22 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight 2

Tried to go back to my seat only to find it occupied by my neighbor who had spread olut (granted I had been up for a few hours). Talked with a lady named Linda who has been traveling with her aged mother and a few other friends. They took a 3-day cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles, spent the night, and then took the Coast Starlight to Seattle at which point they’ll get in a coach. It was about $CA500, cheap because the cruise ships apparently reposition to Mexico for the winter months, with coastal deals to be had in September. This would be great for mom and dad! Also met a guy named Michael who does comic strips and wildfire fighting. He’s just riding the wind right now. We stopped in Klamath Falls, and I got out for some fresh air to find my parents on the platform. And the Aleatoric Sojourn continues!! Dad and Mom were in town for Dad’s 45th high school reunion, and, being the guy he is, called the station to discover our ETA and also to learn that we would be in the station for over 1 ¼ hours while they work on the tracks ahead of us. So they swept me up and took me to a reunion brunch where I crashed Dad’s reunion party. A vivacious crew. And who wouldn’t be with gin fizzes and Bailey’s and coffee to go with croissants (I stuck with Bailey’s and coffee)? we wiled away 45 minutes at which time my train was in danger of turning into a pumpkin. Said goodbye for two days, got back on and to my seat to find my seatmate still slumbering over both of our seats. I wish I could sleep that soundly now. At least it’s given me a chanco get caught up on my blog!!

21 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight

Jan was a doll and took me to the Metro station to get to Union Station in Los Angeles. They have a really cool light rail! It’s really beautiful. Of course, it coincided with the Aleatoric Sojourn, so something weird is bound to happen. In this case, a train collided with a car (ummm, guess whose fault that was?), so we had to get off the train then to a bus and than back on the train. While on the bus, we saw the collision, surrounded by multiple fire trucks and two hovering news helicopters. Not pretty. I met with a lovely young lady who was reading “Ender’s Game”. She is a special ed teacher at a public school and was going to a training. She has been carfree for about a year after she got into an accident and couldn’t easily afford a replacement. She and her husband wanted to see if they could go without, and sure enough they found it possible! So he bike commutes, and she walks and takes the bus/train. She was so darn cool! We talked pretty much the whole time until we hit Union Station. I peeled off to get tickets and then to sit in the courtyard with coffee next to a bird of paradise under incomparable weather. The seats for the train were comfy and spacious. I sat next to Felix, who is a Quaker and a Graphic Design student on the way home from seeing his girlfriend. A delightful conversation. There was also a bachelor party; a fellow by the name of Mike was getting married in St. Luis Obispo and was being accompanied on the train by his friends Doug and Andy. We had a great time, they were kind enough to share their scotch, and then they left all too quickly. Andy had a lot of ranching stories; Doug is a headhunter and can write off just about any trip or meeting on his taxes. Mike is, well, getting married and also works with the armed forces. Their acquaintances wre unlikely, having been acquainted through ex-girlfriends as far as I could tell. Andy actually kissed my hand when he left, which never fails to endear. The train is such a wonderful opportunity to meet new people; I had a number of conversations with people I’d never have otherwise met. The tracks practically lick the ocean (or is it the other way around?), and one can see mountains and surfers and expansive forests. Late in the evening, we passed a freight truck in the dead of night. The slow speed and ominous, almost ethereal sounds seemed reminiscent of a deep sea adventure and passing a leviathan quietly, hoping not to awake it. I was having sleeping issues; I think my body is finally rebelling against yet another night spent in a seat. Grrr! Trying not to succumb to sleep lest jet lag rear its ugly head.

20 September 2007

AlSo: Bye, Corey!

so this is the part of our recounting of the Aleatoric Sojourn in which we part, inevitably but reluctantly, from our traveling partners as we speed home to wedding bells and clover leaves (of the asphalt, SoCo/LA kind). here is Corey's blog for the Seattle story:
he mentioned in a post that any disparity between our posts is a mistake (lying? pshaw, Mr. Schuster! please note the halo hula-hooping over my dishwater locks). in fact, we have concocted a diabolical choose-your-own-adventure with two counterpointing blogs.
lying, indeed.

AlSo: Retracing Steps

I woke up at 6am to head to the airport, though I had to come back once because I’d forgotten my eyes. Oh well! The bus to the train to the airport. I was there far too early and wandered for about 2 hours. Got to Amsterdam and into another transfer Passport Control Check that never ends. Luckily there was time enough, and I sucked down some joe even though my flight was boarding. And then I was in car-dependent Los Angeles, got back to near Jan’s work, and helped her move her office to a different cubicle. It had been a rough few weeks for the gang: Ruffy had been put to sleep, Jan was moving her office twice, and Kev had a few questions without easy resolution. Ed works all the time! He was there late and left early. Jan and I talked for a while, then she went to bed and Kevin and I talked until I was so drowsy I had to fall asleep.

19 September 2007

AlSo: Everyone Loves Brussels

We kibitzed over coffee with the gang as much as time would allow. Shawn and I worked on motivating Matt out of bed, from his lofty bower. A farewell, and Shawn took us to Jurbise. We caught the train to Brussels and then the Metro and to the Jacques Brel hostel. I have been to Brussels once before at the height of the season and got a dorm no problem. It is past peak season and Every Single hotel and hostel was full. I mean brimming. They told us we could put our luggage downstairs and call after 3pm to see if any reservations had been cancelled. We set out in search of food and, after a long travail and metro, we found a Greek pita place which was absolutely delicious. Walked to the Grand Place, and Corey found us coffee. Then beer. We met with Joan and her husband. He’s from Detroit and worked for GM for 33 years and loves them. He also bikes all over the country and has biked internationally as well. They were fascinating people to talk to for the hour or so that they had before getting back on their Paris-bound train. I want to retire the way they’ve done it. We went to the Horta Museum and then to the internet café where Joroen agreed, Incredibly Graciously, to pout us up for the night. Phew! Because Corey and I had negative energy. It was horrible! We walked around a little more, picked up our luggage, and met him at his place that he shares with 3 others in Ixelles. His girlfriend, Anita (sp?) has been working on their website for their Auto-Suficance campaign which is just brilliant! They took a car and transmogrified it into a garden. Then they towed it by hand up the streets and to its downtown roadside installation space. An incredible project. What can we do along these same lines? This is just perfect! We talked and talked until beer became an increasing necessity. We headed to a swell watering hole and had a fdew beers until it was time to go to a nearby vegetarian restaurant at 10pm when they give away their leftovers. So not only did we have a place to sleep but we also got free food! Hot damn. On the way back, we encountered a woman coming out of a car who asked if we knew of a hotek that had space. We said that getting 15 minutes out of town was her best bet. Boy, Brussels is popular these days. We laid out our pillage and had a great dinner, met Anna, one of the other flatmates, and then fell asleep rather quickly.

18 September 2007

AlSo: Traveling Blues

we woke up entirely Entirely too early and got a taxi from Kadikoy to the airport. The taxi driver said it might cost 60, but we got it for 50, about what folks told us it might be. When we got to the airport, we learned that the flight had been changed to 8:55. we had gotten there about 5:30, and the check-in counter didn’t open until 7:00, so we had a while to wait. When the counter finally opened, it was more like a bunch of chunks than a true line, and this line spontaneously moved to different counters based on the activity of the employees. Someone should do a sociological study on this airport. We checked in and walked through duty free before going upstairs to the most expensive and paltry (not to mention rude) café in any airport. We asked for omelette and were told a fervent, “Yok” and quizzical look. Why would order something on the menu? Overpriced espresso that turned out to be Nescafe, and the guy actually slammed the 2 lira change when I added up our order for him and asked for the change. Wow. The security check hadn’t opened yet, but people were lining up anyway. A little kid was playing with all of the ropes, though, and I wondered what would happen if we all started to spontaneously do that, too. Why do people push in line when we’re all going to be on the same plane? It makes absolutely no sense. I’m thrilled to be the last person in line because it means I don’t have to sit as long. We got to the other side of security, and then we had to wait in line to get on the bus to the plane. Same scenario. Both times. People were snippy about their seating assignments, and for some reason this groups was positively manic about standing up and getting baggage even before we had taxied to the gate. Then the fun REALLY began in Dusseldorff’s passport control. The guy who graciously offered for me to go first out of the plane then shoved me out of line when it came to the passport control line. One guy was trying to show his passport while on his cell phone and was kicked out of line. Another guy started speaking angrily at someone after being asked to step aside and was shooshed. But the kicker came when a woman started yelling at the customs official after apparently being asked to produce identification, invitation letter and documents about how much she has in the bank at home. She said, “I have already paid” a number of times and then said, “get me the police. I want to talk to the police”. To which the customs official replied, “we are the police.” This caused everyone in line to laugh. She kept yelling and wouldn’t get out of line, so the customs agent walked out of the booth and into the booth nearer to us, which certainly sped us up! I’ve never seen anything so crazy. People shoving in the baggage claim and out the door. It was crazy!
So now we were in Dusseldorff and had no way to get to Mons. We checked all the car rentals who were all booked, all of the (god help us) airlines to learn nothing went from D to Brussels, and finally with gritted teeth we went to Eurail. $92 for both, which beats the $130 per ticket I’d been quoted online. YEAY! The train was smooth and fast and beautiful with the one exception of some opinionated American spouting out that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a great President and there is a problem with Mexican immigrants and (this really got me going) the Army Core of Engineers is severely misunderstood. Please. Please spare me.
From Brussels to Mons and then to Shawn, Becc and Matt’s house. We had dinner and some GREAT beer. I bounced on Matt’s trampoline. We talked about the trip and Matt’s teachers. Matt had to go to bed, and we watched “Goblet of Fire” to see if it was Matt-friendly. Corey loves them. He has good taste. Sleep came relatively quickly.

