APRIL FOOLS!!!!!!!
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!!!  T-Minus Nine Days!!!!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A note about Argentinian radio...and a bit of ranting

so after that last blog entry I thought I would write about something a that I enjoy about's a little note about my enjoyment of Argentine radio mixed in with a little ranting about Omaha radio.   
so listen up...
The music they play here in BA, it's great!  It is such a departure from the music that you get stuck listening to back in Omaha.  I cannot stand Omaha radio stations.  They say one thing and do another.  They promise music variety but then conform to the vanilla norm.  The music predictibility makes you wanna do the same thing to your radio that Michael Bolton, Samir, and Peter did to the printer in "Office Space." 
Back in Otown, all radio stations are so narrowcasted that it drives you nuts.  Here's how the narrowcasting works.  A bunch of guys with pants that match their suit jackets and who live in a bottle get together and say, "Well, let's play and play and play and play these 10 or 15 songs because that's what we think people like."  It's really not what is good nor what people really like.  Then all the radio stations turn around and say, "We promise our listeners the greatest music variety in Omaha."  However, they have never really delivered on the variety.  Listeners really do want music variety.  Even 89.7 The River which proclaimed to promote music variety a coupla years ago and actually did play some good music has now fallen into that same boorish groove of overplaying songs that are popular for one month and then never heard from again.  All the stations play the same two songs by DMB, Green Day, U2, etc, etc, ect. 
Fellas, c'mon, there are alot of good songs by these artists...U2 has more than two songs. 
Omaha FM radio is not bad...compared to something that is terrible.
That is why I have really come to enjoy Buenos Aires radio.  It is the real music variety that appeals to me.  The radio offers a little something for everybody.  In one hour you can hear a little bit of the 80s punk rock like The Clash, or other English rock music like Coldplay, The Verve, Rolling Stones, or Oasis.  Other artists include REM, Blur, Led Zeppelin, and Gorillaz.  Heck, they even played The Blues Brothers' Sweet Home Chicago after playing a double play from Bob Marley before mixing in some Shania Twain.    
Another great thing that I really enjoyed about radio down here is stations play lots of cuts from a single album.  Radio stations back home will play one or two songs from the entire album and forget all of the other songs.  This stinks because every album has got some great songs on it.  
Buenos Aires radio stations even play live versions of songs by great artists.  These are the versions that we never get to hear back in the States.  The idea of music down here is to play what is good, not to overplay it, and play live versions.  Live versions is where you get to really here what an artists is like.  REM or Rolling Stones, or even Jamiroquai have live performances and remixes that never make it onto the airwaves back home.  I was in BA when The Rolling Stones and U2 came into town.  What I couldn't believe was that the radio stations would actually broadcast the concert as well as broadcast the live tracks after the concert was over.  That would never happen back home. 
It's gonna be frustrating to come back home and hear these damn DJs claim how their music radio station is better than the next.  the truth is they are all cut from the same mold.  The same damn boring mold.  DJs in BA are not afraid to play any type of music and mix it up a little bit. 
So dear old DJs back in Omaha.  It is time to throw away that short play list and dig into some good music...use guidebooks and whatnot to help you out.  It is scary...but be original.   
Goto Sokol for a concert or two.  Play some of the artists that come to town before and after they come to play.  Be original.  There are some great artists that come through town that people would be interested to hear. 
At least there are some radio stations in BA that broadcast over the Internet, that will make the adjustment a little easier as I come back home. 
i now step down from my soapbox. 

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sabes porque, amigo? Por que eres...

As you travel there are things that happen. Things you just remember. People you remember. Events you remember.

I have this page in my journal that is ripped out. Now, I never rip out any page in my journal because I value those blank pages. I like to keep them and fill them out with ideas, experiences, thoughts, and random ramblings.

There is a weird story about this ripped out journal page that I have and am writing about. This blog entry is about a guy I met in the Plaza Independencia in Santiago, Chile. A bum. A guy who had nothing. A guy who really opens your eyes to how lucky you really are. I wrote on the back of the journal page that I ripped out for him after our encounter.

