Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I didn't start this blog to teach about the Beatles though. It is just that they are never a bad place to start and I want you to remember the theory that Paul McCartney is only a great songwriter when working with John Lennon and vice versa and that only with George Harrison and Ringo Starr did they manage to create such timeless, universally appreciated music.
I started blogging October 24, 2004 back when Myspace was trendy. My very first blog went as follows:
"This may work.
I will just try to get something actually posted. My last two blogs seem to be lost somewhere in cyberspace. Weird. So don't criticize me if I don't say anything intellegent here. If you are reading this it means I have already accomplished a lot. That is relatively speaking of course."
I posted perhaps every month or so for the next year, my blogs generally being about the same length and quality as that. In late 2005 I moved to Calgary from Kelowna, in early 2006 I moved in with Calvin and Lisa. My blogs grew longer and I feel the quality improved. Later Kevin moved in and, in my opinion, my blogs grew better still. The Chateau Rockingham stage began and my blogs reached a zenith.
Early this year I went traveling and I started posting fewer blogs but I figured that it was due to lack of access to a computer. Later I was tree planting and I wrote fewer and the quality showed a remarkable drop. I thought things would improve upon finishing my season and yet her I am, with a rather poor excuse for a blog. Today, like many days in the recent past, I was thinking of ways I could rectify this yet I have been unable and somewhat unispired to write the simplest of blogs. I wondered what could possibly have changed when I remembered the Beatles. So now I offer to you the conclusion that I am not responsible for any of the great blogs I wrote, it is more the result of the wonderfully creative environment that I was so priviledged to share.
So, that is why my blog now stinks.
I should quit blogging but I was doubly inspired recently. The other day I used a friend's computer and noticed that my blog was bookmarked. This was good for my ego. As well, the other day I got a comment on an old blog that was very flattering indeed. I hope that I will one day write another Great Blog.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Ode to a Sheep I Never Actually Sawr by Calvin French
Hoary-caped perplexed beast!
Your ears jab out:
The gross, pink thumbs of a half-deformed circus performer.
Your legs thrust earthward:
The jealous, stilletto longing of a spindly hollywood anorexic.
Your triangle face stares stupidly:
The free falling emptiness of a heroin addict's last hit.
I want to jump on you, like MARIO!
Butcher and eat you, like MAD, MAD CONSUMERISM!
Spread your colostrum thick on my morning toast, like A FARM BOY!
Fattened pusher-out of lambs!
Your young bleat nature's yearning:
The mute rage of a thousand emo boys.
What a great poem. Since I had the desire to write a blog but without any clear subject in mind I decided to reread some of my old posts. Every once in a while I really impressed myself. Not saying that what I did was really impressive, just that I'm easily impressed and biased. For example, on writing a blog about Harry Potter and the addictive qualities of the books I titled my blog "Harry Crack or Crack Potter." What a great double pun! I never did gain good inspiration for this blog so instead I will repost an old poem I wrote about living with Calvin, Kevin and Lisa. I hope you like it, because it's among the best writing that I've ever done.
Last Among Equals by Ed Smith
Last among equals, equals me
When we began our household was 4.
But I snuck in my friend Pride.
Pride is an old friend of mine
But he felt unwelcome here.
For although nearsighted, he recognized Greatness.
And Pride doesn't like his company
In vanity I searched for something that I could do better than my house companions.
In vain I gave up
For the headaches of the schoolboy:
Reading, writing, 'rithmetic.
At best, third best in all.
Oh the shame of Art Nights
Burton Cumming's countenance peers laughingly, tauntingly. In Art I have no equal, for all my roomates surpass me.
Music perhaps? There too I am living in a shadow.
My talent and abilities fail to impress.
If red is anger and blue is sorrow, then I am green.
"It's not easy being green."
Lisa quotes Shakespeare, Keats, and Frost.
Kevin quotes Richard Guy, John Conway, Martin Gardnerr and Kevin Shields.
Calvin quotes Sheldon Brown
Ed quotes a muppet.
Ignorance is bliss they say.
Ed is the happiest member of the house they say.
Oh to be ignorant of my ignorance.
Then I could be merry once again.
"Your knowledge of the Beatles far surpasses ours" Lisa says consolingly.
It's true" I reply, failing to see the laughter in her eyes.
"I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries"
But I cannot reach the same conclusion as The Bard, for I am alone.
"But girls seem to like you" Kevin says.
"Although it's inexplicable" Calvin adds, head up his Asperger's.
The humblest of the house (Though not in the virtuous meaning of the word)
Perhaps here my happiness lies.
As a pilgrim travels miles to be with the guru
As the student desires to be at his teacher's side
So I too can learn and grow. Though offering least, I gain most.
