I’M POSTING TWO BLOGS AT THE SAME TIME, SO BE SURE TO READ THE PREVIOUS ONE TOO.
January 25, 2012 – Santiago, Chile – My life is in such a fast-lane, that I am way behind in blogging opprotunities, so I shall try to catch up on news which is now three weeks old. Back then, I was in Brazil, visiting the famous Iguazu Falls. It is majestic….but as usual, we are each the center of our own universe….so we are apt to experience these great sites through the filter of what is happening to us as we gawk at the famous scenes, or limp hotly around the sun-baked expanses that no one mentions in the brochure. So, here is my soggy version of a world-famous, not-to-be-missed Premier Wonder of the World:
Friday, January 6, 2012 – 9 a.m. – I am waiting for the van to take some of us hostel guests to Iguazu Falls, on the Argentina side, which will be a long, hot, but interesting day until the same van picks us up at 7 p.m. for the hour trip back here, crossing borders twice between Brazil and Argentina.
2 p.m. – It is 94 degrees in the shade. The Argentine side of the Falls is much more extensive than the Brazilian side which can be covered in just half a day. It’s been very labor intensive so I am sitting out the middle chunk of the park while three others in my hostel group explores a part of the trail similar to the one we did this morning. When we arrived, we took a long series of steps down to the edge of the river and boarded boats. We knew that we would get very, very wet because we were going right up to the cataract. Our backpacks went into waterproof bags and really-smelly life preservers went on our chests. Then, we threaded into seats on a strong motorboat which plowed through the rapids and into the mists produced by Devil’s Throat Falls.
Why do they always credit that fellow for something so beautiful? This happens all over the world whenever there is massive power.
Anyway, mists were nothing. Mists were welcome, in fact, on such a hot day. Our boat sidled right up under one pouring cataract, so that cold water landed within, upon, and all over us at not quite a firehose velocity, but almost. Cold! But, this is summertime. How about the winter tourists who come between May and September? Remember, the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.
I have now taken an hour to dry. But then, I am wearing exactly the wrong clothes for the occassion today. Talk about bad planning! My wardrobe has been malfunctioning ever since we arrived!
I had figured that I’d get wet….so, okay, I’ll put on my fastest-drying cotton skirt. That will give me more sun protection than shorts. This was the sum total of my pre-planning last night. This ankle-length skirt has been great for traveling, though it has so much material that it tends to bunch between my legs when I walk fast. Had I forgotten? This skirt is so full, a complete circle full, that it won’t fit in my backpack. I have to wear it on buses or planes to bring it along. You can see how partial I am towards it. Plus, it’s cool and it flaps away mosquitos around my ankles. But, Iguazu Falls is not the place for it!
Saturday, January 7, 2012 – 11 a.m. – Going to Iguazu Falls certainly proved that I am NOT traveling for the tourism. Of course, no one comes to Foz du Iguasu, Brazil for any other reason. The Falls themselves were magnificent! I’m so glad I saw them and the access, the crowds and the long, long walks were unavoidable. The heat was of the sunstroke variety. That’s all.
Reading over my journal entries, they all seem pretty lackluster. I guess the satisfying Work of this place and this journey is mostly in the input, through good reading and through the short but enjoyable social connections…not so much the deep insights obtained….or the popular sights seen and digested.
Monday, January 9, 2012 1 p.m- – I’m all packed now and mashed back into the traveling containers. Luckily, I researched temperatures in the countries ahead or I would have tossed out all my jackets, sweaters and scarves in this heat. Looks like Chile can get cold. Now to continue my report on Iguazu Falls and my wardrobe malfunction. This big skirt has always appealed to my 1950’s self because it is a full circle and swirls about my ankles. My first clue to its inappropriateness came while navigating the gillion steep stone steps to water’s edge and the waiting boats. It trailed behind like a bridal train and kept getting stepped upon by the guy behind me. This resulted, every time, in a jerking down of the elastic waistband. The steps were challenging enough in their own right without having to worry about tripping over my clothing.
Once in the boat, I did the math on the soaking we were heading for. My wet skirt would have so many pounds of water in it that it wouldn’t need anybody’s sandal pulling it down. It was going to fall off all by itself!
As curtain after curtain of falling water slopped into my lap, I developed a desperate plan as to how I would maintain my modesty once it became necessary to climb that mountainside, endless stairway again. Ride over, standing up dripping wet, I pulled the waistline up to my armpits like a sundress and let the soggy mass slap around my legs as I scrambled out of the boat and up the cliff. It took lots and lots of wringing out and even tying some of the extra flapping fabric around my neck, and more around the hipline, before I had a design that would make it back up those killer stairs.
It took a bit of exposure to the 95 degree sunshine before the light cotton effect caused the drying I was counting on and I could again concentrate upon the majesty around me. To be honest, the majesty only appeared now and then, because most of the time, we were slogging along forested sidewalks with many, many fellow tourists. After a theme park style train ride, we all walked along steel-grating, raised pathways across many branches of a shallow, gently-flowing river.
We got a good idea of the many quiet sluices that the water took on its innocent, unknowing journey towards the waiting bedlam. Neither fish, frogs, nor early Spanish explorer’s canoes, could know why that sound rumbled up ahead or why white mist filled the air. We did!
And it WAS breathtaking when we finally reached the large square platform right slam-bang at the edge of the precipice. The foaming, falling water was right below our feet, exactly on the horseshoe’s edge. Rainbows and the sounds made by lovely, muffled falling water were all about our band of intrepid tourists. So beautiful. But everyone was jockeying for photo ops, so we couldn’t hog the rail for long.
