Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Peruvian Generosity Helps Me Move Forward

I told the cafe owner that I had run out of money and that I could pay him in PayPal, but he refused. (I ran out of money, because there were no ATMs in the area. You could read about it here: Mummies and Coffee). He asked how many U.S. dollars I had, and I said, "Eight." In exchange, he gave me a 50 Sol note, which meant he gave me $8 USD or 24 Soles for free. For an average Peruvian - it's a lot of money; that could easily buy you three meals or a night's stay at a hotel. Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience to have received such generosity. (It reminded me of a time, where a stranger in Korea did this for me when I was 20 years old).

Here I was, the perceived rich American, and a Peruvian was giving me a handout. I asked if I could pay him back with PayPal, but he refused. He said that when he was in the United States, that Americans were generous to him. He was confident the luck would come back to him.

The owner of my hotel knew I had ran out of money too. So, she made me a free breakfast and said, "It was on the house." That really warmed my heart. I only asked for free coffee and there she was giving me a free breakfast. I could feel that these experiences were making me a better person.

The day I had to leave, I went back to the cafe owner and gave him a 1,000 (about $1) South Korean Won note. I told him to keep it for luck, as it's Korean tradition to give lucky bills out. I told him I had it for 14 years. (I should have also told him that I was debt free, so maybe it really is lucky.) He thanked me. I had my last coffee and sandwich at the cafe.

The manager of the cafe then packed me some banana bread and some brownies for my journey onward. That was really kind of her.

The commercial fruit truck that picked me up.
After, I walked to a crossroad with all my stuff and began hitchhiking. The next bus was late at night, and I didn't want to take it. But, since I was in the middle of nowhere, traffic was really infrequent. 7
cars went by in one hour. That's really not a lot.

In the back of a commercial fruit truck.
The first two cars wanted money for the journey, and one grumpy old man wanted a lot. His greed and meanness was in direct contrast to the generosity I experienced. But after waiting for about an hour, I realized, maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea to pay the first guy - but not the mean, second one.

After an hour and a half, a large commercial fruit truck comes. I hail him. I offer him $3. He says, "Get in the back." I hitch a ride in a slow and large fruit truck, where the bed was caged in. I kind of felt like a prisoner inside. It smelled like mangoes inside.

The ride was slow and windy and at the top of the mountain crest, the air was getting colder. When I exhaled, my breath would materialize into frosty mist. I had to open my luggage and put on more clothes.

Then at the top of the crest, the driver had to urinate. It was there, I realized that the lighting, the location, and the weather would give me a perfect picture of where I was. So, I took the shot with my iPhone. (See below.)

Eventually, I made it into the town of Huanchaco below. It was an uncomfortable ride that lasted three and a half hours.

In the valley of Huanchaco, you could see fruits growing everywhere; there were mangoes, passionfruit, and strawberries. After exiting, I take three mangoes from the fruit truck and ask the guy's partner, his SeƱora, if I could pay for the mangoes. She gives them to me for free, and after I ate them later, I can't remember having sweeter-tasting mangoes.

Upon exiting the truck, a guy comes and takes my luggage and tells me he'll take me to the next town over. We negotiate $2 for the ride, but he wanted more.

The ride is two hours long, all the way up a windy road up the mountains and then down again on the other side. In an hour and a half into the ride - my driver parks at the side of the road. Goes into a house. Stays for 5 minutes. He comes back out.

After, I notice that he's scratching his nose a lot. He has a lot of energy. He's more talkative. And he's chewing on more cocaine leaves. It makes me wonder if he snorted cocaine in that house.

Well - there was only 30-45 minutes left to Celendin, the next town over. So, I'll be there soon, I think. Please just don't crash between here and there.

He takes me to a nearby cheap hotel. I ask the hotel clerk where the nearest ATM is. He tells me. I think I won't forget how happy he was to see a foreigner.

I'm relieved that I could withdraw cash - finally. I used most of my cash on getting to Celendin but still had some cash left. Oh, there's also some red wine to buy at the local market. And the local market serves proper cappuccinos too. So, that was all good.

In Motorcycle Diaries (both the book and movie), Ernesto Guevara apparently was moved by the hospitality of people when he traveled South America. After these experiences, I could see why such experiences can transform one's heart to really value people.

Shot by me:
From the back of a fruit truck,
 On the road between
Leymebamba and Huanchaco

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Road to Ravesh

Me: Sitting atop the tombs of Ravesh,
looking down below at the world.
I woke up one morning and decided to go to Ravesh - the name of an area with tombs carved into the mountainside. The Lonely Planet said it was only a 1.5 hour hike back and forth. (Perhaps, I read it wrong.) It turned out to be a 14 hour hike return, but it was well-worth it, because of the stunning view.

I woke up late (because I slept 10 hours and loved it) and had a nice local breakfast, made of fresh cheese. The owner of my hotel has a farm, which makes local dairy. I loved the cheese and milk with my coffee.

After taking a 30 minute ride to the nearest village, I asked a local - "Where's Ravesh?"

From the top of Ravesh
He said, "Really far." He pointed to the top of the mountain, and the mountain was really big and tall and said, "At the top. It's going to take 8 hours to go up there."

I thanked him. It was already around noon, and I decided that I wasn't going to make it to Ravesh. Instead, I was going to hike for four hours and hike back.

I walked an hour or two through the shadows of the valley of those grand mountains. Then, I noticed motorcycles zipping passed me, up and up the winding road. There was also a creek that run through the valley.

But while I was trekking upwards, I changed my mind and decided I was going to try to make it to Ravesh.

Walking through the valleys of Ravesh
I saw a motorcycle coming in my direction and decided to hail him down. I asked for a ride. He let me ride with him on the back of the motorcycle to a village an hour and a half away from Ravesh.

