Archive for April, 2004

Diving For The First Time

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

so, today…

I went diving. for the first time. yay!

2 girls and Luis from my hostel were going, and they invited me. since I’d never done it before, I would have had to do a class for one dive and then I could go with them for the second. I wasn’t going to go, it’s expensive, and to be honest, I’ve never been that comfortable in the ocean. but I figured it would be cheaper here than elsewhere, and I could probably chip away a little more of my fear of saltwater, so this morning when they were getting ready to go, I asked if I still could and they said yes. so I did.

Going out there I was so excited. I had my own divemaster, and the 2 girls and another guy had Luis as their dive master. we split up and he did the basics with me. So he was going over how to clear your mask and I tried it and I totally freaked out, or at least I was way uncomfortable and had to come back up (we were sitting a couple feet underwater). I was almost ready to nix the whole thing, but we decided we would go ahead and try to dive at a depth where if I wanted to come up suddenly I could without my lungs exploding :). So we did.

…and it was RAD. Over the course of the 1 1/2 hour first dive I did w/ dave, his name was, I totally overcame that fear or panic or whatever, chilled, figured out how to do the mask thing, and got to see a TON of really cool fish, not to mention swim through an underwater forest. It was amazing.

Then we came up, went to a little cottage they have (this is in the middle of a national park where they don’t permit land vehicles – we got there by boat) ate GREAT food, fish, etc, I was so hungry. And slept in hammocks for a while. Then we joined the others for another dive, where we went a lot deeper, and actually saw a barracuda, among other things. But all was well, and THAT was a day well spent.

What Should The Future Look Like

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Why am I here?

What the hell am I doing out in South America, apart from all my family, all my friends, and my chica? What am I doing putting my entire life on hold to live in third world conditions, chancing disease, bodily harm, and a host of other things I haven’t even considered?

Those are very good questions.
I have been thinking a lot about this, and some pieces fell into place on the long bike ride back yesterday.

My modus operandi is “How can I help?” I’m a goal driven individual, definitely a “doer”, that is remarkably good at “doing”. However, I need a dream.

In the microcosm of software development I found agile, and have been very happy with it. It is something I can believe in very strongly, and work like a horse for. I have a ton of skills, and more importantly a ton of drive, and I have the vision to see where I best fit into the big picture of making the software industry more agile, and default.ThoughtWorks has been very good at allowing me to put myself there.

In the real world, I’m not sure that I have a dream. There is definitely something wrong, but I don’t think I know what it is. And I definitely don’t know how to fix it. I don’t have the statistics, but something ridiculous like 99% of the world’s wealth lies with 1% of its people. People here are extremely lucky if they make $70 US a week. I had $400 a week to blow on nothing. That’s not right. But. It’s also not right that in the US, I wouldn’t say that people are any happier than here, and in fact I’d say they’re a lot more miserable. That’s not right. To be perfectly honest, I have no clue what the goal of the game is here. And because of that, I have no idea how to help out.


I am left with (a sunburn, and) the first piece of my puzzle, a question :

What should the future look like?————
I need to think about, and read about, and talk about this.

I don’t particularly want to come up with a totally new and innovative picture of the future as much as I’d like to find someone else’s picture that I can believe in, and then work toward that. You would think this is what religion was for. Does Catholicism have such a picture?

Anyway, I welcome comments giving me hints or just resources, books, etc, in my quest to answer this first of many questions.

I Am A Lobster

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We went to the river yesterday. Spent all day there. And today…I am a lobster. It was a ton of fun, actually. And my butt, is SOOO sore, after riding out and back 14 kilometers each way. Still, how cool! That their entire family including 5 year old Camilo went out on a 14 kilometer bike ride. Talking and joking all the way.

Someone threw a seed into the water at one point, and we realized that all these fish were biting it. So we started catching fish. I think we caught around 10 or 12 all together, we let them go though.

And. There was this actual, honest to god, panhandler there. We watched him do his thing for a while and took this video

A good day.

So This Is A Fiesta

Sunday, April 18th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

50 drunk Columbians…
…and me.
/> Man. I thought I could party. It’s 1:40pm the day AFTER and the music, the pounding, I can’t hear myself think music, was just finally turned off. I’m sitting in Diana’s sister’s bed sure that I’m one of the lucky ones that bailed early (at 5am). Diana’s parents went to bed about an hour or two ago. And the last guest is sitting in a chair in front of the stereo wearing sunglasses. Totally passed out.
To think, last night at 10pm only 2 guests had arrived and we weren’t sure the fiesta would even happen. People were still arriving at 4am in the morning… I was also kind of worried at 12:30 that noone was dancing. Ha.
Salsas, Merengues, Corridas, Reggaetones, Ballenatos…
So much dancing. Once everyone had a few drinks in them, everyone was dancing with everyone else. The music was so loud the house was shaking. And it was good. It felt very much like Mexican fiestas that I’ve been to. But the fiestas I’ve been to have all been family oriented, and a little bit tamer.
They had a cauldron cooking over a fire outside near all the guests. It was full of sancocho, a “plato typico” in this region of Colombia. It’s a sopa with a little meat, potatoes, and like everything else here, a bunch of plantaines. A serving is supposed to keep away hangovers the next day – and I will say I woke up feeling great :)
I’m learning that here everyone dances. And it’s not that hard. “Salsa” down here is a LOT simpler than “salsa” at a salsa club in New York. And it’s not about being good or knowing moves here, it’s about having fun. And yeah, it’s a little about getting your groove on too.


