Well, it certainly has been a bit since my last post. After returning from my first trip to South America, jotting off to Charlotte, NC to be with my sister and her husband as they welcomed their little girl into the world and getting back to Seattle, I started thinking about what was next. The more obvious question was, how do I want to be of service in this world.
When I originally went to South America, I had promised myself that I would take a trip to the jungle to meet some shamans and sample the local spirit medicine known as Ayahuasca. I couldn’t find an affordable location during my first trip and the timing wasn’t working out so I decided I would make another trip specifically for that purpose later in the year. At least then I would be able to lug some gluten-free food with me to ensure I’d be satiated while relaxing to the sounds of the jungle.
Once I started looking into shamanism I immediately stumbled onto a temple in Peru that spoke to me. I knew this was the location I was meant to go and booked a trip for September 2010. As the time approached I spent many hours working through what my intentions were with a wonderful woman named Jenny Vires a local Seattle shaman I had met through a friend. After going through the amazing experience of a soul retrieval with her and doing some additional work, I headed off to the jungle for a couple of weeks.
After settling back into Seattle after all my travels I decided to open a studio space for my massage practice. Within a week of making the decision to go for it, my friend Drew told me of an office that was available next to his. It felt too perfect to pass up. Within 24 hours I was standing in my new office space. I'm so excited to have a space to relax, be present and offer for my clients.
As business grows, doing multiple massages in a day is getting easier and easier. I've been doing a ton of breath work and meditation to stay grounded during my practice and I can feel how much it’s helping already. In effort to take my breath work to the next level I’m beginning a Qigong series on Monday, Valentines Day, with Karin Collins.... not a bad way to show myself some love and learn a new method of self care tying into the amazing power of breath.
If you are at all interested in working with the breath, I also highly recommend Tanya Huges. She holds monthly breathing practice groups, more details are available on her web page. I've been attending for a few months now and can honestly say this is one of the most powerful meditations I've been able experience. Incorporating this into my morning routine several times a week makes me feel radiant; my plan for the next couple of months is to get up to a daily practice. At times, it has been an amazing way to channel my spirit and reconnect with my experience on Ayahuasca at the Temple of the Way of the Light in the Amazon Jungle. I haven't blogged about that deeply personal experience but let me tell you, it was mind blowing and life changing in so many ways. Using the breath to go deep within and quiet the mind has become a powerful tool and something I'm bringing into my massage work personally and for my clients. Come see for yourself!
After arriving back in the US I quickly set in to resume my life. It didn't take more than a couple of weeks before the entire trip felt like a dream. I spent a couple of weeks indulging in the foods I missed the most and getting my activity back up after some slow lazy weeks in Argentina. I also had my great friend Istara give me a new tattoo as a reminder of what I've been through and where I'm going. Feeling back to normal I took off for Charlotte, NC to sit tight and wait on my sister Lisa's birth. After a couple of weeks of taunting things finally started to happen. My niece Delainey was born on April 23rd at 7lbs and 13oz. She has a full head of hair and can sleep like mad. We had trouble waking her to feed but I'm not complaining. Here are a few photos for those who haven't seen her yet!
The small town of Punta del Este is about 10,ooo people, maybe twice that during January and Feburary but by the time I arrived the high season was over and things were begining to return to normal for the locals. I had been worried about the crowds of people after seeing some photos online (clearly taken during peak season) but was pleasently suprised when I landed. I picked a guesthouse that was 2.5 kilometers from town, just to be sure the party music wouldn´t keep me up late. I stayed at La Lomita del Chingolo and couldn´t have picked a better spot. The owners are a couple around my age with a 2 year old boy, he was a spitting image of cupid, and a chocolate lab named Hush. I checked into my room, splurging for a private room and bath for the week, and picked one out in the garden attachment away from the main house. Perfect, clean and quiet.. I highly recommend this spot if you ever travel to Punta del Este. I headed to the chill area off the kitchen and right away met a couple from Australia and a girl from Canada. I have to admit I was relieved, my brain was fried from trying to interpret and speak spanish for most the past couple of months. I spent the day wondering on foot, the main part of town is about 20 minutes away and there are beaches up and down both sides of the peninsula.