From there, he pointed to the the peak of the mountain, which I estimated to be about a mile away, which really meant it was about 3 or 4 miles away, because nothing is a straightforward road in the mountains.

I started my hike from the village of San Salvador to the next village of San Bartolo. I hiked an hour and a half to get to the final village. It was steep and not that easy.

My motorcycle driver - Carlos.
At San Bartolo, I got hungry and asked to buy lunch from some villagers. There was only one shop that sold food.

The owner was a woman, who wore the traditional mountain straw hat and the colorful dresses that the women wear here. She said all she had was pork and rice. We negotiated for a price. I was running out of cash. (See my post on Lemeybambe here: Mummies and Coffee). She agreed. While waiting, I was listening to the conversation the villagers were having. They wanted free food from her.

I had three pieces of pork with vinegar and rice and onions. It was simple but good.

At the registration office, I even negotiated the cost of entering the tombs. I just told the guy there, who looked really drunk, that I was running short on cash. He said I could pay less and gave me directions to Ravesh from the village. It was quite complicated to understand.

I walked to the road to Ravesh for a while, but after walking
I saw them on my way from San Salvador to San Bartolo
about 15 minutes a local caught up to me. He was running. He told me I was going the wrong way. When the local explained the directions, I understood better.

He said I was to follow the paved road and then when the road turned into dirt, that I was to go left. I think because I didn't know the word for "paved road," I got lost.

The tombs of Ravesh are carved into the mountains.
I thanked him and got back onto the road for Ravesh. You know when you're there, because you see the paint on the walls of the caves. And you see the tombs. There wasn't anything that special about them, but the view of the valley and towns below was stunning. I loved it more than my trip to Kuelap. (You can read about here: Seeing the Ruins of Kuelap with Tobi).


I had internet connection at the peak, which was amazing. So, I texted friends some pictures up there. It was 2,500 meters high or 1.6 miles up.

I sat on the ledge of the cliff and just thought
about life. I probably stayed there for an hour. I wish I planned to stay the night there, because I wanted to stay longer, but sunset was coming soon. I had to return to town. Otherwise, I wouldn't catch a bus home from the village of Yerbabuena, down in the valley.



Me: In front of a tomb.
As I started walking back, the sun was setting. The colors of the sky changed into an amethyst hue. The people at the village said good bye to me. They said they were so happy I came and visited them.

By the time I left San Salvador, it was starting to become dark, but at least there was a moon. I knew with a moon, I had enough light to get down to the valley, but it'd take 4 hours. It'd be about 11PM by the time I got down there, and I'd definitely would have to hitchhike in the dark. That's not really that safe for either party too. But I was low on cash, so what were thieves going to take from me?

I hiked down that mountain at nightfall. It wasn't hard, because I was used to running in the dark and relying on moon and starlight. I could see from below, the last of the worker cars and motorcycles leaving.

After hiking down in an hour in the dark, one motorcycle passed me. The guy was young. He refused to give me a ride. I was annoyed, because he knew that it was going to be another 2.5-3 hours to get down there.

Then another motorcycle passes ten minutes after him. Although he had a passenger, he agreed to give me a ride. We're able to fit all three people on one motorcycle. It was tight.

I found out they were workers who paved the streets. They also told me they had a few jobs and only rested on Sunday.

I timed the ride. It was about 40 minutes. He dropped me off at the village.

Shot From San Salvador at Sunset 
I thanked him and went to a local restaurant. A guy sits at the table by me. We talk.

He asks a lot of questions. I told him that I went to Ravesh. When he didn't know where that was, I knew he wasn't a local. I find out he's from Chiclayo. (That was the city where I fixed everything - you can read about it here: Fixing the Broken in Chiclayo.) He asks me how I know Spanish. (I'm getting that a lot now.)

After dinner, I catch the bus home. I'm tired. I have a hot shower. I'm really happy I went to Ravesh.

I was proud of myself that I managed to do Ravesh with all the challenges I told you about in the beginning. Really, there was so much uncertainty. Would I find a ride up? Would I find a ride down? Would I be able to walk out of there in pitch blackness? Like in Motorcycle Diaries, I was able to "improvise" - a key theme in the movie.

Well, thanks to the "kindness of strangers" I was able to see a beautiful site. (For their help, I sent them their pictures later.) It was one of the times where the journey was that much more beautiful than the destination itself.
My driver - "Chaco"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mummies and Coffee

Two mummies.
"If you look at death long enough, does
death look back at you?"
Get it? 
After leaving the Cloud City and saying good bye to Tobi and Dante, I followed my map, the one the French older couple left me. (You can read about them here: Conversations with the World). On the map - the lady marked an "X" on the little village of Leymebamba and wrote that it was a "Little Cusco". (Cusco is a tourist city, known for it's Incan-Spanish architecture. I haven't been there yet.) I loved Leymebamba right when I arrived. I knew I wanted to stay for awhile.

There was nothing super special about it, except that it was located at the top of some cliffs - where down below you could see a blue stream flowing. It was very scenic and peaceful.

There's a local museum, which houses some artifacts, but their crown jewel are the mummies. I suppose the mummies were placed there, because the government has probably taken most of everything from the site. After all, they had to leave the people with something.

Around the area, some archaeological sites were discovered, much to the consternation of local tomb raiders
A Peruvian cat mummy.
I wonder what Jeh Pani would think of this? 
called huaceros. There's been a local feud as to who owns the ancient property - the local tomb raiders or the government (along with their contracted foreign archaeologists.) In the end, I'm sure whoever wins - the prizes and treasures end up in the home of rich people, mainly in the West.

