Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all you people in the States!
If you were wondering why I wrote the less pithy phrase of  "all you people in the States" rather than "all you Americans", there is a reason.  I knew this little tid bit prior to coming to South America, but it has come up in conversations with some of the locals a couple of times so it is worth mentioning here.  Other people in North, Central, and South America do not appreciate people from the United States referring to themselves as "Americans" as if we were the only ones.  They also take pride in being Americans and thus differentiating themselves from the old world and the colonial powers.  They also proudly identify as Costa Ricans, Peruvians, Argentines, etc.  But they do not like hearing people from the States referring to themselves as Americans without the qualifier that we are from the United States of America.  They don't get pissy about it of course, but they will remind you that they are other Americans in this world.  ;)
We had a very pleasant Thanksgiving even if it was untraditional.  Thanksgiving is a very important holiday to Ozell.  I don't put much significance on holidays in general although I may be excited by Halloween, Xmas, my birthday, etc on any particular year.  I thought there was going to be a decent chance that Thanksgiving would not be an enjoyable day for Ozell because he is away from family and we had little luck in finding any turkey for sale here in Rosario unless you count the turkey sub from the Subway we found a few blocks away.  Thankfully, Ozell enjoyed his Thanksgiving even though it probably didn't turn out the way he originally hoped it would.
The day started in the early afternoon as is sometimes customary when we were out the night before.  We met Federico outside of the hostel and went with him to a beach about 8 km up river from the center of the city.  Two things:  Federico is a guy who works at the hostel we are staying at.  Ozell and he hit it off pretty much from the first day we were here.  He is a very nice, intelligent, and attractive young man and has artistic talents as well.  Secondly, Rosario is a city along a river like many others around the world.  However, the river here is exceptionally broad and has many islands (some pretty damn large) in the middle of it.  There are bars and beaches strewn about the banks of the river and the islands in the middle.  They are popular local hangouts with all of the typical amenities of seaside beaches:  sand, umbrellas, chairs, cocktails, and water.  The three of us went to one of these beaches to spend the afternoon.  It was wonderful because it was sunny and hot!
When we came back into town, it was too late to even consider making a Thanksgiving dinner ourselves.  We still had not found a place that sold turkey anyways.  Ozell and I cleaned up and then went for a nice dinner at one of the local restaurants in the pedestrian area of town.  We had a nice relaxing time, and it was nice to eat dinner together.  After dinner, which we had late to begin with, we met back up with Federico outside the hostel.  We were all going to go to a bar called Bar Del Mar which we had visited the night before.  It is a gay friendly bar here in Rosario-  smaller and with a neighborhood feel.  The night before Federico had taken us there.  He brought one of his good friends along named Jose.  While it was quite obvious that Federico and Ozell had taken a liking towards each other from earlier in the week, I am not socially astute, and didn't realize that Federico had brought Jose along as a potential match for me.  I just assumed that Jose was a friend who was coming along because that is how I would behave.  To make a long story short, I thought Jose was very handsome and intelligent in his own right, but when I occasionally looked over at him while we were at the bar, I didn't think he was expressing any interest in me at all so I just carried on accordingly.  Well, the next day at the beach with Federico and Ozell, I told Federico that I thought Jose was hot but I didn't think he had any interest in me.  Federico chuckled because Jose did have an interest in me and had told Federico that he tried flirting with me throughout the evening but I didn't seem interested in him.  lol  That's the way things go- especially when I am one of the people involved.
The point being is that we all went out to Bar Del Mar on Thanksgiving night.  At first, it didn't look like Jose was going to meet us there because he was not feeling well.  That disappointed me some because now I knew we were both interested in each other and I knew that Ozell and Federico would be making googling eyes at each other which does make me feel like a 3rd wheel if there is not something else to grab my attention.  But, Jose did show up at the bar, and we all had a really nice time.  We all went back to Jose's place, listened to some music and YouTube videos, smoke some weed (the first time I got high since our first week in Lima, Peru), and then spent the late night/early morning with each of our new friends.
I really enjoyed Jose's company.  However, he had to get up for a study group early in the morning so I left his place around 6am to head back to the hostel.  Ozell stayed with Federico and had a very pleasant morning with the other roommates.  Then they all had lunch together.
So even though it was not a traditional Thanksgiving in any sense, it was a very enjoyable and memorable one for both of us.
More about some of the people we have met here in Rosario in a subsequent post....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rosario, Argentina 2008

Best Wishes and Good Fortunes to you All,
We have now arrived in Rosario, Argentina.  We arrived yesterday in the afternoon after a 6.5 hour bus ride to cover only 230 miles of flat and semi-arid farmland.  The roads are just two lane highways.  Since there were multiple slow moving trucks on the road and since we were on a double decker tour bus, passing the slower trucks was often not possible.  We also stopped four or five times at intermediary towns for pick ups and drop offs of passengers.  It was pretty slow going.  At least we did get to see some of the countryside. 
It is HOT in Rosario.  We made it to the lower 90's during the last couple days in Cordoba, and we are not suppose to be less that the mid 90's during our week stay here in Rosario.  We felt it sleeping in the hostel last night and walking around the town today.  Ozell has been desiring warmer temperatures, but I think even he wouldn't mind if it was a little bit cooler here.  I'm fine with the lower or mid 80's.  Buenos Aires is supposed to be just as hot.  Rosario so far has a much better appeal at street level than Cordoba.  The buildings are more aesthetically pleasing and the streets are wider and cleaner.  There are some public monuments and fountains.  And... the men are better looking and often shirtless.  Being shirtless was unheard of in each of the previous places we have visited.  Ozell and I have not figured it out yet.  Cordoba was just as hot and only 230 miles to the west (slightly north, but mainly west).  Here it seems that on each block there is a shirtless guy- at least today.  Maybe it is the temperature today,  We will see.  
A brief note on guys...  Well when it rains; it pours.   Just as I wrote my posting about sexual frustrations, the next four and final days in Cordoba brought me at least one new lay a day- a couple days, I had two.  Not only were the guys hot and the sex great, I actually managed to meet two guys who I had great dates with also.  So I can add two more to the "great dates" column.  Two of the guys not only had great bodies, they had fantastic faces.  The best I have seen on this continent.  I am happy and content again.  Lol
Rosario is the town where Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born.  He has become a cult figure to the youth around the western world, but it an anathama to the conservatives in America since he was a socialist revolutionary and facilitated Castro's ascension in Cuba.  The pic attached to this e-mail is of a bronze statue comemorated in 2008 in a grassy and modest plaza in a non descript section of Rosario.  
Cheers for now,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things I'm Getting Used To

At this point, this is officially the longest period of time I have been away from home.  My longest trip was back in 2004 when I spent a month in Europe.  Being away from home for so long is not always easy, and traveling can be as much work sometimes as it is fun, but so far I'm very happy with the experiences I've had.  Nevertheless, now that we're approaching six weeks away, I figured I would comment on a few of the things I'm getting used to, which inevitably includes some of the things I miss from home.  
Coffee:  Everyone who knows me knows I'm a huge coffee addict.  Back home, I typically drink three to four cups a day during the week and at least two cups a day on weekends.  I absolutely love good coffee (God, I miss my Peets Coffee) and since I drink so much, I have a really bad caffeine addiction... or at least I HAD an addiction.  After a month or so here in South America, I think I've actually broken the habit.  We may get half our coffee beans in the US from South America, but drinking coffee is just not as popular here as it is in other places.  It's not like Europe where espresso is the norm and finding brewed coffee is difficult; it's simply impossible to find good coffee, in any form, anywhere.  Chile was the worst because when you ordered coffee in a restaurant, they would give you a cup of hot water and a packet of Nescafe instant coffee.  What the fuck?  Anything that dissolves in water is not coffee... it's some scary type of freeze-dried, artificial, chemical substance with a taste vaguely similar to something resembling coffee.  At least Argentina has places with real espresso machines so I can occasionally find that, but a double espresso is just not the same as brewed coffee, especially without half-and-half, which is another thing that just doesn't exist here, anywhere, at all.  I would even go for a Starbucks at this point; even substandard Starbucks coffee is better than nothing... at least it's not served in a packet.  Nevertheless, I've grown accustomed to not drinking coffee.  Some days, I'll fulfill my caffeine needs by drinking Fanta, but most days, I just simply go without.
No TV:  Again, not that I was a huge TV watcher to being with, but I had my regular shows and TV habits.  I really miss watching the local news everyday when I get home and again before I go to bed.  I miss my 10News Team: Carol LeBeau, Hal Clement, Loren Nancarrow (my sexy weatherman), Michael Chen, and even Kimberly Hunt, although I didn't get to know her as well since she's still new.  I miss Jeopardy, the Discovery and History channels, Animal Planet, and even CNN.  Most of the hostels here have a TV room, but I never really use them since I would simply turn to the one English station, which is typically CNN, and most people aren't terribly excited to watch quasi-serious, but mostly sensational US news with our poor excuse for journalists.  I try to keep up with news and other happenings online, but I mostly just browse the headlines and try to enjoy my time away from everything.  From what I can see from here, things back home still suck and aren't getting better anytime soon, so I guess I'm not missing too much.  I still haven't quite figured out what to do about LOST, which starts in January.  I would just wait until I get home and just watch the entire season on DVD, but the DVD's don't usually come out until December... as in a year from now.  I really hope I'll be able to watch the episodes online. 
No Cell Phone:  It's amazing how well I've adjusted to not having a cell phone.  Not that I was ever a big phone person anyway, but I did like being able to text friends to keep in touch, plus having a cell phone was especially convenient when I was out with Sean and we got separated.  It would definitely be nice to have a phone here so I can contact Sean those times we go out separately or do different things, but we've managed to get by just fine.  Skype has been one of the best investments we made on this trip.  Even though the call quality isn't always good, mostly due to the shitty internet connections in some places, it's still useful to have a way to call home or take care of business matters, etc. 
Stares:  This is just part of traveling.  Having locals stare at you is something I've experienced before, but here in South America, the staring has been much more intense, and not just from kids, but from all ages.  And it's not like some places where, once people realize you notice them staring, they turn away.  People here just keep staring even if you look them in the face.  They just have this puzzled look on their faces as if to say, "Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?" It's almost funny at times but I'm getting used to it.  It really just reminds me of how little most people travel outside of their own city, state, or country, and that goes for the locals here as well as Americans.  Many of the cities we've been to thus far aren't necessarily big tourist destinations to begin with, and since Americans rarely travel to South America, I think both of us have been oddities to the locals and they don't hesitate to display their curiosity by staring.  I do appreciate the ones who actually talk to us and ask where we're from, but I think being Black, especially, is just so different from what many of the people here see on a regular basis, they often don't know what to think.  I've actually had people ask if I'm Peruvian or Brazilian, but most assume American.  I wonder if many of them have ever seen a Black American before in person.  The funniest question I've gotten repeatedly on this trip is, "Why did you come here"?  People first assume work or school because they really don't understand why someone would want to travel to their country for holiday/vacation.  They figure, if you have the choice, there are so many other places to go.  I say, well, I've been to many places and I'm sure there's something in your city worth seeing so that's why I'm here.  What good is a round-the-world trip to the well-documented, major, tourist cities that everyone else has already been to?  It's the difference between Mexico City or Zihuatanejo versus Cancun or Puerto Vallarta.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sex In South America