So here goes.

There are lots of benches to sit on in the Plaza Independencia in Santiago, Chile. Plaza Independencia's are town squares. The cathedral as well as important government buildings border plaza independencia's in South America. The Plaza Independencia is the main place where people to gather and enjoy the day or evening while talking, playing chess, or whatever. There are lots of trees, benches, a statue or two, and lots of folks taking a break between commitments. Its a great place to relax, do some people watching, and write in your journal. It was a very nice night back in early March so I decided to take a seat on one of the many benches and eat some pasta salad with beef strips on top that I had purchased at the grocery store after touring three museums that day. The beef strips in the salad were excellent, but the pasta salad with cilantro was not a choice combo that I enjoyed. Just a bit too much cilantro for me (had a bad experience with cilantro in Mexico). So there was a little bit of peas, corn, some pasta, and cilantro in my little portable dish that I was not going to eat.

In South America Ive become accustomed to taking whatever I dod not eat and giving it to bums on the street or whatever. No sense in throwing food away when someone else can eat what you dont eat. And giving food to someone is always better than giving money. This was a great idea that I learned this from a crazy liberal lady I met in Cusco, Peru. So I saved this to-go platter for any bum that would walk by and ask for some money.

Then this homeless guy walks by. He sticks out hand and asks for "una moneda" (some change). I shake my head and hand him the to-go platter with a fork inside it and then continue to write in my journal. Most bums usually take what you give them and move on. Or Ill be walking along and hand it to them. There is usually no more than a "gracias" exchanged. Well, this time I was sitting down when I handed it to him. So this guy sat down. And he sat down right next to me. He received the salad with open hands and then sat down. I was surprised that he used the fork I had expropriated from the KFC down the block. Two fork fulls later he lifted the to-go platter up to his mouth and wolfed down the peas, corn, pasta, and cilantro as fast as he could. I expected him to leave after that, but we started to talk. He talked, I nodded. It was very difficult to understand him through his mumbled words and I saw that he didnt have any teeth. The odor was repugnant. We sat side by side for about 20 minutes and thought a few different things to myself like, "What is this guy teaching me?" or "Wonder what I can learn about him?" and "I hope this guy doesn't try to hurt me or make some type of move on me." It was tough to sit next to this guy and listen to him. I was trying to be as helpful as possible but was a little jumpy (more jumpy than usual). I tried to make eye contact with a coupla people that walked by, I was trying to find a way out. Someone offered the bum a cigarette and thought that was just great. I was pretty worried that he could go nuts and burn me or something. Crap. I was alternating between worried and not too worried because he would say to anybody that walked by and point to me, "Amigo, aqui hay un caballero" (friend, here is a gentleman) I never felt in danger but didnt feel safe either.

This was just a weird night. Throughout the whole conversation he would say "Sabes porque, amigo...Por que eres caballero (or whatever)" I felt I really needed to get out of there. It started to get uncomfortable. He saw my journal and asked for a piece of paper and pen. All I had was my journal and so I had to rip out a page and offer it to him. He wrote on it "Te Quiero, Amigo" I believe that he was expressing his thanks for the food and time i offered to listen to him. It was just kinda weird. He offered his hand and I shook the grimy hand, looked him in the eye and told him that it was getting kinda late and I needed to get going.

Suddenly he stood up and in a low voice that grew louder as he grabbed his belt area up and down and said "Amigo...amigo...oh, amigo...) I left pretty quickly after that because I really had no idea what was gonna happen after that. Wasnt too sure if he was gonna whip it out or use the restroom right there. Ya just never know. "No tengo plata, ya te auyde, che" ( i dont have any money, i helped ya already, bro). That is when I left and walked home.

What I really got out of this encounter is that it's saddening to see people who have absolutely nothing. People who hafta beg for your spare change. People who dumpster dive for cans to recycle or for scraps of food to eat. They are at rock bottom.

