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I narrowly avoid being run down by a taxi. That guy wasn't stopping or slowing. People drive crazy around here, I have to remember that. The info lady is very helpful, looks like I'm not riding the most dangerous road in the world [yet]. Instead I get to cruise the banks of Lake Titicaca. Sweet! Unfortunately, all the lines to Cuzco are closed until 6:30 tomorrow. Guess I'll walk back to the hostel.
As I reach the main street, I remember someone invited me to my hostel's annex down the street. I see a couple female figures down the street disappear into a doorway. Might as well check it out, I'm only in Bolivia one night. I skip along the cobblestones until I reach a huge gothic doorway, with a broken circular window above it that probably once held stainless glass. It looks like an old Spanish consulate, except for the handwritten sign in children's cursive: 'ANNEX'.
I ring the bell and hear a distant buzzer. The door clicks open. Inside is a dark courtyard, even grander than the entryway, with a huge steep staircase under a glass pagoda. Quite the mezzanine... and as I climbed the stairs they began twisting up to a large oaken door. I pushed another button, and another distant claxon sounds. The door pops open, though no security guard is waiting inside, just high ceilings and wood paneling. This place sure didn't look like a hostel...
I pass through the foyer and glimpse a deserted kitchen and a rec room. In the abandoned rec room, the tv has the DVD player's logo bouncing around idly, waiting for someone to insert a disc. Still no signs of life. The kitchen is clean, but empty. I see and hear nothing, except for the vague sound of a radio. I follow the distant sounds of electronica music out a back door, only to encounter an even larger stone staircase cut into a hill. I scale the steep steps to another patio, this one covered in grass. Above me I see a large veranda, surrounded by indigenous grasses and other plants with a huge water tower looming overhead. Conversations and smoke waft down to me, so continue climbing my way up.
Finally! I found the world famous Bolivian Jacuzzi party! A large smokey campfire blazes in the midst of a crowd of Bolivians, Americans, Australians, Frenchies, Canadians, Germans, Brits, and more Bolivians. Two bath tubs are pressed against the hill, with a Bolivian lady stoking the fire underneath them to heat the jacuzzi. Nobody seems dressed for a pool party, everyone is bundled up against the cold, crisp, rareified Bolivian air.
Well, screw waiting around! I strip down to my underwear and jump in the jacuzzi. The water is cold, save for a thin layer right on the bottom that sears my ass. I begin cursing in Spanish and a crowd forms around me. I'm brought a beer for being the first (and only) person brave enough to jump into the hot tub, and the owners are kind enough to keep my glass full the whole night.
For the next few hours I regaled the crowd from the jacuzzi with my broken, Mexican Spanish. They marveled at the depth and breadth of my dirty language, how many abusive Spanish heckles I recalled from my days in the warehouse in Compton. Its too bad I have to leave so soon...
This is going to be a good trip.
Hot DAMN the Atlantic is nice and warm. Calm too. There's no way I'd be able to fly 14 hours all covered in salt though, so I hopped the fence to the Marriot and used their showers and pool (and free internet). Go multinational corporate hospitality!
So in 3 hours I'm flying to La Paz. I then will take a bus on the world's most dangerous road, all the way along the banks of Lake Tititcaca until I get to Cuzco, where I'll fly to Madre de Dios. I'm getting excited...
On top of that, I categorized and sorted through stacks of brochures, business cards, and pamphlets from alternative energy symposiums, green building forums, sustainability exhibitions, conscious living fairs, you name it. Its amazing how many companies are getting into this green revolution. Hopefully we can stave off the numerous crises that are looming, whether the energy crisis, the currency crisis, the climate crisis, or just the Big One. Actually, we probably can't stop any of those things, but at least we can mitigate the damage and build the infrastructure that will help us survive and thrive.
So in spite of this wonderful work that I'm doing, today was my last day. I quit. I'm leaving. I'm going to Peru tomorrow.
Its definitely not a good decision financially. Its a terrible career move, I'm leaving right before things really start moving with our Green Valley Initiative. Its not safe, I'll probably get malaria or dysentery or dengue fever. Again.
So why am I leaving my wonderful friends, my huge amazing family, to go gallivanting around South America for 6 months?
Because I can. Because I have to. Because I told people I met down there that I'd come back and help them with their program. Because I don't want to be another big talker with no follow through. Because I don't want to be another American who promises he'll never forget, then proceeds to forget. Because I need to experience another culture. Learn another language. Learn another way of life.
As great as my job has been, I've felt like a hypocrite. I'm not sustainable. I'm not even a vegetarian! I drive more than anybody I know. I spin fire for God's sake! How can I tell people to invest into alternative energy, when my house doesn't even have compact florescent bulbs, when we don't have solar panels, we don't even recycle our greywater? I haven't even turned my compost piles in months...