First of all, I don't want everyone to think we're on a round-the-world sex tour.  Don't get me wrong, I love sex and that's definitely one of things I look forward to when I travel, for reasons I'll describe below.  However, while we may blog a lot about our sexual encounters and experiences, it's merely because there's only so much one can write about a museum, a park or a national monument other than to say it was nice, worth seeing, or totally sucked.  Sex is different in the sense that, while every culture does it, each culture approaches it somewhat differently and the people in different countries have varying attitudes towards sex, especially when it comes to gays.  All this makes for interesting observations and experiences, like the sex hotels in Chile, which I find much more interesting to write about.
Anyway, since Sean mentioned his frustration and disappointment a few days ago, I wanted to share my overall experience as well, which, as Sean mentioned, has been quite different.  As I mentioned, sex is one of the things I look forward to when I travel.  Why?  Because I've spent the last six plus years living in a city where I have had to face the same lack of opportunities that Sean has experienced here in South America.  I got tired of even talking about it back home because after a while, even friends would write my complaints off as exaggeration or plain old bitching, but regardless of how many people choose not to see it or admit it, the San Diego gay community is the most discriminatory (dare I say racist?) community I've ever seen and Black guys just are not popular, appreciated, desirable, or even noticed.  The fact that San Diego gay guys are "not into Black guys" is not always blatant, but oftentimes it is, and it's always simply written off as "personal preference".  Call it what you want, but the fact remains that back home, getting laid was difficult for me simply because I'm Black.  Of course, there were occasionally other issues involved or reasons given for my repeated rejection, but the most predominant factor, by far, was race.  Sure, I had few fuck buddies over the years in San Diego, which helped to contain my anger and frustration, but most of my fuck buddies were not exactly guys you would take home to meet the parents or introduce to your friends.  But when you're horny and desperate, the guy doesn't necessarily have be attractive; he can even be a little old or overweight, but if he's good in bed, who cares.  Living in San Diego, I didn't necessarily lower my standards, but I learned to look for and appreciate other qualities in potential hook ups and not be so focused on physical appearance.  That was the only way to stay sane.  Oftentimes, it's the guy no one else pays attention to that's best anyway, not just in bed, but overall.  I discussed this with my best friend Carsten when I was in Switzerland recently because he is the only person I know who understands and has had similar experiences.  I won't even get started on the utter lack of dates or platonic, non-sexual encounters in San Diego.  I had relatively few dates outside of my primary relationship and nothing that lasted or, as was the case a few times with Sean, morphed into a genuine, lasting friendship.  The only guy I've met in the last few years who I've developed a relationship with, or was even interested in anything beyond sexual, lives in Germany! 
Getting back on track, the reason I look forward to sex when I travel is because everywhere else I've ever been, being Black does not prohibit me from finding guys to hook up with and I always have better sex outside of San Diego... even in other cities in the States.  Sure there are places where Black guys are fetishized, like the few white guys in San Diego who are exclusively into Black guys because of the "big dick" stereotype; but, for the most part, guys outside of the States like Black guys because they find us attractive.  It's that simple.  The guys I hook up with abroad always talk about how nice my skin is, how much they like my hair, how much they like my body, etc.  Sure, I still get compliments on my dick, but in places like Germany, at least half the guys are even more hung than I am so it's not like that's their primary reason for hooking up with me.  And in places like South America where I've seen very few guys as hung as me, most of the guys I've hooked up with have either been tops, or in a few cases, versatile guys who just "couldn't take it" so still ended up topping me, so it's not like the guys here are looking for the stereotypical big-dicked black guy. 
As far as the sexual experiences in South America themselves, it's not like everything has been as rewarding and enjoyable as it may sound.  Sometimes the sex has been good, sometimes it's not; only a couple of experiences have been excellent.  Oftentimes, it's more about the moment.  Take Cusco for example.  We went to a really nice restaurant one Sunday night where all of the waiters were hot, 20-something year old Peruvian guys.  Over dinner, Sean and I both commented on which ones we liked the best and had our favorites picked out.  I even tried talking to the one I liked when he came to clear our table, but he didn't speak any English, which he appeared to be quite shy about.  Nevertheless, we were at the bar a couple days later and, lo and behold, there was Mr. Hot Waiter from the restaurant sitting at the bar with his friend who had an even nicer body but was not as attractive in the face.  Long story short, I think Sean mentioned we left the bar with them and went to a hotel where I had decent (albeit quick) sex with my guy in a room that smelled of raw sewage while Sean, in another room, had a bad experience with the other guy.  We could have just gone home, but we didn't and, good or bad, we both have something to blog about. 
I have had the pleasure of fulfilling one fantasy since I've been here in Cordoba.  I have my own little fetish for guys with tattoos... the more the better.  There's nothing hotter to me than a guy with "sleeves", tattoos covering his entire arms from the shoulder to the wrist.  It was late Tuesday night and Sean had just decided to go to bed, so I took a chance on a guy I was chatting with online.  He had seven or eight pictures, but none were above the waist, so all I really saw were his legs and his dick.  Since he was relatively close by, I decided to go for it and was pleasantly surprised when he opened the door to let me in.  His entire back was covered in ink; he had a full sleeve on one arm and the other arm was about 2/3 full; more tattoos on his chest, abs, and thighs.  And he also had a nice face and hot body!!  Definitely the hottest guy I've hooked up with since I've been in South America.  The sex, however, while good, could have been better.  As with many of the guys in Catholic country, this guy wasn't really into kissing and his balls and ass were off limits.  He pretty much only wanted to get sucked and fuck me.  He was quite the energizer bunny though and we went a few rounds in the couple of hours I was there, but if it weren't for the tattoos, I probably wouldn't have been interested in a repeat, which I did have tonight.  Again, he lives a 10 minute walk away and actually has his own place (or pigsty), a HUGE plus and a rarity down here, especially for a 28 year old.
So yes, I've had sex in every country I've been to so far except Bolivia, but it's not like it's been all high-quality, mind-blowing, marathon sex.  And despite all the sex, it would be nice to have a more intimate experience sometime.  It would be nice to meet someone cool and get to know them, instead of just going from random trick to random trick.  Having lots of sex is great, and I look for that, but while I may have more opportunities for sex here than I do in San Diego, the shallow, carnal nature of the experiences is the same.  It would be nice to find someone interested in me for more than just sex, but I guess the one thing living in San Diego has taught me is that I can't have everything.  So like San Diego, I'll take what I can get, which is probably more than most guys, and I'll try not to complain.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Random Observations

The Milan Mullet: When I was touring Italy over four years ago, I was baffled by the popular, trendy hairstyle among the young guys, which was, for all intents and purposes, what we in America would call a mullet.  The only real deviation is that the head was usually shaved almost bald on the sides over the ears, still left a little longer on top with the characteristic long hair in the back.  I found it bizarre, especially since Milan is supposed to be one of the fashion capitals of the world and where many trends start.  I said then, such a hairstyle will NEVER catch on in the US... it's too much like a mullet.  Four years later, as predicted, it never caught on in the US and the faux hawk became the most popular cut back home, although even that seems to be fading now.  But here in South America, and especially in Chile, the Milan Mullet is in full force!  I won't even attempt to give precise numbers, but a large percentage of the young guys have some form of mullet. Some are traditional with the hair just a little long in the back; others are more drastic, with the shaved sides, curly top, and really long hair in the back.  We've even seen quite a few guys with a particularly strange (and unattractive) take on the mullet... they have long dreadlocks in the back where the "mullet" part of the hairstyle is, but the rest is just short, normal hair.  And it wasn't necessarily the grungy, hippy youth or the alternative, punk kids with such styles.  The Milan Mullet is simply "in" down here.  And after seeing it so often, you actually get used to it.  Heaven forbid!
PDA: What is it with Latinos and public displays of affection?  I've been to Mexico a few times so I'm no stranger to Latin norms and customs when it comes to PDA.  I would describe Lima as being very similar to Mexico in this aspect, but Chile took things to a whole new level.  I love that Santiago had lots of green spaces and parks throughout the city.  What I didn't like is that the parks were all full of couples devouring each other on the benches, the grass and everywhere you turn.  Get a fucking room!!!  Even walking down the street, guys would be all over their girls in a very clear and obvious territorial way.  Rather than genuine affection or love, which is one thing, the PDA here is more like the men marking their territory and letting other guys know, this is my woman, which is disgusting.  Some of the women even looked completely annoyed and disinterested, while the guys just held the girls heads and shoved their tongues down their throats.  I don't get it and I see it as nothing more than insecurity and machismo bullshit. 
Cajas: One of the interesting things about most places here in South America has been the Cajas (Cashiers).  Most businesses, whether it's a restaurant or bar, etc., have a cashier who handles all the money.  So if you're at a bar and want a drink, you first have to go to the caja and pay, then you receive a ticket, which you give to the bartender for your drink.  The same is true in restaurants; you go to the caja to pay your bill rather than settling the bill with your server.  This was much more common in Chile and Peru than it has been here in Argentina, but it still exists here as well.  It's often a more efficient system in the sense that you don't have to wait as long, especially in bars, because the bartenders are able to focus solely on making drinks instead of having to operate a cash register as well.  Obviously, there are restaurants back home with the same type of system, and like back home, the system seems to be less common in the more upscale restaurants.
Chilean Spanish: Before coming to South America, I was really excited to be able to use my Spanish again.  Although I studied it for years in school and should be pretty proficient, I haven't practiced or used it much in years, so my level of speaking and comprehension sucks.  After a couple of weeks in Peru, it's amazing how quickly a lot of it came back to me and how well I was able to communicate, although I mostly use it for the most basic of things like ordering food, asking directions, etc.  Through Peru and Bolivia, I felt more and more confident in my abilities and it became more and more easy to understand the locals.  Unfortunately, once we got to Chile, I experienced first-hand what the guide books warn you about.  Chileans do NOT speak Spanish!  I would liken it more to Chinese since that's about how much I can understand of it.  It's not just the speed at which they speak or their pronunciation of words; it's the complete substitution of many basic words and the addition of many new words that I don't know and that don't even come up in a language translator.  It became really frustrating at times and I had to constantly remind Sean, who would often look to me to translate, that I don't understand any more than he does.  It was bizarre because you always hear about the Spanish language being pretty universal, irrespective of the country.  Spanish is not like German, which has countless dialects and variations, but Chilean Spanish compared to the Spanish that I learned and understand, is like the difference between High German and Swiss German.  If you're really fluent in one, you can get by with the other, but if you're barely proficient in one, you're screwed.  Such was our experience in Chile.  Luckily for me, the people in Argentina actually speak Spanish.
Santiago COE:
Pack of Cigarettes: $2.50
McDonalds Value Meal: $4.00
Domestic Beer at the bar: $2.50 (for a fucking can that may or may not be cold; they don't have bottles!!)
Coffee: Don't get me started on the Nescafe! 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cordoba, Argentina 2008

Que Tal Todos,
That's probably grammatically incorrect also.  My Spanish vocabulary has improved.  And the funny thing is that I have been able to chat with some guys here in South America in German.  It seems that after Spanish (Portuguese in Brazil) and then English, German is the next most spoken language we have come across.  Southern Chile seems to be a hot bed of German.  And I have chatted with a couple of guys in German in the few days we have been in Argentina.  That made more sense to me because of the Nazis fleeing to Argentina after the war.  Lol  Now that I think about it, Matheus, the Brazilian I met in Berlin mentioned in my last post, is pretty fluent in German and went to a German school in Brazil.  He made it sound like that was not that unusual.  So my point was that I have been able to keep up on a little German while I have been in South America also.
Now to Cordoba...  Ah Cordoba...  As Ozell mentioned in his post about Valparaiso, Chile, I am disappointed with Cordoba and would say this is a city that could be easily skipped on a tour of South America.  Our guide book mentioned that Cordoba assumed the title of "Cultural Capital of the Americas".  Well, I haven't seen it.  I've only seen a moderately dirty city with little in architecture or street level appeal.  We arrived on Monday so we wanted to stay through the weekend to give the city's nightlife a chance.  There seems to be no nightlife during the week- at all.  In fact, this is the first place in South America that seems to shut down completely at 9-10pm.  The funny thing is that it is still daylight at 9pm, but yet everything is closed.  "Everything" may be a slight exaggeration, but not really.  And considering that every other country's nightlife (restaurants, bars, shops) seemed to just get started or at least stay open at 10pm, midnight,  2 am,  this is a little bit strange. 
I did visit a couple of the museums and walk around half of the outer city.  I don't have pics posted of this place because I have found very little reason to take any pictures.  There is nothing of note here.  We have had an okay time just relaxing in the afternoon and evenings.  Like we are doing right now- sipping beer (they have a liter of Stella Artois for $2.50), getting some sun (I'm trying to prep for Brazil), and catching up on these blog posts.  I get to listen to some streaming American radio.  It is hot during the day and comfortable at night.  It reminds me of Florida without the humidity.
The one pic I am posting with this blog is of a church we came across while walking to a museum.  It wasn't even listed on our tourist map, but it happened to be the best looking building we have come across.  The main square, Plaza San Martin, is full of trash.  The adjacent Cathedral is very unimpressive except the interior was passable as a cathedral- but nothing special.  Just like this city of 1.4 million people.
We head to Rosario next, but after talking to the Argentines from that area last night, I think I will enjoy that town much more than here even though it is half the size. 
We might take a winery tour tomorrow to pass the time.  Oh shit!  I think it is past the time to sign up for that tour.  Oh well, I can drink the tour fee worth of wine from one of the local restaurants.  LOL.
Well, that is all for now...

