Pages of Euphoria
Monday, September 24, 2007
  Maiming Power

Mira. Me llamo Joey Peso, y tres dias atras, compré una porcion de dynamita. Lo era fantastico. El precio estaba diez bolivianos, o 1.50 gringo mas o menos para el dynamita, amonium nitrate, y una fusa (tal vez un minuto larga) juntos. Estuvé en las minas cooperativas en Potosí, Bolivia. Minas que producen mucho plata todavia hoy dia. Despues mi grupo y yo salemos las minas, mi guida, se llama Jaime, me preguntó para la dynamita. Jaime lo preparó el substancia explosivo, y pusó la dynamita adentro una bolsita de ammonium nitrate, la misma cosa el una bomber usó en el Oklahoma City bombing. Usualmente amonium nitrate es usó para fertilizado, con plantas, jardins, y todas las cosas verde. En esto pelicula corta, Ustedes pueden ver yo, con un bomba de dynamita en mi mano, despues anadé fuego.

I felt like writing a bit in Spanish because of the intensive English I have been speaking as of late with Peace Corp friends. What I wanted to share in this entry was the recent opportunity I had to purchase dynamite. For 10bs or $1.50 I purchased a full stick from the miners market at the foot of Cerro Rico (rich Mountain) in Potosí, Bolivia. Since I have lost my mind and dont fully appreciate the fruits of my right hand, I opted for a video shoot with said portion of dynamite, fuse lit, in my right hand. The video clip* is composed with the grace of the ballet, and Jaime actually soiled himself in its undertaking. He actually asked me to buy him fresh underwear. For some reason, I was bereft of fear, and was just really giddy at having so much explosive maiming power at my disposal. It felt like wielding the trident of Zues. Im pretty sure Zues had a trident. But I will probably never hold dynamite again, rest assured Mom and Wes. Probably a lie. Saludos amigos! y Vamos Warriors y Seahawks!!!!

*I have now tried in vain to upload the video of lit dynamite in my anxious fingers numerous times. I honestly suspect youtube is denying the video due to its potential connection with terrorist activity. If I can get it up, (no pun intended) you will see the clip soon. Until then Paz playaz.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
  Insane Terrain, Part II
Beginning of Day 2, 9/13/07: Snap, Crackle, Pop. I wish they were the sounds of a deep bowl of freshly poured cereal. No, instead it was simply the salt wall of my hostal crumbling and landing on my head and pillow at 3am. I suppose the hostal thought my dreams were too bland and needed more flavoring. Unfortunately sueños dulces were not allowed, as Lucas (the maniacal driver) came trudging down the salt hallways happily waking us up at 4:30am. His method of gringo rousing consisted of yelling "Papi, laventente, dame leché!" or Dad, get up and give me milk. That was all I needed to hear, as I bothered about preparing myself for an intensive day on that dark morning. Temp was around 15 deg F, which would not be as harsh as the next night, yet that temp still required a caccoon like collection of blankets in the hostal sadly of salt, not heat. The blankets were so thick it felt like sleeping in a multitude of bullet proof vests.

We ate a wonderful breakfast (courtesy of Marta) considering the electricity/gas constraints, and shortly after I was outside watching the first rays of light chase off the lingering dark. Those rays of light lazily climbed into the sky putting the stars back in their shrouded places of keeping. On the road now enjoying the body heat of 8 close quartered people, the first flat tire of the trip was experienced. Lucas and Marta both started proving their veteran skill at that 630am hour by changing the tire in 15 minutes FLAT. In the treacherous finger numbing cold, Lucas was scrambling around in the dirt getting his hands very dirty. This man was already earning my respect. The group piled back in the car after searching out a 50 centavo per use baño, unfortunately every bathroom costs in Bolivia, and every experienced traveler knows to always to be armed with his or her own t.p.