This encounter really drives home the message that you should be very happy with the things you have. Family, friends, a roof over your head, and a little bit of change in your pocket. Stuff we take for granted are the things these people dream of. It makes you feel very thankful for the people around you in your life and the things that you have. Every time you get down on yourself or are feeling like nothing is going your way you should remember that there are people who have it worse. A lot worse.

So here is the little call to action portion of this blog. Why not take some time out of your schedule and help someone out. Instead of going out to the bar or getting a nice meal, use that money you would have spent and donate it to a shelter. Don't have a lot of dough, then donate a coupla hours every week/month. Im pretty sure that you will get more out of your time doing this than just going to the bar and people watching.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hangin with JC for an afternoon and then up to Sugar Loaf Hill

Hey there, folks...

more exciting times from Rio de Janeiro. This place is a city of have very rich people next to some of the worst slums imaginable. Slums where people live day to day and dont know where there next meal is coming from. Life really doesn't make any difference to these fellas.

So I stayed out of that area and stuck to the touristy areas of Rio. I am a Lonely Planeteer here in Rio. Not speaking the language really cuts back your ability to meet people and makes ya kinda feel a little helpless. Hand movements, pointing at maps and the goodwill of strangers help ya make it through the day. That's what Ive been doing during my time here in Rio.

A coupla days ago the sky finally cleared and a perfect view of Cristo was seen from the beach and everywhere in Rio. I took the ol 538 bus to the foot of Mount Temptation which is the home to Christ the Redeemer. Also known as Cristo. I call him JC. The bus cost me about two Reals and I was in luck because this time I got an air conditioned bus. Sweetness. The ride takes about 45 minutes and winds its way through the bustling streets of Rio. Bus drivers are pretty much the same here in Rio as they are anywhere in South America. No matter where you go in SA the conductors are gonna drive the hell out of that bus. You better hold on or you will get tossed around like a cheap suitcase going through customs and the baggage handler is having a really bad day. These guys jostle for position, run red lights, grind the gears until the find the one they one they want, make stops, and converse with the copilot taking change from the passengers taking your money at the door. I made my stop and was glad to get off near the tram station at the bottom of the mountain. The tram station that takes you to the top to see JC is surrounded by taxi drivers wanting to get your money and take you up there themselves. The taxi cartel charges you the same price and tells you they will take you to another lookout point for the same price as the tram, but I wasn't too interested because any yahoo can have a taxi and print out some pictures of where they are gonna take you. Just didn't get a warm fuzzy from some of those fellas. Now it would make sense to have a small little bus that takes the tourists up the paved road leading to JC, but that would put the tram out of business. I went with the train company to see JC and paid my 36 Reals for the 10am ride. All the seats on the tram were made for people around 5' 4". Reminded me of some buses in Bolivia and Patagonia, not the most comfy but it was only a 25 minute ride to the top so it wasnt too bad. We get to the top and disembark the tram. I take my time and hang back because I wanna get a foto next to it and next to a sign that says "Welcome to JC..etc" Around me people are jostling for position to get on the elevator that'll take them to the top. relax, folks, JC is going nowhere, you don't hafta be the first one on the elevator...

I get off the elevator after a coupla minutes waiting my turn and walk a few steps and look up. This statue is HUGE! I dont ever remember seeing something so large in front of me. The statue literally takes up your whole field of vision, it is that profound and that large. The guidebook said that it is around 38 meters tall and has a 36 meter wingspan. It's right. To get from the elevators to the foot of JC you need to take two escalators. I hopped on and got a great view of the city and a up close and beautiful view of JC when I got off the escalator. The view of Him and of the entire area was spectacular! The entire city of Rio sat right in front of us and reached out in every direction. One view had Maracana, the gigantic soccer stadium that I visited last Sunday. Another view had the spectacular stretch of sand composing Ipanema, Copacabana, and then leading to the 1000 meterish tall Sugar Loaf Hill. The view around 11am was a little hazy but things cleared up as I was leaving around 2ish. JC was a sight to see. It is much different to actually see it in person than to see it on the postcards. The statue is very simple and elegant.

