Micah: Unmitigated

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Not just another weblog

The Newest in New

December 18th, 2014

I didn’t think this day would come so soon, but in January I will be embarking on another adventure. My girlfriend (J2) has asked me come with her as she lives in Nicaragua with her sister and wanders around Central America. So I have yet again quit a decent job and will put all of my belongings into small plastic tubs. This area of the world has been on my list for a while and will aid me in my goal of learning Spanish. No return ticket has been purchased, but the plan is to come back next December. You can come along with us on the ride by reading the website listed below.

http://www.h3j2wander.blogspot.com/

Here are some pictures of what I will be doing for most of 2015.

Golfing

Golfing

IMG_0185

Trying to surf

Thanks.

Dirty Work

August 29th, 2011

Yes, I have actually been doing some work this summer. The landscaping I did for a friend back in the winter has expanded to some basic home building work. For the past couple months – I have been knocking down walls, removing windows, hanging dry-wall, installing can lights, and building retaining walls. It is somewhat enjoyable though dirty work. I get joy out of walking in to gas stations or grocery stores covered in dust and feeling like a man who works hard for a living. You feel a connection to other construction workers and the blue-collar class. I have never wanted to shave and wear a suit to work everyday. I never want to put off that arrogant stock broker vibe. I often drive by the Daily Double sports bar, frequented by the neighboring apartment dwellers, and wonder if I could walk in there and have a drink without being told to go back to my yuppie bars on Hawthorne. I imagine that my lack of cursing and smoking would tip them off. I okay with that, I don’t really want to have a drink there anyways, it doesn’t seem like a very joyous place.

I am still looking for full-time work and a steady paycheck but have been feeling flush with cash, thus I have been able to enjoy my weekends. Highlights:

  • Played in 3 scramble golf tournaments… so far
  • Bachelor party in Vegas!
The Strip

The Strip

  • Completed the “Four on the Floor” Hamburger Challenge
  • Tore up the dance floor during the Blancher Wedding in Bend
  • Participated in the Beer-lympics
  • Family trip to Sunriver
  • Holed a short pitch shot for Eagle at Tri-Mountain GC, hole #7.
  • Camping and Rafting in Maupin
  • Kickball and Softball tournaments
Team Trinity Softball

Team Trinity Softball

Summer is not over with yet, and I plan to play more golf (both ball and disc versions), more hiking, and maybe climb a mountain or 2.

Let It Grow

April 21st, 2011

April 19th marked the 1 year anniversary of the last time I cut my hair. The thought started in my head back in college: It was around Halloween and my roommate had a shoulder length wig that I decided to wear out to a go see a play with some friends. I topped it off with a stocking cap and felt like I looked legit. I remember walking out of the theatre and passing a guy with real long hair and exchanging a “What’s up”. I had been accepted.

Since then I have always wanted to grow it out and figured that 7 months in South America would be the perfect time to live the dream. Thus, I just let it flow and enjoyed the ride. The following is an attempt to take you on that journey with me:

4/26/10

4/26/10

5/15/10

5/15/10

6/25/10

6/25/10

8/10/10

8/10/10

10/09/10

10/09/10

11/1/10

11/1/10

4/19/11

4/19/11

I don’t know when I will cut it, but I think it will be fairly soon. Although I feel somewhat cooler and more Portlandish, the hassles of flowing hair are getting to me and I long to go back to the old comb-free days.

What’s Going On

February 24th, 2011

The following is a brief update about how Micah is living:

Getting a little work in:
Landscaping for a friend of mine who flips houses. Just a few days and hours a week, but every penny helps. Also, my open schedule allows me to babysit my niece and nephews as well as watch over friends’ dogs. So, my new occupation is Lanscapper/Babysitter/Dogsitter, though I have not attempted to do all three at the same time… yet.

Extracurricular Activities:
The Kickball season began a couple weeks, so now my Sundays are full of bouncing red rubber balls and then drinking beer with friends. Good fun, despite my painfully low OBP.

