Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Going into the Mystical World

I'll be going away for a little while on a journey into the wilderness. I've spent two days in Cusco hustling for a trip. That kind of worn me out. The weather here is changing all the time - from hail to rain to sun. I'll update when I can.

Miss everyone,


Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Days in Cuzco, Peru

The first night in Cuzco, a girl was moaning so loud because she was having sex in a bed with a guy at 1AM in a shared room of 10 people. She was so annoying, that I walked passed her bed on my way to the restroom and told her: "People are trying to sleep." She didn't stop.

So, the next day, an English guy and I were having a nap (because I was tired from not having enough sleep because of her), but she was talking obnoxiously on the phone with her mother. Why couldn't she take it outside?

That night I ate at a nice restaurant, but my boss from Trujillo (Northern Peru) asked to see me while I was eating dinner. I packed up my alpaca steak and saw her. That was nice to talk to her and see her. We chatted a lot about business and some ideas I had for it.

After, I went back to my hostel and asked the French volunteer at the hostel to put my food away. I saw the girl in my room and told her that it'd be more respectful if she went and talked outside next time. She said that she didn't know and that she never stayed in a dorm before.

Then at 1AM she was chatting up another guy (a different one) in our room. A number of people told her to go talk outside, but she wouldn't listen. Then, after I told her to go outside, she finally did.

The next morning, I was tired again. My food went missing. I confronted the French volunteer. After questioning him, he gave me a half confession. $16 USD down the drain, all because he got drunk, got hungry, and stole my food. I had enough.

I wanted to talk to management. I explained to them what happened and that I was not happy. The French volunteer found out about my complaint and started drinking early in the morning. He kept trying to deflect all the problems on crazy girl. I told them I was leaving, and this was a terrible experience.

Management handled it well. The main manager made everything better and gave me some money to buy another dinner. They forced crazy girl to get her own private room and they moved me to a better room for no extra charge. It was a win-win for everyone except for her and her new hookup - who had to pay a lot more for a private room.

* * *

Other than that, I haven't done much in Cuzco, except eat and drink cappuccinos and see museums. I posted a picture of one of my favorite pieces. It inspired me. It made me want one of Jeh Pan - my cat at home.

The museums were great though. I think it really helped me understand how to revise my short story - which for the moment I've lost interest in.

* * *

Later, at the hostel, the girl confronted me and said, "HOW COULD YOU SAY THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME???!!! I'M A CATHOLIC."

Right, I thought. Like I haven't heard that one before. That's why no children are born out of wedlock in Peru.

I tried to talk but she wouldn't let me.


I said, "This isn't a conversation." And I ran out of the hostel. She then started screaming at the staff about her story. But she was checking out.

The French guy offered me some beer later. I guess it was his way of trying to say he was sorry. I took some. I don't know if I forgive him completely. An apology also requires that he make things the way they were before the error. And he didn't do that, though the hostel did. And I like them for it.

* * *

Later at night, even though crazy girl checked out, she came back, looking for me. This time, she said, "I'm sorry that - "

I just walked to another room. She seemed unstable to me. And indeed she was. Apparently, she started screaming at the staff again, and they finally kicked her out and prohibited her from coming back. The inside joke is she behaved this way because she's from Lima. But so is one of the girls at reception - who laughed too, but said, "HEY!"

Later, I felt bad for her. Not that I or the hostel did anything wrong. But it made me wonder if she had mental health issues.

* * *

The new room was better. It was super dark; so, I sleep well.

I ate at a better restaurant yesterday. But the food was so terrible, because I ordered octopus, and it wasn't fresh and it tasted ugly. I told the owner, who looked drunk with glazed eyes, and he got defensive and said, "If you don't enjoy, you can leave."

I said, "So, you would rather me not tell you now and you'll find out about it later in a review." He threw up his hands and stormed back into the kitchen.

I started writing up my review on my computer. Then he said, "No computers allowed in the restaurant!"

"Ok," I said and packed away my computer in my bag.

I tried one more dish, but it was also terrible. I think the seafood isn't that good here, because Cuzco is so inland and hence the seafood isn't that fresh. You can read my review here: Terrible customer service - food not available

* * *

So - not a great introduction to this city. Hopefully, it gets better. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Arequipa, Peru

Me petting an Alpaca.
Doesn't it look happy?
From Chile, I took a seven hour bus ride to Arequipa, known as the White City. This is because the city is built with white lava stones excavated from the nearby volcanoes. I didn't do much in Arequipa; except I wrote and wrote and edited and agonized and re-wrote and then put away my story story. It's about my time in a beach village in Northern Peru. I'll try to publish it soon, but I needed it a break from it for now.

I enjoyed talking to a local restaurant owner, who was a Venezuelan lady. We had a full on conversation about how she started her restaurant business. That made me feel good that I could understand someone else's story. And it was rather involved.

Also, I saw Colca Canyon, but I didn't stay long. I didn't have enough time there, and also I didn't enjoy it that much. There's a tourist spot called the Condor Crossing. There were so many annoying tourists, and I didn't see any condors. And I had to wake up early to take the only bus there. And I was grumpy, because my receptionist gave me the wrong time. I could've slept 30 minutes more. Ugh!
Me with a couple who picked me up

In any event, I hitchhiked, and in 10 minutes I was picked up by a couple from Arequipa. There were no more buses back. The guy just bought a new car. I don't think they ever picked up a hitchhiker.

