Peru’s so Gay

The rainbow flag is the official flag of Cuzco. Apparently it may also hold additional meanings, from unity to religion. And of course, to us northern foreigners, it represents the rights of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and trans* people.

Right now Peru is in the middle of various political elections, and a few of the parties like to use this flag to represent themselves. Though the meaning may be different, I think it’s pretty awesome seeing strongly religious and conservative groups toting the rainbow flag.

En español no bueno:
La bandera del arco iris es la bandera oficial de Cusco. Al parecer, la bandera tiene significados adicionales, de la unidad a la religión. Y, por supuesto, para nosotros del norte, que representa los derechos de las personas lesbianas, bisexuales, gays, y trans*.

Ahora Perú tiene varias elecciones políticas, y algunas de las campañas gusta usar esta bandera en sus campaña. Talvez el significado es diferente, pero para mí, como un extranjero, es muy chévere ver los grupos muy religiosos y conservadores exhiben la bandera del arco iris.

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– Jessica
written in Peru, edited in La Paz, Bolivia
(did you know La Paz means “The Peace”?)

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Lo posible/The Possible

ESPAÑOL:

(Pensamientos de un día optimista en San Blas, El Salvador.)

No todas las cosas son posibles. Pero más es posible de lo que tendemos a pensar. No puedo saltar de la tierra y volar. Pero puedo vivir sin dinero por 20 meses. Nunca habrá un mundo perfecto sin sufrimiento, violencia y desigualdad. Pero podemos transformar la sociedad en algo fundamentalmente diferente, más cooperativo, más saludable, más divertido, mejor.

Esa es la idea que guía mi vida y es la razón que escribo este blog y después, ojalá, un libro. Es un argumento, con evidencias extrañas tomadas de una experiencia de vida experimental e idiosincrática, a favor de la variedad enorme de posibilidades que tenemos como individuos, lo que sea que eso signifique, y juntos.

ENGLISH:

(Thoughts from an optimistic day in El Salvador.)

Not all things are possible. But more is possible than we think. I can’t jump off the ground and fly. But I can live without money for 20 months. There will never be a perfect worls without suffering, violence, and inequality. But we can transform society into something fundamentally different, more cooperative, more healthy, more fun, better.

That’s the idea that’s guiding my life and it’s the reason I’m writing this blog and later, hopefully, a book. It’s an argument, with weird evidence from an idiosyncratic and experimental life experience, for what’s possible as individuals, whatever that means, and together.

Sin Palabras/Without Words

Yo, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Yo, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

ESPAÑOL:

Por seis semanas, este viaje me ha dejado sin palabras, por falta de acceso a computadoras, por no saber agradecer al mundo y por no querer condenarlo. Estoy en Santiago de Chile, lleno de tristeza, de información, de gratitud, de confusión. Estoy sentado en el sol de primavera del hemisferio sur y, por primera vez en tres semanas, es un día de descanso total.

Mis dos compañeros de viaje, adjuntos al último mes de mi vida por casualidad y elección, comparten este día de serenidad exterior. Gonzalo es un argentino de 32 años, sentimientos nobles, discursos extendidos, miradas compasivas y una voz idónea para acompañar su bongó en cumbias minimalistas que yo prefiero ante las versiones ocupadas escuchadas en tantas radios estos últimos meses. Está trabajando en el jardín de esta casa de campo en las afueras de la gran capital. Onairam es un mexicano de 22 años, una simpatía inagotable, una predilección para los dulces, un nombre que alarga las conversaciones y unas rastas que dejan a los niños con la boca abierta y las manos traviesas. Onairam está aprovechando la cama después de un almuerzo enorme.

Onai, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Onai, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Sí, tenemos casa y cama. Así ha sido en Chile, una lluvia de bondad de la gente con que nos hemos topado. Hemos comido, conversado y quedado como tortugas felices en la arena caliente. Esta casa es especial para mí además porque Lila y Omar son los papás y abuelos de mi familia de San Diego, los mexicano-americano-chilenos con que viví y que he vuelto a visitar cada año hasta este.