Nonetheless, I was excited to see the mummies. They looked so different than the Egyptian kind. According to the museum, the natural environment of the mountains have preserved the remains of humans from decaying.

As a kid, I've always thought that mummies were from Egypt. I find it strange that I've been saying mummies in so many of the places I've traveled. I saw mummies in London (read about it here Christmas Party in London) and mummies in Tokyo too. But those mummies were both wrapped in cloth like, because they were Egyptian mummies.

Possum purse
These mummies were different. They were simply packed into a cloth with all their bones.
Because of the environment, it doesn't look like much more was needed to preserve them.

When I was in Beijing, at the center of Tianmen Square was Chairman Mao's body preserved. (I didn't see it, because I was with the underground church, and they detested Mao.) Also, when I was in Moscow, I heard that the Dictator, Lenin's body, is preserved there too. Although I was there too, I didn't feel like seeing him, either.

But it seems to be a universal phenomenon across countries to preserve the dead for hundreds, if not thousands of years. But why want to do this? And why do they always embalm kitties too to go with the dead?

Interesting. It made me wonder if Jeh Pan needs to be mummified on his death as well and put into one of our caskets. I think he would agree to it, as long as he died of natural causes first. The Egyptians killed animals to mummify when the elite died.

Anyways, I was happy to see mummies again. There was a sign in the museum that told me where all the other mummies were located. I was excited to see I already saw the London one. The oldest ones are in Chile. Maybe, go to Chile?

After studying the mummies, I remember what the French guy told me back in Chiclayo. He said, "When I die, I want to say I know the world." By studying these mysteries mummies, I felt like I was one step closer to saying "I know the world."

* * *
Kenti cafe
After the museum, there's a local cafe across the street that I loved called Kenti Cafe. They made wonderful coffee and sandwiches and had the best wifi in the village. So, during my days in Leymebamba, I walked a mile and a half every day, back and forth, up a steep hill, just to have coffee and food.

At the cafe, there's a little hummingbird feeder that bring these dazzling hummingbirds, which look like fluttering gems. Guests are usually in awe and wonder.

The only problem I had in being in Leymebamba was I was running out of money. There's no ATMs around. I didn't know. The nearest one would take a 4 hour trip in the opposite direction. I didn't want to do that. Also, nobody accepted credit card around here. (This would become a problem later.)
See the hummingbird feeder? 

The manager of the place found out I wanted wine but didn't have the cash for it. Also, there's no decent wine in the village. Had I have known, I would've brought some with me from the Cloud City. One store sold an average bottle of wine for twice the price. I refused to buy it on principle alone.

Well, the manager took a liking towards me and asked the owner of the place if she could give me wine. She gave me a beautiful ruby Argentinian merlot on the house. It tasted rich and beautiful, and the liquid ruby went down well. They were very hospitable people in this area.

On the final day, a young guy gave me a ride on his motorcycle to the cafe. It looks like hitching rides on motorcycles is becoming a key part of these travels. After watching Motorcycle Diaries, I wonder if I'm creating a motorcycle diary of my own.
I had my watchband weaved here.













Hitching a ride with Christian
and his motorcycle. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tobi Needs Legal Help & Finding Dante

Tobi and Me in Kuelap
The next morning, Tobi said his parents had a problem: His village in Germany was charging a couple of households 20,000 Euros or $24,000 USD to fix the streets. Imagine if you had a bill from your local council that says you needed to pay $24,000 USD to fix the street adjacent to your house. Seeing that it was about fighting against local government, I said let's write a letter to your council why this is wrong. Of course, it was illegal for me to be practicing German law in Peru; I was practicing law without a license in two countries. But I didn't care. We all know how much I hate local governments, and this seemed wrong to me. You can take the lawyer out of America, but you can't take the lawyering out of this American.

Immediately, I knew that the best way to win would be to argue preemption also known as supremacy or federalism. Here's how the argument goes. If local law contradicts federal law - which is supreme in the land - the local law gets struck down. It gets wiped out. Federal law is supreme. And Germany is a federated country. There are a number of states all under the authority of Berlin. Like in the United States, we're 50 states under the power of Washington D.C.

I knew that preemption was an argument that worked in Germany. While visiting Volker in Goettingen, there was a big red "X" on a local speed limit sign that was by the German national freeway (or highway), also known as the autobahn. I asked Volker, "Why is there a big red 'X' on that sign?" He said Berlin came in and told Goettingen they had no right to set the speed limit, because it was a federal road. Therefore, Berlin "preempted" the Town of Gottengen from doing so. Federalism wins again. Federalism almost always wins. Go ask the Feds.

To prove the point back at home, Baldwin Park's sign law got wiped out of the books this year. That was because the sign law contradicted our U.S. Constitution on Free Speech. Originally, the City stated that it could control political signs. The federal court told the City - no you can't, that violates the First Amendment's clause on Free Speech. Government cannot regulate a citizen's expression of political speech. That's a good example of the legal theory of preemption, supremacy, and federalism.

So, I told Tobi: "We need to find the Bundestag (Federal) law that your village is contradicting." By searching through only Google - we had to go to the code section on roads and taxes. There was nothing.

Then, I showed Tobi, "Next we go to the Bavarian law. Cities, towns, and villages can't also make law that goes against state law. Your state is Bavaria."

It took a few hours, especially because I didn't have the proper tools, and I didn't know German well enough. Tobi had to help me translate a few words. Sometimes we used Google translator, but after a few hours, I had that Eureka moment, I so love. I found the answer.

I said, "I think we found it Tobi. Bavarian law can be interpreted to say that public streets must be repaired by the City's general fund and not from funds being taxed on selective households."

He asks me, "You think it'll work?"

"That's not how law is. It depends on who is making the decision. But we can try and threaten to sue them. It's a valid argument. You try and see if it works.