At first, he was nervous. But I calmed him down by telling him how bored I was by the Condor Crossing and how I wish I had just slept in. And they started laughing. And after awhile, they enjoyed talking.

See? I told you guys before, you have to pay when you hitchhike. And I always pay with my conversations and stories. He seemed fascinated I saw so much around the world and in Peru. They asked me more questions about Korea than the United States. I wonder why.

I told him that he could see a lot to and to watch The Motorcycle Diaries, about how Che Guevara traveled South America cheaply. I hope he does, and it inspires him to do it too.

After coming back into town, I walked to a hot spring two hours away. It was really nice. It was really hot and outside it was really cold. So, the contrast of environments made for a rich and awesome bath. And I saw an Andean Duck flying and hovering just above the river. That was cool. So no condors. But I saw an Andean Duck.

(It did cross my mind to hunt it and eat it. Oh, I miss duck. Although the food is good in Peru, they can't cook duck. Their national dish, Arroz con Pato (Rice with Duck), isn't really that good. They don't make use of the fatty duck skin to bring out the best in the duck.)

After my bath, I returned to the village and had some Alpaca Stew, cooked by a local mountain woman. That was interesting.

Another day, I also had some good fried chicken there for dinner too.

I went back to Arequipa. I got a haircut there. Post a picture soon. I paid $2 for it.

Other than that, I wish I could have stayed longer in the area. But I had some people to meet and my time ran out.

Canyon in the back.
Grumpy from waking up too early.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jumping Over to Chile

Arrica, Chile
(See the flag?)
My Peruvian visa was running out again; so from the North of Peru I took a flight and stayed one night in Lima. There, I went to a contemporary museum, which was average, and I had dinner with a guy named Joe. He brought an Eastern European guest; I forgot her name, but she was really good at computer stuff. Joe liked the food. I found it average and expensive - and left them a bad review.

After, I flew into the most southern city in Peru called Tacna. I made it to the airport early, and just my luck, the flight was delayed.

Remember, the last flight I almost missed? It wasn't delayed. Whenever I miss a flight (except for once, 16 years ago (not that I'm keeping track)) or am running late for one, the flight is almost never delayed. But when I arrive early, it's almost late. Isn't life ironic?

I arrived into Tacna late. I figured out how to get to the terminal. I went there with a young Colombian guy - who broke his foot. He wasn't that travel smart - because he almost got ripped off by the taxi. If I wasn't there, he probably would have paid three times the amount. So, he liked me instantly, but I didn't completely trust him. He was looking at my stuff too much.

At the terminal, we hired a colectivo, and a group of us drove to the Peruvian-Chilean border. Our entire group had to be processed together, then on the Chilean side, we'd all leave together. So, this is why it's faster to take a colectivo than a bus, because there are only about 5 passengers in a colectivo. The bus has to wait for all it's passengers to be processed.

While waiting, my ADHD was flaring. I was getting naughty in my head again and had all these ideas of how to move the line faster. One of the passengers told me: "Tranquilo!" [Relax!]

The Peruvian guard really scrutinized my visa - hoping to get a fine out of me. Nope. I left on time.

The Chilean passport control gave me 90 days. But the Chilean customs, on the other side, rummaged through my stuff. I think they did it, just to have fun, because I was different than the usual passengers.

They found two bottles of Argentinian wine, which I didn't finish with my friends. The guard said, in Spanish: "Chilean wine is better?"

"Really?" I said.

"Of course. What are you doing with these wines from Argentina?"

"They taste good. Really good. What wine should I get from Chile?"

"Casillero del Diablo [Cellar of the Devil]."

"That one is famous in Los Angeles." But I thought, Not very good.

He smiled. "OK. Have a good day." The other guards seemed humored too.

My group in the colectivo was amused. They asked me what we were talking about.

I told them: Wine, and why I'm not buying Chilean wine. I added, this kind of stuff always happens to me. They were amused that I spoke Spanish, because until now, I wasn't speaking much.

Upon arriving in Chile, I found a cheap hotel to stay in. It didn't have hot water. I didn't take a shower.

It was clean, but a cheap hotel indeed, where you can probably buy your stay in hours rather than nights. And compared to Peru, it was expensive.

In the morning, I walked to a cafe in town. It was really expensive, just as expensive as coffee in Los Angeles. I sat and thought and reflected and wrote to people. I decided not to stay in Chile; it was too expensive.

Then, I took a bus back. The school teenagers all stared at me, because I was the only Asian person in there. I should have said, "Ni Hao," back at them.

Back at the terminal, I took a bus back to Peru. It was half the price of a colectivo. A lady tried to give me free clothes. Was that because I looked poor or because I looked kind? Or maybe both?

Passport control was actually faster this time. There was nobody there.

I tried to talk to the guard to give me a 183 days. I spoke in English at first, but she asked me if I could speak Spanish. I spoke in English to control the conversation, but it didn't matter. And I hustled with everything I had in Spanish - asking for 183 days. I even told her I was a volunteer attorney for a nonprofit foundation girls school in Northern Peru. (This was true.) But it didn't matter.

But nope. She gave me 90 days. Well, I tried.

