Saturday, July 30, 2005

People think this way, and they live down the street!

Megan, honestly, has a hard time adjusting to life in the south. It has been eye-opening in some ways. For instance, she has learned that there are a lot of genuinely fine folk who, well, happen to be missing teeth, proudly wear the mullet, speak English at a second grade level, and think the rebel flag is a genuine symbol of southern pride. But they ARE nice folk.

That is not to say that there are not people like us here (whatever that is). But what makes North Carolina different from Portland is that everyone here is NOT like us. Portland is a great place, but it is the most homogonized place in this world. Everyone in that town is a middle to upper-middle class white person with a Subaru Outback, who likes old houses and good beer and good music. They all wear fleece vests and carry their kids in Kelty backpacks.

As a middle class white guy with a Subaru Outback, fleece vest, Kelty kid-carrier, jones for good beer and love of great music, I felt very comfortable in Oregon. I don't always feel that comfortable here. For instance, when is the last time you've been somewhere where you were the only white guy? Or the only person with an education? Or the only person with a passport?

I am not trying to say I am better than anyone else. It is just interesting to me to be surrounded by lots of different people. I actually like it, and I know it is good for me.

But really what scares Megan the most are the letters to the editor in our local daily paper. It cracks us up and is the first section we go to every morning.

Here are some excerpts from one of our favorites, which ran in the paper on Thursday.

It was headlined: "It's time to realize we're in a world war."

Here goes:

"Read the newspaper or listened to TV news lately? Story after story about the Islamic bombing in London and about the bombing in Egypt. It cries out for smart people to understand we are in a world war.

London police have finally gotten the right idea and are using the right methods: an ultra-fast response and orders to "shoot to kill."

. . . .

Thank God the Patriot Act will continue to protect fools and drunks who believe the Muslim culture wants to live in peace. Read the Quran. The final message is "kill the unbeliever, where ever you find him."

How dumb are we going to continue to be? We have been at war with Islam for more than 1,400 years and it continues today. Immigration is war of another form.

Muslim communities are not interested in assimilation. They gather in one neighborhood, build their mosque, become citizens and fly their old flags. They claim a portion of Christian America -- for Islam.

Billy F. Hammack"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Memories . . .

So I am sitting here in the public library with a lightning-fast internet connection and thought I would take a break from job hunting to post up a few pictures from our summer trip.

But first, let me tell you that a bunch of dumb-ass hicks come to the library down here to screw around on the computer all day looking for an on-line date. And why is it the person next to me always thinks they are so cool because they put on some headphones and sing-along and "chair dance" to some crap top 40 song only they can hear? Do they not think people can hear them singing? Are they THAT dumb or just rude?

Our hick fun continued last night with some of our neighbors throwing deck chairs into the pool and using them as some kind of sunken pool toys. "Mommy, why are those people putting furniture in the pool?" Jane asked. "Um, because they are Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, Jane." Best I could do.

But I digress.

Here is a picture of Janey with a porter up on Machu Pichu. It pays to be in shape. We beat up the stairs the 100 people who arrived at the same time we did and managed to take this shot before the ledge became as packed as the floor at a Green Day concert. And we did it with Mac on Meg's back and Jane on my shoulders. Aarghghg.
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Here is the familia in some other part of Machu Pichu:
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Monday, July 25, 2005

Life in Bolivia is Dead. Long live Life in Bolivia.

Well, after much soul searching and hand-wringing, we have made the very difficult and, for us, sad decision to not return to Bolivia at the end of this summer.

Why? It is a very complicated decision, that really has nothing to do with Bolivia. We love Bolivia, and believe it is the most culturally rich, exotic, beautiful, pure and maddening place in South America.

Megan was working in Cochabamba as a teacher. The school she worked with was full of wonderful teachers and administrators. Really, you could not ask for a better bunch of people to work with. The school, however, is a "for profit" school run by a board of directors that we have serious issues with. Without getting into too many details, we viewed the way that the board treated certain other teachers and staff as, well, downright rotten and scummy. And on top of that, we have very significant issues with how our immigration and tax situations were handled. We basically got screwed out of a ton of money. As a result, we had absolutely no confidence in the board of directors and do not feel it is in the best interest of the family to return. Oh, and a whole bunch of other little things too.

We are now living in the Southern part of the U.S., which is something I said I would never do.

If you think Bolivia was culturally different, well, that ain't nuthin' compared to the South.

So, while I will not write about Life in Bolivia anymore, I will keep the blog alive writing about Life in the South.

Our neighbors mostly have no teeth. Sweet folk, but toothless.