"The village cannot tax your parents specifically or the other households, because it goes against Bavarian law. And that Bavarian law says that the street repairs must come from the general fund."

He was excited. He liked the whole research process and learning law. I showed him it was like going down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It's not a straight road to get the answer you want. You get one clue here and another clue there and then it leads to the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

I draft the letter in English to the town council stating our argument and to rescind the repair bill. I look at the letter and re-read it. It hits the sweet spot. I know it's right.

Later, Tobi and I go through it and start translating it in German. We write it up in German. He reads it, and knows it looks right too. When it's done, he gives me a big hug.

He texts his mother and tells her he met a lawyer who is writing a letter for their family.

She writes back, indicating she's happy for him, almost like saying "That's nice, Dear."

I think he feels like he needs to prove that this is a real story - that he really met a lawyer - and that I knew what I was doing. He also wanted to show his parents he cared about them by defending their property.

We send her the letter. She reads it. She writes back, "I need to show this to your father."

In the meantime, I tell Tobi, "Let's see what the council says. Let's see what their argument is. I have another argument lined up.

"They'll probably say that it's in their right to tax people to fix roads.

"We're going to say this violates the Equal Protection Clause. I'll explain more on that later. [Now, I know that Equal Protection usually applies to racial and gender discrimination claims, but I have something.]

"We're going to argue that it's not fair to tax only your parents. It's a public road. Everybody can use it. Not just your parents. Therefore, the public should pay for it, not just your parents. Therefore, the fee needs to come out of the town's general funds, and not just a few households."

(The German legal system also doesn't follow case law - meaning it doesn't follow case precedent - meaning the argument has a stronger chance of working in court. In fact, after Tobi left, I figured out another supremacy argument to get them out of paying this stupid tax.

Also this entire taxing of the roads problem showed me the sorry state all these local governments are in, all over the world. They're running out of money, and now they're becoming creative in stealing it from us. I can't stand local governments. They're all thieves, I tell you.)

Tobi is so happy to hear the arguments. He says if I come to the village, and I win, they'll throw me a big block party.

I start laughing and tell him, "It better be like the one on Pit Bull's music video, where they're throwing a big house party."

The mother texts back and says, "Your father says he needs to show it to the neighbors."

I guess they took the letter seriously.

After a few hours, the mother writes back that they already paid the tax.

We were so disappointed. Oh well, at least we tried.

I was so sad I wasn't going to have my block party. But I was happy to know that I had transferable skills to argue law in other countries.

* * *

The night before, I read Tobi my short story. We had time to kill. You can read it too here: Without Remedy.

While reading it, he said, "Wow, I can see everything in my head, what you wrote."

I thought it was long. And it wasn't as interesting to me, as I read it before. But he said, "Keep going. I want to know what happens next."

After I finish it, he was like, "That was a good story." He decides to stay one more night for me at the Cloud City.

* * *

Tobi had some ATM problems, but that's a story for next time. After solving them, I saw him off at the bus station. He was going North. I had to go South. We agreed we'd see each other again in South America. But we had to part.

I gave him a big hug. I waited, until he walked towards the back of the bus, until I could no longer see him through the bus windshield.

Then, I had to follow through with another appointment.

* * *

Remember, Dante? He was the guy who picked me up on a motorcycle on a rainy day. Here's the link to read about him again: Meeting Dante He gave me a clue that his partner or wife worked near the bus station. It wasn't really that much information to go off of.

But I found a restaurant that didn't have a sign, that was by the bus station. And I walked in and a pretty girl greets me. I think to myself, This would be his type.

I ask her in Spanish - "Is the wife of Dante here?"

She laughs and says, "Si."

I got it right on my first try! Yes!

Then she says, "I'm her sister."

"Ah. I'm the guy who got a ride from Dante. We both fell off the motorcycle."

She starts laughing and says, "I know the story. He told us."

"Tell him I'll be back tonight around 07:30 at night."

When I come back, I bring wine and see Dante there. His wife makes me chicken milanese. I bring them red wine. We talk and share our stories. They seem happy I found them.

Dante has the coolest Spanish accent I've ever heard. He sounds like an Italian speaking Spanish in a sing-songy kind of way. I try to copy it. I picked up a phrase here and there.

And that's the end of my stories in the Cloud City. Tomorrow, I'd have to move on. With Tobi leaving and saying good bye to Dante, I could feel that this chapter of my journey was ending. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

71st Day of Sabbatical - Repair and Design

Today is my 71st day of being on Sabbatical; I thought I'd share what I learned and have done over the past month. (For those of you who don't know my story; I paid off my student loans and became debt free. You can read about it Here: How I Got Out of Student Debt).

From Chiclayo to the Highlands of Peru, I've been fascinated with repairing objects and creating new ones. It reflects my own personal belief that if objects could be fixed, people could be too. (And even more fundamental than that, to me, is that I believe even the dead can come back to life, which I've witnessed thrice.)

In Chiclayo - I was amazed to watch a guy repair my headphones. It was like watching heart surgery. One of the ear buds no longer was pumping out enough sound, and he said that it was because saltwater got inside. May have been when I ran at the beach. May have been my sweat. I ran over 500 miles with these headphones. (I tried to get him to explain it more in detail, but he couldn't. So, I had to do a lot of research on sound and electromagnetic fields.)

He chopped off the earbud and soldered a new coil in. When he did, the new earbud started beating - like a new a heart. It was amazing to see. He did it for $3. Now, I didn't have to throw them away, and my headphones were salvaged and brought back to life. That made me happy.

Also, since labor is cheap here, I've had a number of pieces of clothes re-tailored to fit me perfectly. Definitely worth doing. Makes you feel wealthier, because we all know I'm not.

