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Goooooooooooooooooooooooooal

World Cup fever was high in Colombia, with a notable commitment to sporting the yellow jersey…nearly everyone, every day. They even had jerseys specifically made for pregnant women, which there seemed to be a lot of. <Related tangent, they also make mannequins with bigger butts to accommodate for the extra ‘sexy’ gene the women seem to have received in Colombia.>

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Everyone who knows me well knows I have a World Cup “thing”. Celebrating my 30th birthday at the World Cup in South Africa eventually led to the dream I am pursuing/living right now. The party was amazing yes, but the overall experience of planning something for so long and making it happen, the singing and dancing and celebration, the people we met who will forever be in our lives…well, it changed my world. It was after the larger-than-life displays of passion that I knew I needed to go find my passions and I knew I could. (the infamous picture of us on tv below (terrible!) I can’t help but include it. I still love hearing the stories of people seeing us! Shout out to my incredible, passionate partners-in-crime: Katie and Jonathan!!)

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Here I was four years later, with the World Cup in none other than BRAZIL!!!, my next door neighbor, promising to be epic in all its fútbol madness glory…and I had tickets. Of course I had tickets. I swore I’d never miss a World Cup again. It was also a milestone marker for me, which I was reminded of when I received many a message asking me 1. if I was in Brazil and 2. did that mean I’d be coming home from South America afterwards. That had been the original plan.

Well, the original plan had changed and I guess I didn’t even realize it. How do you know when things are not working because what you’re pursuing is not right for you versus because you need to keep trying if you really want it? I could easily write a chapter if not a book on this, but I’ll try to keep my rationale short.

My wise friend Christen posed a question to me… “what if there were no wrong decisions?” Another wise friend Henrik tells me that “if you really really want to do something, you can almost always find a way to do it.” I agree completely and I did want to go to the World Cup in Brazil. The truth is that I could have gone and also that it wouldn’t have been a wrong decision. It was when I looked at the things that were making it difficult to go and what was making it feel like it might not be the best thing for me that I realized I had been making decisions towards a different, higher priority.

I had a goal to finish my book and create a life around my passions. I had a choice. Just as when I wrote a check for a loss when I sold my house, once again I was telling myself that the most important thing is this journey of self-discovery and transformation. If the World Cup was truly the most important goal, I would have made more decisions towards that than towards my life goal. Not to be dramatic, but how we spend our time, money and energy is an indication of our needs and our dreams. And in the spirit of that, “we are always doing exactly what we want to be doing, as part of a greater whole”…coming from another wise friend, Jose. At least we have choices to make, albeit not always easy ones.

The difficult outcome was that I would be watching the World Cup from afar, although I did get to take in the champions league final with some local Colombians as a fun consolation prize. The good news is that I know my current journey is the right one and so that is the journey that will work out if I put everything into it…thank you very much ‘law of attraction’. And really how fortunate am I that my choices are either going to Brazil for the World Cup or living in the Caribbean to write my book. “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!”

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Little Fatty and a Homemade Grill

A perfect little Colombian outing, I took a break from writing to meander down into town for some lunch, no plan, just looking for something simple to take care of my late afternoon hunger. I stop at a restaurant on the side of a dirt road that was offering, of course, a menu casero o menu del dia. This is so typical in Colombia and many countries in South America…you can order from the menu or you can just have “The menu”, which is a basic fixed price meal that often includes a sugary drink, a first course of soup (or perhaps ceviche if you’re in Peru), and a main course of your choice of meat, chicken, or fish accompanied by a side of rice, papas fritas, and maybe a few forkfuls of salad: iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, maybe onion or carrots. A simple tradition and full stomach for about $4-5.

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So I’m sitting there at a wooden table in front, shoeing some flies away, sweating in the intense sun. Not far away there’s a local man with his t-shirt rolled up and resting on his belly like a shelf, airing out in the sweltering heat, as is so common and yet so unattractive. It’s not quite evening, but he’s already sipping on aguardiente, the cheapest way to get drunk here. It is tastes like anis, is so potent that it almost seems to vaporize in your mouth before you swallow and is often shared around in tiny plastic shot glasses that resemble the cups used for cough syrup.