And here can I find my gratitude.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
My first season planting I hated the work. I went back for season two and despised the job. During season three I abhorred it. Season four I loathed it. I kept coming back though. I am in the midst of season five, and I don't mind it so much. People accused me of being a "lifer" back when I abhorred it. Is there any escape for me now?
Typically after the loggers cut down and remove all the trees the mill will gather up the bigger branches and unusable logs into big piles of slash. These are placed at regular intervals along the road. The cut block is planted and in the winter the piles of slash are burned. The next season planters go in and plant the burns where the slash was previously piled. Because it is only the burns being planted, boxes of trees need to be left along the road periodically for when the planter runs out of trees.
Planting burn piles was my task last week but the interesting thing was that it was a helicopter block so I was given a radio to radio in when I needed trees. The helicopter would then fly down and drop some off. The other thing is that I only carried about a litre of water so when I ran out of water I would radio in and the helicopter would fly down so I could refill my bottle. I won't lie, you get a feeling of power ordering water by helicopter, especially with the knowledge that it costs $150 every six minutes of flying time. I think that flying in a helicopter might be the best perk about tree planting.
I read Timeline by Michael Crighton the other day. While planting the worst land of the season I was thinking about time travel. I came up with a hypothetical situation. Imagine that Frank and Joe build a time machine. They want to test it but nothing too drastic so Joe is sent back in time only five minutes. Upon arrival the time machine breaks. Joe is stuck five minutes in the past. Because Joe is always five minutes behind, Frank will never again communicate with him. However, Joe can freely interact with Frank's previous self. So although Frank never actually is in the present with Joe, he will always get new memories of Joe. However, what if Frank and Joe planned on this eventuality. Let's say that Joe takes the time machine at 6:00pm. He goes back in time to 5:55pm. He agrees to meet Frank at Starbucks at 7:00pm. Therefore Frank waits an hour after sending Joe back and goes to Starbucks. Joe arrives in the past and waits an hour and five minutes and then goes to Starbucks. Suddenly they are in the same place at the same time. I'm not sure where my reasoning goes astray. It is just so difficult to conceptualize the aspect of time.
My boss was looking for more planters because we are running a little behind. I have planted with a lot of people but I couldn't think of a single person that hasn't retired from planting. Most have real jobs now. I feel old again. There is one other planter in the camp who has planted more seasons than me, one other who has planted the same. However, because I took two years off my first season was two years before his. My first trees are seven years old this year. The trees that I planted yesterday were big enough that they looked seven years old. Time is ripping by. My beard is the best in camp. This means that despite how I feel, I am a grown up. I hope that one day my life will look a little more grown up. Life is going too quickly.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Pulling into Westbank I was astonished by how much construction has gone on since my last visit. It is equally astonishing how popular it is to build hideous buildings. Huge stores that blight the landscape with bigger parking lots; the residential areas are no better. Builders especially like to find attractice hill side plots of land, rip down every tree and dig up a gouge across the hill. It is then ready for huge, characterless houses where people can ensconce themselves in front of their big screen tvs comfortable in the knowledge that their SUV's and toys are safe in the attactched three car garage. They don't mind so much that the natural beauty of the city I love is being raped and destroyed.
I visited my other grandparents. Also lovely, lovely people. It was nice to see them, as always but they too show the signs of aging. Their walk is a little slower and little bit more stooped. Aging is a hard truth.
I arrived in Calgary and went to the Chateau Rockingham, my home only a few months ago. Since I left one roommate has moved out and another in and another has become engaged. Last night we had a bunch of people over, just like old times. It was a reminder of how sweet life my life was while living here. I don't know how I always luck out and have great roommates but I do. However, the thing with roommates is that they are temporary. Last night we drank a scotch in honour of old times while listening to Chopin's Nocturnes on the record player. It was a scene that we had played out many times before but it might be the very last time it will happen here. Life just keeps rolling on.
Evolutionists teach that rapid changes are detrimental to organisms. They cannot respond and evolve and eventually they die out. I currently feel like I can't evolve to all of the changes that are happening around me. Life is whipping by so quickly. My birthday looming around the corner doesn't make me feel any better. As Lisa so kindly pointed out to me, it's a two pack birthday this year; as in I'll need two packs of candles for my cake because they only come in packs of twenty four but I will be twenty five.
This week I will be time traveling though. Treeplanting was a huge part of my life for several years and after a two year hiatus I return to the woods. Hopefully there, I can briefly find some solace from the changes that are rocking my world.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Another reason is that I do not have anything good to write about. With a little work and more talent than I possess perhaps I could make the last few weeks of my life interesting but it would be hard. What I have been doing is reading. I would like to say that I have been reading mind expanding intelectual stuff but that would be a bit of a stretch. I will let you judge for yourself.