I have also started playing in the occasional Ping-Pong tournament down at a bar called “Blitz Ladd”. Known as the sport of Kings, the competition on Thursday nights is strong and I lose on a regular basis. But, I believe I can compete with best and am now a dedicated student of the game.
(More Information about the Pong tourney can be found here. And, a local news story about it, in which I make a brief background appearance at the 55 sec mark, can be seen by clicking this.)

Well, that is about it. Life has gotten a little bit busier. I am still looking for a full-time job and considering future adventures. For now, I am enjoying the work and activities, even getting a few rounds of Golf in. –Take care.

Ten

January 28th, 2011

The discussion began on New Years Eve night, “What are the greatest comedy movies of all-time?”. My friend Nick subsequently blogged his list here, and now it is my turn.  The following “Top Ten” is in no way meant to be just my opinion but a carving in the stone tablet of history, and should be recognized as indisputable fact.

Without further ado, I present:

The Top Ten Comedy Movies of All-time

#10) Spaceballs

One of my favorite movies as a youngster, mostly for Rick Moranis in the role he was born to play. “Star Wars” was fresh in everyones mind, and this spoof delighted all who watched it. A great movie.

Best Moment

[Watching “Spaceballs the Movie” during the filming of “Spaceballs the Movie”]

Colonel Sandurz: “Try here. Stop.”

Dark Helmet: “What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?”

Colonel Sandurz: “Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.”

Dark Helmet: “What happened to then?”

Colonel Sandurz: “We passed then.”

Dark Helmet: “When?”

Colonel Sandurz: “Just now. We’re at now now”

#9) Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

I almost forgot about this one. The trilogy added so much to the world of comedy that I couldn’t ignore the first and best of the set. I think, as a whole, they get hurt by leading actresses who’s acting skills are limited, but Elizabeth Hurley was decent and this movie makes me laugh.

Memorable Quote

Dr. Evil: “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!”

#8) ¡Three Amigos!

Three great comedic actors in their prime (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Fred Asparagus) and a script that let them do their thing. I am watching it while writing this, and it all still works.

Good Moment

El Guapo: “Are gringos falling from the sky?”

[Ned falls from overhead and lands with a thud]

Jefe: “Yes, El Guapo.”

#7) National Lampoon’s Vacation

This movie hits home: Pile the whole family into a wagon for a summer road trip. We didn’t quite have the same wacky adventures – Dad never hijacked an amusement park or skinny dipped with Christy Brinkly (as far as I know) – but just imagine if he did. That would have been a fun vacation.

Best Exchange

Clark: “Oh, no, that’s a waitress. No, I was just ordering in. She’s a pool waitress. I was ordering some fish for you, Audrey and Mom.”

Rusty: “She took your order?”

Clark: “Yeah…, She took my order.”

#6) South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut

This movie is brilliant. Yes, they swear a lot, but the musical numbers are amazing. I love how they throw in a little Les Miserables homage and the “La Resistance” medley rivals anything Leonard Bernstein could put together.

Cleanest Quote

Cartman: “That movie has warped my fragile little mind”

#5) Caddyshack

Sure, the percentage of Rodney Dangerfield jokes that hit is low, but you have to love the guys delivery. He is the third funniest guy in the movie behind the classic performances by Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. My favorite scene is when the two are together in Spackler’s shack – many many great lines within just a few minutes. And, the fact it is set on a golf course helps it’s staying power.

Good Quote

Carl Spackler: “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort.”

#4) Mounty Python and the Holy Grail

Call us all nerds if you like, but this movie is still great 35 years later. Almost every scene is classic and quoted to death. A knight that tries to fight with no limbs, knights that say a certain word, 3 questions, can swallows carry coconuts, a French taunter, … I could  keep going but you get the point. Go see “Spamalot” the musical if you have the opportunity, you wont be disappointed.