A rather large woman sits at a table nearby using her teeth to tear chicken from a bone that she’s picked out of her soup. She comments to my friend after trying 3 or 4 times to get his attention…

Continue reading Little Fatty and a Homemade Grill

Write Till You’re Wrong

When I followed him up the stairs and onto the terrace, I knew I had I found the perfect Caribbean writer’s haven before he even opened the door. It was up a hill with a balcony overlooking a tiny bay with mountains that held the blue sea in a sweet little embrace. It was dry season, so the hills were a rusty, brambly tangle of bare branches and tall cacti…not the tropical green I was expecting. From my vantage point, the tree tops hid the shabby town below and hosted big iguanas that would sometimes climb to the top branches. The place was small, open air with a beautiful view, and it was my retreat. It was so wonderfully situated that the sun set over the sea even when I imagined we were facing east. Magic! This is where I would write my book, in Taganga, Colombia.

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Continue reading Write Till You’re Wrong

Holy Mangos!

I had the brilliant idea of waiting until Good Friday to do the pilgrimage up to the little church on top of Montserrate, the backdrop mountain of Bogotá. And it was a brilliant idea if you like to participate in what the entire city is doing at once. It was holy week and people were eager to be holy. If they weren’t there, they were spilling out of the churches into the plazas or visiting the salt cathedral, which is 180m underneath the ground. I still feel holy from having been in Bogotá for holy week. I even scheduled my bus just on time to catch a procession going past my hostel with drums and incense, men and children in dark purple, silk robes, carrying huge statues of the stations of the cross. I watched them walk past by candlelight, saying prayers, and made it to the station just on time for a trip to the coast.

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I was headed for Palomino, a beach town on the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela that was written up in the book as a chilled out, long, dreamy stretch of beach with a strong current that backs up to the jungle. The current actually ended up being just the right strength for me to swim against, perfect for a daily workout if I didn’t mind the occasional salty wave in the face. “Town” was one street with casual, local restaurants, fruit shacks, and pool halls lining each side and a sandy road that leads you to the beach in fifteen minutes.

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Continue reading Holy Mangos!

Passion for Passion Fruit

When I left Argentina, I had a gut feeling that I would be back soon. I still had quite a bit of pesos that would be useless to me once I left and I hung onto them anyway specifically because of this feeling. I spent the night at the Lima airport leaving a sign leaning up against me saying something to the effect of, “My flight leaves at 8:00am. If you see me still asleep here at 7:00am, please wake me up. Many thanks.” When the flight landed in Bogotá people cheered and they turned on some loud bumping salsa music to escort us off the plane. I traded my neck cramps for a smile.

My plan was to stay in Bogotá for a week and then head straight to the coast to find a writing haven, lest I be tempted to start exploring the entire country. Bogotá took me by surprise. It was chilly and overcast, modern and hip…none of which I expected although I’m not sure I knew what to expect.

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The first thing to catch my attention and my heart (via my taste buds) was all of the fresh fruit carts everywhere. Coconut (fresh or candied), mango (2 types), watermelon, pineapple, plums, mora, guanabana, guayaba, papaya, avocado, the tart passion fruit and its sweet sister granadilla, those tiny sweet bananas, cantelope, “tomato tree” fruit as directly translated…not coincidentally, this would eventually become my weekly shopping list. It is one of the best and cruelest parts about traveling, to experience something so completely amazing and eventually have to leave it behind when you move on. And so I dove fully into the “completely amazing” part of this tropical phenomenon and had fresh fruit juice and fresh fruit several times a day. I would love to fly my sister to meet me in Colombia and we would just sit on a curb in front of bright and wild graffiti putting the ‘passion’ in passion fruit, eating it until our tongues are puckered as puckered can be and can’t handle a single bite more. Tart, crunchy, tropical vacation in edible form, and I am biased towards its name…passion fruit (maracuya) is a truly wonderful fruit.

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I am happy to report that even the Colombians seem to draw the line at frying their fruit, because I promise you they seem to fry just about everything else. They have restaurants where you get plastic gloves given to you at the table to help manage the grease.

At least they just own it… “We fry things, take your gloves, buen provecho.”

Corn empanadas…fried, arepas: basically corn dough patty filled with eggs, sausage, meat and such…fried, papa rellenos: mashed potato balls filled with meat and egg…fried. Deep fried and exactly what you want out of street food, yum. Much of our time in Bogotá was spent wandering and eating, trying to catch the sunlight at that magical, golden hour when the colorful buildings of La Candelaria district would glow.

