Saturday, January 30, 2016

Turn the page

On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine moanin' out its one note song
You can think about the woman, or the girl you knew the night before

But your thoughts will soon be wandering, the way they always do
When you're riding sixteen hours and there's nothing there to do
And you don't feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through

Here I am, on a road again
There I am, on the stage
Here I go, playing star again
There I go, turn the page

Walking down the dusty artery of Tegucigalpa on a quiet cold Saturday morning.  Everyone is gone, and soon I will leave.  The long road through Central and South America is over, and I am content.  In Spanish contento also means happy.

It has been an amazing run.  Through the heart of Salvador.  Through San Salvador and the talented Salvador hip hop community.  Through Soyapongo--the most dangerous barrio in Central America, where we built community and connections.  We created platforms for hip hop education to grow in a place that needs it.

Through Colombia, with possibilities abound.  Through the pastel Latin Zanzibar that was Cartagena.  To Tayrona on the Colombian-Caribbean coast.  To the mountains of Minca with Lida the Czech swan.

Through Honduras, with the Sucio Quatro, whom Money Mark aptly described as:
Team Honduras is the foulest-mouthed, trash-talkingest Next Level group I've had the pleasure of knowing. Of course, they are also incredible artists, dedicated teachers, and inspiring human beings. It's been an honor.

Good times in "The Goose" as Tegucigalpa is affectionately called.  In Honduras, we planted more seeds in Central America, and I think there will reason to return.

Out there in the spotlight you're a million miles away
Every ounce of energy, you try to give away
As the sweat pours out your body like the music that you play

Later in the evening as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers ringin' in your head
You smoke the day's last cigarette, remembering what she said

Here I am, on a road again
There I am, up on the stage
Here I go, playing star again
There I go, turn the page

I have been tilting at windmills with legends like Medusa, and geniuses like DiViNCi.  With the most incredible, talented and brilliant people, whom I led into battle.  I can be forgiven for thinking it is all simply a knight-errant's dream.  His dharma to right the world by building bridges and constructing spaces.

I have just a few miles to go before I can sleep.  I can dream of new adventures.  I can take a little time for me.  To write.  To think.  To plan for new adventures.

As a Quixotite, I know that whatever I dream I can make true.

And as the Embassy vehicle climbed the hill, I had a view across the city and the mountains in the distance ringed with giant windmills.  I smiled at this punctuated end to my story.

What the World Costs- Honduras

1 Lempira ($.04): 500ml bag of water
10 Lempiras ($.44): a can of Link grapefruit soda; bag of pralines
12 Lempiras ($.53): 750ml bottle of water
16 Lempiras ($.71): a bottle of Cerveza Barena at Las Cebollinas; 1 liter bottle of water at pharmacy; 1 hour long chicken bus ride from Vale de Angeles to Tegucigalpa (no idea why it was cheaper for the return journey)
17 Lempiras ($.75): 6 oz Macchiatto at Espresso Americano
18 Lempiras ($.80): 8 oz Americanao at Espresso Americano
21 Lempiras ($.93): entry into snake museum
24 Lempiras ($1.06): 45 min chicken bus ride from Tegucigalpa to Vale de Angeles
26 Lempireas ($1.15): double espresso at Espresso Americano
30 Lempiras ($1.33): chocolate cake ball at a cafe
31 Lempiras ($1.38): 2L of Coca Cola at the grocery store
34 Lempiras ($1.51): a double espresso at hotel cafe
37 Lempiras ($1.64): packet of nuts and raisins at convenience store
48 Lempiras ($2.13): Bottle of SalvaVida beer at Casa Don Juan
50 Lempiras ($2.22): a shot of turtle egg mixed with lemon and tomato juice
55 Lempiras ($2.44): plate of Pollo a la coca cola, arroz, frijoles y platanos
60 Lempiras ($2.66): 20 minute cab ride from Hotel Interncontinental to city center
62 Lempiras ($2.75): Baleada (Honduran burrito) w/ pollo, guacemole, frijoles, chismol at Coco Baleada
65 Lempiras ($2.88): 20 minute cab ride from Novacentro to Hotel Intercontinental
70 Lempiras ($3.11): entrance to Museo para la Identidad Nacional incl virtual tour of Copan
80 Lempiras: giant plate of pollo chilaquiles
90 Lempiras ($3.99): Family size plate of Tajadas
100 Lempiras ($4.44): glass of wine in Hotel Intercontinental
105 Lempiras ($4.66): double Flor de Cana 7 year rum at Nu; Falafel sandwich at KebabExpress
120 Lempiras ($5.32): 15 min Reynaldo taxi ride
145 Lempiras: Sopa de Tortilla at The Market
149 Lempiras ($6.61): 1 liter of 4 year old Flor de Cana rum at the grocery store
154 Lempiras ($6.83): A plate of carne de res, arroz, frijoles, aguacate y chismol in Valle
160 Lempiras ($7.10): two Sake handrolls (salmon, sesame oil-filled)
165 Lempiras ($7.32): Ceviche de Corvino at The Market
220 Lempiras ($9.76): 20 min taxi van ride to El Patio
258 Lempiras ($11.45): 1 liter of 7 year old Flor de Cana rum at the grocery store.
455 Lempiras ($20.19): Sr. Conquistador steak at El Patio (literally 1.5lbs of meat)
788 Lempiras ($35): 1 hour massage (including eye ball massage--good for after long bouts looking at the computer screen, the masseuse explained.
4,000 Lempiras ($177.48): Graffiti mural
855 Lempiras ($38): first-class 6hr Pullmantur bus ticket from Teguc to San Salvador
1,425 Lempiras ($63.23): 72 piece sushi plate for 4 at Nau Lounge
2700 Lempiras ($120):  1 night stay at Hotel Real Intercontental w/ breakfast included (long-stay rate)
3,180 Lempiras ($141): 1 night stay at Hotel Real Intercontental w/ breakfast included