Walking back across the perforated metal path, I meditated upon this great analogy of life. We all float along in our ordinary way, with every one of our needs easily supplied by our environment. However, something awaits us all up ahead. A big, huge, inevitable transition! Maybe, we can delay it, if we even sense its approach, but there is no way that we can excuse ourselves from taking the plunge because that is simply where all of this river water goes, whether we like it or not!
Death, in all its glory!
Then, after a whole lot of drama, life, apparently, goes on. The very same river water becomes quiet and normal again (just at a different elevation) and resumes its steady, shallow, familiar flow across the land.
What’s that? Rebirth?
Sunday, January 22, 2012 was the nine-month anniversary of my son, Randy´s death. On Tuesday, January 17, I had a strange, marvelous, surprising and, at long last, a deep and profound feeling of grief for him. I suddenly missed him so much and through tears and a choked throat, I called up to him that I loved him so much. This came completely out of the blue and served as a reminder that this was his gestational anniversary, as it were. I´ll describe this precious moment and then copy the blog I posted here soon after his death to introduce you to my boy.
That Tuesday, I practiced getting rather hopelessly lost in my new city of Santiago, Chile…a custom that I follow religiously but not intentionally in almost every foreign city I enter. Lo and behold, I passed a GOVINDA restaurant, the first I had seen since Lima, Peru, three years ago. These are the fantastic and healthy Hari-Krishna restaurants found worldwide, which can always be counted upon to provide delicious vegetarian food….always kind to the human body and to the animal and vegetable residents of the planet.
There were a few people sitting at the small, round, ice-cream parlor type tables and chairs and I consulted with my waiter about what to order. This young man, maybe twenty years old, had the kindest, most serene brown eyes and we hit it off right away as personal friends. My order came and I happily enjoyed my meal. A woman came in and my waiter went to her table for her order. For the first time, I noticed the back of his head.
Ohmigosh! It looked exactly like Randy´s! Exactly! His fair skin and deep-brown hair color was just the same as my son´s and his unusual hair cut was a mirror of my own boy´s! How many times had I shaved that scalp close but left the long hank of hair growing towards his shoulders in the Buddhist way? Even the shape of his head was a mirror of the one I had lived with and cared for over the past eight years.
Sobbing quietly over my lunch, I sent up an earnest call to him. ¨Oh, Randy! I love you and miss you, but I wouldn´t wish you back in this life again! Thanks for this little visit!¨
Later, I confided in my waiter, DhanurDhar Das whose birth name is Diego, and thanked him for the back of his head. His sweet understanding gave us a moment or two to absorb the privilege we had both been a part of. I hope to come back soon and admire his tonsure at least once more. Now, I´m going to repeat the tribute I wrote about Randy sixty days after he passed away.
June 26, 2011-
This entry is a departure from the norm but it sets the scene for future entries here. Since I am not a psychic and don’t want to interfere with Randy’s progress in the next world by focusing his attention again on this one, I have made no attempt to communicate with or about him. Still, I have received the occasional “news bulletin” that he is doing just fine.
The whole experience has given me great confirmation about the teachings concerning Death told to me by the Holy Spirit and contained in my book. I was calm and happy throughout and still feel buoyant about both his life and his death. Here’s the story:
Some time after 6:00 a.m., on April 22, 2011, (a combined Good Friday and Earth Day), my son, Randy, slipped away from his life on Earth just two weeks shy of his 48th birthday. It was an easy passing if you ignore the difficult weeks leading up to it. None of us knew he was dying and we thought his symptoms of back pain, weakness, loss of appetite, constipation…. were just temporary – a pulled muscle, maybe sciatica – and all would clear up as it had before and life would go on in the usual way.
Randy was profoundly disabled with congenital Dejerine-Sottas Syndrome, a wasting disease somewhere in the MS/MD family. His boundaries had been closing steadily in on him all his life, but particularly in the past two years. As a child, he had walked with a rolling gait but paid as little attention to his disability as he could. He was smart and inventive and a natural leader among his playmates. The crutches he needed in high school were not cool and he began to sense that girls didn’t go for guys like him. Still, he had good school friends with whom he was still in touch on the day he died.
His two years at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky were really happy but the snow was hard to maneuver about in, so he transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he graduated with a degree in Art History. Randy was a true artist all of his life and was working on some intriguing pieces using fluorescent paint and black light at the time of his death. His modern art is full of motion and color. It moves even though he was able to do less and less of that in his final years.
He didn’t believe the prognosis given at Mayo Clinic that he would only live “into his forties” but was always convinced that he’d outlive me, not finding it reasonable that a child should die first. However, Randy had a lot of “what ifs?” that gave him a hard time. Both his grandfather and his father had died very, very slowly and he dreaded that prospect. Or, what if he got trapped in a body that could no longer move, leaving perhaps only one finger to type out his thoughts? But his worst fear was not being able to remain at home within familiar surroundings if his care should become too hard for me to handle…which it almost had.
Death was both frightening and fascinating to him but was not something he applied easily to himself. It was very good that no doctor gave him that certainty in his last days because he would have stewed over the moment-by-moment indications that he was approaching the edge of that yawning chasm and might have felt some fear and worry. He never had the casual coziness that I have with the subject due to my constant companionship with Somebody On The Other Side. The Buddhist Teachings aren’t exactly clear about the existence of God and get very complicated when talking about that rapid-traffic tunnel mentioned in the Tibetan Book of The Dead. Consequently, Randy kept the idea of death at a very great distance from himself and ruminated about the difficulties of life.
