leaving a place, once again Monday, May 25 2009 

It always seems that once I start calling a place home, I have to leave! I had to force myself to leave Parque Ambue Ari the other day. My love for that place is all about the cockroach-infested hay mattresses, the 2 pieces of bread I get for breakfest, freezing cold showers after sweating in the rainforest all day, waking up at sunrise to birds and monkeys all around my cabin and the late nights with candles spent playing Israeli card games. I love it ALL! Life is exhausting, but so deliciously good in its exhaustion.

A couple of days ago I got to spend some time with puma triplets. Pumas are the most athletic big cats of the Americas. They have the perfect tail for balance, and so they are very graceful when they run incredibly fast or jump great distances. These puma triplets were rescued from a market in the Bolivian altiplano. They were raised by humans from the time they were little babies, so they are very affectionate. I can´t believe I was so blessed that I had the opportunity to cuddle with a 60 kilo puma sitting on my lap. They were in heat, so they were screaming all day at the top of their lungs and all they wanted was love from me.

On my last day at work I got to walk a jaguar named Amira through the forest! Amira is a baby jag, one and a half years old, that was rescued from a wealthy Lebanese family who were involved with drug trafficking in Bolivia. Nothing could have prepared me for how incredibly striking she is! I turned a corner on the path through the woods and seeing her took my breath away. I can´t believe how incredibly beautiful she is. Amira  is about 70 kilos, hugely powerful and muscular, but a huge sucker for a belly rub. She´s a lover, not a fighter! All day she lazily groomed me with her spikey tongue and nuzzled my side. Amira is also the only cat at the park that swims underwater.  She has really endearing antics- when she first decides to get in the water, she is uneasy about getting her paws wet and tests the temperature like a baby. Once she´s in, she tumbles around and somersaults with joy. There is a wooden raft in the lagoon with her that she´s really afraid of for no reason. She swims a huge circle around it, looking at it fearfully,  just to get out of the water.

Hilarious thing about jaguars- did you know that after jaguars poop, they sprint and jump out of the forest? Nobody can explain why, but all jags do it. It´s hilarious, and when Amira sprints,  she carries she drags two men behind her attached to a rope.

I hiked a tiny mountain two nights ago to get a good view of the surrounding forest. I saw an incredibly lush explosion of green living things, but I also saw terrible things. The park in which I was working is a small oasis of protected forest. the rest is up for grabs for ground-burning farmers and clear cutting. Every year the forest around here is less and less, and nobody with any real power does anything about it. The only people protecting the land are the small social entrepreneurs who work years and years to secure a small piece of land to protect. It´s a terrible situation. There is good money in the clear-cutting business, and much demand from western countries to buy the fine woods that are found here.

I was hitch hiking the other day with two men who worked in the clear-cutting business. You really can´t hate these guys, because they are really hard workers and really love their land. They just don´t have time to think about conservation. An 18 wheeler completely full of planks of wood passed, and I asked them how many trees they needed to cut down to produce one bus load of wood. They said that they needed to cut 24 trees, a meter in diameter, to produce that much. They are cutting the oldest trees in the forest, and in the place of these trees, banana leaves grow like weeds all over the place! The wood industry is not sustainable, and it´s getting worse every year as demand from the United States increases. Much of the furniture that we buy in common stores in the United States sells wood that is either illegally or legally cut down in the jungles of South America. To everybody- please make sure that you know where your wood is coming from. It´s such a shame to sit by the side of a south american highway and see huge trucks full of ancient, 8-feet-in-diameter trees speeding down at all hours. It´s really, really a shame.

Anyways, I´m really sad to leave, and I reccommend this place to ANYONE who wants to really experience the jungle. This is a spectacular landscape, and I wouldn´t have done it any other way. I am in Villa Tunari right now, on a wild goose chase for a letter that my family sent me. Looks like it´s not here! oh well. I´m off to La Paz hopefully tomorrow, and after that, Lima. I think I´m gonna be flying to Colombia, I have an (unfortunately) EXTREMELY short stay there. Everyone I have met in my travels says that Colombia is way way better than all the countries they´ve ever been to. I guess I´m gonna have to come back!

something to contemplate



doin´that thang Thursday, May 21 2009 

hello everybody!

