Wednesday, February 24, 2010

life's a beach.

A brief synopsis of what happened in Huanchaco:

1. Met an artist named Joan Louis on the beach, whose paintings have been exhibited on three continents, who got drunk on pina coladas and hit on my mom, and who became our new favorite Peruvian almost-famous person with the sweetest heart ever.

2. Saw the ruins of Chan Chan and Huaca Sol. We figured that seeing ancient Mochica and Chimu civilizations would make up for the fact that we wouldn't see Incan ruins in Machu Picchu. We were wrong. Not that the second largest adobe metropolis in the world and a couple of Unesco World Heritage sites are anything to scoff at, but HELLO, building in sand isn't as cool as building on the side of the Andes. Fact.

3. Favorite picture of the last four months: slightly drunk taxi driver. Absolute unawareness that he was in the way. Mom with Flat Stanley outside Arco Iris. Pure gold.
4. No peeing.

cheap beer and good faces.

My favorite bar in Seattle is King's Hardware, because I like $2 Rainiers, Skeeball, and taxidermied wildlife.
Our favorite bar in Barranco was Juancitos, because we like sawdust on the floor, sandwiches like the day after Thanksgiving, and funny old men who just want their Cuzquenas, thank you.

There seems to be a universal, inverse relationship between the price of drinks and how interesting the clientele are in any given location. Give me local beer over fancy martinis any day!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I cried on accident when we waved goodbye to my mom last night. Even though we couldn't go to Machu Picchu, we had a sweet week on the beach in Huanchaco, Trujillo: massages, surfing, ceviche, ancient Moche ruins, fresh fruit, and matching mani/pedis before she got on her plane.The north coast of Peru is a mellow paradise, we were lucky to spend her President's break thinking more about Keiko Fujimori than Abe Lincoln (may he rest in peace). I love any time I can spend with my sweet mom, especially on different continents. I miss her already!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Sometimes I see things that I've seen before in National Geographic and get really, really excited because they are even cooler in real life than I thought.

Pelicans are one of those things.

These massive aves flit around surfers here and settled into the water in between waves, wiggling their loose bills and showing off their wingspan. It is awesome.

Ricardo and his friend Felipe took us to lunch today at Felipe's beach club and, after ceviche and camotes and yucca, we wandered out onto the dock where we got to hang out with them super up close. I felt like a little kid at the zoo for the first time.

It's super funny to watch the massive pelicans with their 18 inch beaks swinging around, and then turn around and see these tiny little guys staring at you with their bright red beaks and feet. LOVED THIS DAY; nature, you've done it again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

tie your heart to mine.

Tie your heart at night to mine, love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.
-Pablo Neruda

Hoping your Dia de San Valentin is full of amor puro.

Friday, February 12, 2010

parque de amor.

Massive statues of couples making out in public: classic South America.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

you give an inch, they take a mile.

That title is straight from Marlo's mouth, and I'm ready to throw down some more important observations on cultural divides at you guys. Who's ready?

We found ourselves on the beach in Barranco last night, drinking Cuzquenas and listening to Jeff and Christian, our two new musician friends, try to sing the English words to Pearl Jam and Nirvana (I seriously think they thought we'd feel "right at home" with them playing their entire grunge repertoire. We kept requesting Jay Z and Justin, but they ignored us and stuck with Alice in Chains). Now these two guys are nice individuals, but not nice enough for Marlo to let Christian rest his head on her shoulder and keep his arm around her waist the whole night (we're ice queens, we know). We were sitting three in a row when we first got to shore, and I looked over half an hour later and poor Marlo had scooted, inch by inch, towards the water. Christian hadn't gotten the hint and had followed her, scoot by scoot.