17 September 2007

AlSo: Last Hoorah

This morning it was Nat’s turn to leave. She promised to come to Portland in exchange for pics of my bike wedding. We hustled to the Grand Bazaar and learned a good deal about carpets we couldn’t afford from one who had been a 4th generation carpet dealer. Ethem was free for lunch, so we had the chance to see him again. He has decided not to go to Afghanistan because they wouldn’t allow him a security guard and would not vouch for his safety, so he will instead go to DC where he has been invited by one who has a place to pout him up. He’s finished with research about domestic violence abuse cases with men as victims and will be starting a new project on pedophilia. We thought that he would have to write about something fluffy next like, “history of love in the Ottomon Empire” or “Baklava v. g . . .” (a Ramadan sweet). Turns out he didn’t even know Wahab or Ilhan, which makes the whole experience even funnier! We had tea served to us at Tesev by a fellow whose entire job is making tea for employees and guests. After leaving Ethem (sniff!) we walked through the Spice Bazaar and got some good deals and met one vendor who speaks 8 languages, though not much Chinese because they never buy anything according to him. We went to Suleyman Camii, quite possibly the most beautiful mosque in Turkey at least. The carpet is a tiled pattern of prayer mats pointing to Mecca, and the architectural nuances of the mosque are too numerous to detail, even if I did have the eye to appreciate them all. It’s awe-inspiring. We left the interior to find a movie set outside. Yet another wacky sighting to chalk up to our AlSo. Then it was time to head back to the Grand Bazaar and tackle the voluminous list of gifts to get people. I hate shopping. Truly. Bargaining makes it a little better, and it’s great in learning numbers, but in the end it just makes me feel burdened and tired. We only persevered because they were thank you gifts which I hope will be useful. Corey bought not one but TWO kilims. It was such a leap of faith, but I was not amazed. Corey leaps well. We had a celebratory piece of baklava and meditated on our new impoverished state. Quickly back to get our things, tram and ferry to Rick’s house by way of the best vegetarian durum ever! And we wiled a few hours talking with Rick, a nice closed circle to our beginning in Istanbul. If any final memory would make one want to come back to Turkey, it’s Rick’s company.

16 September 2007

AlSo: A Lazy, Lazy Day

Had breakfast with the gang. Sourma and Regina left back for England at 9am; a sorry sight to say the least. They seriously could open a comedy club together. We spent most of the rest of the day doing . . . not much. There was plenty of Turkish coffee, some internet, some laundry for which I’m sure many people thank us, and some more Turkish coffee. we found Nat reading “The Life of Pi” in a really swell park near Sultanahmet. We talked about her fellow, Tom, and how strangely time passes when traveling. She seemed pretty tickled by my moving by bike and marriage to Sparky. I have to send her pics. Then we high-tailed it to Rck’s for a FABOO dinner of salad (bless you, Rick) and bean soup with Ethiopian spices with bulghar. The time passed all too quickly, and we realized that Nat would be waiting for us, possibly with twiddling fingers (actually she would be happy, but I hate to keep people waiting only slightly more than I hate hurried goodbyes). We rushed to the ferry and a tram and managed to skirt around the Ramadan throngs thanks to Corey’s inexplicable navigation capabilities and ascended to the Sultan terrace to find Nat reading. We sauntered until there were too many people to saunter and then we shuffled around the Ramadan stalls. Had coffee and tea and gozleme, talking and people-watching all the while. Then it was back home.

15 September 2007

AlSo: Istanbul not Constantinople

I woke up rather feisty and took a 1 ½ hour walk. Erzurum has an amber indoor bazaar that was built at the behest of Solomon the Magnificent. I walked around the citadel as well, and during the first half hour or so of my walk I had the entire city all to myself, as most folks were back napping after their early morning breakfast. I tried to find a market that was open and, after a long time searching, found one and pounced while he was still laying out his wares for the day. I got some tomatoes and cucumbers, etc with a little stale bread and went back to see the boys up and about. Well, up anyway. We engaged in the second edition of the Infidels’ Clandestine Breakfast Picnic and then walked to the train station after hearing from a less than effusive Turkish Airlines ticket agent that there was not service to the airport. There was a dolmus from the train station, and we said goodbye for now to Justin before making our merry way back to Istanbul. The flight top Istanbul and a Havas bus to Kadikoy to the ferry to the tram to the Sultan Hostel where we immediately reunited with Nat, Sourma and Regina. YEAY! We talked with them and Volkan, the check-in guy, before heading up to the rooftop for a beer and a look at the view. We heard about their travels, including to Olympus which was awesome, Butterfly Valley which didn’t actually have any butterflies, and Ludones which turned out to be a British colony with a bunch of meringues on wedding package vacations. Earlier in the day they had spent time at the Grand Bazaar where they wheeled and dealed like only those two sisters can. We went to dinner together near the Blue Mosque at the Arrasta Bazaar. Quite touristy and a bit of a shock after having been in the east, truth be told. The call to prayer came about 7:25 and was preceded by a few loud booms, which I thought was a “get ready” signal for the end of fasting. Fasting for Ramadan is broken by first water and then dates, which according to Regina (whose parents are practicing Muslims) was the fruit Mohammed used to break his fast. Often soup with bread follows and then a main dish and then dessert. The whole are between Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque is transformed into a Carnaval for the duration of Ramadan, and the first weekend was the craziest because public school still hadbn’t started and everyone was keen to celebrate it. The Blue Mosque had a string of lights whose message would change many evenings after the fast could be broken. The first night it said something like “Hos Geldiniz Sehri-Ya Ramazan”, which I think might mean “Welcome to the City for Ramadan” but I defer to others whose Turkish extends beyond my 10 words. Food and craft stalls were everywhere and absolutely swarming with people and vibrance. Our lot had a nargile and some cay before going back to touristy, secular Sultanahmet hostel row.

14 September 2007

Hopped up on Lentil Soup

my eyes are buggy after spending some time catching up on email and trying to get us home without ransoming a few of our digits, but a few notes:

it's the 2nd day of Ramadan, and though we have eaten breakfast later than the 4:30amish that most of the people around us eat at, we've been not eating or drinking during the day. needless to say, we were rather excited to sit down to a place that had vaguely vegetarian lentil soup (mercimen corba) and tea. i'm fantasizing about ice cream later on. i think Corey has visions of Efes pilsner dancing through his head.

nothing makes me angrier at our President than when we divulge our nationality with the effect of a sad nod of the head and pursed lips with those whom we have enjoyed some good conversation. strangely, three people (Iranians to boot) have stated their affection for Bush and the army. i don't know how to process this.

if there is one lesson i've learned from my visit with Turkey, it's hospitality. i must strive to become the kind of host everyone in this country seems to be effortlessly.

excuse me now, but dondurma (ice cream) is calling.

AlSo: Ani and Armenia

7-10am breakfast at the hotel! Had breakfast at 7amish Shazam! Met Jared, who whisked us into his car which was already populated by a Slovenian couple. On the way to Ani, Jared told us about Americans being a front for British in Iraq to some extent and of the relations between Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The main point I felt from the snippets of conversation I could get was that citizens are pawns of animosity and greed propogated by governments. To prove his point, he got out and warmly greeted two fellows at the gates of Ani, both of whom are Armenian.
Ani is absolutely fascinating and within a stone’s throw of the Armenian border. Modern guard towers in the distance served as backdrops to the ancient and crumbling protective walls around the ancient city. One of the churches had a number of beautiful paintings that have since been marred by petty vandalism by others before us. Bastards. What egotistical bastards. Corey, of course, had to scramble around places most people wouldn’t have thought of going, including, ahem, through a gate. That’s all I’m saying. Got back to the lion gate after 2 ½ hours of exploring, including up to a castle that we only later learned was forbidden, and into Jared’s car with the gas meter reading “E” 45 lonely kilometers from Kars. Sometimes being adept at praying would help. On the way home, Jared told us about the obligatory 15 month army stint for all men and possible career thereafter, the army’s relative trustworthiness compared to the police, how he wishes that women would be allowed into the army so that the job wasn’t so boring, and his hopes for his son to grow up to be an engineer or a pharmacist. Back in Kars, we went to Kars Castle which we had read we shouldn’t miss but which was actually a little disappointing. Maybe it was something about not being crumbling or more than 1000 years old. We high-tailed it to the bus to Erzurum for yet another transportational adventure. The driver was crazy! He and some others got stopped randomly by traffic police along the highway where it seemed we might be forced to wile away the remainder of our lives until a few rather quick movements which looked very much like a bribe from where we were standing took place, allowing us on our merry way. A few of the towns en route had ski shops, and one also included a guy HOLDING a pair of skis which certainly got Corey’s excitement rating up. By the time we got withint Erzurum’s city limits, iut was nearing dusk and therefore the break of fasting. If the driver had been a little nutty before, he went positively berserk now. As Corey so elegantly puts it, when we got into the otogar,the driver just sort of stopped driving. He blasted into the parking space at top speed, seeming to gun it for 2 peds who scrambled to get out of the way. Justin got tickets for Ankara the next evening and we hoofed it to town. We found Dede Hotel. The proprietor, Adem Dede, is a crack-up! We had a dinner of the best lentil soup to date and were told that our hopes for pide would not find realization during Ramadan. Justin and I had the BEST pistachio and chocolate ice cream EVER. Seriously. Ice cream will never be that good again. Boy, Erzurum is serious about its pastries and sweets; there is at least one sweet shop on every block downtown. Justin and Corey were hankering for beer, but such was not to be seen in Erzurum. Our hour-long treasure hunt for beer yielded nothing but sightings of a few liquor stores shut tight for the duration of Ramadan. We found a cay place instead next to the central mosque and enjoyed it and the live music that accompanied it. So it wasn’t a bar, but we shut the place down anyway. That’s how we roll.

