Blow by Blow Days 1 to 20
Right, so, it’s been around a month since we left and here is the first blog post. It has a bit of day by day stuff, then some general stuff. Things have deviated greatly from the original plan, definitely for the better.
Day 1 - 17th June
Longest day ever. Sunday started by waking up at 4:30am Melbourne time and finished by going to sleep at 12am East Coast time around 40 hours later. We travelled by taxi, plane, bicycle, bus and ferry. We had to fix a bent rotor, buy anti-bear equipment and put our bikes on the front of the bus otherwise we would miss the ferry. We were originally going to cycle south from the Vancouver airport to get a ferry to Vancouver Island from Tsawwassen, but realised that there wouldn’t be time, so we went through the city and north, to Horseshoe Bay so we could get to Nanaimo where we stayed with Kiersten from Warm Showers. [Warm Showers is like Couchsurfing but for people who are cycle touring and may just need a place to pitch a tent and a warm shower.]
Super tired after post midnight bedtime, woken at 7:30am, could have slept until 2pm. Slow brekkie with Kiersten then changed plans a lot before settling on Cathedral Grove. Super hot day for Canada, 30 degrees. It was slow going, only made it 50km to the Little Qualicum Falls campsite. In hindsight, should have planned on having a few rest days to deal with jet lag and bike maintenance post flight, but whatever. Anyway, highlights were fresh strawberries from Kiersten’s garden, raspberries, swimming, snapple. Lowlights were starting late, the heat. I think we’re doing a good job considering the general fatigue. I hope we sleep for the next 12 hours. Tomorrow we’ll go to Cathedral Grove then pack up and head back to Nanaimo. No bear sightings yet. We have a horn, spray and a canister for food.
Cathedral Grove was aight, but we didn’t have much time there before needing to be back at camp to pack up. We slept in again. We stopped at Parksville on the way back to Nanaimo for coffee, bowls and a lesson on tipping in Canada (15-20%). We cooked Kiersten tofu stir fry after going to sugarloaf to see a great view of Departure Bay.
Left at a record early time of 9:45am, got a flat which we change surprisingly quickly. Arrived at Lake Cowichan at around 4:30pm. On the way we nearly ran out of water, found a dog/cat man to fill us up. The plan now is to relax by the lake for a while before starting along the bike path for tomorrow to find a spot to camp. We want to have enough time tomorrow to see Butchart Gardens before meeting our Victoria hosts Steve and Melissa at 7pm.
The bike path sucked so we camped there then came back to the road, almost all the way to Duncan, then went down the coast. Hannah had her first Aeropress coffee and it was gross (terrible beans). We stopped at Shawnigan Lake briefly for a frolick in the water, then left with just enough time to get to the ferry. We got a flat on the way then the tube which got put in already had a hole. We had to pump it to get there on time, but the ferry was late anyway. On the other side in Brentwood Bay, we went straight to the Butchart Gardens. There, things happened and decisions were made (more on that later). We stayed with Steve, Melissa and Merlin the Border Collie in Victoria.
Catching up with Anna, Jack and Lucille, checking out the vegan cafe action.
Coffee with Anna and Lucille then went to Witty’s Lagoon with Sarah, Chris, Abby and Jake whom I met in Trujillo a few years ago on a workaway. Then had beers on their deck. I wish we’d had more time there, maybe we could have done a Jake and I vs. Abby and Hannah cookoff or something. I loved their house. It’s on a cul-de-sac, has established fruit trees, a veggie patch, chooks and a balcony bathed in dappled sunlight with a view. I’ve kind of generally thought that I would end up near a town, in the bush. The cul-de-sac life is pretty sick though, so that might be a contender. We cooked tofu stir fry at Steve and Melissa’s for dinner then slept early in anticipation of a long day.
We left only a bit late and had only a short wait for the ferry from Schwartz Bay. Getting there on the bike path (Lochside Trail) was great. We washroom stopped at a sports complex and saw some kids playing softball chanting mean things at each other. We cycled from Tsawwassen to the bike shuttle through nice farmland on quiet roads. Arrived at 2:30pm, no shuttle until 3:30pm, nowhere to eat. At this point got worried about not making it to the talk (Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson) on time. Anyway we got to Tom and Susan’s (Vancouver WS hosts) in North Vancouver and Tom drove us, so we got to see the start. JBP was on the street talking to people beforehand. He’s great when he talks to people, he’s really talking to that person. I imagine he was there late afterwards talking to people too. He really helps a lot of people. The talk was great. I like that they were not recording so they could really explore ideas without fear of being misrepresented. It was much better than previous conversations I’ve heard of theirs.
We bought Marathon Plus tyres, any other tyres suck for touring/anything. We chilled out and ate raspberries and peas, and read.
After a wrong turn at the start we smashed out of Vancouver earlyish and got to Squamish (~halfway to Whistler) by lunch. It was hot and I bought about 2x the food I should have. Fine in normal circumstances, but not if you want to fit it all in a bear canister. That derailed us a bit, but in the end, energy levels were more of a factor than time. We got to Tom’s recommended spot near Lake Lucille and camped on a great beach.
Getting to Whistler was fairly easy once we found a guy with water. We had coffee, vegan burger and I’m currently sitting in an Irish pub catching up on writing.
Day 11 was the 27th of June and I’ve written nothing in my diary since then. Typing that out made me feel like it would be boring to read and maybe seems like it assumes the reader knows our general plan.
Days 12 to 18
Stayed with Butch and Elliot for the first 5 nights then with Helen and Dave for the last two. Went mountain bike riding one day, reading on the lake one day, rafting and ziplining one day, played Catan a few times. I hadn’t played before and I loved it except Hannah won one of the games even though I was trying to thwart her which was really disappointing. Went on a hike, tried to go on a hike but ended up trekking through snow, went up the mountain on the gondy.
Days 19 to 20
Caught a bus back to Vancouver, cycled to the airport and flew to Hannover, Germany.
What Are We Doing In Germany, I Thought This Was A North American Trip?!
While we were in the Butchart Gardens, I had a thought that I mentioned to Hannah and she said that she’d been kind of thinking that for a while (like, months). The thought was “what are we doing in North America, not Europe?”
One thing we were thinking of when choosing to go on a long holiday is that I’ll be teaching for at least the next two years, and in that time won’t have time off during the Northern Hemisphere summer for more than a couple of weeks in a row (which we both think is too short to go all the way to Europe or North America for). This is why we ruled out cycling in south-east Asia. I was kind of going for a one month holiday and Hannah for a longer one, and when I mentioned that I would like to go to the Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris talk in Vancouver, she seized her chance and we bought tickets for it before flights. Then we kind of planned the trip around that as a start date and location, which is pretty arbitrary.