Friday, January 29, 2016

You don't visit Soviet Union, Soviet Union visits you....

Some great Soviet travel posters.  Makes me want to pack my steamer trunk.  h/t Yelena


On Success

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." -Albert Schweitzer

It sounds even better in Spanish. Found that gem just outside our hotel in Tegucigalpa. Viva NL Honduras, siempre.


Monday, January 25, 2016

The reductive seduction of other people's problems


“If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”

A great article on the seduction, and ineffectiveness, of trying to save the world far from home.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The white man pathology: inside the fandom of Sanders and Trump

America is not my mother. Canada is my mother. But America is an unbelievably gorgeous, surprisingly sweet rich lady who lives next door and appears to be falling apart. I cannot help myself from loving it.

A great piece on the contradictions of America, and the pathology of whiteness on the campaign trail.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Putting the "zen" in frozen

"Like war, illness and poker, snow ruthlessly reveals true character.

And, gloriously if briefly, it hides everything else — the plastic grocery bags and mini-marts and dog poop and salt-grimed Toyotas and sundry disorder of modernity. Watching the quotidian American crudscape transform into a fairy-tale kingdom is a legitimate wonder. Name another disaster that leaves the afflicted region more attractive in its wake."

Great article on doing nothing in the blizzard. Sending warm thoughts to the East Coast from Central America.

Friday, January 22, 2016

What we build; what we leave behind

“The opportunity and the heartbreak of Meadville Lombard is that we are, all of us, living two lives. To make this happen—to build this beloved community— we leave behind so many beloveds who cannot follow."

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Case Against Bernie Sanders

As in:

Until very recently, nobody had any cause to regret Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Sanders is earnest and widely liked. He has tugged the terms of the political debate leftward in a way both moderates and left-wingers could appreciate. (Moderate liberals might not agree with Sanders’s ideas, but they can appreciate that his presence changes for the better a political landscape in which support for things like Mitt Romney’s old positions on health care and the environment were defined as hard-core liberalism.) Sanders’s rapid rise, in both early states and national polling, has made him a plausible threat to defeat Hillary Clinton. Suddenly, liberals who have used the nominating process to unilaterally vet Clinton, processing every development through its likely impact on her as the inevitable candidate, need to think anew. Do we support Sanders not just in his role as lovable Uncle Bernie, complaining about inequality, but as the actual Democratic nominee for president? My answer to that question is no.

The rest of the case is here. 

My day job...

This is what my day job looks like....

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What the World Costs- Colombia