After a week of pain and very little appetite, he woke me at 5:00 a.m., asking for a glass-bottle Coke and a Cuban sandwich, which he enjoyed thoroughly. We talked for an hour and we both were sleepy again, so I suggested that we try for more sleep and we said goodnight at 6 a.m. He seemed to still be sleeping when I got up and had my coffee and then the visiting nurse found him without a pulse, soon after. He had slipped away at dawn.
“Good on ‘ya, Randy!” I said. “You did it exactly right!” His funeral and memorial service was a happy farewell and a tribute to a life lived fully and creatively though the walls pressed in for more than forty years. He always adapted to the new situation, the new normal, and found things to cherish about his earthly experience throughout the whole long ordeal.
His best buddy, Kumpa, also a Buddhist, reported on the way back from the funeral service, that he’d had an inner glimpse of Randy, now in the Pre-Birth Realm, testing a new body by running it up and down the stairwells of a tall building, refusing to take the elevator and enjoying the sampling of an athletic reincarnation. I’m told now that he didn’t select that body, after all, but was reborn two days ago in a good body, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
How would you like to be born in a city called: “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold?” That’s what Altoona is officially calling itself for a two-month period (April 27 (coincidentally, the day of his funeral) to June 27) to promote a movie by the same name. What are they putting on the birth certificates, I wonder?
Randy would have enjoyed the joke, having found life pretty darned wonderful this time around, in spite of everything.
As a parent of a child with a disability, I can’t really tell you how it feels to have a disability but I can honestly say how it feels to stand by and watch someone you love suffer. Imagine that your beloved child gets his finger caught in a slammed car door. You’d do everything in your power to extract that finger, or that whole hand, and make it all better. But the medical experts all agree that:
“There’s absolutely nothing to be done. The hand will stay smashed in that car door for the whole life and the best that one can do is make the best of it. Granted, gangrene will surely set in as time goes by but there are little things that can be done to make such eventualities a bit more bearable… Granted, that gangrene will bring an early death…but, such is life!”
After nearly fifty years of watching that prediction gradually come true, wouldn’t you as a parent also, as I was, be tremendously relieved when the car door was finally opened and the hand could escape the vise? Yes, you would!
That’s why you won’t detect the usual Mother’s grief in me, which many people feel when their child dies before them. What? Would I have honestly wanted him to hang around for even more pain and suffering just because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye? Not a chance!
I just call up to him: “See ya’ later, Alligator!” and wish him well in his new life in a great little town with a huge sense of humor.
Today, I read over this hastily-typed blog posting and I realize how strange it sounds without any context to go by. It would sound strange even with an explanation, because it´s literally a transcription of my hasty notes on the silly idea of Racing to the Bottom of Chile over the next few weeks. This is between me and two hostel dorm mates…bike riders going to the same town in Patagonia that I´m heading for, but with significantly different routes. Stuff gets lost in translation when silly material, which may mean something to the participants, gets written down.
Well, bear with me. There´s another page to go. At least, it´s background on an interesting and funny new part of my traveling in Chile, which will naturally supply bulletins as we go. Hank and Bryan left Santiago on Wednesday, January 18, on their planned route over the Andes to Argentina. They will then head south to Bariloche, Argentina, where they again will cross the Andes to re-enter Chile, to wind up in Puerto Montt.
That´s my future destination, too, traveling by a special backpacker´s bus which meanders among the interesting towns and hiker destinations south of Santiago. I also hope to take a ship further down for a three day cruise among the islands. So, the ridiculous idea of a race between us developed over the two days before they left and we have given it form by setting out all these wild and wilder terms and conditions.
They´re not kids, but they´re not as old as I am….so this is a very adult plan, however improbable. None of us are the ¨drinkers¨ that a perusal of this copy suggests, but what else is there to bet, other than money and that would taint the Olympic purity of this project. Gold medals would work, I guess, but are soooo much more expensive.
After they left, I was invited to attend a ten-day theater festival here and I decided to stay, since I have to dawdle seriously to make this any sort of a contest. I could get to Puerto Montt in a day of hard traveling. Well, the venue for the festival is an outdoor amphitheater and the show starts at 9 p.m. Temperatures have dropped here and it was windy last night. Thinking it was indoors, I didn´t dress warmly enough. Today I have a cold, which was already beginning with sniffles before. In front of the theater itself was an outdoor market and I bought a nice warm hoodie jacket in Rasta colors with Bob Marley´s face, front and back. I had a more ladylike jacket in the hostel but needed some serious chill protection right away. So the old jacket will be given away, as I always circulate my clothing as I go.
So, please put up with this silly backstory for awhile. It IS a part of my ongoing adventures….and no, Jennifer, I am not losing it! If you weren´t in on it from the beginning, it´s hard to imagine. I took pictures of their takeoff and will try to learn to post them soon and that will give more context. There will be one more page of this nutty original material and in-between, I hope to insert some old reports, as well as a touching story about ¨seeing the back of Randy´s head¨and finally finding grief welling up. That´ll keep you coming back for more! Just realize that the computers in this funky hostel )which I like well= are very compromised and getting worse over time. No internet cafes around either, so computer time is a struggle with so many of us needing the one not-bad one. Plus, a head cold.