In the Highlands, I met artisans. I had a woman replace the worn and dying strap on my messenger bag with cloth woven from sheep wool. I liked her work so much, I had her also weave me a new band for my watch - making it a new creation. She was fascinated by the new project that I gave her. Like Tom Sawyer in Huckfinn, I project managed it. (Don't forget, I did some software project management work in New Zealand.)

My weaver - making the new band for my watch.
I met a craftsman who made leather sheaths for machetes. I asked him to rewrap my flask in new leather. It came out good.

Then, I met another leather maker, who made me a new iPhone case and a new MacBook case. It was his first time, so I had to have him revise some of his work several times. But, I like the new MacBook case; it's made of bison leather too!

The leather maker was so happy after he made my case, that he gave me a hug. His 11 year old daughter, who I never met, made me a leather heart keychain. People seem to be so happy that I have faith in them to make my new objects, and they're also happy to learn how to do a new project.

Anyways, like I said - if objects can come back from the dead, so can people. I have a few other projects in my head lined up for me. I also learned that I'm no longer going to buy objects made in China. I'd rather pay the extra money, and buy something of quality.

Also on Sabbatical, I've been doing future thinking about my life, but it hasn't been very successful. Haven't really come up with anything new.

I've also finished two classics: Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. I'm now on my last classic for this trip (though I have some pulp fiction with me too). I just started Willa Cather's The Professor's House.

I finished watching The Game of Thrones Season 7. I was disappointed in the penultimate episode (Episode 6 - the one in which Daenerys flies her dragons over the wall). I said it was illogical, focused way too much on special effects, and that a grieving mother wouldn't just want to jump into bed with the next guy (or maybe she would, but she would still be grieving over her child). I hope they pay attention.

Finally, I came back from some beautiful hot springs in the wilderness. The pools are in a valley, surrounded by mountains and plains. It was absolutely stunning and brought a great peace with it.

After dipping in them for hours, my sore muscles were soothed, and I felt a lot better. My next thoughts are about the healing properties of mineral water. I'm thinking a lot about it.

Until the next Sabbatical update.

Cheers,

P.

PS: Pictures below of my new objects.


Worn strap from my messenger bag.

New lamb wool strap. 
Old watch band. 
New Peruvian woven wool watchband.
Me: With new watch. 





















New flash wrapped in leather.
Worn flask with synthetic

New iPhone case in leather


Me: Sporting my new iPhone case















Worn synthetic MacBook case
New MacBook case wrapped in bison leather.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Seeing the Ruins of Kuelap with Tobi

I woke up early, after not being able to sleep well, because Tobi came in around 01:00A; so, I took a long, hot shower, though. One reason was because the control freak owner of the hostel Jose told me the day before that drop by drop all the water will be gone. This was when I was washing the pot. After I returned from my shower, I found a note from Eliza, who said goodbye to Tobi and me and left me her number.

There was a lot to do before we went to Kuelap. We had to check out, drink coffee, check in to the new hotel, buy some supplies for our trip, and then go. I brewed a coffee downstairs. When it was ready I went to wake Tobi up.

"Tobi, wake up," I said. "We have to go." He wakes up.

"Tobi," I tell him. "I didn't sleep well because of you."

He says, "I told you, you should have talked to me."

"I thought you were drunk."

"I wasn't drunk. I remember everything." He was right. If I couldn't sleep, I might as well have stayed up and talked to him.

I said, "Go take care of your stuff. We don't have much time."

I start packing away everything and so does Tobi. Then Tobi tells me, "Paul, I think I lost the key." He seems worried about it. I would have told him to double check his stuff, but I knew that he already did it.

"He shouldn't charge you more than 10 soles ($3) for a new one. I lost a key once, and the hotel owner let me take another key into town and make a new one. It cost me 6 soles.

"But I don't know about this guy. He might try to charge 20 soles for it," I said.

"I'm not paying that."

I look at him and see he's concerned. I tell myself, as a lawyer, you know your client's problem is your problem, right? "It's alright; I'll help you. For now, just get your stuff packed."

At that time another German guy checks in. He comes into our room.

I tell Tobi, "I'll be with you if Jose [the hotel owner] asks you about the key. Then, we'll argue him down to 6 to 10 soles. But let me pay him first; otherwise, he'll try to get money off of me too."

"Ok."

The new german guy asks, "Where are you guys going?"

"To Kuelap. And you?"

"I'm going to Kuelap too."

"Oh, but we're checking out right now. We think the hostel owner is a control freak. We're tired of him."

The new German guy says he overpaid for his tour and not to tell him anymore. We were just trying to be helpful.

We both go down to the kitchen. We drink our coffee. I notice that Jose's really busy with other guests coming in. He's also booking tours for them. I pay Jose. I smile and tell him we're going to Kuelap. He says that's good.

Then I get Tobi and tell him to pay Jose now, while he's distracted. Tobi pays. We get our stuff and leave the hostel.

I tell Tobi, "That's good. He didn't notice that you lost the key. He was busy."

"Ja, good one."

"You know, you make me work a lot. I'm supposed to be on holiday."

"I'm not making you work. I would have gotten away with it, anyways. He was distracted."

True, I think. But, lawyering always requires a backup plan and that takes work to make. But I don't bother explaining it to him. That's what clients don't get about how much work goes into good lawyering; there are plans and back up plans and back up plans to the back up plans.

We check into our new hostel, which is also cheaper. We leave our stuff there.

Then, we have five more minutes to buy stuff before we check into our tour. Tobi buys some junk food and water. I buy water too. I buy some crunchy and coated peanuts. I tell Tobi they're addictive.

Then, we check into our tour. There, the tour operator says, "We're going to wait five more minutes for your French friends. If they don't show up, we have no more time."