The good news is that my Spanish is better; I struggled with it at the last border crossing. This time I didn't.

As you know, I'm a spiritual person. Must mean God doesn't want me to stay 180 days, and it's time to move on after 90 days. I could overstay some and pay the small fine. But small fines can add up, if you stay a long time.

I then took a seven hour bus ride, next to a lady carrying a huge cake for her daughter's birthday. I could sense she felt safer sitting next to me on the long ride. The whole ride, I was wondering if this was worth saving $55 USD; I could've taken a 30 minutes flight instead. It was a long ride. Although I'd like to tell myself I'm still young, these long bus rides aren't the same. I don't like them anymore.

Well, that's it. I'm back in Southern Peru. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Learning to Surf in Peru

My first surf lesson was awful; it really was. I instantly knew it was going to be bad when I met my instructor - who also has a reputation for being a creep in town. I stood up on the board, but the problem was I didn't feel like I learned anything or had control in the water.

But one day at the hostel, I met a girl from San Diego, California named Jennifer. She surfed all the time. She told me that she taught the little girls to surf here. 

I asked her to teach me. I told her the bad experience I had. She felt bad for me. 

She said, "Surfing is one of those things that should be taught for free. We're going to go out. I want you to enjoy the water." 

She added later, "Don't worry. I have a one hundred percent standing rate." 

On a sunny afternoon day, we walked to the beach together. Even though she was the girl, she insisted on carrying my board, because she was the teacher. She didn't bring a board. 

On the beach, we stretched. It was like doing yoga on the beach, though I've never done yoga. The people on the malecon were watching us from above. It looked like they never saw a girl teach a guy how to surf.

In this town, the surf guys have an association that is a monopoly. You can't make money off of surfing or renting surf gear without their permission. We call them the "surf mafia." But, because surfing is such a macho sport here, the men teach it, run it, and own it, no one sees a woman surf instructor teaching a guy.

So back to yoga stretches. The women watching us seemed like they wanted to join us and do yoga on the beach. We did a lot of squats and stretched our legs out a lot. I felt like we were like zen masters on the beach.

Then Jenn drew a surfboard on the sand, an imaginary surfboard. We practiced what she called "Ninja hops" onto the board. After a few jumps, she said I had it down. The people were still watching us from above.

We paddled into the water. Jenn swam next to me like a seal, shouting commands about where I should place my body. 

Every time a wave came, she would say, "Push up!" My board and body would brace the wave without being pushed back so hard. She was attentive.

Whenever I made a mistake, she would say things like, "Remember to push up." "Paddle." "Feet together."

After getting some of the basics, Jenn pushed me into a wave. I stood up, but it was only a half stand.

After paddling back out there, Jenn pushed me into a second wave. I popped up like a ninja. I stood up on the board. It was awesome.

Jenn wanted me to do another one. I told her, "Let's end on a good memory, so I want to go back out." 

While walking back, I told her, "I felt pressure. I didn't want to ruin your one hundred percent stand rate."

She gave me a high five and said, "But you did it. I felt pressure too. Everyone was watching me teach you."

We walked back. I was smiling when we got back. Jorge, the guy who runs the surf rental shop, saw me smiling. He asked, "Was she a good teacher?"

"Of course," I said.

Well, I told everyone in a hostel what a great time I had and how Jenn was a fantastic teacher. She really was.

* * *
Next week, Jenn was going to take me out again. People wanted to join us. So, this time, a number of us all went out together to surf in a Peruvian beach underneath the sunset sky. The sky was washed in colors of pink and orange.

It was fun to go out in a big group. 

When Jenn did the yoga lessons for the whole group, she drew a crowd - who all wanted to know what was going on. The girls say they didn't enjoy the attention. I don't believe it.

Jenn was like a little seal again, paddling around the beginners and shouting instructors. We had more advanced surfers too - who were also able to give attention.

On this round, I stood up twice on the board. The people saw. We all had a good time.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Learning to Surf

With the lifting winter, the sun beams down warmth and happiness on us, and during these days, I met a surfer girl who teaches children how to surf. I asked her if she'll teach me. She said she would. But in exchange, I need to teach her French cooking. She tells me - "You know, surfing is one of those things that one should teach for free."

A French girl and an Australian girl is coming out with me today. So, I'm going to learn to surf today. Hope everyone is doing well. (I was going to write on corruption today, but the day is too beautiful to discuss such topics.)

Friday, October 20, 2017

With Argentinian Gypsies in a Village by the Beach

Me, with gypsies
Like a lost cat, I wandered into a Peruvian, beach surf town. It kind of reminded me of the scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children enter a new and different world - a world so different than the one they knew.

After washing up on shore of this little beach town, I fell in with a group of young gypsies - who work for housing. I followed along and started volunteering too.

My bosses appreciated the work I did, and started paying me with food, which included freshly baked bread; soy lattes, which quickly became called "love lattes"; curries; and homemade peanut butter. I laugh often to think that I get paid with food, but I guess it's nice to get paid in a currency of compassion.

Because meat is more expensive, and we have some vegetarian gypsies in the group, I began learning a number of vegan and vegetarian recipes. Generally, we eat and drink together every evening, but we have challenges to cook, because the gas range isn't strong.