13 September 2007

AlSo: Ramadan in Van

We got up at 5:30 hoping to scrounge some breakfast for later to see that the sun was already up. There were some hopes that the breakfast places would remain open, but this was a paltry and unrealized dream. We hustled some groceries at a nearby market and headed back to the terrace of the Aslan Hotel (“aslant” means “lion” in case you were wondering)which we had already checked out of in order to concoct our own clandestine infidel terrace breakfast picnic, the first of two such meals while in the east. It was good, but I felt guilty enough to swear to fast the rest of the day. A meandering to the bus to the otogar and onto a bus bound for Kars. No less than 6 military checkpoints along the way with four identity card checks and two baggage checks. We learned the next day that this was to curtail a large drug trafficking across the Iranian border. A flooded bridge and flooded road and cattle crossing. We saw children sleeping on the grain in the beds of moving trucks, lots of donkey carts, many women in burqas, and, you know, Mt. Ararat where Noah’s Ark was said to have landed back in the day. Finally we got into Kars, got tickets for Erzurum, found a hotel, and met with Jared who works as a guide for Ani, then set out in search of food, as it was past dusk. We found a place with great meze and grilled fish and beer, but a shockingly big bill that had us feeling like paupers again. Oh well.

12 September 2007

AlSo: Van

Best breakfast ever!! According to the LP (which we’re still mad at, by the by for a few other references that require a letter to the editor), Van is famous for having the best breakfast spreads in Turkey, and it’s not hard to see why. We went down a side street only to find a whole alley set up with chairs and tables just for breakfast (kavalti salonu). There was a grass cheese, honeyCOMB served along with 5000 other types of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, tahini, a few mystery substances, and bread. It was incredible.afterwards, we walked to Van Castle a little over, say, 3k out of town and past a bunch of kids who know “hello” and “money”. We scrambled up the ancient ruins and up a tall chimney (I don’t believe it was a minaret?) because, you know, it was there. Some people were beating what looked like cotton or wool below. Afterwards, we walked to Lake Van which was a relatively short jaunt from the Castle. It’s a pristine-looking lake (though Rick said there is a great deal of pollution) with almost no water activity, just one or two ferries. We had celebratory beer (what were we celebrating? Umm, the fact that there was beer and it might be the last one we have before Ramadan begins the next day) along the dock, then a dolmus whisked us back to the city. Coreyn managed to find us tickets back to Istanbul, so we celebrated THAT at a pide joint. The hospitality in this country is legion. We said we were vegetarian and asked if they had eggplant, and they of course replied, “Sure!” and then sent someone out to buy some for us. Incredible roasted vegetables! We had all been jonesing for some veggies. There was a soccer game on during dinner, Turkey against some M-stan country none of us had ever heard of. We are Americans, I suppose. No one scored for the duration of our meal, and we got up to leave the table with the score still 0-0. no sooner had we walked into the street and down an alley when we heard cheers and roars from everywhere! Turkey had scored. They scored twice more within a few minutes, and men spilled out of teahouses and lokantas clapping each other on the back. It was so festive!

09 September 2007

Oddysseı: Mardın

after more stops than ı really care to count wıth a bunch of toıng and froıng and a screamıng baby who was quıckly shuttled off the bus (learned that ıt was actually theır stop; after all, just because someone crıes doesn,t mean they should get booted off), we arrıved at shortly after 4am ın Mardın. we were a ways from the cıty center, and a quıck tour of the nearby cheap hotel saıd that ıt was all booked up. started walkıng when a nıce fellow scooped us ınto the car and summarıly brought us to the door of a hotel. a very expensıve-lookıng hotel. we asked how much a room was and then almost choked. walked back out and weıghed the optıons of walkıng back towards town before dawn and most lıkely encounterıng large dogs. ıt was a beautıful vıew of the cıty, though! ın the end we decıded to pıck up some rocks and my paultry stıck as preotectıon from the bayıng dogs that had become part of the audıal landscape shortly after the roosters made themselves known. gendarmes protectıng the power plant laughed at the 3 forıgners walkıng along deserted streets. we got a faır ways, actually, when a fellow whose name ı thought was Oscar gave us a lıft. and none too soon! no sooner had we gotten ın and started drıvıng than we encountered 2 dogs, one of whıch attacked the car and trıed to take a bıte out of the wındshıeld. needless to say, we were grateful. he took us to a hotel that looked even more expensıve, but by thıs tıme we fıgured we would just have to suck ıt up for the nıght. ıt turned out to be about $US35 for each of us, whıch, okay ıs expensıve, but we,re also stayıng ın a castle datıng from the 13th century sıtuated ın ancıent Mesopotamıa. here are some pıctures of the hotel (the only pıctures to date sınce ı can,t download yet): http://artuklu.com/tr/ARTUKLU360/panoramic/kraldairesi.htm

ıt turns out our savıor,s name ıs Alı, and hıs job ıs an "osker", or soldıer. we sat up on the terrace drınkıng tea for about an hour whıle Alı went through the flashcards ı had made hım. we communıcated as well we could about football and chıldren untıl Alı suggested that he come back at 2pm and show us around the town. we agreed (though he had mentıoned payment, and we were now completely broke from the hotel), ı gave hım my flashcards, and we shuffled to our prıcy but absolutely luxurıant room complete wıth shower and complımentary cotton swabs!!!

starvıng by the tıme we woke up at 11:30 or so and found a pıde place along the road. Mehmet, ı belıeve hıs name ıs, has owned the pıde place for a number of years and follows a long tradıtıon of pıde owners ın hıs famıly. we sat and kıbıtzed whıle watchıng the three fellows make dough ınto magıcal bread through the huge maw of an oven. they made us specıal vegetarıan pıdes (whıch are Turkısh pızzas) usıng a huge glob of butter that permeated the entıre pızza. they were great!

a lıttle ınternet for Justın and Corey whıle ı trıed to get more mınutes for the phone Shawn and Becc loaned us. there were 5 young fellows who gave plenty of attentıon to my phone, then asked where ı ws goıng. ı was tryıng to say that ı ws meetıng my brother (Corey) at the ınternet, but ı guess ı ended up sayıng that ı was lookıng for a boyfrıend on the ınternet. two of them offered to chat onlıne. ıt was embarrassıng. ı don,t want to talk about ıt anymore.

got back to the hotel and waıted for Alı after fellows at the desk saıd that he was comıng. twenty mınutes later a glorıous young lady named Güşeln who spoke fabulous englısh ınformed us that Alı was NOT comıng. ı had heard "gılıyor", but they had saıd "gılıMIyor", whıch ıs the dıfference between "he,s comıng" and "he,s not comıng". bıg dıfference!
so we got to talkıng wıth her for a few hours about lıfe ın Turkey, her lıfe ın England, arranged marrıages, thınkıng posıtıvely as manıfestıng good thıngs ın your lıfe, etc. we begged her to joın us for dınner, and she acquıesced.

meanderıng ıs my favorıte pasttıme ın new places, and we all meandered up to a Madrassah that overlooks the cıty. ı thınk we hıt the chıldren,s quarter, because we ended up spendıng a goodly amount of tıme wıth a bunch of youngsters who spoke a lıttle englısh and a lot of Turkısh. good tımes, good tımes. when theır parents haıled them back, we kept walkıng to fınd a famıly hangıng out on theır stoop whose patrıarch offered us some tea. hıs name ıs Omer. another great tıme. walked down and around, a dollop of fabulous pıstachıo ıce cream at lıdo, a short nap, then dınner wıth Güşeln.
what a great day!

08 September 2007

AlSo: The Rock

In the morning we walked to St. Peter’s Church after a futile attempt to get breakfast at a doner shop (what were three vegetarians thinking trying to get food at a place with roasting, rotating chickens displayed in the window? Hubris). Waiting for the gates to open, we talked to one of the gatekeepers who suggested we scramble up the rocks above the church. We were on the verge of doing so when a distinct American accented voice asked where we were from. He is an archaeological student from Texas who had a great deal to say about the history of Antioch, as Antakya is often referred to, and the area [see emails to mom and Steve]. One fellow showed us around some of the areas. I’ve learned that I have a little disgruntlement with the direction “down”, perhaps owing in part to my glasses’ strange relationship to depth perception but assuredly due to my own clumsiness. Needless to say, both Justin and Corey scrambled higher than me. We wheeled back to town for brunch of, oh yes you guessed it, hummus, then the Archaeological Museum. Turkey has so much history that they just throw it around, that’s what we learned at the museum. The Museum was filled with amazing tiled mosaics with Greek and Roman references, coins of most Roman and Ottoman rulers (Claudius, Marcus Aurellius, and Suleyman the Great for the heck of it). Chinese toiurists came through at one point, and I got to translate “please don’t use you flash” into Mandarin for the security guard. In the back courtyard, we got to check out ancient sarcophagi used as planters, the watering hose propped up against a rendering of, was it Cupid?, on the side of a sarcophagus. Hightailed it back to the hotel to pick up our stuff, whiz through the Bazaar to pick up some to-go surk (a cheese with added spices) and pide for the ride and got on the bus to Mardin. Long, LONG ride.

07 September 2007

AlSo: Antakya or Bust

We got ourselves to the bus station, our old friend, rather early, determined to get on a bus in the general direction we wanted to go even if it meant body-slamming ourselves onto a coach. Woo hoo! We got on board the bus to Nevsehir to a bus to Adana from which we were to make a transfer to an Antakya-bound coach. We got to Adana and hit a snag – no one knew what to do with us, and the Nevsehir guy there got us onto another carrier’s oversold bus. Lots of stools in the aisles. We took a dolmus to the city center conducted by a guy who spoke German. What is it with people speaking German in this part of Tukey? We walked around the Bazaar until we found the hotel for which we were looking. Along the way, we spied a number of bike retail and repair shops, and a lot of folks were using it as a means of cargo and personal transport. Two cheeky kids came to practice their English with us, and an adorable fruit seller asked us why were here and helped us get our bearings. We complimented them on their rides and then checked into a nice and cheap serviceable hotel that the LP described as “scary”. Whatever. Went back to the fruit area and into the Bazaar which was HUGE! Seriously, it went on forever. We learned later that St. Peter used to wander around this Bazaar as it was the Jewish Quarter. That’s word on the street, anyway. Found dinner and the best hummus ever, which Antakya is known for. Great view of the city on the terrace, which looks for all intents and purposes like an Asian city. Between the bikes and the hummus, I swear I could live here.