The following day the Aussie couple (Sarah and Bowen), the Canadian girl, (Kelsy) and an Engligh girl (Ally) and I rented bikes and decided to hit the beaches. The first location was way too windy, nothing like sand in the eye and a little free exfoliation. We decided to head up and around the top of the peninsula where there is an inlet protected by sand dunes. After a good hour of sun the clouds rolled in so we decided to make a break for it and go get lunch. By the end of the day I knew I wanted to stay for the entire week so I cancelled the rest of my reservations and extended my stay. Warm sunny beaches and cool temperatures at night for jeans and sweatshirts is my idea of heaven. It reminded me of summer in Seattle (when the sun comes out).
The third day, Kelsey and I stopped to buy some sushi and then biked to the beach where we had a little picnic in the sand. The sun was hiding behind some serious clouds so we hoped back on the bikes and went down to the piers where they fishermen hang out, it is know to be a good spot to see sea lions. Along the water´s edge we found several taking a nap, they were amazing and massive. At first there were only 2 but after walking around to look for more we came back to find 2 additional guys lounging. After taking some good photos we decided to go have a sit in. We went down to a beach close by and sat until the sun came out; it wasn´t so bad considering in 20 minutes the clouds parted to blue sky and tons of sun. It was a beautiful day. After a day of sunning ourselves we headed back to prep for the BBQ. One thing I´ve learned is that when someone here invites you to a BBQ, you must go. Our host, Rodrigo, served up lamb, chirizo, several cuts of beef and chicken with roasted onions. Everyone had a bottle of wine and we didn´t start eating until 11pm so by 1am I was tipsy and stuffed to my limit. I think I had enough protein for a week in one sitting.
The following day more Americans showed up until we had a monopoly on the place. I spend the last couple of days just relaxing on the beach and riding my pink beach cruiser around town. When it came time to leave I was really sad. I can´t wait to come back here in the future and next time I will make it to some other destinations in Uruguay.
After deciding I didn´t want to stay in Buenos Aires for any longer, despite finding the Celiacgourmet store in Palermo where I had some of the best cake I´ve had in years.... I decided to catch a ferry to the coast of Uruguay. I kept hearing how beautiful it was and a little beach time for the end of my trip sounded perfect. The ferry was actually a large catamaran/ship that moved at some serious speed. In a short 3 hours we landed in the large city of Montevideo. The weather was crappy and raining for the trip so I was dreading another week of rain and humidity but by the time I arrived it had cleared. I stayed in the Che Legarto hostel in the old town, the downtown of Montevideo where folks work but few live. I don´t recommend this area of town, there wasn´t much to look at and the crime is high. I was told not to wonder off the main strip after dark so I decided to stay in the hostel and partake in the BBQ they were hosting. It wasn´t bad but far from the best meat I´ve had in South America. The two girls sitting next to me were from Switzerland and spoke decent engligh so we had some caipirinhas (Brazilian drink with white rum, limon, sugar and ice) and played a couple games of pool. I sucked as usual but it was fun, we even taught a young Chilean girl how to play. Before hitting the sack I managed to catch some of the Olympics; unfortunately this was the first and only time I got to watch any of the winter Olympics. The following day I walked through town a bit and by 1pm I was ready to vacate the large city and head for the small town of Punta del Este. I hit the bus station and grabbed the next one out for a 2 hour ride along the coast to my new destination.