I´m closing up my time in Bolivia. how unfortunate! Bolivia is a GREAT place. I love it here. I head to Lima this weekend i think, and I might take a flight to Medellin if I can afford it. I want to go up to the north of Colombia as quickly as possible so I can get my diving license.

So what IS NEW with me? I got egged today because it is my birthday. That was cool, except I don´t have any soap or shampoo because they were stolen, so I have little elastic bits of egg white all over me. I guess one has  to be egged SOME time in their life, though. My ocelot is in heat again. She is very affectionate and temperamental. I awoke her from her hours-long nap in the sun the other day because I was flanked by mosquitoes on all sides, and she attacked! but it´s all good, because she´s pretty small and she only bruised me badly.

OH, by the way, ABC filmed a Nightline special at Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi while I was there. It will air sometime in the next couple of weeks; they´re trying to make the park seem like a tourist attraction for adrenalin junkies, which it is not. They might have me on tape singing a song to my cat, but I have no idea.

I CANT WAIT TO GO RELAX ON THE BEACH! I am exhausted from life in the jungle. Today I carried a huge bag of bricks for a mile through knee-deep mud and water, no hands free to kill all the mosquitoes that were gladly and selfishly sucking my blood! I am so pooped.

My brain is fried. I´m gonna have to fill this in at a later date, because I can´t think of anything interesting to say.

i love all of you,


greetings earthlings Saturday, May 16 2009 


I am in an internet café in guarayos, bolivia at the moment. for about two weeks now i´ve been taking care of an obese ocelot named Lazy Cat. We burn lard every morning on a jungle trail. EXCEPT, it´s not so sweet now because the other day she shat out 3 intestinal parasites! I do not want these in mah belly. So I´m not giving her so much love! 😦 All day I am bored out of my mind without a cat to play with, and there are too many mosquitos to ever be sitting still, so I can´t read or write. Usually I go exploring the jungle, trying to climb trees only to discover many varieties of stinging ants. I like chopping lots of things with my machete, singing Beatles songs to my cat, trying to sing the guitar solos. I pass hours and hours following huge lines of thousands of marching ants, trying to figure out what they are doing. I think they just march because they don´t know what else to do!

Yesterday I had a good day, 8 hours straight of bordome yielded one long, brilliant green poisonous snake, and an ant war. (giant black one with huge-ass pincers versus quick stinging red ant, it was a draw). Another let-down (or not?!!) is that there is a huge wild male jaguar roaming around camp. For three days in a row now I´ve heard him grunting (it’s this sort of deep, infrasonic, mighty, guttural noise) about 50 yards away from me, somewhere in the forest. Too bad they have perfect camouflage and are quiet as hell when they stalk things! otherwise I would have more peace of mind while I am off exploring the jungle. So basically I just stay in one place, near my cat´s cage, because my soft human flesh is surely delicious.

Also- a giant fire ant was latched on to my cat´s leash, so i chopped its stinging body off from its head so that it wouldn´t get us: the body stayed alive for 2 hours, stinging MADLY away at the air, the ground, anything really. In a social experiment of sorts I put the headless body in the middle of the marching line of ants to see how they would react. Some tried to eat it, others tried to help it, but in the end they just altered their path slightly so they could avoid this unpleasant distraction to their hard work. How telling!

AND! the birds! I love them! there are a ton of parrots on camp. They are so intelligent. I sing to them every morning and they are such a good audience. They all gather in one corner right next to me and start dancing, which means the move their little feathery bodies up and down to the beat of the song. It´s really cute. The macaws are the biggest fans of singing. They´re so smart! Whenever I am walking towards them, I can hear them practicing language together- Hola! What´s up! Hello! Cool! Yo! Nooken in the Cooken! (sex in the kitchen in Dutch) and then when they realize that I´m passing, they stop talking and start screeching inarticulately. It´s so hilarious! this happens without fail every day. They speak with each other perfectly in various languages, and then when there are people in sight, they feign stupidity. I think they are secretly plotting a total human takeover.

PS: sorry about the lack of photos, I promise I will put them on the internet somehow, even though I am returning home very soon. I just can´t find a good way to do it, and I´m never on the internet!