Rule 1 – What happens in South America, stays in South America. Rules do not apply when returning home.
Rule 2 – Playing fast and loose with sporting, betting and movie industry terms is encouraged….especially in The Andes.
Rule 3 – Choice of Racing Conveyances.
TEAM MAPLE – Bicycle
TEAM SYCAMORE – Pachamama Buses www.pachamamabybus.com & Navimag ship www.navimag.com
Once underway¿underweigh method of conveyance is non-transferable. Team Maple suggests a caveat – Repercussions will apply only if we get caught. Fair enough!
Rule 4 – Team may communicate re… mileage covered, new rules and handicaps, timeframe, finish line location, taunts or cheers, leaf raking schedule. There will be absolutely no muck-raking, however.
Rule 5 – Methods of Communication allowed. email, skype, cloud technology, carrier pigeon, U.S. or Canadian mail, telepathy, blinker lights, morse code, drum, two tins and a piece of wire, smoke signals, torturous photos. That last one was Hunky´s suggestion after too much red wine. The Committee is sending this idea to the FBI. Hunkey swears he meant pictures of himself on the uphill runs but The Committee shot back with a reasonable question- ¨Who in their right mind ever RUNS uphill? Especially in the Andes? And anyway, he´s BIKING!!! Point taken. Typist´s caveat – I´d had a tad of wine when I jotted this cryptic two word note. Didn´t knw where else to put it. I´m begging leniency from The Committee. The reason that cell phones are not permitted, under any circumstances, is because Leaping doesn´t have one and it wouldn´t be fair.
Rule 6 – Betting is encouraged through the same bookies who cover any Olympics. All three contestants are holding out for one-third of all proceeds.
Rule 7 – Point Spread is encouraged.…except in The Andes. ????? ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ ¨I found it!¨ typist hollars. ¨Ya shoulda´known!¨ the three contestants hollar back. This is concerning the upside-down question mark. No doubt the upside-down exclamation point is hidden here somewhere, as well.
Rule 8 – Get a good night´s sleep. Unless your hemherroids are acting up… in which case, use toothpaste.
Rule 9 – Uphill runs may be accomplished with the assistance of chicas pulling or pushing gelado )ice cream…carts. This may include medium-quick chicas and slow chicas, as well.
Leaping has filed a strong protests because her run has no hills, nor does she feature herself grabbing onto anyone´s cart simply to be pulled up a mountain. The guys counter-protest because she rides buses…with engines!
Rule 10 – Älways quit when you´re ahead!¨…unless you are Team Sycamore.
Team Maple has registered a very strongly-worded protest.
Rule 11 – The use of handbrakes is permitted only in the presence of pubs.
Team Sycamore has registered a strongly-worded protest to the effect that she has no control over the decisions of bus or ship drivers. The Committee agrees profoundly.
Rule 12 – Stay hydrated. Especially when swimming. Both teams are scratching their heads over this one. The Committe insists that it contains profundity which will be realized at the proper time. Hunkey asks – ¨How about in the shower¿
And Flyin¨wonders if beer counts¿ The Committe will get back to Team Maple with the ruling.
This is a very roughly-written blog on a hostel computer keyboard with many odd keys and not all of the familiar ones, so forgive the apparent lack of editing. Plus, life is in the fast lane for me now and I soon have to board the Santiago, Chile subway system to get to the office of www.pachymamabybus.com to buy my ticket to Patagonia. I leave tomorrow.
As luck would have it, I´m racing two world-class bikers to see who can get to the bottom of the world…mas o menas…. the fastest. We´re all hostel dorm mates in an eight-bed dorm room and they took off an hour ago. Since I was already planning to bus to Puerto Montt, I proposed a race by slapping my tour bus brochure on the table and saying¨You guys are toast!¨ and the bet was on! Loser buys drinks in Puerto Montt! Thus began the silliest race definitions you´ll ever find on the planet and they are spelled out here. Last night, we who are older than all the twenty-somethings here, reclined on bean bags in the upper patio lobby, killing two bottles of red wine and laying down these principles. We had almost finished when we were joined by a famous movie director-producer-actor staying incognito at the hostel, no doubt curious about our good looks and witty brilliance.
And that´s all the info you´re ever going to get out of me on that score. Which about?…our looks or the movie mogul?
Suffice it to say I went to bed at two-twenty a.m. and got up at six for the start of the Great Human Race and I´m very sleepy now but must plow on to arrange my own take-off in this ridiculous, raucous challenge to the bottom of the earth. Here are the sketchy beginnings of our Plan.
THE GREAT CREATIVE RACE……..THE HUMAN RACE……SUD AMERICANA SECTOR…SANTIAGO TO PATAGONIA
THE TRIFECTA …….THE RAGING RELICS
CANADA – Hunky Dory, Flyin´Bryan
NORTH AMERICA – Leaping Linda …the guys are supposed to give me a better name
TEAM SYMBOLS –
CANADA – The Maple Leaf – Team Maple
NORTH AMERICA –The Sycamore Leaf – Team Sycamore
To quote -¨Because my neighbor´s sycamores drop dinner-plate-sized leaves on my lawn. Well, I didn´t want to say that the Eagle was my symbol because thats an unfair advantage over a leaf, which can´t fly on its own…so we´re both leaves.¨
DESTINATION – TBA
LENGTH OF RACE – TBA
STAKES, STEAKS – Loser buys in Puerto Montt.