Saturday, April 17th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

So today I find myself in Chigorodo. A little pueblo, in the North of Columbia. It’s much closer to sea level, and, far from being cold as Bogotá was, it is in the Banana Republic, and is hot, humid, and sunny. A welcome change.
Two days ago, I was sitting in the Platypus and talking to people. Two of the people were a couple, Daniel from London, England and Diana from Santa Marta, Colombia. That night they introduced me to reggae clubs, which…I like. Dancing to reggae is actually quite like dancing to blues, which…I can do. So it was fun. I danced with and met a bunch of people and came home around 2:30 when it died down.
Daniel and Diana had been together for 3 months, and that night had been his last. The next day he left. Diana came back to the Platypus crying. It was so sad. I can most definitely relate, and I hung out and talked to her for a couple hours. She was leaving that night to go to her parents house in Chigorodo before going home, and at some point she asked me if I wanted to come with. Long story short, I said yes, and two 8-hour busrides later, I am here. Spending time with her wonderful family, and struggling with how they speak spanish on ‘la costa’.
This is very different.
Their house is simple. It is made of brick with plaster over it. The floor is cement. The roof is corrugated metal. I don’t think they really need any kind of insulation, as the weather this close to the equator is pretty much constant. The house has only 2 doors, one is the front one, and one is the door to Diana’s parent’s room. There is electricity and a TV and stereo and stuff (which is nice, because I can charge my laptop), however, for water, they have a huge plastic basin which sits on a corner of their roof. It is their own personal watertower. There is no hot water, but after a day in the equatorial heat, it gets warm enough for a very agreeable and welcome shower :)
It seems that most people here don’t have cars, and there are very many people on bikes. I have to say I’m a fan of this. Last night we went to a fútbol match for a local team that Diana’s dad plays in. It was actually pretty fun. We took a taxi out, and on the way back we all hitched a ride on a bus. That was the first time I’d ever hitched a ride. I have the same feeling I had when I was in Turkey, which is not, “How can people live like this?” But, how have we lost so much of our community and family in the name of “convenience” and “technology” I really like this town. I’m very glad I came. Actually this was really the point of this trip wasn’t it?

Why The World Hates Americans

Thursday, April 15th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

overheard by an American in Colombia to a guy from Amsterdam

“…it’s like Las Vegas times infinity…”

What Could Be Better

Thursday, April 15th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

I am struck by how fortunate I am.

I woke up this morning at 9:30, just because that’s when I happened to wake up. I brushed my teeth went downstairs to check my e-mail. I had a piece of bread and tea, then I walked down the street to where I picked up more bread and some eggs.

Books are seriously expensive here, but I couldn’t resist, and on the way back, I bought a copy of the second Harry Potter book (en español, por supuesto!). I’m still in a good mood after finished the first Harry Potter book yesterday. It is the first spanish book I’ve read in years, and the it wasn’t easy, and I’m a bit proud of my accomplishment.

When I got back to the Platypus, I put up the hammock and crawled in. I don’t have to do anything today. At all. As my goal for the time being is to learn spanish, I’ll probably stay right here, in this hammock, under a sunny, warm sky for the next 8 hours learning about the “Chamber of Secrets” or rather, “La Cámara Secreta”. Life is good.


Saturday, April 10th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

On my second day here, I feel a little better about things. Columbia is not such a scary place, or rather, whether or not it is, it is also a place like any other. There is a festival, La Festival Iberoamericano del Teatro, that has many plays and shows that I’d like to check out today.
I met a Brazilian named Ary yesterday, while I was trying to checkin to the Platypus. Turned out they’d given my room away when I hadn’t come in the previous night (because of my flight) So we decided to room together for the sake of keeping costs down and found a double elsewhere. He’s a doctor in his own country, and his spanish is good for never having taken a Spanish course. It’s good to talk to someone soley in Spanish. He’s leaving today, though so, I’m going to try the Platypus again. It seems a very cool place. They have a little cafe w/ trance playing and internet, which is nice. Plus the woman who was manning the office was very nice. She actually called like 10 hotels to find us a room before we left.
My plan of staying here a year depends on a budget of about $1,000 dollars a month, which works out to about $25 a day – including travel w/in the continent. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep it up, but at least here in Columbia I think it’s possible. I’m lodging for about $6/night if I can get into the Platypus.
I plan to write a lot while I’m down here. So I apologize to all of you if I start becoming verbose, but hopefully if I keep this up, my writing will also become better as I go. It seems that internet access will be doable, but I’m not sure about the speed, so I’m a bit concerned about taking pictures. Anyway, I’m off to check out the Platypus.