I've been getting comfortable. I've been having fun. I've been spending money as fast as I can make it. Consuming. ALOT. My carbon footprint is as big as any of those assholes driving hummers or SUVs. How can I tell them what to do?
I've got all the tools, all the means, all the desire, and yet somehow I keep just getting more and more comfortable. So I'm leaving, to get some perspective.
A half a year traveling across South America will do me some good. I'll be working with kids, helping build gardens and educating them about sustainability. I'll be talking to their parents about the things that I talk with people here. I'll be meeting Ashoka fellows from Colombia to Argentina, getting inspired by social entrepreneurs and hopefully inspiring them a bit. I'll work on my dancing, learn more capoeira and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And most importantly, I'm going to learn how to communicate all the ideas that I've been talking about over the phone for the past few weeks, in a whole new language. Maybe 2 or 3.
Because learning how to do sustainable agriculture in Spanish couldn't POSSIBLY be useful back here in California. Its not like we have any Hispanic farmers or landscapers...
So yeah, I'm going to Peru. Who knows where I'll go after that? Probably Ecuador, then maybe Colombia or Brazil. Definitely Bolivia. Maybe Argentina. I'm still not sure, I'll play it by ear.
I'll leave you with a quote by a famous partier and world traveler:
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
I'm flying to La Paz, Bolivia, next Wednesday. I don't know for how long. My ticket back is from La Paz in March. 6 months from now. I can change it to any time though, and I could always drive back...
I'll be going straight from La Paz to Puerto Maldonado. I visited there last year, before Christmas, and stayed with a family in the rainforest. Some of my pictures are here: www.flickr.com/photos/ins...4443938667/
The family I stayed with built a garden with the local children, which served as a template for gardens all across Peru. They're now trying to go international, so I'm taking a course on their Tierra de los Ninos program so that I can help them spread their gardens across South America. The website is here: www.mundodeania.org/eng/index.html
After I spend a few months volunteering in the headwaters of the Amazon (Madre de Dios), I'll travel a bit around the sacred sites of Peru and then go up to Ecuador to work on gardens there. After that, who knows? I could go to Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil... it all depends on how comfortable I feel working with this program and the results that I am getting.
I'll be practicing alot of capoeira while I'm there (I went last night to a class here in Riverside), as well as my elemental dancing. I'll probably also be trying to learn about permaculture and natural medicine.
Last time I went to Peru, I met quite a few curanderos and indigenous spiritualists, and I hope to continue to expand my cultural awareness. A question I ask of people when I travel is what I can learn, what sort of knowledge or understanding can I encounter only in that country? What sort of wisdom has been lost, either to my country and culture, or to the whole world, and what can we gain by rediscovering it...? When you ask about wisdom and to meet wise people, it sets a tone for your conversation and sets you apart from self-indulgent tourists.
Between my search for new and old ideas, and my desire to empower youth to create and build in their communities, I hope to learn a different way of living than is possible here in the US. I think there are many things that we've forgotten or never encountered that will help us live more conscious, fulfilling lives. Hopefully, when I come back, I'll be ready to make the personal and social changes that our society so desperately needs...
Then again, I have WAY too much to do before I take off for Peru to be spending so much time on internet message boards. As much as I love talking about preemptive post-apocalypticism and bioregional animism and Burning Man and blah blah blah I'M DONE!!!!
I'm having an intervention with myself.
No more internet. 4 days.
There I said it.
And I'll only go on tribe if someone sends me a message.
CRAP! See, there I go again down that slippery slope to unproductivity...
I'm logging off.
On one hand, Its SOOOOOO wonderful. Everybody's got James Bond little toys, we can do so many things at once. Multitasking! And we can talk with so many people! And keep track of them! You don't even have to remember names or numbers anymore, just put their digits in the cell phone and take a picture!
Fuck it, why bother even calling or hanging out? Just TRIBE 'em! Social Networking sites, OH YEAH!
On the other hand, I hate it. I despise it. I despise what I become around it. A tribe whore. An internet dweeb. That annoying person driving while talking or texting on their phone.
And then I just go back to using it. Abusing it. Reading pointless shit. Posting meaningless garbage.
But I can COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE! Look at me, I'm chatting with people in the Amazon! I'm emailing my buddy in Thailand! I'm making a POINT to someone on some message board, because I'm RIGHT, and they're WRONG.
Arguing on the internet! I'm a retard.
I remember when I smashed my cell phone with a sledgehammer in front of a busload of volunteers arriving fresh from Boston or Minnesota or God knows where. I think I scared them.