There are a number of things that are as good or better in Europe than in Australia, and those things are also worse in North America than Australia. Food. Towns. Cycling views. Cycling practicalities. Number of tourists. Culture. These are all massive things when considering a cycling trip. Anyway, within around 8 hours of first having the discussion “why aren’t we in Europe” we’d booked flights from Vancouver to Hannover the following week. As you’ll hear in the next installment, the decision turned out to be a great one. It’s not that we were having a bad time in Canada, we weren’t at all, it’s just that this will be the last time north of the equator for a while, and we both love Europe.
Vegan to Vegetarian
Another change for me is that since coming to Europe I’m not eating vegan, just vegetarian. There are practical cycling reasons and deliciousness reasons for this. As with all decisions, I try to work out the ethical cost of the production of something and compare it to the the benefit it brings me.
At the moment (compared with a normal time at home):
I’m still having vegan things where it doesn’t make much difference like if it’s on the menu at a cafe, but I’m also sometimes having cheese in cases where I really could choose something else.
I'm going travelling again and moving about a bit, so I'm going to start the Cycling and Bussing section of the blog again. I’ve updated the “Route” page with a rough itinerary. Here’s some more detail. Most dates are estimates. Estidations. It’s all with Hannah, except for 3rd Nov to Xmas and last 3 weeks of Jan when she’ll be in Port Mac.
17th June - Land in Vancouver, cycle around Vancouver Island.
24th June - Return to Vancouver, go to a Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson discussion.
25th June - Go to Whistler to hang out with Butch and Elliot(t?), do some downhill MTB.
1st July - Train to Jasper, cycle to Banff.
3rd July - Cycle towards the coast (hit it somewhere north of Astoria).
14th July - Cycle south, along the coast until Santa Barbara.
6th August - Cycle towards Yosemite.
19th August - Cycle towards San Francisco.
23rd August - Fly to Melbourne.
25th August - Drive to Port Macquarie. Volunteer for 5 weeks. Hopefully do some blogging about what I'm doing (if it's meaningful/interesting).
1st October - Start online teaching course thing with ACU.
12th November - Start studying at ACU (Melb), 8am-6pm, Mon-Sat, living on campus.
22nd December - Go to Port Macquarie for Christmas/NY/why not.
17th January - Go to Hobart to study.
29th January - Term starts for teachers in whatever high school I work at in Tasmania as a secondary school physics teacher.
This will be the last post in the section for the foreseeable future because I've finished with the whole travel gambit for a while. Time to find a job!
The (US) Election
It just makes me angry and I know how this rant sounds so I'm going to leave it out.
Two Funky Guys I Met
The night before the primary I was out knocking on doors. I was about five minutes away from finishing and a came across two guys on the street having a couple of beers outside their house. The address was on my list so I asked for Grant and Andre. They were Grant and Andre. Andre seemed a bit of a stoner. He thought he was told he couldn't vote but I assured him he could because he was No Party Preference. They said they would go down in the morning and be sure to vote. Who knows if they did.
Anyway, Grant had bought an old ambulance for $8k which was pretty cool, and he seemed switched on and fairly interesting so when he offered me a beer I accepted. It was dark and I was nearly done, so why not really. We sat in the van and talked politics for a few minutes, then Grant alluded to a topic of conversation he had ready, almost like a presentation of sorts. Andre and I finished whatever we were talking about then Grant came at me with zero point energy generators and the Disclosure Project. It was full conspiracy theorist mode. Every time I asked him to explain some part of it that didn't make sense to me he just said some more vague and complex sounding stuff which made no sense and reiterated that he's not a physicist, but it's all real. He was totally normal apart from that.
Lucid Dreaming and Buddhism
I was walking to the park to have a read and there was a guy sitting on a step having a read. We made eye contact and exchanged hi's and as I passed I inquired as to the content of his book. It was about Chernobyl. Interesting I said. Turns out he was waiting for someone to pick him up then they would go for a walk in the park. Se we chatted for about an hour. I got some book recommendations. I also got some advice about lucid dreaming. I'm not in a writing mood though and I can't remember why I thought this would be interesting enough to make it a heading.
I didn't go out in San Fran much at all, but there was one time I went to a dive bar called the saloon and had some whisky. I'd just finished watching Peaky Blinders in which the characters drink whisky all the time. It was delightful. There was a live band in this small room and everyone of all shapes and sizes was dancing. It was a very American experience.
Homeless Guy Picking Up Trash
On the day of the primary, a group of people, myself included, were doing a “honk and wave” to remind people that voting was today. My bag was behind me so I was generally staying aware of the few people who walked along the path at our rear. Anyway, some fella was walking along with a trailer behind him, upon which he was stacking trash that he found in the park. At first glance I assumed he was homeless. He had a dog who wasn't fat, but was quite muscular. The man of the duo was talkative and we saw him throughout the day. Afterwards I wondered if he really was homeless or if it was just his job to pick up trash. Again, I finish this tale with little idea of why I started
Anyway, I left Greg and Erica with whom I was staying and couchsurfed over in Oakland for a few days before flying back to Melbourne where my parents who happened to be in Melbourne and my Aunt and Uncle picked me up and whisked me up to Wodonga. I'm now looking for a job online in Melbourne, but really the location and role are less important than the purpose of the company for whom I am working.
I may, as a method of job hunt procrastination, continue to post in the thought section of my blog, but I think this travel section is finished for a while because my day to day life will be even less exciting to the outsider now that I'm living in the same place. In exceptional circumstances, like if I see a man poo in the middle of a crowd in a busy train station like in Rome, I might mention that.
I know this post is barely coherent but to be honest, my heart's not in it. San Francisco was interesting, but very similar to Australia, so not great to write about. Plus my mind is on other things like finding a job and the prospect of starting real life.
One final thing to mention is that the tone of my travel blog hasn't been as overtly positive as I imagine most travel blogs are. I think the most interesting parts of travel are the troubles you get in and who wants to hear about someone else's amazing adventure anyway? Especially mine. Obligatorily, I've had an amazing time, met many amazing people and learnt a lot about the amazing world we live in.
While canvassing I bumped into three Christian kids from New Mexico who were walking the streets asking people if there was anything they could pray for. When they asked me I asked for Bernie Sanders to win the election. I thought he was a long shot until then, but now I'm so glad that he's actually going to win!
We crossed paths later and for some foolish reason I engaged them and we ended up talking for maybe half an hour. I was surprised a bit by how deluded they were, and I only tried to impart kindness and logic upon them. A lesson I think I've learnt is that while God probably isn't real and religious people are probably idiots, but that doesn't mean you can't be nice to the innocent ones among them. These kids were innocent. Plus I think I got three votes for Sanders in the New Mexico primary.