This Is It

Friday, April 9th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

My absolute last stop, if you can call it that is a layover in Miami. It’s currently 7:33AM (which is really 4:33AM by LA time) and I board my plane in 12 minutes. Then I’m off to Bogotá.

I have to admit I am a little scared. After six months of having pretty much the same plan, it’s kind of suprising to feel that emotion about this trip, but it’s there. It’s not alone though. As I look forward to the completely foreign and unknown South American soil, I feel excited, nervous, hopeful, scared, happy, sad, lonely. I can’t wait to be walking from the airplane. I also can’t wait to have maybe a week without incident under my belt. I think I’ll feel a bit more secure then.

Really, I should be fine. I’ve been in dangerous cities before, cities like New York, South Central LA, London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul all have their particular breeds of crime and pickpockets. If you’re not an idiot, and are always aware of your surroundings you’re usually fine. I suspect that this will be the same in South America (even in Columbia). And as my stepfather would say, a healthy dose of fear is a good thing, and I am inclined to agree.

/>BTW, my packing kicks ass. This is all I’m taking. Besides what I’m wearing:

  • 2 shirts
  • 1 superthin fleece
  • 5 socks
  • 1 pair of khaki pants
  • bathroom stuff
  • digital camera (canon s400)
  • laptop (12” powerbook)
  • ipod (40G)
  • flashlight
  • documents (passport, immunization record, copies)
  • wallet (driver’s license & 2 credit cards)

I’ll buy some more stuff once I get there, like a knife and whatnot, didn’t want to try to smuggle that across. My shoes as you can tell are pretty old, so I might get some new ones once I’m there, and I’ll also need something for the rain. I kinda want to see what people are using there and follow suit. I want as much as possible to NOT look like an American tourist.

Hangin With The Fam

Thursday, April 8th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

In El Paso, I spent a ton of time with my family, which is is not an altogether trivial feat spread out as it is. And it was good time that we spent.

Nathan, my dad and I played pool one afternoon. Fun. It’s definitely something of a tradition for us, and I’m glad I got a chance to do that before I left. As a total bonus, I was completely and totally undefeated champion of the table And I get to hold that title until the next time we play…in a YEAR.

Another night, Nathan, Javi, my Stepdad, and I got together over a bottle of wine…well, half a bottle. And we just talked. About serious stuff, the kind of stuff we always talk about. I love that. I especially love the dynamic that the four of us have together. We talked about our parents’ marriage and separation, about where my stepfather was and could be. We talked about my sister and how amazing she was and where she was. We talked about communication tools, and tricks. And we listened. I don’t know what’s going to happen w/ my parents, but I will say this visit has left me a little more hopeful than I was.

Definitely one of my highlights was devoting an entire evening to hanging out and listening to (as opposed to talking at) my sister. Cecilia truly is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And I’m grateful to Nathan for reminding me how cool it was to get her to open up, as I hadn’t in too long. She’s so strong and brave, and tender and scared, and intelligent and open. She’s scared about what happens after high school. She’s totally loving her friends and her relationships. Ceci is so bright, and she is amazingly empathic (which YES is a word, my Uncle Robert looked it up 3 days ago, and so is empathetic) We dropped off her friend, then went to chico’s tacos and talked for a while, came back and talked in the carport for a while, then talked until probably way too late as she was getting ready for bed. I’m going to miss my sister.

Nathan and I hung out a ton. It was easier since he often didn’t have many classes during the day, and I am continuously astounded at how freakin’ awesome my brother is. He is playing Jesus in a passion play – in Spanish! And rehearsing for 4 other plays at the same time. I had just “decided” (these types of decisions change every week) that when I come back I’m going to go back to school and get a psyc degree so I can be a therapist. When he informed me that that was his plan after getting his BA. We had soon agreed to both become therapists and graduate to a Frasieresque life in Boulder, CO. Then all we have to do is figure out how to trick all the rest of our family to come.

Throughout this, I was also thinking about Erin. And writing to her. And talking to her for a few stolen hours here and there. I’m so excited about her. The more so because even though I haven’t seen her since Chicago, I’m still just as excited. I almost feel like these 2 weeks w/o seeing eachother are a dry run for South America. But I get ahead of myself.

Anyway. Butterflies.