And now to the folks that I met. To get a really cool foto of you and JC doing the wingspan thing you need someone to lay on the ground and take the foto from. It's pretty hard to go up someone and be like..."ummmm, can you take a foto of myself and JC? And could you lay down here on the concrete because I wanna get a really good shot." Naw, ya just dont do that to folks. So what I did was wait for someone to lay down and do the ol' "umm, while you're down there...would you mind?" routine. I found a coupla Americans that were traveling around the world and who just so happen to be laying down in the place i needed and were snapping a foto or two. Ben from Seattle was more than willing to help me out. It's not common to find Americans traveling for such a long time, Ben said that too when we struck up a little conversation about our travels. So I gotta give a thanks to that guy for taking a minute out of his schedule to snap a foto of a kid from Nebraska. Thanks, Ben.

Leading 15 meters from the feet of JC is a pathway, a staircase, and a viewing platform. You can stand on the staircase and have someone snap a foto of you from below and get a really good foto of yourself and JC. The only problem is that everybody will be in your shot because it is such a small space with so many people. Supersaturation. It's a supersaturated plot of land with camera crazy tourists. Most people wait their turn, stand on the staircase for a coupla seconds, snap the foto of them with their arms out or raising the roof or whatever and then they are done.

However...this is one of the problems with digital cameras; you have a massive memory card so you can snap unlimited amounts of fotos. Lots of folks may have huge memory cards but forget to use their own memory and manners when taking a foto.
Which brings me to That Girl. That Girl was the ladytype who actually stood on the steps of Cristo for a good seven minutes while EVERYBODY was waiting for her to get down. People began to crowd, get anxious, and kinda cranky. What I really wanted to do was just stand right in front of this girl to get a good foto but decided otherwise because that would prolly just delayed her from getting down from the stairs. In the end I got a good foto and hopefully That Girl got one as well.

Standing at the feet of JC on one of the most recognized icons in South America was pretty cool. It was a great time to just stand up there and look at Him and then down at the city below. Around 2pm the weather on top of Temptation Mountain was getting pretty darn hot. The sun was beating down and there really is no shade on tops of mountains. It was time to head back down and enjoy a nice Skol beer. I got back down, had a drink, and then hopped on the bus. I was debating whether or not to goto the Sugar Loaf Hill or just catch a nap back at the hostel. Going back to the hostel meant having to interact with Private Dead Puppies Gomer Pyle. Going to Sugar Loaf Hill meant a lot more than dealing with that knucklehead. So I opted for the Sugar Loaf and took two buses to get there.

Sugar Loaf Hill is another one of the icons of Rio. It is roughly a 1000 meter high hill with very steep granite walls that really prevented anybody from accessing it for a long time. Then someone had the idea of installing a cable car from one side to the other. This gave people a great view of the entire city of Rio. It was even featured in the James Bond classic Moonraker where Jaws as the movie's antagonist. The cable car ride up was spectacular. It was a ride where the view kept on getting better and better. Being the joker and kid at heart I decided to kinda jump and make the car kinda wobble a little bit. One girl didnt think it was too funny since she was scared of heights. whoops...But we ended up talking a little bit after that and she was one of the few Israeli girls I have met and actually got to talk to that wasn't traveling in a massive group. That's just something you don't see very often.

The top of Sugar Loaf Hill had a splendid view of Rio de Janeiro. The Rio harbor and business district was viewable from right side of the cable car house. Ipanema, Copacabana, a series of small mountains and JC were what you saw on the left side of the cable car house. Both sides had a really unique view because the business district was all cloudy and overcast while the left side had the happenings of a gorgeous sunset. And it was. The sunset turned out to be a canvas of all sorts of pinks, reds, oranges, blues, purples etc...Only a poet could give you a better description of what there was to see that evening. The silhouette of the mountains and JC really contrasted the partly cloudy sky. Down below the city lights were flickering on all the way from the main strip along Copacabana to the Favelas (slums) up in the hills of Rio. It was one of those evening where you just sit back and relax and take it all in. It was worth the trip up to see the sunset.
beautiful sunset on the sugar loaf hill