It got to the point where we just had to abort the entire mission and head home. During our nightly pillow talk, we rehashed the situation: Marlo was smothered by an overly affectionate, clueless musician while I dealt with the diva-esque sensibilities of his friend, who was upset that we weren't going salsa dancing and tried to coerce us to go by being emotionally manipulative. Overall, a great way to end a night! But unlike at home, where we would have told the guys to scram and they would have understood why, we were dealing with the biggest gender-relations difference between the Americas.

In North America, guys will refrain from affection until they specifically are told YES. In South America, guys will be as affectionate as possible until they are specifically told NO. Which means that nights like last night will keep happening until we learn how to lose our passive-aggressive Seattlite personalities and start being more clear with our dislike of premature physical contact.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

pen vs.sword

Some of my favorite images from an exhibit on freedom and the press in the Museo Nacional de Arte in La Paz, Bolivia. Better late than never!

foiled by mother nature!

Here's a cool site: Macchu Pichu NOT being rained on.

And here's my mama, traveling like a champ in Croatia and being super cute in general.

These two were supposed to meet next week. Mom has a ticket to Lima for Friday night and we were all set to do some hiking, see the continent's most famous ancient ruins, and add another country to our mother/daughter travel list. The day after we were going to buy our tickets to Cusco, the rains hit and Peru declared a state of emergency in our next travel stop.

Apparently, rainy season isn't something to joke around with here. Marlo and I are scrambling to come up with Plan B, which will most likely involve doing everything Mom and I do at home (yoga, going on walks, eating a lot and laughing) just... on the beach. Not that we're complaining. Macchu Pichu, we'll see you some other time...

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I would like to add that a CREEPY FLASHER appeared at the beach today to show us his boy parts, and I do not appreciate that at all.

Side note, is Peewee Herman still in trouble? Or did his appearance on 30 Rock pretty much mean everything's been smoothed over?

king triton is angry.

Things that encourage people to keep surfing:

1. How fun and welcoming Peruvian surfers are. I had a cheer squad for my first successful set of waves, which is really endearing.
2. Spending an afternoon in a warm ocean being told jokes by two brothers named Carlos and Javier. They are like two compact little elves who barely hit 5 feet, and I feel like a gangly, weak-armed albino next to them. I'm selling this to the WB as a sitcom concept, so don't steal it.

Things that will make someone flee from the ocean permanently:
1. Seeing dead sea lions pummeled on the rocks after the same "red alert" waves almost pulled you under the day before
2. Seeing a drunk guy almost drown, throw up foam and get taken to the hospital after trying to take a dip
3. HUMAN BONES. Lots of them. Washing ashore. Right where you're sitting. Now that, my friends, is what we might call "disconcerting," because someone is probably missing those.

Friday, February 05, 2010

i need more air quotes to tell this properly.

May I please plead the case that I am 100% Little Miss Cultural Relativism most of the time, but even when you can blend in fairly well with the language and lifestyle of a place, being North American comes with a mentality that doesn't always match that of our Southern compatriots. It doesn't mean that anyone is "right" or "wrong," we're just "different." And sometimes that gets a little "confusing."
I know what the word "work" is in Spanish, but that doesn't mean I know what people mean when they say it. So Marlo and I got "jobs" in Wayruro Hostel after chatting with the owners Julio and Jesus about their plans to open up a bar. A week ago, our understanding was that they wanted to repaint everything, design a menu, stock the bar (currently only filled with beer and what looks like a bottle of coca liquor older than I am), and have a party to celebrate Pisco Sour Day (Saturday), a day as big as the 4th of July for Peruvian-types.

This is when I first realized that for as much as people from the States complain about "deadlines," WE FREAKING LOVE THEM. We thrive on them. Marlo and I immediately perked up at the thought of throwing a killer Saturday night in a brand-new bar. We jumped behind a blender to practice our Pisco Sours, came up with a drinks list, designed a paint scheme, talked with their designer for a menu plan, and made mental notes about how much work we could accomplish before Saturday night. Who doesn't love a good project? Especially when it leaves you time to surf in the mornings?