Smartest Quote

Dennis: “Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”

#3) Ghostbusters

If Bill Murray is A god (not THE God), then he must have blessed his surrounding cast mates. Great performances all around, and Harold Ramis is a genius (despite the fact he had a hand in “Caddyshack II”). It played to a young kids imagination and is one of those rare movies that can please all generations. Plus, it had a theme song that topped the charts.

Great Dialogue

Dr. Ray Stantz: “Are you okay?”

Louis: “Who are you guys?”

Dr. Ray Stantz: “We’re the Ghostbusters.”

Louis: “Who does your taxes?”

Dr. Ray Stantz: “You know, Mr. Tully, you are a most fortunate individual.”

Louis: “I know!”

Dr. Ray Stantz: “You have been a participant in the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909!”

Louis: “Felt great.”

Dr. Egon Spengler: “We’d like to get a sample of your brain tissue.”

Louis: “Okay.”


#2) The Naked Gun

Leslie Nielson’s later movies kind of tarnished his legacy, but hey, a man’s gotta eat. “Airplane!” was good, but Det. Frank Drebin was better. The first in the trilogy gets me every time. The whole supporting cast is amazing, I mean – who knew that O.J. could act so well?

Greatest Scene

Man in Stadium Crowd: “Hey Look! It’s Enrico Pallazzo!”  [Chants ensues]

#1) Dumb & Dumber

It wasn’t much of a contest. This has been my favorite, ever since I saw it in the theatre on New Years Eve, back in 1994. Jim Carrey is a funny man and Jeff Daniels should get some recognition for his range (He is in the funniest movie and the saddest movie of all-time – “Terms of Endearment”). The jokes are so ingrained in my head that I laugh in anticipation of them being said. Some people may write this one off as being too silly or stupid, but that is what I look for in my comedies. This will top my list forever, or at least until they come out with “Arrested Development – The Movie“.

One of the Best Quotes

[coming out of the 7-11]

Lloyd: “Hey guys. Woah, Big Gulps, huh? All right! Well, see ya later.”

——————————————————————————————————–

Others receiving votes: Superbad, Coming to America, Airplane!, Happy Gilmore, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Someone’s in the Kitchen

December 23rd, 2010

My love for Empanadas has been well documented. Though I ate many in South America, I never did learned a recipe, but I do consider myself an expert on what style is the best. I had an opportunity to make some the other day and photographed the event, thus the following is a rough version of my recipe.

Empanadas

There are a couple different parts – The Filling, The Condiments, and The Dough – so I will do each separately and quickly. I must admit though, that I don’t remember exact measurements or even ingredients, so this may annoy some people. Also, I made way too much filling so please take it down a notch if you try this at home.

Filling #1: Beef, Potato, Onion, Egg, and Hogoa sauce

3 lb – Beef Bottom Round Roast (or any type you like)*

6 – regular size Potatoes

1 – White Onion

4 – Eggs

1 – Oven

– Water, Beef Bouillon, Butter, Hot Sauce, Salt-N-Pepper

*One alternative (easier) method, would be to use Ground Beef instead and do it all in a frying pan. You could also just cook the roast however you want. The whole goal is to get everything cooked, diced, and mixed together. But here is my method.

Step 1: Heat Oven to 375, throw some butter into warm roasting pan, place Meat in pan, brown meat on sides while chopping veggies, Dice Potato and Onion (very small) and put into pan, add water and a couple Bouillon cubes, sprinkle some seasonings and hot sauce on top, After 30 minutes – reduce heat to 300 and let Bake for another hour.

Step 2: When Potatoes are cooked, remove them and onions to large bowl and check meat doneness. Put meat back in if necessary, otherwise you can let your meat cool before finely dicing – then to the bowl with it. Save the remaining broth.

Step 3: Hard-boil the Eggs, let cool, remove shell, do the “sign of the cross” to show remorse for killing an unborn chicken, dice’m, then into bowl.

-Now you make the “Hogoa” sauce to mix with filling.

