Tag Archives: South America


27 Oct

I can still taste Colombia – it’s Limonada de Cocoa – slightly sweet, sexy and a refreshing way to cut the heat. It’s blended mangos con agua with sugar, it’s lulo, a fruit that I had never heard of before until I arrived.

It’s Paisa breakfast, so hungover from Aguacaliente that I can barely keep my head up. It’s beans, rice, sausage and chicharron. It’s drinking straight from the bottle and salsa. It’s a man inviting me to dance, a caballero, with a two week old, whose wife is at home, as she should be – taking care of the bebe.

It’s him proudly showing me photos while giving me the eyes – always naughty, always dangerous and yet seeped in tradition, national pride. It’s knowing I could get stabbed at a soccer game, if I was a man who wasn’t wearing a millionarios scarf. It’s standing on the side of the road, waiting for the bus to come, hopping on as it almost stops and then listening to boleros for two hours, wanting to stuff cotton into my ears.

It’s going to the square with Fiorella and Marisa, while negotiating our way onto a boat and jetting off to Playa Blanca. It’s watching shirtless boys hang off the side of the boat, hoping to be taken away from what they were born to – creatures of the sea and island life; future fisherman with threadbare possibilities.

It’s going even further North, to ‘The Dream Hostel,’ and disappointing a man who I told to, “meet me there.” It’s making eyes, drunkenly, at Lancelot, the French bartender who had walked away from everything two years before. It’s going to a club, and standing on a wooden block, shaking, shimmying and observing who I’d want to give myself to.

It’s Raul’s green eyes, flashing, as he tells me, “tu estas loca,” and I laugh and ask, “por que?” and he grabs my hand and twirls me around because it’s Cartagena and we just won the game.

It’s being airlifted above the communas with the three Australians I was trailing because I was too afraid to take the subway alone. It’s going to an art museum that has three rooms, and laughing at myself for seeking culture.

Colombia is wild – it is better than culture, it’s untempered, natural beauty and as haughty  and crazy as the truly beautiful are.

It’s more than taste, that drips down your lips, it’s more than a, “feast for the eyes,” it’s the sound of guitars at one in the morning, while mota wafts in the air. It’s that quiet cup of coffee on a finca and sixteen shades of green. It’s curved roads and snakes with no names that are yellow and black with poison. It’s avocados as big as your face, and the sound of strangers saying, “buenas,” to one another.

It’s standing in a valley with near extinct trees and crossing bridges made of wire and breaking slats, and  paying a guy 5 bucks to be driven to a town that’s just a suggestion.

It’s learning how to fearlessly hop on the back of a motorcycle and being taken into a community that is booming with ramshackle tourism: beach shacks, hotels, juice stands and swimming pools. It’s observing a village that only has school three days a week because that’s how often the teachers are willing to come.

It’s sitting alone in a club while a bouncer watches me and my host does business behind a closed doors. It’s homemade hot chocolate for breakfast and unrecognizable soup before lunch. It’s the Museo del Oro and the sounds of, “Roxanne,” straining from speakers.

It’s floating in Jonny’s pool, while wearing a newly bought, bright yellow bathing suit and staring at the city’s mountains.  It’s smoking meat and dance, always, anywhere, all the time because the doors are flung open, to people like me who just want to soak it all in, who want to inhale and never be the same after.

It’s that place that’s behind me, and in front, at my fingertips, and I can almost touch it, always – because, as one man told me, “tus ojos son peligrosos.”

Why I Went To South America and The Gifts It Gave Me

24 Feb

I want to talk about what my South America trip meant for me and why it was important to go.  A lot of people thought I walked away from my life because I didn’t want to work, or that I was this erratic, free-spirit who just impulsively took a chance.  However, one doesn’t dismantle six years of a life’s work in complete carelessness, despite how the decision may look to the world.

Deep within me sat the knowledge that I had built my life based upon the person that I had been six years ago.  This person was uncertain, insecure, depressed, wounded and confused.  She had some sense of self-worth, enough to leave negative circumstances in Chicago, but everything else, goals, dreams were covered in Fog; it’s no surprise that I ended up in a city known for it.