Todo es bonito.

Pero daría una percepción engañosa de este viaje y de mi vida si no admitiera que entre tanta bondad y belleza me siento bastante trastornado. Siento que estoy disfrutando y estoy deprimido a la vez. Dudo de mis pensamientos, de mí mismo y de la sociedad. Veo mis convicciones derretirse como cubos de hielo en el mar. Intelectualmente, sé que los cambios sociales y políticos que anhelo son posibles, pero me parecen tan distantes e improbables. En Perú, saludaba en la calle y la gente me hacía caso omiso. Me sentía cada vez más como un extraterrestre o un intruso no querido en un lugar que atravesaba demasiado rápido como para poder lograr entenderlo. Los anuncios electorales en todos los edificios promueven partidos con nombres bonitos hechos tristes por la promesas rotas de una democracia en que casi nadie cree. El lado de la carretera es un basurero sin fin en casi todas las ciudades de la costa por las que pasamos. Y, sin embargo, los peruanos con los que tuvimos la oportunidad de conversar fueron maravillosos, interesantes, llenos de corazón y de pasión por sus trabajos. En Chile, un país mucho más parecido a los Estado Unidos en mil sentidos, la gente nos habla con interés y amor, pero demuestran una antipatía sorprendente hacia los inmigrantes colombianos. Por nuestra parte, en nuestros 9 días en Colombia conocimos un pueblo alegre y trabajador, fascinante y diverso. Ah, hay tanto que contar! Ojalá que pronto.

Quizás sean estas contradicciones ubicuas, tantas cosas bonitas increíbles y tantas realidades sombrías innegables, que me tienen fuera de quicio. Me he encomendado a la humanidad y se ha mostrado tan compleja que no sé lo que pensar. El optimismo desbordado y la desesperación afilada me parecen reacciones igualmente razonables ante estas experiencias. Los seres humanos queremos ser buenos, pero somos tontos. Queremos amar, pero desconfiamos. Compartir nos libera y el sistema nos enseña a poseer. Esto. E ir con prisa no me ha dejado el tiempo suficiente para reflexionar sobre tanta novedad. Y vivir en mi segundo idioma limita mi capacidad para expresarme y para entender plenamente a los demás. Vivo con una neblina ligera en la mente.

Así que les informo que el mundo está bonito y está jodido, como si no lo supieran ya. Tomo sol y tomo agua en el pasto suave, optimista y temeroso por el futuro de mi especie, optimista y temeroso por el futuro mío. Inseguro, curioso, sin más palabras.

– Adam
Santiago de Chile

Gonza, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Gonza, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

ENGLISH:

For six weeks, this trip has left me wordless, for lack of computer access, for not knowing how to thank the world, and for not wanting to condemn it. I’m in Santiago de Chile, full of sadness, information, gratitude, confusion. I’m sitting the southern hemisphere’s spring sun and, for the first time in three weeks, it’s a total rest day.

My two travel companions, bound to the last month of my life by coincidence and choice, are sharing this day of external serenity. Gonzalo’s a 32-year-old Argentine of noble sentiments, prolix discourse, compassionate looks, and the perfect voice to accompany his bongo on minamilist cumbias that I like much more than the busy ones that crowd the radio. He’s working in the garden of this country house just outside the capital. Onairam’s a 22-year-old Mexican of never-ending niceness, a love of sugary foods, a name that lengthens conversations, and dredlocks that leave Colombian kids with dropped jaws and tugging hands. Onairam’s taking advantage of the bed after an enormous lunch.

Yup, we’ve got a house and beds. That’s been Chile, a flood of goodness from the people we’ve encountered. We’ve eaten, conversed, and stayed (that was alliterative when I wrote this in Spanish) like happy, tired travelers (in Spanish, that was a simile about turtles that sounded embarassingly dumb to my pickier English ear). This house is especially special for me because Lila and Omar are the parents/grandparents of my San Diego family, the Mexicanamericanchileans I lived with and have visited every year until this one.

