el amor encirculo el globo

From guest blogger Jules:


�muchas gracias, todos, para sus emails!

mi tobillo (ankle) is healing, albeit slower than molasses, but i have no doubt your well-wishing, good humor, shots of whiskey in the ankle’s honor, and collective good vibes and love are all working together in one big mushy ball of positive energy towards speeding its recovery. i can walk, very sloooooooowly, con muchisimo cuidado, and have learned how to tape it properly to secure it for the walking. i’ve spent the last few days being largely sedentary, catching up on sleep, reading, writing, drinking plenty of argentine beer (i recommend it with plenty ibuprofen)…

but to break up the monotony of lying around the hostel, my nurse friend authorized a mini-excursion for me yesterday afternoon. we taped the living snot out of my big ole swollen joint, crammed it neatly into my boot, and sent me and alex off on a guided tour into el parque los glaciares to see one of the largest glaciers this side of the world, el perito moreno, emptying into el lago argentino, the largest lake in the country. we took a bus into the park, and then a boat ride beneath the edge of the glacier, a towering wall of jagged blue ice, with massive chunks calving (breaking off) and crashing down into the lake right before our eyes. �que magnifico! by far the largest glacier i’ve ever seen, and definitely the most active. right at the base of some impressive montaסas as well… just being near them put my heart at ease, and seeing the landscape bonito, reminiscent in many ways of new zealand. i felt like a bit more of a turista than i usually like to (and a crippled one at that), but it was more than worth it to get outside for awhile and check out a brilliant natural feature.

today we spent hobbling around town (again), getting more bus tickets, mas comida para trekking, and visiting the local farmacias to buy out the entire town’s supply of athletic tape. we have overstayed our welcome at this hostel (the maids are very annoyed at our huge piles of gear blocking their way to the other camas in the room), and ready or not, we’re about to get the heck out of here. alex has volunteered his strong shoulders for the bulk of our gear, and i’m going to lighten my load and administer lots of tape, ibuprofen, and a half-assed ankle brace to the ankle, and by god, we’re going to make this mission happen one way or another. tomorrow, to el chalten, and then to begin trekking around fitz roy. sure, we’re probably pushing it, but we’re crazy like that. and we can’t take anymore of this town. time to hit the trail. yes, mom and dad, i’ll be very careful.

well, i’m running up quite an internet tab, so i better close, but thanks again for your concern, all, and keep us in your thoughts as we venture away from civilization. and always remember, enjoy your good health. we’ll be in touch again on the flipside, chao for now.

abrazos y besos,
jules

Waiting to Go Go

A TRAGICOMEDY IN ONE ACT

(with many apologies to Samuel Beckett)
(starring Jules as ESTROGEN)
(and Alex as VOLDEMORT)

(A grungy hostel room; three sets of bunk beds)
(Morning)

(ESTROGEN lying in the bottom bunk, staring sadly at her ankle)

(Rustling from above. VOLDEMORT pokes his head over the edge of
the top bunk)

VOLDEMORT:
(roaring) I am he who must not be named! All must bow down to
the Dark Lord!

ESTROGEN:
About time you woke up. My stomach’s Rowling. And you’ve
gone completely Potter. Since when are you so awake in
the morning?

VOLDEMORT:
(croaking morning voice) Good point. (blinks sleepily and
rubs eyes). How was your night?

ESTROGEN:
Alas, no better than the first. Or the second. Something
really needs to be done about those snoring Euros.

VOLDEMORT:
(frightened) What did we do?

ESTROGEN:
(confused) We?

VOLDMORT:
(suddenly with a French accent) Vee are zee Euros, no?
Monsieur Beckett, he placed us in zee country of
Francais. Your mozzer vas a snowblower, and your fazzer,
he stank of elderberries!

ESTROGEN:
Perhaps so, but we sprung fom the forehead of a demented
chino-americano, from New Jersey no less. I fear he has
spent too many days in the mind-numbing tourist trap
that is Calafate. Gone a bit soft in the head, he has.

VOLDEMORT:
Pah! (spits off the top bunk. ESTROGEN ducks for cover.)
Let’s get out of here then.

ESTROGEN:
Great idea. We’ve been waiting to go go for too long now.