Seppos are Generous
I'm not the most financially generous person. That is an understatement. Tight is an adjective. I'm tending towards being more generous with money. I'd rather give money to a charity than to someone on a street, because I think the money (depending on the charity) will affect more people in a greater way. There is an indirect consequence of in person generosity which is that people who see it and people who receive it becoming more likely to be generous from that point on. If someone buys me a coffee in Starbucks, I see them as a good person whom I wish to emulate in some way.
Anyway, someone bought me a coffee at Starbucks. I know what you're thinking and no, that's not the case. The coffee was for Greg, who is currently hosting me and is a gun on the Bernie Sanders campaign trail. I would never say a bad word about him, but his taste in coffee speaks for itself. I was in the line and a man saw my Bernie stuff and posed a question. We got chatting and once he learnt of my travel/campaign situation (I didn't even say that I was running out of money) and got to the counter, he paid for my small black.
This doesn't even mention the fact that I've been staying with people for two week stretches and they are into it because I'm doing God's (Sanders') work.
I like the idea of starting my own business because I'm a human and that's how things work. I had never really produced a feasible idea, and I probably still haven't, but the thing I mentioned last post and on Facebook about a fruit and vegetable market with some sort of environmental impact indicator on each item has sparked a vague business plan.
I'm thinking about education a lot.
Poor People are Friendly
On Sunday I canvassed in a poor part of town. There were many people just hanging out at the bus stop and living on the street, plus the houses were run down. In this neighbourhood, people were almost exclusively friendly. Everyone was answering their door, people on the street would stop and talk to me (not with the intention of mugging me, just a friendly chat), and it really reinforced what I've said before about the people with the least giving the most. I'll never be rich. I always used to think I would be, but now I know it's not what I want
Pleasure from looking at Faraway Things
When I'm at lookouts, I try to snap pictures as quickly as possible then start just sitting and looking at the view. While I was canvassing the unsavoury 'hood, I could see a few little views and there is something just really nice about taking in a view and trying to look at each little bit in the distance in detail. Maybe it's a hunter gatherer thing.
I accidentally knocked on the door of Mr. D. Alexander because I thought I was on Inness Avenue, but I was actually on Jerrold. He came out and said some things about Bernie which were nice, then he when to find his nephew so he could register to vote. While I was helping the little fella with his form, Mr Alexander mentions that he's constantly getting things in the mail from the Canadian and Australian lotto people to try to wring money out of him. And wring money out of him they did until he finally won $1000 and then realised it was to be split between thirty people and he barely covered his expenses for that one ticket, let alone the non-winning tickets he bought. I don't like that Australian lotto does that.
$2, Take a seat
,When I stepped on to the bus this morning I had out my two $1 bills and my 25c change was ready in my pocket for the $2.25c bus ticket. After I put in my notes, I put my hand in my pocket for the coins and the driver, an old guy, tore off the ticket and said “Take a seat please, sir”, not allowing me to pay the balance. This seems like a fairly normal experience, and it is. The only reason I'm mentioning it is that the whole situation, including the voice, was like the guy was a prison guard in a prison where the prisoners were being mistreated, but not by him, they rebelled, he could have foiled their plans, but he chose to stand aside because it was the right thing to do. It's like he was taking a stand against the extra quarter for the ticket because he thought the price was too high. This sounds really boring written down, but maybe I'll come back and read it some day. I'd like that. I'm not convinced anyone else would be particularly interested.
Winelda P Blum
I was canvassing last night and the next person on the list was Winelda P Blum, 93, female. She apparently lived with a Monica, 20, and when I rang the doorbell, I did hope I wasn't going to make a 93 year old walk all the way down the stairs just to speak to a rabid Bernie Bro. The frequency of descending footfalls was low so I knew Winelda was on her way. She is the oldest person upon whose door I have knocked.
We spoke of Bernie for all of 30 seconds, before she mentioned my accent and began recounting her trip to Australia. She didn't go along the Murray, but crossed it a few times while venturing west to east. She told of the underground town with pretty rocks and was delighted when I reminded her of the name (Coober Pedy). She recalled Kangaroo Island and being unable to open the door of her accommodation before being told that the key was under the mat. She even remembered that she flew there from Adelaide.
As a reference point, I can't remember the name of and of the cities I stopped at on the coast of Greece between the Turkish border and Thessaloniki. That was less than a year ago. Winelda went to Australia with her late husband in 1988. She's 93. When she was telling the story of the key, she was gesturing with her hands as if picturing the exact scene.
The first real American experience was on the plane. The captain constantly gave updates on the progress of the flight which was good because we started out delayed but caught up. The flight attendant had a stand up routine which was reasonably funny, but I imagine would have become really old really quickly for his workmates and indeed himself.
As I popped out of the underground (BART) station, some baller was angsting down the street in dark clothes, ripping posters and public notices off bus stops.
It smells like weed everywhere here. It can be legally sold for medicinal purposes here, which results in reasonably widespread use.
I've seen people living in tents before. In Montpellier there was an area on the ride to work by the canal where a bunch of tents and campervans housed maybe 100 people, before spontaneously evaporating within half a day. In London, you see people who sleep on the streets. I mean, it's in every reasonably sized city. But nothing like this. It's illegal in most of the state, but happens to be legal in SF, so many a hobo makes the journey to the most expensive city in the country.
It's normal to talk to yourself every now and then. I probably do it every day. I do it reasonably often when I'm drunk and trying to make a decision where there is a nice, easy option and a right option. When I make my way to the bathroom, I take a look at myself in the mirror and do the devil in my head and the angel aloud. I think this is very different from walking the street having full conversations all day with yourself, talking about people as they walk past.
A very mild but interesting example of this occurred while I was canvassing. I was speaking to a woman on her stoop (lean Hilary, By Mail) and a guy asked if the speakers on the side walk belonged to anyone. We clearly didn't know, the woman went back inside and he started talking to me about where was I from and all that. Some of the questions got a bit weird like “where are you staying” progressed to “are you looking for somewhere to stay”. He was clearly living rough. I think the reason I find this example interesting is because I think he was kind of on the brink of becoming most of the people on the street. He wasn't crazy, but he was definitely lonely. I talk to myself far more while travelling, peaking when I was cycling and often wouldn't have a conversation for days. Like it or not, most humans need to interact with other humans. It's really sad when you know something as small as a simple conversation, which might bore you because you've had it ten times that day already and prevent you from doing something you should be doing, can have a decent sized impact on someone life, if they got that interaction regularly.
By all accounts, the crazy rate in SF is much higher than in other parts of the state and country.