06 September 2007

AlSo: Ilhara Is Pronounced “Urgup”

Justin, Corey and I got up earlier than prudence would dictate in the hopes of hiking in Ilhara Valley, which is supposed to be just beautiful. Our hopes were dashed in Nevsehir, however, when we learned that the buses and ticket prices were daunting enough for us to change tacks. Instead we decided to go to Urgup. On the bus, off the bus, nice breakfast and tea, then a stroll through the old city. There was supposed to be an underground city in Urgup, as well, but the artist whom we asked about it later hadn’t heard of it. What we did find in scrambling around the area was a bunch of untended, uninhabited and fascinating pidgeon houses which we were more than content to explore for some goodly time. It was perhaps the highlight of Cappadoccia! Thus emboldened, we walked on and found a winery where we had a tour and wine-tasting. The tender has been in the wine industry for over 12 years and told us that Urgup’s terrain, weather, and volcanic soil create an optimal environment for wine-growing. I’ll drink to that! On the way back down the road, we met up with a Dutch lady who asked what sights there were in the area. She does paintings of Turkish carpet designs. Got back just in time to have a beer and meet a fellow named John from Hong Kong. He and Corey actively considered making an Iraq border run in a few days. We made our way to the bus stop only to learn that the “bus cancelled”, according to the fellow whom I will refer to as Mr. Suha through the person whom he had asked to translate from Nevsehir Bus Company next door. Mr. Suha offered to either exchange our tickets for the next morning and set us up in a hotel for the night or give our money back. Corey (since Mr. Suha wouldn’t talk to me as I was a woman and only stooped to make grunting noises in my general direction when conversation seemed unavoidable) checked to see if there were any buses with any vacancy going anywhere on our list of places to go. No, no and no. then our “cancelled” bus showed up. Hmmmm. That’s interesting. Mr. Suha made some indication that it wasn’t our bus. But it had our destination on it from the same company with whom we had booked at the same time it was supposed to come. Double hmmmm. we finally booked passage with the very helpful and kind fellow from Nevsehir for Antakya the next morning. However, when we asked about getting the hostel from Mr. Suha, he actually laughed in Corey’s face and said we had nullified the offer when we booked with Nevsehir. Who he had told us was his brother and whom he had employed as our translator. That Mr. Suha. What a jerk! So the wonderful fellow from Nevsehir got us a 3-for-2 deal at the HI Shoestring Hostel run by Jesus. Everything turned out well, and we crossed our fingers about the ticket the next morning.

05 September 2007

AlSo: Going Underground

Had breakfast on the terrace with Justin, who it turns out used to work at World Resources Institute in Washington, DC (small world) before leaving in favor of traveling and studying in India. We took a bust to Nevsehir and then another bus to Derinkuyu which boasts one of the most extensive open underground cities. It is seven layers deep and positively labyrinthian. They were used by residents in times of threats of invasion and had all amenities needed for mid-term living (the major issue being sewage which I couldn’t see any system for the long-term disposal of). The network we saw was actually only a small part of an even greater underground network. And what did the Lonely Planet call it? You guessed it – “troglodytic”. Is this even a word? After Corey and Justin had run through and explored every nook and cranny of the underground city (“yeralti sehri” in Turkish in case you were wondering), we found a leaf-canopied courtyard with older men drinking tea and playing backgammon. We drank tea and then migrated to a pide place that had GREAT pide. We wound our way back to Goreme the way we had come and engaged in some “underground” experiences of our own, specifically drinking red wine from the Conference farewell party 5 days before. I cleaned my shoes like the dickens for which everyone, particularly Ali, was grateful. Sunset was spent on the bluff with gorgeous panoramic views of the city and paragliders. Dinner was with the whole gang, all of whom save Justin, Corey and myself were heading to Antalya that evening. Audra et al had staked out a restaurant for their final Goreme meal which turned out to have everything BUT what they wanted. Delicious, though. Joke told by a passing Turkish guy: “What smokes more than a Turk? Two Turks.” True that. Everyone trundled en masse to the train station where they departed and we got tickets to Antakya the next day. As we were waiting with the others for their bus to come, all of the lights went off in the city and candles quickly taken out. Justin and my hopes for ice cream were dashed once again. We trekked back to the hostel in the dark and were contemplating going up to the bluff but reconsidered when we saw so many tourists heading that way with whoops and liquor. It was so very beautiful and peaceful on the terrace, though!

04 September 2007

AlSo: Troglodytes?

In addition to the British/Bengali dup, we met a fellow named Justin from America in the parking lot as we gazed balefully at the parking lot, willing transport to a hostel to come. We got one to Traveller’s Cave and a muesli breakfast where we met two Australians, Nat and Ali, and yet another American named Audra. Many of the houses and hostels in Cappaoccia, particularly in Goreme, are located inside caves and are quite cool, a blessing with the heat. We collectively took exception to the Lonely Planet’s constant reference to cave dwelling as “a troglodyte lifestyle”. Letters to the Editor are planned for certain. Everyone save the three new ladies had a nap, then we set out to see the Open Air Museum. It turned out to be an amazing enclave of early Christian shrined and churches set in the stone pillars typical of Cappadoccia. Some of the cave paintings were still intact, even after it was occupied by Muslims. We mused that, had the pedigree and occupation been reversed, the Christians of the time wouldn’t have allowed Islamic artwork to survive. We walked back in a heat that was keen on making itself known and found a taxi who was willing to take us to Pasabag to check out the fairy chimneys. The taxi driver was absolutely wonderful and took us back to Goreme via a beautiful canyon-like bowl that he called Lava Lake. Apparently the precipice of Lava Lake is also where locals go to drink and kibitz and bring their girlfriends. we had dinner at the hostel and heard about Audra, Nat and Ali’s day tour from which they had just come and which had left them famished. The fact that the hostel forgot their food order didn’t exactly help. Back to the room, my shoes stank so badly that even Ali had to admit they could use a wash, and I put them in a bag as a conciliatory gesture.

03 September 2007

AlSo: Hamami

Found Tijo in the morning and conducted him to wake Corey up, who said he opened his eyes only to see a floating Tijo head. Breakfast with Corey, Sylvia and Tijo covered talks about Tijos bike tours, life before and after the war, nepotism and corruption and unemployment. Randy joined us for breakfast. Met with Elly and talked about next steps for the Conference next year. I think the main question is one of tack – to make TCC08 a scrappy grassroots Conference or a more professional one. Personally, I think that creating a more extensive framework for involvement with a number of levels would be best, and to get engineering firms and other municipalities on board it needs a little more prep and follow-through. This is just me talking, of course (because hey, it’s my blog!). I’ve promised to draft a Sponsorship Coordinator Intern description and have, with Elly’s kind suggestion, committed to acting as Scholarship Coordinator. Still need to creat a description for that, of course. Everyone will create a powerpoint to follow up with potential sponsors and future stakeholders. We adjourned to the Bazaar where Elly bought a bunch of swell-smelling spices, and a vendor called me “Baby” which kind of killed the deal. Elly sallied forth in search of other pursuits while Corey and I meandered some more and dabbled into the Grand Bazaar which at the time was overrun with cruise tourists. Lunch at a random restaurant with a hilarious waiter from Batman. We met Markus at the Grand Bazaar and rather quickly quit it in favor of a hamami which we found nearby. It was 35 lira for a wash and full massage, which was about half of what we were quoted by others. I had the women’s side all to myself but was unsure as to how to proceed (haven’t been in many bathhouses that were not completely self-serve). A lady named Nagila invited me to rinse off which I did, but then she wandered off. I went into the sauna for a while and came back out. No Nagila. Rinsed again and went abck in the sauna. No Nagila. Finally went to ask if she had soap (“sabo var mi?”), and she replied “Var” but didn’t offer anything else. Back to the sauna. Little did I know that the answer was to sit on the big stone slab within eyeshot. Nagila came in, and what followed turned out to be “Loofah and Language”, where I learned (and have since forgotten) the parts of the body in Turkish. Back into the sauna and came out to find Nagila washing, and I rinsed as well. She held out a towel, and I confusedly made to wash myself with it until she indicated that I should get her back. I ended up giving her a back massage like she had given me which we both had a good time with. Left her with a picture of body parts in English and kibitzed about her family of which she has two children, one grandchild and a husband who is her second after the first died. A fond farewell and met up with Markus and Corey outside who had befriended a few Frenchmen. We swapped stories, and Corey remarked that few would get a massage at a hamami only to give one back to the masseuse. Aww schucks. We sauntered back to the Sultan Hostel, had a nargile, and talked about Markus’ work as an architect. Elly joined us, and we thought it would be very cool if we could create an exhibition of carfree places and carfree housing structures for the conference. Then it was time for Corey and I to head to Goreme in Cappadoccia by bus. Met up with two young English ladies named Sourma and Regina on the bus who were a total riot!