Debt of Honor
Three Weeks With My Brother
Shakespeare: the World as a Stage
The Last Juror
The King of Torts
A Painted House
A Wrinkle in Time
-Madeleine L'Engle(I copy/pasted the apostraphe)
The Blue Castle
-Lucy Maud Montgomery
There may be others that I have forgotten. If you add that to the books I read while traveling then I am on par for an average of a book a week for this year, probably my best average since high school.
-James A. Michener
The Man Who Was Thursday
A Walk in the Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Here is the good news though. Some of my best stories, in my opinion, are from my tree planting days. Well those days are not over! Like a fool I am going back for another season so starting sometime in May I should have a better blog post than this. Misery always makes for good blogs.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
A 2. Torture is prohibited under the Geneva Convention.
A 3. There’s a difference?
About grade six is the best time for dental problems to crop up. That’s when lots of kids, including some of the cool ones, have braces so it’s not so noticeable. Furthermore, during these awkward years you already have to deal with the host of socially uncomfortable situations that accompany puberty, what more damage do a set of railway tracks across the teeth do? And of course I have yet to touch upon the greatest reason for juvenile dental problems; at that age parents foot the bill.
I break here for a brief interlude. In my adolescent years I would sometimes see my friends do certain things and then in my head try and imagine what sort of lecture they would receive once their parents learned of the actions. Well I have a cousin who, as a teenager, one day decided that he had grown tired of his braces. With perhaps little more thought than that, he pulled them off with a pair of pliers. Braces, I’m told, are non-refundable. Of all the lectures I’ve known to occur without actually being present, the tongue-lashing that my cousin received I imagine, must have been the most awesome and the most fearsome.
Well I never needed braces, or any sort of dental work besides a cleaning the entire time that my mom was footing the bill. However, the first time that I went to the dentist after moving out I had four cavities. Six hundred bucks for that, if I remember correctly. My luck hasn’t exactly improved since then.
A few years ago I went to the dentist and was told that I had a major problem. Not major because of the trouble it caused me, rather because every option for correcting the problem required a major bill. One of my lower teeth was a little bit loose, apparently because it was still a baby tooth; however, there was no adult tooth underneath to replace it. Prognosis: it would become looser and looser until it would eventually fall out creating dire problems. There were a variety of options to consider, including braces, but really they weren’t options for every one would cost considerably more than I had to spend on my teeth. I did the natural and ignored the problem.
Well here in
I hadn’t for a second considered an implant in
The dentist numbed my mouth so the drool could flow out unimpeded and told me, “Si, hay dolor, levanta la mano.” I thought to myself, “Oh if there’s pain I will let you know though it might involve more than just raising my hand.” But of course all I slurred was, “Esla bleian” which is Spanish for, “Just do what you have to do. I’ll pay whatever you ask but please don’t hurt me.”
Once my mouth was sufficiently numb the dentist extracted the tooth. Then the fun began. The implant needs to be attached to something; the obvious choice is the jaw bone. So, the dentist began drilling into my jaw so he could insert a screw that would provide the anchor for the implant. Apparently I have nice, solid, dense bone which meant that for some time the dentist stuck a noisy instrument into my vulnerable mouth, and mined away. The drilled caused unpleasant vibrations but it didn’t really hurt. The assistant used that little suction tool to vacuum up most of the blood.
I can’t say for sure how long this went on except that it was too long. Finally it was time to insert the screw. The screw is just that, a screw. It was a new experience to be sure, a man ratcheting a little screw into my jaw. Once that was completed it was time to be stitched up. I felt the blood leave my head when I watched the little needle enter my mouth, but I managed not to faint. He finished and I didn’t even faint when it came time to pay, though I did have to sit down for a minute.
I was given a prescription for some strong drugs which prevent me from drinking alcohol. Lisa and Luis take sadistic pleasure in drinking beer these days. I drink cavity causing soft drinks. Saturday I return to the dentist to have my stitches out. Monday I fly home to
Friday, March 28, 2008
So I am no longer in Argentina. I arrived here in Mexico on March 10th. I would have liked more time in Argentina but we flew here for a very good reason. My Mom had her spring break holidays these past two weeks and sister Lisa also was available so we all met together here in Mexico for our first family vacation in many years. Luis was invited to join us as guide and boyfriend. (Lisa´s, not mine.)
Well my mom has already come and left but in that short window of time we saw and did a lot. I don´t have the time or inclination to write everything so I will put down a few highlights. They are in chronological order:
A visit to the symphony. We went to hear the Guadalajara symphony play in a beautiful, historic theatre. The venue was gorgeous and the music better. They played a Bach violin concerto and Vivaldi´s Four Seasons. It was great. The Bach concerto was really enjoyable and to you my readers, I will impart the secret of being able to always recognize music written by Bach. Ready? Each note is absolutely perfect. And as an added delight, the Four Seasons is a great piece of music and they came out for a double encore. All in all an amazing (alliteration) experience and all for the reasonable price of $20. (Front row of first balcony.)