I flew into Buenos Aires on a Tuesday, opting for the 2 hour plane ride over the 20 hour bus ride. Worth every stinking penny! As I flew in I got a birds eye view of the city and have to remark at the similarities to New York. The building sytle is a bit different and some is much much older but it feels distinctly like NYC. Tons of concrete, very few trees but a handful of little parks and a really large green area near the water. I spent the first couple of days walking around, getting slightly lost a few times and really getting to know the neighborhood, Palermo, where I was staying. On the third day I was wondering around in the Microcenter (main downtown part of town) searching for a book store with English titles. After scoring a new book to read and hitting up Starbucks (there are several in Buenos Aires) for a classic iced green tea... I started walking in the direction of home. I didn´t get very far before I found a spa. I ducked in to make a reservation for a massage and to my delight they had an opening that evening for 8pm so I took it. It was now about 4pm so I decided to head back to the hostel (on the other side of town)and relax for a few hours before grabbing a cab back. When I stepped back out of the spa it was almost dark out, I looked up to see the darkest clouds I could ever remember and realized I needed to get moving fast.
Up to this point I´ve been taking the subway but its like a box oven with more people on the cars than should be legally safe. Considering its over 90 degrees and 100% humidity, the subway is far from a pleasurable experience but its cheap and fast. I started walking in the direction of home as it started to sprinkle, realizing it wasn´t going to get any better I decided to duck into the subway and catch the train to my neighborhood. Apparently a million other people had the same idea, I waited for 2 trains before I could find room to squeeze into the train before the doors shut. I was instantly soaked with sweat, hating every minute but blindly unaware of what was happening on the street above me. As I jumped off at the location closest to my hostel it was already raining hard and the water was really flowing down the streets. I didn´t make it more than 2 blocks before it was raining so violently hard I was completely soaked, including my bag and everything in it (like my new book). By the time I made it the next 4 blocks the water had overflowed the streets and was running down the sidewalk at a good 3-4 inches deep. I got inside and changed into dry clothes, assessed the damage of my bag and laid everything out to dry. As I headed into the living area the employee had switched on the news and we were amazed. In the area where I had been just 15 minutes before, the street was completely flooded. People were wading in waste high water, transportation was cut off and they were sending in life boats to rescue people. Of all the places I´ve been, I could imagine this happening in several of the remote areas but I never thought it would occur in downtown Buenos Aires. We watched for hours as the rain continued to pour with lightning and thunder. Its a good thing I had made a run to the grocery store earlier in the day, it turned into a movie night in the hostel.
By the next morning all the water had drained away but the trash and damage was still visible. At breakfast I talked with the Swedish girl, Ingrid, who had been stuck in that part of town. She had taken refuge on the stairs of a building and met a guy who lived there, he invited her inside and gave her some dry clothes. Turns out he is an actor and currently in a play that has been running since September. He gave her 2 tickets to come see the show and escorted her home later when things calmed down a bit to make sure she didn´t have any trouble. She invited me to see the show with her and we thought it would be a good Spanish lesson. The play was the story of a previous president of Argentina, Arturo Umberto Illia, his life and how it came to be that he took and lost his run as President. I didn´t understand a lot of it, but could follow the flow of the play based on context and the emotion of the characters. It was well done but I had to resort to the internet to read up on him later which helped me put together the pieces I didn´t understand.
Its been an interesting week in Buenos Aires full of sweet, street vendors, large shopping malls, fantastic architecture and a park full of cats.
Upon arriving in Salta, I was picked up from the bus station by my hostel. If you ever go to Salta, this is the place to stay; Molles del Puertozuelo is up on the hill just away from the center of Salta and its surrounded by trees. There is no street noise or loud music to interrupt your slumber and you are blessed with the sound of birds and insects all day long. To top it off the owner, Tito, is one of the nicest people I´ve ever met. The first day he met me I told him I was gluten free and immediately he was offering to make me some gluten free bread. For breakfast, the traditional fare here is bread, instead I was greated with fresh fruit and yogurt everyday. Tito made a wonderful loaf of gluten free bread and he also suprised me with gnocchi and some pizza crusts. Of course the rooms are great and I was more than ready to be away from the noise of town. My friend Charlotte arrived a couple of days later from Cafayate and we moved into the apartment where we had a kitchen and more room for hanging out. Tito was so helpful and his family was so kind. It has been a great treat to stay here with all of them.