Everything is beautiful. Really.

But I’d be giving a misleading idea of this trip and my life if I didn’t admit that among such goodness and beauty I feel pretty damn torn up. I feel like I’m enjoying and depressed at the same time, and I can’t figure out how to put myself together. I doubt my thoughts, myself, and my fellow humans. I watch my convictions melt like ice cubes in an ocean. (That’s taken directly from The Shins, but there’s nothing wrong with mixed-authorship.) Intellectually, I know that the social and political changes I yearn for are possible, but they seem so distant and improbable. In Peru, I’d greet the people on the street and they’d ignore me. I spend a lot of time feeling like an alien, or someone misplaced by a tornado. I pass through countries too fast to do anything but be confused by them. Also in Peru, obtrusive and ubiquitous campaign posters/murals/billboards promote parties with beautiful names made ugly by the broken promises of a democracy almost no one believes in. The side of the highway is an endless strip of trash in almost every city we passed. And, nevertheless, the Peruvians we got a chance to talk to were awesome, fascinating, full of warm hearts and passion for their jobs. And in Chile, a country more like the U.S. in a thousand ways, people continue to show us interest, love, and plates full of food, while they say surprisingly ugly things about Colombian immigrants. All over Latin America, people generalize about ethnicities and nationalities in ways political correctness has taught us not to in the U.S. (For our part, in our 9 days in Colombia we encountered a hard-working and often joyful people, striking in its diversity and facial expressions. Ah, there’s so much to talk about.)

Maybe it’s these constant constant contradictions, so many incredibly beautiful experiences and undeniable somber realities, that have me out of rhythm. I’ve handed myself ove to humanity and found it so complicated that I don’t know whether it’s holding my hand or absent-mindedly lighting us both on fire. Boundless optimism and seat-slumping, tree-kicking desperation seem like equally reasonable responses to all this ridiculousness. Humans want to me good, but we’re so dumb. We want to love, but we don’t trust anyone. Sharing liberates us and the system teaches us to accumulate. All of this. And hurrying towards Argentina has left me with insufficient time to reflect on so much newness, so much chaos. And living in a second language leaves me a little dumber and a little foggier than I’d like every time I try to explain my crazy ideas or understand where someone else is coming from.

So I inform y’all that the world is beautiful and the world is fucked, as if you didn’t already know. There’s no rousing conclusion today. I sit in the sun, drink water in the soft grass, optimistic and scared for the future of my species, optimistic and scared for my future. Insecure, curious, without more words.

– Adam
Santiago de Chile

¡México! [en español & english]

la vista desde la casa de Gemma // the view from Gemma’s doorway

Ayer cruzamos la frontera a las 5 p.m. Tocamos unas canciones para (y con) los trabajadores de una tienda en la Avenida Revolución. Nos reunimos con nuestra amiga Gemma y fuimos a su casa para jugar una partida de poop smoothie, ver una película y hablar acerca de la locura de una sociedad en que la gente acepta niveles ridículos de desigualdad como si esto fuera justo.

No lo es.

Cuando vemos las películas, vemos las desigualdades del pasado y nos preguntamos cómo la gente aceptaba esas cosas como si fueran correctas. ¿Cómo es que la gente podría ver la esclavitud, el genocidio de los indios y las guerras imperialistas como cosas naturales y buenas? Pero no siempre notamos que seguimos participando en sistemas increíblemente ilógicos. Un sistema económico en que los asalariados sólo pueden trabajar si lo hacen para el beneficio de los que ya tienen todo. Un sistema en donde desperdiciamos el 40% de la comida mundial mientras mil millones de personas no tienen para comer.

