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!

Today, I found myself reflecting back on where I was for New Year’s past. I’ve written a post around the holidays for as long as I’ve had this blog. In fact, in recent years, the end of the year post has been the only one for the entire year. So it’s interesting (at least to me!) to see the evolution of where my head was at by looking at those. It's also interesting to recall the amazing places I've been.

Last year, I was here, where I watched fireworks from my bed. We’d retired early, in our old age, but I ended up being treated to a spectacular show from the direction of el centro through sliding glass door (leading nowhere) in our bedroom. I’d never imagined the pleasure of watching fireworks right from bed! My post that year was, in a feeble attempt to “get the ball rolling” on keeping up with my blog, a sort of tribute to outgoing president José Mujica with an article I’d written a while back and never published:

(This year, I have much more ambitious plans in the works!)

Los Leo
Before that, we were living in chalet Los Leo on Calle Lira, in the neighborhood of La Balconada, and had our friend Alejandro, an Argentinian and fellow traveler who we first met in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, staying with us. We celebrated with him and our friends Nick and Kerry. Around that time, I was charged up about Obama’s opening of US relationships with Iran as well as having a change of heart rejecting John Lennon’s call for a world without religion:

There was also a previous, less eventful New Year’s spent at Los Leo, too. That was just after the world as we know it was supposed to come to an end on 21 December 2012, according to the Mayan Calendar. We’d attended an End of the World party at a hostel run by a woman from California that, quite predictably, doesn’t exist anymore, where we met an Argentinian artist and his lover who were helping spiff the place up, an adventurous young woman from the States who soon thereafter suddenly fled her management position for reasons unknown, and a lovely Swiss couple who were staying there. It was a fun get-together, but it ended on a bad note when the hostel owner exploded at the Swiss guy over some infraction of her personal space—or something like that. That brought a speedy end to the evening and was as close to the end of the world as we would get.

That was also, of course, the year Obama had been reelected. I wrote my end of the year piece just before the elections in November (I suppose there were plenty of people in the States who thought that was the end of the world!):

Mendoza, Argentina
Before that, there was that tortuous time in the desert of Mendoza, Argentina. That whole scene nearly broke my spirit. It didn’t help that our dog, Chica, got sick and died during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We were trying to take care of her, but then she finally just wandered off and disappeared, dying alone somewhere—down by the river, under the cover of shady orchard or vineyard, out in the desert, or in one of the irrigation ditches???—leaving us heartbroken and feeling particularly alone in the world.

Update: In my sorrow, I managed to forget this blog post:
Circle Round the Sun.

Thankfully, we escaped that place before it was too late, running off to Iguazu Falls, then entering Uruguay at Paysandú, amazingly, crossing the border three years to the day after doing so the first time!

Chacra Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina
Before that, we were in beautiful Patagonia with our wonderful friends Monica and Alberto at Chacra Ushuaia—and I was feeling rather hopeful about the future:

Of course, my hope for the positive change brought on by the Arab Spring that was beginning to shake the world is being put to the test, as it's taking rather longer than anticipated for the chaos of change to work itself out. But I still hold out hope for the North Africa and the Middle East for the long term.

The year before that, we’d stepped outside to hoot and holler with our neighbors in Rocha.

Fremantle, West Australia
So let’s see. There were a couple of uneventful and entirely forgettable New Year’s events spent in Valdosta, Georgia, USA, where I experienced an awakening of sorts as I composed my book No Stranger To Strange Lands, back before we made our giant leap to to the Southern Cone (sorry, no pictures or New Year's blog posts). However, the occasion before those, which we spent south of Perth, in Fremantle, Western Australia, was totally the opposite, as in I’ll never forget it. In fact, I memorialized it in my book. That was the transition from 2006 to 2007.

Before that… well, we’re talking a decade ago, so things are getting fuzzy, but there were two years when we would have been staying in one of our friend Monica’s apartments in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, (and most likely spending the evening drinking with Monica, as well) for New Year’s. And before that, we would have been in the house belonging to our jazz musician friend, Captain Hornblower, on Big Pine Key, Florida, preceded by a few years when we were living north of Tampa in the cracker town of Homosassa, which is where we were for the millennium celebration (Was it the beginning of 2001 or 2002 that we rang in the New Year to the zydeco beat of Donna the Buffalo at Skipper's Smokehouse?). Going yet further back, we were alternately in Patzcuaro and the Florida Keys.

Granada, Nicaragua
During most of the 1990s, we were traveling around and living out of our Ford Econoline camper van, so our stays in any given location were more temporary affairs.

Although I don’t remember New Year’s specifically in those last mentioned locales, I do recall the previous years’ wildly romantic celebration on the beach of Dominical, Costa Rica. It was our third and final voyage to Costa Rica in our trusty Econoline. We’d been in Dominical for the previous New Year’s, as well—a fact I know only because I made note in my journal of us going to bed early due to our van getting stuck in a bog and preventing us from driving down to party at the beach from the little house we were renting up the Baru River.

San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico
I remember quite vividly the colorful New Year’s Eve in Panajachel, Guatamala, before that, after we just so happened to meet up with Sergio and Laura, from Xalapa, Veracruz, on the same Pacific beach in Southern Mexico where we had encountered them the year before, where I thought I was a goner while naked body surfing on Christmas Day.

Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
And this brings us to the beginning of 1994, the fateful New Year’s we spent on Lake Patzcuaro boycotting the hippie meditation session just as the Zapatistas were launching their revolution down south in Chiapas, which we proceeded to pass through the on our first voyage to Guatemala. That was my second New Year’s with Jamie, my husband of fourteen years and, more importantly, my best friend for over two decades. The New Year’s before that, we spent in Ventura, California, and the year before that, we hadn’t met yet, but I was in Honolulu, Hawaii, where we would first encounter each other at the Hawaii Yacht Club and begin our exciting life of travel and adventure together some six weeks later.

So why is this relevant, you may be asking yourself.

Well, it’s because I have literary endeavors in store for this new year, and they will involve stories of our travels. Like my first literary endeavor, my No Stranger book, the mother of all of my literary endeavors, I will be writing about place and time and memories and the interconnectedness of the universe—but this time, with more intention and focus on the various scientific and philosophical issues that are involved. You see, I’ve been taking a course on something called Big History, as well as educating myself about climate change and sustainability, and in so doing, I have Big Ideas rolling around in my head that evolved out of thoughts and ideas I’ve had in the past that I will be revisiting and reexamining.

Jamie recently sent me the link to this inspiring biography of Albert Schweitzer, and I felt particularly empowered by his words, “everyone must find his own Lambaréné” referring to the location of his hospital in Africa. It’s not easy to do, especially when one is struggling just to keep from being overwhelmed by the combination of crashing waves and undertows of life. But then again, nothing worth doing is really easy, now is it.

Happy 2016, y'all!

Edit: 17 January, 2016, Changed the opening sentence for more clarity, replaced the term "provincial" with the more correct term, "departmental."

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