I don't want to sound like I'm contrasting inwardly focussed people with myself. That doesn't make any sense. I can only contrast them with other people I've met, so that's what I'm trying to do.
The best way I can think to explain this is to use a first person role playing game (RPG) as an example. More people here than other places seem to act as though they are the protagonist in their very own simple RPG and everyone else is a non-player character (NPC). When you play a new game and you either don't read the instructions or background very well and just go for it, you need to spend a bit of time figuring out how it works. For instance in Fallout 3, you play the game for a couple of hours and you realise that you can't just go round treating people like dirt, because it affects your future choices in the game. In Morrowind, you need to crawl and have a high level in sneak if you want to get past someone without them noticing. You level in speechcraft affects your ability to convince someone of something. In the original Pokemon games on the other hand, you only need to learn that walking in someone's line of sight will start a battle.
In real life, the rules are far more complex. Most of the people I interacted with in Australia were way more in touch with the rules of real life than people here. I think it's because for those people, the feedback loops were tighter. Feedback loops are tighter generally when you are better friends with someone, because they will call you out on strange behaviour, not in a nasty way necessarily. Then there are people that will call out that stuff even if they don't know you very well. My housemate in Melbourne is an example of such a person. Even after only brief encounters, we would be getting deep in to trivial issues. It goes with my general ideal that if you can't justify something you do, then you shouldn't do it. Sure you don't need to justify it to me, but if you want to consider yourself a good person, you should at least be able to justify it to yourself.
Anyway, back to the people here, I think here there are more people who don't spend a lot of time with people they grew up with and are good friends with, so they don't get quality feedback on their actions. If someone I don't know racks up $900 in parking tickets before they realise that they should park on the other side of the street where it's free, it's easier to say “damn, that sucks” than “wot”. The people I've met here seem to have a higher threshold of friendship to reach the next level of honesty. I would say generally Australians are fairly straight up, so I guess it makes sense that people here might be less so. That said, my sample size here is small (though I would say quiet varied because I've been door knocking and meeting people with different backgrounds) and my sample at home is generally my group of friends and people attached to that which is reasonably specific.
Incidentally and to nationally stereotype, I think the people I've met who are the most straight up about this stuff generally are Israelis. I've found two types of Israelis in my travels. There are some who travel alone, are atheist and try to avoid other Israelis. They are super cool and have no qualms questioning you about anything which is really refreshing. They are the reason Tel-Aviv is seen as an “innovation hub”. Then there is the type of Israeli which travels in a group for one year after military service, plays loud obnoxious music and has loud obnoxious conversation in really inappropriate settings like 3am in a hostel dorm room or midnight in a Patagonian campsite. Anyway, the first type are amazing. Everyone should read Sapiens.
I realise I skipped a step. If I saw my life as a simple RPG, I would just test how things reacted when I interact with them and go forward operating based on what I learnt (probably finding some sick weapon early on and absolutely pwning because I researched how to do the Daedric Quests before I even started the game). Always as you go through life you get a better understanding of the rules of interaction, especially if you travel a lot and need to learn new rules for new places. But some people here who don't travel and live in their bubble seem to have decided that their rules won't change. If someone is set on their rules, it's really difficult to get them to change. I wish I could give decent examples.
This is largely irrelevant in the context of this post, but I've observed that I use generally more complex language than most people I've interacted with here. I'm reasonably often asked “what does that mean” or told “that's a great word to use”. The words indicated in those instance are generally words I've used for over twenty years, because my parents used them while I was young. Rigmarole is one example. Epitome is another. The point of this is that when you become a parent (maybe you already are), you should use as many words as possible as regularly as possible in front of your kid, from day one. I've listened to a lot of Freakonomics podcasts lately about education, especially early education. There is a thing called The Thirty Million Words Initiative:
“A world-famous study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995) found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their 4th birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. The bottom line: the kids who started out ahead, stayed ahead; the kids who started out behind, stayed behind. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.”
It's the same as someone learning a second language while they are young with more brain plasticity, they find it easier to learn than someone who is older. I find learning new words now reasonably difficult. To have a decent initial lexicon is something I'm grateful for. Don't improve for you, do it for your kids.
I don't really know what research mentions about this next bit, but I would say from a non-scientific, observational viewpoint, people who smoke more weed seem to have more trouble remembering relatively simple words. I suspect this is more due to the fact that people who have trouble remembering words are more likely to smoke the reefer than people who have a good memory for words.
Young People in Sports Cars
One thing I've noticed while walking around canvassing is that there are a whole lot of young people in expensive cars. Tech for the win. Also, Lamborghini's are really common here. In Australia you very rarely see them.
My Godfrey's Guitar
I don't mean the guitar of my Godfrey. I mean my “Godfrey's guitar”.
My friend Godfrey (aka Gobby, aka Ziekfrey, aka Dees, aka Andrew) loves guitars. It's normal to like things. I like pasta. But I recognise that some pasta is rubbish and I do not like that pasta, but I like pasta generally. Godfrey is not like this with guitars. He will pick up any guitar, play it a bit, maybe tell you it needs tuning or some new strings, then tell you it's a good guitar. Even if it's rubbish. He just gets off on guitars.
I've know my Godfrey's guitar now. It's bikes. There are many bikes in San Francisco. It's the US version of Melbourne in many ways. Every time I see a bike I get really excited and want to ride it. Actually, that's not quite true. Anything more mountainy than a hybrid is off the table. But everyone here is riding commuters and single speeds so it's great. I really can't wait to get back home and have my own bike. Once I find a job of course
I heard a rumour that Bernie would be at a rally starting at the Ferry Building (thanks Greg). The people I'm staying with and I headed down there to check it out. We put on some Local 2 paraphernalia and started marching around. As Le Meridien Hotel we heard a few speakers then lo and behold the big guy himself pops up to say a few words. He's an inspiration. I wish a little that I'd aimed for the front a big more, maybe to get a touch on, but still, seeing him was great
I would love a supermarket which had not just the country of origin on the price sign for fruit and vegetables, but also the distance it has travelled since it was harvested. Including the method of transport would also be good and the shop would have a sign displaying the emissions per tonne kilometre of transport by that method. Actually, having thought about it and received some stimulating feedback, it would be better to just put the transport emissions on there.
I've only seen three.
This is just a brief update, nothing super interesting, just letting you know what I've done recently
After my adventures with the Kazakh, I flew to London for Sanj's wedding. Curry on Thursday, beers on Friday (including Sanj who hadn't written his speech and was coming for maximum two beers which turned in to six), a glorious wedding on Saturday, Super Cider Sunday Funday, beer > theatre > beer on Monday then a flight which I barely got to on Tuesday. Hectic. All of it was good. The opportunity cost for this trip was probably two weeks on Galapagos and I'm infinitely happy that I made the decision that I did.