La riqueza y la pobreza, juntas en el mismo mundo, en el mismo país. Y lo aceptamos como algo inevitable. Como la mayoría aceptaba la esclavitud como algo inevitable, algo necesaria, cuando no lo era y la desigualdad de hoy tampoco lo es. Es una elección y podemos elegir de otra manera. Juntos, enfatizando la cooperación en lugar de la competencia, rehusándonos a aceptar la moralidad, el marketing y el sistema que tratan de imponer los más poderosos, podemos resolver borrar la desigualdad, el aislamiento y el sufrimiento del presente como resolvimos borrar la esclavitud y la colonia  en el pasado.

A la revolución personal. A la revolución social.

– Adam
en Tijuana, Baja California, México

gemma & co.

—————TRADUCCIÓN/TRANSLATION—————-

We crossed the border at 5 P.M. yesterday. We played some songs for (and with) the workers at a store on Avenida Revolución. We met up with our friend Gemma and went to her house to play a game of poop smoothie, watch a movie, and talk about the craziness of a society where people accept ridiculous levels of inequality as if it were fair.

It’s not.

When we watch movies, we see the inequalities of the past and we ask ourselves how people accepted those things as if they were right. How could people see slavery, the genocide of the Indians, and imperialist wars as natural and good things? But we don’t notice that we continue participating in incredibly illogical systems. An economic system in which workers can only work if they do it for the benefit of those who already have everything. The waste of 40% of the world’s food when a billion people don’t have anything to eat.

Wealth and poverty, together in the same world, in the same country. And we accept it as something inevitable. The same way that the majority accepted slavery as something inevitable, something necessary. It wasn’t. And today’s inequality isn’t either. It’s a choice. And we can choose something else. Together, emphasizing cooperation instead of competition, refusing to accept the morality, the marketing, and the system that the powerful work to impose, we can resolve to erase the inequality, the isolation, and the suffering of the present like we resolved to erase the slavery and colonialism of the past.

To personal revolution. To social revolution.

– Adam
en Tijuana, Baja California, México

Let’s Hear It for New York

We were all born and spent a majority of our lives in Massachusetts. So it only made sense to depart from the Bay State together and consider that day, January 13, 2013, as the beginning of this trip, though arguably it started some months earlier for each of us separately. Leaving our worried parents behind in Sturbridge, we set forth into the world, wherever the winds (or fossil fuels) may carry us. In the week since Sunday, we’ve thus far made it to the city of Washington in the District of Columbia, our empire’s densely populated and Congressionally unrepresented capital. Today begins a series of posts playing catch-up.

We’ve been operating under a couple of self-imposed guidelines beyond our usual kindness and curiosity: no interstates and no spending of money that pre-exists the beginning of the trip. Both of these have required some flexibility in our living experiment, some evaluation of their validity and viability, and indeed have led to some refreshing surprises about the abundant goodness in people’s hearts.

A week ago, our first dose of road magic was sprinkled upon us by the gracious pixies fluttering from above no further than Shelton, CT as we passed the glorious Wiffle HQ off Route 8. Like obese toddlers outside the Wonka factory, we gaped and gushed about the machinery: pallets and pallets of Wiffles, tubs of Wiffle powder, window-strings anchored by Wiffle balls. Disappointingly, no one was home. Our initial plan was to look sketchy all about the building for long enough to elicit an incredulous employee (maybe Old Man Wiffle himself?) or a bemused cop. When this didn’t yield any results we wrote them a reverential letter, packed with sincerity and naïve optimism about the future of the world, and moved along.

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It’s hustle, it’s bustle, it’s New York, bitches! And behold! Castle Braid, an artists’ haven nestled in Brooklyn complete with an epic tower (as is required of all castles) and a plethora of aesthetically stunning sculptures assembled from repurposed societal waste, more often than not doubling as functional furniture and fixtures. We spent two nights there with the theatrically-centered, intellectually-grounded, and sarcasm-challenged Rebecca and our new robot-sympathizing comrades, Jay and Zac, overflowing with similarly artistic dispositions and rife with rock/roll. Our first night set the tone for what we anticipate to be a recurring theme in our wanderings: an engaged, exciting, and, of course, lengthy discussion about humanity and the universe which, in this instance, dealt an awful lot with the potential of artificial intelligence.