The beautiful yet bitterly cold second day was well on its way after a shaky start. What transpired over the next 14 hours was simply an utterly ridiculous calliedascope blend of different landscapes in a constant state of flux. Random descriptions of some of those landscapes: serene sage brush valleys whose golden yellow sand was amplified in the midmornings sunlight. Wandering for a short while on brittle rock surfaces stupified in the site of active volcanoes whose sides are caked and crusted in white sulfur deposits. Wandering still on the banks of a gray mud (mineral Pyrex, for glass) mountain lake, trying to avoid getting my timbs sucken too deep. Eating a basic vegetable rice and breadlike substance lunch aside a lazy little stream, hundreds of miles away from any other man, let alone anything man made.

After a post feast organge seed spitting contest we continued on the path leading to other sites knocking you and your grandma clear off your rockers. Sites like Laguna Colorado whose water is turned the color red by numerous minerals and microscopic organisms; the latter in which support the population of 5,000 freaking Flamingos. Yeah...volcanoes, salt flats, coca leaf addicted driver, and three different species of Flamingos. All at Mt. Ranier like heights. Still more sites included Luguna verde, whose water in turn boasts a milky turquoise color by a plentitude of other different minerals. If laguna verde or this trip in general needed anything more it was comfortably situated directly in front of another active volcanoe, maybe 20 minutes by car to the Chilean border. Or how about natural sulfur geysers belching steam laced with the lovely rotten egg aroma. The rotten egg aroma that is so tied in scent memory to sulfur and to the lactate intolarent schmuck who decides to consume milk. My friendly Frenchmen were so overpowered by the noxious fume bubbling from the earth that there tolerance and manners were washed away in a wave of English profanity. I enjoyed it enthusiastically as there is nothing funnier than curse words of any language spoken in a heavy accent. I myself have capitalized on this big time in Spanish.

At this point it was around 4:30pm, and after leaving Laguna Verde and its debilitating 10 deg F (worse with wind chill), a natural thermal spring of 90 deg F water was sorely needed. Salares de Uyuni, you think you could make some thermal springs materialize? Yeah? Word. So it was that after a 14 hour day of car crammage, bitter temperature, and eyeball ecstasy that Damien and I find ourselves heterosexually lounging in a natural thermal spring. It was momentarily wonderful, letting the heated water undo all the damage dealt by sitting on my ass in a cramped position for nearly 14 hours. Why D and I were the only ones of the group who undertook the thermal spring innitiative was beyond me until we had to get out and dry off.

The Uyuni trekking squad finally started back on the road in the waning light towards yet another rustic hostal in the middle of nowhere sans heat. Highlights of the night were a complimentary bottle of repulsive wine and a social game of UNO which was stopped dead in its tracks when the generator (and power) was cut off at 930pm. Trying to go to sleep that night wearing my entire wardrobe all I could do was prey that the needs to urinate could be staved off until the morning for having to get up in that polar bear weather without electricity would have proven lethal. Thankfully my prayers were answered. The third morning started off much the same way as the second, with frigid breakfasts and flat tires. I will not even bother to describe events of the third day as it was just more of the same head scratching and dumbfounding natural beauty sprinkled with lost pueblitos in the middle of Bolivian deserts. I will let the pics speak for themselves. A few closing notes I would like to leave you all with, positive and negative in nature. There was just too much. This is hardly a negative element, but there was just too much to see to be given fair appreciation. At each of the amazing places we visited, we seldom had more than 15 minutes to explore. Just as you started to approach a mindset of communion and inner peace with an enormous active volcanoe, or valley of jagged spikes of orange rock thrusting out of the ground, an annoying 4runner horn would sound. Alternatively, aside from the obvious freak show of natural beauty, one of the more impacting factors of the trip simply consisted of being completely cutoff from any form of society. Driving for hour upon hour through roadless desert, salt plane, rock valley, sulfur geyser, volcanic lake alone with 7 other human beings for a matter of days was something deeply impacting. We might as well have been on the moon both because of the terrain and because there was simply noone else in existance but us. Actively searching for something as basic as a paved road became a game, a game which gained all the happiness of the moment at losing. Joey B signing off.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
  Insane Terrain, Part I
Has anyone ever heard of Bolivian salt flats? Has Salares de Uyuni ever been issued from yours or someone elses tongue or momentarily graced a converastion? If you are like myself and my other 5 travel mates to the stars who recently visited the Flats, then you probably have not. However I think the hidden and undiscovered air that surrounds and evelopes the Salares de Uyuni adds to its completely other worldy nature. I am talking the same ranks as E.T., black holes, Neil Armstrong, Reses Peanut Buttercups. It was like stepping into a hallucinogenic dream while still in waking life, yet in the place of purple Chinese speaking dinosaurs that I usually see there were the most eclectic and alien landscapes I have ever beheld. The sheer expanse of the frontier, the random, drastic, and constant change of terrain, and succumbing to cabin fever while being packed inside an SUV for an unGodly amount of time combined to yeild an unforgettable experience. An experience whose fresh recency still brings about pangs of claustrophobia.