Already, I've made a Korean noodle stew and ratatouille with noodles and quail eggs. The last meal, I could feel was par excellence, and I told the gypsies, I learned from the Italians, that the food has to be cooked from the heart. Everyone could tell that dish was cooked from my heart.

I don't know where I'll be going next. Only the winds know. But I'm glad that winter is beginning to vanish in Peru.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What would you do, if you had a year to live?

An hourglass
Recently, I've been thinking about what I'd do, if I only had a year to live. I listened to a TED talk about how a guy redesigned his entire company by asking this question. The result was that he lifted almost all the policy rules that were promulgated, and his company still functioned. For me, this is a good question to ask, especially, because I'm also on a sabbatical - which is supposed to be a year long. So, it makes me wonder also how I should be spending my time on sabbatical.

I think any reasonable person would say that if they had a year left, they would spend more time with family and friends. I'd also like to add that I'd like to spend more time with my pets too.

So regarding my answer, that was at the top of things to do. But then, I thought, "One year - your friends and family have to work. So - although you might want to spend all your time with them, they have to go to work. What would you do during the time their away?"

Immediately, a number of things came to mind about what I would not focus on. I wouldn't care about a number of things that other people tell me are important for life, including making more money, defining a career path, and other stuff like that. And while I'm focusing on learning languages here, that would probably go too. (But on my sabbatical, it'll still be a focus.)

I think I'd focus on two things. The first one would be living a life that one could point to as being beautiful, courageous, and generous. The second would be to write more; I'd like to record the few lessons I learned - probably as a fictional novel. I'm sure these two points are interrelated.

In any event, I believe I need to spend more time thinking about this question.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Hot Pools of El Eden

Shot from the hot pools of El Eden at sunset.
There's a beautiful hot pool spot hidden in the mountains near Huamachuco called El Eden. Generally, it's only known to the locals; so, the location doesn't appear in guidebooks. I only found out through the receptionist at my hotel.

The pools are actually carved into the mountains, and streams of hot water cascade into these pools and then flow out of them to the bottom of the river of the canyon. I stayed one day, but loved it so much I rented a room there for 25 soles ($8 USD) a night for two extra nights. (The only problem there is that you're in the middle of nowhere, except they do have electricity, but no internet.)

Me in the hot pools of El Eden
Over the last few weeks, I've definitely
developed a relationship with the hot pools of the Andes. And I can say that the soreness in my legs from hiking to the ruins of Marcahuamachuco (Read about it here: Ruins of Marcahuamachuco) disappeared. Also, the soreness in my shoulders relieved when I was in the hot pools of Yuanguat.

It's really got me thinking how these hot, mineral waters work. For ages, ancient people have known that special hot pools cure sickness. There are even two instances, I know of, in Scripture - where bathing in water relieved people's sickness.

In the Old Testament, there once was a Syrian general named Naaman, who was plagued with leprosy - a horrible disease of the skin. Elisha wouldn't even come out to meet the general, but through his servant - Elisha told Naaman he had to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to be cleansed and purified.

At first, the General thought the directions nutty and wanted to leave. But Naaman's servant convinced him otherwise, and he bathed seven times, and his skin was as pure and smooth as a baby's. (I wonder how much of a reward that servant later received.) So happy was the general, he wanted to give the prophet a mountain of wealth - which Elisha refused. Instead, Elisha's servant took it and became diseased. (Some say Elisha's servant was the first of the albinos.)

In the second instance, in the New Testament, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus heals a blind man, by sending him to wash off the mud he put in the blind man's eyes at the Pools of Silom - which were allegedly outside of Jerusalem. I don't think it's a coincidence that like Elisha - Jesus has to heal in a similar manner as one of the ancient prophets. After the blind man washed off the mud, he could see again.

I've been thinking about these stories a lot and haven't really come to any hard conclusions. Except - I think both of the stories say that healing requires humility and faith, and perhaps the two are related.

In the case of Naaman, the general must have been irritated that the prophet didn't even greet him or his entourage when he visited with wealth. Naaman even brought a letter from the Syrian King to let the Hebrew people know how important this was to the Syrian nation.

And even then, Naaman doesn't want to bathe in the Jordan River because he says that the water is inferior to his. And when he bathes, he has to do it seven times. We don't know if his skin got better each time, or if everything cleared up after the whole process. I'm sure, after bathing the first few times though, he was grumbling to himself how silly the process was.

And regarding the blind man, John tells us this guy was blind all his life. Imagine fearing how people would laugh at you, after you washed yourself and you still were blind after it. I'm sure that fear lingered in him, while going through the cleansing process.

Besides humility, both stories also stress faith. And I'm not talking necessarily about a blind kind of faith. Both of the afflicted believed that they could be healed. They didn't give up. (Perhaps in doing so, they implicitly believed in a God and a good God, who had a solution for them.) Even though there was no known solution for their illness, they believed that one existed. Otherwise, both of them wouldn't have tried.

Finally, both Elisha and Jesus stress that one needs to bathe in a specific region. In other words, there's something special in the water that these two bathed in.

Regarding the hot pools I found, after battles, the Incan warriors also bathed in the pools because they knew it healed wounds. So, I'm confused as to how and why these pools work.

(Just an interesting FYI, according to DC Comics, even Batman's villan - Ra's al Ghul (Arabaic for Demon's Head) finds some ancient and special pools that keep him eternally young.)

