Sunday, January 31, 2010


One of our favorite people in La Paz was Amit, an Israeli with boundless energy and buena onda. He greeted us with grins every morning, sent us off to bed with jokes, and I don't think we ever saw him unhappy. We danced. We drank beers. We played endless rounds of pool. We made plans for an Israel trip.

Marlo and I are in absolute shock tonight after hearing that Amit passed away after getting stabbed in La Paz, trying to defend his girlfriend from an attacker.
Sometimes I don't even know what to say about the world. We are so sad.

Friday, January 29, 2010

riptides are nothing to joke about.

Pisco Sours: the most dangerous thing to come out of Peru since Shining Path guerrillas.

Ricardo and Omar, of the aforementioned sports television fame, did indeed take us to El Silencio yesterday for a day on the beach. This was a positive turn of events, because hanging out with grownups means you get to do grownup things: in this case, eating mussels and octopus under a beach umbrella and having rounds of pisco sours appearing out of thin air.

I find it disappointing that I'm not as smart as I feel after three of these little time bombs. A list of things we thought were GREAT ideas after baking in the sunshine and enjoying the local moonshine:

1. Buying large fake tattoos of Che Guevara's face. I cannot explain this one.
2. Buying bootleg copies of Precious and that Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker movie where they have to move to Wyoming in witness protection. Stellar cinematic choices.

3. Swimming.
So there I was, enjoying a nice leisurely dip, swam out into shark territory, and came back to shore only to have my first riptide experience. I literally got repeatedly punched in the face by the Pacific Ocean, tried to escape and got sucked under again. Finally Marlo and Ricardo pulled me out of the stupid waves and I have never more closely resembled a sea monster. I'm still finding sand in my eyelashes (etc).
Later, the doorman at our apartment told us the waves yesterday had also messed up a bunch of the boats in the shipping port, and I felt a little better about my traumatic experience, but OH MY GOSH, everything they warn you about in swimming lessons in elementary school is true! If you run into an undertow in a back alley, give it all your money and don't talk back.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The brainchild of my friend Peter Drennan, upsidedownmotive is a growing collection of thoughts on faith, social justice, and seeking after a "life in full." We're just starting out; contributors welcome :)

almost famous.

Ok, before I begin this blog entry, I want to announce that I no longer sit down on my surf board, and am now able to catch entire waves by myself. By noon, my arms and shoulders feel like "fallopian tubes" (thank you, Graham Snead) and I'm starving. So we were relaxing (ie. feeling like I could eat a horse) and having some coffee at Cafe Z today when two guys invited themselves over to our couch to chat.

I'm going to make this story brief: these two hilarious gentlemen were the Peruvian hosts of Lima's version of SportsCenter. "We're on channel 5! Sundays at 7 pm!"

"Ooh... about that. We don't have tv," we announced disappointedly.

And this is how we got invited to come to the filming of Spanish SportsCenter in the studio on Sunday night. We're trying to figure out a way to get some kind of "speaking role" so we can practice our Spanish on national television. I don't think they were really into that idea. However, they are taking us to Barranco tomorrow to go surfing, so we are feeling pretty happy with the adult field trips coming up this week.

And now for the bizarre closer: as we walked home, a lady who looked suspiciously like a heavily plastic-surgeried tranny slowed her car down, leaned out the window and called us "Goddesses of Olympus" as she rolled by. Now that's just good clean fun.

Monday, January 25, 2010

hello, miraflores!

Since we are grownups who do what we want, Marlo and I made the executive decision to spend the next three weeks on the beach. Being a grownup is the coolest thing ever, how come no one told me?! So here we are in Miraflores, Lima in a situation that might commonly be known as living the dream. Here's why:

We are sharing a beautiful townhouse with two Peruvian med students. This townhouse involves a maid and a doorman, but more importantly, it involves TWO MONKEYS IN THE KITCHEN. Saved from a lab experiment only to live a cramped life in a cage, these two little guys spend their time leaping around the cage and releasing pent-up aggression in sexual ways (well, the boy monkey tries; the girl monkey appears to have a headache tonight). Here's a good diet trick: put a sexually charged male monkey (who isn't even wearing a dignified diaper like the street performer monkeys) next to your fridge. Making repeated eye contact with simian penises (peni?) is profoundly disturbing/unappetizing. Don't look at this picture too closely. Fair warning.