2 – large Tomatoes

1/2 – Red Onion

1 or 2 – cloves of Garlic

1 – Jalapeño

– Cilantro, Olive Oil, Cumin, Cilantro, some Beef broth from your roast

Step 1: Heat oil in saucepan, finely chop everything, add all to pot, stir and let cook for a few minutes.

*You don’t want the filling to be too dry, so add as much broth as necessary to increase the volume of your Hogoa.

Step 2. Add sauce to filling bowl and mix together.

Filling #1 is now done and can be set aside or in fridge until packing time.

just a little too much liquid

just a little too much liquid

Filling #2: Chicken, Rice, and Tomatillo sauce

6 – boneless Chicken breasts

2 – cups of uncooked Rice

1 – Grill

– Hot sauce, Chicken Bouillon, and Butter

Step 1: Marinate chicken in some hot sauce for a few minutes before throwing on grill.

Step 2: Cook until desired doneness. Chop into small pieces and place into large bowl.

Step 3: Use bouillon to make 4 cups of Chicken broth, add butter, Cook the rice in the broth until all liquid is absorbed.

Step 4: Combine all in large bowl and mix.

— Now the Tomatillo sauce (I made way too little of the sauce but here is what I did)

2 – Tomatillos

2 – Jalapeños

1 – clove of Garlic

1 cup – Chicken broth

1 – Food Processor

– Cumin, and ??

Step 1: Place Tomatillos, Jalapeños, and Garlic into a thing that processes food. Grind them down to a liquid.

Step 2: Pour processed food into a saucepan and add Broth – Cumin – and any other spices you like. Heat through.

Step 3: Pour sauce over Chicken & Rice. Stir. Set aside.

Filling #2 = complete.

pre-tomatillo sauce

pre-tomatillo sauce

Condiment #1: Pico de Gallo

Everybody has a version of this and I encourage you to search the web and find one that’s right for you. But here is quickly what I did, though it might not be accurate. The dishes all tend to run together in my memory.

3 – Tomatoes

1/2 – Red Onion

1 – Jalapeño

1 – clove Garlic

2 – Limes

– Hot sauce

Step: I pureed everything (the zest of 1 lime and the juice of both) in the Processor so that it could be easily spooned into an Empanada. Turned out ok, probably too much lime and could have used some more heat. Set aside.

Condiment #2: Spicy Mayo

I love Mayonnaise and the wide variety of mayo based toppings is one reason I loved eating Empanadas in South America. Theirs mostly had a greenish tint so this recipe will not recapture that glory.

1 – Squeeze bottle of real Mayonnaise

– Hot Sauce, Garlic, Chili powder, Lemon juice

Step: Add all to food processor and mix well. Using a funnel – put mixture back into squeeze bottle.

The Dough: Corn Meal Style

I don’t have much experience with dough, so this was adjusted on the fly.

2.5 Cups – Corn Meal

2.5 Cups – regular Flour

1 – large stand mixer, rolling pin, spatula, large wooden board

3 cups – Chicken broth (or 3 bouillon cubes + water)

1 Tbls – Brown sugar

Step 1: Combine 2 cups of Corn meal + 2 cups of Flour, into your mixer bowl. Heat broth to a boil- add brown sugar.

Step 2: Slowly add broth to dry stuff, while the mixing mechanism is turning. It takes about a minute for the machine to work it’s magic. (Combine the remaining Corn meal and flour for future dusting of the dough.)

Step 3: At this point, I just dump the mound onto a dusted cutting board, and use my hands to work in more dry stuff – if needed. (The stuff must be dry enough to roll out and not stick.)

Step 4: Grab a small handful, form a ball, flatten with roller (constantly dusting where sticky), They don’t need to be perfect circles.

Step 5: Spoon a small amount – of the filling of your choice – into the middle of the rolled-out dough. Fold one side over the other and press edges together. Dust it a little more on each side. Then, move to a plate for the upcoming deep-fry. (These amounts make about 20 Empanadas – the size of a small taco)

pre-fry

pre-fry

The Fry:

Heat lots of oil in a pot and deep-fry ’em. It is best if they can be fully submerged. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes – or until golden brown.