We wait. They don't show up. Tobi and I decide we can't get them; otherwise, we would be left without a tour.

We take a bus. There, we see our new German. I hear him checkin. His name is Michael.

On the bus, the tour operator tells us in Spanish and English that we're going to Kuelap. Because the day is fine, we're going to skip lunch until the end. We have to take some cable cars up the hill. Then we begin our journey.

I feel carsick again from the bus ride to the site.

I tell Tobi, "You know the Italian girl gave me her number?"

"No she didn't. You're lying."

"I'm not lying. She gave it to me." I showed him the note. Then said, "I guess you're right, she did make the note out to Paul + Tobi."

"She gave it to us. I bought her a lunch the day you went to Gocta."

"So what? I made her coffee. I talked to her for a couple hours and gave her advice."

"She gave it to us. Not just to you." (By the way, Eliza told us that Kuelap would be boring.)

The ride is about 40 minutes away. During it, I manage to tell Tobi a story, because he wants to hear a war story (what we lawyers call our lawyering stories). I can't recall how this particular story came up.

But I told him this one: "I found out that lawyers are really horrible people. My first case was from my boxing club. One of the kids got into a car accident that was the other person's fault. He hired a lawyer, but the lawyer dropped him as a client, because it wasn't going to be an easy case.

"I had just became licensed as a lawyer. And I took the case, while I was supposed to be looking for work. Because it was my first case, and because of the facts involved, it took a lot of work for me. I had to even do translation work, negotiate, argue. It was a lot of work. But finally, the insurance company wanted to settle.

"Then, we were about to receive the settlement check, then the first lawyer comes back. [His name is Ricardo Perez with Perez Law Corporation in Ontario.] He puts a hold on our check, because he says he needs to get paid too.

"And I was so mad. What the hell was this? He didn't even do any work on the case. He dropped the client. Now, he was a greedy lawyer coming back for some of his money. I worked so hard on that case, and I wasn't even making that much money. And here, this guy comes back, and wants to steal my money."

"So what'd you do?" Tobi asks.

"Well, I couldn't sleep. Then I thought about it for awhile. Then I told my client that we should sue him.

"So, I did a lot of research and found the claim. It was called Slander of Title. It means, when someone is lying about owning property they really shouldn't have. It's a rare claim. Then we sued this scumbag lawyer."

"Then what happened?"

"Well, he hired a lawyer. That lawyer contacted me and said they'd release all the funds, if we dropped the case.

"I told that lawyer, 'No, you'll release the funds now; otherwise, you're also being unethical. Not that I would ever report you, but it can always happen. Then we'll discuss our settlement.'"

"Then what happened?"

"Haha." I smiled. "Well, they released the funds. And we still kept up the lawsuit. We lost it. But I think it was a good thing that I took action. I wanted that lawyer and other lawyers not to do that kind of stuff to me. I think they thought they could get away with it, because I was young and just started.

"They never thought the little boy bites back. I'm kind of like a Komodo Dragon. It's not their bite that kills you, but the infection they give. Just give it time. The wound gets full of bacteria and poison.

"My professor was so proud of me. I told him what I did. And he said, 'At a boy. That's exactly what you're supposed to do!'

"Also, my divorce law professor always taught me this kind of strategy. She was this sweet little old grandmother. And she could've been anyone's Oma. But at office hours once, she told me, 'Paul, the most important trait about a good lawyer is that they go for the throat. Don't ever forget, ok?' I went for that guy's throat that day.

"I really wished they disbarred him. We don't need lawyers like him. There's too many greedy, lying lawyers around. The profession really needs to be cleaned up. (That's one thing I really hated about my profession: I caught these lawyers, not just this guy, behaving badly, and when they got caught, nothing ever happened to them. The result is that litigation becomes a game about who's nastier and slimier to win.)

"But that's one of the reasons I left, and I'm here telling you this story."

He looked like a little kid, so happy to have a story told to him.

After the bus dropped us off, we had to take a cable car up to the heights of the mountain. There, Michael wanted to talk us to more. Tobi told him I was a lawyer. And Michael asked for my resume. So, in a boring way, I told it to him.

I wasn't that interested in talking to him. There were pictures of Kuelap and Michael said, "I don't want to see these pictures. When I see Kuelap, I want it to be special."

I told him, "I have to be honest - an Italian girl told us it'd be boring. So, I don't think seeing pictures will matter."

He didn't like what I said. So, he asked, "Why'd you come then?"

"Because, our French friends wanted to go. And it's so strange, they asked us to come and paid for their tour. But they didn't even show up."

I thought, This guy takes himself way too seriously.

* * *

Time for me to be your virtual National Geographic or Discovery Channel. Kuelap is a preserved ruin of town, built around the 6th Century A.D. by the Chachapoyas people, and not the Incas - who came after. The Chachapoyans hated the Incans, so apparently at this site, they helped the Spaniards by giving them information to defeat the Incans.

Although the Spaniards discovered the site first, the official discoverer was some lawyer. The Peruvians didn't want to acknowledge the Spanish, so they got around the whole thing, by saying that a Peruvian lawyer published the first article on the site (though he wasn't the first person to find it). Thus, he's the first to officially discover Kuelap.

Nobody really knows what the main building's function is for. They thought it was for war, but now, historians think it was a religious place of gathering. Some of the houses had guinea pig farms, also called cuy here. That's it folks. That's all we learned about Kuelap on our tour. And I also told Tobi not to believe what the guides say, because they just make stuff up sometimes to make us feel good.

One last fact. It's near this region that the Spaniards captured the Inca King, Atahualpa.

* * *

Tobi and I walked up the place. We shot some photos. It was so touristy. It was a kind of pre-Incan Disneyland. There were also probably a lot of people, because the day was fine.