A trip to the town of Tequila. Beautiful little town famous for, well I can´t remember at the moment. Luis has a friend who works for the Jose Cuervo tequila factory. The only day he was available to take us out happened to Friday the 14th so we spent Good Friday trying Tequila and enjoying cheap margaritas. Most people have a healthy fear of Tequila but I´ll let you in to another secret that the Mexicans have been keeping from the rest of the world. They´re exporting the lousy stuff. When Tequila is 100% from the Agave plant it is quite nice, and from what I´m told, doesn´t cause the infamous Tequila hangover. Jimmy Buffet´s "Margaritaville" flowed through my head a good portion of the day.
The Town of Mascota. A friend of ours is from this charming little town. It is located in the dusty hills of Jalisco. We stayed at his farm and drove around. I wore a sombrero. A nice little plaza built for flirting. At night the girls circle the plaza going one way and the guys the other so everybody could check everybody else out. Not that this was a highlight, I just thought it was interesting enough to warrant attention. An added bonus, now I can make fun of my friend for being from such a hick town.
The beach by Puerto Vallarta. I won´t say that I loved Puerto Vallarta. It was just too touristy although there are some beautiful areas of the city that overlook the ocean. Nice beaches too. We went to one a ways out of town to avoid the crowds and aggressive vendors. I went for a swim as soon as I got there but I foolishly choose the empty part of the beach. The sand gave way to rocks as soon as I entered the water. The strong current did a good job of dragging my carcass across the barnacle encrusted rocks. I wouldn´t have gone in the water so far if it weren´t for the fact that I had to pee so badly. Later we discovered the reason the two sides of the beach were so much busier. (Soft, beautiful sand all the way out.) I had a great time and managed to not get too burnt.
So that´s my story. There´s more to hear but at a later date. Signing out, Ed
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Sometimes it´s the serendipitous experiences that occur while traveling that are the sweetest. On our last full day in
It turned out that we had been given some misinformation. The fair was at this time of year on Saturdays not Sundays and so there wasn’t too much to see. I did buy a couple souvenirs though, a couple of matte cups. They were available all over the city but marginally cheaper at this fair. Later Luis heard about a restaurant where there was live music so eventually we headed over to take a look.
The restaurant was a simple affair. The building was considerably longer than wide and so from the street there wasn’t much to see. We walked a fair ways towards the back of the restaurant where there was a small stage and the smell of smoky barbeque filled the air. Now it would have been funny to take Kate and Jane there if they were vegetarians, but they aren’t. They’re vegans.
I was leading the way to through the restaurant feeling quite guilty the whole way. In the back of the restaurant was a small courtyard with a big barbeque where a wide array of meats lay sizzling. This was obviously the sort of restaurant where it was more than the language barrier that kept them from understanding the word vegan. However this restaurant was, as I pointed out, the restaurant that I’ve been looking for my entire life.
We sat down and took a look at the menu. Mixed salad and french fries. They were the only two items on the menu that weren’t meat. Not the only two items that didn’t contain meat, the only two items that weren’t meat. Luis and I ordered the special mixed parrilla; it was, after all, our last day. Kate and Jane each ordered a salad and french fries; they didn’t have any french fries. Our waiter brought us out the regular parrilla by mistake. We clarified that we wanted the special parrilla, with the better cuts, and as our waiter went back to change the order Kate, wondering about the huge quantity of meat, asked Luis, “You told him that that it was just for two people right?”
“Oh yeah,” replied Luis. “That is just for two people.”
Now the beer and barbeque alone would have been enough to make it a memorable experience, but then the band came in and began to play. There were two guitarists, and a drummer. The music was loud and catchy, traditional folk songs. They were all talented musicians, but the drummer was more than that, he was also a talented showman. He had one big drum that he wore with a strap slung over his shoulder. With that one drum though he did more than keep time, hitting the edge of drum for varied sounds and adding flairs, using tables and beer bottles for added interest musically and aesthetically.
The restaurant was soon packed with people although we were the only tourists to be seen. The other patrons were all gauchos, Argentinian cowboys, and their families.
It was perhaps the best live music that I’ve ever heard. Everyone was having a good time. One of the older guys caught the eye of a woman and they began to dance some of the traditional dances. The songs and dance steps long familiar and their smiles genuine, they weren’t dancing for the enjoyment of tourists. Both lacked the beauty of youth but there dance was the most authentic and I enjoyed watching them dance more than the other professionals we had already seen.
The music was so good that it couldn’t be ignored. The couple began to dance, everyone would cheer at the end of the songs. One man stood on his chair singing along and gesturing wildly.
I was pretty sure that we were the only tourists there, I was positive when later the drummer came to our table and asked us our names and where we were from. He later announced our presence over the microphone, welcoming us. Everyone smiled and waved. It felt good to be treated as guests, rather than money carrying tourists.
