Thursday, January 22, 2009


Jan 22. (I´m trying to update properly in the next few days before hiking in the mountains and climbing a glacier.... I know this is old but I´m working on it slowly... too much to do to spend enough time on the computer box thing...)

Tonight I'm leaving Mendoza after about 4 days that have gone by in a total blur. It's hot here and humid, not even dropping below 80 at night.
The combination of the heat plus and unsettled stomach has made me very lazy. As I wrote in my journal a few days ago, it's hard to feel you are figuring out your life when a large portion of your concentration is always on not shitting your pants.

Dan headed North two days ago and initially I was really sad. He's the best travel partner I've ever had. But after relaxing into my own pace again, I'm enjoying it. The hostel threw their weekly dinner last night and Argentine beef is indeed delicious.
I met a funny Australian couple who were joyfully counting down the days (7) before parting forever and still enjoying each other's time. People mistook them for brother and sister by the way they called a spade a spade and gave each other crap. People mistook Dan and I for husband and wife on more than one occasion. I don't want to think of marriage and a sibling relationship is so similar. It's something on my mind but I don't have the words for it yet. It creeps me out something bad, for sure.

I talked with some other solo women travelers who are staying in Mendoza studying Spanish and are on "career breaks" whatever that means. Is that what I'm on? I now tell people, that I'm here between teaching jobs and here to study Spanish. I make it sound like it all has more of a predetermined purpose than it does. The westerners are very unquestioning about my approach to not knowing when I will "go home" (whatever that means) or that I'm looking for where I want to live next. The Chilean family thought it strange that I'd want to live so far away.

I talked with a biotech guy who seems to get himself laid off every couple of years and then goes and travels. We had a brief discussion about spirituality and politics. Hope can be similar in both, I think. For the third day in a row, Obama has made the front page of most of the newspapers.

There was a Dutch couple who loved Chile more than Argentina and when they eventually go home to Amsterdam, plan to check out the activities that their local hostels suggest. Funny how sometimes locals forget there is so much to do and just drop into a routine.

I've had 5 Japanese girls in the same dorm as me for the last two nights and it's been fantastic. I admit, I have been homesick for Japan and my life there. It's good to be here, but I miss the busy and sound of the language of Japan. Yesterday afternoon I lay in bed studying Spanish as they chatted amongst themselves in Japanese. It's all such a jumble in my head and being around Japanese speakers has helped the languages stay partitioned in my head a little, rather than just one pushing the other out.

and now it's time for a shower and organizing my bag before going for a walk and getting food for the bus. I hope Dan is doing well and got across the border alright.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I have few pictures of Santiago and few touristy things to say. I do have an idea about what life is like in one upper/ upper-middle class family who all but adopted Dan and I. Mario, the father, and Alvaro, the son a little younger than Dan and I picked us up at the airport at 7am--early by South American standards and have treated us fantastically. They are the family of the wife of Dan's previous coworker Toby. I wasn't sure how this would turn out, so I initially had my reservations, but I have been blown away by the fantastic hospitality.

Perhaps they did adopt us. On the second night, after so much food we could barely move and more drinks that I could count over many hours, there were proclamations that I shouldn't call Mario a friend or an uncle but rather a father. He told the story of Toby for the 10th time.

Toby stayed in my house 3 days. 3 days. He left for three month and then came back to stay for 3 years. Toby is my son ( and indeed, Toby married one of Mario's daughters) and you are my children too. Tonight you stay in my house and when you return to Chile you don't stay in a hostel. A hostel is so cold. soooo cooooold (the drunken slur was in evidence but the heartfeltness of his words had echoed all day). Whenever you come back to Chile you stay in my house. It is warm here. You are my children and you can stay 3 days, 3 months, 3 years and it doesn't matter. My heart is ********this******** big.

They will feed you with the best food you've ever eaten, says Toby, until you are stuffed and want to explode. like a balloon.
and they do. the food is rich and full of meat and eaten with fresh tomatoes. It's delicious and ridiculously plentiful.

Mario and his family speak almost no English and Dan and I have been speaking as much Spanish as we can muster.

The Spanish I remembered more than doubled the first day. Again the second. I'll hear a word once and remember it because I studied before. Other words that I haven't heard are also flooding back in my active vocabulary. Of course there is much more I don't understand than what I do but it's fantastic being immersed and totally above my head again.

I find it funny that this feeling of only understanding 50-70% of the conversation is where I feel so comfortable.

Today, after sleeping till a ridiculous hour and then, eventually, going to the swimming pool at Mario's country club, we stopped by a bread shop. And in that moment I could picture myself living in Santiago. They say it's where all the best teaching jobs in South America are....

and yet, I woke up this morning missing Japan and sense of purpose everyday. Today I'm sending off my information to WOOF to try to get to a farm for a week or two before heading to Buenos Aires. I think my Spanish is improving well for now and will postpone going to a Spanish school for a few more weeks.

A current plan....
tomorrow Dan and I leave for Mendoza, Argentina. He will stay only one night but I will stay three and see a bit of the city. I will travel south to Barlioche and try to WWOOF near there or in Patagonia for a week or two. There is a couchsurfing campout in Pucon Chile -- nearish to Barlioche at the end of Jan, beginning of February. I'll see where the road leads me.