Sexual Disappointments & Suprisingly High Quality Dates-

Hola Everybody,

We are now in Cordoba, Argentina and have been here the last few days (since Monday). I will write more about this town in a subsequent post. In this post, I wanted to say that I seem to have a trend forming when I travel abroad. In some aspects it disappoints me. In others, I guess I could think that I am lucky and blessed.

The trend that appears to be forming is that I have infrequent and low quality sexual encounters, but I do have high quality non-sexual dates. Unfortunately for me now, I have been eager to have a high quality sexual encounter so I have been both frustrated and depressed. Obviously from Ozell's postings, he is not having any trouble finding numerous sexual encounters- most of which seem to be rewarding and enjoyable overall. I am having a hard time getting laid, and when I do, it has not been very rewarding or satisfying. Admittedly, some of that is my own fault.

The last time I had sex in Santiago was with a very handsome young man from Ecuador (at least I am ticking off more nationalities on my passport, LOL) whom I had hooked up with the previous weekend when we first arrived in the city. It was our last night in Santiago. I saw him out at the bar Ozell and I went to that evening. But this guy tends to drink a little too much and gets tipsy and tired by 4am. I knew this, and I also did not want to be out that late because we had to be packed and checked out of our hostel by 10am to catch our plane. I did manage to convince him to leave the club closer to 3 am even though he wanted to stay until 4am. We took a taxi back to his place only to learn that he left his keys at his friend's where he pre-partied before going to the club. He tried calling his friend, but as one would expect at 4am, his friend did not answer. We mulled around trying to decide what to do. It didn't help that he speaks about as much English as I do Spanish (except when it comes to knowing every word to every 'happy fag' song that is played at the clubs!). So we ventured back out on the streets of Santiago, and I was already thinking to myself, "I wish I had just gone back to the hostel an hour ago and got a good night's sleep." We agreed to go to one of those "hotels" that Ozell mentioned in his previous blog. It was my first time in this type of hotel. But at least it was a hotel with a private room. What Ozell didn't mention in his post is how I had three different guys want me to go to this internet cafe in town where they have private booths. They are private in the sense there are four sides and a door, but they did not extend up to the ceiling nor down to the floor. Think of a typical public bathroom stall. Yeah, that's right. Now realize that every time I had been in this cafe (our internet was down at the hostel the first couple of days, and I actually met one of the guys at the cafe before I realized what his intention was), it had been jam packed with people actually in line waiting for a booth. I may be getting a little more adventurous, but fucking in one of these booths with people all around you knowing exactly what is going on is not my style. Again, this is all due to the men in Santiago not having their own dwellings, and an internet booth is 1250 pesos per hour instead of a hotel room at 12,000 pesos for three hours. So there are some more stories about my sexual frustration...

Anyways, back to the story I started with... after another five block walk and a ten block taxi ride, my friend took me to a cheap, cheap sex hotel. I appreciated that it was cheap because he didn't have any money left. Arggggh. We wake the attendant up since it is now about 4:30am. The 9000 peso room came with two beers, a small package of potatoes chips, and two breath mints on a platter! I kid you not!!! hahahaha. We go up to the room and it was dark- dark walls, drapes, bedding. There was some sort of forest scene painted on the main wall. (god, I can't help from chuckling at this recollection) It even had what appeared to be Bambi and her mother drinking from a babbling brook. Geez! But much of the wall had been carved up with graffiti from past clientele. Obviously the names were mainly Latin, but think of "Mike & Jerry 2006" or "John & Frank were here! 2008" or "Kevin fucked Michelle- 2005", and you'll get the picture. I don't even want to mention what the comforter on the bed looked like. Suffice to say that you did not need CSI blacklights to see the stains all over it. god- how awful.

In any case, I found most of this amusing at the time and was still holding out for some good sex. I had reasonably good sex with this guy the first time even though it was also "post bar drunk sex". He is a very attractive young guy with a nice body. He was a bottom (at least with me) and had a nice ass. He also talked a lot when I was fucking him which was really hot. And I don't know what he was saying, but not once did I hear the word "Papi" come out of his mouth which was a huge plus!! You damn Mexicans back in San Diego, quit using that word "Papi". Come up with something else! Lol

So, we start finally fooling around after finding some straight porn on the room's TV. It looked promising. I started to fuck him and it felt really good. He was enjoying himself. But... since I had not orgasmed once in the previous 4-5 days, either via sex or jerking off, I was a loaded gun. Sure enough, I lasted about 2 minutes worth of fucking. When I knew orgasm was unavoidable, I quickly pulled out, pulled off the condom, and then shot my load (which was huge because I am a heavy load guy under normal circumstances much less with 5 days worth of jizz built up) all over him. Unfortunately, the first heavy, thick wad of cum literally went straight into his right eye. He had no chance to defend himself. :( Geez, I felt really bad. As soon as I was done ejaculating, he had to get up and spend the next ten minutes in the bathroom washing his eye out. Lol I really did feel sorry about that. He came back, and his right eye was as red as a beet. He just wanted to pass out, and I don't blame him even though I could have gone another round and lasted much longer than the first time. We went to sleep for a couple of hours, then I had to get up and walk my ass all the way back to our hostel so I could catch the flight here to Cordoba. So that is just one example of my sexual frustrations.

Oh, I did forget to mention one other important aspect of this experience. He stepped in dog shit on our way to the hotel so we had the pleasure of fornicating with the smell of pooch poop permeating through the room. Lol...

Another part of my frustration has been the lack of opportunities for me. Ozell has fared much better. I really didn't have sex in Cusco (there was that one event where Ozell and I were taken to a hotel by two of the locals. my guy had a really nice body, but I was too drunk to do much and was not prepared to get fucked so it really didn't amount to sex for me), none in Bolivia (there wasn't even the potential), a little in Santiago of which only the first time with the aforementioned Ecuadorian was passable (there was another guy, but he was a fat and comely Brazilian who misrepresented himself online. I abused his hole because I was already at his place before I ascertained that he was not who he said he was). That has been it with the one very notable exception of Senor Samuel from Lima. But that gets into the high quality dates portion of this post...

This weird phenomena of me having really great dates with guys overseas started this year in Berlin and Zurich. It appears to have continued on this trip also. The dates are better than I have had in the States in a very long time. Admittedly, I don't have very many dates in the States, but I do have some once in a while. And what I mean by a "date" in stead of a "trick" is that while there ultimately may be the interest in having sex with each other, the meeting is not presumed to be for sex exclusively. In other words, we are not meeting up just to have sex. We are meeting up to get to know and spend a little time together. Sex may or may not happen. And as has been with lots of the dates to which I am referring, sex did not happen.

In Berlin, there were Heiko, Matheus, Janosch, and Jan. With Jan, there was no sex but an excellent coffee shop date and tour of the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. With Janosch, there was beer and food at an Austrian restaurant, then sex at my apartment. (He recently informed me that he was accepted for a Fulbright scholarship to Columbia University! Go Janosch!). Matheus was a Brazilian I met online who went out with me and Marcin (Ozell's Polish boyfriend) a couple of nights dancing while Ozell was doing other things (can you guess what? lol). We spent a couple of hours in bed after the club listening to Brazilian bosa nova music with him singing and translating for me. It was really fucking cool. We wanted to have sex, but it didn't work out with Ozell coming home one night, and Matheus not being able to host at his place another night. I hope to see him in Brazil though. Actually, I am looking forward to it. Then there was Heiko who I met for lunch and a tour of the famers' market one day, went on a bike tour of Charlottenburg on another day, then went on a Schoneberg pub crawl one night. He is a fantastic human being and one of the happiest people I have met. We had sex the night after the pub crawl, but since I had been on a pub crawl, the sex was not as good as it could have been because of my plumbing issues after I have had a lot to drink.

Then when it came to Zurich, my last night there also included a wonderful date with Phil. The wonderful conversation at the first bar turned into the super hot sex in the darkroom of another bar which you can read about in one of the posts from Zurich.

South America has produced two great dates for me so far. One which resulted in great sex, and one which resulted in no sex at all. As mentioned above, Senor Samuel from Lima has been the highlight of my trip to South America so far. He is a kind, funny, dirty young man who was the one who came up to me on the dance floor to introduce himself. We danced and made out that evening. (I also made out with two of his friends.) Then on another day he invited me to his neighborhood on the other side of town. We met at a mall, went back to his place, talked for a bit, had some really fun sex (he likes it rough and getting his hair pulled), and then laid together and talked some more. I was really glad to see him at the club one last time on the last night we were in Lima. We still stay in touch frequently, and he informed me he received his visa to visit the States. If I return before he has to leave the States, then we are going to meet up in San Francisco or some other city. I hope that works out. :)

In Santiago, I had a great date with the dentist I met the first night we were in town. It took us over a week to meet up for lunch, but when we did, it was exactly what I needed on that day. A long walk, a tasty lunch of salmon, another long walk, gelato from a parlor, some more walking and sitting in the park, and then finally parting ways. No sex. I wish I had snapped a photo of him. He has one of the kindest faces I have seen.

So even though the sex with the locals has not been very frequent or rewarding (like I said some of that is my fault with the limp alcohol dick or the 5 days of jizz build up so I climax in two minutes), I have had some really nice dates and met some really cool guys. All of whom, besides Jan, I am still in frequent contact. I look forward to a day in the future where each of our paths cross again. And, even though I have been pretty down about my sexual frustrations, writing this post has helped me realize that I am pretty damn lucky for the high quality dates I have had. And that is why I set out to write this post today. I have been pretty sad the last few days, and I knew writing would make me feel better. And it has.

So I hope you enjoyed the stories, but this post was a selfish one for me. And it worked. I am in a pretty damn good mood presently. Now, where is my fucking joint!!! LOL- I haven't had any weed since Lima! But the good news is that we met some Argentines at our hostel here. They are from Rosario (our next stop), and they have promised to smoke weed with me there. :) We'll see if it comes to fruition, and I will be really happy if it does. Shit, if I had the discipline to turn down the chance for coke inside a Bolivian prison, then the gods should smile upon me and let me have some weed with locals in Rosario!

Ciao for now,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stumbled upon Santiago's Gay Pride Day...