Now for a few details....get ready to digest some numbers. Six travelers comprised the tourist factor: Stephan, Inook, and Damion were the friendly French. Daniella and Sandra represented Swizterland, and yours truly was holding it down for America del Norte. Our ages all spanned the twenties. Two Bolivian extroverts comprised the crucial knowledge and expertise that proved instramental to the relative success of the trip: Lucas the driver and manic coca leaf chewer, and Marta the cocinera or cook who puts ex jailbird Martha Stewart to shame. So we have 8 more or less strangers willfully electing to spend 72 hours together in the closest of contact. In those 72 hours, you never had a solitary minute to yourself, save the time spent boxed in on four sides communing with a porcelain God. Eight back to back meals were eaten together; two nights of group sleep. Each of the tours three days featured a 10 hour average inside the close confines of a Toyota 4runner rubbing shoulders literally and figurartively with new traveler friends. Paradox or not, everyone managed to remain cheerful, freindly, even jubilant in the face of shower fasts, 430am wakeups and extremely close contact. What do we have to thank? The insane terrain of the Salares de Uyuni. I want to dive into a two entry installment of the amazing and awesome sights, beginning with the first day.

The massive plains of dried salt were the first attraction of the three day tour. After driving 30 or so minutes from the town of Uyuni, an expanse of white slowly became our world. Na+ soon stretched to the limit of sight, blanketing everything between points on the horizon. Santa could not have dreamed of an xmas any whiter, in September or any month. No roads, no
buildings, nothing of a vertical nature AT ALL. Nothing greeted you that wasnt emitting a color wavelength of white brilliance, save beautiful mountains and active volcanoes half hazardly sprinkled about the horizon. Visions and emotions of surreality began to bloom, as we were driving over what would very soon be used to season food around the country. Acres and acres and acres of salt. Virtually infinant amounts. I had many locals verify that the resources plentitude could never expire. It is unfortunate that the salt isnt a more valuable resource, as if it was the black gold, sheikhs of those big and violent deserts of the middle east would be groveling before the feet of the inport export business that is. At a meager and stranded feeling salt processing factory we learned that the resource was so inexpensive that it was a matter of dollars to the ton.

After playing in piles of white, and taste testing the ground, the novelty reached its apex and began to decline. The clan of 8 wild cards piled back inside the 4runner and a violently bumpy existance was endured for the next 90 minutes. We next arrived at Isla del Pescado, and I hope I have that name right as Fish Island really doesnt make any sense as a name for the location. In the middle of the dried salt flat there rose a baby hill aspiring to be so much more. Its stunted growth was more than compensated by its interesting rock formations and veritable forest of cacti taking up residence on its sides. REALITY CHECK. I am in the middle of some prehistoric bed of salt infinity, standing atop a lone hill which contrasts against the glaring ocean of white with cactus green. Reality checks were a daily exercise over those three days as some of the environments I found myself in were simply unbelievable. I love any situation where you have to stop yourself and mentally confirm what you are seeing is real, and you are doing what you are actually doing. As a goal I strive to make my realities unreal, to make them hard to believe.