I will be in Buenos Aires sometime from late February and all of March and probably April. I'm probably going to rent a room for March and April. March I will do my teaching course and April I will volunteer. In May I will travel in Brazil, visiting my friend and his family in San Palo and meeting my friend in Rio de Janeiro. After that, I don't know...

My bonus from GEOS was much bigger than I expected. I guess people had my back more than I thought and the money got transfered on a day when the yen was strong. All in all, my budget for the trip is almost doubled.

Today a third language grown in my head and I feel very lucky to be sharing this time with my brother. Today, I have a Chilean family. Today, I played in a pool and no one looked at me as if I was foreign, at least until I opened my mouth. Today I feel none of the fear of the future I did a week ago. Today I feel I am exactly where I should be, doing what I need to do, learning the right things.

It's 9:30 at night and, in Chile, the night is still young.

much love to you all, I miss you in a totally new and warm way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'm not in Tokyo anymore


it's the word I think of when the next big step comes. and tomorrow it comes again. a time line I'm theoretically completely in control over yet, I'm never ready to leave and I always do. something keeps pushing me forward. or something. tonight I'm tired and not really ready to be heading away from so many friends who always try to convince me to stay. I smile. I nod. a lump often forms in my throat but there's something I can't explain telling me the time is not yet right to stay.

It's been a good month homeless. It's been a good 36 days.

I'm starting the count on Dec 6th, the last day in my apartment, the second to the last day at my job, five days before I left Japan. I'm starting the count when all my stuff had to be sorted and sent and packed (... though sure, there's always more sorting and repacking at every stage)

But before that, there was saying goodbye to the kids who have forever changed my life and who I dearly miss.

Then, on day 1 of the beginning of this journey, I took a Japanese test and put studying Japanese behind me. On day 5, I sat in the Tokyo airport tired and too full of emotion to think straight and started studying Spanish. Everyday now, one replaces part of the other in my mind. Most days I feel I will never be bi or tri lingual but just stuck in my head with a mixed pidgin language that few others understand. But the Spanish grows, as the English recovers. The journey within continues much like the journey without.

But before the plane ride, there was a day walking around Tokyo for the last night (of this leg of my life) and admiring the beauty of a city that took me a long time to love. I walked with a friend also on his way out of Tokyo despite wanting to stay. I found this city exciting my first year, dreadfully lonely and cold my second, and by my third I'd made it home.

There's so much to love when you learn how, as many of us do. Some days it's easy to imagine staying forever and others there are plenty of reasons to leave. Everyone misses Tokyo, it seems. Though it's time to leave, saying goodbye with the clear knowledge that what I have right now will never be the same again always breaks my heart a little. Tomorrow morning I do it again. Somehow it's become a way of life.

Then, there is one of the travel conversations with a complete stranger, with honesty we too rarely use, about the meaning of life and love and kindness that with the right timing can change your life. A straight looking self identified Republican, an expert on photons and solar panels, he explains to me about other dimensions he feels he's witnessed evidence for and about a huge benevolent energy that some call god. He explains about how we are all parts of this energy. We are all part of the same soup he says. We must be good to each other because, really, we are all the same.

At some point there was a discussion of how freewill and destiny are not mutually exclusive and the moment felt heavy with the profundity that comes from transitions and lack of sleep. Perhaps we'd met before and perhaps we'll meet again, in that way that only makes sense in the moments you believe it and no others.

And I arrived in Portland, found myself fascinated by the size of the coffee and vegetarian gravy and then slept like the world was going to end for nearly 24 hours.

And then there was a house party with cakes and space that was created solely by the party goers, not by a club or a bouncer or a DJ who's real name we didn't know.

And once I was recovered, I headed down to Eugene between snow storms. I've taken almost no pictures of Eugene because it feels too much like home. The visuals of the town say nothing compared to the stories that wait on each street corner. Once, how thick the town was with history was a big reason to move away. There was too much subtext in every walk, casual conversation, and errand. No event stood on its own anymore and became a web of friends and lovers and many late nights. Now, I navigate the web with caution and new curiosity. It's changed a lot in the three and a half years I've been gone with many people leaving and others becoming key players in the social scene. Alliances change; unexpected friendships grow.

I try to spend my days here listening as much as possible but somehow it often it doesn't work and I tell my favorite stories again. I try to ask as many questions as I can, trying to understand what keeps people here and if I am the same as them. Some ways I'm not, I can't be, otherwise I'd move already. What makes me different and can I ever come back to stay? I love the size of this town and that a bike will take you anywhere. With every dance I fall in love with this town all over again. And yet, I hit the road again.

This Friday we rocked hard with a "Rock Star" themed party.

There's nothing like looking at your own history on the faces of your friends. or so a favorite song goes.
In my favorite dances (Argentine Tango and West Coast Swing) there is a grounding step or a way that partners reconnect between fancy flying moves. before take off there's a moment when you find the ground and your partner and your balance and only from there can you take that leap. For me, Eugene is that place, or at least one of them, that I don't feel I've been home until I come here. And here, more than any place, home is the history that is written on the faces of my friends. It's been good coming home and though I'm sad to leave, I could never be ready to take this leap before coming home first.