We hit up a Mexican place for soup and the chat turns to reflection. She’s been interviewed on TV three times this past month and made space after each to study how she did, pinpoint areas for improvement. First time noticed she occasionally looks up and to the left while speaking. Second time noticed she didn’t have great rapport with the host. Third time? Nailed it.
I have my little routine here in Cusco. About noon every day I hit up the same coffee shop for a bowl of soup. Afterwards I stroll down the hill to the market and find the extremely old woman selling extremely good cheese. I usually have to wake her up to buy a wedge. Today I stuck around nearby for some fresh-made juice, exchanging banter with a lady in the middle.
I’m noticing here what I noticed in Nepal: people walk out of exits or alleyways and cut you off without a blink or a bother. But a bigger pet peeve is the sidewalk etiquette. Or rather, the lack thereof. Foot traffic coming opposite often won’t budge to the side, even if there’s plenty of room for everyone. You’re forced down to the gutter to let them pass.
After sitting in front of a computer all day, my social skills are mush. I’m at the Rover trying to strike up conversations, but everything feels forced and awkward and self-conscious. I know I could stick it out, just keep talking and trying and I’d eventually come good. But I’m out of there and headed home by half seven. Tons of work on my plate these days. El divertido will have to wait.
I worked it all out. Twelve hours overnight to La Paz. I’ll stay in Bolivia a week or so and try pop down to the salar before making a break for Brazil. It’ll be fifteen hours on to Santa Cruz, then another ten to the border. Five hours from there to Campo Grande, then a whole night and day on a bus to Belo Horizonte. Some four thousand kilometers in less than two weeks.
My health has taken a nose dive in recent weeks. Ever since I stepped off that ship, really. The work stuff all-consuming, I haven’t exercised or stretched for more than a month. My lower back is aching from stagnation. I’ve been eating fairly healthy so I’ve kept the weight off and the abs are still there, but I get out of breath just walking up a hill, and not just because the air is thinner in these parts.
I’ve been using the Five Minute Journal app for a month or so. Don’t know if it’s made me any happier, but it’s certainly made me more conscious. Mainly through the nighttime question, “How could you have made today better?” My last five answers:
- Could have been more present in conversation
- More smiles
- Could have been more bold and honest with that Israeli girl
- Better social effort at the Rover
- Less YouTube
It’s almost 1am as I type this, been an interesting day. Started out with a phone call from an Irish radio legend, recorded an interview about my travels. Got some solid work done, ate some cheese, played some pool, hired an assistant… feeling productive and inspired overall, and very much looking forward to these next few months in Brazil. Sensing big things ahead.
I spend most of the day in bed. I’ve had food poisoning before, but this feels different. Besides the fever and desire to throw up, it’s as if something is lodged in my stomach. I have to make do with shallow breaths to avoid the pain. If it’s not better by morning I’ll make a break for the hospital. In the meantime, I’ll put on Mr Holland’s Opus and have myself a good cry.
Just climbed aboard the rebirth bus to Bolivia. I haven’t felt like myself here in Peru these past six weeks. I barely exercised, and the money worries wore me down. I never felt like I could let go and really be me. All in my head of course. But this is one of the advantages of the travel lifestyle. Every new place can be a fresh start, a chance to do better. Move on, respawn.
Six hours after arriving in La Paz, I’m walking into a wedding and kissing the bride on the cheek. The big cultural lesson from the evening is that Bolivians really love cowbell. I swear to the ghost of Pedro Murillo, every single song played by the band has some heavy cowbell going on. Every. Single. Song. And yet, they could probably do with a little more.
I’m sometimes envious of backpackers. You know, those types doing 3-6 month round-the-world trips. Their time is all their own. Here in Bolivia they can go see the pink dolphins, death road and the Amazon, take a week or two offline as needed. But I don’t have that luxury. I’ll squeeze in the salt flats this week, all I have time for while juggling the work stuff and battling slow Internet.
Standing at the corner of Mexico and Colombia, waiting for a friend I’ve never met before. It’s dark, traffic lights out, street buzzing. I try notice odd things — like the old man with the hula hoop — and things that are missing — like scooters, insects and bald people. The cops are female, five bodies to a vehicle, lights peeking from the hills like budding stars.
After midnight in a lower bunk, a room with six beds. There’s music thumping across the courtyard, the party in full swing. My roommates talk and joke about weed and cocaine and Absinthe. I was supposed to be sleeping aboard a bus tonight, en route to that white spot the size of Cyprus. But they’re striking down in Uyuni, roads blocked up.
Memories of Manzanillo as I climb a hill at the city’s edge, dogs barking like I’m a mailman made of cats. The sun breaks beyond the crest and I’m looking out over a red-tinted valley, with Illimani dwarfing hills to the southeast. Twenty minutes later I’m back through the canine gauntlet, scribbling Spanish words in a new book and sliding it under a black gate.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?