01 September 2007

AlSo: Carfree Withdrawals

breakfast with Rick and plans to meet Ethem Sat. or Sun. Meghan, Tamar, Corey and I went to a bookshop and then to tea. Poor Corey was the only one who didn’t either get his ass grabbed or a phone number from the tea waiter. We met Markus et al on the ferry and had as productive a meeting as one can on crowded public transportation. We deboarded at the first island and continued our meeting at the waterfront in as productive a manner as a waterfront meeting can be. Swimming, then talking about Steering Committee, then Milan and Justin had to leave on the next Istanbul-bound ferry. Randy, Markus, Corey And I rambled around the island, then Corey and I headed back. We saw the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque and a 3500 year old stone. Wow! To all of them. Met folks for dinner at Sultan Hostel for a great talk and a fond farewell to Joroen. Back on the tram, but the ferry was closed even though it was before 10:00. walked to the bridge to catch a bus. Galata Bridge closed (for construction). Walked across the bridge and asked for directions in French of a Turkish fellow who was very accommodating but could see only a taxi as a possibility, the expense for which we couldn’t countenance. We walked to the next bus stop towards Besiktas. A wedding party had pretty well taken over the space where the bus stop should be (and how can this possibly be legal?). walked to the next stop and finally got a bus to Kadikoy. When we got there, the whole main street was cordoned off by police barricade. The total time home was over 2 hours. Go go gadget mobility.

31 August 2007


I went by myself to the morning’s AGM by way of breakfast with Ton and Thiago. We talked about bike infrastructure in Latin America, the need for partnering with other NGOs and municipalities, etc. the sweet waiter gave us tea gratis which extended our discussion by a bit, and then we headed to the film center and the AGM meeting. Our first workshop was Strategic Planning and Decentralization (see notes). Next on my list was Communications. TCC08 needs to develop a blog and participation profile area so that other participants can contact others about possible presentation coordination, organizational synergies, and so on. In a perfect world, all participants would feel as though they know everyone there before the Conference’s beginning. One thing discussed pretty extensively was how to encourage more participation by Network member organizations both with the Network’s Prague office and with other member organizations to increase membership value and usefulness. The Carrfree Green Pages was discussed as a possibility. Eduardo agreed that he could help research capacity and possible augmentation scenarios. The larger meeting had a hilarious vote trying to change the consensus voting structure . . . by consensus. Has this ever actually happened? I have to say, though, Ben is a great resource on process and consensus, and I have never seen a facilitator be more effective than Jason was. I shudder to think how the meeting would have gone without him. What a guy! We continued the meeting on the boat, but I think most people were talked out, and we ended up tabling some of the discussions in favor of carousing and conspiring and enjoying the last threads of a warm and exciting conference. Oh yeah, and they voted on the WCN Steering Committee of which I’m now a member. A great excuse to talk to Sara and Steeries current and past. Talked to Sebel about WRI, Andras about sprawl costs, Ralph about distance and relationships and how sometimes these can be mutually beneficial concepts, Joerie and Joroen and Sylvia and Corey on a number of topics including Joerie’s upcoming nuptials, Tijo and Milan about EcoTopia next year, Ben about Consensus, Randy and Markus and Pippa about Steering Committee, and Jason about how much he fricking rocks! Other discussions: Eduardo about website possibilities, Maura about what she’ll do next, and Idil (the psychologist) about her interest in the carfree lifestyle. After the boat, we went to an overpriced dinner with a Turkish band and learned about Kristi’s life who hails from Portland. After, we went to a bar along the pedestrian area near Taksim Square. Ton and I talked about dogs (his) and relationships (long distance and international). We were turning into pumpkins, so we left with Meghan and her vivacious even when jet-lagged friend, Tamar in a dolmus bound for Kadikoy.

30 August 2007

AlSo: Kucukcekmece, the Unpronounceable Neighborhood

Woke up to find another at the house. I had been hankering to get out of the house earlier to allow for more walking time, and even though he had been up late the night before, Ben was kind enough to accompany me. What a spring chicken! On the ferry, we talked about his work and experience with EcoTopia, , traveling in eastern Europe, and his work with Platform, a London-based NGO that, among other things, creates commemorative installations for the people’s heroes. He had us stop at a borekci. I’ve never had borek. It’s great and certainly staunched the spinach craving I’d been having, then found Aya Sofia and the bus to Kucukcekmece (say it 3 times fast). Carbon offsetting presentation there was only nominally about carbon offsetting, but what it was about were research methods and findings relating to carbon emissions by vehicle type in urban areas of Istanbul. This was done by Sebel of EMBARC and World Resources Institute. FANTASTIC! Their study was funded by Shell, Ford, BP, and Caterpillar, which raised Joerie and my eyebrows since we had just been discussing CSR and greenwashing with Joroen, Sylvia and Corey. When asked, Sebel said that they are interested in improving the fuel efficiency of their products. Her powerpoint will be available in November and has promised me in 3 different ways that I can grab a copy when it goes public. I was seriously salivating. Ton spoke about his bike programs in Latin America through his NGO, Movilisation, and Andras spoke about true costs of sprawl. Later, he was gracious enough to agree to send me some info. on the data he has collected. Yeay! Eda presented on the future of Istanbul transport, which captured a number of the themes that had been discussed through the last few days. We all piled back in the bus and stopped at a parade of sorts, which we were told was for Victory Day (the reason Rick had the day off school). A few of us just got a little skittish when the flags came out and the torches and applause for the speaker who was positioned on the roof of a nearby building and hooked up to a powerful sound system. So some of us soft-shoed out to the nearby bus terminal. Corey and I had a chat with Rick on a few housekeeping issues while Meghan and Elly had a bit of dinner. Then Team Portland headed to the tastiest vegetarian durum place in Turkey. Oh man, so good! And on the pedestrian street in Kadikoy, which was also a definite plus.

28 August 2007

AlSo: Presentations et al

Rick was off from work but was still up ahead of us on his daily walk or run. We headed to the Urban Center for presentations by the keynote speakers. The most stand-out presentations had to be by Halik and Ole Thorson. Halik talked about the urban planning history of Istanbul and was quite open about the city’s lack of planning for bike and ped master plans. I accosted him after the presentation to compliment and ask about how he would suggest dealing with challenges of changing traffic infrastructure in such an ancient city. Ole lives in Barcelona and has created an extensive ped master plan. He is adamant that all cities should develop a ped plan and decried that almost none do. Corey and Zeren had a lenghy chat with him just after the presentation, and I spoke with him later in the day. What a fascinating fellow, and such a marvelous presentation! After these presentations we were invited to go outside where there was a PARK-ing demonstration where the parking lot had previously been. Astroturf, benches, bike parking, a 4-tandem, bean bag chairs, art exhibition and yoga. Good times, good time. After lunch came time for our presentation on “Changing Car-Oriented Attitudes”. Meghan had put together a lovely powerpoint (though next time we should focus more on ped and calm down on bikes), and Corey, Meghan and I had been up late the night before tweaking it some and forming an outline. The presentation went well, I thought (although, to be honest, I am rather senSitive about being contradicted and interrupted during formal-ish presentations). We broke up the discussion into 4 groups and then came back at the end for general feedback which seemed pretty popular. Meghan typed up comments that each group had made based on our notes. Daniel then presented on Rails to Trails and Greenways with an interesting discussion about the evolution of master plans. A few people in the room had actually been involved with the inception or development of master plans and building networks. I believe Eduardo, Daniel and Thiago have all been involved with this process. Unfortunately we missed the presentations on carfree housing which had occurred the same time as ours, but we got a rundown from Ralph, Markus and Ed on the topic. The evening was all about a wonderful boat tour with lots of wine (that sadly ran out before the boat docked. Bikers can drink!). talked with Corey, Sylvia, Maura, Jason the Great Facilitator, Ben and Pippa. Pippa works with BankWatch, a largeish NGO that monitors WTO, European Bank, etc. Maura discussed how she decided to go into Urban Design and how their teacher decided to put Istanbul’s bid in for 2007 TCC. Maura and three of the other coordinators are working together on a baseline study and urban design project, so it was a natural extension to work on this Conference. They are all such good company. And good dancers! I try to remember what Sylvia, Corey and I talk about, but it’s hard because we seem to talk about . . . everything. Jason talked about his background in international activism and the G8 Conference. He has previously been involved in World Carfree Network and is acting as their facilitator for the AGM this year. When the boat docked, everyone spilled out. Corey and I, aged and wizened as we are, went back to Rick’s while Elly and Meghan headed out on the town with some others.

AlSo: Carfree Islands!

Rick laid out yet another wonderful Turkish breakfast complete with tomatoes, olives, fresh bread and cheese. Yumm! Thank you, Rick! Thus satiated, we took a ferry to Buyukada, a carfree island near Istanbul proper. We waited for the others to join us and found Bas, Justin and Sarap, who has the coolest hairstyle, sipping tea. When the others finally deigned to show up, we walked along horse- and bike-filled streets to the municipal building for welcome and questions. Markus asked a really good one about why there were sidewalks cut on a carfree island. Answer: codes. A group of us got bikes and roamed around the island with Milan, Corey, Joerie, Joroen, Sylvia, Kostos, Thiago, Andre, Eduardo and a few others. we had formally met Joroen and Joerie at lunch who told Corey that he should turn his cap around lest he be confused for an American. Titter. Around the top we spotted a restaurant near a cliff that happened to sell beer. Well, of course with two Belgians present we just had to stop. We headed back down, dropped off the bikes and headed to the rocks for more beer. It felt like a Portland ride!

27 August 2007

AlSo: TCC07 Conference

Elly, Corey and I flummoxed across the ferry to Karakoy (by now an old friend) and walked across the Galata Bridge, through the hardware peddling section of town and wended our way up to Istiklal Cadde and TCC07s headquarters. There were opening comments and introductions, including our 15 minute presentation on next year’s Conference, and then a split for some short workshops. We heard Ralph from Cologne talk about map making, Joroen and Joerie about the anti-SUV campaign from GreenPeace and Friends of the Earth, and Karen and Lena about leisure-focused transport and density (almost 50% of car trips in Sweden are for the purpose of leisure!). Panel discussion in the afternoon was about “Car Culture v. Public Space”. I had thought this would focus on infrastructure, but the overriding themes turned out to be fear, identity and isolation. We met Zeren and Sebel from World Resources Institute with some great conversation. There was a walking tour throughout the European side, but I honestly spent more time talking to other Conference-goers to the detriment of sightseeing. Oh well! Spoke with Milan, Thiago and Karl at some length. The evening was in Ortakoy for a movie night which we had to skip out on early in order to walk to a bus home. Then it was back to Rick’s and a talk about the basics of Turkish linguistics.