We quickly realized that we weren't operating on South American time. By Thursday, when the designer still was only showing up sporadically and the paint we picked hadn't been bought, we asked Julio if Pisco Sour Day was a real thing or WHAT.

Us: "BTW, Julio, when you told us to invite people, we did. Lots of them."

Julio: "Shit."

He then went to yell at Jesus for telling the Americans to do things, "because then they actually do them! You can't talk to people from the States like you talk to people here."

OKAY! We are now officially going to REALLY TRY to start operating on South American time, which means that we'll be celebrating Pisco Sour Day roughly six weeks late.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

i wish church were more like aa.

My Uncle Bruce has a scratchy beard, works construction, drives a motorcycle and runs with a gang of other bikers, laughs with a loud, broken cackle and was an alcoholic for a long, long time. His story isn't unique; don't most families have someone who has overdone it with any number of things? I have another uncle who smokes weed in his yellow schoolbus in Yakima, plays the dijeridoo in a band called Blue Tropics, and has a son with a full-scalp tattoo and a pretty wife with depression problems. But he's never caused a problem. Bruce has. Alcohol controlled his life, and the elephant in the room of my grandparents' house during my childhood created a lot of tension. My mom tried hard to protect my little sister and me from the side effects of such an unhappy heart, and most of the time succeeded in being the buffer between him and the rest of the family. Which is why I didn't know how bad things had gotten until he decided to seek treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for having 12 steps to freedom from addiction, and I was an observer from the bleachers as Bruce regained control over his life, one step at a time.

On one trek back over the mountains from Eastern Washington, I couldn't help but remark that Bruce and his longtime girlfriend Jeanette, who had also just finished AA, had taught me more about grace and true community that weekend than going to church had the entire year. The two of them had a tight-knit group of fellow bikers who were also in recovery, and I was amazed at how much they resembled what I'd always hoped the church would look like: they kept each other truthful and accountable. They stuck together. They were honest and kind and firm. They were a community in the fullest sense of the word, and admitted freely that they would not have survived without both AA and the mutual support of the group. They acknowledged their imperfections and continual need for grace, and didn't consider AA a one-shot fixit that cured them of everything that led them to alcoholism in the first place.

Church, on the other hand, seemed to be a place where most people had it all together and didn't let any cracks show. People knew the right answers, which was generally enough to get by (my friend Ryan and I laugh about how no matter what question you ask kids in Sunday School, they pop their hands up and yell, "JESUS!" It's funny until you realize that adults do the same thing, with fancier phrasing). And growing up I always had my "church" friends and my "real" friends-- the people who knew all about what I was really thinking and doing, around whom I could exhale and not edit myself before speaking. It's hard to ask questions in an exclusive club, and that sense of in vs. out made church feel constrictive.

I realized that what I really wanted out of church was what Bruce and Jeanette had found in AA: a group of people who have profoundly messed up and admit it to themselves and their Creator, who live in constant awareness of grace and how much it's worth, and hold each other's hands as they take those humble, stumbling steps towards the light.

Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, considers the mentality of AA groups so similar to that which should characterize the heart of genuine Christ-followers that he lists the twelve steps in his footnotes as a basis for developing true disciples. Here are the steps that my Uncle Bruce took to get sober:

1. We admit we are powerless over alcohol-- that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
4. We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We become entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We make a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
9. We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What if this list of steps, when applied to a broader context of our entire lives and not just addictions, became a practical guide for shedding our pride and appearing humbly before God and each other? I get goosebumps just thinking about what this life would be like. I get shy when I think about how far from the standard I land. And I get hopeful when I remember that the process, like recovery from alcoholism, is messy and broken, but it's meant to be a journey. Christ asks us to be real, be humble, and be repentant. If that's so, then I want to go to church at AA. I think they really get it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

life together.

Observations on community, from a quiet observer just passing through.

debating together
working together
praying together

being young and loud together
being old and silent together

being. together.