When we left the restaurant after several hours we were brought back up in front of everyone for a picture with the band. Everyone in the restaurant smiled and clapped for us and waved goodbye as we left. The rest of the day I replayed the music in my head and hours later I still felt as full as if I had just finished Thanksgiving dinner. It was truly one of the most memorable traveling experiences of my life.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
When bad vegetarians die they go to Argentina. While there we decided to flip the Canada Food Guide pyramid upside down, expand the meat and protein portion and then eliminate all the other food groups, except beer and wine.
I thought that I would be better prepared for
Despite this I was surprised to learn that unlike the Brazilians, the Argentinians don’t even pretend to balance the meat with vegetables or fruit. For our first, and highly anticipated, meal in
Or maybe another part of the reason for the lack of Starbucks is due to the fact that there are countless little cafés already, each so inviting that I desired to stop at all of them. I think that these cafés are what invoked the comparison with ´50’s
Actually everything in
On our first full day in
We then headed to the cemetery where rests
After seeing these I was somewhat surprised when we came across the tomb of Evita. Much smaller and in a place of little prominence it was however, the most photographed it was the only one that I saw with fresh flowers placed reverently by the doors. We hastened our exit though since it began to rain.
We made our way to the Museo de Bellas Artes, a promising name to be sure. It didn’t disappoint. Entrance to the museum was free, as I feel all museums ought to be. Sometimes when I see works by “great” artists I wonder what makes them great. Here the opposite was often true, I would see works by some unknown artist and wonder why he hadn’t achieved greater fame although to be fair perhaps in my ignorance I was admiring works by an artist who was famous.
I myself have a fairly simple method for judging if a painting is great or not. It is great if I would like to have it in my living room and by this standard there were a lot of great paintings. There were several by the most famous of painters, Rembrandt, Degas, Renoir, Van Gough and one especially lovely painting by Monet, but then I’ve never seen a Monet that wasn’t especially lovely. The gallery was big enough that it deserved multiple visits but due to the brevity of our time in
After leaving the gallery we stumbled across a couple of street performers. They were performing different tangos and they were great. We watched them for some time.
The show went late into the night. At around two in the morning we walked the girls back towards their hostel. We were speaking English and a woman overheard. She asked us where we were from and then proceeded to give us a ten minute history lesson on
On the way back to our hostel we decided that the best way to finish the day would be to eat a steak. The nights in
Friday, March 7, 2008
Our last week there was spent with some great friends. We didn`t do a lot of touristy things but visiting with friends proved to be as enjoyable as anything else that I`ve done here. After leaving Sao Paulo we made our way to Foz de Igaçu, famed for the famous waterfalls just a few kilometers away.
The Cataratas do Iguaçu are incredible. I have never been to Niagra falls but I don`t know if I`ll ever make the effort. Iguaçu is a group of over 270 waterfalls, many large and powerful. The falls are on the border between Brazil and Argentina and we spent a good portion of a day on either side. I for one am certainly glad for the invention of the digital camera. Around every corner it seemed that there was a new and better view that I just had to capture. At the end of the first day I had taken over forty pictures, the next day I took another forty or so. Some of them are bound to be good.
A good portion of our last week was spent in buses traversing the immense distances in between the major South American cities. From Sao Paulo to Foz de Igaçu was a twelve hour bus ride. Normally I can sleep almost anywhere but that`s assuming a normal temperature for human life forms which on this bus was assuming too much. It was freezing. I suffered through a couple of hours and until a brief reprive at a bus stop. I don`t know what time it was, probably close to midnight. I really wanted to sleep. We started driving again and I enviously noticed the lady in front of my had brought a blanket. I began to wish that I had a blanket. A short while later I remebered the almost unused sleeping bag that I`ve been packing everywhere. It was stowed under the bus.
The next stop, several cold hours later, I retrieved my sleeping bag and then made my way to a rickety old washroom. There were several people in the washroom but somebody pointed out a stall to me and said something in Portuguese that apparently meant that I could use the stall. I opened the door to find a man sitting on the toilet. Apologizing profusely I shut the door. I was pretty embarassed but people do look pretty ridiculous sitting on the can.
We arrived short of sleep and then almost imediately headed out to the falls. Later that day we bought tickets to Buenos Aires for the following day, Thursday. The company had a sale on so we got a good price for great seats. Instead of four seats to a row, this bus was equipped with three seats to a row. The seats recline almost entirely back allowing for a good night sleep.
Thursday we went to the falls on Argentina´s side and returned to discover that there is an hour time difference between Argentina and Brazil and that we had missed our us by moments. We bought new tickets, for inferior seats and then consoled ourselves with beer. Not a huge deal though, good seats aren`t that important on short journeys such as the fifteen hours or so that we traveled.