26 August 2007

Oddyssei: Alighting on Istanbul

we got to the bus stop to find Bas, Justin, Julia and Daniel, then the trek to the border crossing and then on to Istanbul. We took the tram to what we thought was the correct spot to find Rick. Note: Karakoy is NOT Kadikoy, even if they do have the same waterfront street name. after some unsuccessful explorations down cat- and litter-festooned alleys on the wrong side of the Bosphorous, Corey and I, with Rick’s help, managed to make the ferry to his hospitality. Met Elly who had preceded us and slept our first night in Turkey’s most bustling city.

25 August 2007

Oddyssei: The Train That Never Ends

mıdnight passed and we were still on the train to Sofia. apparently the train tracks from Novi Sod to Belgrade are under construction, so all of the train,s congregants shuffled off the train en masse and wended their collective way to a small fleet of buses headed for we didn,t know where. it was fun! caught a few glimpses of a fellow wearing a carfree cities tshirt and figured we knew where he was heading.

we got to Belgrade and changed a money whose name we didn,t even know the name of (Cyrillic is not currently ın my reading reportoıre), but the coffee we used it to purchase was delightful! an hour later we were on the train to Sofia on which a German lady unlocked the mystery of the reclining chairs which Corey and i enjoyed until a family of 3 Bulgarians required the use of the other seats. turns out one of them spoke Turkish, so i used all of the 10 words i had learned along the way. they had just come from Nice (Nisha?) after harvesting peppers.

in Sofia and completely at a loss as to where to stay. fınally met Justin, Julia, Daniel, and Bas whom we had seen ın carfree shirts on trains and buses the previous few days. their friend helped us out with bus tickets and dırections, and we got on the tram where we met two very helpful ladies who led us to their hostel. Anna ıs from France\England and Katryn from Germany, and they are both working as corporate lawyers ın Brussels. Julian, the Colombıan working at the Bulgarian hostel (of course!) was quite helpful ın making us feel at home amongst the Panamanians and Bulgarians among other natıonalities represented there.

24 August 2007

Oddyssei: Three Countries and Counting

Corey woke up fresh as a daisy, must say!

we hung wıth the gang as long as their schedules would allow and then got to some web searching for tickets to Istanbul by train or bus or whatever. after some failed attempts onlıne and by phone, we decided the best policy would be to just head to the train station in Mons.
we got on Shawn and Beccy,s bıkes and took off for the open road. wow, there really isn,t a shoulder on the main road from their house to Mons, must say. however, what it lacks ın road infrastructure it makes up for with landmarks. the SHAPE area. what is SHAPE? how,s thıs for a title: the SUPREME Headquarters of the Allıed Powers of Europe. who can beat that for a name?

we got into Mons and swung by the tourist center, whose proprietor promptly told us how foolish it would be to ride that stretch of road on bikes. too late.
we continued on to the train station after some puttering around Mons and asked the ticket booth agent about train reservations from Budapest to Istanbul. she first tried to get us a reservation from Budapest to Vienna, and when we described our route again to her, she blinked a few times, looked a little flustered, and then said, "most people fly". yes, we know. so that didn,t work out, but we were able to get tickets for our bikes for the train from Mons to Jurbise (why not?). we discovered that just because you have tickets for your bike doesn,t mean YOU have tickets, but the conductor took pıty on us. in the meantime, we enjoyed some great framboıse across from the train station.

had a few moments wıth Matt, Becc and Shawn before heading to the Charleroi airport with Shawn at the healm (John Cleese dıctating dırections). a fare thee well and we were on our way to Budapest. the only thing that held us up was the passport agent who looked through all of my visa stamps twice and the security check guy who made Corey slam a bunch of water.

on the plane, off the plane, a 30 second bus ride to the terminal, customs, bus, metro line, train station, running around for international ticket booth, nail-biting wait, tickets in hand for Sofia, sigh of relief, snatched plastic cups from Burger King, harried wait, and we were on the train to Bulgaria via who knew what route.

we met Alex the Spaniard who was going to work on the Serbian border at a zoo for an undisclosed period of time and Laura of LA fame who happens to live on an off-grid community and, by the way, knows the band TOOL personally on the way to what we learned was Serbia. Alex kept thinking he was getting off the train and was again and again repelled by the border police swarming the train. we started referring to him as the Spanish Boomerang and were rather suprısed (though happy for his ultimate success) when he didn,t come back. no sooner dıd Alex exıt than Mısha, the ınebrıated Austrian, grace our compartment wıth nothing but spontaneous and devoted love for Laura. quite an adventure overall!

23 August 2007

Odyssei: Trainspotting

today was the day i waıted for the coming of Corey. had a walk from Shawn, Beccy and Matt's place to the Jurbise train station and ended up seemiıng a complete train station groupie. ahhhhh!
Corey came, then Shawn did to whisk us back to their house, then some damn fine Belgian beer.

22 August 2007

Oddyssei: flirting with Jurbise & Soignies

woke up fresh as a daisy at 6:30 with the rest of the family. i'm telling you, don't sleep for two days but for hour-long naps, and jet lag shudders away.

as everyone else had work or school, i wiled away a good part of the day with emails and tried to figure out how the heck we were going to get from Budapest to Istanbul in time for our presentation on the 27th. i'm thinking Budapest to Sofia by train and Sofia to Istanbul by bus, but anything could happen from now until then to change minds.

took Shawn's mountain bike for a spin, which was like a whole 'nother world after riding Bill's bike. when one rides a road bike for years, one forgets the slow hum that accompanies the tread of a mountain bike on pavement or the cushy way it tackles road irregularities. i have to say, i missed Sparky something fierce this afternoon. it's also strange to be without the ram horn handlebars; one feels so upright that it's easy to imagine oneself to be royalty. crouching over ram horns, i tend to feel like i'm trying to outdistance the cars behind me that would sooner run me over, while upright today i felt like i was graciously allowing other cars to use the space to the immediate left of my mobile throne. strange. their house in Mons is just on the borders of Soignies and Jurbise, so i put a few toes and at least one wheel in each of those municipalities on my relatively short ride.

when the rest of the gang got back, we got to hear all about everyone's day, then a small road trip to Mons for dinner. what a swell Grand Place! there is a fountain on one side that gushes straight onto the cobblestones and is collected by storm drains immediately downhill. plenty of road signs with bikes, and even one cameo silver cruiser with ape hangers. we stopped at the Excelsior for brew and salad, though for future reference the Copenhagen is said to have a nice rose wine. before the meal, the Three Musketeers suffered me to read a poem from "Archyology". good times, good times. i seem to remember more French than i thought i knew . . .

back at the home ranch, i started to learn Turkish and to make flashcards while Shawn played WoW (World of Warcraft). Matt let me read him part of his bedtime story, a Terri Pratchett novelette, but i fear we got a little rambunctious about what was supposed to be a bedtime story. i think i've been fired as a post-dusk storyteller.

then Shawn showed me a little treasure of Warcraft culture: the Leeroy Jenkins video on youtube. amazing that there should be so much notoriety and buzz from such a small video. it was hilarious! i don't know how, but the conversation then morphed to teaching. why do politicians try to micromanage the school system? will something similar happen to hospitals if health care is nationalized? from there came the topic of how to keep respect among students and parents, and how to quash potential problems before it starts. we have similar methods, which makes me happy!

Odyssei: LA -> Mons

the flight from LA to Amsterdam was 10 hours with a 3 hour layover to Brussels. i read the last Harry Potter book from start to finish on the flight to Amsterdam and took a nap on the 2nd hop to Brussels as phase 2 of Jet Lag Avoidance.

the customs procedures in Amsterdam and Brussels were completely confusing because there. weren't. any. i took my little bag through "nothing to declare", and that was it. completely anticlimactic.

headed down to the train to Jurbise, and 2 hours after i touched down in Brussels, i was at the train station in Mons. Becc and Shawn had told me to go to the house across the station to call them, but i was wrong as to which house it was the first time and then got too shy to ask any other houses. so i went into town and managed to buy a phonecard in French with the 10 French words i knew and then by coating some Spanish with a French accent. i also learned that Elvis' face was everywhere because it is the 30th anniversary of his death. the things you learn in a Belgian convenience store!

Shawn picked me up at the station and whizzed me to their house in Mons, which is almost as beautiful as Beccy but not quite. Matt just finished his first day of 4th grade, and he recounted his recent exploits while we bounced on his trampoline. Shawn poured a pint (ahem, or two) from the keg in his petit maison-come-private pub, and we rambled and rambled until i completely shut down for about a 12 hour repose at 8pm.

jet lag averted.