It's a mystery to me how these waters heal. I'll have to think more, though, about how faith and humility gives one purity (evidenced by Naaman's skin) and vision (evidenced by the blind man's restored sight). And does purity lead to insight? 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Ruins of Marcahuamachuco

At 3,600 meters, which is 60% of Everest Base Camp, I was walking through ancient ruins, part of which was a stone fortress that was at least 1,500 years old. But being at that height, I was having difficulty breathing. Also, I had just finished walking 11 miles (16 km), and I was really tired and thirsty and had no water left. The scorching heat of the sun burnt my cheeks a cherry red, and I felt miserable at the top of those ruins.

From Cajamarca, the largest City in the Northern Andes of Peru, I made my way to a small town called Huamachuco. The French couple I met marked it on my map, and told me to visit the ruins of there. (Huamachuco had really good fried chicken, and I had my own room with internet and hot water there for only 20 soles, which is $6 USD).

A motorcyclist helps me a mile. I'm look
happier, because I'm just starting.
On the day I went to the ruins, I slept in; also, there weren't many tourists. Thus, I had to walk to the ruins, which was 10 km to the base of the mountain and then another 11 km all the way up. It was hot. I didn't bring enough water. It reminded me of the time I almost died in a Turkish desert, in the summer of 2014, right after the Director of Recreation fired Julian, who worked for him for 21 years. Almost Dying (Again) in Turkey. Except, this time, I just could feel my extreme need for water. When I was dying, my mind was really starting to play mind tricks on me for water. (Not fun.)

I arrived at the ruins around 05:00PM. I was tired. The ruins were at the top of the crest. It's built on a plain, and it's really windy up there. Scholars guess the functions of the ruins was either a place to see an oracle - someone who could see into the future. Others, guess it was a fortress. The ruins looked like this to me.

I wished I was with friends. Since it's not so popular, I reckon we could've camped inside the ruins. And that
would be a good story to have. 

At the top of the crest, 3,600 meters. You can see
the village of Huamachuco below.
Even though I was tired, the entire ruins seems to have encompassed probably a 4 mile walk. I did it. And I was more tired, after and more thirsty. 

But the ruins were vast and enormous and open and intact. It was amazing to see, which I couldn't say about the tourist trap of Kuelap. Seeing Kuelap with Tobi

I finally found a security guard before I left at sunset. He let me fill up my bottle. I drank a lot. Filled up more. Drank more. Filled up more. The whole ordeal made me wonder how camels do it. 

The guard told me there was no more rides back into town, but he showed me a foot trail that was a shortcut. It was much easier to go down, of course than up. 

At 3,600 meters again. 
Then at a cross road, three miles away from town, I hitched a ride back with a pickup truck. I sat at the back of the bed, and I could give my legs a rest. 

 I thanked my driver. That night, I ate a nice fried chicken with some red wine. I told the locals that I was getting to know - "I saw Marcahuamachuco."

Me reaching the ruins,
looking unhappy without water.
Ruins of Marcahumachuco

I'm very dehydrated and unhappy. 
My ride back down that I hitched. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

On Being Forgiven: On Yom Kippur

Close to sundown, on the closing day of Yom Kippur, I was hungry and just wanted to eat Peruvian rice and seafood. I could hear my stomach rumbling, and I wasn't keeping busy. So, I was reminded about my hunger. This year, on the Great Day of Atonement, I didn't eat or drink from sunset to sunset. In doing so, I did have an insight into my life. Although I wasn't born Jewish, this is the second time I practiced Yom Kippur. 

I tried it three years ago and almost fainted, and because of how much I hated the physical pain of fasting, especially without water, I skipped it last year.

That was a mistake, and a big one at that. It was a mistake, because I remembered that my first practice of Yom Kippur helped me focus for the year and have a greater level of consciousness for going forward into time. This year, after practicing Yom Kippur, I had the insight: I need to be kinder to my brother.

I didn't grew up with practicing Yom Kippur. In fact, a number of my atheist Jewish friends made fun of me for practicing it the first time. Yom Kippur requires that the observant, amongst other practices, not eat or drink for about 25 hours.

Why put yourself through a kind of self-restraint or pain? Yom Kippur is considered the holiest of the Jewish holidays, because the observant asks God, and all those he or she hurt, for forgiveness. It's not an accident it falls near the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. What better way to start the New Year with a clean slate regarding all your relationships?

The fasting serves at least two purposes, maybe even three. First, the constant hunger and thirst is a reminder to focus on your meditation time, generally the things you've done wrong in the year. Second, the denial of the body's craving (which in Christian theology is the origin of harming others), reminded me I'm not just body and flesh. As Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone." What it means is that, as humans, we're more than just animals; we're spiritual beings that have to be learn how to overcome the cravings of the flesh. Third, in the Western World, it teaches one to say no to the excesses of the world. We're surrounded by food and pleasure, but one must learn to say no to such excesses, which in the end can cause the consumer to be harmed and blinded.

During that time, there was a lot to review in my head - a world in rewind. My own spiritual cleansing reminded me of one of my favorite poems by George Herbert, the Temple. Take a second to read it. It's beautiful.

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth . . .

Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

(To tell you a little bit about this poem, Herbert argues that all these beautiful metaphors is what prayer is like - a kind of connection to God. I always found it beautiful that Herbert states that our prayer - our request to God - sounds like church bells and can be heard beyond all the stars of the galaxy. A beautiful thought.)

Back to my own reflections. Two major themes revisited me during this time of reflection: The meaning of family and justice. I didn't arrive at too many conclusions. But my oldest uncle on my father's side died a few days before Yom Kippur. I wasn't that close to him; I only met him once in my life. But it reminded me, how short the time is amongst each other. I only have one brother. He's younger, and I realized I need to be kinder to him, going forward.

When the sun finally set on the Day of Atonement, I thanked God for a number of things, I broke my fast with a rather untraditional meal: ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice), paella (rice with seafood), deep fried fish, and red wine. I was reminded: "[T]he old has gone, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17 GNT). 

Friday, September 29, 2017

My 91st Day of Sabbatical: Resist Evil and Prosecute Government Liars

I've been on Sabbatical now for 91 days; an entire season has passed. In the North - summer turned into fall - and here in the South - winter becomes spring. Incidentally, a pastor once told me that it takes a season for a person to change their bad habits. This is the third part of my sabbatical trip, which I spent in the Andes Mountain Ranges. (The first part was in the Amazon Rainforest, and the second one was at the beaches.) I described my time in the Andes to one of my mentors as "mystical, inspirational, and healing[.]" There was something about seeing ruins - the ghostly and skeletal remains of a civilization that once lived; the cloud forest - which hides great secrets and beauty; and the generosity of the local people, a great force that can change a person's heart and mind. I've avoided reading or watching the news - as one avoids the plague. But whenever I see glimpses of it, I know that the Western World (along with developing worlds) have a problem with corrupt governance. And for years, I've been thinking about how to fix it. I think I have a two part solution.

The first part is if you work for a government agency that orders you to do evil things; resist! Don't do it, or do it badly, or do it slowly. If you're brave enough - blow the whistle on what you're superiors are doing. Governments through history have warred against the idea that there is a god or a higher power, because those in charge would like to believe they are gods. This is laughable and pathetic. As a government worker, if you believe in a higher power, a God, or a personal conscience, all such evil orders are inferior to such a higher power. In other words, it won't be an excuse later to say - "I was only doing what the boss said."

No. You know the difference between right and wrong; so do right - so in the end, you can say, no matter the consequence - You did the right thing, despite such orders. The only reason evil people are in power is because government employees are following orders; once that ends, and nobody listens to those giving orders - they're out of power.

The second part of the solution is that we as a society need to call for the prosecution of government administrators or public officials that lie to us. (If we lie to a cop or to courts, it's a felony - called perjury. When they (politicians and administrators included) lie to us, it's called politics. We need to do this; so that we continue living in a free world we can be proud of, and we can ensure that resources exist for the next generation to advance our society in all it's realms: science, technology, and most important of all - law. Currently, our governments and corporations are stealing these resources from us and the next generation, and covering it up by lying. We need to and can put an end to their theft.

As citizens of a free society, we must now question what people in government are telling us. Martha Gellhorn, the first journalist to write on the Nazi Concentration Camps, said to never believe what governments tell you and to question everything. She confronted an American General in the Pentagon and stated: "Why did you kill so many people then lie about it?"

We now live in a world where lies are born out of government violence, and government violence needs redemption through its lies. And for what? For money - money that needs to be stolen from others and not created by them. Their greed harms so many.

Fortunately for us, the propaganda and ideology of governments and the corporate states are failing. They're demanding that we believe them, just because they've been elected or have status or have a title. Such arguments go - "The president would never say that." Or "The Mayor would never say that." Oh, but they do tell lies, all too often.  (It used to be that we had faith in government because of a war on communism, but without such enemies, governments are saying believe us because we're the government.) I don't think so. We've finally come to a time where government propaganda and ideology are on the brink of collapse. By this, I mean that the reason for their evil and existence can no longer be justified by some foreign or alien power.

Currently, the Ninth Circuit Court is crusading against lying prosecutors - who will hide evidence, fabricate evidence, and lie - just to get a prosecution. But because there are no consequences for prosecutors conducting such misconduct - which can destroy the life of an innocent person accused, they keep doing it. The sad fact is that the Ninth Circuit has found that the state court system is in collusion with these prosecutors. You can read about it here: For Shame.

In my own experience as an attorney, I found politicians lie and play dirty often. Take for instance the City of Baldwin Park ("the City"). The City's lied constantly to stonewall us from finding the truth under California's Public Records Act. Sadly, the courts (including the higher courts) prevented us from getting to the truth. In the end, part of the truth was revealed, and it was discovered that the City of Baldwin Park was engaged in the largest towing scam in America's history. The City was stealing the cars of the undocumented, and in a five year period made over $11 million. The money most likely went into the accounts of certain police administrators, public officials, and the towing company. But, the City refuses to tell us the truth about that money. That money was stolen from the poorest of the poor in our society - just so that the Mayor could have several houses outside of Baldwin Park.