Let them cool a little as inner contents may burn your mouth. Enjoy them with your condiments and eat with your hands.

Completed Emps

Completed Emps

Results: Good. They had that corn-meal flavor – which I will argue is the best way to go. Though, I will tinker with other varieties of corn flour products in future preparations. The Mayo topping was great and really complements the meal for me. Being my first time, the whole process took too long, but once you have the large batch of filling, it become fairly easy to mix up some dough, fold ’em, and fry ’em.

Add It Up

December 15th, 2010

The Numbers:

Days in South America = 206

Days spent traveling with another person = 35

Countries visited = 6

Overnight bus rides taken = 13

Longest bus ride (in hours) = 21

Different hostals slept in = 76

Average price per hostal = $6.17

… in Colombia = $7.52

… in Ecuador = $6.64

… in Peru = $5.66

… in Chile = $10

… in Bolivia = $3.62

… in Argentina = $10.03

Total hours (paid for) on Internet = 194.2

Average Internet price per hour = 60¢

… in Colombia = 70¢

… in Ecuador = 84¢

… in Peru = 41¢

… in Chile = 80¢

… in Bolivia = 39¢

Total money spent on water = $78.80

Total “Cremositas” (Oreo like cookies) consumed in Bolivia = 508

… thus, average per day consumption = 11

Money spent on food per day = $4.85

… in Colombia = $5.98

… in Ecuador = $4.95

… in Peru = $4.42

… in Chile = $7.40

… in Bolivia = $3.38

… in Argentina = $3.30

Empanadas eaten = 200

Feet above sea level, at my highest point = 15,600

Pairs of Sunglasses broken = 3

Beaches visited = 17

Total push-ups done in preparation for said beaches = 5,600

Pictures taken during trip = 11,480

… thus, average number taken per day = 55.7

Pictures that were kept = 5,938

Shirts taken on trip but never worn = 1

Number of times I was called “Gringo” = 55

Total spent on money management (foreign transaction and ATM fees) = $166

Cost per day = $19.77*

(*excludes unordinary expenses, like those listed below)

Total Cost = $5,262.99*

(*includes everything: pre-trip vaccinations, flights, Spanish classes, Christmas gifts, a new camera, …)

Places In My Past

November 28th, 2010

I want to try and milk this trip for as much content as I can, so the following is a list of the “Top Ten Places I Visited in South America”. They will be in order from #10 to #1 for dramatic effect, and some words may be repeated from previous posts. I hope you enjoy:

10. Volcán Puracé, Colombia

directions

directions

The scenery was stunning, but it is on here more for the climb. My most strenuous day, it took over 4 hrs to get to the top and the weather was unfriendly. Accomplishing something like that feels amazing and the Colombian hiking group that celebrated with me at the rim, made it even more memorable. The skies cleared for the descent and I strolled through an active sulfur mine. All things considered, one of my favorite days.

9. Puerto López – Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

The Isla was just OK and the town is not worth writing home about, but the stretch of ocean between the two seasonally contains some exciting mammals. The tour was expensive, but watching the whales jump in the air and splash around was one of the coolest things I have seen in my life.

8. Colca Canyon, Peru

canyon

canyon

The 2nd deepest canyon in the world. Basically just a great, strenuous hike with cool things to look at. On clear days, you can see the tops of the snowy peaks down 3,140 meters to the canyon floor. The Inca agricultural terracing and friendly locals make Colca my choice for #8.

7. Baños, Ecuador

A tourist ready town at the base of the active Volcán Tungurahua. The area has lots of hiking opportunities and even more extreme sport options, that I decided not to pay for. I just walked in search of eruption views. Occasionally, smoke would billow from the top and rumbles could be heard all over town. I found out later that the eruptions were rare, as not many other travelers reported seeing the impressive sight. As with a few other places I visited, I was there at the right time.