Free: Museo Botero; Museo de la Independcia; 30 minutes for a bicycle on bike day; Museo Nacional
200 Colombian Pesos ($.06): small plantano bread roll
500 pesos ($.15): 15 min internet
800 pesos ($.24): Arepa de maiz
900 pesos ($.28): packet of spaghetti
1,200 pesos ($.37): buñuelo (fried cheese dough ball)
1,500 pesos ($,46): glass of fresh-squeezed OJ on the street
1,600 pesos ($.49): empanada de carne
1,800 pesos ($.55): BRT bus ticket
2,000 ($.61) BRT card; obrea (thin waffle w/ dulce de leche, queso and passion fruit sauce inside)
2,150 ($.66): a bottle of Cerveza Club Colombia at the store; 1 ride on Medellin metro
2,500 ($.76): a bottle of Aguila beer at a local restaurant
3,000 ($.92) entrance to Museo del Oro; bottle of Club Colombia at Wandering Paisa
3,200 ($.98): a half-dozen eggs at the grocery store
3,300 ($1.01): cappuccino; glass of passion fruit juice
4,000 ($1.22): cold bottle of Aguila beer at a bar in Cartagena; can of Aguila beer at Parque Tayrona
4,100 ($1.25); a piece of temptation of chocolate cake
5,000 ($1.53): 1/4 pollo asado (roasted chicken) with roasted potatoes and arepa
6,500 ($1.99): Limonada de coco (Lemonade with coconut); sopa de mondongo (Colombian beef tripe soup)
7,000: ($2.14): Oscar's curry egg breakfast special
8,000 ($2.45): 20 minute taxi ride from Tayrona to Buritaca
8:500 ($2.60): Rum and coke in Cartagena
9,500 ($2.91): Indian buffet lunch including soup, salad and drink at Govinda's in Medellin
10,000 ($3.06): plate del dia: fried whole fish, fried banana chips, salad and coco rice; entrance to Museo de Antioco
10,200 ($3.12): ticket to Star Wars 3D; 20 min cab ride from Cartagena airport to city center
10,900 ($3.33): stuffed chicken arepa
11,900 ($3.63): Desayuno completo (eggs, rice & beans, arepa, cheese and a cup of hot chocolate)
12,000 ($3.67): bus from Santa Marta to Parque Tayrona; Fixer-Upper cocktail (rum, lime and honey)
13,500 ($4.13): Sancocho--giant pot of Colombian chicken soup
13,900 ($4.25): Big Mac combo meal
15,000 ($4.59): Tanqueray and Tonic; 1 night stay in a hammock in Palomino (no sheet)
17,000 ($5.20): Funicular ride to the top of Monserrate and back down;
17,700 ($5.41): A pollo terriyaki sub with fries and coke combo at Qbano
20,000 ($6.12): Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; 1 night hammock stay in Parque Tayrona w/ sheet
21,000 ($6.42): Rum and Coke overlooking the ocean; 1 night hostel stay at Wandering Paisa in Medellin
24,000 ($7.34): mini Spanish-English dictionary
25,000($7.65): whole fried red snapper at Bukaru in Parque Tayrona; 4 hour bus ride from Santa Marta to Cartagena (took 6 hours)
30,000 ($9.18): 25 min taxi from airport to Chapinero
33,000 ($10.09): ceviche de pescado at famous La Cevicecheria in Cartagena
38,000 ($11.62): 1 night hostel dorm in Santa Marta, no breakfast
40,000 ($12.23): puerta-a-puerta bus service for 4 hr trip from Cartagena to Santa Marta; entrance into Parque Tayrona
50,000 ($15.29): Argentine bife de lomo in Cartagena
55,000 ($16.82): One night hostal bed in a 12-person dorm in Cartagena (with breakfast)
60,000 ($18.35): One night hostal bed in a 4 person dorm in Cartagena (with breakfast); 35 min taxi ride from Medellin airport to city
65,000 ($19.88): per person dinner at Andres D.C.; 9 hour bus from Medellin to Bogota
96,000 ($29.36): bungalow for two at Oskar's Place in Minca
216,990 ($66.37): Flight from Bogota to Cartagena
245,615 ($75.12): Fancy traditional Colombia dinner for two incl bottle of wine at Club Colombia
271,374 ($83): 1 night stay at Hotel Balcones de Badillo in Cartagena w/ breakfast
331,190 ($101.29) 1 hr 15 min flight from Cartagena to Medellin
817,375 ($245): 1 week studio apartment in Bogota

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Palomino

Once I finally left the paradise that was Tayrona, I made my way on to Palomino--between the river and sea.

From Palomino

Monday, January 11, 2016

On the Road

"The road is life ..."
 -Jack Kerouac

H/T to Dawn Drew for that gem.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Parque Tayrona

I closed out my 2015 in the paradise that is Parque Tayrona on the Colombian-Caribbean coast.

As you can see, Tayrona was a beauty.

Days were spent hiking from beach to nude beach; nights were spent eating fried fish, and lying under the stars on beach.


From Tayrona

From Tayrona

From Tayrona


On the beach at night alone, 
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky 
 song, 
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the
 clef of the universes, and of the future. 
-Walt Whitman, "On the beach at night alone"

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fin del ano

This is an early New Year's note.  

I am going off the grid for a few days in Parque Tayrona on the Colombian-Caribbean Coast. 

I am going to spend the last days of the year ensconced in a hammock on an empty beach, lazing away the last of the year.  