I returned back down 730 in the evening and had to hightail it back to the hostel. I was to have dinner with two Argentinian guys from the hostel around 9ish and you can never tell when the buses are gonna be running. So I catch the 512 and start talking to two of the guys I met on the ride down. Roman and Jeremiah were two guys from Carnegie Mellon spending some time on spring break down in Rio. They kept on getting surprised by the number of backpackers they were meeting who were taking off six months or a year. I told them traveling does good for yourself. I said that I thought it helps you figure out what you wanna do and prepares you for the next episode of your life. (as corny as that sounds). You could tell they were pretty smart guys from the way they acted and how they never took whatever you said and one-upped it. They also never interrupted each other when we were talking. They got off the bus before I did and before I knew it I had missed my stop. Cities look alot different down here in the evening. I ended up in Ipanema and was like..."####, i just missed my stop." I didn't wanna be late for dinner with the Argentine fellas so I walked about 50 minutes back to the hostel and made it there for the 9pm dinner bell.

So that is whats been going on so far in Rio. Speaking of dinner bell, It is time to get some food. Laters.

Mullet Potential!

Well, I let my hair grow out for about two months or so and it looks like there is some mullet potentiality here.

The haircuts are pretty cheap here. Maybe I should throw down some cash and have one of the fine haircare places give me the mullet.

Now that is the kind of haircut that I should have when I start going in for those interviews.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rio de Janeiro Update

hello there, folks

Rio is a pretty different experience than all the other countries I have been to in South America. You really do feel like a tourist not knowing the local language, Portugese. It makes your world a whole lot smaller when you cant interact with folks on the street. Its kinda intimidating to go to a country and not know a single lick. But Im gettin by, slowly but surely...I know "please", "thank you", numbers, and try to throw some Spanish in there because its at least a little closer to Portuguese than English. Hand movements, pointing at maps, and a nice smile will get you where you need to go most of the time.

The hostel that I am staying at in Copacabana is a coupla blocks from the beach and the folks in the hostel are a little bit weird. Actually its the folks working in the hostel that are weird. One of the guys looks really similar to Private Gomer Pyle and he is always in a grumpy mood. A Dutch guy and I were talking about this at dinner. He noticed how surly and churlish Private Pyle was as well and was like, "If you are not a people person and are grumpy all the time, den why in de hell are you working in a youth hostel?" Good question. The Dutch guy was pretty cool. Yauger is a 25 year old artist who brought some fotos of his works. We sat down with an Argentine guy in the hostel over some pasta, wine, and beer and chatted. Good times.
Another guy staying in the hostel is pretty interesting. Olivier is a Canadian who speaks English, French, Spanish and Portugese. He has a curly hair-fro like Napoleon Dynamite, but that is about where the resemblance stops. We have hung out quite a few times and always have a good time talking about stuff. He invited me out last night to meet up with some Argentine and Brazilian folks somewhere in one of the Bohemian parts of town. This guy has been all over the place in Brazil and South America. He even told me about his hitchhiking adventure through the USA. I forgot to ask him if he made it to Omaha. I can prolly guess his answer "uhhhhh, we drove though it..." thats what everybody else says when they mention Otown in conversations.

So far the beach has been nice. There is a ton of inspiration at the beach. Some times you can feel a little self-conscious after seeing some guys with 12-pack chests. But then you feel alright after seeing a coupla fellas with dunlop disease. Im somewhere in the middle. I have the Taco John's stomach (Six Pack and a Pound). Ive walked up and down the beach and am still in search for that girl from Ipanema. Maybe she speaks Spanish or English. maybe...