18 August 2007

Oddyssei: Arcadia & Palm Springs

about 20 minutes after Brian so graciously dropped me off at Aunt Jan's, Jan and i were off again in another car heading for Palm Springs to see Bill and Rita. on the way, we swung by Kevin's new workplace, Game Stop. this was the first time i'd seen Kev in his natural habitat; usually our visits have been relegated to some wedding or other.

on the 2 hour drive to Palm Springs, we passed by a huge wind farm in the valley. AMAZING!! what a beautiful form of energy production, but why haven't they been painted more pinwheely colors, one wonders? think of how candylandish the desert would look.

the four of us kibitzed through the evening, and Bill and i plotted our bike ride the next morning. i admittedly felt a little anxious when i heard about his 60-mile per saturday habit, wondering whether i would just be slowing him down. however, the second he showed me what i'd be riding, all other thoughts left. it was a gorgeous and nimble carbon frame road bike with shimano shifters. i think the skirt i was wearing weighed more than that bike.

sorry, Sparky, but i'm getting a mistress. no offense.

we got up the next morning and were out the door at 6:15 to beat the heat, which was expected to top 110F that day. he showed me where the original Cheetah (from the B&W Tarzan tc show) lives as well as Al Jolson, whose music i adore. of course, who doesn't love "Alexander's Ragtime Band"? there were only a few hills (we hit 40mph on one of the downhills) with beautiful views of the canyon; the rest of the 25-mile ride were straight stretches. we had a great talk about comparisons between bike use and culture in Palm Springs v. Portland. Palm Springs needs bike culture! lycra-clad racers just don't count. and the bike was totally yare!

we got back to his house about 8:00am in time for Shelly's, their turtle's, breakfast and to get back on the road to meet with two of Jan's college friends. i think we convinced Rita and Bill to come up to Portland to ride bikes down the Springwater Corridor Trail with mom and i.

brunch with Molly and Linda, Jan's friends from college, was like something straight out of a Wendy Wasserstein play! i mean, three women who went to college during the women's lib movement meet to catch up with each other a number of years later and talk about how the roles and rights of women have changed or not since college? it's Act III of "Uncommon Women and Others". they all have such dynamic lives and rich insights. it was just heavenly. also, being at a table with 3 good friends to whom one has recently been introduced and not to feel excluded is rare, indeed. i chalk it up to Jan's great hostessing and Linda and Molly's graciousness.

after this, Jan and i went shopping. i haven't been shopping in years, and all of my clothes are supported by safety pins. Jan, you are a paragon of patience. we talked and talked until it was time for me to nap in preparation for an all-night workfest. all-nighters before a long flight is the only way i know of to combat jet lag. let's see if it works. the workfest commenced, Kevin came home, we hung out for a couple of hours, and by 8am it was time to head to the airport. thanks, Jan, Ed and Kevin! couchsurfing with you is just the bees' knees!

17 August 2007

Oddyssei: to Arcadia, a Craigslist adventure

as the first real vacation in almost 2 years, i decided that the trip to Turkey via California and Belgium should be a good one filled with transportational questionmarks and as many random experiences as possible.

and what better way to begin than a rideshare to LA through Craigslist, melting pot of all that is random and strange? all the more ironic to begin a journey to a carfree conference in a car.

i had started looking a couple of weeks beforehand and responded to two ads before getting a response from one fellow traveling from Seattle to LA. as soon as he said his name was Brian, i knew it was all going to be okay; my dad, brother, and former roommate are all named Brian, and all of them are luminous fellas.

Brian picked me up from work in Portland, and we started south. i was wondering how a Long Drive with a new acquaintance would be. how was it, you may well ask? a 15-hour conversation blitz! topics: what is it about our fellow Americans that promulgates celebrities and reality TV shows? have we as a society obliterated cohesion in favor of individualism? what IS scary, and how does one depict, say, a monster, in makeup? how is it that one can point to something in China, ask about it in Chinese, and not be understood? what does one do for fun in Mozambique?

and not only was the company sparkling, but it was, remarkably, a great prologue to the Carfree Conference. when one's primary transportation is a bicycle, one forgets certain conventions such as, say, the highway clover leaf. hypnotic, unyielding, monomodal clover leafs. the ballet of cars and trucks between lanes. lack of turn signal use in California. the complete absence of bikes or peds along stretches of road. drive-thrus. i TOTALLY forgot about drive-thrus. gas stations with adjacent motels. we have a long way to go, people.

so at the end of a long drive, we wound up on Jan, Ed and Kevin's doorstep. thanks for driving, Brian! you're fabulous.

17 July 2007

post-Nicaragua: Portland

17 julio Portland
So Matt drove me home (thank you, Matt Rae!). I waited for a couple of hours for a roommate to come back, but no one did. Set out my sleeping blanket and read until it was too dark to read. My phone had died before leaving for Nicaragua, so I begged to use Albina Green’s phone to call my parents, who graciously agreed to let me stay at their house. Got into work this morning still wearing the same clothes and toting my luggage. Saw my roommate’s extracycle, though, and he came by so I could make a copy of the key. Hip hip hooray for bike parking! Can’t wait to be with Sparky again. Checked out of work a little early to do that which I’d been dreaming of for a week – snuck a scoop of B&J’s ice cream into the new Harry Potter movie and vegged for two hours. It was just as great as I thought it was going to be! Very decadent. I did, however, remember the Bluefields mayor’s words about US decadence as I did this.

16 July 2007

Nicaragua: Managua, Houston, Portland

16 julio Managua, Houston, Portland

Grogged ourselves to curbside at 4:30am with 2 solar pumps in our luggage. Offloaded my insect repellant onto Jorge, the night watchman, before leaving. Got through the airport system without a hitch until we heard “Anna Garwood” announced over the loudspeaker. They had found our “bombas”. a cute little fact: the word for "bomb" and the word for "pump" are one and the same in Spanish, which makes for an interesting customs excursion when transporting solar pumping equipment. Downstairs and out the door we went accompanied by a security guard to inspect the goods. Got the “all clear” before they FLUNG our bags onto the belt. Will they make it? Who knows?
And now we sit in the airport. Anna’s working on her expense report as I write these lines.

15 July 2007

Nicaragua: Boaco, Masaya, Managua

15 julio Boaco, Masaya, Managua
Woke up to rain, rain, and, oh yeah, more rain. Upon learning that the Hipicos was not until 2:30pm, we decided to leave Boaco in favor of volcanoes in Masaya, which was amazing! Then back to Hotel Los Felipes with its massive mosquitoes and lunch with VEGETABLES (I had had a dream about broccoli the night before). Spent a little time talking about next steps for projects.
Anna went to Jaime’s place for the 2nd solar water pump. I spent longer than necessary trying to acquire a Mana CD and Reggaeton, the latter of which the cyber proprietor was more than happy to “quality check” for the whole café. Anna and I tracked H & B down at Dona Pilar for our last talk together.

14 July 2007

Nicaragua: Boaco, Managua

14 julio Boaco, Managua (Solidarity Conference), Boaco

4am came quickly. I had some difficulty getting out the door because it closes and locks from the inner receptionist area. The bus to Managua at 4:30 takes mostly students. I’m amazed at the hours and expense that studying 2 hours away from home must entail. Got to Managua and got a taxi ride from a 72 year old man who told me all about his diabetes on the way, including specific figures of his pharmaceutical bills and inability to pay for injections. While walking into the conference, met with the New York film-making crew that was documenting the conference.
I assumed I wouldn’t know anyone at the conference, but almost immediately I met up with the group from the Baltimore/Esteli Sister City Association who had stayed at the Quaker House with us. We had an interesting discussion about micro credit, as it turns out someone from the group was going to present a lecture on the subject. Then I saw Lizzie Fussell! She’s working in Chinandega to bring health services to women on banana plantations. Apparently there is comparatively more promiscuity in the plantation communities which leads to higher incidence of STDs. Since the medical services are provided by plantation owners who only have a view to increasing productivity, STDs tend to go unchecked and proliferate as does ovarian cancer caused by the highly toxic pesticides. Fascinating and horrifying to learn about chemical treatments that not only contaminate wells and lend to skin burns but also chemicals that dry out harvested areas and, as a minor side effect, the drinking wells.
Lizzie, Narcissa and Frasier let us cop some territory at their booth, and my 50+ annual reports went like wildfire. Talked to a number of folks, including ones who were interested in becoming involved in projects in Boaco, someone interested in University partnerships, and possible event partner.
The keynote speaker for the conference was a former mayor of Bluefields. His basic premise was that we need to raise our own consciousness about the living disparity between Nicaragua and the United States. One of his representative statements went a little something like this: “Think about what your breakfast cost when you were in the States last week, and then, when you leave today, look at a child on the street and ask when the last time was that he had breakfast.” A woman sitting next to me got up quickly and said that she just wanted to thank everyone for being here to foster solidarity. When she came back from the microphone, she expressed that she didn’t agree with his statements, that the people who came to this conference were not the ones whose consciousness needed changing. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion of his speech (my $.02: I think his speech did more to separate the participants into two separate groups than to invite solidarity and collaboration, though the truth of his words was undeniable). Afterwards came a panel of speakers; the one that seemed to get the whole group humming was a fellow from Bend, OR who talked for just a few eloquent minutes about the difference between charity and solidarity. I decided to accost him at lunch.
Met Hannah and Keith who already know about GE and were thinking about moving to Portland (thought my theif-proof methods of securing money on my person was pretty hilarious). They helped make the conference happen and would like to meet with us for volunteering, etc. when they get into town. We mentioned our shared, abiding love for the Distinguished Gentleman from Bend and attacked him together.
Tim has a weekly radio show and is involved with the Bend-Condega Sister City Association with his very funny wife named Daisy. Gave him our Annual Report and we talked about a possible event in Ben focusing on community development.
Caught up with Lizzie and kibitzed about funding thoughts for her project as well as a possible volunteering venture with AsoFenix for website and brochure creation and re-entry into Portland.
Bus back to Boaco. Either the drive train or the acceleration cable snapped out of kilter, rendering us stationary for about ½ hour. Luck was with us, however, and we made it back safe and sound. After trying to find the gang (who ate at a loud mariachi place), I had dinner with a fellow named Daniel who lives in a colonial house in town with his sister and father. A small parade with puppets on stilts went by as part of the ongoing festival. Daniel said that the town was expected to double in the next 10 years due to a highway project. Met up with the others thereafter and learned of their exploits which Anna will assuredly recount.

13 July 2007

Nicaragua: Boaco, P, N, & M

13 julio Boaco, P_____, N____, M____ (town names supressed because projects still in proposal stage - sorry!)