Even better, I will welcome the new year in my birthday suit on a playa nudista!

May the new year be filled with joy, happiness and peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Sancocho incident

One of the dishes Colombia is famous for is sancocho, especially in the northern part.  It is a chicken soup that I had wanted to try it, so I asked the guy working at the front desk.  He told me there was a cart not far from the hostel, near the cathedral.  I knew the area, I had been twice for dinner on previous evenings.

I wandered over to the area, and asked a fellow at a stand where I could find sancocho.  He pointed me over to the corner on the other side of the street where there were two carts.

I walked over and asked the first cart if they had sancocho.  There were three women there.  One said no; another said yes.  I asked again whether they had it, and one replied affirmative.

So I ordered a sancocho soup.  As the third woman was ladling it into a cup, I thought it looked like mondongo (beef-tripe soup).  I asked her again if it was sancocho or mondongo.  She said it was sancocho.  So I bought it and left.

I sat out in the church square and started on my soup. It sure tasted like mondongo (or, mierdongo, as a taxi driver remarked to me once).  It was definitely mondongo.  It was not good.  It was not the worst thing but it was definitely not what I wanted or asked for.

I walked back towards the stands, and I watched what the woman in the other cart was ladling.  Hers was different, with chicken in it.  It was sancocho.  I asked her to confirm, and she said yes.  I asked her about the cart next to her, and she replied that they had mondongo.

I was so annoyed that I stomped off.  Those mondongo ladies knew exactly what I asked for, and knew exactly what they did.

I debated confronting them, but figured it wasn't worth it.  But shameful business.  A crime against gastrodiplomacy.

But I will have my vengeance:

If one will stoop so low as to lie about your soup, the soup nazi will come for you....

stats

My Levantine PD website was viewed in 89 countries last year.  That is pretty amazing.  10 more than countries I have even been to.

Gabo's Banyan

As I was in the taxi back from the Santa Marta bus station, meandering through traffic, I was chatting with the taxi driver about visiting Gabo's house.  He asked me if: el valor era mas que la pena (if the value was worth more than pain; was it worthwhile?).  I laughed out loud because I had been wondering this morning if would be.  I had left Cartagena early, and had been kicking myself for leaving paradise prematurely.  And yet, as I shared with him the experience, I laughed and said that the value was far more than the pain:

I had traveled down from Santa Marta to Aracataca by bus to Aracataca.  To Macondo by other names, if more had come out to vote for it.

I walked through the hot, dusty town to the house of Gabo's birthplace.  The old home of Col. Garcia, his abuelo.  It was a world of Gabo.  Latticed chairs and old wooden desks used by the Colonel.  Old tables, beds and chairs that looked straight out of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Then I saw it.

An ancient banyan tree covered in giant yellow butterflies.  The ageless banyan bore spindly long branches infinitely into the ground.  Like an alien lair.  It dangled large heavy moss hangings.

And ever so slowly the leaves would fall from high above.  I sat on a rock, taking in the tree and its splindly grace.  With deft concentration, I caught a leaf falling to the ground.  An audience of one saw my handiwork with a smile.

I could have happily watched leaves slowly fall to the earth from under a banyan.  Play leaf catcher under Marquez' banyan for eternity.

In a yellowing world, a butterfly the size of two hands fluttered by.

I even used my notebook to catch falling leaves--I think Gabo would have smiled at that.

Dark lizards slinked through the spindles of banyan roots.

-¿Te sientes mal? 
-le preguntó. Remedios, la bella, que tenía agarrada la sábana por el otro extremo, hizo una sonrisa de lástima. 

 -Al contrario -dijo-, nunca me he sentido mejor.

Acabó de decirlo, cuando Fernanda sintió que un delicado viento de luz le arrancó las sábanas de las manos y las desplegó en toda su amplitud. Amaranta sintió un temblor misterioso en los encajes de sus pollerines y trató de agarrarse de la sábana para no caer, en el instante en que Remedios, la bella, empezaba a elevarse.


Huevos Pericos

I found the most amazing Colombian dish ever: Huevos pericos empanada! Scrambled eggs, tomatoes and green onions in corn meal empanada shell. Incredible.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hip Hop Tout Le Monde, cont

The b-boys dancing in the domed gazebo in Bolivar Square reminded me of this memory from the night prior:

I was out with a friend having a mojito at La Casa de Habana in the Centro Historico of Cartagena.  I had just finished explaining to my new friend what is was that I did with regards to hip hop.

Out of nowhere, a 10-year old kid comes up and starts rapping in Spanish at our table. Rapping and freestyling--trying to show off his skills to earn a few pesos for the night.  