The huge, airy cafe with leather couches at the end of our street has a playlist that consists solely of Tupac, Fugees and UB40. That's not a joke, someone at that cafe divined precisely what we want to listen to and plays "Red Red Wine" followed by "Shorty Wanna Be a Thug" and follows it up with remixes of "Family Business." After six weeks of listening to horrid Bolivian pop, Tupac is like water to my thirsty ears. Here's a fancy old lady doing some important work at the cafe. That's right, our creepy documentation of the elderly in public hasn't ceased since we left Buenos Aires.

Our proximity to the beach is absurd (this sunset is a couple blocks from our door), and we have no excuse not to be on the water everyday. When in Rome, people! This has also led to the long-awaited surfing phase of our adventure. Side note: the first and only time I have been surfing was in high school, when a 400 pound security guard named Kaz taught me on Waikiki and my upper body strength was roughly equal to Stephen Hawking's. After a couple days of getting my butt kicked by the Pacific Ocean and wanting to die from paddling so much, I'm currently at the phase where I catch a wave, stand up, get nervous and sit down, realize I'm still on the wave and stand back up, almost hit someone and sit back down, and eventually topple over. Watch out Kelly Slater.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

why you should buy coffee from my friend lauren

Sometimes you meet people who you just know are going to change the world. One of the biggest personalities I have ever met belongs to Lauren Sancken, a funny, fiercely intelligent Seattlite my mom and I met on a bus in Bosnia a few years ago (here we are getting our whirling dervish on). By the time we made it to Mostar, we'd realized that we were actually all family members who had just forgotten about each other, and I've had the privilege of being honorary sisters with this amazing girl who is blasting through law school before taking over politics as we know it. Below is a letter from Lauren explaining her latest project. I'm SO proud of this girl, and I hope you can support her as well! She can be reached for coffee orders at

"This January, myself and two friends, Anthony John and Dr. Christopher Dodd, established a U.S.-based non-profit organization, "Primary Health Care Nicaragua," to support the ongoing efforts of Atención Primaria en Salud Nicaragua (APS). In addition to helping to train and support more than 160 community-based health workers, APS facilities broad public health and micro-economic projects that permanently alleviate many causes of avoidable suffering. For fundraising, we have launched MARAVILLA coffee. Maravilla is an organic Nicaraguan coffee, the product of a collaboration between Nicaraguan coffee growers, Seattle-based Caffè Appassionato, and Primary Health Care Nicaragua. A 12-oz bag may be purchased for $10, and $7 goes directly to APS.

Maravilla can be purchased at Caffè Appassionato (Fisherman's Terminal and Colman Dock), or directly from me! I'm happy to send coffee to distant places, though a postage fee would apply. More information about APS can be found below, and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. In addition, all donations of any kind are appreciated.

Thank you very much for your support.
Sincerely, Lauren"

APS is a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization that has been working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health to fight disease and promote development in some of the most isolated communities throughout the country. APS funding has been drastically cut in these tough economic times, and our goal is to raise $25,000 by June 2010, and to help APS become a financially solvent organization by January 2011. If you would like to learn more about the work of APS Nicaragua, please visit our website at

Friday, January 22, 2010


Just a few kilometers (that's right ya'll: we've gone metric) outside of Ica, Peru is a tiny desert oasis, a lake with a fabled mermaid in the middle of rolling sand dunes, as far as the eye can see. This desert is the kind of place you would have to cut a camel open and sleep inside of it if you got lost at night. That's how massively intimidating it is: Star Wars intimidating.
But instead of keeping warm with dromedary guts, we had a hotel with warm blankets. We had this pool at the foot of a dune. We had pina coladas brought out by grinning barmen. We had copies of National Geographic with elaborate maps of ancient Persia.
In short, while other people were sandboarding and flying over the Nazca Lines and dunebuggying, we were perfectly content to relax in this perfect little oasis, surrounded by sand on all sides, and not even moving a muscle.
This may be the best place in the world to spend a January weekend.

city of ash

A blissful day in Arequipa spent antiquing, visiting ancient churches, eating frozen yogurt and loving my camera.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

rafting through arequipa

GREAT SUCCESS: Peru let us in. We headed straight for Arequipa, the city surrounded by volcanoes and built of ash, mostly because we heard there were Andean condors all over the place, and we're into birds the size of humans.