(neither moves. ESTROGEN looks down at her ankle again)
(VOLDEMORT glances down and sighs)

VOLDEMORT:
Perhaps a side trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier then?

ESTROGEN:
(vigorously tries to wag tail, realizes she has none,
settles for scratching behind the ears instead) Rat would
re reat, Reorge! Re need to ret out rof ris rostel!

(Rosie the robot maid enters the room, spews a stream of
unintelligible spanish. Smoke pours out of her ears and much
beeping (in spanish) is heard. exuent Rosie, chased by a bear.)

(VOLDEMORT looks at ESTROGEN. ESTROGEN looks back. Neither moves)

ESTROGEN:
(sighs) Let’s go. We’ve been waiting to go go.

VOLDEMORT:
(sighs) We can’t. We’re waiting to go go.

ESTROGEN:
So true. What day is it today anyway?

VOLDEMORT:
February 2nd. Why do you ask?

ESTROGEN:
No reason. It just feels like the same day repeating over
and over.

(both collapse back into bed)

VOLDEMORT:
(talking to the ceiling) I can’t wait to go go.

ESTROGEN:
Let’s go go.

(neither moves)
(fade to black)

fin.

envian esperanza, por favor

From guest blogger Jules:


ah, you are surprised to hear back from me already? well, a funny thing happened on the way to the door this morning… no, really… but perhaps “funny” isn’t the word i’m looking for either–not funny ha-ha, at least… a strange and unfortunate turn of events. to this moment, i cannot understand what cosmic forces allowed it to happen, but i try not to question the ways of the universe.

alex and i were right on schedule this morning as we donned our packs and started to head for the bus station. we were team-carrying our duffel bag of “extra stuff,” which were going to stash at the hostel during our trek, downstairs to the front desk, alex in the lead. forward momentum, all systems go… until my foot missed the last stair and i came crashing down with all my weight, as well as that of my 40+ pound pack, right onto my left ankle. and the result: a good hard sprain. it made quite a spectacle for the 15-20 other tourists/trekkers in the front room of the hostel, i’m sure, and after awhile i was able to overcome the shooting pain to hobble back upstairs with alex and find some hielo and ibuprofen. he looked at me, hoping for an optimistic statement. “we’re not going anywhere today, man,” i glumly replied. back to the dingy hostel bed i was more than ready to leave behind for the good ole argentinian ground, trying not to let the reality hit too hard. but we were going nowhere! ay ay ay, el suerte malo. in one second, just one step, all our excitement was totally squelched. darn it, clumsy jules…

we did manage to meet up with a nice nurse from the uk fresh off a trek herself, and she assessed my sprain–two ligaments damaged, necesito 72 horas of icing/resting before i could think of going anywhere… now it was time to get depressed. alex has only 1 month here, and can’t afford the time to wait around for my clumsy ass to heal. and i just can’t wait that long to get going! i’ve already waited long enough, and here i am, come all this way, just out of reach of the mountains, and here i am stuck, in this shitty hostel, another 3 days at least… dismal. well, i guess it could always be worse, i could have fallen from the top of the stairs, or maybe i could have a sprained ankle *and* amoebic dysentery… as it is, i should be thankful this mishap occurred within civilization, and hopefully take it easy for a few days and be extra extra careful when i do sling that pack on my shoulder and start scrambling around in uneven terrain.

anyhow, we still intend to do the trek we first planned, just postpone it a few days, and we should still have time for the other trek we hoped to do. alex can hopefully keep himself entertained renting mountain bikes and checking out nearby glaciers in el calafate… and bringing me empanadas and more hielo here and there… but the specter of boredom that looms ahead for yours truly is nasty indeed. thus, i implore you, amigos, send me emails so i can hear what’s going on in your world as i wait this one out. your company, via internet, will help me heal up quick and get back on track with this adventure. thanks to everybody who has written to me already, your love is much appreciated in good and bad health.

and there’s yer update for now. missing all of yous, una-pie jules

10 steps down (the stairs), 3 days back

The best laid plans go to waste. Look before you leap. We now
interrupt your regularly scheduled vacation for these important
messages.

One of these days, I’ll be able to speak completely in cliches
and aphorisms, but until then, I guess I still have to do a bit
of thinking on my own.