It took me six years to heal myself, in fact, I am still working on it.  As I moved through jobs and apartments, I discovered Yoga, talked with friends and therapists, cried and forgave a lot.

I also learned what nourished my self-worth and happiness; what inspired me; where my boundaries sat and what kind of life I wanted to live.

However, transformation is not just one leap to the next.  It’s a slow evolution that’s often painful and sacrificial.  It’s a willingness to set life (or yourself) on fire, to let it burn and then to build up from the ashes.  My trip was my pyre.

I had to let go everything to make space for what was to come next.  I knew that without this space the cycles I was in would keep repeating themselves: apartment, job, relationship, job, apartment, relationship, and that these things would always fall apart because I wanted to be on a different cycle.

Of course, I wanted to have fun, but I also wanted to distance myself from everything to increase my own perspective on my country, culture and society.  To understand the small dot that was myself in relation to the unfamiliar and  challenging.  I was reaching for challenges that I thought were constructive instead of letting them just come to me.  To test my boundaries for growth – not just because I was rebelling against the structures that I had built for myself or running away.

Now I am sitting here, in a Studio in beautiful Boulder, CO, enjoying my own space. I have taken on a project that I believe in and often times I cannot believe that what I’m actually doing is called work.  This opportunity came to me because I started to move away from situations that did not align with what I truly want to do with my life, and because I am not frantically scrambling or searching for some safety net to cocoon a potential fall.

In the past month, I have gone snow-mobiling, snow-shoe hiking, met a Zen Buddhist Priest and climbed another mountain.  All these activities were pursued because of what my travels brought me, which was a constant practice of constructive challenge.  A way to keep life interesting with growth.

The situation I am in is temporary, and I have a responsibility to myself to begin planning my next move.  But I am allowing that move to unfold with patience.  I’m not letting other people pressure me with all of their, “Shoulds.”

I don’t have all the answers, though I am confident that I can look within myself to hear where my heart is leading me.  That is what South America gave me to me, as I knew it would.  

My Last Night in South America

25 Jan

When I arrived in Montevideo, I walked into an inescapable heat that covered the entire city.  It was close to midnight when I hailed the cab that took me to the Will Fogg hostel.  A kind man greeted me and told me that I had arrived just in time!

“In time for what?” I asked.

“For the BBQ,” he said, “I can’t believe how perfect your timing is!”

“Thank goodness!” I said,  “I’m starving.”

“Take your time,” he reassured.  “This is Uruguay, there is no hurry.”

I dumped my bag in my room and quickly put on jean shorts and a white, woven tank-top.  I threw on some make-up to cover up my utter exhaustion after two nights without any real sleep and made my way to the large terrace that wrapped around the hostel.

Chorizo, steak and beef lay on the open flame, and people snacked on cubed, cheddar cheese and salami.  The tables were covered with every kind of alcohol that one could desire, as well as a special mixture of Uruguayan wine, champagne and something else that seemed like a guaranteed headache.

I didn’t drink my last night in South America, though I was constantly encouraged to.  The hostel was full of young men who stared and fluttered about, while they reigned in their courage to come talk to me.  I was told that I was, “the most beautiful woman in all of South America,” and I laughed because I was the only single, female at this particular party.

For a long while ,I chatted with an attractive blonde, Belgium (the only other female) who had fallen in love with a Uruguayan and was working in the hostel.

She told me her love story, and I told her about my Buenos Aires romance, though I could see she was too young and naive in the ways of the world to understand how a temporary romance could be worth it; could be just as beautiful and important as love.

“You don’t seem sad that you just said goodbye to him,” she said, and I told her it was because I wasn’t sad.  I was grateful.

I wanted her to understand that one can’t be sad in such a state of beauty and constant change; that the heat burned away everything; that the sweet moments we had together were deeply healing; that to feel such a coming together isn’t something one should ever weep over.