Hey Everyone,
I guess Ozell and I are international Circuit Boys now.  LOL  It just so happens that this past Saturday was Santiago, Chile's Gay Pride Festival.  Hahahaha.  We saw some posters plastered to buildings advertising "Open Mind Fest" which appeared to just be a music festival, but when we looked at the sponsors at the bottom, it was obvious it was their Gay Pride Fest.  Allegedly, they had a parade at 3pm in the afternoon, but we didn't get down to that part of the city until later than that.  But for those of you who have looked at the Santiago II picture album, you probably saw some of the pics we took at the music fest.  It was small compared to many Pride Festivities in the States, but still was impressive.  The major interesting aspect was the demographic of the people attending the music festival.  It was weighted very heavily to teenagers and the young.  But it also seem to have a significant straight/hetero component.  That was interesting because many of the gays our age still seem to be somewhat closeted and live on the 'down-low'.  Many still live with their families as it appears that many adult children live with their parents until they get married.  But the young don't seem to care.  There appears to be a shift in the thinking of the youth, and I consider that great news.  Not only do the super young gays and lesbians appear to be more open and out than those just even a decade older, their straight colleagues don't seem to give a damn either.    :)
We didn't stay long, but it was an interesting afternoon event.  I did like the music they were playing also.
Ciao for now,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hooking Up In Chile

As with most South American countries, the vast majority of people in Chile are Catholic.  Also similar to other countries here, people tend to live with their parents/family until they get married so you often have 25 and 30 year old men still living at home.  This obviously makes hooking up a bit difficult since, even if they are out of the closet, there's no way they can have guys over to have sex.  Considering this, most people might wonder what the guys here (and girls too for that matter) do when they want to have sex.  Well, enter the ubiquitous "hotel".  Located on every other block and everywhere you turn in Santiago, there are small hotels where you can rent a room in small blocks of time, usually in three hour increments.  Most of them have their prices listed at the entrance for both hourly rates and overnight rates.  The average rate for three hours seems to be about 9,000 pesos, which is the equivalent of about $14.  Note, this is about the same as the average price for a private room in a hostel. 
Now, I can't say I've never been to such a place, but the last time I had to go to an hourly-rate hotel/motel was when I was a teenager still living at home in Detroit and the guy I was hooking up with was married.  So it's not that such places are unheard of back home in the States, but the sheer number of places here just shows how an entire (obviously, quite profitable) industry exists just to provide a comfortable, discreet place for people to have sex.  The prices are reasonable if you only utilize such a place every now and then, but if I had to go to a hotel every time I wanted to have sex, I would be broke, especially considering how often I have sex.  From what I've seen and heard, the quality of the hotels can also vary quite greatly.  Some are quite nice, just like any other small hotel; others are quite seedy and dirty.  They also have hotels that cater to, or are at least very popular with gay men. 
I had my own experience with these hotels during our second weekend in Santiago.  I met a guy online a few days previously and we made plans to meet the following Saturday night.  It never occurred to me to ask him if he lived alone.  I assumed the plan was to go back to his place until Sean told me about his experience meeting a guy whose plan was to go to one of these hotels after they met up.  Upon hearing of Sean's experience, I sent my guy a message to find out the deal because, after thinking about the fact that he wanted to meet at the subway station, it seemed clear that this was also his plan.  Unfortunately, I couldn't send the message until the afternoon of the day we were supposed to meet, so he didn't get it in time.  So I go to meet him at 9:00 pm and sure enough, his plan was to go to one of these hotels.  I explained that I didn't even have much money on me because I wasn't expecting to need any and after being robbed in Valpo, I learned my lesson about carrying money or valuables when going to meet someone for sex.  He said that was fine and agreed to pay so we proceeded to go to the hotel he had in mind.  Unfortunately, the lady at the desk would not let us rent a room because I didn't have any ID and they require an ID from both people.  Normally, I would at least have my CA drivers license, but again, since I was robbed in Valpo, I no longer had a drivers license and my only other ID is my passport, which I'm sure as hell not carrying with me to go hook up with someone. 
So we left and decided to go find another hotel.  As I said, these hotels are everywhere, but you never quite know what you're getting so it's hit or miss with each one and best to go to one you're familiar with.  We walked around for a bit and eventually stopped at an internet cafe where his friend works.  He asked his friend, who is also gay, if there was another good place nearby and got a couple of suggestions.  After walking around in circles for a while, we found the first place his friend mentioned.  Unfortunately, this place turned out not to be gay-friendly.  The woman at the door, who would only speak to us through the intercom on the other side of the glass door, informed us that she could not rent a room to two guys and that we would have to rent separate rooms... gotta love conservative, homophobic, Catholic country.  My date promptly cussed her out, in English, calling her a mutha fuckin bitch, etc., and then we went out in search of another place.  I do have to say, he didn't speak or understand English all that well, but he sure knew how to swear in English.  I was thoroughly impressed!!  The next place we went to was decent enough, but it was much more expensive, didn't have private bathrooms and my date didn't like it because they didn't have porn.  Yes, these hotels usually have porn channels on the TV's.  So after more walking around, we finally decided to go to the other place his friend mentioned, which we didn't go to initially because it required taking the subway.
An hour and a half after first meeting, we arrive at our final destination, which appears to be a total sex emporium.  The building had a sex shop, a bar and some other venues on the ground floor while the hotel was on the second floor.  On the way up, I saw one gay couple, an older guy in a suit and a young guy who was clearly a rent boy, so this place was obviously more gay-friendly.  I saw another gay couple in the lobby which made me feel a little more comfortable this place wouldn't give us any problems.  The young (straight?) guy at the desk was much more pleasant and only required ID from one of us.  The building itself was quite nice and very clean with marble floors and paintings on the walls.  The room was bigger than the hostel rooms we've been staying in and had a private bathroom; they even gave us soap and towels!!   All for 9,000 pesos for three hours.  Oh, they also had peliculas gay (gay porn), although he had to call reception a few times to get them to put it on. 
I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say the sex was good and worth the hassle and effort.  This guy, at only 26  years old, was definitely adept in all things sexual and was all about having fun in bed.  I can't even remember how many different positions we tried; he was full of energy and seemed to really like switching things up a bit and trying new things.  The fact that he was versatile made everything all the more enjoyable.  We even taught each other some dirty sex words in our respective languages, although I already knew more Spanish sex words than he did in English.  Anyway, after having fun for about an hour, we cuddled and talked for about an hour.  He seemed to want to get his three hours worth and since he paid, I wasn't going to complain.  The interesting thing about our conversation, which I hadn't experienced too often on this trip, is that he spoke in English while I spoke in Spanish.  His English was decent for someone who only studied it in High School ten years ago, but he spoke it much better than he understood it so it was easier to communicate, and good practice for both of us, for him to speak English and for me to respond in Spanish and vice versa.  After talking for an hour, we finished up our last hour having more sex and finally took a shower together and checked out.  Then he walked me home and we said our respective good-byes.... almost five hours after first meeting. 
Overall, it was definitely an enjoyable experience, and I'm glad I can write about the sex hotels in Chile, but from now on, I think I will stick to hooking up with guys who live alone.  It's just much easier and cheaper that way and having sex, no matter how good it is, should not be so damn complicated!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Shows Are Awesome

We've spent the last two weekends here in Santiago and have checked out three of the gay clubs and a couple of gay bars.  Most of the bars are located along the same street in the Bella Vista neighborhood, which is about a 10 minute walk from our hostel.  The bars seem to have a decent crowd earlier in the evening, but as I mentioned before, the clubs do not get busy until after 1:00 am, usually closer to 2:00 am, then they seem to stay open until at least 5:00 am. 
Bar 105: A small bar with cheaper drinks and a little more of a beer selection than the other bars.  They seemed to be a popular place to pre-drink because most of the people we saw there seemed to end up at Bunker afterwards.
Farinelli: We stopped here for a drink one night before going to the club.  It's a small bar with a small stage where a drag queen was doing a little stand-up show when we first arrived.  As is to be expected, all eyes turned to the Gringo's as soon as we sat down and the drag queen immediately went into interrogations and jokes... where are you from, what are your names, etc.  She was funny, speaking to us in English, but exaggerating the accent, and trying to convince us she was a real woman, etc.  Gringo's make for lots of laughs, especially when they don't understand most of what you're saying.
Bunker: Seems to be quite popular on Saturday nights, less so on Fridays, but still a decent crowd both nights.  This was the first club we went to our first night in Santiago and it happened to be Bear Night, which was a bit funny considering I like Bear Night back home.  This, however, was still a very mixed crowd; there were definitely some bears there, but also plenty of regular guys, twinks, etc.  The club has a large dance floor sunken down a bit from the rest of the room, with a huge stage and catwalk at the far end of the room.  There is also an upstairs area that overlooks the dance floor on three sides so you can get pretty good views of the shows from up top.  They also have a small cafeteria serving burgers and other bar food, quite convenient if you're hungry.  I think this was our favorite club in Santiago.
Bokhara: The nicest thing about this club is that they don't charge a cover for foreigners and they're open during the week, whereas the other clubs are only open on weekends.  They also tend to attract a much younger crowd.  This club basically has two main levels but has a strange setup.  There's an open area and sitting area when you first walk in, then up a half-flight of stairs is a room with a stage, tables and chairs, where you can sit and drink/eat and watch shows in more of a lounge-like setting.  Down another half-flight of stairs is another room with a dance floor.  Both main rooms have a bar attached, each with a small sitting area.  The entertainment in the lounge was really bad and the server was a bitchy dyke with way too much attitude.  The first time we went to Bokhara, we went to sit in the lounge area, but apparently, you have to order drinks or something from the server to sit in that room.  It was almost impossible to understand her and she wasn't the friendliest of people so we didn't go back to that room again, especially since you could see and hear how bad the entertainment was from the attached bar.  The downstairs area was a little better to hang out in, but we tended to stay in the bar areas rather than dance anyway.  I think this was both of our least favorite club, but again, it's the only thing open during the week.
Fausto: Apparently the popular spot on Sunday nights, they have a slightly older crowd, but still quite mixed.  Although it's smaller, I like the set up of this club because they have a nice bar in a separate room where you can go to get away from the music and craziness of the dance floor.  The dance floor is pretty small and although they have a stage as well, it's hard to get a good view because of the low ceilings and the placement of the support pillars.  This club also has a darkroom, which seems quite rare for Chile. 
One of the things I most want to mention about the clubs here are the shows.  Every night at around 2:30 or 3:00 am, the clubs have drag shows, but they are so much more than just a man in a dress lip-syncing to a Cher song.  These drag queens have dancers and choreographed routines, elaborate costumes, and great energy.  Bunker had the best shows by far, but like most cities, the same drag queens and dancers seem to make the rounds at all the clubs so you're likely to see the same ones perform in different venues.  What made Bunker so spectacular was their stage.  I can't even remember how many different backdrops they would have each night, which they would change between performances.  They had all sorts of stage props and lighting, it was like being in a theatre.  Even the dancers were good, especially considering the same dancers would dance for multiple drag queens so they had to learn a hell of a lot of different routines.  Even though the one show we saw at Fausto was not as good, I am so impressed with the amount of work all of them put into it.  I know they have to spend a lot of time and effort putting it all together and it's amazing at how well they pull it off night after night.  Last night, the show actually had an Asian theme, so each of the drag queens and dancers had Asian outfits and they even had little umbrellas and Asian stage props.  I would be curious to know, if I stayed here for a few months or a year, how often they would reuse the same props, costumes and routines, because after four nights at Bunker, I didn't see anything repeated once.  
What I don't understand is how they pay for all of this by only charging a $6-8 USD cover.  The drag queens do not even perform for tips as they do back home.  It just makes me even more pissed that I pay the same amount to get into a club in San Diego where they don't invest any money into actually making it a quality club-going experience.  Back home, I am treated to the same shitty DJ's playing crap every weekend in the same run-down clubs that haven't had anything resembling an improvement in years.  What is my cover paying for if you're still raping me on drink prices?  If I get a show back home, it's usually a poor excuse for a drag queen expecting me to tip her because she put on a dress and a wig and lips syncs half the words to a stupid dance track.  No, the drag queens and club owners back home need to come to Santiago for a weekend and see how to really put on a show because they really know what they're doing down here when it comes to providing entertainment.  I highly recommend a visit here just for the shows.  I should write the tourism office here and tell them it's worth adding the drag shows at Bunker to their list of must-see attractions in Santiago.