It wasn't that interesting for me. But, it was fun to have Tobi around. I felt like we were kids again, playing Indians and Cowboys or Cops and Robbers.

We also made fun of a lot of people, but they didn't know it. They just saw us laughing a lot. And the grumpy people weren't that happy we were having a fun time.

At one point, an older, chubby lady heard me speak and say, "Oh, you speak good English!"

And I told her, "So do you!"

"Where'd you learn?" She asked.


"Oh, where did you learn?"

"Oh, I'm from the United States."

"Oh, so am I."

"Where you from?"

"Los Angeles. You?"

"Western Michigan. Oh, I only said you spoke good English, because it was so good to hear another native speaker."

A number of people were watching. Tobi was laughing a lot too. So, were others at this point.

I'm glad I could provide some entertainment to others. I thought I did well. I came back with a witty come back and reflected back her unintended patronization.

We saw a Spanish group take touristy pictures and selfies. I told Tobi, "Look at them. They're not even happy. They have fake smiles. Real smiles come from the eyes, not the teeth."

After seeing the ruins, we had to go back to the cable cars. I tell Tobi he should smoke his cigarettes in the cable car. Tobi says that German guy wouldn't be happy. I said, "Who? Michael?"

Then Michael hears us. He asks, "What's going on?" We embarrassingly have to explain our little story.

In the cable car, Tobi asked Michael if he was impressed.

Michael said, "It was interesting."

I said (like the lawyer I am), "You're not answering the question. Were you impressed?"

It took him awhile to muster an answer. Then he said, "No, I wasn't impressed."

But nobody in our cabin was impressed. It was just ok.

It was a tourist gimmick. I told Tobi, "See, Eliza was right. It was going to be boring."

The others in the cabin seemed to get depressed I said it. But I wasn't down. I had a lot of fun, but it wasn't because of seeing some ruins.

* * *

Later, when we had lunch, Tobi and I found out that our tour operator, Turismo Explorer ripped us off. He wasn't paying for our lunch. That didn't make us happy. (I'm finding tourism is turning these business owners in Chachapoyas greedy and dishonest).

On our bus ride down, I told Tobi, "I'm not being too friendly to others. But I don't feel like it."

"I know," he said. "What's wrong with you?"

I said, "Because, I don't have the energy for them. They take a lot of energy, these people."

He laughts and says, "I like how you say that - that you don't have the energy."

* * *

For dinner, Tobi and I ate at a great steak place that reminded me of the Argentinian or Brazilian steak places we have back in Los Angeles. The meat was brined. We had it served with cream and oil and bread. It tasted very good.

Some French tourists arrived at our new hostel. They said they were going to see Kuelap. We told them it'd be boring, but they didn't want to listen to us.

Tobi and I drank some more wine. In fact, we finished all of the type of wine we were drinking in town. We just told each other more stories. It was fun. We laughed a lot.

The next day, the French tourists came back and told us it was boring. (Can't say we didn't tell them so.)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meeting Tobi, the Bavarian, in Chachapoyas

Solan, Dimitri, Tobi, and me (From left to right).
After waking up from a delicious sleep, the kind that makes you feel like you're a whole new person, I take a shower, and after my shower, I meet the tall blonde guy who woke me up two days earlier.

When I met him, it looked like he just finished his shower too. It felt like he wanted to meet me, but only if he knew I was a bit grumpy at him waking me up earlier. (But maybe I wanted to meet him too.) (You can read that story here: Seeing the falls with the French

Let it be, I thought. Upon meeting him, I realize how much taller he is than me.

"Hi, my name is Paul." I reach out my hand waiting for him to take and shake it.

He does and says, "It's Tobi."

"I have a friend named Tobi. He's Bavarian. Where you from?"

"I'm Bavarian too. I'm from Munich. Do you know of it?"

"Of course. I've been there 7 times. You've heard the saying that all roads lead to Rome?"

"Ja."

"Well, for me, I always end up going back to Munich. So, I guess for me - all roads lead to Munich.

"Anyways, I thought you were German. The French thought you could have been from Scandinavia."

"Where are you from?"

"Los Angeles. Anyways, I promised to make coffee for everyone. Do you like coffee?"

"Yes."

"Come down then later. I'll make you a cup."

I brew the coffee in the kitchen. The French come. I tell them Tobi's from Germany - like I thought. The Italian joins us. Eventually, Tobi joins us.

I introduce him to Dimtri and say, "This is Tobi. He's German. And he's the guy that woke us up."

Dimitri says, "Oh, you're the guy that woke them up?"

He laughs a little and says, "Ja, that's me."

They get to talking, but after awhile, the Italian girl, Eliza leaves and says, "Ok, goodbye. I'm going to Kuelap now."

(Kuelap are the ruins that are nearby. Ruins are ancients villages or cities that are abandoned and then re-discovered.)

Dimitri then says, "Solan and I are leaving today. This place [Chachpoyas Backpackers] isn't that cheap. The water is too hot. And the people. There's something wrong with them! They tell us to shut up, and it's not even that late."

I add, "And the owner's a control freak. Well, anyways, what do you want to do next?"

"We're going to find another hostel. Also, we need to find a tour for Kuelap."

"Ok, let's keep in touch." We exchange numbers.

I ask Tobi if he wants to go to the local cafe called Cafe Fusion for breakfast. I told him they have good coffee and food. He says he'll go with me.

When we exit the hostel, I can hear Dimitri arguing with the control freak owner about how he stated one price and change it on them. That wasn't good.

* * *

At the cafe, we both order what's called a Sinchee breakfast, which includes an omelette filled with cheese, juice, bread, and coffee.