6. Isla del Sol, Bolivia

A high altitude island on Lake Titicaca. I could hike around all day and then rest my head for less than $3 per night. The ticket takers, with their greedy little hands, were annoying, but the weather was perfect and the wandering was boundary free.

5. Kuelap, Peru

good views

good views

An Inca fortress set on a hilltop, with great views of the surrounding valleys. I loved the site, but the fact that you can reach the place via a 3 hr hike from the town of Tingo, pushes it up my list.

4. Huaraz – Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Towering snow capped peaks, colorful mountain lakes, numerous hiking trails, this place is amazing. Just staring at the extreme heights of the place, containing 33 hunks of rock over 6,000 meters high, was cool. With more money and time, I could have explored the space better, but I was happy with my budget touring.

3. Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked to the edge of the crater, but that first view made me say “Wow!”. Staying in a hostal, steps from the rim and at an elevation of over 4,000 meters, I enjoyed it all. A spectacular hike circles around the crater lake and the bus rides between nearby towns are guaranteed to be memorable. The freezing cold temps at night can easily be fought off with an open fire.

2. Salar de Uyuni – Far SW Bolivia

My love for this place has been well documented, with it’s unreal scenery and unique wildlife. Why is it not at the top of my list? Because – I had to use a tour and memories of being painfully cold are still fresh in my head.

1. Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

Sunset

Sunset

Why it’s #1: If I had to choose one place to go back to and spend a week, this would be it. Multiple quiet beaches, warm weather, hammocks, climbing hills, a salt flat, unbelievable sunsets, and very few tourists. I was able to wake up everyday and decide between just laying on the beach, hiking a rugged coastline, or doing both. Put this place on your list, but only if you can handle the 2 hr ride out in the back of a truck and live without a shower for a few days.

Back To Life

November 18th, 2010

Friday: My alarm sounded at 6 am, some roommates were just going to bed, I finished up my packing and walked out to the morning Bogota streets. Busy with business people and kids finding their way to school, I found my way to the local busses. I worried a little about fitting, but was able to flag down an empty bus and get on despite nearly losing a sandal. For 70¢ instead of a $10 cab ride, I got to the airport.

I began to relax a little. Not much left to do. My bags, along with a couple others, got pulled from the plane and fully inspected before I could board. A bit of a hassle, especially after I had meticulously packed them to prevent damage to delicate items. All went smooth, no contraband on me this trip. (Coming back from Thailand a year ago, I worried about the many bootleg Wii games and DVDs that I was smuggling.)

I sat in my seat, compared it to the many bus seats I suffered in over the past 206 days, stared out the window, and tried to let it sink in that I was leaving South America. An American businessman next to me asked me my first post-trip questions and I came up with my first answers.

Just 5 hrs later, I was back in the USA and it has felt weird ever since. I did my usual stroll past my food options in the Atlanta airport, slowly adjusting the price I was willing to pay to feed myself. Finally, I decided to not care, and spent over $7 on a mini-hamburger combo that included a hefty portion of chili-cheese fries. A very satisfying meal and the beginning of a week straight of binge eating.

From Atlanta: A near empty flight to LA on which I could watch the Blazer basketball game due to in-flight ESPN, a painful hour of sleep in LAX, leaving my book sitting on a chair, and watching the sunrise as I embarked on the final leg to PDX. Arriving just before 9 am, 24 hrs after leaving Bogota, I was home.

My triumphant strut and hugs were recorded and posted on Facebook. I ate mass amounts of breakfast food and drank a flavorful beer. I sat on the couch and watched college football. I have met friends for more flavorful drinks at bars and watched more football and basketball. Almost like I had never left.

Now I begin the process of getting back to reality. After 5 days of stuffing myself with delicious food, I am slowing down. I say I don’t want to gain back the 25 pounds I lost on the trip, but that is easier said than done. Food will always be my weakness, I just need to stay active while I no longer walk everywhere. More important than my physical appearance, is my future employment. I have briefly searched for jobs but don’t really know what to look for. I do have time and wont seriously tackle the problem until after Christmas.