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While our pals toiled the next day at their various day-jobs, we trekked over the Manhattan bridge to its eponymous island and picked up a game of basketball with some local kids in Columbus Square, next to Chinatown. Games were four-on-four, so we snagged a kid named Armando to better our team, and faced off against some exceptionally talented Chinese boys who could sink threes like it was baby Skee Ball at Chuck-E-Cheese. After an invigorating loss and an elaborate series of clumsy fist bumps and coded handshakes, the language of which Jesse and Mark deciphered about as well as Basque, we left with the satisfaction not only of having been active, but also of having bridged what we initially perceived as a gap between self-segregating groups of Asian kids and black kids on the courts. What’s funny about all this is that while the games before us were seemingly divided by race, no one seemed to think even half of twice about the fact that we were the only white kids and that ours was the first game incorporating all races present. It’s unclear whether this was a divine example of people simply not even noticing race (I mean why should we anyway? Biologically, there isn’t even such a thing), or people doing a really good job of deliberately acting as if they didn’t notice. Either way it was refreshing.

Shortly thereafter, we met up with Jay in the looming shadow of his Zuccotti Park-adjacent place of wage labor, aka Wayne Enterprises. He had particularly interesting insights on Occupy Wall Street by virtue not only of his insuperable proximity to the movement’s primary encampment, but also by working in one of the very industries targeted by the protests. Jay does IT for a corporate law firm. While agreeing that his job in the ebony tower facilitates the continuance of societal structures that make the world worse more often than they make it better, he does this arguably bad thing in order to afford the good things of living in a place like Castle Braid and, especially, creating his art, currently a rock musical version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Rebecca, too, performs actions that she herself considers an undesirable means to an end: working in private equity to finance acting. Such difficult decisions define us, and it would be lazy to argue in favor of or against such choices without a whole lot of reflection and a whole lot of words. But we can’t escape the necessity of considering the consequences of our actions, whether it be working questionable jobs or not working jobs at all. For their part, Jay seems more or less settled in his acceptance of the current arrangement, while Rebecca seems more to be seeking the courage to quit.

As far as OWS itself, Jay struggled daily with the irony of sympathizing with the protestors philosophically, while working for his company concretely. He spoke of occasionally visiting the friends he had at the camp during lunch or after work, while also having to walk by it every day to go to work. When threatened with arrest for not using the designated entrance to the Batman building in the lead-up to the police attack on the camp, he found himself frustrated with… everything. He came to see the protests as a kind of ineffectual mockery of what he was doing, even as he views much of his own behavior as a quiet mockery of our society.

And then the camp was gone.

Jay described going to work past the suddenly empty park as feeling “creepy”  and found himself regretting ever having wanted it to be over. He still works in that tower. Occupy- as a physical presence- no longer exists.

Overall, we were left with the impression that Occupy, for many, lingers mostly as a ghost– a charming memory in the minds of progressives resigned to continued compromise in the face of an apparent lack of better options. No one we talked to seemed content with the status quo, but ideas on how to move forward seem tentative and incomplete at best.

Rebecca came to meet us after work and we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, talking, taking in the skyline (including the Orwellian horror that is the Verizon building… who sits on a planning committee and actually approves this crap?), and enjoying and adding to the popular art. Después de una cena vegetariana deliciosa por cortesía de Rebecca, otras cuantas discusiones, una sesión de improvisación musical, otra carrera de Adam, unos juegos en el cuarto de juegos y una buena noche de sueño, cruzamos Manhattan y seguimos con nuestra exploración mundial a través del paisaje bonito de New Jersey.

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