28 May 2016

Alive Again in Pátzcuaro (With Photos)

Ah, historic Pátzcuaro! Promoted by the tourism secretariat as a Pueblo Mágico, it is a magical place, with a long history going back to the early 1300s, when the local indigenous people, the purépechas, founded it a couple hundred years before the Spaniards arrived in 1522.

While Jamie has known Pátzcuaro since 1969, the two of us first came here together in the spring of 1993. We had been traveling together as friends on a Big Mexican Adventure in an old Volkswagen van when we first came here. On that first visit, we met some people with whom we have remained good friends throughout the years; and despite Jamie announcing to me, one afternoon on an exploratory drive around the lake, that he was “done with women!” (at the tender age of forty-six), something about this place caused us to begin falling in love…

21 May 2016

A Way-Too-Short Visit to Bogotá, Colombia (With Photos)

During the wee hours of 21 April, 2016, Jamie and I flew LAN from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Bogotá, Colombia, with a short stopover in Lima, Peru, arriving to a lovely day in the Colombian capital, all snuggled up against a line of intensely green mountains to the east, around noon.  Following a minor adventure in which we ended up way out in the parking lot with all our baggage falling off the cart after Jamie’s doubts about going farther and farther away from the taxi lineup won the day and we told the guy pushing our cart that we were going back, our taxi ride across town gave us an impression of a surprisingly clean large city with many green spaces – parks, paths, and bike lanes teaming people out enjoying them.

When we arrived at our little apart-hotel, the Viaggio Virrey, I was exhausted, having been up since 6:00 the previous day frenziedly cleaning, tying up loose ends, and then executing the first stage of our migration back to the Northern Hemisphere with just a few little naps on the plane rides across the South American continent. But we had an hour until check-in, and we had eaten nothing but ham and cheese sandwiches ever since the bus terminal in La Paloma, so we decided to get a bite to eat and see if we could find a grocery store. Happily, there was a big, fancy, upscale store close by, and it had a cafeteria-style restaurant upstairs called La Terraza. Well, La Terraza was very busy, and in our discombobulated state of being, we were trying to figure out how the system worked when the woman we were asking suggested we try a plate of rice mixed with multiple types of meat, beans, veggies, and corn that also came with an arepa and a piece of pork skin… I think – comida colombiana. Melting into putty in her hands, we let her serve us each way too much of the rice plate filled with unknown meats, then Jamie needed help finding the right Colombian bills to pay at the register (the exchange was around 2,900 Colombian pesos per US dollar). The place was really noisy (we got up and moved after identifying the nearby soda refrigerator as the source of one of the loud noises), the meat and beans were way overcooked and dried out, and we were too tired to mess around with trying to figure out what it was about the little cornmeal cakes and the pork skins that had the woman so enthused, so we just shoveled down what we could and then headed downstairs to check out the grocery store. And, oh man, what a store! We would be back later to peruse the aisles and bask in the glory of having so many choices available, from the beer selection to the wall of coffee to the array of herbs and spices from around the world to the wonderful variety of beautiful produce.

15 May 2016

Reflections Upon Leaving Uruguay

After several days of heavy rains, we were fortunate enough to have a sunny day on 20 April when we cleaned ourselves out the doors of our little house in el campo outside of La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay, settled up with everyone we had sold or traded all our stuff to, said goodbye to our friends, and took a taxi to the terminal to ride the bus to the airport and leave in the early hours of 21 April, exactly seven years and a day after we left the United States for South America.

I had been content to live the simple life in Uruguay, making do with what we had. I loved the sound of the chattering parrots in the trees all around us and of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean hitting the shore in the distance. But it was hard for Jamie there, as we were a couple of kilometers away from the center of town, while the nearest beach was probably more than half a kilometer, and with the pain in his feet and legs he has been suffering, he was pretty much limited to the block of Barrio Parque that consisted of our house at one corner and the little neighborhood store at the other, with a trip to town requiring taxi rides there and back. We had been going out to eat in town about once a week, to break up the monotony of my cooking (Was it just me, or had the quality of the produce available around town been growing continually more shitty as time went by?); but even that was getting old because, other than the fancy, expensive Bahia, the obvious choice for special occasions, the few restaurants that stayed open throughout the year all served the same uninspired menu.

02 February 2016

The Big Deal about Big History

R.I.P. David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)You are among the most creative, beautiful, and positively impactful human beings
who ever lived!

Edit: Before anyone gets their hopes up, please note that this article has absolutely nothing to do with David Bowie, except ever so subtly, at the very end. I just couldn't let his death go unacknowledged.

The brainchild of David Christian at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Big History is all about connecting knowledge—which is right up my alley, with my whole connectivity thing.

Big History is the story of everything. It’s a way of looking at how reality as we know it developed from the beginning of time, itself, that joins the theoretically modeled mechanical explanations used in the physical sciences with the empirically based social science of history. It’s a cosmological mapping of one historical continuum—an all-encompassing origin story for the 21st century. It’s the unifying force of a single narrative that says, “We are the universe looking back on itself.”

02 January 2016

A New Year's Jaunt

Dr. Albert Schweitzer | Image via Wikipedia

Our House in Barrio Parque

It’s 1 January 2016.

I’m in my house in Barrio Parque, La Paloma, Uruguay, surrounded by Uruguayans who’ve come mostly from the departmental capital of Rocha to flock to the beach while I continue with the day-to-day struggles of life. This barrio is over on the opposite side of Cabo de Santa María from where the center of La Paloma is located. We´re farther from the beaches—La Aguada, Costa Azul, Antoniópolis, and Arachania—than we were when we lived in town, so we don´t get over there too much. But I can always hear the ocean from our second-floor balcony. I love the way that sometimes, it´s the waves crashing on the beaches over on the far side of the cape, sometimes it´s from the near side, and sometimes, I get it in surround sound.

And then there´s the night sky… We´re coming up on the time of year when the Southern Cross shines right into my house after nightfall, lighting my way up the stairs through the sliding glass door on the landing—how awesome is that!

28 December 2014

Joaquín Torres García vs. Ayn Rand: A Unique Profile of the Uruguayan National Character

Introductory Note

Another year has passed, during which I, unfortunately, have been too busy making the money I need to survive to engage in what I really love to do. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy my current writing and editing work, and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do it. But it takes up all my energy. Perhaps the new year will bring me to a place where I can once again do the writing that truly moves my spirit and feeds my soul.

02 December 2013

Imagine: Religion as Social Reform - Reza Aslan, Iran, and Religious Faith

Reza Aslan

La Paloma, Uruguay
So, the holiday season is upon us. It always sneaks up on me, here in the Southern Hemisphere, where springtime is awakening into summertime. It doesn’t help that I live in a summer resort town, where the bigger issue is the launch of the holiday season that will rain a deluge of beachgoers onto the usually solitary sands of the lovely, if rather windy, shores of La Paloma. Plus, the Catholicism that infuses Latin American culture is not nearly as ubiquitous in Uruguay, and this country’s clearly defined separation of church and state also tempers the Christmas holiday atmosphere. Besides, not since childhood has Christmas been a holiday that I can get into, anyway, given my distain for the crass commercialization and hyper-consumerism that surrounds it in the States. Well, that, plus I am an atheist who feels a bit hypocritical celebrating something I don’t believe in, although I can dig the idea of celebrating family togetherness and the joy that so many other people get out of the whole thing for their own sakes. Oh, but there’s so much more emotional baggage involved in my attitude toward Christmastime, including memories of that one really difficult Christmas that preceded my mother’s death from breast cancer by about a month, all those years ago...

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