Apologies for the discontinuity of thought, but things have gone
a bit awry. This morning, Jules took a nasty spill down the
stairs and ended up twisting her ankle. The 40 lb. pack she was
carrying surely didn’t help, methinks. Nothing major, but hiking
is out of the question for the time being.

In any case, we’ve had a temporary setback; nothing too out of
the ordinary on a long trip like this. Expeditions get bogged
down due to illness and minor injury all the time. The plan now
is for some good old fashion first-aid: rest, ice, compression,
elevation. Lots of Scrabble, rummy, reading, and writing to while
away the hours and keep our minds off the coming adventures.
Hopefully we’ll be able to carry on in a few days’ time.

Until then, signing off.

ciao.

/Alex

ps, if it seems like you’re missing some context for this email,
you can catch the back issues/reruns/what-have-you at:
http://www.chizang.net/alex/blog/

out of the pressure cooker and into the glaciers

Hola todos,

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written last. Even so, this
correspondence will be the abridged version since a) I’m tired
and sleep-deprived due to not having anything resembling a normal
schedule in the past 4 days and b) I’m rather annoyed that my
last attempt at emailing ended in dismal failure after my
connection died one hour into the composition. So now, dear
reader, we must both sigh and wonder at what might have been.
(trust me, it would have been *awesome*).

In any case, Buenos Aires is now but a fading and distant memory.
We spent a few crazy thirty-six hours painting the town red with
our friend from Ft. Collins, Rob Knapik, who is a great guy and
one who makes you think, upon meeting him, “Gee, this fellow is
going to go places. Like jail, perhaps.”

Ha ha! Just kidding of course! Knapik is good people, and is in
Argentina to study cosmic rays in the Mendoza province (and if
you know anything about quirky queerness of quantum physics, you
will not be at all surprised to learn that Mendoza is where all
the Argentinian wine comes from).

We spent a bit sweating on the subway (called Subte) and a few
hours lazing about throwing a disc in the botannical gardens.
After a short siesta we were ready for dinner — at 11:30 pm.

The food situation deserves some discussion. Most Argentines
don’t eat breakfast, have a mid-morning snack of empanadas, eat
lunch around 1 or 2, and then are ready for dinner in the late
evening. Nine pm would be considered an early dinner and 10 seems
to be about the average. Portions are ridiculously Brobdingnagian
in size and seem to be divided equally between actual food and
butter. It’s a coronary surgeon’s delight down here; in short, my
type of folk. Even so, at times it can be a bit much, and this is
coming from a guy who once tried to eat every item on the Wendy’s
value menu in one sitting (and failed in a spectacular shower of
vomit, but that is not the point here).

Regardless, we left the restaurant at one in the morning, bloated
beyond belief, and proceeded directly to a nearby Irish bar with
the intention of stalling for time before heading out to the
discoteques. Unfortunately, it turns out that there have been
several horrible night club incidents where multiple (like 200)
people have died due to lacking fire precautions. Nowadays, all
the discos are closed while the city tries to figure out how to
prevent this from happening anymore (here’s a hint: less
corruption).

Since the discos were closed, the next obvious solution was to
befriend the waiter and get ourselves invited to his apartment
along with all his amigos and continue to dance and drink and
blast ear-shattering music until 6:30 AM until realizing that
taking a flight a mere nine hours later with a hangover would
suck royally. With some reticence, we bade them adieu, and slept
in a ridiculous sweaty pile, three of us on two chiclet-sized
beds pushed together, all with feet hanging off the edge.
Fantastico.

We’re in Calafate now, and leaving tomorrow to hike in el Parque
Nacional Glaciares. Calafate is a lovely town with a dash of
village and a hint of city, and booming like no other.
Construction is everywhere, and every third shop is for the
turistas. Think Aspen or some other idyllic mountain town before
it got infected with Xtreem Capitalism (coming soon to ESPN 4).
Still, I like it better than B.A. The ratio of windstopper fleece
and goretex to leather has increased dramatically, and dazed
wind-burned gringos tottering about with backpacks large enough
in which to smuggle a small Guatemalan family abound. We’ve
embraced the hostel scene, enduring cubic metres of cigarette
smoke and filthy Euros who seem never to have heard of “soap”.
Regardless, it’s a good time had by all, and it wouldn’t be fun
if it were fun all the time.