Well Buenos Aires is great but you´ll have to hear about it another night because it´s really late and I am tired. This blog needs editting but I need sleep more so that`s that.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Finding a guide was easier than one might have thought. As we were leaving the bus terminal a man came up to us and asked if we had a guide. After a little bit of discussion, we agreed to hire him. We explored the town a little bit while our guide went to buy supplies for the trip. We agreed on a three day trek that would take us ultimately to both the top and bottom of Cachoeira da Fumaça, the smoking waterfall. It´s of of Brazil´s highest waterfalls but since there is not a huge flow of water the water becomes mist before reaching the bottom thus earning its name.
Finally we set out on the trek. We hiked for a little while, long enough to get hot and sweaty when we came across a stream flowing down a steep but smooth rocky incline. At the bottom was a small pool. Following our guide´s example, we ditched our packs at the top and used the rocks as a natural waterslide before landing in the cool pool below. It was good fun and a refreshing break before we headed up a hill. The next part of the hike was a long, steep climb but at the end we were rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Not like the Brazil of my imagination, the area was somewhat reminiscent of Greece or Italy with the dry rocky terrain and short trees and scrub. The valleys were more verdant and after a rest at the top of the mountain we descended into the valley.
I guess I can´t complain too much about being tired though. Most, actually all except Luis and myself, of the other tourist came to Lençois with big treking backpacks filled with lots of supplies. Luis and I had ditched our big packs at a friend´s house in São Paulo taking only one small pack each. In Lençóis we had downsized further consoladating our stuff into one pack and leaving the other. In this way we took turns carrying the one small backpack, the guide´s big pack with the food and having a break from carrying anything at all. I think at first our guide was nervous when he saw how we planned to trek, one small pack and me only in sandals but once we hit the trail and offered to take turns with his pack it went well. As to my sandals, he was wearing flip flops and couldn´t really make too many complaints.
At the end of the day we arrived at the first camp, close to a small pool that was attractively filled by a waterfall. We swam, ate lunch and I watched and photographed a small green snake that I had almost stepped on. Later with nothing but time on my hands I lay down beside the pool and the snake for a nap. When I went to sleep there were only the three of us there by the pool, myself, Luis and the guide. So you can imagine my surprise to wake up to several other people swimming, two of them young women who were swimming and sunbathing topless. A while later everyone clustered together to look at another snake that the guide had noticed. That could have been the realization of my greatest fantasy as a 13 year old, snakes, a jungle trek and topless women, in that order.
That night we had a delicious dinner while being seranaded by the croaking of frogs. I always loved animals growing up and really I haven´t grown up yet. I have a beard so I can fake it, but really I´m still just a big kid. I grabbed the flashlight and searched the rocks to catch a glimpse of some more Brazilian wildlife. Eventually I found the frog which I guess was somewhat rewarding. A little while later in the evening I heard another frog and couldn´t resist trying to find it as well. Part of me was reluctant though.
So often when I engage in childish whimsy something happens to make me regret giving in to the inner child. I had a sudden vision of me tripping and falling and breaking the flashlight. It wasn´t hard to imagine the guides laughing at the foolish gringo breaking his flashlight on the first night because he was looking for frogs. I ignored these pessimistic thoughts and shined the light down to where I heard the frog croaking. I didn´t fall and break the flashlight, something worse happened.
As soon as I turned on the light I saw a flash of moment on the outskirts of the beam of light. I tried to use the light to track whatever creature was there but it was so fast that I could only catch glimpses of it as it scurried from the light into the darkness. The images I could see though weren´t pleasant. I was sure that I had seen one of these things before on the X Files. Eventually the insect gave up trying to run and instead became totally motionless so I was able to study it closely. I It was some sort of big insect with far too many legs to be benevolent. It was just the sort of animal that I instinctively knew loved warm dark places, specifically the inside of sleeping bags.
We didn´t bring a tent and so I realized my chances weren´t good. I decided to place my bed feet towards the cavern where the insect lived, and to zip tight the zipper. It was my hope that these minimal precautions would be enough to keep my bed from being infested. I later set up my bed in the flatest, softest place available. It was marginally flat but by no means soft. There weren´t a lot of rocks there, the whole area was one large rock. My matteress didn´t offer much protection. It was probably an eighth of an inch thick when it was first made in 1976 but now it offered no more comfort than a layer of two ply toilet paper. I then crawled into my sleeping bag and realize that the zipper was broken and I was entirely at the mercy of that thing.
Eventually I managed to think happy thoughts and drift off into the land of nod. Ten minutes later I woke up my back terribly sore. I roled over onto my side, and marginally more comfortable I fell back to sleep. A while later I woke up, now my side complaining and I had to roll back over onto my back to fall asleep again. I repeated this cycle several times. Every time I woke up I would be aching. I would open my eyes praying that it would be light but more often than not I would open my eyes, see the stars, curse the rock I was sleeping on, roll over and fall back to sleep. When morning came I was glad to get up, though it was likely before seven am. The trip is all about new experiences.