Though I left all these things unsaid and took a moment to look up at the full moon and mull over my ridiculous, lingering regrets.

“Of course there are regrets,” I thought to myself.  “The apartment with pool we didn’t get, the lack of dancing, the extra cups of wine and exhaustion,” but I knew it was the fleeting time; that the regrets were there because time wasn’t endless; because I wasn’t completely free.

“But this is how life is,” I thought.  “A limiting hourglass with grains of sand falling from top to bottom,” and I saw myself on top of a mountain of sand, at the bottom of my glass, begging for more, scrambling not to be buried beneath the last falling moments of my goodbye.

And the Uruguayan moon shone with arrogance, full as it ever was.  I stared at it on the terrace until five in the morning, stretching myself out on the overturned bed with the thin cushion that served as couch.

Behind me, on a lounge chair, lay the gorgeous, dark, 20-year-old Parisian who had tried to kiss me earlier.  He was pretending to read in the dark and eventually fell asleep.

When he had corned me, I turned away and told him, “I can’t kiss everyone.”

“What does that mean?” he demanded, and I choose not to explain.  For how does one tell a stranger that there was another; that I cannot just give myself to anyone who wants me.

Alone, I stared at the moon, and gathered up my bags as the sun was rising.  Out the window of my cab, I tried to soak in the small, proud and quiet city, for I knew it was my last and only look.

And I wished that my flight was leaving Monday, and I wished that I had danced with the boy who I said goodbye to the day before, and I wished  that I didn’t wish anything because then I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people who made my last night in South America so special – who admired my courage to set off on my own.

Who told me that I should be proud of myself, who stood on the steps in front of the hostel and waved goodbye, who shouted again and again, “Buen Viaje!”

Now and Then

18 Oct

You walk away from everything like you always do.  You can never walk away quietly; it is always fire.

You wonder why you are like this – why it has to be this way, but then you know that you never want anything to come back to.

This is how your life is – one circle of flames on top of the other, spiraling up toward some purpose you hope is waiting for you.

Because that must be it, and if it isn’t, at least you burn.

And as you watch your former lives fall away you know that you feel younger now than you did then.  And you know this time the finger on the match was yours.

And you know now new flames are being lit within, connecting back into the belief that all that you thought you were capable of is still there.

This is your responsibility; to grasp onto your own inner belief, grasp onto what you belief you can provide to serve wherever you land.

But you don’t know where that is, and you don’t know how long you’ll drift, and you don’t know how long you will want to be alone, free and beholden to none.

You only know now is the reckoning, or the change, or the space that you needed to look back at your own creation; to look back at all you destroyed and walked away from; to look back and see what’s left of you when you return.

For now it is disconnection, uneven terrain, passion and silence.  It is a pen in a hand and paper that no one will read.

It is stories that won’t ever be told; it is cities that have no return.  It is a map to nowhere and a destination that is foggy; it is the echoes between the mountains, in valleys that reflect back the sound of your own making.

A Haphazard Beginning

17 Sep

I’m sitting here hours before my journey and a few  things just don’t seem right. The space bar on my new, yet crappy, computer doesn’t really seem to work.  I know this will affect my writing ability as it’s a pretty important key.  Also challenging is that the computer I bought is the wrong size.

Upon reflection it occurs to me that the box should have been the tell, and questions such as, “If it is supposed to be a mini why is the box so big?”  Or, “Why didn’t I do my research and buy a non-crappy computer weeks ago?” can’t help but cross my mind.

I don’t have answers to these questions, and I’m trying to ignore them as a sign of my ill-planned journey, but the truth is the whole thing feels somewhat haphazard.

I can’t really envision myself trudging up the Peruvian mountains with a pack that is half the size of me.  Especially because I’ve spent the past few weeks consuming more alcohol than I have the entire year.  Nor do I know how I’m going to get to Cartegena and Medellin, yet these are my chosen beginning destinations.

The only thing I have thus far is a ride from the airport and a place to stay in Bogota- so there’s my beginning.

As for the rest of it, we shall see.