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We bought a box of wine (I wish I could tell you it was the last time we did that; “Toto, we’re not in Argentina anymore” – Dorothy) and leaned up against a wall of a small plaza to people watch. Hipsters came through with their skateboards, students gathered around the platform where a storyteller was engaging the crowds, and in front of us sat a couple of guys with guitars. As the sun set, the police came to shoe everyone out and we naturally followed the stragglers who were following the guitars. We ended up in another little plaza, sitting in a circle on the grass, grinning at the jam session we were now a part of. More and more people showed up and they started singing. A couple of bikers joined in, using their helmets as drums. And then two guys who could just as easily have been crashing a wedding, pedaled up on bikes wearing suits, with a saxophone and melodica (thank you Wikipedia) in tow. At this point I thought to myself, if I do not join in I will forever believe this is just a dream. I found a pouch in my purse I use for make up and loaded it with keys and coins and jingled my heart out.

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Since I arrived in Colombia, I had had nightmares about being robbed and my body had been a mess, perhaps because of the fried food, but I feared something much worse…I had made a mistake in leaving Argentina. I realized that I had been like a young lover comparing this new love to an old one, Colombia vs. Argentina. This moment naturally put me in touch with part of my process for going through a change…create something. It was exactly the kind of experience that I needed to let the melody carry away my fears and put me in the present moment with that warm and fuzzy feeling of a special, serendipitous adventure.

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s “See ya later!”

I believe it was the end of my mom’s visit when I had started to have the idea that it was time for me to leave Argentina. I can imagine that sounds so odd. The stories that I’ve shared recently were some of the most profound and inspiring yet. It certainly seems odd to me as I had just had the opportunity to share with my family how madly in love I am with Argentina. I realized I was showing it off as if I actually owned a piece of it myself. Now I can see that I was moving from my wandering phase and into my “time to get shit done” phase. It had been vacation while my family was visiting, a break from my reality that was becoming intense focus on my writing and putting into action my life designed around the passions I had discovered. I was (and still am) in love with the country as a whole, and yet could not make a decision on where to settle. 

Continue reading It’s Not Goodbye, It’s “See ya later!”

Gaucho See, Gaucho Do – An Authentic Life

Don’t all spontaneous adventures start out with an invitation to road trip out to the desert to buy goat skins? Enter again, Lucas, the dapper gaucho who I had met at Estancia La Alejandra for the incredible experience on horseback. We’re sitting in a quintessential Argentino cafe in Mendoza, basking in the high sun and enjoying a bottle of white wine at lunch on a Tuesday, like ya do, when he mentions that he was going to head out to the desert where a guy who knows a guy who owns a roadside restaurant and raises goats, occasionally sells their skins for leather…great price. As a teenager, Lucas had headed out to the desert to live with the Huarpes people and apprentice to their particular style of leatherwork, developing quite the knack for this unique skill. This is what lunch is like with Lucas, casual mentions of indigenous art and errands to the desert as if he were talking about picking up the dry cleaning…chilled out, unconventional, and full of surprises. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t an invitation, but I immediately invited myself anyway.

Continue reading Gaucho See, Gaucho Do – An Authentic Life

Solo Luz, Solo Amor in this Mountain Community

I felt like I could just as sensibly be communicating by carrier pigeon as I told the guy at the bus terminal shop that I was looking for Emilio’s community and asked if he could kindly tell me how to get there. That was about the sum total of information that I had…that I needed to go see this man in the mountains and I should just ask for him at the bus station and go from there.

“Ah, si, si, la communidad del Milo. Bueno…” and he proceeded to tell me how to walk a few miles down the street and cut through some brush to the dirt road that would lead me there. It would be the first time I was showing up at a stranger’s house, unannounced, expecting to stay for 4 days; I suppose the walking would’ve brought welcomed time to think through my introduction. I opted for a taxi instead, albeit out of character for me, I felt nervous enough about the scenario ahead and didn’t want to start off by getting lost.

Continue reading Solo Luz, Solo Amor in this Mountain Community

Fruits of the Harvest

The first thing I do when I am getting ready to visit a new country is to research what festivals they have. There are so many festivals that I’d like to go to worldwide, and I’m sure there are many more that I just don’t even know about yet. It was quickly obvious that the cream of the crop festival in Argentina is Vendimia, the harvest festival in Mendoza. As is often my luck with timing, I had just missed it by a month last year when I first arrived in Mendoza. Now that I was living here I was determined to soak in everything ‘harvest’ this year, most definitely including the festival itself.

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Road Trip!

It was hard to say goodbye to my Dad and admit that this trip we had been planning for so long was over. We were down to just us two girls, my Mom and I and our little “shopping” trip. My Mom is a weaver and I knew it was essential to take her to the north of Argentina where the artesanias abound. Llamas, guanaco, and vincuña wander the landscapes and their wool is naturally dyed and fills the shops and markets.

Continue reading Road Trip!