Çómíng home June 10th

-Have had only one shower a week since March 12th

-I need to get to Barranquilla, Colombia by the end of may, but flights from Lima to Colombia are all several hundred dollars. I may have to travel by bus for one week without stopping, which will SUCK big time!



life in the jungle Saturday, May 9 2009 

so, i´ve been staying in a cabin in the middle of the jungle here in bolivia for a week now. I was working with a BEAUTIFUL ocelot named vanesso, but he hated my guts! he would full-force attack me and try to end my life all the time. So the switched me with this other girl, and now i´m working with an obese, affetctionate ocelot named lazycat. She´s in heat, and she´s so exhaustingly horny all the time that she won´t walk more than 3 meters without resting for 10 minutes. Apparently my old ocelot really loves the new volunteer. I wonder why he didn´t like me?

Life here is tiring! it´s emotionally frustrating to work with these cats. we get up at dawn every morning and go to bed late after many games of chess or cards.  AND, there are  SO MANY different kinds of cool bugs to look at! All the time you see ants of all different shapes and sizes organizing themselves or building something incredible. They have such civil societies! On my walks with my cat I have seen butterflies with clear wings, insects that look exactly like leaves and twigs, and all sorts of different kinds of mosquitos. I´m bitten all over, but apparently during the wet season there is a record of a man slapping his arm and killing 40 mosquitoes in one go! damn!

There are tarantulas everywhere! two nights ago I had one in my bed, under my mosquito net with me while I was sleeping. I also saw one the size of a man´s hand with the fingers crawling around my bed. They are really nice creatures, though. They won´t hurt me.

SO MANY MONKEYS! every day I see at least 15 on my walks with my cat. Capuchin monkeys follow me and my cat everywhere, singnaling warnings to their family and sometimes making weapons to throw at us. There are really cute tiny little spider monkeys too. The best monkey, though, is Marocha the spider monkey who lives on camp with us. She spends her entire day being a bully. She chases wild pigs around and pulls out their legs so they fall over, and steals candy from the kitchen and gets high on sugar. She´s so cute and really manipulative!

The wild pigs are supposed to be the most dangerous animals in the jungle. A pack of wild pigs can kill a jaguar. They´re really vicious.

What else should I tell you? EVERYONE here has some sort of gross health issue. Most people working with the jaguars have jungle fungus that goes all over their feet and up to their knees. One girl got Bora-Bora, which is when you make the mistake of wearing wet clothing (impossible to avoid this) and then somehow a week or two later a caterpillar hatches out of your skin. I do not want to get Bora-Bora.

For fun people go to the next town and listen to the minimal selection of songs on the juke box, which is pretty much limited to reggaeton, 90s hits, and michael jackson. we also drink terrible alcohol, suc/h as potable, which is rubbing alcohol that is safe to drink (hence it´s name, which means ´drinkable.´) This is 190 proof straight alcohol that practically turns to gas when it hits your tongue. It doesn´t even feel like you´re drinking anything! It´s a strange sensation. I don´t get obscenely drunk down here, though, because it´s money that I´ll never see again that I need for further traveling.

I miss you guys! I have to go get cash from the western union. I will see you soon. My birthday´s coming up! I will have survived against all odds for 19 years on the 21st.

have a american springtime, i can´t believe i´m missing it


ps. happy mother´s day to my MOM! I love you mom! you´re the best!

HEY YOU Monday, May 4 2009 

Hey people of the world, I´m gonna be without access to internet for the next few weeks while I work with animals at Comunidad Inti Yara Wassi. They were psyched that I came because there is an ocelot named vanesso who hates men  and needs a friend. I felt gypped at first because I think huge animals are much sweeter, but then I said to myself, SELF: what are you complaining about? life is good!

i´ll see you guys later!


Uyuni! Sunday, May 3 2009 

By the way, I uploaded a picture of the old house in Potosí, but it ended up in a place called ´the gallery.´I had no idea I had a gallery! Damn! Fancy! If you can find it, then that´s great. I have no idea where it is.

SO, I took a tour. I felt like such a yuppie tourist! But it´s all good because I would have never survived on my own. We left to Uyuni on the night bus from Potosí to save the 4 dollars we would have spent on a night in a hostal. Stupid frugal us! turns out that it gets to be below freezing in Uyuni during the night. I spent the entire time on the bus colder than I´ve ever been in my life.