San Pedro Prison, La Paz

Good Evening Everyone,
I'm waiting for Ozell to get back from a hook-up so we can go out to one of the clubs here in Santiago.  I'm actually getting a little worried because he said he would be back in a couple of hours and that was a couple of hours ago.  :(  That is one thing that sucks about not having cell phones on our trip.  When we are apart, there is no way for either of us to contact the other unless it is through computers.
Anyways, I have been derelict in my blogging recently and have fallen behind on stories I want to share.  Let's see if I can at least finish up Bolivia with some words about the San Pedro Prison we toured in La Paz....
As I mentioned previously, this is not a legal or publicized tour.  This is a real Bolivian prison.  We heard you could take tours from some other travelers who had already been.  The contact for the tour is an inmate, and fellow backpackers have passed his name and cell phone number around.  Yes, he has a cell phone, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this prison is some sort of luxury resort.  We arrived at the prison with about seven other travelers.  When we got to the main gate, we were greeted by the free world-to-inmate ambassador who gave us the rules and explained what was going to happen.  We had heard that you couldn't bring cameras or cell phones, but that turned out to be incorrect.  You were allowed small cameras, but you had to smuggle them in and weren't allowed to take pictures until you were inside the prison because the guards could not know you had cameras on you.  We were also told not to take pictures of people unless they had expressed it was okay.  The ambassador then escorted us through the gate and past the guards.  The guards look the other way concerning us tourists because our 300 Boliviano entrance fee (about $45) was a bribe that was ultimately paid to the guards.
We were then taken to a cell and given more rules and advice.  We then were taken into the inside of the prison where the inmates are housed.  The guards do not go in or police inside the prison.  They just make sure the prisoners don't get out.  That is one of the unique aspects about this prison.  It is a self contained community of prisoners.  They have to provide for themselves and police themselves.  We were given two bodyguards for our group.  One of the "head of security" inside the prison.  An amiable enough fellow.  Our tour guide was not the contact person we heard about for this tour.  I believe that guy was showing some other group around at the same time.  Our guide was an middle age Argentinean who had the misfortune of being stopped at a random traffic blockade and searched.  He had only one gram of cocaine on him.  It landed him a spot in this place for an indeterminate amount of time.  He hoped to be out soon.  He was a good humored man and a bit of a philosopher.  I presume that spending time in prison gives a person ample opportunity to ponder life's questions. 
Now a little description about the physical set up of the prison.  Again, this was one of the unique features, or at least one that is not what I typically assign to my idea of prisons in America.  The prison is circular and contained within a city block.  The prison was divided into 7 districts (maybe it was 9), and each district was a triangular pie piece of the overall circle.  Our tour took us through 5 of the districts.  The remaining districts were too dangerous and undesirable to visit.  The worst of the criminals are housed there.  It is also where the prison's cocaine is made.  The various districts tend to house similar inmates.  There is the foreigners' district, the youth district, the seniors' district, and the wealthy's district.  The prisoners have to be self sufficient.  They actually have to pay for their cells, food, and everything else.  The more money you have or can earn, the better accommodations you can purchase.  80% of the prisoners are there for drug offences.  The others are for murder, burglary, rape, and various other crimes.  The varying districts also compete in soccer matches on a tiny courtyard.  Good soccer players are actually hired and paid by the wealthier districts. 
Again, I want to point out that this is still a prison.  When I say "wealthier", I do not mean to convey that the prisoners are living in posh dwellings or that the prison is nice in any way.  It is dilapidated and rundown.  It smells of urine and trash.  Most of the buildings would be condemned in America.  But the prisoners cells are a little like tiny apartments in that they have doors instead of bars, and they come and go from their cell as they wish.  Ones on the second floor cut holes in the sheet metal roof for mini-sky lights and fresh air.  They also have electricity and cable TV (if you can pay).  Each district has a "salon" which is the pool hall and bar.  Prisoners earn their living by being bakers, barbers, shopkeepers, etc.  It is a self contained community.  If you cause trouble, you are thrown into the "no man's land" and empty space between the outer and the inner walls.  There is no water or shelter.  You are only allowed the clothes on your back.  After a couple of days of isolation, cold, and hunger, even the most bad ass man is usually worn down into submission and respect for others.  This is not to say that fights and other nasty things don't happen.  The prison average four deaths a month.  We were not told how many of those are natural or murders.  After seeing the infirmary, I could believe that many don't make it out of there and probably die of infections.
Another huge difference with this prison is that many of the families of the inmates live with the prisoners.  There are plenty of women and children around.  The Chief of Security has his wife and 13 year old son living in their cramped cell.  His wife bakes cakes for sale, and the orange cake she made was delicious.  Ozell and I also bought little knitted key rings from them as a small souvenir.  I think having women and children present is also a calming factor.  I think men are less likely to stab each other if they also know the other guy's family and when there are numerous children running around.  Small children stay inside the prison.  There is even a kindergarten.  Once they reach the first grade, the children leave the prison and go to school on the outside.  The women and children are free to leave the prison at their will.
There is so much other stuff to say, but this message is getting me tired again.  So I'll finish up with the end of the tour...
The last stop was a prisoner's cell where cocaine was for sale.  It is slightly humorous that most of the guys in the prison are in for drug offences, but yet, the prison makes reputedly the purest cocaine in Bolivia and much of it finds its way back outside and to the public.  This is not a secret.  The guards and government know what is going on.  It is just not talked about.  That was one of the rules.  Ozell and I did not partake of the prison coke.  The rest of our tour group stayed at the prison for a couple extra hours snorting lines and partying up with the inmates.  The coke was not near as cheap as in Peru.  This coke went for about $16 per gram.  I think it is like buying refreshments at the movie theater and the novelty factor.  I mean, even I was thinking it would be a really fucking cool story to tell the grandchildren that I did lines of coke in a Bolivian prison with the inmates!  Seriously, how awesome would that be?   Lol
More about Santiago next.  It looks like Ozell was writing a long message to the blog.  I'll see what he wrote.  BTW-  it is the next day from when I started this post and I did see Ozell at the club last night.  He is alive and well.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Modus Operandi

The night life in Valpo wasn't so bad considering we were there mid-week.  The strange thing is that, just like on weekends, the clubs don't get busy until after 1:00 am, usually closer to 2:00 am.  There was one gay bar and a gay club right next to each other within walking distance from our hostel, so we checked it out both nights.  Neither was anything spectacular, although the bar had an upstairs and downstairs that wasn't even open, so I'm curious to know how much busier it gets on the weekend.  The club was decent enough, with an upstairs bar and dance area, and two more bars and dance area downstairs.  The building was pretty old and had a dungeon like feel to the basement, with stone walls making for an interesting atmosphere.  Sean likened it to the bar in the movie From Dusk Till Dawn. 
Unfortunately, I joined the ranks of petty theft victims my first night in Valpo.  I went home with a guy from the bar who seemed nice enough, but the next morning I noticed my wallet was gone, and I'm positive I had it when I walked into his place.  After the experience in Lima, we learned not to carry much on us whenever we go out, so the guy only got the equivalent of about $25 USD, but unfortunately, my CA drivers license was also in the wallet, which was useful to carry as ID since I will not go out with my passport.  As with the guys in Lima, this guy lived in one of those buildings with a private bedroom and shared bathrooms, kitchen, etc.  I guess that should have been a warning sign, but my biggest mistake was that I decided to stay over so I was asleep for a few hours, which is obviously when he stole my wallet.  When I realized the wallet was gone in the morning, I literally went through everything in his room, his bag, dresser, flipped the mattresses, etc, but he could have stashed it anywhere, so it was pointless.  I guess the sex and robbery sceme is just the modus operandi down here in South America.  You meet a guy at the bar, go home with him, have good sex, then realize at some point he ripped you off.  It's almost like a twisted form of prostitution!  I don't know why they don't just work as rent boys. It would be a hell of a lot more honest and respectable of a profession in my eyes. 
Nevertheless, we went back to the same bar and club Thursday night and had a decent time.  On our way back, some random young guy on the street asked if we were coming back from the gay bar and asked if we wanted to go back to his place for afterhours.  Sure, why not, he was really cute and we were together.  His friends were actually quite nice and excited to practice their English.  The guy who invited us over seemed to be the only gay one among two of three other guys and two or three girls.  One of the guys actually lived and worked in Tijuana for a while so it was nice talking to them.  To make a long story short, once the young guy pulled me aside and started making out with me, Sean decided to go home, and I stayed and had sex with the guy while his friends continued drinking and partying in the other room.  Then I left and went back to the hostel with all my money.  The only thing I left were my socks, which I did intentionally because I went to the bathroom and didn't notice the dirty standing water on the floor until I stepped in it.  Disguting!

Dog Shit and Useless Swimsuits

Well, Sean and I spent the last couple of days in Valparaiso, Chile.  Known locally as Valpo for short, the city is located along the Pacific coast about 75 miles from Santiago.  The city is still one of the countries most important sea ports, but it is no longer their busiest and has certainly seen better times.  While once a required stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific via the Straigts of Megellan and Cape Horn, the city started to decline following a major earthquake in 1906 and the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.
Unfortunately, I don't have many nice things to say about Valparaiso.  It is the dirtiest and ugliest city we have been to thus far, and remember, we're coming from Peru and Bolivia.  There is simply trash everywhere, lining the streets, sidewalks, the port, even the beaches.  They also have significantly more stray dogs than the other cities we've visited, which contributes to a ridiculous amount of dog shit everywhere you walk.  I had to walk slower than normal because it's hard to look for street signs, figure out where you're going, mind the traffic, avoid running into people, and still pay attention to where you place each step in order to avoid stepping in dog shit.  At least in Peru and Bolivia, store owners would sweep up the sidewalks in front of their stores and the city did a good job of cleaning up the streets, but in Valpo, no one seemed to care of mind. 
We took a 90-minute bus ride from Santiago and arrived in Valpo Wednesday afternoon.  The weather was pleasant, but there was a marine layer hanging over the city, much like San Diego during June Gloom.  This is the end of their Spring so it's still a month or so away from ideal Summer beach weather.  By mid-afternoon, the clouds did burn off and the sun actually came out for a bit, which was nice.  Our plan was to spend the first day in Valpo checking out the sites, then go to the neighboring city of Vina Del Mar on Thursday where the beaches are supposed to be pretty nice.  There wasn't much to see or look at in Valpo; it's an old dirty city built on the hills overlooking the ocean.  There are lots of narrow winding streets and steep staircases that go up the hills and, as I said before, lots of trash and stray dogs.  It looks like it could have been a nice city at some point in the past, but today it just seems as though no one cares anymore.  There was really only one attraction we wanted to do in Valpo, which is ride one of the ascensores (elevators) that take you up the steep hills.  Unfortunately, once we found the most popular/famous one, we found it was closed for a holiday... both days we were in town.
On Thursday, we woke up and decided to go to Vina Del Mar to check out the beach.  It was still cloudy and overcast when we left around noon, but we were hoping it would burn off like it did Wednesday by the time we got to Vina.  It was actually a little cooler as well, but that wasn't such a big deal since we decided to walk to Vina and take the train back.  It wasn't a very scenic walk, again, due to the trash and stuff.  But it was quite interesting passing by the remnants of old docks, buildings, and other oddities that clearly were once part of this great port city.  The walk was right along with bay so we had a decent view of Valpo behind us for most of the way.  The walk ending up taking about 90 minutes, but it was good to get some excercise.  Unfortunately, the marine layer didn't burn off by the time we got to Vina and it actually seemed colder when we got there than it did when we left Valpo.  The city was much nicer than Valpo, cleaner, better maintained buildings and streets, nicer stores, even nicer looking people.  There were also more tourists than in Valpo, although still not very many.  Tired, disappointed, and hungry, we decided to just walk down one of the main streets and have lunch, then head back to Valpo by train.  The restaurant was nice, although more expensive than it was worth.  It would have been nice to be able to lay out on the beach, even if I did have to find a spot not completely covered in trash.  Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to wait until I get to Brazil before I can use any of the three swimsuits I brought. 
Bottom line: Valpo is the first city we've visited that I would not recommend anyone else visit.  You're not missing anything.  It's not worth the time or effot. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Tooth is Filled