we’re about to lose the ability of harnessing electrons to do our
cruel and merciless bidding, and thus you shant hear from me for
a while. Until then, yours truly is over and out.

ciao,

/Alex

ps, as always, to get Jules’ side of the story, be sure to check
out the blog at: http://www.chizang.net/alex/blog/

el sur

From guest blogger Jules:


hola empanadas!

despues de dos dias muy muy muy locas en buenos aires, vamos al calafate en
el sur de argentina. (after 2 really f**kin crazy days in b.a., we went to
el calafate in southern argentina, but bear in mind i dont remember the
correct conjugation of that verb, ir, for the past tense). the insanity that
we cooked up in the big ciudad, once we figured out how to hold the map
right, is more than i can possibly relate, suffice it to say we
got-er-done…

but let me back up and fill in those of you who are not familiar with the
custom in latin america. we eat a little lunch (por ejemplo, empanadas) a
las uno o dos, afterwards we take a siesta (anywhere from 1-8 horas), and
then we wake up around 9 pm, eat dinner at 10 or 11, and then start drinking
and party til dawn. i tell you, friends, this is a schedule i could truly
embrace (particularly in the dreamlike state where jet lag and sleep
deprivation tango). our second night in b.a. was spent in this manner, con
nuestro companero rob knapik (from fort collins) on a quest, no, a holy
crusade, for the perfect restaurant (which ended when we finally found a
reasonable looking one and were too ravenous to keep walking), where we ate
huge fatty gordo gigante platos de comida rico (salmon y steak), washed them
down with 2 bottles of vino, and just when consuming more food seemed
imposible, we then ordered the most extravagant dessert on the menu,
essentially a barge of helados (ice creams), dulce de leche, cookies, etc.
all on top of panqueques dulces, ay ay ay. apparently, our waiter was amused
with los gringos borrachos (drunk honkeys), so he brought us glasses of
champagne on the house.

after this, we stumbled upon an irish pub (some things you never have to
look hard for, en todo el mundo) had whiskeys, guinnii, and “chanchos”
(knapik’s drink, fernet y coca, fernet es un licor egual de jagermeister).
we were dismayed at this point to learn that all the discotecas were closed
due to a freak accident la semana pasada, but not to fear, we convinced our
waiter to bring us home and entertain us until the dawn. we all caught a
taxi, in bucketing rain, when the pub closed (around 4 am), and ended up at
our new friend paolo’s apartment, where we danced away the wee hours to his
cranked-up stereo, braving the rain on his deck, which was several stories
high overlooking the city. finally we made it back to the hotel to pass out
on our chiclet-sized camas at 7:30 am. surreal! un buen tiempo!

of course, all the goings-on of the night made it a bit of a mission to make
our flight at 3:30 pm that afternoon, but somehow, just barely, we pulled
it. and now we have been magically transported from the land of chaos to un
lugar mas tranquilo in el calafate… very reminiscent of some of the
colorado mountain towns, like cb or telluride, but a little larger. when we
sauntered into town, in fact, a feeling of calm like i haven’t had in months
washed over me as i saw the place, one main street, quaint little shops,
perros libros (dogs running around free), and shaggy pack-carrying
mountainfolk (mostly international) all over the place. did i mention the
distinctive skyline of the patagonian andes in the distance. mi corazon es
contento ahora…

we are staying in a hostel, which has good and bad points (namely, the
stinky snoring europeans we are sharing our room with, holy funk, people, do
you ever bathe), and tomorrow (feb. 1) we depart early for el parque
nacional los glaciares, the fitzroy area. we are planning to do a 5-day trek
there, and then return to civilization for a few days before heading further
south. i’m buzzing with anticipation, for so close to the mountains (and
they look every bit as remarkable as i had imagined) i feel i have truly
arrived now. espero que hay mucho sol en la semana proxima… today was
beautiful, sunny, but i understand that we have mucho viento y lluvia (wind
and rain) to look forward to, sooner or later…

ahora, ustedes ojos son cansados from reading all this mumbo-jumbo, so til
next time, take good care,

paz y alma,
jules

numero uno

From guest blogger Jules:


hola, amigos!

soy en argentina! que suerte! es un milagro!