At Isla de Pescado we hiked simple trails to beautiful sights, ran amuck, and delved into our first group lunch. The meal was marked obviously by setting and company, but more by the outrageous politeness and generosity us strangers showed one another. After eating upon a table fashioned out of salt, we took time to take pictures of a more creative nature. The fact that everything was completely white made it so that there was no color difference discerning between background and foreground. This provided some very interesting photo opps playing with size disparity. Peep the pic. The water babies lotion belongs to me and my sensitive skin, gets laughed at every time, and is the gift that keeps on giving from one Megan Iguchi who left it in my apartment in South Korea lifetimes ago. The area really did provide for some amazing illusions depending on your creativity. Regretfully I was not on my creative game as there were other pics like this one that is cooler than ice cream.

"Vamos amigos!" says Lucas with coca leaves issueing out the side of his mouth. Time yet again to hit the road, even though the vulnerable tires of the 4runner touched road, (or paved cement) for a combined 20 minutes the entire journey. A complete lack of pavement, an abundance of dirt, rocks, and salt. We arrived late in the day at a pueblito perdido or little lost village which kept very close to the middle of f*cking nowhere trend . It was a village of nearly 200 inhabs, all living in closely concentrated basic one level structures. Nestled tightly in a small valley between two lazy rolling hills, there was running water for all yet electricty only for those select few who could afford the gas along with their generator. The hostal we stayed at was easily the most rustic and basic of lodgings I
have ever experienced. It was almost completely constructed of salt. The walls were made of salt bricks, cemented together with salt. The floor was white, crunchy, and granulated. The bed frames were oh so salty. I felt peppers jealousy welling up into a spicy rage. The only thing that seemed not to be sodium comprised was the mattresses, blankets and pillows thanks to all that is holy. It is here that I must end this novel as I have a 10 hour night bus leaving to Potosi, literally the highest city in the world at 4500 meters and change. Day 2 description coming soon. Until then, stay hydrated, moisterized, and think of me when you look at that little glass bottle of white on your dinner table. Paz.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
  Adventures of Joe Parker
Professor Montgomery recently walked out of my South American life and onto a bus headed towards Buenos Aires and the end of his time in Argentina. Being moved by the warmth of Argentinian custom, we kissed cheeks and it was weird and great. One crucial difference between us is that he is actually an established American; He is stacking chips in the real estate game, as well as the old 401k; He is making moves in the American grind (i.e. he has a job), and just being an all around good capitolist by buying gas and driving an SUV. I on the other hand have none of those things, we will call them roots. Im freer than any bird youve ever seen, than any bird that Lynrd Skynrd ever wrote about. The point of all this is to illustrate that the Professor was only able to get away from those American roots for two weeks. Of those two weeks, we were able to form like voltron, blaze trails and so much more for about 10 days together. My oh my what a 10 days they were though, as in that span of time some major ass was kicked, beautifully intricate cultural customs were learned and appreciated, and as an overall trend, we partied like it was 1999.
People, this is what happens when you breach the border of states 50 and visit me in the south of the world:

1. You do things like crossing the Bolivian border via Argentina soley for a party.
2. You attend all day rodeo beer fest meat feeding frenzies.
3. You almost go skydiving for 40 dollars. I have no picture to illustrate how crazy, cool, potentially life threatening this true fact would have been.