That day was an easy hike of about an hour where we left our back packs and continued on to the base of the waterfall, another two hours or so. It was incredibly beautiful there, and to add to my happiness another pool was there where we could cool down and swim. We spent a few hours there and then hiked back to where our bags were to set up camp.
That night I found a spot where there was a thing layer of sand over the rocks. It wasn´t much but I had learned to be grateful. Later that evening, after dinner, the guides excitedly shouted, "Aranha, aranha!" which I had the misfortune of understanding. "Spider, spider!" I couldn´t resist and headed over to see a huge tarantula. As if there weren´t already enough creepy things to crawl into my bed.
When I set up my bed I realized that in fact my zipper did work, there was a second zipper that opened the other way that I hadn´t seen in the dark. I crawled into my bed grateful for the added protection against insects, snakes, and now spiders. After ten seconds I was roasting and flinging my covers off I took my chances. That night was impossibly, a worse sleep than the night before. I don´t know why, but I woke up twice as many times. I didn´t suffer anything worse than a few mosquito bites though.
We left camp early that day to trek to the top of the waterfall. It was a long fairly steep climb but once again the view from the top made it worthwhile. Eventually we reached the top of the falls. It was crowded with people, many who do a shorter day hike from a different town to reach the falls. A man had set up a little store selling drinks. I somewhat eagerly, somewhat anxiously made my way to the edge of the cliff. Crawling on my stomache the last couple feet I peaked my head over the edge.
Miles below I could see small pond where only yesterday I had swam. The height was incredible. My stomache did tricks as I tried not to think about how far of a fall it was to the bottom. Later from a different vantage point I realized that I hadn´t been lying on a solid cliff, but actually a rock that jutted out from the edge of the cliff. This is likely where the Warner Brothers went when they wrote the Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
We left the top of the mountain and headed back to another town where we caught a car back to Lençóis. I learned that day that guitar legend Jimmy Page owns two houses in Lençóis and on the walk down I sang Led Zeppelin songs and hoped for a chance meeting. In never happened though. We spent a little time exploring, a little time visiting and then had dinner. After dinner we caught the 11:30 bus back to Salvador where I am now, very tired and very smelly but very content. In a few hours we fly to Rio where I can make more memories to share with you, my dedicated reader. (I love you Mom!) Until then, tchau!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
We left Curitiba and returned to Sao Paulo. The friends we stayed with, Silvia and her daughters Carina, Patricia and Veronica, took us out all around the city. Art museums, parks, historical museums. It´s no surprise that a city the size of Sao Paulo has so much to see. There´s nothing that´s really grand on an international scale, such as the Tower of London or the Eiffel Tower, but definitely enough to pass some enjoyable days. Probably the most unforgettable thing though wasn´t one of the museums or parks. On a Friday night we headed out to the Praça da Sé with members of Patricia´s college and career group. There they handed out food to many of the homeless living in the area. They also talked and prayed with the people there. It was sad to see so many people living on the fringes. In Calgary, there´s places to go but here in Brazil there is very little to help people get out of the trap of poverty.
I started writing a blog the other day but it wasn´t going anywhere so I deleted it. I was trying to explain how hard it is to see the inequality of life here. I get a little bit angry when I see the corruption here, and of course I see very little of how much there actually is. I have a renewed appreciation for life in Canada.
After spending a while in Sao Paulo we headed north to the city of Salvador where we are currently. Salvador was formerly a major slave centre and this is reflected in the culture which shows very strong African influence. Salvador is city where music can be heard around every corner. Tonight while walking around the city we passed countless musicians and groups playing in the streets or on small stages. Probably my favourite group was the one that passed us while we were eating dinner. It consisted of four of some of the smallest, skinnest, frailest old men that I´ve seen in a while. One played the accordian, another a drum, the third the triangle and the final and frailest collected money. Their costumes consisted of leather hats and the man collecting the money had a toy pistol in his belt and a wooden rifle that doubled as a cane most of the time.
They played down the street from us and then started walking up the road to where we were eating. Being a "wealthy" tourist in a poor city I had been urged to part with my money all day, for the weakest of reasons. Finally I found some people who were actually doing something, weren´t up in my face demanding money, and furthermore I feel that people of that age ought not to have to work. I didn´t have any small change on me but Louis had two bills, 1 Real and another of 2 Reals. A Real is worth a little more than 50 cents Canadian. As they walked up the street they stopped playing. I didn´t want to give them money for nothing but they had been playing earlier. As I tried to think of what to give they passed by. I called back to the rifleman/money collecter and handed him 1 Real. He accepted it gratefully and then called back to the band to come back and play for us.