IN CASE OF A TIE – Hunky recommends to ¨take it off!¨ but the sobering rule will be-
Guys buy drink)s) for the gal and gal buys drink for the guys. Leaping states that she will buy one-half a drink for each guy, in case of a tie.
Team Maple has entered a complaint….so has Team Sycamore. All team members do agree that individual team members buy the drinks for all the guests whom they, personally, invite to the Finish Line Party. The loser can´t be expected to spring for those. The nickle and diming continues, however, on how things apply in case of a tie. Cheap skates!
CONTESTANTS PERSONAL SLOGANS –
FLYIN´BRYAN – !Ï´M ALL IN!¨ meaning he´s committing 100%, though he is free to mean that he´s terribly tired…whichever one applies. Hunky promises to remind him of Meaning 1 on all Andean Uphill Stretches.
HUNKY DORY – ¨!GIVE ÉR SHIT!¨ Hunky swears that this is not swearing, which is not allowed in these high-altitudenal Olympics, but that it is, indeed, the toast which all Canadians use, equivalent to the ¨Skol¨and ¨Cheers¨ used in more civilized countries. However, he soon confessed that he, himself, invented this under duress once when he was surrounded by partying Icelanders, or perhaps they were Argentinians, wondering what Canadians say under these glass-clinking circumstances. Flummoxed, he saved the day and won the hearts by shouting the above…..which all of those fine companions now have used for years, establishing that reputation for Canada in bars all across the land.
LEAPIN´LINDA – !YOU GUYS ARE TOAST! ‘ Well, she WAS going to use this slogan but upon comparison with the open-natured team spirit demonstrated by the members of Team Maple, she was shamed and changed her slogan to the much more ladylike cry, truly her motto for many years….which she can prove by the wooden carved plaque on her wall at home….
LEAPIN´ LINDA -¨!GO! !SEE! !DO! !BE!¨ ¨!SEE! !BE! !GO! !DO! ¨!DO! !BE! !GO! !SEE! -!BE! !GO! !DO! !SEE! Usually said very rapidly with arm thrust bravely in the air. Can be uttered individually, especially after a double-bottled planning session.
)For all citizens unacquainted with the Spanish Language…)which includes the three of us)….Spanish writers have a quaint custom of putting an Upside-Down Exclamation Point at the beginning of the sentence, as well as at the end. Unfortunately, this stupid American keyboard is poorly-equipped for this charming touch… ie- both exclamation points are right-side-up! Tsk! We do the best we can and consider ourselves lucky. Said keyboard has absolutely no question marks….. and forget brackets of any sort….as well as many other common and heavily-used proununciation marks. North American Team Sycamore has submitted a strongly-worded protest over prejudicial language used in the above Team Rules.
RACE RULES – TBA ALONG THE ROUTE
Team Maple made some profound comparison with rivers as a proposal for a Rule. Something like ¨Go With The Flow¨but further discussion revealed that this would eliminate all uphill runs for them….it won´t affect Team Sycamore in a bus, however, so we may keep this rule for her. They liked the idea of eliminating hills but The Andes might object and who´s kidding who! Both teams liked the flexibility of the present Rule Structure. ie- to design them as we go, if and when necessary.
MEDIA COVERAGE-PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT CONTACT INFO- COMPLAINTS
TEAM SYCAMORE – [email protected]
Team Maple claims all profits from all television appearances, movie rights, etc.
Team Sycamore has entered a strong complaint. Update – Team Sycamore has now been granted exclusive book and blogging rights but has rewritten the protest to include half the movie rights and all public appearances.
Santiago, Chile, January 15, 2012 ‘ This blog continues the story of my being caught ¨smuggling in¨one little green apple on my flight between Paraguay and ChileÑ
We Busted Ones, myself and several mad German tourists, waited our turn to go before the authorities to have our individual cases adjudicated. There was a possible $200 fine. Wow, that would be my classical Golden Apple, all right. I thought of all of the $100 bills I had recently spent…. including $132 for my Chilean reciprocity fee…which I hadn´t yet been asked for. By now, time was running out since I´d come through most of the gates by this time. Ooops! I decided to ask an agricultural, SAG, agent about that, but couldn´t find one who spoke English.
Daniel did! He´s a SAG agent whom I immediately recognized as an Intergalactic Friend, an IGF, someone whom I´ve known in another lifetime. We always instantly recognize each other. Daniel seemed impressed that I was, essentially, turning myself in about another costly airport matter and he said he would help me solve that problem as soon as this one was resolved. I was now safely under Daniel´s wing. He explained that he must ask me a series of questions and then the decision would be to either forgive the crime or to fine me.
In the process, I heard him mutter to himself, `Öh, Linda, Linda, Linda!` as if he were saying, `How are we going to get you out of this_ .. I smiled happily to myself, knowing that my judge and jury was now my new best friend and advocate. His questions simply allowed me to explain how I had fallen into this criminal act and I told of the exhausting day of hot exploration of Asuncion when I had bought two apples in case I missed the dinner at the hotel, or slept through it once collapsed on the bed. As it turned out, I could only eat one apple and the leftover stayed in the pouch of my big daypack, forgotten until seized by Chile´s vigilant protector of agricultural purity. This is a concept which I understand and applaud because Florida´s borders are also seriously guarded against foreign plant and animal invasion. My mind flashed back decades to the day when our extended family was returning from a Bermuda vacation and one of us was caught with two pink grapefruit copped from our last breakfast.