Plans for the Colca Canyon were thwarted, however, when we accidentally stayed out dancing with some Brazilians until 3 am and our 3:30 am departure for the canyon just was not. going. to happen. We rerouted and decided to go whitewater rafting instead.

You know what's a fun idea? Trying to kick a hangover and stay alive on a river at the same time. I can't believe how inept I can be sometimes. Here we are in the most saggy-butt wetsuits ever created, getting ready to hit the class 4 rapids with little to no clue of what was going on. The highlight of the day was when peer pressure forced us to leap off a cliff into the raging rapids and swim for safety. I AM NOT A STRONG SWIMMER, PEOPLE. Luckily, I didn't get swept away and emerged from the river missing one sunglass lens and my hangover. Not a bad way to spend our last morning in town, overall, and we left Arequipa to head to the coast with stomachs sore from laughing at ourselves.

Check out our traseros. Unisex wetsuits: wassup.

Monday, January 18, 2010

isla del sol.

Here's the time we spent a few days on Lake Titicaca without consistent running water, braving the elements as much as a non-camper is willing to, watching storms happen right overhead, chasing the sunrays and trying to stay warm. Mornings: coffee, rooster crows, cold water on the face. Afternoons: scrambling up the steep hills, wading in the lake, working on our rock collections on the beach. Nights: tripping over boulders to get home while the southern hemisphere constellations stare you down, close enough to touch.

death road; or, how i almost fell off a cliff

La Paz began on a rocky note, but after I got over the fact that I was entirely without my winter wear, I decided that I was in heaven (ie. finally back in civilization) and spent the rest of the week sitting in a hot tub with hilarious Israelis, continuing the attempts to breathe normally at 3600 meters, and eating quinoa soup. Once I regained my emotional capacities after the vomit chorus on the way into town, I made the executive decision to mountain bike the most dangerous road in the world in the spirit of pretending to train for a triathlon. I find this quite impressive considering the only biking I've done since middle school was to and from yoga class this year (a straight shot on Latona, and sometimes I cheated and rode on the sidewalks even then).
Death Road takes you through waterfalls, through overflowing rivers, nearly careening off cliffs when you get too cocky and start going really fast, and descends 3000 meters from freezing, foggy La Paz into balmy, jungly Coroico. I had a couple of Aussie friends with me on the trip, and the rest of our group was either Brazilian or deaf, but almost dying together really brings people together and I left the mountain with a new arsenal of ASL signals and Portuguese phrases. Additionally, I somehow got the entire relationship history of a sweet guy from Rio who spoke English like I speak Hebrew and discovered a butterfly the size of my bike wheel.

The day ended with a buffet lunch and a pool overlooking the mountains, which I'm not sure is normal for triathlon training, but something I'd like to incorporate into my normal routine either way. Death Road conquered, check please.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

pat and rush don't speak for me.

The newspapers here, like they are all over the world, are currently filled with sobbing Haitians and headlines like "DIA NEGRO EN HAITI." My heart hurts even thinking about what it must be like for that place right now, and it's stunning when someone can react to such a terrible event with anything less than utter compassion.

Pat Robertson does not speak for me. Rush Limbaugh definitely does not speak for me. I find them both to be often more in love with their own opinions than with the truth.

That being said, I have opened my own mouth countless times in a way that was careless, and at times hurtful. I just didn't get blasted because I'm not famous. People are dumb, but reacting to each other with more fury won't help. I've been thinking a lot lately about what it looks like to seek shalom, and while I hope that people whose voices are far-reaching will use words wisely, I also hope that people will show me grace, and also firmness, when I say things that are out of line.

one bolivian sky, three days.