4. Busses are ridden in time lengths measured not in minutes or hours, but in days.

5. You see a place that can legitimately be called the most beautiful place on Mother Earth, or Pachamama en Espanol.
Parker, I want to genuinely thank you for getting the motivation and wanderlust to come take part in vastly different way of life with me. Also for dipping into the funds a little bit, (now is the time to do things of this nature); I am now nearly broke as a bad joke, and will require a small section of your cartpet to sleep on and maybe a water dispenser when I come home in November. The mists of time shall never fade the memories, God bless the digital age. I love ya bro, heres to the adventures of Joe Parker. While writing what was to be this entry in my actual travel journal, I was sitting and looking out over el punto de las tres fronteras, or the point of the three frontiers. An actual spot where while standing on Argentinian soil, you can see Brazil and Paraguay at the same time. At the moment of creating this entry on, I am just south of the Bolivian border, in a dust swept city called La Quaica. I plan to cross the border into Bolivia in about 15 minutes.
ps. They serve crustaburgers in Bolivia. Simply awesome.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
  Brother Appreciation Day
For almost 7 months foreign paths have known my feet. Whether on tiled Argentinian sidewalk, through Ecuadorian jungle, or kicking up dust on a Bolivian dirt road, my feet have feasted on vastly foreign terrain. This of course was my aim. However in undertaking this adventure of loose feet thousands of miles away from home, there has been one viscous price that I have had to pay. And that price is simply not seeing family. Over the span of the last 17 months, I was home for roughly three. I miss my bros; I am going through some serious Greenberg brother withdrawals. They are growing up, and it acidically burns that I am not around them, taking witness, taking part in the storm. Skype, while fantastically frugal, can only do so much from a Bolivian hole in the wall internet cafe in the way of family bonding. With this being said, I wanted to do a little Greenberg brother show and tell. The two of them are incredible important to me, I am overly proud of them, I hope that my words do not convey arrogance. Brothers can be bragged about right? Right. (during periods of solo travel, you get good at talking to yourself).

Jumping right in, I would like to call attention to Wes. The family lost contact with him about 8 months ago, when his obsession with the professional wrestling circuit took on unhealthy levels. He surgically implanted blonde hair into his scalp, and regularly bleached his mustache in worship of his long time hero, Hulk Hogan. I recently came across news that the Hulkster himself had to get a restraining order against him, and repeatedly had to get the local authorities to throw my middle brother and his tent that he was sleeping in off his property. JUST JOKING. Wes is actually a wonderfully adapted and adept human being, on his way to graduating from Western Washington Univervisity, hallowed halls of scholars. The picture of him at left illustrates his waton disregard for the judgments of other people, his tendency to wild out, and just a little bit of the color in his character palate.

As it were, myself being first born, and his being second born should, according to psychological literature, entail huge differences between us. While growing up together, this couldnt have been further from the truth. I regularly wanted to end his life with fiery passion. My distaste for him was palpable. I was pretty much a physically abusive alcholic father of an older brother. Somewhere along the line however, a flip was switched, something jarred loose, a stick was removed from an orifice, and I simply grew up. I came to appreciate having a middle brother. He still possesses the ability to drive me off the f*cking wall like no other, but I choose to look past that and into how much I love Wes. How much I love the fact that we both find humor in the most inexcusably stupid things like 80´s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Smeegs, keep doin what you do; Just give me all of my G*ddamned things back.

Moving Chronologically we come to one burly beast of a youngest brother, we got Zach (second from left in the pic). Or Zehar, or Zigtar, and a whole treasure chest bursting with more names of a less becoming nature. He was not always the hulking manchild you see now, but in his younger and smaller years an oh so adorable little ball of human dough. I must choose my words carefully here, as he possesses the might to terminate me if he so wished. When I last saw him in Massachussetts, I suspected steriod usage at how much muscle he put on, but that was quickly disproved at the lack of sx like explosive King Kong rage and backne. He had simply been devoted to the weightroom to give himself and football team a competitive edge.