For the time being, I just try to keep hold of my adventure. I plan to maintain a slender figure and long hair. I plan to look at pictures regularly and try to remember little stories I can share. I already want to travel again, but have no money. I want to keep hearing and talking Spanish, but have no motivation. I want to go back and work in South America, but have few skills. And I kind of want to be a different person now that I am home. Maybe wiser, funnier, more confident, more interesting, more socially active, more socially responsible, more energetic, or just a better poker player. But I have only been back for a week and I was only gone 29 weeks. Maybe the only real changes will be fleeting and physical, with a sprinkling of useless knowledge that pops up at random times, like when watching “Romancing the Stone”.

I will continue to enjoy spending time with family and friends that I so greatly missed. I know I will travel internationally again, but the most attainable current goal for myself while home, is to just be more active. There are lots of hikes around and a lot to do and see here in Portland.

End Of The Road

November 11th, 2010

My last night bus ride in South America, was the most comfortable. With my own row and no stops, I got some sleep and overall just felt relaxed.

Arriving at 8 am, my next goal was catching a local bus to the center and avoid paying $7 for a cab. I knew that rush hour would be busy and patiently waited. 2 packed centro buses just rolled by, ignoring the running and waving locals. 2 more stopped and I just sat and watched the mob squeeze in. The 5th bus, after over an hour of waiting, was the one. With enough space for me and my bags, I felt the thrill of victory. Though, I did upset the driver by accidentally leaning my pack against the door, preventing it from fully opening.

In central Bogota, I went through with my plan to stay at the “Party” hostal and do some socializing. I have stayed at very few of these types of accommodations, opting for cheaper quieter local spots. Honestly, this isn’t really my scene.

There is a another type of international backpacker, whose only goal is to find “The Party”. That is fine, I understand it’s more interesting than drinking at home and the alcohol is cheaper. Also, maybe they take in some culture and respect for their host country. But I have my doubts. These traveler’s stories tend to be more about how much they drank and getting mugged while stumbling home at 3 am.

Maybe I am getting old, but my goals for international travel are: Experiencing what life is like in a foreign country. Learning the language and enjoying the food. Seeing amazing scenery. Finding adventure. Challenging myself. And getting a tan.

Yes, I want to meet interesting people and share a drink, but my need is not quite as strong as others. Maybe that’s good, maybe bad. Antisocial? Not necessarily. Lonely? Sometimes. I like to think I am more confident, adventurous, and less dependent on others. Looking back on the trip as a whole, I should have been more social but I am glad I didn’t get caught up in the main flow, or “Gringo Trail”.

Back to my current residence; “Musicology Party Hostal” has large dorm rooms with names like Reggae and Jazz, a bar, hammocks, TV lounge with massive hard-drive full of shows, free breakfast and dinner, free Internet and Wifi, and an overly friendly backpacker staff. Most visitors sleep in till noon, rarely venture out, get comfortable, and stay for weeks. It really hurts my Spanish and my wallet. But, I felt the need stay here and get one more last taste of the other lifestyle.

In town; Christmas decorations are in full bloom, a large tree structure sits in the main plaza, and the marching bands now mix in some festive tunes. The weather has been terrible, with constant downpours and chilly air. But, I do feel that I have done the city a little more justice. Wandering down new streets, finding markets and new snacks. There is just something about walking and eating pieces of fried pork fat, that makes a person happy. I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow, I have one last goal of catching a city bus to the Airport, then I can relax. My journal is running out of pages, my wallet is running out of bills, my last camera memory card is running out of space, my empanada goal has been met, and my bags are full of souvenir ponchos and Andean pan flutes. Yo creo que puede ser el momento de volver a casa.

E = 200

(ps: This should be my last post from South America. I will continue to write and breakdown my trip and post trip life. Also, the plan is to do a blog of strickly numbers, laying out the total cost and other somewhat interesting stats. Thanks for reading.)