For this reason, there was no anger or resentment in me as Daniel and I worked our way through this paper-generating legal affair. Meanwhile, the Europeans looked as if they were being fined right and left, chiefly due to their total lack of cooperation and a stubborn denial of guilt in the matter. Soon, Daniel explained in his broken English, that I had been absolved of my crime, since it was committed, essentially, without my knowledge. I then signed several papers allowing them to destruct the offending apple by injecting it with germ-killing blue dye and then burning it completely. Goodness yes, blow that baby up until dead and harmless to Chile´s agriculture.
Now we turned to the reciprocity question and this dear friend left his department to escort me back to the customs officials, checking first with the head of that department. Sure enough, my passport number did not appear on the list of Americans processed that day. So, Daniel accompanied me to a totally new-to-me area where I should have been sent. I was able to fork over my money and receive the page in my passport which would allow me to leave the country without repercussions.
Instead of shaking hands with Daniel to thank him for everything, I touched him affectionately on the shoulder. This was because I had noticed that his right arm and hand were not very usable and that his right leg was also affected in a limp, as if by a slight stroke, though he is a young man. By now, we were such buddies that he was pushing my heavy baggage cart and excorting me to the taxi area. For my part, all through that long hike together through the airport I had been calling forth the Healing Entities from the John of God Healing Casa to come and heal my dear Daniel, Guardian of Chilean crops and American women in need of defending. What a dear man he is and what a propitious introduction to this fabulous, fabulous, fabulous country!
I love this feeling of excitement and discovery so much! The exhilaration at every turn in a new place, which keeps on delivering. Even if my ardor cools eventually as it has in some other countries, I´m hugely grateful for this marvelous love affair I´m having with Chile just now. I can´t even imagine it letting me down….but sometimes that´s the way with New Love. Stay tuned, time will tell!
I still owe you stories about Iguazu Falls and Paraguay. Hopefully, I´ll get them done soon, as I plan to stay in Beautiful Santiago Chile for a few days. But here´s my latest adventure that needs telling early as it´s pretty good….in my wacky book, anyway.
(Saturday, January 14, 2012, Santiago, Chile) Yesterday, flying here from Asuncion, Paraguay was a hoot. And I was quite tired when I reached the Hostel Forestal in the early afternoon. I was so sleep-deprived from lack of sleep at the fancy & expensive Gran Hotel del Paraguay (AC blew directly on the bed and light shone in my eyes from the porch since the shutters didn´t close all the way) that I slept for 14 hours last night …. very soundly in a $15 per night hostel 8-bunk mixed dorm room. Now I must write about my airport adventure.
I had to get up at 4 a.m. to make my 7;10 a.m. flight but that went fine, then in Buenos Aires I messed up a bit by flowing out of the secure area and having to go back through customs and long lines to get to my boarding gate, but I still made the plane. I landed in Santiago around noon. All passengers had filled out customs forms declaring that we weren´t bringing in any plant or animal products. How many similar papers have I filled out over the years? Certain that I had no forbidden items in my bags or on my person, I ticked off the ¨no¨boxes and signed my name. The operation didn´t tax my sleep-deprived brain hardly at all.
Primary in my thoughts at the time were the two crisp $100 American dollars in my wallet, newly-unwound from their hiding place sewn in the seams of my old rain jacket pocket. This was meant to pay the Chilean Reciprocity Fee of $132 levied upon Westerners, which then is good for the life of the passport… six more years for me. Lonely Planet said that they required the exact cash but I was hoping they coud make change for me. Flowing towards the customs agent´s booths, I saw the sign for Reciprocity Fee and expected to be asked for the money by the official stamping my passport. Having learned my lesson at the Paraguayan Consulate (see my recent blog about bribing), I didn´t dare slide the money across the counter to him. But he just did the usual passport stamping and waved me through. Hmmmm? Must be somewhere up ahead.
I sequed into the agricultural inspection area manned by SAG officials, having made it safely past the drug-sniffing hound. When I saw artisanal items on the signage, I even removed a jute bag containing a few native crafts bought in Paraguay, but the official I asked said that it was fine. Then, just as my bags were on the counter for opening, I heard one officer ask the person in front of me; ¨Do you have any fruit?¨ and something in my brain suddenly recalled the little green apple, bought on my long, hot walk in Asuncion, still uneaten in a pouche of my oversized daypack, which I´d chosen to use as a carryon. The forbidden fruit rolled out in front of the officer. That did it! I was a smuggler, caught red-handed.
It didn´t take the official long to unfold my custom´s declaration form and tap my clearly-checked-off ¨no¨ column over my signature. This was a legal document and I had lied. That green manzana, .013 kg was staring right up at us. Guilty as charged I agreed, preparing to be arrested on the spot. Shunted to a particular table, I joined some intensely-angry German senior citizens who were showing umbrage over the few mandarin oranges and a handful of cherry tomatoes found in their hand luggage. I could certainly sympathize with their plight because they couldn´t speak English or Spanish and but had had to fill out a legal form written in only those languages. Plus, they were members of a group being held up with their detainment. Nonetheless, they were as guilty as I was and the law was the law. We would all be processed and that was simply that! One man probably shaved years off his life with the high blood pressure that he surely must have experienced trying to bully the Chilean officials out of doing their duty.
What happened next? Tune in next time.