He was freestyling in Spanish, and doing it like his life, or next meal, depended on it.  He rapped and flowed in Spanish for a few minutes while we cheered him on.

Finally, he finished his bars with a last breath and smiled.  We erupted in applause for him.

I laughed and told him he found the right person.  

I gave him 10Gs--a ten mil spot of Colombian pesos for his efforts.  He smiled wide--not a bad haul for 16 bars.

The b-boys practicing in Bolivar Park reminded me of the memory and I put ink to paper.  I watched the b-boys of Santa Marta practice their spins and flips until the music died.  Ever the hip hop patron, I left them 10k under a beer can as a reward for their practice and efforts. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Carta, por fa

It's a hammock and Cuba Libre sorta afternoon.

The hammocks are blowing like rainbow sails in the afternoon wind.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Zantagena

Cartagena reminds me of a pastel, Latin Zanzibar.

Said no one else.

Maybe ever?

Not even in Gabo's orientalist dreams.

-Marco Paulo


On Age

"Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth."
-Albus Dumbledore, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

El Mundo del Gabo

In Cartagena, walking through el mundo del Gabo--through his pastel memories and dreams.

Pastel green cathedral and Bolivar riding high with pigeons down his stretched arm.

Gabo's old white arched memories.  His lush parks of black deco arcs of lights.

Banyans and bougainvillea. Gabo's Caribbean charm.

A feliz unknown.  Like a rolling stone through Gabo's memories.

The lights come on early;green-gold in the black deco cases.

100 years of solitude in love in the time of cholera.

A bit of an old-new Gabo dream; a Gabo crawl through Cartagena.

Gabo's whitewashed arches; Pablo's pastel arches.  Stone arches and doric columns in a soft pastel.

Gabo's pastel yellows.  Long pastel amarillo walls.

The general in his labyrinth, surrounded by stone sentinels that dot the city gates and white waves of crashing seas.

Gabo's setting sun into the pinkness of the day's fading light, and the hoary moon rising over tangerine pastel colonia houses.  Simultaneously, the sun slowly fades into the pink horizon light while the moon rises high and wide over the darkening night sky.

The longest night of the year has begun.

Ah, but my memories are my own.

Gabo could not speak of how Cartagena as a latin reminder of Zanzibar.  In crooked allies and whitewashed nooks.  In intricate wooden doors, studded with copper bolts.  In doorknockers of brass and bronze--iguanas as Cartagena's variation on Zanzibar's bronzed knocked charm.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On adventure

"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure"
-Albus Dumbledore, "Harry Potter and the half-blood prince"

Cartagena

After a week in Bogota, I was ready to get out of the semi-gritty, semi-glitzy Colombian capital. The city was fine, if surprisingly cold. I was comfortable and enjoyed it well enough—visiting Moneserrate, the Botero Museum and the Museum of Gold. I liked the city well-enough, but I didn't find that it was a city that especially inspired me.  It was simply another sprawling Latin American capital--although on the upper-echelon of such variety.

I left the cool air of Bogota and arrived into the warm night of Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast. I was greeted with the sultry humid wind as I was dropped off in the midst of the walled city. 

 I checked into the hostal, and checked out the colonial charm of the little plazas and narrow streets. The humid night kissed me with a Caribbean-Colombian charm, as the midnight breeze tasted of rum and coconuts.

In a small bar on the corner of pastel charm, I sipped a cold Aguila beer as the fans clacked above and salsa music blared out of the speakers, punctuating the night. This was interesting; this had potential.

The next morning, I walked along the walled ramparts, watching the surf crash into the rocky shores. I listened to families of green parrots squawk overhead, and I found some shade near a security guard and her cat to read Harry Potter.

I wandered back down through the curving streets of the pastel colonial gem bathed in lemon, lime, tangerine and periwinkle. Creeping tree branches wrapped around the white wrought-iron bay windows and along the stucco tile roofs.

Banyans offered tropical shade in little plazas.

I found myself caught up in the dreams and memories of one Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It will be Gabo who accompanies me to the year's end. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mondongo

From the "just-because-it's-a-delicacy-doesn't-mean-it's-delicious" files, I present: mondongo.

Mondongo, or Colombian beef tripe [stomach-lining] soup; it was both better and worse than expected and/or sounds.

Thankfully, it came with a lot of garnishes--both in the soup (carrots, onions, celery & potatoes) and outside the soup to put in (rice, avocado, fried plantains, salsa) to make it relatively palatable.

And some cold Aguila beer to help get it, and keep it, down.

Glad I can check that one off my delicacy list, and not return to it ever again.