Hello Loyal Readers!!
Sorry it's been a while since I've posted; the past week has been a bit hectic and I haven't been in the best of moods considering my toothache and related dental issues.  While I've built up a ton of things I would actually like to write about, the most pressing news I would like to share is that I finally got my tooth filled in Santiago.  I know I mentioned possibly going to a dentist in Bolivia, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I have a hard enough time finding a decent dentist in California, where I've had more than a couple bad experiences.  While I'm sure the dentists in Bolivia are probably Western-trained and just as good as dentists elsewhere, I just needed more comfort and reassurance. 
We arrived in Santiago last Friday afternoon and I knew I wouldn't have much hope getting my tooth fixed on the weekend, so we decided to go out to the club that night.  Ironically, Sean met a couple of guys on the dance floor, one of which happened to be a dentist!  Good job, Sean!  Unfortunately, Arturo worked for the government so it wasn't like I could go to his office, but Sean got his email address and sent him a message the next day and was able to get a couple recommendations from him on where I could go and what to tell them I needed.  Even after going out Sunday night and not getting to bed until almost 5am, I woke up aound 10am Monday morning and decided to go check out one of the dental offices.  When I looked at the addresses, it turns out we actually walked past one of the offices on our way to the club Sunday.  I remember the place looking pretty nice and had no clue what any type of procedure would cost, but since both places were about the same distance away walking, I decided to check out the office I hadn't seen yet. 
As Arturo indicated, both offices were mixed medical/dental clinics so upon arrival, there is a reception/information desk for the entire building and separate reception areas for the various service clinics.  I went to the main reception and tried to explain what I needed, which was easy enough to convey, but explaining that I didn't have an appointment, trying to find out the cost to replace a filling, and whether or not any dentist spoke English was a bit more difficult; none of the three young girls behind the counter spoke any English at all.  Ultimately, they were able to fit me into an 11:00 slot with a dentist and since it was already 10:57 at the time, I hurried upstairs to the dental clinic.  I signed in at the dental reception desk and asked the lady about the cost and was able to understand enough of the response to figure out that the initial examination/consultation is free and I would be given something telling me what any treatment would cost before making a final decision.  For those of you wondering why I'm having a hard time communicating even though I speak enough Spanish, I'll explain in another blog post the issue with Chilean Spanish.  For now, let's just say it's very difficult to understand.
I only had to wait about 15 more minutes before the dentist called me in.  Yet again, he didn't speak any English so while it was easy enough to explain that I needed my filling replaced, I couldn't quite communicate the problem regarding the sensitivity and soreness of my gums.  So after putting in some info into the computer, he gave me a print out with a cost of 40,000 CLP, but when I took the print out to reception to pay the bill, the total she gave me was only 23,000.  I remember seeing a sign or something about a 60% discount, but I thought it was through some sort of plan or program.  I sure as hell wasn't going to complain or attempt to ask so I just payed my bill and went right back in to the dentist who filled my tooth in 15 minutes.  He even gave me a composite filling, which could simply be their normal practice or could be because he noticed that all my other fillings are composites.   Some of you may know that I'm so partial to composite (natural colored) versus amalgam ("silver") fillings, I had all my old amalgam fillings removed and replaced a few years ago.  But considering the language barrier and circumstances, I was not about to be picky and would have accepted anything they gave me as long as my tooth was filled.
All in all, the dentist did a great job and I was out of the office and back home by 12:00 noon.  It was literally less than an hour from the time I walked into the dental office until the time I walked out.  Oh, and the total cost of 23,000 CLP is about $36 US dollars, which is about the amount I have to pay for fillings even WITH insurance back home!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We are fine in Valparaiso, Chile...

Hello Everyone,
A very short note to let everyone know we are safe and well in Valparaiso, Chile.  I received a communication of concern (which I really appreciate) stating that they have not seen a blog entry from us in a little bit.   That is true, and I hope to make it up tomorrow.  I have some things to write about.  Honestly, I have been on a atypical sleep schedule because of Santiago.  You cannot even be seated for dinner until after 9pm, and nobody seems to enter the bars until after 1am even on the week nights.  Therefore, I have not been as active during the days as I would have preferred.  Don't mistake me, I have seen the sights and a museum, but I also spend a junk of the daylight hours sleeping since we have not made it home until 5-10am in the morning.  Obligations to the Blog have suffered as a consequence.  
I will contact those who expressed concern tomorrow.  I would have done so tonight, but as I write this message, it is after midnight their time so it is too late to call.
We are safe and well along the coast of central Chile.  :)
Ciao for now,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election 2008-

Hey All,
Just a note about the 2008 Election.  Ozell and I watched the election returns at the bar of the hostel we were at in La Paz.  La Paz was an hour ahead of the east coast so it wasn't too long of a night.  I was tired though and went to bed after the race was called for Obama.  I asked Ozell to wake me up when McCain and Obama gave their speeches though.  We had CNN on the tv, political websites on the computer, and some of my talk radio shows streaming online.  Hence, the pic attached to this blog post.  Lol
Everyone in the hostel was interested in the election so the bar was crowded with travelers from all over.  We were one of the few Americans.  There are not many Americans traveling through South America we have learned.  There have mainly been English, Irish, and Australians.  Of course, there have been others too.  The owner of the hostel, which was also a microbrew hence the hostel name: Adventure Brew Hostel, came up to us and asked who we voted for.  He was an Obama supporter.  Like I mentioned previously, I voted for Cynthia McKinney because out of the choices I had, she was the most aligned with my views.  Everyone was very happy to see Obama win except two 18 year old Americans who were actually working at the hostel.  They were from some rich town an hour outside of NYC and claimed to be Republicans.  I thought that was strange at first because I don't know anyone who travels outside of the USA who also is a Republican.  Traveling the world does not lend itself to a Republican perspective.  But then I realized that they were 18 years old and probably didn't know anything but what was spoon fed to them by their parents.  At 18, they were most likely traveling on Mommy's and Daddy's money.  I was conservative at 18 too for the very same reason.
I definitely would agree that Obama was the superior choice between himself and McCain.  McCain/Palin would have been an absolute travesty and possibly the end of our republic.  However, I am not giddy or overly optimistic with Obama.  From the news reports and even this past week's South Park episode (we happen to stumble across it online last night), it appears that people are almost in rapture with Obama's win.  I think that is dangerous.  I don't believe he is going to change very much at all.  I don't think he is interested in restoring Constitutional law.  He is beholden to the same corporations as any Democrat or Republican.  When he starts repealing the Patriot Act, FISA 2008, and the Military Commissions Act and initiates criminal investigations of the Bush/NeoCon Crime Syndicate, then I will be more optimistic.  Speaking of which, two congressmen, which could not be farther apart on the political spectrum in many ways, have co-authored and co-sponsored a bill which begins to undo some of the Constitutional damage of the last 8 years.   Dennis Kucinich (who was my favorite presidential candidate during the primaries) and Ron Paul (the Republican/Libertarian) have introduced a bill that would repeal FISA, the Military Commissions Act, and re-establish that torture is torture and fucking illegal in America.  I really hope it passes.
I was also disappointed to see the alcohol ban for San Diego beaches and the gay marriage ban for California pass.  I won't get into a long rant (just a short one! hahahaha)  about how fucking much I don't respect christians- and I don't- and the gay marriage ban wasn't what started me reviling this death cult.  And people who know me, know that I have little respect for pretty much all of the major religions and their superstitions.  Christians just happen to be the dominant cult in our country.  People think that makes me an atheist, but that isn't true either.  I just think that the "literal word of god" rather he be Allah, Jehovah, or the Trinity (the fact that god has a penis is another indicator at the true motivation of these cults) is no more worthwhile than the fairy tales of Mother Goose- some good stories that teach some lessons on how to be a decent human being mixed in with a bunch of horseshit.  I was really disappointed with all of the pro-gay marriage ban comments I read online.  It would have been one thing if those comments said something like, "The bible tells me that homosexuality is wrong (amongst a bunch of other things that most christians do every day) so I support the marriage ban."  Instead, what I mainly read was a bunch of crap about how their 5-year olds were going to be taught about gay marriage in kindergarten and how their churches were going to be forced to marry gays, and how their churches were going to lose their tax exempt status.  All of which are complete fabrications and lies spoon fed to them by their respective clergies to scare the shit out of them.  But that makes perfect sense doesn't it?  Feeding people lies to scare the shit out of them is exactly what christianity has been doing for 1500 years so they should be pretty good at it.
I was also disappointed, but obviously not surprised, to see Nancy Pelosi returned to congress with 70% of the vote.  She is a worthless cunt who has as bloody hands and is as responsible as anyone in the Bush administration.  I am a firm believer she took "impeachment off the table" solely because investigations would have implicated her as knowing and approving torture techniques when she was the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee.  She is also impotent and spineless and a horrible Speaker of the House.  I hope she rots.  And San Franciscans are really stupid people for sending her back.
Tomorrow, more about the La Paz prison and our first couple days here in Santiago.  We had a blast at one of the clubs last night.  And finally a gay club that knows how to put on a fucking great show for my $8 cover!  :)  DJ Nikno in San Diego- you completely suck and your bars suck.
Enough negativity with the Election- happy Sean will  be back tomorrow.
The trip is going great.  I have slimmed down to the point where I have  legitimate six pack abs again!!  Probably the first time since I returned from New Zealand!!!  I weighed only 161 lbs when we were in Toronto.  I am going to guess that I am near 155 lbs now.  
Ciao for now...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Santiago, Chile: November 8th

Greetings Everyone,
We are now in Santiago, Chile!  So far, we really like the city.  We are also grateful to be out of Peru.  La Paz, Bolivia was actually a nice city we also enjoyed.  We also have some more stories to tell about our last days in La Paz, but since we don't have internet at the hostel we are currently staying, we are currently in a cybercafé and have to pay for the internet.  Therefore, I don't know if I will have the time to write about the election and our trip to a Bolivian federal prison in La Paz.  Yes, Mom, we are safe.  That was the secret activity I alluded to in a previous post.  I did not want to mention it explicitly until we returned safely so you would not be worried if you read about it.  Needless to say, it was an eye opening experience.  This was not any kind of sanction tour of the prison.  It was underground.  It is illegal.  We had to bribe the guards in order to be let in.  And the guards do not go inside the prison.  They only keep the prisoners from going out.  The prisoners run the prison including the manufacturing of the cocaine inside.  Ozell and I did not participate in the final event of the tour, but most other travelers do... you get to buy and snort the prison made cocaine in one of the inmate's cells.  Allegedly, the purist coke in all of Bolivia.  But more on that in a subsequent post.
Ozell's tooth is bothering him so we are soliciting recommendations of reputable dentists from a local contact one of our friends back in San Diego knows here in Santiago.  We also went out to a gay club last night (more on that later too), and I happened to meet two local dentists there.  Unfortunately, they work for the government and cannot do the work themselves, but we hope to get some recommendations from them also.
More about Santiago later also.  I don't know how long we are staying at the cafe so I just wanted to give everyone an update and let you know where we are and that we are safe.    :)
Ciao for now,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

La Paz, Bolivia: November 4th

Hola Punks!
Just a short blog post to highlight some La Paz observations so far.  First, I unfortunately lost my main ATM card at the airport in La Paz.  The good news is that I was able to use my computer and Skype account to easily call the card in as lost and start the process of getting a new card issued.  This would have been so much more difficult in my past travels which would have required phone cards and standing at public phone booths with loud background noise for multiple phone calls.  Now the hard part is going to be how to get my new card to me when I am in South America.  The bank will send it to Ozell's sister, Rena, who is acting as our bureaucratic clearing house back in the States.  Thank you, Rena!  This trip would have already been so much more difficult without you.  :)   The idea would be for her to send it to a FedEx or DHL or whatever office in a city in which we would be at in the future, but as you may have ready from Ozell's post a few days ago, deliveries to this continent seem to be completely erratic and unreliable.  We'll see how it goes.
I walked around the city of La Paz a little more- actually a fair distance especially considering the elevation here and the local elevation changes.  I felt pretty good.  I have uploaded those pictures to the photo album.
One of the big items that has come in is that I may have a large ($2300) tax liability due to my company stock in PDC that needs to be paid before December 31st.  At least the CFO sent out an a-mail to former employees notifying us of this liability and that tax rules require payment by December 31st instead of April 15th, 2009.  I don't know why.  I don't know anything about it.  I have to contact the CFO and make sure that I can still expect a dividend check for the same amount this spring which has been the case in the past.  If it is just a clean swap of money over a handful of months, then fine.  If this is some sort of tax bullshit loss I have to eat on my own, then I am going to be pissed.  Because this doesn't even account for my capital gains taxes or my interest on my money market accounts which I will have to pay out of pocket this spring.
I have decided not to do the mountain bike ride down the "Road of Death" which is not a misnomer.  I can't get into it now, but I think you can google it or search for "Gravity Assisted Tours, La Paz", and you will be able to read more.  It sounds like a once in a life time opportunity, but for certain circumstances, it doesn't look possible.  Ozell and I do plan on attending another local activity which is equally unique and potentially dangerous.  It is not listed on the official tour guides or tour books, but we have met many people who have recommended it- with qualifiers.  Again, you will be able to look it up on the web.  I don't want to give anymore information until we actually have completed it so that people who care for me like my mom do not overly worry.  Lol  Well, that last sentence will probably worry her if she read it.  Lol
Well, that is all for now.  I am going to write one last blog post tonight as we are watching the election returns.
If McCain wins, then I look forward to returning to my country after the trip to either a civil war or martial law.