I´m in Paraguay now on my first day here and I really like it. The people are wonderful and so is this fine Gran Hotel in the capital city, Asuncion. But first, I have a backlog of journal entries about Brazil which I need to turn into blogs. There´s a long one about my visit to the world famous waterfalls here, but I haven´t had much computer time since I spent most of Monday on the bus. Here´s a short one I wrote while still in Brazil at the Klein Hostel in Iguazu Falls:
Who in the world takes naps at the hostel in the afternoon? I do! The bunkroom is air-conditioned and empty while most guests are out cooking themselves in the crowd at Iguazu Falls. Besides, I cherish naps and have a good working agreement between me and my body.
But, there´s a big Brazilian family here which apparently views this hostel as a destination resort…as I obviously do. In addition to several sets of adults there are two lively children: a fourteen-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl. From my sarong-shielded lower bunk I woke to sharp girlish screams; thrumming bass-note music; loud men´s voices and whatall else I do not know.
`Entropy has set in here!` groaned I, proud that such a thermodynamic term had suggested itself to my mind.
Entropy – Nature changes from order to disorder in isolated situations.
From that bunkbed, things sure sounded disordered. Hmmmm? Perhaps I could introduce order simply by appearing upon the scene… in the same way that the observer can often affect the observed situation. So I got up and staggered out. Sure enough, without my saying a word, the girl´s screams turned to laughter; the music quality changed, and the strident conversation ended. Order reappeared magically! This family is actually very nice and they have introduced me to a truly delicious new barbeque meat: Chicken hearts kabob! Ohmigosh! So delicious! You just skewer a bunch of chicken hearts (very cheap meat), salt lightly and put them on the grill.
This sort of entropy & observer-affective thinking has been spurred by the book I´m reading now: The Source Field Investigations by David Wilcock. Awfully good, as I believe I´ve mentioned before.
Here´s another observance from around the hostel pool: I´ve been watching two Brazilian girls and two Dutch girls in their early twenties lounging beside the pool. These four good-looking girls have almost-identical, perfect bikini bodies which they `wear` nonchalantly knowing that they look good from any angle. However, they all appear to be chain-smokers and beer drinkers, continuing to look like innocent models as they pull on cigarettes, long-necked bottles or beer cans.
I could have named this blog: Do You Want Your Beauty Early or Late? How many cool young women turn into hefty forty-year-olds with smoker´s cough? Somehow, that very nonchalance induces a supposed immunity to all thing unattractive. Their menfolk, even now, are thickening in the midsection as they pass around the beer cans. Yet, the youthful flirting goes on.
I remember wondering where all the Ukrainian beauties had gone to when I observed that country´s motherly class. Those young beauties were still there inside, morphed into their next stage of life. Next will come the babushka headscarf for the final twenty years. That was another continent, another culture, another time in my own life; but I´m still watching lovely girls live like there´s no tomorrow here in South America. Give the others forty or fifty years of healthy eating, smoke-free lungs and only an occasional beer around the pool on a hot day and they´ll show those girls a thing or two!
(Iguazu Falls, Brazil) Am I bribing an official without even realizing it? Ohmigosh! If that´s actually what happened, this story is costing me $110! Yikes! Here´s the backstory:
After days of hard study around the Klein Hostel´s pool, digesting a Lonely Planet guidebook on South America, I finally decided to continue my overland journey by heading west through Paraguay. I could have chosen to remain in Brazil and travel to Puerto Alegre on the southern coastline; or I might have bussed through Argentina towards Chile where I plan to spend my last six weeks on this continent. Another possibility was to fly from here straight to Santiago and save a whole lot of money, to say nothing of inevitable wear and tear on the old bod.
But no….I have become intrigued by this impoverished, dictator-damaged Paraguay (second only to Bolivia in the poverty sweepstakes in S.A.) and way off the normal backpacker´s route. It´s not a well-developed tourist spot, to say the least, although I´m looking forward to three nights of pampering in the slightly-faded splendor of the Gran Hotel in the capital city of Asuncion for only a hundred smackers per night. I´ve noticed that poor countries (Albania, Nicaragua, India, Russia, Paraguay… come to mind) seem to have only very expensive hotels for foreigners in their capital cities. I suppose, because only government officials, United Nations ambassadors and big business representatives, ever come there.
Well anyway, the Gran was originially the mansion of the Irish mistress of one of the awful dictators and she imagined herself a serious rival to Marie Antoinette on the world stage of the day. Apparently, she was much disliked by both the Paraguayans and the French.She sounded so intriguing that the only way that it could be more exciting would be if she also haunts the place these days. So, how could I resist this plan? I´ve been spending only about $25 a day on housing for months and just now, am sleeping in an eight-bed, mixed dorm hostel room, for goodness sakes. I owe myself!
The five-hour bus trip across the whole of Paraguay is a deal at $27 but when I tried to buy a ticket, I learned that Americans need a visa. Most countries, except (famously) Brazil, let travelers acquire a visa at the border, if it´s even needed at all. Woops! Little old Paraguay plays hardball with Americans, just like its big brother!
So, I left the hostel this morning armed with directions for finding the consulate in town; even planning to take in the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls during the hours I´d have to wait for the visa to be issued. Morning rush hour had the city busses so packed that I decided to walk from the downtown terminal referring to a rather sketchy map to find the right address. This involved hiking many hot uphill blocks over sometimes upheaveled sidewalks, but I found the consulate almost-easily, with only one direction inquiry.