we successfully launched the sudamerican mission yesterday, after narrowly missing our first flight to chicago (our space cadet travel agent didnt bother to tell us the flight time was changed to be 30 minutes earlier than we were aware of). with some luck, we raced barefoot through the security lines and hopped on board just as the gates were closing, and a few hours later navigated the vast maze of chicago ohare to find our connecting flight to buenos aires. that was the real committing part. 11.5 hours strapped into an airplane chair, 5000+ miles over land and sea, and several bags of complimentary pretzels later, we finally rejoined with terra firma, another continent, another hemisphere. for the first time after so many months of planning and so many years of desiring, this chance to visit this amazing new place on planet earth at last became real…

we checked into our hotel around 1 pm (after nearly causing an all-out brawl between three taxi drivers at the aeropuerto, ay ay ay) and desperately cranked up the a/c (hace mucho calor en buenos aires this time of year). took a wee nap and then began marching all over downtown b.a. in search of plane tickets to our next destination, el calafate (southern argentina, a portal to the fitzroy area of patagonia). we fly out of b.a. on jan. 30th, and then we are truly out there, at the edge of civilization. monta�as, here we come.

so far, and i speak from 7 hours of experience, things are pretty different here, but not so different… the city of buenos aires is actually suprisingly modern and cosmopolitan, y la gente es muy guapo, tambien. the hardest thing for me is the language… the pronunciation here is pretty unique and the pace is fast, so i dont understand much, but i have been trying my best to speak and force myself to think in espa�ol. if it wasnt for alex, i would be quite lost in communications, indeed, so muchas gracias, buddy. so far, ive already drank the water out of the tap and eaten raw vegetables, so im really rolling the dice on the chancy table of gastrointestinal possibilities… but what the hell, i say, im committed. i want the full experience. tengo hambre!

well, thats all for now, we have a long walk back to our hood and its about to get dark, so stay tuned for more updates as we get further along. just wanted to drop a line to say: phase one complete, dos personas intact. all my best to all of you….

vaya con dios, jules

safe, sound, and sweaty

Hola friends and family,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it safe and
sound. Not much time, but a few quick notes before signing off…

– Buenos Aires is a modern Euro-flavoured country, nothing at
all like Lima or La Paz.

– That said, you can still easily die while crossing the street
here, as every driver seems to be a maniac.

– It’s HOT. Like in the 90s and humid. Egads, I haven’t sweat
this much since the bad old days of living in Texas.

– Spanish is slowly coming back, but the accent here is funny
and not one that I’m used to.

– I’ve already made an ass out of myself by attempting to open
a bottle with the back end of a pocket knife. The woman
watching me came screeching around her counter with a bottle
opener and chastising me, saying “cuidado, cuidado”.

Alright, more to come later; just wanted to let you know I am
still alive (and survived the 13 hour plane trip).

ciao.

/Alex

ps, for those of you who didn’t get my first email, it’s on the
blog at http://www.chizang.net/alex/blog/

bon jour, adieu

Greetings and Salutations!

I’m sitting here and staring at two giant expedition backpacks
stuffed to the gills with the latest technological gewgaws and
doodads (but only two pairs of underwear) and contemplating the
last time in a month that my lower gastrointestinal tract will
resemble anything near normal.

Whoops, perhaps I should back up a bit. Starting in the middle of
the story works occasionally (“in media res” is what we writer-folk
call it), but I can sense that some of you out there in
reader-land are wondering what the hell I’m babbling about.

Right. So some of you I haven’t talked to in a while and others I
probably annoy on a daily basis with my 13-year old’s sense of
humor. But the short story is, at some point in the distant and
sundry past, I got the strange idea in my head that you (yes
you!) might be interested when yours truly went off and did
something queer (as our hobbit friends from The Shire would say).
And thus, you are inducted into my world-famous Bcc: email list.

In a few short hours, I will embark on a plane pointed at Buenos
Aires, Argentina for a month of trekking in Patagonia with my
esteemed companion, Jules Kray[1]. Along the way, I hope to have an
adventure or three and spin a few yarns while sitting around this
virtual campfire I like to call “email”.