More Random Observations

Since I have some down time and my tooth is still bothering me, I figured I would write about a few more observations here in South America.
The Election
We're currently sitting in the hostel's rooftop bar watching CNN and waiting for the election returns to start coming in.  It's curious to see how many other non-Americans are equally interested and spending a day of their travels to sit in front of a TV and watch Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour babble about nothing.  One of the most common questions over the past three weeks has been, "How are you going to vote?!".  Apparently, the US is unique in having early voting and absentee voting options, whereas, in most countries, you have to physically be there and show up at the polls in order to vote.  As mentioned before, Sean and I both cast our ballots before we left San Diego. 
Fellow Travelers
In the three weeks we've been traveling, I've met more Irish and English people than I've ever met in my life, and I work in an industry that's dominated by Europeans coming to the US for their graduate and postgraduate studies.  Peru, especially, seemed to be an Irish Mecca.  They were, by far, the most common nationality in both Lima and Cusco, with English being a close runner up.  La Paz seems to be a little more mixed.  English seems to be the dominant nationality, but I've also met a few Germans and at least three other Americans.  Travelers seem to talk about the same things in conversations: how long have you been traveling, where have you been so far, what direction are you heading, etc.  But in conversation last night at the bar, I discussed with a few of the Europeans the relatively few Americans that travel (what's the percentage of Americans with passports?) and the even fewer number of Black Americans that travel.  Some of them were interested in how I, as a Black American, am perceived in the various countries I've visited and it was a very good opportunity for me to reflect on my experiences. 
As I've said before, one of the things I find most interesting is that when I am traveling in Europe, I feel as though I am most often viewed simply as an American, rather than as a Black man.  Most of the Blacks in Europe are recent African immigrants and experience the same types of discrimination and treatment that Mexicans experience in the US.  But when I travel in Europe, I seem to be treated completely different from the Africans there.  It's strange coming from a country where I am still a minority and treated as such and then traveling to a country where I'm treated in a way completely irrespective of my color.  Don't get me wrong, I think I still get a hell of lot more stares and general curiousity being black than my fellow white travelers get, but again, I think it has to do with the relative rarity of Black American's traveling outside of the US, especially to somewhere like South America.  I actually had a guy in Cusco approach me and after exchaning a few words in Spanish, he asked if I was Peruvian!!  I think the bottom line is, we need to get out more, especially Black Americans. 
Public Restrooms
Public (pay) restrooms are one of the regular business found all around La Paz and also in Peru.  There are a number of small storefronts scattered around the city that simply offer the use of a restroom.  I think it only costs a couple bolivianos, but seems like it would be a great way to make a living. Everyone has to go at some point so it's a great service to offer. It still amazes me that you can't find public restrooms in the downtown or major shopping areas of most US cities so you are forced to go into a store and make a purchase in order to use their bathroom.  If our tax dollars aren't going to provide these types of services, as they do in San Francisco, then I think it would be a great business for someone to go into.  I don't mind paying a dollar even to use a bathroom if it's clean and has toilet paper and paper towel.  Like all other businesses, the restrooms still have operating hours, as I realized last night when we were walking down the street to the bar around 1:30 in the morning.  We passed by a woman squatting down pissing on the sidewalk, right on the main street.  We litterally had to step over her stream as it made its way across our path to the curb.  She didn't seem embarrased at all about six people walking by as she relieved herself.  Now I know why so many of the streets here smell like piss.
Like many countries in the world, Peru and Bolivia have a large number of stray dogs.  Being the animal lover I am, it is often depressing to see so many mangy dogs with matted hair, many of them crippled and carrying who knows what kind of easily treated diseases.  While we were in Peru, we would see a number of the same dogs every day, never straying far away from their home spot, scrounging for scraps of food and trying to avoid people and cars.  The hardest part is to see how broken their spirits are.  Domesticated dogs at home are confident and territorial and will bark at anything that moves.  They are curious and sniff out anything and anyone they come in contact with.  The dogs here shy away from people, walk with their heads down, and very rarely will you hear one bark, and if they do bark, it's usually at another dog.  The amazing thing is the way they navigate the crazy traffic in these cities.  I was standing outside my hostel in La Paz and saw two dogs crossing the street together.  This is a very busy street with three lanes in each direction and an island in the middle.  The dogs looked each way, waited for a break in traffic and crossed to the island.  Then they stopped, waited for another break, and safely crossed the other side of the street together.  I've never seen dogs so aware of the dangers of crossing a street and actually looking and waiting for the cars to pass.  It is amazing how they have adjusted to city life. 
I've already sent a few postcards. Let me know if you receive one and when you get it; I'm curious to know how long it takes to send something from South America to the States and Europe.

Halloween in Cusco

Happy All Saints Day,
This blog post is a few days late, and I prefer not to backtrack. But I also did want to mention our Halloween evening experience in Cusco...
Ozell and I went out into town to have our normal dinner at Antojito's which was a restaurant we patronized often because the food was good and cheap and the staff was friendly. We actually took a liking (non-sexual) to one of the waiters there named Juan. He was just a bubbly and amiable fellow who enjoyed seeing us come in daily for one of our meals. He is 17 and is working 60 hours a week for a year so he can save up enough money to start university next year.
Anyways, we had heard the Halloween was popular with the kids in town. The unusual thing was there was no sign of Halloween in the stores or with the people until the actual day arrived. I like how they handled their holiday. I'm sure there are probably some signs of Xmas already slithering into view at stores or in commercials back home. Here, Halloween was literally just a single day celebration. The stores and street merchants only brought Halloween paraphernalia out into view on October 31st. The kids got their costumes and faces painted during the afternoon. Then during the early evening, the chants of "HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN!" started from the children. We were quickly able to ascertain that, "HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN!" was the local equivalent of our "Trick or Treat". I thought it was also charming that the children actually pronounced "HALLOWEEN" phonetically the same as we do at home since the "LL" is typically sounded as a "Y" in Spanish. Well, I wanted to go and visit the main square of town since that seemed to be the main gathering place for the celebration. Sure enough there were plenty of children with their parents walking around collecting candy from whomever had some to spare. Unlike my memories of Halloween at home, all the kids just had small plastic pumpkins to use to collect candy, and none seem to have a full pumpkin. I don't know if this is a sign of the poverty of most of the participants on both the giving and the receiving sides or not. But I recall using pillow cases to collect candy when I went trick-or-treating. That would have been gluttoness in this situation.
After checking out the plaza, Ozell and I decided to head to Antojito's and get some food. I decided that if the small local market didn't have a long line at the cashier, then I was going to buy a bag of candy to hand out to the children. While I do not consider it a mistake by any means, I fully admit I was not ready for the onslaught of children who practically mauled me once I left the store. I could not get 5 feet from the entrance before I was surrounded by tens and tens of children screaming, "HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN!" I thought I was having a bad hallucination with all of these small plastic pumpkins floating back and forth across my face, small hands grabbing at me and the bag of candy I held aloft (thank goodness I stand at 6'2"!), and the fact I have having a hard time keeping my balance in the sea of children all jockeying for position for the precious chocolate mint candy I was attempting to deliver in a fair manner. Lol
Unfortunately, my immediate reaction was the grab my front pocket for my wallet to make sure it was still there. Sad, but true, and probably wise. :( I held the candy and my wallet aloft and begged for Ozell, who was standing a neutral distance away, to come and take my wallet from me. Once I was free of my wallet and my concerns, I started to dish out the candy as best as I could. It was a feeding frenzy of piranhas. That is by far the closest metaphor I can use. I did have a big smile on my face as all of this was going on. The chants of, "HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN! HALLOWEEN!" blocking out all other sounds for what seemed like forever but truly was only a matter of 30 seconds or so. The bag of candy was gone. Most of the pirahnas were left hungry. But that did not deter them. They quickly found a new gringo who just bought a bag of candy. In fact, these were probably the smartest of the kids trick-or-treating. Stand outside the local market and then blockade any customer that you see pay for candy at the cashier. Lol
Ozell told me he wish we had the camera on hand so he could record for posterity how good and enthusiastic I am with children. I told him to fuck off. ;) Paraphrased of course. Lol
We then went off to dinner, and then met up with people from the hostel for a party there and then out to the bars. It was an enjoyable evening. hahahahaha

Necesito a un dentista

Talk about bad timing.  Everyone who knows me should know that I'm pretty particular about my teeth and have been fairly lucky throughout life not to have many problems or require much work to maintain a healthy set of pearly off-whites.  I just went to the dentist a few months ago, before I got laid off from my job, at which time I had a couple of minor fillings patched and received a clean bill of oral health.  Well, on the bus from Lima to Cusco, I seemed to have chipped or broken a filling.  It must have been in bad shape already because it happened while I was chewing a piece of gum.  Anyway, not good.  Initially, the only real problem was a jagged edge on the tooth, one of my molars.  But over the past week or so, the situation seems to have progressed from a little sensitivity when chewing on that side of my mouth to a persistent dull pain in my gums in the area around the tooth.
I haven't had the best of luck with dentists, especially in San Diego, and haven't had one I trust and have confidence in since I left Michigan almost seven years ago.  But at least back home, I can find someone halfway competent or rely on the recommendations of friends.  Now, I'm in South American.  Where the hell am I supposed to find a dentist to examine my tooth and fix whatever problem I'm having?  I have never had this type of pain before so I'm worried that it may be something serious, as in an exposed nerve or something.  Heaven forbid I need a root canal or anything.  Of course I've seen plenty of dental offices here, both in Peru and Bolivia, but regardless of the pain, I can't imagine going to a dentist in this country, especially if any needles or drills will be required.  I've seen the locals teeth, which tells me they don't typically visit dentists, which tells me the dentists here can't possibly have much experience unless they've worked in a first-world country elsewhere. 
I think I can wait until I get to Santiago to take care of this, but even there, I don't feel terribly confident about the quality of care and have no way to distinguish between a good dentist and a bad one.  I'm going to check with my insurance company today to see if they can recommend someone, but considering I didn't like their recommendations of dentists in San Diego, who knows where they'll direct me in a second-world country. 
Wish me luck!  Hopefully, I'll be able to return from this trip with all my teeth!

