OH! Monday, May 25 2009 

thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday! I had a really good night of jungle adventuring. i feel so ancient! what happened to bloody knees, ice cream cake, guinea pigs with ribbons and turning double digits! damn


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!

Don Pancho Sunday, Mar 29 2009 

Hey everyone, just here in Leticia, Colombia givin a shout out to mah MAIN man,

Don Pancho

…Don Pancho.

I love this man so much! I figured that I should do a little blog ´special post´for him because he is THE best. I chopped wood with him all day on Friday, and I am still feeling it this morning! I´m gonna be ripped, i tell you! He cut the tree down in less than 3 minutes! This man is great. I dont have any time left so ill talk more about him later.






Now that I have more time,  I can update you about my life in the Amazon.

Life in the Amazon is slow and lazy. Everything that people need to survive sits around at such abundance that it literally rots on the ground. The colors of the people and the places match the jungle perfectly. I love the red clay roads the most because it feels gross between my toes.

The humidity is stifling, but the fat, heavy rain makes it all worthwhile! The sky can go from clear blue to looming grey in a matter of minutes. On my last day in the jungle the biggest rainstorm came- and I sprinted down through the neighboring forest down a dirt path, trying to find somewhere to swim. I ended up finding 20 kids jumping off of this tree in to a pond, and so I joined them to try to prove that girls aren´t wimps (I´ve noticed all the guys down here think girls are wimps!). It was really fun trying to make myself relive the explosive joy that only little kids have when they can play in the rain.

Last Saturday I took ayahuasca with the Shaman and his wife and many of his family and friends. I was afraid at first, but when I walked in to the ceremonial hut and saw that there were smiling faces of every kind of person, I was really at ease- even the wee babes partook in the ceremony!

Taking ayahuasca was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The ceremony, more than anything else, shook me to my core. I felt so incredibly blessed to be able to take part in a sacred ancient ritual. The songs and the knowledge of healing has been passed down from father to first son for hundreds of generations.

Before I drank the ayahuasca, the shaman went around to each of the women and puffed the smoke from his tobacco pipe on to the crown of our heads. He then patted us down our torsos and across our shoulders with a bundle of delicious-smelling leaves.

The ayahuasca was very strong tasting, kind of bitter and a little bit spicy in a strange way, and sour. It made me feel a little overwhelmed at first;  but then I started to feel really alive, and I became aware of how greatful I was that I have blood pumping through my veins. This was the first time I could feel the ayahuasca working on my mind. My limbs felt electric and I could feel every vein pulse with blood.

The shaman and his wife sang a song together that is thousands of years old, and then the rest of the ayahusaca maestros  joined in, beating on the ground lightly with the same bundle of sweet-smelling leaves. The music was so beautiful, at once  full of lament and gratitude. The songs welcomed in to the ceremonial hut the various sacred spirits of the Amazon rainforest, the spirit of the warm and yielding earth, and the healing spirit of ayahuasca.

They sang for hours as each of the people in the room descended in meditation to their innermost struggles or ascended in to a spiritul, ecstatic state where some people say that they sit in God´s lap. An old man, one of the maestros, was speaking in tongues for a couple of hours when one of these spirits entered his body.  The Shaman team surrounded him and gave him special healing after, to let the spirit leave his body.

When I was tripping, although it did not have that many typical hallucinogenic effects on my mind, I experienced all different kinds of emotions in their pure extremes- joy, respect, disgust, frustration, sadness, love, fear and loneliness.  My mind ran a million miles per hour, and I felt peace that I was able to cry about all of the things that make me happy and sad, because I have struggled so much to feel emotion lately.

I felt like a child, free and content, and I felt like I didn´t even recognize my own hands, my face, my legs- my body was completely new to me.

I then had to go outside and make myself throw up, because everybody else was throwing up, and I felt that it would feel good and relieving to do so. I was surprised to feel like I was in some magical realm where my footsteps were so free and easy and light, and everything around me was so beautiful and alive. This made me feel so sad that a lot of the time I forget how beautiful and fragile our earth is.

I had countless thoughts and revelations during the four or so hours of the ceremony, that I could never write them all here for fear of creating a massive blog post. I also  don´t want to devalue this incredible spiritual experience by clinically exposing it on the internet.

I think I will take ayahuasca again. It is a powerful medicine, and stories of its powers make it sound like some mythical cure-all. A woman given two months to live after her breast cancer had spread to her lungs has been living healthfully with a shaman for a year now;  the cancer in her lungs is completely gone and the tumor in her breast has deteriorated from the size of a small apple to the size of a penny. Another man had a skin disease that hadn´t been healed for 13 years, and he was completely freed from his condition in two weeks. There are countless stories, too many to relate here, about ayahuasca´s ability to heal.

If there is one thing that I have learned by staying in the jungle, it is that mystery is everywhere in the world. My mind wrestles with this, and I constantly  struggle to wrap logic around our existence- but to no avail! The universe is infinite and beautiful,  and the nature of life and death are equally incomprehensible to us;  and that´s what pisses me off most and what makes me incredibly happy about being alive.