The police, and the police union of Baldwin Park constantly complain they're not getting paid enough for "protecting" the community. But when it comes to the vulnerable needing help - where are they? (Let's not forget all the harm done to the rights of common people for speaking the truth against public officials.) To these employees (and to everyone, actually), I ask what did you do to stop the evil of the scheme against the poorest of the poor? Did you protect people who were speaking the truth - especially when it was helping your cause as well? I'm sure these questions will resurface later and not by me.

In any event, it's not futile or hopeless. We all need to follow our conscience and do our part in ensuring a better world for all of us, and we know if we're doing our part by what we do for the most vulnerable in our society. Better worlds can, and do exist. (Read about the deaf educational program I found in Peru.) Remember: "A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart[.]" (Luke 6:45).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Witnessing Good in Cajarmarca: The Deaf and the Ice Cream Man

Pim Heijster on the far right.
Photo is copyrighted by someone.
In Cajamarca, the Dutch Pim Heijster, smiles at me brightly and asks me how my day is in Spanish, while I'm sipping on a cappuccino with amaretto one of his deaf workers made for me. When I first walked into his cafe days ago, I immediately noticed all the workers were women, professionally mannered, and that some of them were deaf. I read about him in my guidebook, which says that he's the gentleman that also owns the local ice cream parlor in the Plaza de Armas, where I had a scoop of coconut ice cream on a cone.

I tell him, "Bien," then I ask him in English: "Are you the guy who owns the ice cream shop?"

He counts the money and is doing the bookkeeping. He looks at me, from above his slouched glasses, and says, "That's me."

I tell him, "Well, I was here [his cafe] yesterday, and I saw so many deaf children and teenagers learning sign language. Are you running their program?"

"I am."

"How are you doing this?"

He tells me some of his story. He says he started his ice cream parlors by hiring single mothers at first, nearly 17 years ago. People told him he was crazy for starting an ice cream shop in the mountains. It would never work, the critics told him. He would go out of his business. Now, he has 7 ice cream shops around Peru.

He fell in love with a Peruvian woman about 20 years ago. They decided to settle down in Peru, instead of moving to Holland. His wife is a professional in cheese making and dairy, which is what Cajarmarca is known for. The right combination of factors came together for him 5 years ago, and all the profits he makes in the cafe he reinvests in deaf education.

I could tell he's busy, so I ask: "Do you have to go now?"

"I do. But why don't you come see me at the ice cream shop at 10:00AM tomorrow?"

"I'll do that."

After waking up late, from sleeping in, I go to the ice cream at 11:00AM. Pim isn't in. I'm a bit disappointed.

I decide I need a morning cappuccino anyways. I go to his cafe, and he's sitting at the round table in the garden, happily telling a number of Dutch guests his story.

After he's done, I tell him - "I'm back." He pats me on the back and smiles again and says he's giving a tour. He tells me to come back to his ice cream parlor around noon.

After my coffee and breakfast, I go back to the ice cream parlor. Pim finishes his tour. He sees me.

He tells me, "Come here and have a seat."

At the table, he tells me more about his story. He says that he started by hiring his first deaf employee 13 years ago. She's now his right hand woman.

The other employees, he tells me, wanted to treat her like she wasn't an equal. So, he tells them, "When I took you in, you were a poor, helpless lady too." That shut them up, pretty fast.

Pim required his regular employees to learn sign language. He says that deaf employees make the best employees, but that they require the whole team to be accepting of them. Everyone on the team also has to know how to talk to them. He summarizes it with a smile and says, it comes down to: "Integration, communication, and education."

He says his personal philosophy on making a living is the 80-year-rule. He says, "The first 20 years, you become educated. The next 20 years, you work for someone - so they pay for your mistakes. The next 20 years, you start your own business. The last 20 years," then he adds for emphasis holding his finger in the air - "if you do everything right, people run your businesses for you."

I smile and tell him I didn't have the luxury of working for someone for 20 years. I went into solo legal practice. So, I know what it was like to make my own mistakes and pay for them in business.

He chastises me and tells me that's not the way to go. I reply, "Well, times were different then. [It's been five years since exiting law school.] Firms were laying off and not hiring." (I don't go into the backstory though, about how the City dragged me into Pyrrhic litigation.)

I ask him "Why invests your money in deaf education. What motivates you to do so?" (Personally, I'm amazed to see someone who chose to take his extra money, not hoard it, and reinvest it in a class of people who need it and is neglected by society here. Deaf people have it much tougher here than in America, and generally aren't employed.)

He points to himself, in his gut, and says, "It comes from deep down in here. I don't know what else to tell you. I have a ten year plan. The next generation of deaf people in this region are going to be employable."

At hearing that, I smiled and was impressed by his vision. It wasn't just something I could almost see, it was something I could almost touch.

We talks for several more hours. He's kind enough to drop me off at my next combi stop.

I was wealthier to have met Pim. I knew I was looking for answers on my Sabbatical, and I felt like I moved one step closer in getting there. So far - seeing those deaf teenagers smiling and accepted and learning has been the best sight I've seen on this trip.

PS: This is my 500th post since starting this blog on January of 2011. I'm glad to make this my 500th post. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hot Pools and Moorlands - From Celendin to Cajarmarca

Me, on the moorlands of Cocachimba
Malaise hit me in Celendin. I was alone in the small town, and had just finished Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and also finished the seventh season of Game of Thrones. Also, because Celendin, in the town itself, didn't have much to do, I felt a sort of emptiness. I had to get myself out of it.