Reluctantly, we hadn´t given much, the band came back and started to play. I was thinking to give the other 2 Reals but then inexpicable the rifleman ran off, with surprising speed. We wondered where he had gone, I suggested he ran off with the money. A little while later he returned and the band had headed back down the street and since he never came back we never gave any more money. Down the street though we heard a blast from his rifle leaving us to speculate he used our money to buy a cap for his rifle. I hadn´t my camera with me but I hope that I will see them again and be able to get a picture.
The other great band was made up only of drums played by young guys with long dreads. They made a huge racket but the rhythm was so infectious that even I had the urge to dance. So many more stories to tell, and I´m not so happy with the way this blog has turned out but I´m tired now so I´m going to wrap things up. Soon I´ll be leaving the city to enjoy a hike in the Brazilian forest.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Later in the afternoon Luis and I went out for beer with Jason´s cousin Daniel and his girlfriend Camilla. Let me just state that the weather was warm and sitting on the patio, the first sip of beer was so good. That´s not the point though. The point is that it was very enjoyable and since Daniel and Camilla spoke slower, or in English, I understood much more. Afterwards we headed back to Jason´s aunt´s house where we were to be met by some of Jason´s friends who had offered to host us. We got back to the house and met our new hosts, a very lovely couple indeed. Before we left for their house I decided to use the facilities.
After using the washroom I walked passed the back door. The thing that I like about houses outside of North America is that they are usually quite unique. It´s impossible to know what might be hidden behind a door or whether a yard will be a tiny concrete patio or a large garden oasis. So with this in mind I decided to poke my head out the window and see what the yard was like. However, the window wasn´t actually opened, jus particularly well cleaned rendering it invisible. I smacked my head against the glass. It was of the thin, quick to shatter variety. The incredibly loud crash quickly summoned a crowd of people to discover what the Canadian goon broke. They found me standing by the window, somewhat dazed, bleeding from my forehead and the back of my hand.
The cut on my forehead was superficial but a falling shard of glass cut open quite a deep wound on the back of my hand. Jason´s aunt thought I should go to the clinic for stitches but I didn´t agree. It´s bad enough to get a reputation as a "clumsy, walking disaster" without having to be known as a "clumsy, walking disaster who faints while getting stitches." I managed to convince everyone that I would be fine and I think that I am. The cut was taped up and it seems to be much better even after 24 hours. The other interesting thing about the incident is that after the shock of the crash I looked down and realized that I had instinctively caught two large shards of glass in my uninjured hand without getting the slightest cut. Catlike reflexes I suppose.
Well I have to go get ready for the wedding, hopefully I´ll manage to make it through the evening without making too big a fool of myself. Granted, I´m quite used to having a room full of people making jokes about me in a language that I don´t understand.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
The flight went well. It was long but not too tiresome. It wasn't until I saw Brazil from the plane as we descended that I realized what a huge mistake I had made. Speaking with people before I left I lied a little bit. When I said I was really looking forward to my trip it wasn't totally true. I knew that I loved traveling so I was excited to go but I wasn't really looking forward to my trip. But then we were coming in for a landing, I saw a green land stretching out before me and all of a sudden the travel bug hit me, I felt the need to start traveling with little desire to ever return to Canada. When we landed and and I breathed in the warm tropical air what little desire I had to live in Canada again disappeared completely.
At the airport we were met by a friend who had stayed at our house when she came visiting Canada. I knew her but not her two friends. I enjoy making people laugh, and it was long before I inadvertantly won some laughs by the Brazillians. I knew that Brazillians greet with a kiss so I gave Patricia a kiss but I wasn't sure about the other girl who I had never met. In Canada if I were to start kissing girls within a second of introduction I would expect a slap. So I somewhat nervously assessed the situation and decided that I should greet her with a kiss but it ended up being a little bit awkward. They didn't laugh then but it came out later that yes, they were laughing at me.
We spent some time exploring Sao Paulo, the biggest city I've ever seen, and enjoyed some good food and company. I realized that I should have learned a little bit more Portuguese. Traveling is infinitely better if you're able to communicate at least a little bit with the locals. I understand enough to know when they're laughing at me, so I understand what's going on fairly regularly.
We later headed to Curitiba where the wedding is to be. We eventually found a hotel hat was cheap enough to make us happy yet safe looking enough to make Jason happy. Actually, he wasn't really happy with our choice but so far so good. We locked the door at night which is considerably more than we do in Canada so I feel fairly safe.
The one danger I definitely do have to worry about is obesity. Jason and some of his friends and family took us to a restaurant called a churrascaria. What it means is all you can eat food, of the delicious and varied variety of steak. I tried various types of beef, lamb, boar and I don't know what else. All I know is that I can barely move. Apparently the one we went to was mediocre, I'll tell you for sure later on. We intend on trying more of these churrascarias before we leave. Well, I should head back to my hotel soon, scare off any kidnappers and that sort of thing.