So what does everybody think about when someone mentions Rio de Janeiro? Lots of folks think about Carnival, Copacabana, and JC. Well, today I planned to go up and see JC as well as the city below but it was 100 percent cloudy. Bummer. They say that it the weather is better in the morning, so ill give it a shot and get up early and then try my luck up there all day. I did get to catch a Brazilian art exhibit and might get to end up on local tv. There was a small group of folks there that were looking for tourists to film looking at the art. I obliged and did my second film, im tellin ya, this film career is gonna take off, one of these of these days.

A coupla days ago I got to go to Maracana, which is the world's largest soccer stadium and got to see some great soccer. It was a perfect night. Around 23 degrees and a great sunset in the background. There was one goal that we saw that was of the forwards had his back to the goal and bounced the ball off his knee into the air and did a bicycle kick into the goal. Wicked sweet! The crowd when nuts!!!!
Maracana was the first stadium ive been to in SA that actually sold beer inside the stadium. And the beers are not like the ones in the states. These beers are your normal 12oz cans but are priced reasonably. Beers inside the stadium went for about three Reals and the Skol beer outside was two. Around a buck and a half or so. The food outside the stadium was great! Nothing beats some meat on a stick. And when you are kinda buzzing, it tastes even better!

The beer brings me to another thing that I really like about South America. Down here if you have your own cooler n stuff then you can just go to any sporting event and sell beer! This is great since you dont hafta pay for a license which raises your costs which is then passed onto the consumer. It is a free-for-all of guys selling beers at the game. Forget about open container laws because you can drink anywhere. Open container laws remind me about the time when my buddy Dan and I were coming back from the World's Most Dangerous Road. We stopped at a mini market in Coroico to buy some beer. We were at the bottom of the road and wanted something to tranquilize us a bit while making the WMDR ascent. Dan asked our guide, "Hey, Ian, are there any open container laws to worry about here in Bolivia?" Ian's response was like, "Bro, you can drive drunk here and never have any problems." He also said "Yea, we tell our drivers not to drink while they are on duty." That was nice to know.

The city is full of contrasts and this is what makes it really different. It is different than anything I have seen. For example, the number of folks begging seems to be more than what I have seen. It is always really tough to see folks begging in the street while you are enjoying a nice meal. Especially when kids beg. That is tough to see.

One thing that I have never seen that really makes me cringe is the amount of ladytypes on the street. These are not the type that you want to bring home to ma and pa. These are the ones that you dont even wanna make eye contact with. These are the ladytypes that inspired the hit song "Roxanne" The Police. It really creeped me out when Stan from Australia, Olivier from Canada, Marlyn from South Africa, and I all sat down at a bar. We ordered our drinks and kinda looked around. All of us are around 25ish and the rest of the clientele at both bars we went to along the strip in Copacabana were guys 20 to 30 years our senior. The ladytypes were not. They were younger than us and older than us. Im pretty sure that these guys were really interested in getting to know the girls' personality. That whole Roxanne type thing is just weird and not really the stuff you wanna get mixed up in. We discussed what drives these ladytypes to do this and what drives these men as well. Pretty interesting discussion. We all finished our drinks and walked home. On the way home we would get harassed by Roxanne and her friends. This was unbelievable! Getting harassed by the ones that have broader shoulders than you was also strange. You dont know whether they are chicas or chicos or whatnot. This was strange. Just dont make eye contact and walk briskly. That stuff gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Well, I think Ive cooled off from the 27 degree day here and will head back to the hostel to drink some wine and write in my journal. Tomorrow im gonna get up early for the sunrise on the beach and then head to see JC, hopefully without any cloud cover.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

i made it...

well, i made it to Rio in one piece.

and it wasnt 70 hours like the guidebooks say. just a shade over 58 hours from Santiago to Rio. Just 58.

So i got in last night slash this morning and was i go out or do i goto bed.

going to bed one. i took a long shower and scrubbed the three days worth of grime off me and am now gonna goto the beach.

i kept some notes about what what was going through my head during that time. i wrote down some stuff that i thought was pretty funny. funny to me anyways.

off to da beach and then to a soccer game tonight.

hope everybody enjoys their work week...suckas!!!!!!