I returned to Bogota then immediately flew to Cancun. So American. I Couchsurfed with Viki and Angel who were super chilled out. I tried some mescal which is the Mexican version of whiskey kind of. Not at all really, but it had the same sip and warmth and deliciousness. Infinitely better than tequila. There were a few variations which were also delicious. One day we went to the beach which was fun. That night we went to a hostel with some of Viki's friends and played games which was also fun. The night before we also went to the hostel, then out to the party zone of Cancun which I absolutely hated. So much so that I wrote in my little book some ideas about it, but I can't be bothered with it now.
My sister arrived and we headed south to get away from the party tourists of Cancun, and apparently arrived in the laps of hostel style tourists in Tulum. We went to a cenote and Katherine went diving in some too. They are great fun. We Couchsurfed with a guy who slept in a hammock which was attached to the door handle of the room we slept in, essentially locking it from the outside. No bottles were required.
We then spent a few days on the island of Cozumel, a diving mecca 18km from mainland Mexico. There we found the potentially the world's best burrito. I had 5 in the 3 days we were there, plus one from a competitor's shop (wasn't as good, too much lettuce). One day Katherine dived and one day we decided to cycle around the island (65km). The hired bikes were disastrous and it was a literal pain in the bum to get back to town before the burrito shop closed.
We had different flights to Ecuador, but eventually got to Quito and met up with Sarah, a friend we met in Scotland two and a half years ago. We immediately set off to Banos, a small town south of Quito. The first day we spent walking to the “end of the world” place which is really just a normal sized swing on a steep hill (not even a cliff) where you can make it seem like you're in an awesome place but really it's just pretty good. The walk was fun though as was the asking around for directions. Highlight was Katherine falling a minute behind then us waiting fifteen minutes for her. She was waiting for a life which she got through a 100m section of road because there were a couple of chooks vaguely near the road. The next day we hired bikes (infinitely better this time, but by no means good) and rode down to Pailon del Diablo which is a waterfall. It was fun, waterfalls are cool.
Next stop was the Amazon via an eight hour bus which was impossible to sleep on. We arrived at 6am, found a place with WiFI for breakfast and downloaded GoT (it was a Monday). The bus from there to the rainforest was partially spent watching it, instead of socialising, but I'm comfortable with that decision. The next four days were spent in the rainforest going on boat rides to see animals, night walks to see insects, day walks to see “tribe people” which were just normal people except one shaman. We saw a bunch of animals, but nothing too unexpected. My favourite was a prehistoric bird, the babies of which have claws on their wings so that when they are attacked, they fall into the water and can use the claws to climb back up the tree.
I haven't put up too many animal photos. If you want to see good Amazon photos, just do a Google search.
After four flights yesterday, I'm now in San Francisco. My plan is to volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign until the primary. It's proving harder than I thought to get involved, but I am getting there. Americans are very diverse. I should start a list of all the weird stuff I see here, but I know I won't keep it up. It's a little odd to be in an English speaking country again.
Update: I have since had a few days here and I've walked the streets knocking on doors and registering people to vote. I think I will actually try to do a post on some of the stuff that goes on here that I haven't generally seen in other places I've been.
I couchsurfed in Bogota for just one night. That was last night. I'm flying to London tonight. This morning, I had an adventure with a new Kazakh friend of mine, Aidos. He decided he wanted to walk to the top of a forbidden mountain. I didn't want to go, but he convinced me. Here are some photos of some things.
Faris, Ryohei, Nour, Aidos, Yo
It was pretty rough going for a while. There were many signs saying we should be there.
Aidos is a bit mad. He started hitch hiking in Kazakhstan in October and went all across Europe, flew to Sao Paulo, lived in a favella in Rio, then hitch hiked down to Patagonia then up to here. Next he'll be in Cuba then through the US, Canada, Alaska, Russia and China, to get home within six months, spending 5 USD per day.
Walking back down we found a wild zucchini. Aidos wanted it for food.
It was delicious, but too oily for my taste.
The last bit of time in Boraceia was good, but there was an English couple coming to take my place. Fortunately the Spanish girl in Boicucanga bailed, so I moved there for my final week of teaching. It was awesome. There were two Australian broads and a German guy there and we got on well. Maybe too maybe. I got Jennie Bingham levels of familiar with people, becoming an absolute creep and completely removing the brain to mouth filter. The classes were up and down, some of them not too promising but some of them were amazing. My favourite was one with Cecilia and Tomas who knew way too much about the world and were too funny to be 14 years old.
“Would you rather have looks, money or brains?”
“If you're hungry you can't eat looks or money.”
No more beach
As I was on the bus leaving Boicucanga to go to Sao Paulo, I wrote a bit in my book.
I'm not normally sad when I leave places and I thought I had no special connection to this one, so I find myself surprised to be feeling the way I am now. I'm not really sure why I'm sad. The last week has been great. For the first time since Trujillo I've felt like I've had people that I've met on my team. There have been other people on my team at other times, but they've always had someone else even more on their team. Maybe this shouldn't be surprising because they are the first Aussies I've met in a while and I've always loved Germans and Poms. Plus I know there are many good times ahead for them here that I wish I was part of. On top of all this, I love some of the students and see so much potential in them which makes my perspective of the world so much brighter. It's too bumpy on this bus so I'll sleep now and write more later.
I can't help but think that all the things I'm good at compared with most people, I'm still not even close to the people in the fields. That is to say that I seem to have chosen to be mediocre at everything useful. I like to seem impressive to people that aren't interested in a particular topic, but when it comes down to it, what am I actually good at? Whether or not this is true, it's definitely why I've done nothing useful with my life so far and why I keep putting off the decision of where to focus my attention.
I'm looking forward to going to the US and travelling with my sister. Only 11 days to go. Though for the first time as I leave a place, I'm not super excited about my next few steps AND I don't feel like I'm ready to leave.
Well that got depressing, didn't it? I can't believe I wrote that. I guess it just shows what mood I was in, which is the point of writing in a book in the moment. Suffice to say that my current outlook is much more positive. More on that later.
I basically saw none of Sao Paulo. At the airport I looked a bit lost and some young fella came up to me to see if I needed help and he got on my train and took me all the way to my station with good chats about the state of things in Brazil. I'm not sure how much it's been in the world news, but some stuff has been has been going down in Sao Paulo. I wasn't there for the stuff happening, but the political situation was interesting to hear about from someone without an idiotic mainstream opinion of it. The kid's name was Luiz and he works in or studies actually I think tourism. He seems to have a great grasp of the real effects of tourism, beyond the cash injection. He was talking a lot about how simply seeing a foreigner subtly reminds people who don't travel of what's out there which ultimately promotes growth.