We talk. I told him, for some reason, about how I have a younger brother and how I like to send him pictures of my travel to show off.

I tell Tobi, "I tell my brother often that I was born with better genetics. It's true, you know? The older sibling gets the best of it. Smarter. And better looking."

Tobi, who I didn't know was a younger brother, said, "And you have proof of it?"

"I do. It's in a book. I can get it for you if you want. It's called Deep Nutrition."

"I think you're just making all this up."

We talk more and ask if he wants to go to Kuelap. I tell him let's stay one more night at our backpackers, because it's already close to noon and too much of a hassle to find another place and move our stuff.

He asks me what I do for work. I tell him I won't tell him until we drink.

He tells me he can speak German, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

He then tells me stories of how he was a bad boy and all his bad boy stories. I listen and laugh. He's young. He's only 20. He was in Canada in his teenage years and experienced life early.

He wants me to experience life early too.

I'm interested in his stories, but I don't think I'm in the mood to find God, religion, and faith the way that Jack Kerouac did in On The Road.

I tell him, "I already have a German devil. He's name is Volker. But I think you even outmatch him."

"Oh, I can tell you're the nerdy type - who reads a lot and writes and keeps in touch with his professor."

"There's another nerdy type in our room. There's a Swiss girl. Have you met her? I think you two would be a good match."

(Not to be mean about this Swiss girl, but the night before we were all laughing in our room, and she was a killjoy. She looked like an old maid librarian, even though she was in her early 20's. She then said, "Ok, that's enough," and turned off the lights for all of us; so we would stop talking. We still talked some, in the dark.)

Tobi said, "No. I already met her back in Cajamarca. I don't think she's my type."

"Well, you can teach her language then."

"What language would that be?"

I grin and make sure he sees me grinning: "Why the language of love?"

"You can teach her that too, Paul."

* * *

Later we get some wine. We drink.

He wants to know what I do.

I tell Tobi that I was a lawyer in Los Angeles, but that I quit and am on a year break. I don't go that deep into it, (and if you're my regular reader you know how complex it all gets), but I just tell him I wasn't happy with the way my last cases went.

So, I ask him, "What should I know about you?"

He tells me: "I worked out a lot back in Germany and it kept me focused."

* * *

The French call us to a tour shop and say they found a good price for 80 soles ($25). I want it cheaper though. The tour operator won't budge on his price. So, I tell him, "I'm sure we could find it for a better price."

He says, "Go and look." (I think it was kind of mistake, looking back to do this, because it appears that all the tour operators have an agreement about what their bottom price is. And 80 soles appears to be it.)

But Tobi and I go to every shop and ask them to give us a discount. No one will.

We must have spent a good hour doing this. But finally, we find one tour shop that says they'll do it for 79 soles, 40 cents less. We're happy and excited.

We go back to the tour shop and tell the French couple we got it for 79 soles. They don't look happy and Dimitri tell us, "Look, we already spent hours talking to this shop guy. We won't want to go with someone else."

Why didn't he tell us before?

I told the manager, "Can I speak with the owner?"

After 15 minutes, the owner comes. I explain what happened. And the owner says, "That's fine. I'll give it to you all for 79 soles too." That made me feel better. Tobi says, "We did all this for 1 sol."

* * *

We all go to the bar and get a drink to eat and celebrate. It was the same restaurant I had the ant cocktail at.

I called the waitress. The three of them scolded me for calling her the way I did. They said in Europe it doesn't happen that way.

(I didn't explain myself. But as an American, I'm not used to waiting for service though. That's my culture, especially coming from Los Angeles - where time is tight, and time is money. But I didn't explain myself.)

The bartender recognizes me. He smiles and comes up to our table to ask how I've been doing.

He serves us some fruit pisco sours. We chat and talk, but they want to drink more; so, we follow Tobi to a bar he also went to.

The electricity went out, again. We order a liter of rum and coke. We drink in the dark. Tobi talks about all the things he wants to do to have fun. Then, a sketchy local, about 50 in age, comes and sits at our table without being invited.

Dimitri, Solan, and Tobi don't mind. But I do. I don't know why. If he was someone different, would I have minded? I don't know. But I know I don't like this sketchy guy. He has a dark spirit to him.

I pay some Soles on the table and say that I had to meet with someone else at the hostel. They say, "Ok."

* * *

Back at the hostel, I see Eliza sitting by herself at the dinner table. I go to her and talk. She tells me about how Kuelap was boring. She says she's a pharmacist. She offers me some tea. I said that would be nice. She pours me some. It's bitter, but I like it.

We talk for awhile. I tell her I'm a lawyer. She tells me she's doing an unpaid internship in Peru. I tell her not to let them take advantage of her. They look down on women in South America.

I ask her if she wants to come back with us to Kuelap. I even offer to pay for her fare. She says she can't and that she has to do this internship.

Around 10:30, we have to leave the kitchen as per the control freak's rules and go back to our rooms and sleep.

* * *

At around 1AM, Tobi comes back. He's in the bed next to me. He starts talking. He says, "Paulie, you have to talk to me!"

"I'm sleeping Tobi."

"No, Paul. Talk. I was out all night with the French. And they got into a big argument. It was really personal."

Oh, I don't want to be hearing about this.

He says, "And she was crying and everything. But I shouldn't tell you about everything. It got personal."

I think he's drunk. I say, "Tobi, it's late." I call to Eliza, "Eliza???"

Eliza doesn't answer.

"See, she's sleeping," he says.

I can't really remember everything he was saying; I was half asleep. He was speaking so fast. I do remember him saying that women always men to open up to them and get upset when they don't.

I tell him, "Tobi, go to sleep."

Tobi eventually falls asleep. But I don't. That's the second time he woke me up in three days.