My experience there was most pleasant, with a smiling, efficient woman processing me at her desk with minimal, but workable English. I had not been able to locate in my luggage the extra mugshot that I knew I had brought with me. So, that was a problem as she genuinely couldn´t seem to think of any place in town that took passport photos. She went out to consult with an official while I continued to root through my wallet; at last finding a decade old head-to-waist shot, though I knew they preferred head and shoulders. Maybe it would do?
A man came in and wrote on a paper that the Paraquayan visa would cost R$198, about $110 American dollars. That was a bit of sticker shock, right there, but I have a lot of Brazilian cash to use up, so I pulled out the see-through plastic money pouch from my waist pouch, ready to pay. He said that I´d have to go to the HSBC Bank to pay the visa fee and I might have groaned, or suddered slightly, thinking of more street maneuvering in the now-higher heat outside. That man left and the nice lady had me fill out papers, asking me if I had a credit card. Yes, a debit card, but can´t I pay in cash here? I pulled out 200 Reals. She slipped those into my passport and called a man on the phone. He came in and okayed my photo, though at first, I´d been told I would need two pictures.
Two other men came in, one at a time, approving everything. The last man said to return in two hours to pick up my visa. He held up two fingers. Luckily, I thought to coordinate my watch with his. Ìt´s eleven o`clock now. Should I return at one o`clock?´ `No, come back at two o`clock.` ´But, that´s three hours from now, not two.` Okay, he allowed as how it was three hours from then, but repeated that I should `Come at two hours!` It felt like an old Abbott and Costello routine about Who´s on first?`
They did emphasize that I should bring my credit card. No, you don`t need to go the the bank now. We`ll do it all from here. All will be ready for you at two hours.
Hmmmmm? Why would they need my card if I had just paid the fee in cash? Hmmmmm? Uh-oh! Is that how bribes are conducted? You slip four big fifties inside your paperwork? I guess I´ve seen it done on television. I sure couldn´t have done it so smoothly if I had been trying to, for goodness sakes! Maybe they thought I was a rich lady because of my hotel reservation. Maybe they thought I was the Irish Marie Antoinette wannabe, reincarnated…
All I could do was find a restaurant and eat a long lunch until time to go back…forget struggling through the Falls and getting back on time. If they charge my card with another $110, I guess I cannot squawk. I mean, you better not welch on bribes in these high-powered situations. I will just have to enjoy my few days in their country that much more.
(That evening) I still am not sure how much that visa cost me, but I have the passport-page-sized visa (why do small countries take up so much space in my passport, I wonder.) good for the next six years. Goody, now i can keep returning to these hot-spots into my eighties! That 200 Reals might NOT have been a bribe, because when I returned, I was given 2 Reals change and a receipt for 198 Reals. But, she still took my debit card into a back room for a few minutes. I did not ask, just complied as requested. We really did not have enough language operative to get into such complexities. Getting back to the bus station involved parasol, city maps and near sunstroke, but I made it, even to the point of buying my bus ticket to Paraguay for Monday. Nah, I´m sure I didn´t bribe anybody. Come to think of it, that´s probably the first time I´ve been inside of a Consulate in all my years of traveling. Must have been a little bit nervous. But, they were so nice, I´m looking forward to meeting their countrymen.
I just received the regular newsletter of Bootsnall.com, the foremost around-the-world backpackers website and noticed an article recommending new and lesser-known Must-See Places in the world. Imagine my surprise to learn that I am, as we speak, at Number 1 – Iguazu Falls. Somehow, I´m finding it impossible to link this page tonight and my brain tells me to stop trying. In the morning, I shall attempt it again. You´ll just have to take my word for it for the moment.
So far though, I haven´t gotten to the Falls. I spent yesterday and today taking it easy recovering from the overnight bus trip from central Brazil. The Klein Hostel is comfortable and a great place to catch up on neglected forward planning, so I´ve been trying to decide which route toward Chile to select. The one which is apparently winning is the one I never thought I´d want to do…..busing directly across Paraguay in a five-hour shot, and staying in a fancy hotel in Asuncion, the capital. Do I usually stay in expensive digs? Never! But this one is sort-of appealing. More about that later, as things jell.
One of these days, when Montezuma leaves, I´ll spend probably three days thoroughly exploring these famous Falls, especially now that my respect-o-meter has just ratcheted up some extra notches. There is also the world´s largest dam(???) which I can extensively tour, as well, and I shall.
Oddly, the last two months spent in Abadiania, Brazil, could have just as well been spent in an alien space ship, according to the reactions of all these local Brazilians and the world backpackers here. No one…..absolutely no one….has ever heard of it or of John of God and the Healing Casa. Admittedly, this is far away in another State of Brazil, sort of like people in Florida having never heard of a small, spiritual, world-wide-attended Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Okay, that´s not a good analogy, but people in this hostel are talking all around me so I can´t think too well.
My point is, that now I realize that Abadiania doesn´t even exist as far as maps, guide books, and computer hostel or hotel guides go. It´s just not on anyone´s radar, unless you already know about it. Even driving by on the major highway, you wouldn´t know that it was just down the street a few blocks. Will that ever show up on somebody´s eleven places to visit before you die? Who knows? But, I doubt it.
However, crowds of thousands flock to it from all over Brazil, South America, and the world and it´s only advertising is word of mouth. And it all relies on one single man to keep on living forever. That´s the thought in my mind the whole time I was there. What happens to all of this on the day that John of God dies? But for now, it´s doing great and spiritual things for people whom doctors have given up on. That sort of news always spreads to the people who need to hear about it. And, somehow, they will find a way to get there.