Uyuni looks like it´s a town out of an old west movie. It´s got a main road with railroad tracks through the middle, dust in the air, and brick buildings and desert for miles, and that is IT! It exists pretty much for the thousands of tourists that stream through it to see the neighboring salt lake.

The salt lake in Uyuni is the largest in the world. It´s bigger than the Netherlands! It´s so close to the sun and the sun just bounces right off of it, so it´s also really bright. My instincts were telling me that it was ice as we drove over it at high speeds in our jeep. The floor of the Salar is patterned in pentagons and hexagons of salt. It´s really a remarkable place. I wonder what the ancient people thought when they stumbled over here with their horses. They must have thought something crazy created this huge, white world of salt.

We woke up at 4:30 every morning to fit in our jam-packed tourist schedule! We got to see a lot. The landscape here is striking. The desert is paradoxically full of coral and volcanic rock. It is the strange shapes in this desert that inspired some of Dalí´s paintings (according to our guide, I don´t know if this is true). It is like another planet. The most abundant plant here is a giant bubble of moss-like plant that takes thousands of years to grow. The green of this plant is so alive that it looks out of place in this driest of deserts.

There are hundreds of lagoons that are different colors- turquoise, dark green, pink, red- covered by dusty desert mountains on all sides, and full of hot pink flamingos. The whole place is a trip. The landscape makes no sense!

My favorite place of all was the city of rock, which is a 20 km long stretch of volcanic rock that has been carved in to odd shapes by thousands of years of rain. Inside the vast stretch of rock are pockets of green oasis paridises where the animals aren´t scared of humans and the water is pure and blue.

Immediately after returning from Uyuni, I left for Ascensión de Guarayos (where I currently write). Yesterday morning at dawn I witnessed a really scary robbery! Two young men smashed the windshield of a car and put all of a family´s belongings inside. The family ran outside and tried to block the car with their bodies, but the two guys almost ran over the mom! I couldn´t believe how terrifying it was to see this go down right in front of me, to hear the screams of the mother who was trying to fight back for a portion of their livelihood.

Yesterday I also got food poisoning from the mystery meat that I ate on the road! For the entire 14 hour bus ride it felt like switch blades were having a drunken party around my whole body. I started hallucinating that a hat I had bought had a curse attached to it that was bringing me pain. I hope that it was only a hallucination!

Alright- today I leave for the middle of the jungle. I won´t have contact with any electricity for the next three weeks or so, so I don´t think I´ll be able to keep in touch! Send me all of your good thoughts until then!

All my lovin´


More! (Potosí) Sunday, May 3 2009 

Now, let me tell you about Potosí.

Potosí is the highest city in the world. It finds its fortune in the hills and mountains all around it that are full of silver and gold. When the Spanish came here a couple hundred years ago, the natives generously and kindly showed them exactly where to find all the booty. And all of a sudden, Potosí became the center of the world! Richer than Paris, Madrid, and New York, Potosí was the place to be. All the posh world citizens sailed over to this treacherous landscape to make their homes. All around are the relics of colonial Latin America- wide open courtyards, cobble stone streets, even the most stylish clothing of the era remain the hippest digs nowadays. (All those women in strange bowler hats and shiny metallic skirts? The newest fashion in Paris when the Spanish came over here). It´s a great place. And it´s also the poorest city in Bolivia these days! The irony! (is that even irony? I don´t know why saying that felt appropriate).

The thing to do if you´re a tourist is to go down inside the cooperative mines of Potosí. These mines are chaotic. Because they are no longer private, anyone off the street can buy dynamite and start blowing up shit anywhere they want! Crazy! Children as young as 9 go down inside the mines to help their fathers. It´s a hellish place, aspestos covering the walls looks like silver, the heat is stifling, and the dust fills your lungs. Unfortunately, the ATM had eaten my card the night before and I spent an hour in the morning waiting for the bank to give it to me while they were taking their sweet time. I missed the chance to go down in to the mines! Blast! Oh well, maybe I´ll have a chance to do that someday. Apparently it´s really dangerous to go down there anyways because of the random explosions that have haphazardly constructed the mine. It could collapse at any second!