Anyway, my Couchsurfing host wasn't at the station yet and while I was standing around for maybe five minutes, I had another person come up to me and ask if I needed help. People are super friendly here. My host and I basically just hung out for a few days and while he was at work I caught up with House of Cards. Underwood so dark.
Ecuador Primera Vez
Then after flying through Panama and Bogota, I arrived in Quito. I spent a week gardening at a B&B in Tumbaco which to be honest wasn't much fun. Redeeming this experience was the Elon Musk autobiography and Scott Hall telling me that there have been two new seasons of Trailer Park Boys that I haven't watched yet. Elon Musk to Ricky and Lahey. What a contrast.
Also, I got in touch with an old friend and made some plans. More on that another time.
After gardening I moved to a Couchsurfing place in Tumbaco. Cari, her kids and I went to some thermal baths in Papallacta one night which was amazing, though I had another little altitude experience. I was a bit hungry and dehydrated from the baths and at one point I got out and went to my stuff, then all of a sudden I couldn't see and had to sit down. After that I was fine though. Since then there have been a few other people come to stay here too and we've had good chats about various things. Cari believes in crystals and energy which is clearly idiotic and I tell her that, but we talk about it like it's just a different way of defining some real things. She also taught me how to massage someone using the feet and standing on them and stuff. That was fun.
The plan was to wait for my sister (Bub) in Quito until Wednesday the 30th, but she's decided to meet me in Mexico in three weeks instead. Now I've come to Bogota (cheap flight 36 hours in advance) and I'll probably spend the next week between here and Medellin which is hear is fun and also isn't cold.
I flew to Bogota and ended up in a penthouse couchsurfing which was unexpected. I really only had one full day there, on which I did a bike tour. I still love cycling. It was good to see a lot of Bogota too, and I wish I was there longer. There was lots of cool graffiti on the bike tour. As it transpires, I have flown to Medellin which apparently gringos love. I think it's OK. Apparently the women are better looking here too, but I tend to disagree. I'm going back to Bogota on Tuesday.
New Future Plans
I got enough advice from enough people from the last post to decide that I shouldn't go back to Uni and I should start with the useful stuff now. My plan is to return to Australia around the middle of June (after the California Primary, GO BERNIE) and get a job. There are three types of jobs I could get:
I think this can work because I currently feel like 168 hours in a week with 40 at work, 50 sleeping and 15 doing things like commuting, showering, shopping and eating leaves me a lot of time to do other useful things instead of playing Dota and drinkin', both of which I won't be doing. That's even if the work is just for work. If the work is something I really love then I can spend way more time on that. I know I should add 20% to everything because that's they way it'll turn out, but I'm demonstrating my current levels of optimism. I've come to the realisation that if you want to do something, you need to do it. So I'm planning on doing that. I'm pretty sure I'll be heading to Melbourne, so if you are from there and reading this and you know of a good social enterprise or something that I'd be interested in (something like cycling), then please let me know.
In Other News
At the Quito Airport they make you take your shoes off for security. I'm fairly sure that there's only ever been one shoe bomb attempt in history and that failed. Well done South America security. I know, you need to do it all through the US too.
Also, I've been booking a lot of flights lately because the buses are super long and sometimes not even cheaper. Anyway, I decided to work out how many flights I will have been on from London in October to my arrival back in Australia in June. If you don't count transfers, it'll be 15. That's a lot. I should think about my environment impact. I'd better start doing something good soon.
I've been off the old radar lately in terms of updates of what I'm actually doing so I figure it's about time to do at least a brief post. I write best when I'm under time pressure, so I've opened the laptop with 22 minutes before I'm getting a lift to the beach for surfing. I know. A lot has changed.
Let us return to Uruguay.
Montevideo Part 2
As it turned out, the visa was processed the day after I took my documents in. I sent emails stating that time was of the essence and to notify me of any progress, but by the following Monday, I had heard nothing. I was stressed that I would miss my flight from Porto Alegre (PA), so I decided to go back to the consulate and check up on the situation. Literally three minutes after arriving I was walking away with my visa dated the previous Thursday. They just gave it to me as if I should have known earlier to come in.
I booked the reasonably long overnight bus to PA for Tuesday from one of the two bus companies which provided the service. The one I didn't choose showed the PA arrival time, and I just assumed that the length of journey would be the same for my bus. I obviously stressed out when we were behind schedule and it looked like I would miss my flight. Cursing myself for not checking, I decided to go to sleep because nothing could be done now. I awoke, departed my bus, jumped on a train then a monorail shuttle to the airport and a few hours later was in Sao Paulo (SP). It was raining pretty hard as we landed and the connection was delayed landing so we were added to another flight. There was obviously no announcement in English about these things so I had no idea what was going on. I subtly morphed in to a sheep and followed the crowd, picking up snippets of information from other travellers. We got a flight to the other airport in Rio de Janeiro (RJ) then free cabs to the airport we were supposed to land at. My couchsurfing host's apartment was on the way, so I abandoned ship, turning back in to a human in the process.
Rio de Janeiro
Diogo was my host for two nights while I waited for Nicholas, Corin and the mysterious Adam to arrive from their respective nations. We had a good time, I got what organisational stuff I needed done and we saw a bit of the Lapa nightlife. On the Saturday I headed down to Copacabana to grab the AirBnB apartment key and meet the others.
Carnaval was insane. It literally could have happened on a completely different planet with a society which had developed variously varied social rules. We had a great time. Nuff said.
After 9 days of Carnaval and sight-seeing in RJ, I left my friends and caught a bus to SP, then one on to the bustling little beach town of Boicucanga. My bus arrived at 2am, but the other workawayers were still enjoying the Carnaval spirit of course. It was an interesting first exposure to them and they were reasonably under the weather by that time. I was there for another day with them, then Paulo the top dog and super friendly fellow drove me along the coast to Boraceia where I would be teaching. Boraceia is not a bustling little beach town, it's more of a boring little beach town. The drive there was in torrential rain and at one point we overtook a police car at 100km/h in a 60 zone when I could barely see through the windscreen for the deluge sheeting down upon us.
There was pretty much no school that day (a Thursday) because nobody could get here due to the flooding. My little flat type situation is in the same building and adjacent to the school itself, which consists of an office and one classroom. School usually runs Monday to Thursday, but in this case we taught on Friday because of the previous day's damp outcome.
Instead of a bell to notify students of the next class, the local high school (100m from where I live/work) plays Bittersweet Symphony. It'll be stuck in my head like Rolling in the Deep after San Fermin.