Monday, November 3, 2008

La Paz, Bolvia: November 2nd

Que Tal, Amigos?
Yesterday, November 2nd, Ozell and I safely arrived in La Paz, Bolivia. Sufficient to say that we are both happy to move along on our journey and out of Peru. We had to get up at 5:30 AM to be at the Cusco airport by 6:30 AM for what was supposed to be an 8:30 AM flight. Of course, even the planes in Peru do not run on schedule so we didn't take to the air until about 9:30 AM. We made it to La Paz by 10 AM, but because of fucking Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie, we had to endure an hour and a half customs bureaucracy. What that means, is that since all of my fellow Americans are such scared little children that gladly give up their constitutional rights and their national heritage that their fathers died for in order to feel like Big Daddy government will make the world safe for them, Georgie Porgie pushed radical legislation through (with the full aid of the spineless Democratic Congress) like the Patriot Act. Well one of the things that Georgie decided to do was to punish visitors from a shit load of foreign countries which had previously been able to visit the USA with just a passport. He initiated complicated and costly Visas for these countries- many of which are some of our closest allies (like Poland). Well, the Bush Crime Syndicate, also included most, if not all, of South America.
This is why Ozell and I had to pay $200 for a Brazilian visa that had to be obtained while we were still in America through one of their consulates. It also puts restrictions on when we have to enter the country for the first time which is forcing us to change our schedule and itinerary which will cause us to miss out on a large chunk of South America we originally wanted to see. Well, at least Bolivia (and we just learned Chile) will grant us visas at the port of entry. But the few Americans who were on the plane coming from Cusco, which was full of white people/gringos from all other parts of the world, got scuttled into another line at customs where we had to fill out an extensive visa request form, pay $135, and wait approximately an hour to be processed. Every other visitor was allowed to quickly go through passport control without any kind of visa or fee. We learned that we will have to endure the same discriminating treatment and pay the same hefty fee when we arrive in Chile.
Bolivia even refers to the visa and entrance fee as "Reciprocity Visa & Fee" on their official paperwork. The sad thing is that we still have it much easier than Bolivians trying to enter the USA. They have to pay $200 to attempt to get a visa, and $200 to a typical Bolivian would probably be equivilent to $2000 or more for an American. Ozell and I are not bitter at these countries which have taken retaliatory measures against America. We solely fault the American government who has openly and aggressively worked to turn America into a fascist police state and closed society.
The city of La Paz has been beautiful so far. Even though Bolivia is South America's poorest nation, the buildings and roads appear to be significantly better here than in Peru. Of course there are shanty towns, but the setting for the city is amazing. It, itself, sits above 12,000 feet, but it is ringed by mountains that range from 14,000-16,000 feet. This provides snow capped peaks of the Andes as the backdrop for this city of nearly 2 million people.
We have not done much site seeing yet so I don't have many pics. I'll upload them when we have taken more. The one attached to this blog post is of part of the city as we are coming down from the airport which sits above 14,000 feet.
Cheers to you all,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reflexiones de Perú

Well, we've been in Perú for two weeks now and we leave early tomorrow morning for La Paz, Bolivia.  Two weeks is longer than either of us expected to spend here, but I think we've had a good time overall and it's nice not to be hopping from place to place every other day and spending all our time in transit.  We've spent the majority of our time in Lima (six days) and Cusco (nine days) including a day trip to Machu Picchu.  Although it's Saturday night and I'd much rather spend my last night here drinking, I think I've had enough late nights and really need to get some sleep tonight, so I figured I'd spend a little time reflecting on my time here in the first country of our tour of South America. 
Cusco, Perú is located about 10,800 feet (3,300 meters) above sea level.  I'm sure you've heard about altitude sickness, which is typically experienced above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) and is caused by low air pressure and low CO2 levels, which causes a rise in blooh pH.  Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance.  I definitely experienced some nausea and dizziness the first 24 hours, but nothing serious and those symptoms disappeared quickly.  Apparently, a related problem is dehydration, which I learned online is caused by a higher rate of water vapor lost from the lungs at higher altitudes.  My skin has been so dry and my lips so chapped despite the amount of water I've been drinking.  But even after being here over a week, the most significant problem for me has been shortness of breath.  Even after waking over five miles a day in Toronto and a significant amount in Lima, just walking a few blocks here in Cusco has me completely winded and struggling for breath.  I even find myself having to stop to catch my breath after running up a flight of stairs here in the hostel.  I don't think the altitude is something I would ever adjust to having lived at sea level my entire life.  Biologically, my lungs and body just aren't used to it.  La Paz is at an even higher altitude at 13,000 feet (4000 meters), so we'll see how I fare there. Luckily, we'll only be there for five days and I imagine being here in Cusco first will make the adjustment a lot easier than going directly from sea level to 13,000 feet.
Traffic and Smog
Traffic in Perú can be ridiculous, like any other country, especially in major cities.  But the exhaust from the cars and the smog that it creates is absolutely horrendous.  I haven't experienced such problems since I was in Mexico city, although Rome would be a close equivalent.  The difference with Rome is that it's not at as high an altitude, so you're not adding the smog onto other issues.  The smog here in Cusco makes it really difficult to breath just walking down major streets.  Sean and I were talking about it today and we're not sure if it's the type of cars/engines or the type of gasoline, but it's pretty common for cars and buses to have black smoke pumping out of their exhaust pipes and you either breath it in or you don't breath.  You also have to be very careful and always on guard as a pedestrian.  Lima was pretty bad in the sense that many intersections didn't have signals or signs, so as a pedestrian, you put your life at risk just crossing the street.  Cusco is the much the same in the sense that if you are planning to step off the sidewalk, you better looks three or four times and make a run for it when you do cross because cars speed and turn corners and come out of nowhere and if you're not paying attention, you're dead.
The Locals
Like any other second- or third-world country, Perú has more than it's fair share of scammers, theifs and opportunists.  It's one of the things I expect as a western traveler, but it will never be something that I accept.  I realize everyone here is just trying to make a living and get by and the tourists serve as their sole source of income, but despite the poor living conditions, life opportinities, etc, I refuse to accept abhorant practices and devious behaviors as an excuse.  If you and your country are so dependent on tourism, don't create or contribute to an environment that limits tourism.  There are good, honest peole here, like the wonderful woman who made us lunch in the local mercado, but there seems to be many more of the dishonest, disgusting people taking any opportunity to take advantage and/or flat out rob you.  If every tourist who comes to your country gets robbed, sooner or later, you're not going to have so many tourists.  Look at the violence going on in Tijuana, Mexico right now and how it's hurt their main economic stimulus.  I don't even like bartering for things.  Set a price and if I think it's reasonable, I will pay it.  When I'm a visitor in your country, I don't like to treat everyone as a potential thief out to pick my pocket, especially children.  But after all the stories I've heard and the things I've experienced, I realize it's in my best interest to be on guard at all times and not even give people the benefit of the doubt.  I don't like being cold to people who approach me, or ignoring people trying to sell me things, but Ive learned that I'm a target and if you let your guard down for one minute, you're screwed.  The thing that baffles me the most if that this country, as with most Latin American countries, is so heavily Catholic.  I see it as yet another failure of the Catholic Church.  I see locals doing the whole Catholic cross sign across their forehead and chest when they walk past churches and such, yet they turn around and steal from people almost impulsively.  Stealing is probably the worst sin there is in my mind and I cannot fathom someone calling themselves Christian and stealing from people, regardless of their life situation.  Stealing is immoral and if you are truly Catholic, or Protestant, or any other major religion, then you should know your rewards await you in heaven and you will only get to heaven by leading a life like Christ and abiding by the Ten Commandments, one of which includes the imperative not to steal!  The Catholics do such a good job of teaching their adherants to be fruitful and multiply, yet they seem to forget about the moral imperative not to steal.  Go figure.
Express Mail
If you need to send something to Perú via express mail, don't expect it to get there within the quoted time period.  I had my sister send me some documents via DHL at a cost of $75 bucks and never got the documents.  When I talked to DHL on the phone, they actually quoted me a different price and transit time than what the DHL office in San Diego quoted my sister in San Diego when she went to send the documents.  It should have taken three business days at most to receive the package, but after three days, it was still in transit according to online tracking so I called to find out more information on the likely arrival date. Unfortunately, the package was not due to arrive until Monday, four business days (six days total) after being sent.  Since I won't be here Monday, I had to reverse the shipment and have them return it to San Diego and I'm still not sure if I'll get any kind of refund since the delay seemed to be DHL's failure and not a customs issue.  Lesson: Good luck with international shipments to second-world countries, and if you must send something internationally, don't use DHL. 
Perú's COE (Cost of Essentials):
Large Coffee from a Coffee Shop: $1.00
Pack of Cigarettes: $2.00
McDonalds Value Meal: $4.50
Domestic Draft at the bar: $2.50
Six-Pack at the Grocery: $2.00

Coke is $3 per gram here...

Hello Everyone,
Ozell and I had some conversations with some of the coke users in the hostel (the majority of the guests) over the last couple of days.  I thought I would share what we have learned... the going rate for good coke is about $3 per gram.  Some of the British people here say they would spend about 70-80 British Pounds ($120-$150) per gram.  The Australians say they would have to spend $300 Australian dollars for a gram.  Since I have never done coke, I have no clue what the going rate is in the States, but if my recollection of hearing other people talk about it is correct, then I think Americans pay about what the British are paying- $100-$130 per gram.
I am very curious to know what the going rate for coke is in the States so if one of you blog readers could tell me, I would appreciate it.  You obviously do not need to reply directly to this blog post if you desire anonymity.  You can send me an e-mail directly at: .    And those of you who know me, you know that I am not anti-drug and would respect your privacy.
So the bottom line is that coke is about 50 times cheaper here than in the western world.  Why I have to admit that many coke users annoy me when they are high, it is only because of their frenetic and overly chatty personalities which makes them inclined to engage me in conversation because they are highly social.  I do not like to be overly engaged in conversations usually.  Although I know that I can get chatty and excited at times too.  Imagine the overly perky and cheerful cheerleader from your high school days.  Then imagine her/him at five times the perkiness and chattiness.  That has been my experience with most of the coke users so far.
Having said that, I don't see any of the drastic negative effects that all of the "Anti-drug" and "War on Drugs" people scream about cocaine.  It appears to be more psychologically addictive rather than physically addictive if it is addictive at all.  All of these coke users behave rationally and are not using all day long.  This is their nightlife party drug.  They due tend to stay up past dawn and then sleep through the day, but that is to be expected given that coke is a stimulant.  From what I have seen, alcohol is a worse drug.  I am not saying that long term use would not have any negative consequences.  Only that the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco appear to be worse for a person than cocaine.  So again, it has proven to me that the vast majority of the anti-drug information (or rather disinformation) that is shoved down the US citizenry's throats is nothing but lies and propaganda.  There are some really nasty drugs out there like heroin, crystal meth, and the crack form of cocaine.  I do not dispute that.  But when people do not discriminate between different drugs and just lop them all into the "horrible & society damaging" category, it really can only backfire.  I speak from experience.  90% of what I was told about weed was a complete lie.  And often the disinformation is promulgated by people who are completely ignorant of the drug themselves.  Once someone realizes that they have been lied to, the natural reaction is to start distrusting the rest of the information they have received on the topic at hand.  (Except for some reason the topic of a person's organized religious superstitions.  They'll hang onto that despite being hit over the head with repeated examples of its silliness and falsehoods.)  So when the anti-drug people try to scare impressionable youth with the line, "Marijuana is a gateway drug.", there may be some truth to that.  However, it is only because after that person tries marijuana and realizes they have been fed a bunch of bullshit (or at the very least, a bunch of huge exaggerations) about it's disastrous effects, then that person is inclined not to believe any of the information they have received about the disastrous effects of other drugs.  Some of which I fully admit are dangerous substances.  That is why I consider those people who feed disinformation or misinformation about drugs to be evil.  And they, themselves, are partially responsible for many of those people with drug addictions. 
Lastly, this experience has also reinforced my belief that the "War on Drugs" is a complete failure and nothing but a scam perpetrated by the US government.  More and more people are realizing that.  The illegality of some of these mild "party" drugs is what drives up the price to amounts that make criminal activity worthwhile.  People aren't going to steal to pay for their drugs when a gram of coke is $3 instead of $130.  Just like criminal gangs and smugglers aren't going to kill for it when their is no profit in it.  The high cost of the illegal drugs is also a scam to transfer wealth from the general populace to illicit groups including your own US government who is probably the biggest drug smuggler in the world.  It also serves to keep our prisons full of non-violent offenders because many of our prisons now are privatized and actually are on stock exchanges like any other private company.  More prisoners mean more money from you the taxpayer to pay for those prisoners and to fatten the wallets of the corporations who run them.  Yet another wealth transfer scam.  It makes me sick.  It is truly evil.  But let's all just have a fasting and prayer revival at Qualcomm Stadium tomorrow because our all loving yet horribly vengeful Daddy figure god will be pissed off if two men or women who love each other are allowed to continue to get married in California.
Well, enough of that rant.  LOL.
Later, I will write that blog post about some of the more flavorful aspects of the local culture here in Cusco including the very interesting Halloween celebration last night.  Why are the pagan holidays so much more fun?  Well Christmas is about as pagan a holiday as you can get too, I guess.  :)
Happy All Saints Day to you all (remember Catholics. this is a day of Holy Obligation so get your asses into mass today),
Sean  :)