I can´t believe how lucky I am! It just so happens that I had a free ride down here with Jaime´s dad and his friends, who are all geologists. They advise the miners about what is safe. One of the friends of Jaime´s dad is named Christian. He is an awesome guy who laughs with his whole body and smiles all of the time. His family has been in Potosí ever since the arrival of the Spanish. He has a french last name, even though he is Bolivian. He casually invited us to a barbeque at his place one night at a bar in Potosí. I had no idea what to expect, but I was psyched about the free food.

It soon became apparent that this would be NO ORDINARY place! His house is the oldest colonial house in Bolivia, Still in perfect condition from the 16th century (!). It is outstandingly beautiful. I felt like I did not belong in such a beautiful place. Each room in this place has its own ghost- and every generation of his family is buried there, under the floor of the chapel. WHAT a magical place! Right next to the house is a stream with pure water fed from underneath a neighboring mountain.

Christian is the BEST guy. All the time he was practically force-feeding us food and drink- DELICIOUS food and drink, wine from the middle of the mountains and barbeque cooked over his amazing grill, his own invention (he´s a mad scientist!). I found out that he owns a mine, and that his workers get 50% of the profit while most others in the area only get 20%.  We ate at the same table that presidents of Boliva and liberators of South America have eaten. I felt so honored!

Ghosts? I didn´t see any! I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason, and I thought that a ghost might have been trying to get my attention. After ten minutes of trying to summon all the ghosts in to my room, I was too sleepy to care and I went back to bed.

By the way- I saw the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen, or probably will ever see, in my whole life. Potosí is the highest city in the world, and without lights I could see more stars than I could have ever imagined possible. The milky way stretched from horizon to horizon, and the whole sky looked cloudy with the innumerous clusters of stars. Sometimes I can´t believe that I´m going to school in the city next year. What are we thinking with all the light pollution! Come on!

Damn! Curse my lazy self! Sunday, May 3 2009 

Hey guys.

It has proved harder than I originally thought to faithfully upload my blog. There is so much I want to tell you! So, while you guys have been left in the dark, I´ve been doing some traveling around Bolivia. I passed through Lake Titicaca, which is beautiful, and made my way to La Paz. La Paz is a strange and beautiful city. It is full of traditionally dressed women, called ´cholitias´ who wear bowler hats, big sparkly skirts, and intricately woven sweaters. There are more Aymara people here than Quechua.

The fascinating thing about this is that nobody knows where the Aymara people come from. Their language is the oldest in South America, and there is no recorded history of their existence. The Quechua people, who are descended from the Incas, stretch from the southern regions of Colombia all the way to the north of Argentina. The Incas were a conquering society. But the Incas let the conquered cities keep their religion and way of life. Isn´t that great? Aymara people are a lot harsher, more scared, and secretive than the partying, friendly Quechuans. They are all beautiful people.

So, what do I remember over the past few weeks? What do I really need to tell you? I went camping on the side of Mt. Illimani,  who symbollically represents a father/creator in the local spirituality.  I ate a steak for the first time since I became vegetarian months and months ago! It was so delicious that I ate much more steak than any human should ever eat, and afterwards I declared that I was going to give up all meat and eggs and milk for the rest of my life. I felt like such a barbaric animal!

I´ve also learned a lot about the socio-political situation in Bolivia. Before I came here, my idealistic little self used to idolize Evo Morales for being the first indigenous president in Latin America. Little did I know how terrible he is! I am so naive. His radical left-wing politics is too radical even for the socialists in this country. He is a fighter, not a diplomat, and will stop at nothing to ensure that his agenda is secure. Just a few weeks before I arrived, he surrounded the congress with his army, not letting it dismiss until they passed a bill that was in his favor for the upcoming election. In short, Evo has shot himself in his own foot by following his socialist agenda. The landowners in The East (the lowland jungles) who had been making a ton of profit for the country on their large farms, aren´t allowed to keep their land any more. The land is divied up and supposedly given to those who have none, but the people who get the land do nothing with it; and the truth is, much of the land doesn´t end up in the hands of those who need it anyways.

A couple of days ago Evo staged an attempted assassination of himself to garner more support for his party. He also used this as an opportunity to kill a couple of right-wingers. As you can probably draw, the country is in a huge racial, social and political division between the people of the mountainous altiplano, who support Evo, and the people of the jungle, who support the opposition party.