The Teaching Method
We use the Callan Method to teach English. It's a terrible way to learn a language. If you do a ridiculous amount of practice outside the lesson, then it's a good way to get your accent and verbal comprehension levelled up, but just following the lesson plan is useless on it's own. Basically there are a serious of questions I read from the book and the students (aged 8 to 32) read the responses. There is no real explanation of the meaning of the words, except what I sometimes read out in English using words they don't understand. If I just followed the book exactly, I'm sure nobody would learn anything at all. As it transpires, I'm not a full idiot and I'm a total badass rebel, so I don't just read what it says in the book. This throws off some of the students, but it's better for them to need to think and find it a bit difficult than to have them read from a sheet and have no actual concept of what English is. I think they like it on balance and if they don't I'm happy to play God and say it's better for them to do it my way anyway.
Life in Boraceia
The accommodation in Boicucanga with six people staying there is not as nice as the accommodation here. Humans are social creatures and I'm nearly totally alone here, but because of the things I want to get done (more on this later), I genuinely don't mind it. My normal day starts with surfing in the morning with Daniela (the lady running the school here who LOVES Australians because she lived on the Gold Coast for four years a while back). Breakfast, class from 10-11, reading/duolingoing/reddit/browsing for Democratic nomination predictions and polls, lunch, class again from 2-3, class 3.40-4.30, class 5.30-6.20, class 7.30-8.20, reading/duolingo/etc. Last weekend (13th and 14th) I went to Boicucanga to ill with the others on Ilhabela and at some super rad beach which most of the decent photos are from. Silas took as there and was just the best local host for the day, bringing all sorts of snacks and cool beverages, along with some goggles to see all the little fishes. He was a crazy driver in the kind of way is OK because he clearly knows that road and his car really well, but he was going way too fast along some sections which genuinely could have had kids running out on to the road which is pretty freaking stupid.
This weekend I'm just staying in Boraceia and booking flights, surfing, cycling (I borrowed a bike from a student) reading and relaxing. I'm way too in to the US election nomination so right now I'm hating that Nevada is a whole six hours behind Brazil so I need to wait until 5pm for them to even start caucusing. I'm obviously a Bernie Sanders fan and I see HRC for the corrupt p.o.s she really is. People say Old Bern won't be able to get anything through congress, but if you live in a country that needs radical change, the only way to do that is to vote in the once-in-a-generation politician with reasonably radical ideas and show the rest of the government what you really want. He won't be able to get everything done, but if he wins it sure as hell sends a strong message to Congress which will affect American politics for the foreseeable future. I might do a separate post on this, though I know most people (if not all) people who read this blog don't find the topic very interesting. In reality, I'll most likely write a draft post and decide that it's not complete enough so it will sit in my wip folder for all eternity.
I'm sick of travelling.
It's not the lack of having a base, the general hassles of taking buses and planes with luggage, any sort of homesickness or longing for people or places, or running out of clothes more and more frequently as things get old, develop holes and eventually (long after the hole development of course) are thrown out. I'm sick of being a passenger, and as I read and learn more about the good and bad things going on in the world, I'm realising that I probably have the potential to make a significant difference to one cause or another. Since finishing school I've spent four years at uni (learning, having fun, but actually making no positive difference in the world), two years in London (having an amazing time, learning, but actually making no positive difference in the world), six months living in France (learning, having fun, but actually making no positive difference in the world), seven months working in Melbourne (but actually making no positive difference in the world), six months cycling across Europe (having fun, learning, but actually making no positive difference in the world) and now nearly five months in South America (having fun, learning, but actually making no positive difference in the world). While I've become a totally different person in that time, with much more potential to make a positive difference in the world, I've not actually done anything useful. It's like saving up a bunch of gold, but until you buy items, it's not really worth anything. It's not that I feel like I should be doing something to help, it's that I just don't get as much of a kick out of doing what I'm doing and I really want to throw myself at a problem and help some cause significantly.
So what to do?
On the Wait But Why blog, one post suggests a Venn Diagram to solve this problem. One circle is “what I want to do” and the other is “what I'm capable of”. For me, the first circle contains “humanitarian work for the UN or similar, specifically reducing poverty through practical methods such as increasing migration”, “work for Elon Musk (all his projects are amazing)”, “something to do with what humans will do when jobs are lost to automation in great numbers”, “changing the way politics is in Australia” and “AI”. As I'm old enough to realise that I'm not capable of doing everything, I think a change in the importance of the cause will result a greater positive difference than where I am in the hierarchy within that cause. If I can positively influence the first machine with general intelligence in a tiny way, maybe that's better than being a high level engineer at Tesla or Space X (which I know I am in no way capable of anyway).
I came to this conclusion thanks to a line in a song. You'll ever guess which song. Coming in a number 75 in the Triple J Hottest 100 of 2014, 360s “Live It Up” contains the line “truth be told it doesn't matter if you make it the whole way up the ladder”. It actually is a sweet song when you are trying to think about life and happiness. I know that everyone sees themselves (at least I did) as capable of being more than just a regular person in a fairly regular job (I'm the interesting protagonist of my story, because that's how it works in stories because that's what makes stories interesting), but maybe I don't need to be any more than just a cog in an important machine to make a big difference.
Anyway, enough with the vague chat, what have I actually done about it? Not much, but not nothing. I've written to a few people asking for advice, and looked up a few degrees that I think would be useful depending on which path I go down. I'm eyeing off a Graduate Diploma of Computing at ANU (one year), then a Masters specialising in Artificial Intelligence (two years). This would purely incidentally put me two days ride from where I think my parents will be living which is kind of nice seeing as by the time I get there I won't have seen them for nearly two years (again). Poor old bears. Anyway, it's juts one of the options, Mum, so cool your warm jets and take Smelly Old Harry for a walk.
My immediate future plans are to stay here for about three more weeks, fly to Quito to meet my sister, workaway and travel with her for I think a month (excluding the week in with I'll fly back to London to see old mate Sanj get married which I'm pretty excited for), then I have no idea. I think I'll have enough money to continue travelling and workawaying for a few months more, but I do feel like a change of scenery a bit so I might go to the US (something I said I would never do from about age 8).
It's at this point that I ask for advice. Any advice? All new perspectives are welcome.
I have a .22 in my room. Kitten is cute and full of fleas.