OH mah lowdy lord i have so much to say, but I don´t have the time to write it all down! Wednesday, Mar 25 2009 

So, since I last updated everybody a lot has happened.

In Iquitos, after using the internet cafe, Johanna and I went to an animal rescue place in the middle of an island in the Amazon River. It was started by an Austrain woman who really liked butterflies and wanted to protect them. There I got to see a lot of the butterflies that make the Amazon famous– but that’s not the cool part of this story. The funny thing is that we always had to watch our backs because SNEAKY monkeys were always trying to rob us.

The monkeys had been raised by street children to rob everybody they see. A monkey named Toni stole a 5 soles coin from me and put it in his mouth. he also took my dads old lens cover, but thankfully he didnt think that it was that cool. I also saw a jaguar named Pedro, kept in a cage way too little for him. They said that they would release him to the wild soon.

BUT, my favorite of all was lucas the Tapir.

Lucas the Tapir getting a belly rub

Lucas the Tapir getting a belly rub!

After a long day of seeing all sorts of cute animals, Johanna and I boarded the boat to Santa Rosa.

The boat was really cheap, and we were able to give our hammock to an old man who was going to sleep on the floor, which felt really good.


SO: We arrived in Santa Rosa, and the first step i took out of the boat i fell knee deep in to mud, to the great excitement of all the locals. It was really funny trying to get out of the mud, and that made me happy. We had a couple of really huge, cold beers to celebrate our arrival. Theres nothing better than a cold beer when your slowly traveling through the amazon, which has not one cold thing about it. We took a boat to Tabatinga, Brazil, and, as it was too dark to find the shamans house, we stayed in a hostel. The hostel owners taught us how to make traditional amazon drink with cachaza (fermented sugar cane) and lots of lemons.We played cards with them all night and dominated the competition.

The next day, after finding out that the owners of the hostel had paid for johannas share of the room (people here LOVE here blue eyes) we set out to find the shaman. After a hazardous 20 minute ride on a motorcycle, we arrived at a small gate. Turning around, I saw an old man carrying 20 fish and a lot of groceries smile and give me a thumbs up.

It turns out that he is the shaman, Seu Pancho. He speaks a little Spanish, but mostly Portuguese. Most of the time we understand each other by smiling (I cant help smiling when I see him!) and giving each other thumbs up, of which he is so fond. I found out that He is 99 years old, which I could NOT believe. He walks hours every day to the market to buy food for his family, and chops and carries wood all day long without effort! I congratulated his strength and health, and shook his hand after I found out that he has over 80 grandchildren, all of which he loves and spends a lot of time with. He is a hero all around town, and it seems like he gives a nod, a smile and a thumbs up to every other person he sees.

He met his wife when she was 13 and he was 19 (according to him) or 25 (according to her) and they got married within months. Theyve been married for 70 years now. The math of their stories is hazy, but its all the same.

All around their property are fallen fruits and little animals. There is a tiny baby pig who runs around adventuring with tiny baby kittens. There are a couple of really cocky rooters.ha. and a couple of hens/vigilantes with their little baby chicks. Its really a paradise, minus the MOSQUITO OVERLOAD! But thats alright with me, it builds character. I dont have any mosquito repellent but I dont really think it makes a difference.

I am staying in a grass hut on the edge of their property in a hammock. In this grass hut is a 41 year old, really really nice and quiet black guy from the northern coast of brazil. Hes been travelling endlessly for the past 25 years of his life, working a little in every town to pay for his food and his other expenses. He is SO TALENTED. It made me smile to jam with him as he was playing (masterfully, which is really hard to achieve!) the Berimbau . It was the best music I have heard in a LONG time, and it really fed my soul. He is a capoeira master, even though he cant walk on one leg because of a soccer accident when he was little. He also has perfect pitch and can mimic all the sounds of each rainforest animal at night.

Speaking of music, every night here I make myself fall asleep by picking out all the different sounds of the rainforest! There are so many different things to be heard: differences between males and females, mammals, insects, etc.

i only have 2 minutes left on my computer


hungry! Friday, Mar 13 2009 

Hello everyone. I arrived safely in Lima today earlier than expected. It is really humid, but not that hot. I spent the entire day biking around with a German woman who is in her seventh month of traveling the world and a man named Ulises who is from Lima. The digs are in an interesting* part of Lima but the company is good. Ulises´mom is really a lovely woman. I have been biking all day long in a men’s bathing suit with a mesh case inside where your balls go, which actually feels like knives on my buttcheeks  for all of these hours of biking! Ulises is currently carrying two switchblades that look pretty sharp just in case we run in to any trouble. Also, I haven´t eaten ALL DAY! I am HUNGRY! Plus I dont have any peruvian flores yet, so i´´m out of luck. i guess i´lleat tomorrow because it´s too much of a pain in the ass to figure out the logistics of eating

all right

i gotta go, i´m at an internet cafe

love to you