The heavens tell of the glory of God!
The skies display His marvelous craftmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make Him known.

They speak without a sound or a word;

their voice is silent in the skies;

yet their message has gone out to all the earth
and their words to all the world.
-Psalm 19

Friday, January 08, 2010


The Cristo of Cochabamba: bigger than the one in Rio, very pensive, and dare I say handsome? He was the only redemptive part of Cochabamba (no pun intended), and being there on New Years Eve was possibly the worst idea ever. After rainy days where everything in the city was closed, I left, having been relieved by two Colombian chicks and a bad hostel of all my cold-weather clothes, and threw up on the bus all the way into La Paz. Cochabamba is not high on my list of recommendations in Bolivia.

This concludes my application to write for Lonely Planet as a really nonpartisan, adaptable traveller who likes everything.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

i'll pass on the resolutions.

Happy New Year my dear ones! Due to a nasty computer virus, sketchy Bolivian internet connections, many hours of travel and an utter lack of creativity, I have not been able to update you on the mundane details of my existence recently, which I'm sure is quite devastating.

But please be advised: it's a new year! And 365 more days we are (hopefully) gifted with to become. Marlo and I have had lots of time to talk about our hopes for this year, and our long lists on napkins include things we've already started planning (doing a mini-triathlon together-- inspired by our amazing friend Frank-- HI FRANK!) to things we can only pretend will happen (summering in Brazil). Our train of thought was entirely aimed at deepening the things in our lives that are truly good and culling the things that aren't. Donald Miller got it totally right with this article and I love the challenge of building on a life story, rather than being held to rules that don't bring us life or joy.

That being said, I'm so excited for a year of travelling, writing, learning how to love better, surfing, reading, triathloning, spending long hours with my family and friends, drinking wine and eating good food and laughing until I pee a little, and maybe convincing Javier Bardem to marry me instead of Penelope. But I'm open to ideas-- what do you want for your 2010?!

cool infrastructure, evo.

Leaving Sucre
Heavy summer storms from the muggy air occurred almost nightly in Sucre (being at certain altitudes is like a personal ticket to see how storms happen up close. If we were in elementary school, Miss Frizzell would have taken us to Sucre to watch summer weather patterns collide), and we had gotten used to walking home through deep rivers with lightning cracking directly above us. So when we heard the first shudder of thunder directly over our heads on the night we left, we thought little of it. It wasn't until the sharp, bright lightning took out electricity for the entire city as it filled the air with purple bolts when Jorge rushed from his room to shoo us out and rush us into a cab. "HURRY, before the rain starts!" he rushed.

Our cab driver was more sanguine about the storm. "It's already passed, it probably won't even rain," he said confidently as the first droplets started to pelt the windshield.

Sucre rain, also, is no ordinary event. It falls in heavy pellets that fill your boots and swirl down the edges of the streets in thick mud rivers within minutes. It doesn't hold the chill that Seattle rain does, but it's nearly impossible to escape it dry. Sure enough, to add to the ear-splitting thunder and blinding lightning that were happening directly above our heads rain had started at full force.

The bus left without incident. It was only after 45 minutes on the road that we shuddered to a halt and waited. Directly to my right, I peered out the steamy window and saw that we were driving along a massive cliff face, which was crumbling off in heavy boulders and piles of dust. It really annoys me when avalanches happen right next to my physical person, especially when directly in front of us, the cause for delay is a huge mudslide that wiped out the road. Another bus had gotten stuck on it and was spinning its wheels fruitlessly, in a vain attempt to free itself. Traffic was lined up on both sides and the squealing of tires was matched by Marlo's furious muttering next to me and the voices in my head that urged the driver to turn back to Sucre so we could forget the whole "Cochabamba idea" until after New Years, or at least until the national infrastructure became decent enough to travel on.

Oh, development. You really are a slow-moving beast, aren't you?