On the second day Charlotte and I went to San Lorenzo just a 20 minute bus ride away. For something like 40 cents, we jumped on a local bus and before we knew it we were there. Folks this is the place, if I ever have the extra cash to buy a second home, I think it will be in San Lorenzo. Its a quiet little sleepy town with lush green rolling hills and mountains. The houses are a mix of Spanish and Italian influence but most were absolutely beautiful with large lush yards. From what folks have told us, these nice houses would go for something around 80k. Not bad if you ask me, sounds incredibly cheap for the type of houses and the land. Unfortunately there isn´t much work here, most of the money in this town is from tobacco farms and old family money. Either way, I recommend it if you ever make it to the north of Argentina. The canyon area near by was also beautiful and full of families playing and relaxing in the water that cut through the middle of the hills. We made our way around a hiking loop at the Quebrada and to the top of the mountain, from the top we took a zip line back down. It was the first time for Charlotte so I went first and snapped a few photos of her. Afterwards we returned to Salta and spent a few more days enjoying the hostel and relaxing. On Sunday, Tito took us to another Quebrada about 25 kilometers from Salta in the open jeep. We had a nice hike to the waterfall and along the old train tracks. Of course, being in an open jeep means it had to rain on us. Once we got back into the jeep we didn´t get far before it was pouring. We were laughing and trying to get to the closest village as fast as possible, once there we dashed into a small restaurant and snuggled in for a feast while we waited out the storm. I had my first humitas, similar to a tomale but with fresh corn (not flour) and cheese which are steamed in corn husks. Yum town! Check out the new photos I posted on Flickr.
On the second day in Cafayate, Charlotte and I returned to the Rio Colorado and hiked up to the area where the waterfalls were. It was a fun hike, crossing back and forth over the water, climbing over large rocks and up through a cave along the way. Going into the hike we had some interesting jumps and sometimes sliding down rocks that were too slippery to stand on. I knew it would be entertaining to figure out how to get back up when we returned but figured there must be a way, there were lots of people along the river lying in the water in the areas where it pooled next to a little fall. If all these folks (young and old) could all make it out there, there must be many different ways to get back.
After hanging out for a bit and enjoying the cool water I noticed a small frog just next to where I was sitting. They change colors depending on where they are and the light but this one was bright green. I grabbed a couple of photos but never saw it open its eyes. I guess he was enjoying the sunshine as well. We decided to make our way back before dusk; I didn’t want to get lost in the low light. We made our way safely and only had trouble in one spot where we had jumped down before; there wasn’t anything to hold onto and we needed to get up the side of a rock. I boosted Charlotte up and then she pulled me up from a small crack just barely wide enough to get your feet on. From there we could use a tree for the rest of the climb. These truly are the types of hikes I like to make; it’s more of an adventure than a walk in the woods.
On our way back out we stopped by the campsite to check on our friend David. He was resting in his hammock and cooking up some Chabrito (I think its lamb or goat, not sure) over a fire. We chatted a bit and he showed us a fig tree just next to where he was camping, we each ate several off the tree within minutes. Tasty tasty tasty. Afterwards we started walking back to town. About 10 minutes down the road we encountered a girl who called us through the thicket to a large stone. She and her friend were German, from the exact same town as Charlotte but the gentlemen had grown up there in Cafayate so they were in town to visit his family. He gave us a history of the stone. It was large and flat, on top where something like 30 holes in perfect circular shape of equal sizes. One theory states they were used by the Indians as a mortar and pestle vessel to make flour from wheat and such. The other, more common theory is that it’s a mirror for the stars. The layout of the circles mirrors the constellations during the month of May, it’s believed they fill the circles with water and the reflection has some mystical or religious significance. Either way, it was neat to see but I couldn’t get my flash to work and it was too dark to get a good picture so you’ll just have to take my word for it. He also showed us a short cut back to town and I practiced my Spanish with him during the walk while the two girls went on in German. Another great day in Cafayate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any gluten free food in town so I decided to head to Salta the following morning. Charlotte decided to stay for a couple more days to explore more. Off to Salta I went.