But maybe I needed less excitement and more of the everydayness of life. For instance, I got my laundry, which was in bad need of washing, done. Also, I needed a break from movies or books too. 

I really had to process everything Twain was saying about Huckfinn and America and mankind. There was a lot. 

For me, the most entertaining part about the book was to see how Huck, a hillbilly teenager, runs away from both his father and the widow. 

On one hand, he's running away from oppression, represented by his father - who seeks to harm him, keep him stupid, and tie him down from advancement. On the other hand, he's also running away from the evil's of society, represented by the widow - who is trying to "civilize" Huck. On the surface, she may not seem like an evil, but the reader finds out that she's entertaining the thought of selling her slave and splitting up his family. In the end, Huck has to receive his real education from the wilderness and the river and Jim - the slave - who seems to know more than all of the white characters and is the only innocent person in the novel. I thought it all very interesting. (And there's more Twain comments on - such as the futility of feuding, the hypocrisy of religion, and the absurdity of class structure.)

Regarding Game of Thrones, (spoiler coming), I felt it when the Night King kills one of the dragons. I thought, Oh no! Also, when the undead are like slaves, fishing out the dragon from the ice lake - I thought to myself, That's what Hell's like. Everyone is going to be a mindless slave in endless suffering. Maybe some people are in Hell today. I wonder who envisioned that scene and where he or she got such an idea.

So, because of all the processing I had to, I couldn't read anymore or watch anymore movies. Instead, I just finished up some local projects. Also, I went to some local hot pools near Celendin - in the town of Llanguat. (For those of you who want to stay there, you can for 20 soles, but be aware there's no electricity out there. So at night, you need to sleep.)

Llanguat hot pools
It was definitely worth it, and I went back twice. The water is brownish, because there's a lot of iron in it. (What color does iron turn when it rusts?) Also, there was no electricity out there or mobile signal. You really feel like you're in the wilderness, and the solitude really creates an awe-inspiring feeling inside.

After being in Celendin, I took a two hour combi to the largest city of the highlands - Cajarmarca, population about 250,000. Cajamarca is a historic city, as it's the place where the Spanish Pizarro captured the last Incan King - Atahaulpa. You can see his holding cell in the city, where he was held at ransom for a year.

It's a horrendous tale of greed and power. Pizarro, an illiterate bloodthirsty bumpkin, lures the Incan King to come. The King has 6,000 troops, while Pizarro only has about a hundred. He offers Atahualpa a Bible. Atahualpa throws the Bible on the floor. Pizarro orders a gun to be fired; so, that he can justify his use of force.

He orders his hundred troops to blast the 6,000 troops with canons. He holds Atahualpa in a cell, ready to kill him. Atahualpa and Pizarro agree that if the King gives him a room full of gold, he could be released. A year passes. Pizarro gets his gold. Then, Atahualpa realizes he's never going to get out; so, he sends a message to his people.

Pizarro intercepts it. He indicts Atahualpa as a heretic and is ready to burn him. Atahualpa confesses and converts and instead is strangled. The whole story reminds me of Baldwin Park; which has taught me, really, only by lying, cheating, stealing, and killing can stupid people become rich and powerful. I think Twain would actually agree. (More can be read about the affair in Jared Diamond's Gun, Germ, and Steel; also, the Bible has something to say about it: "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).

Today, most of the modern conflicts of Cajarmarca are because of its gold mining, which the rights were given to Americans. But because the mining company was poisoning the water and the wildlife, the locals protested and significantly halted gold mining. (They were dumping cyanide into the water.) Again, another story of greed and unchecked power.

Now, Cajarmarca is known for its great dairy and farming. It definitely has good yogurt. 

I stayed near the Plaza de Armas, in the center of the city. It reminded me of Van Gogh's painting of his room. So, I liked staying in my Van Gogh room. 

Well, because Cajarmarca had some luxuries that I've been deprived of for awhile, I stayed awhile and liked being there.
Van Gogh's - The Bedroom in Arles. 
I had my cappuccinos, ate some pizza, and had a Mexican taco! It even had guacamole inside. I even had some Chinese food, but it was really embarrassing to speak to the Chinese owner - because it seems like I forgot all my Chinese. (The incident provoked me to possibly go to China on this trip.) There was even fast wifi. Too bad there was no Korean food.

Around my fourth day in Cajarmarca, I met a Flemish guy named Diego, who wanted to go hiking with me. I thought I'd like him more, but on our hike, he proved himself too soft for my likings. He got hungry faster, thirstier more often, and complained more often than me.

The Moorlands of Cocachimba
In any event, we took a 3.5 hour hike up the hills - to the Moorlands. There, in the rocks, the Incas had an aqueduct carved in it, but because Diego was too tired to finish the last 15 minutes of it, we didn't go. The
hike to the Moorlands definitely had an eerie feeling to it.

Because we were both tired, I had to hail a ride to hitchhike back down. We sat in the bed of a truck during sunset, and we had a beautiful view of the landscape and the city from the open bed of the pick up truck. 

More of the Moors
I had four arguments in Cajarmarca. Four times people tried to rip me off. I think I haven't confronted as much dishonesty in business owners in Peru than in Cajarmarca. I suppose Pizarro's legacy lives on here.

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"