Starting at 7 we went to move cattle. I felt mostly useless, but I think the little bits that I helped made it a lot more efficient (not thanks to my obvious genius, it was just the situation). Estela was on the horse, I was in the ute. She just called her “chicas” at the start “Venga! Venga! Venga!” and 61 out of 84 eventually turned up and went in the place they were supposed to. Then we looked around for the others. If they had wanted to continue hiding, they easily could have done. Lucky she has obedient cattle. We then checked some fences. The electric fences were solar powered. I remember at home that if anything touched the electric fences, like branches or tall grass, it was a problem. During study, the physics behind this was learnt. After “checking” about a kilometre of fence through the bush, we got to a bit where the “wire” (which was actually that very thing wire/plastic combination that is used for temporary fencing) was broken and Estela wouldn't touch it because she thought it might still be live. I know this seems like I'm taking the piss out of someone for not knowing about how electricity works, but really I just thought she would know from experience that it wouldn't be live at that point. Day was done by 11.30am then made lunch, siesta, reading etc. (during mad storms) dinner then bed.
Didn't need to be up so early but was anyway. Went to town to shop and tried to get a sim working for me but apparently I should have registered my device upon entry for a prepaid local sim to work. Who even does that? But because I didn't know that I bought the sim anyway. Waste of money. Then lunch, then siesta, then the vet came so we rounded up some sheep and cattle. The vet did something with the e-tags of the cattle. We inoculated the sheep and drenched them, using inferior systems. The way we drenched at home was with a backpack full of drench with a tube coming out the bottom so one person could do the job alone reasonable easily. Here we put the drench gun into the bottle of drench, sucked up say 100mL, then it came out in 5mL doses so it was squirted four times in the mouth of each sheep. It had to be reloaded every two sheep. Ridiculously time consuming. The inoculation was similar, but only needed to be reloaded every eight sheep and as the capacity of the race was about 15 sheep, this wasn't so annoying. The yards were well designed. A curved race gets the sheep to run better, but drafting them at the end was somewhat exciting, especially using a heavy comma metal gate. We didn't finish until about 8pm and it was dark. Weirdly I'm fine with being hungry when doing farm work. Pavlov's dogs and all that. Another thing like that, when I was growing up, dad would always listen to 80s and 90s music and now, here, on the farm, they listen to exactly the same music. I'm beginning to think that maybe farmers will always listen to that music. Maybe they always have since the Agricultural Revolution!
Started work at 7.30am and until 11.30am, all we did was move cattle about 10km down the road. All I needed to do was drive the ute in front. Estela's dad was with me. He old. He would keep telling me to stop so he could put up string and close gates on the side of the road so the cattle wouldn't go in there, but the cattle just caught up with us and Estela would yell at him and he'd slowly walk back to the ute, then we'd get to the next one and he'd do the same thing. At one point I asked if it was really a good idea and he was totally sure it was. The same thing just happened. The cattle didn't even want to go in the other paddocks. Poor old fella. This afternoon I put the kitchen in order. They live like they've just moved out of home and don't know that finding things easily generally requires them being put back somewhere vaguely sensible. There should be a place for everything and everything in it's place. Sanj taught me that. The food is pretty average. I've done all the cooking so far. So you could blame me. Ingredients are not amazing though. Frozen hamburgers? No herbs or spices? Come on. Plenty of fruit which is great. I would like beans though. The last workaway had so many beans and lentils, and I recently learnt that beans are key to having a long life. People in the blue zones all eat beans.
I can't remember where I left off last time. Shit, gotta check the chicken. It's ok. I'm so hungry. Anyway, I was in Buenos Aires for a few days with Mariana with whom I've been Couchsurfing while I was there. We went to her cousin's place for NYE which was fun. Great asado, great wine, great scotch, great company. We had a good few days there, didn't do anything crazy which was nice. Then I got the boat across to Uruguay, didn't register my device at customs, got a bus up to Cardona, then was picked up by Estela there.
Holy wow, where have the days gone? I checked my phone the other day wondering if it was Thursday or Friday and it was Saturday. Crazy. Thing that have happened in the past five days include normal farm stuff, me getting incredibly frustrated with the volume (amount and power level) of speech coming from my Workaway and the lack of logic in most of what she does. “Bring me another thing like that from the shed” pointing to a plastic drum. I look in the shed, there are no plastic drums there. I say “Like that?” and point to the drum and make a drum shape in front of me with my hands. She says yes, I say there isn't one there. She looks at me like I'm stupid then walks into the shed and comes back with a bag of wheat. Dafuq?
Anyway, Estela and her dad have gone to the beach for the week. They left yesterday (Sunday). The day before we went to town for supplies for me for the week. I bought a bunch of stuff, probably just enough, didn't want her spending heaps of money (money is tight, but it's fine). By the time they left on Sunday, they'd eaten most of the bananas I got, and they took with them most of the oats and a 5kg tub of honey. That doesn't make any sense.
So I'm here by myself looking after the plants and animals which takes about 15 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. It's so hot. So far I've finished one book, watched the remaining movies on my laptop (Southpaw is a terrible movie).
I think I'm going to try the gun.
I'm in Montevideo.
I tried the gun, it worked, it was fun. The lamb died. The water ran out. I got really bored. I read another book. I eventually looked up the visa requirements for Brazil, thinking that it would be similar to Argentina in that I would need to pay money and print a thing out, but as it happens I needed to visit the consulate (according to the website). So I fully changed my plans, left the next day to come to Montevideo to do the visa thing.
Visa requirements include a ticket in to and out of Brazil, which is stupid by the way because there are so many people who don't plan that far in advance. I was going to book a bus in and out, but I couldn't use my bank card because it wasn't a local on, instead I had to pay a third party but that didn't work either so I ended up booking a flight with a rubbish cancellation policy so I'll end up losing at least $150 on top of the $65 that the visa costs.
Also the lady at the consulate said it takes a few minutes to do but regulation requires a five day wait starting the following day. This was on Wednesday and I have a flight next Wednesday from Porto Alegre which is already in Brazil which I won't be able to make if my visa arrives on Wednesday.
Also, considering all this rigidity, it becomes even more ridiculous because only people from the US, Canada, Australia and very few other places require visas like this from Brazil. To add to that, nobody needs a visa like this for the second half of this year because of the Olympics. So they really don't give a shit, they are just getting at certain countries because those countries have strict visa policies for them. I understand that, but I don't agree with it.
What I would do is say Australians can come without stupid visa requirements for 90 days, then in two years, see if Australia has changed it's policy for people from Brazil and if they haven't, say it costs something stupid like $5000 to get in, or just ban Australians completely. Because why do we have such strict requirements?
And maybe the worst thing is that apparently at Iguazu Falls you can get your visa processed in only one day. It's on the border and the website specifically says you can't just turn up and get a visa, but apparently you can. So stupid. So now I'm just waiting in Montevideo for the visa people to do something super easy which will save me hundreds of dollars and much time on a bus.