If this sounds sucky to you, please let me know and you’ll be
removed from my spam-list (also, I’ll probably hate you forever,
but don’t take it personally, you big jerk). Also, I might
occasionally use bad words and talk *way* too freely about
normally socially-verboten subjects like diarrhea, so if you are
getting this mail at a work account and want me to email a home
account, let me know.

In any case, now that that’s out of the way (and assuming you’re
still reading), the basic idea is to head down to the Fitzroy
area, los Torres del Paine (that’s Spanish for “the Torres del
Paine”), and if’n we’re lucky, Tierra del Fuego. Along the way,
there’ll be camping, trekking, climbing (maybe), penguins,
flamingos, guanacos, whales, and diarrhea (and how!), oh my!

The last time I did something like this[2], I was engaging in
some moderately risky business. My dear old mom didn’t seem to
appreciate the gallows humor about selling my belongings and
donating the proceeds to the Access Fund. Well, this time, Mom,
you’ll be happy to know that my chances of dying are way smaller.

(I suppose my management will be happy to hear this as well so
that our product schedules don’t slip out by another few months.)

I’ll be posting all these emails on my blog. If you want to hear
Jules’ side of the story, her emails will be there too (She’s a
damn fine writer, setting a high bar for me to match. Hopefully
she’ll set it so high that I’ll be able to just walk underneath).
The blog will let you post your commentary on how dumb I am, so I
highly encourage it.

http://www.chizang.net/alex/blog/

But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve nattered much longer than
I ought’ve in order to tell you the simple fact that I’ll be out
of the country until March 1.

ciao!

/Alex

1: To see Jules in one of her better moments, please refer to:
http://www.chizang.net/alex/gallery/2004_10_30-halloween/IMG_0395_copy

2: Chronicles from the last trip are here:
http://www.chizang.net/alex/blog/travelogues/sudamerica2002/

southbound

From guest blogger Jules:


hola, mi familia!

this message will serve as your one and only notification that YOU have been
hand-selected to be part of the elite group of fortunate souls that receive
fabulous email postcards from jules as she travels the south american
continent. how does that make you feel? might i suggest, “darn good,” or
perhaps, “freakin awesome.” if your initial reaction was anything akin to,
“i could really do without this useless garbage cluttering up my inbox, i’m
too important and i have better things to do,” please reply and say so and
i’ll take you off the list. but shoot, you’ll be missing out on the vivid
chronicles of my once-in-a-lifetime trip to south america, all the laughs
and crazy times, and then you’ll have to hear about it all second hand,
which is lame. i mean, think about it, you could even put a map up on your
kitchen wall and put little colored pins on it to track my progress, how
much more fun do you want!

so, i hope this message finds you all well and enjoying the various facets
of life, wherever you be. most of you should be aware, but for those that
came in late, i am indeed getting the heck out of here for a few months to
pursue eye-popping scenery, winding mountain trails, alpacas y llamas y
condors y pumas (y mas y mas), fabulous latin culture, all the fun of
communication in a non-native tongue, and so on and so forth. i’ll begin in
buenos aires, argentina, con mi companero alejandro (a buddy i met playing
ultimate in fort collins) and head south to trek the glaciares y montanas of
southern patagonia (the fitzroy and torres del paine areas, then possibly
tierra del fuego). alex will head home at the end of february, and then the
adventure truly begins for solo jules… where i will end up is yet unknown,
but i am intrigued by every corner of the south american continent, so the
world is pretty much my oyster. if all goes well, i plan to wander around
until late april/early may, when i’ll return to the homeland and start
another field season in the colorado mountains. yikes, life is rough…

i depart this thursday, 27 de enero, but fear not, my friends. i may be
leaving you, but you are not leaving me. you are all special people who have
enriched my life in unique and wonderful ways, and i carry you always with
me on my journeys… whenever i am feeling lonely, or afraid, or am stricken
with diarrhea and can’t move, i’ll think about you and everything will be
okay. so, thanks for that.

well, time to say adios, amigos (i really mean that now). hold down the
fort, willya? and take good care until next we meet and give yourselves big
ole goodbye hugs and kisses from me.

all my love,
jules

p.s. to my parents and other persons i still hope to maintain a shred of
respect with (you know who you are), i apologize in advance for the candid
and uncensored nature of all emails from here on out. i might use swear
words and talk about bodily functions. just skip those parts.