It is at this point that I want to stand on my little South American soap box, and call attention to the fact that he (#51) is doing and taking apart of something truly amazing. His football team, the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors, are on their way to being one of, if not the best highschool football teams in Washington State 4A football. The forty something thousand people of Edmonds are united in crazed support of the deeply talented and downright intimidating varsity squad. I am quite sure the players enjoy celebrity status. As in Zach gets recognized and sought out at the Westgate QFC while buying protein bars on a regular basis. I hope, yet am confident that I will be able to make the last rounds of the state tournament, to see and support my youngest brother doing something great. Zach, stay focused, stay determined, and keep lighting fools up as Terry Bradshaw would say. Know that I am with you and cheering you on every step of the way from South America. Go Warriors and salud hermanos.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
  Pelo Very Very Loco
Shock, wild, poof, puff. Words sometimes used to describe hair. The last few weeks of my South American Experience, from here on out abreviated S.A.E., has provided the opportunity to meet some special individuals with radical, even extremist, expressions of hair.

Case Study #1: Simon the lankey German. I traveled with this man for about 4 days in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the same city of Sloth. He is German, tall, tranlucently skin toned, frightfully skinny, his name is Simon. Those attributes did not grab your eye though, but what did quite predictably was his ostentatious, invasive, bigger than life hair. I used to determine how to correctly spell ostentatious, the site will enrich your life. When his head went uncapped, and the brown mane was unleashed, I could not take my eyes away from the awesome site. All I could think of in my neverending comparative mind of minds was that I was associating with a reincarnated Ludwig van Beethoven. I used to find the picture of the grizzled looking composer, dont watch tv, just use wikipedia. Unfortunately the friendship between Simon and myself never reached an area of comfort where questions like hair product usage could be comfortably asked.

Case Study #2: Frenchmen Benjamin and Samuel. I met them while staying in Salta, a city in Northern Argentina. We shared the same hostal named Corre el Camino, which is a shaky translation of road runner. They were also both very becoming and kind individuals. You will only meet the nicest people when traveling outside your boundaries, and you will never meet more of them. (Enormous generalization for the day) So I feel it is almost redundant/futile to say I met two nice people. Moreover, we bonded quickly over crépes and billiards. We conversed in Spanish, becuase my French consists of roughly 10 words, and they felt more comfortable in Spanish as opposed to English. They accepted my Americanness and I accepted their odors. Their odors which ommitted from their bodies. Their bodies which hadn´t known a cleansing in two months. I want to illustrate here that my Americaness and their odors are not equated variables. Besides smelling smelly, they also had incredible and shocking hair. The kinda hair that leaves you staggering as if rocked by a left right combination from M. Ali, clinging to the ropes while your brain tries to reestablish synaptic connection. Samuel looks like he bought his hair in a store. Either that or he walked strait out of street fighter II video game.

Case Study #3: Israeli Effrat. Her hair simply filled the room. It earned her standing Spanish ovations. While appearing to be washed regularly (judging from a lack of repugnant odor) and lacking natural gel, it still did things. Openly expressing my amazement with it, all I could muster to say at the time was "It´s just so....out there," said in a perplexed and exasperated tone. Of course she took offense. I am gonna go on record and say that Rapunzel would eat her own heart out with a spoon much sooner than turn green with envy. She not so politely declined my request of a picture of her hair probably becuase it is just a very odd request to make. Also because she probably thought I was going to put her on blast. This pic will have to suffice, though it does her (hair) far from justice. Too bad Effie, I was just trying to make you famous.

Case Study #4: At examining all of these wonderful people, to be fair, I must also put myself under the microscope. This is me not more than a week ago at a Bolivian rodeo. (at these rodeos, kittens are not ridden) Radical facial hair creations were a must, and I rose to the challenge with my own brand of repulsion. All I can say is fear and revere mustaches everywhere, handle bars or not.
Read up on the portion of this life which I have chosen to make accessible to you. Or if it is simpler, just give me a jingle and we can shoot the breeze. Either way, forget about the time, what productivity means or anything that might be pressing and get lost in some thought and imagination.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I come from a small town north of Seattle, WA, where I learned that rain is a magical thing because it turns things green. I have had the chance to go a few places and see a few things of which all I have are pictures, memories and stories. I am currently living and learning about Los Angeles, California, and what it means to be an Angelino.

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