They didn't know how much I hated that phone. How much I'd used it. I'd be conducting business at campfires, setting up meetings, dinners, lunches, jobs, rendesvous, parties, looting sessions, more meetings, committees, blah blah blah I started to get sick of hearing myself talk on that thing.
Then it broke. And fucking Nextel wouldn't let me buy a new phone. Not in Mississippi. Not without new activation. Not in Louisiana either. Or Alabama. Or Florida. Or California.
So I took out the SIM card and the battery and smashed it with a sledgehammer on a stump in the parking lot. I was free. Then I didn't get anything done for two weeks.
Oh, shit, I needed that.
Nobody has Nextel? I don't blame you. I need to get my numbers of this stupid SIM card though... I left camp shortly after destroying his cell phone. It wasn't until a month ago (over a year after I smashed it) that I finally got a phone that could recognize the SIM card. I had over 200 numbers in there. In hindsight, I wish I'd called them all more. I hate having regrets, I hate missing out!!!
But I don't regret what I do. I just have to apologize to people sometimes for, ahem, technical difficulties.
I didn't have my phone for the past month. Turned it off at Burning Man, took the battery out. Barely even checked my email. God I loved it. Built a city, had my "family" with me. At least, when you're not DOING IT WRONG, but doing it right, your friends and coworkers are like your family.
And somehow, since I left the last job where I was behind a desk, my friends and coworkers have been my family. People I respect. People who share my values. People who want to help, want to create. People like my family.
But how to stay in touch with them? And oh crap, how do I keep in touch with my actual huge family, if I'm gonna be gallivanting around the globe? I had to check my email to coordinate with my mom, make sure I made it back from Burning Man in time for the family campout.
Which was as fulfilling as a month of Burning Man.
But why do I have to even compare experiences? Thats the kind of bullshit that doesn't let me appreciate what I'm experiencing while I am doing it, because I'm so busy comparing it to the past, or my expectations. THIS ISN'T THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE! Then I start sounding like one of the burnouts that I heckle on the Burning Man tribe every day.
Gotta stay positive. Why people always gotta focus on the negative? Why you gotta be a dick? Why you gotta diminish other people's experiences? Why don't you start living in the present and not the past? Why don't you let go of your expectations? Why don't you be positive, like me?
Wait, what kind of oxymoronic bullshit is that? How am I heckling people and staying positive?
And why the hell am I still awake? I thought I hated technology? What the fuck am I still doing on tribe?
See for yourselves. This dude brings it.
See for yourselves. This dude brings it.
It was really refreshing hearing a public official say things so inflammatory. He called out the big 3 main sources of energy: oil, coal, and nuclear. He spoke not as a long haired environmentalist, but as someone who knows, because he was in the meetings, and was put in charge. He ran the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of if not the biggest nuclear plant systems in the world, and confided that it wasn't environmentalists who'd shut down the plants, it was their lack of profitability and the inability to insure them. The market, he clarified, is whats kept us from building nuclear plants for the past 20 years.
He also spoke of his first planning job building the ground floor of a coal plant in the 50s. One still in operation today, without a scrubber. He joked about "Madison Avenue" terms like "clean coal" and "safe nuclear".
He said: "If any politician is talking about "clean coal" and "carbon batteries", I assume he's on the take!" Adding, " And I'm not even going to talk about West Virginia (notoriously devastated by mountain-top clearing coal mining) or Illinois (alluding to the money the coal lobbies from both states influence elections).
He levied even heavier foreign policy complaints, reminding us of the consequences of a foreign policy built around oil drilling, natural gas pipelines, and nuclear hypocrisy.
"We get plutonium as waste in our current reactors. Then we put it in bombs, because we have nothing else to do with it, and then tell Iran that they can't do the same thing."
He cited the safety of having huge potential dirty bombs sitting near cities, and the health ramifications of the dirty bombs we use to get around. He talked about getting freight off of roads and onto electrified rail, and shutting polluting trucks out of the LA harbor, where he's currently the commissioner.
He's a bombastic guy, and not afraid to roast people for their assumptions and nasty habits. He talked about efficiency and the utilities role in promoting it, as well as the laziness of politicians and the need in a democracy to educate the people so they can vote with their pocketbooks and at the polls.
He didn't back down to the questioners, or tell them just what they wanted to hear. In many cases, he just explained what the current plans are, many of which coincide with our Green Valley Initiative.
All in all, it was a fascinating night. The crowd was almost as intriguing as the speaker, with all kinds of hydrogen cell makers, water purifiers, solar installers, politicians, and venture capitalists.
There's some big stuff afoot.
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