What really gets to me is that 90,000 of Bolivia´s 9 million are street children. That´s 10% !! I couldn´t believe that when I heard it. It´s the largest percent per population in South America. I was living in La Paz with a friend, Jaime,  who had met Johanna in New Zealand. He started an organization that helps the street children, mainly shoeshiners, write and sell a monthly newspaper. They are allowed to keep the profits of the newspaper if they attend the free weekly school that he offers. How great is that?! The kids have a chance to meet up, and play and learn.

Jaime also told me that a couple of years ago he did a survey of 200 street children who live in the more dangerous part of La Paz- and out of those 200, 100% of the girls had been raped, and 90% of the boys. I can´t believe how fast some of these kids have to grow up down here. You look in to some children´s faces, and their eyes look like they have lived 40 years when they have only lived 8.

By the way, I´m writing this from Ascensión de Guarayos, in the middle of the Jungle! I had forgotten that the jungle is HOT AS BALLS! damn! I´m sweaty as hell! I leave today for Comunidad animal rescue place. awesome. At the risk of losing your attention, I am going to continue my journel in another entry. bye!

ON THE WEB FOR A HOT MINUTE Friday, Apr 17 2009 

Hey guys. I apologize for the lack of cool pics. will upload at next opportunity. im in la paz, bolivia right now. tomorrow i will climb a mountain with a local dude and my friend johanna. sunday morning i am going to ride a bike down the ´death road´from la paz to coroico! i will ride slowly, thinking of my childhood so i don´t die. i seriously have to go! la paz is great! i love bolivia.

I KNOW WHATCHOO thinkin Sunday, Apr 12 2009 

So right now I am in Cusco, Peru. Sorry that i have not been faithfully updating this account of my trip. It´s so hard to keep in touch with the interwebs when i´m on the run fom place to place.

After a 23 hour bus ride lima through ideal andean mountain towns with utopian streams and forests and old incan walls, we arrived in cusco. We decided to go to the funniest, partying-est hostel in cusco, the loki hostel which is an impossibly steep climb from the center of town (or so it seemed, since there is no oxygen for my poor muscles).

The place is full of young monkeys who want to drink and mate with other young monkeys from around the world.  it´s really bizarre. It feels like going back to middle school. BUT, the view of cusco is incredible. and that makes up for the silly demographic.

We only spent a couple days in central cusco. It´s a beautiful city, but it´s full of tourists (FULL) who walk around decked out in the local garb pretending not to see one another. Its really funny to watch all of the tourists with shifty eyes pretending that they´re the only ones there, that somehow this place is authentic at all.

It feels bad to be in cusco at times, despite its colonial beauty,  because it is a city DEDICATED to tourism. It´s full of white kids. It´s kind of  like when you´re full after dinner on thanksgiving, but you really push yourself to eat a lot of  pie that you know will be delicious, but at the same time feels like poison to your poor suffering body! that´s the best way i can put it.

On the boat from Santa Rosa to Iquitos we heard from a Polish dude that there was an open house near cusco in the sacred valley of the incas that took in travelers from across the world. So instead of staying longer in this city, we went out in search of this mysterious house of artists and musicians. It turns out that it´s a really great place. It used to be a circus building, and then it was sold to the artists of the circus and now it is a cheap hostel, 1 dollar a night, in the middle of the andes mountains in a tiny andean village. the people here are so good, so real, and so different from the people in cusco who are so spoiled by the tourism that they don´t seem to be real peruvians. I wake up every morning to that sweet smell of pine and grass that is unique to being in the middle of the mountains. Everywhere huge piles of cow poop roast in the hot sun and children run around playing in the huge grass fields. it´s so great! I love the mountains!

It´s really too bad that i have to leave soon! I´m just realizing now that I have a lot less time in South America than I had originally thought. Before I left, three months seemed like a black hole of time to be away from my homeland, but now I find myself feeling rushed to get back to the northern coast of colombia, which is where I end my trip. I have to leave peru really soon in order to have enough time in bolivia, and it´s making me feel like i´m missing out on so much in peru! But i guess that´s the way it goes. I go to macchu picchu soon, and after that, I go to lake titicaca (ha,ha,ha) and la paz, bolivia. Too bad I´m american! Only americans have to pay $140 for a visa to bolivia. pinkos stealin mah precious penny! just kidding, I am really psyched about the political situation in bolivia. indigenous president, etc. cool. GOTTA GO