Welcome to life in the south.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

South America Top 10

We have been holed up in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains this past week. What amazing country. My brother-in-law Matt is a contractor and he builds these unbelievable houses using the "post and beam" technique. These houses are my dream house. Usually smaller in size, but with tons of character and craftsmanship. Matt's house is a log cabin set on 10 acres of land that straddles a ridge. Incredible views of the mountains and the French Broad River. We don't want to leave!!!! Needless to say, if I ever get a little bit of money the first thing on my list will be having Matt build us a cabin.

Well, back to South America. Here is a list Megan and I compiled of our 10 favorite things from the 3 weeks we spent travelling around:

10. Tango in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. On one of our first days there we took the subway down to this old, once grand neigborhood to walk the small cobbled streets and take in the antiques fair. In the middle of the little plaza they have there was a couple putting on a tango exhibition. We spent a good hour watching it and were just amazed at how beautiful it was.

9. Avenida Huerfanos in Santiago. Santiago is probably our favorite city in South America (so far). Running right through the entire downtown area is Avenida Huerfanos, which is closed to cars. The street is lined with all kinds of bookstores and cafes, etc. Jam packed with people at all hours of the day. We spent a lot of time walking this area. I think it says good things about a city when it closes off parts of its center to the god-awful automobile. This was also a big taste of "civilization", which is something we had not seen in a loooong time.

8. Hotel Ultramar in Valparaiso, Chile. Coolest hotel we have ever stayed at. Chic but down to earth. Super-nice staff. To-die-for breakfast. Amazing 100 year old brick building. All for $70. Yes, your dollar goes far south of the border.

7. Chilean oranges. Most of the fruit in your local supermarket comes from Chile. After a year of Bolivia's sad, mangy fruit with its messed up skins, seeds and lack of sweetness, these oranges were a revelation. Every orange you get in Chile is perfect. Perfect, unblemished orange skins. Bursting with sweetness and juice. No seeds. They were the most perfect fruit we have eaten in our lives. We still talk about them all the time. And miss them.

6. Sacred Valley, Peru. Take a staggeringly beautiful valley, surrounded by steep, jagged snow-capped mountains. Add Incan ruins that will blow your mind. Let sit for a few hundred years. This is what you get. It lived up to its name.

5. Main cathedral in Cusco. We are church fans, and this is probably the grandest example of the many we have seen over the past year. Staggering in its scale. The silver-plated alter. The artwork. And Mac screaming "ugly bitch" in Spanish at the top of his lungs, while laughing like a demon, make it a day we will never forget.

4. Museo Interactivo Mirador, Santiago. Coolest childrens' museum we have ever experienced. Clean, big and well-done. It was like a jumbo OMSI (Portland's kids museum), only it was not crowded.

3. Mendoza wine. Imagine California's wine country. Only there are more wineries, dramatic Andes mountains in the background, food is cheap, wine costs $10 for the top bottles, hotels are inexpensive, and there is no pretention. This tops the short list of places we did not want to leave. On a side note, we toted 7 good bottles of Malbec (the local specialty) back with us. I declared them on my customs form, but was not required to pay any duties. That was cool.

2. The staff of Hotel Cusi Wasi in Cusco, Peru. Senora Yolanda and Senor Christian took wonderful care of us. They were like family by the time we left there. In fact, Megan almost cried on the way to the airport. One morning it was particularly cold and Yolanda made us all some nice, hot chicken soup.

1. Machu Pichu. We had high expectations and Machu Pichu surpassed them all. It still blows our mind to think about it and to look at the pictures we took. A magical place, and one that should be on everyone's life list (but hurry -- it is quickly sliding down the hill!)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

39 Days on the Road

So we and our 300# of luggage have been on the road for like 39 days. Next time you bitch about that road trip with your kids, think of us. Until you have travelled with a 2 and 4 year old for 39 days through 5 countries, you will not get any sympathy from me.

Last we talked, I was in Buenos Aires. Well, we flew 14 or so hours to North Carolina. The kids did great -- they are old pros.

First day here we went to Wal-Mart. Crazy how much processed food people eat here. Very few raw ingredients and lots of stuff in big super-sized flashy packaging. You are all going to die.

The other thing I noticed -- and I put myself in this category -- is that the folks in the U.S. are the worst dressed in the Americas. I never noticed it before, but after a year in South America, it cracks me up the crap we wear. We look bad. I may be one of the worst offenders.

Anyway, we spent a week in the Raliegh area. It was nice and all, but too big and spread out for our needs. So, we headed down to Ocean Isle Beach and spent a week in a million dollar house right on the sand. Not bad. The whole Yeakley clan was there and the 18 of us more or less avoided killing each other.

We're now in Greensboro, NC. We really dig it here. Nice small town atmosphere, lots of character. Affordable housing. We will likely give this place a shot.

But today we are off to Asheville up in the Blue Ridges to spend a few days with Meg's brother Matt. I love it up there. Should be fun.

More later . . . .