We got to P____ first thing in the morning and met up with a woman named Christina. She has a beautiful and clean yellow and blue house with a patio garden on the side.
Jaime started the conversation by introducing the project as a possible project. When asked about health, she said that people got diarrhea and began vomiting when they drink the water from another well; it is contaminated (the N____ well). There are other wells that are privately owned. There are three wells in all, but all are manual.
there is a Water Committee that regulates the water in 7 houses by monitoring how much people take from the well and resolve problems regarding the well. They also have a tariff system, though it is sometimes difficult to get people to pay this.
In regard to sharing the water with the other two communities of M____ and N____, Christina said that they are happy to share the water. The three communities are related by families and have a long history together. The 30m. well was dug by E about 3 years ago and pumps 80 gallons per minute, which Christina described as an “ocean of water”. When we told her about Bramadero’s well that pumps 8 gallons per minute, she said that they and San Jeronimo are suffering, those “pobrecitos”.
Who uses P____’s water? 7 families (5,3,5,6,7,4,4) with 34 people total plus 6 people from the outskirts of the community, totaling 40.
Asked about health conditions. Everyone has a latrine. There is more infirmity during the winter due to mosquitoes. Children in P____ have less sickness than in the other two communities because they have easier access to clean water.
Victor then joined us to show us the proposed site for the tank that will serve the other two communities through gravity-fed system. The tank would be 2km from N____ and 3km to M____. The topographical studies still needs to be done before we can be sure that the gravity-fed system will work.
History of the community: all three communities were formed at about the same time with the first house originally on the same plot of land as the tank will be situated on.
As we viewed the area, Victor said that the previous crop was lost due to lack of water because the rain was not as great this past year. There is currently no irrigation system in the communities.

We went on to M____ to check on the next closest community that would be the beneficiary of the water. They have gone to other wells in the past, but health officials have told them not to drink the water in the closest well. The harvests have small crops which continues the cycle of poverty in the community. Their Committee of Water numbers 12, and the community has 19 houses.
When asked about water conditions, members of the community said that there is no money for latrines; the mayor only helps some. Infirmities include gripe, diarrhea, stomach pains, and laceo (?). their health affects their ability to work.
We went to the first well, which is a manually-operated pump which required 24 revolutions for water to come. The others we spoke with said that they only use the water for bathing and washing (there are two stalls for bucket showers and a wsashboard next to the well), but the women who lived next door to the well said that she drinks the water without issue. It is difficult to understand anything quantifiable or universally accepted.
No one drinks from the second well which is described as salty. It is only for animals and for washing. E pumped the well a long time ago. Irrigation is not possible because the water would dry up the crops. Maria Therese was our model for pumping and washing at this pump.
The 3rd pump (manual pump with exposed rope) apparently does not always have water but is clean water and the only one used for drinking. It is dry April to September, during which time they have to go to P____. When this well needs maintenance, there is a soda can top used to stop the rope from slipping down. Some lucky person is lowered down the well with some chlorine and manually scrubs the sides of the well before getting to the bottom when they scrape the sludge out of the bottom of the well.

We went to M____ next where Marisol and her husband spoke with us. There are 6 houses in the community woth 26 people (5,6,5,6,2,2). Major crops include maize, sorghum, wheat and beans. Every house has a little cattle and small farm parcels (though they work the abuelo’s farm). There are 7 people on the Water Committee which was originally convened when E dug a well a number of years ago.
The well closest to their family is salty and undrinkable. The west well has arsenic in even more concentrated doses than before. There is also an issue with the pump. What happens when they drink the water? It is very dangerous to drink, they said. People get fevers, vomit immediately after drinking, and the animals won’t touch it. It is warmer water. They drink from [barrilon] in the summer. Marisol goes to this well three times per day, requiring 20-30 minutes per trip. The well has water November to January. Sometimes they drink from the stream water, but there are microbes and pesticides that contaminate the water. They sometimes chlorinate this. In March, there is no water to this well but comes back in May and June. There is no arsenic in the stream well and 4 varas of water. The stream well was created in the 90s.
There is one private well and water catchment systems for the 6 houses. They had another well before, but it was destroyed during Hurricane Mitch. Starting in May, “dryness is death for everything.” The descent to the well is steep and has some rubble, making it difficult to balance water on their heads.
When asked about illnesses, they said that there is definitely more infirmity in the winter with more plagues. Illnesses mentioned: dengue, gripe, fevers, diarrhea, [calenture]. They don’t have a clinic in the community and have to pay for medical assistance, traveling to other communities when they need medical help. There is a medic in Teustepe, Rosetta in San ________ and more assistance in faraway Boaco.
There is one large farm owned by Marisol’s 97-year old abuelo, and everyone in the three communities works on this. No other ONGs are working in this area currently.
When describing how they find water, they said that a computer was incredibly expensive and beyond the means of the community. Instead, they use divination with a rope.

We headed back up the rubbly hill to Marisol’s house, where her daughter, Esparanza, offered R a very beautiful chicken! It was so sad we had to decline her generosity, offering the reason that chickens would not be allowed on the plane. She offered to kill it for us, but we couldn’t bear that thought, either. Note to self: send her a picture of her with chicken.

We went back to N____ for a community meeting with anyone who could attend. Most of the attendees were women and a few men. The meeting was in the former school which now acts as a church. 22 children go to primary school in the community, and those who can afford to go on to secondary school do so in Teustepe.
Before the meeting, a woman spoke with us and told us that there was more water availability before, but now the streams are dry, and they must rely on spotty wells. They have been cutting the wood for firewood, for more cattle pastures, and for selling (apparently the wood – [ochete] - that grows in this region fetches a high price).

Community Meeting in N____ 12pm
First was to create a map with the houses and wells (functioning, nonfunctioning, 1 public, 2 private, 1 stream). The stream well is 6m. and only has water in the wintertime. Some houses farther up have difficulty getting water. For drinking, they come to the well near the school.
One of the wells doesn’t have sufficient water for 8 months of the year, and the other well is dry for 3-4 months. When these wells dry up, members of the community must go to P____, a 30 minute walk on average.
When asked how many baldes they use daily, they answered 6-7 each on average for 19 houses. Uses for the water include animals, cooking and drinking. They go to the stream with cattle and horses, though chickens and pigs get their water from the well.
Most houses don’t have gardens for tomatoes, etc. because it would take too much water.
Chlorine – they don’t often use this because they don’t like it, but occasionally it is used (weren’t sure exactly how much). They buy the chlorine in Boaco.
Pump maintenance in the community – monthly tariffs aren’t used for most of the well, but it costs $30 on average to fix the pumps when they break, and everyone chips in for the repair cost.
They have not taken water from P____ this year, though last year was pretty dire.
Payment and support for proposed system – people seemed a lot happier about the idea of a metered system, which would be more equitable for the people with only 2 family members. There would have to be a contract with each individual in the community promising to pay monthly tariffs. There was at the end of the meeting a general vote to support the project. Jaime mentioned reforestation as necessary for the water system, which has a direct impact on water tables. The community recognizes this.

After the N____ reunion, the travel-weary crew dragged itself into Teustepe for lunch. R asked what people at the meeting had laughed about when they mentioned her name. at the end of the meeting, Anna had thanked the group for taking the time to meet with us and to answer questions which might seem strange for them but are unknown to us who have a different lifestyle. She mentioned that R had never seen a rooster until a few days before, which caused people to giggle. We got back to Boaco that evening just in time to see the evening procession of San Domingo’s statue. We decided that copious rum was needed to properly celebrate San Domingo. Anna and I set out on a mission for a bottle of Flor de Cana and our ongoing quest for reggaeton. We thought we had lucked out with a barberia, but alas the barbershop only peddled DVDs. Took our liquor and some papas fritas to our hotel balcony (which overlooked the plaza and the church) where we people-watched and listened to music. A marimba band serenaded our table for a few songs. It turns out that the band is comprised of a father and two of his sons with one additional youth to round out the quartet. After strategizing a little about the following day, I turned in early, knowing that I had to get up at 4am for the conference.

12 July 2007

Nicaragua: San Jose, Bramadero, Potreritos, Bramadero, Boaco

12 julio San Jose, Bramadero, Potreritos, Bramadero, Boaco
Woke up to our final breakfast with Nonnie, our hostess. R divulged that she had been rained on the previous two nights and hadn’t peeped a word. She also had never seen a rooster before this trip. What a great sport! Piled in the car, and off we went to Bramadero. Jaime said that CCM, another organization, has had volunteers in this area previously. One married a Nicaraguan recently. AsoFenix is working with CCM to possibly have volunteers for the next few years, for water, agriculture, etc. this is part of an ongoing exchange program.
There are two private wells in Bramadero that are apparently just for the farms there. Nine houses are closer to the well designate for the solar pump system, and a number more are farther above. They are using nim trees as natural pesticides (thought we saw more traditional “insecticide packs” in use nearby). When originally asked by H why they use the rubber boots they do, and they replied that the boots are resilient to the insecticides, last up to 4 months and are cheaper than others.
Along the road, we passed by a manual pump created by ENACAL and UNICEF that is dry part of the year. A house boasted a water catchment system behind it, a system that was replicated in a handful of other homes, used primarily for bathing and cleaning. A 32 m. well was covered over, a manual pump that went dry several years before. This is not an uncommon sight in this community. Next to the dry well was a washing stone. A dry 16m. well about 20 m. away from the first. We also passed a number of solar cookers. Main crops in the area: maize and beans.
We spoke to a 26-year old woman named Mercedes holding her daughter, Jaquita. When asked about whether she heard about the pump, she said she had heard that a new pump had been drilled. She said that it was unfair that some people had more water than others. she agreed that there was a difference in the frequency of illness between those with the private wells and those without. With the rain, however, there is less incidence of diarrhea and less need to go to the well for washing water. Mercedes’ mother came by and also mentioned how wonderful it was to have rain. “Gracias a Dios ahora hay mas lluvia” and “Agua es vivo” were two quotes from her.
Meeting with the Bramadero Committee
Francisco, the older gentleman with the hat, sat next to me. There were 4 men and 10 women in the schoolroom in addition to a number of children. Jaime introduced this as a great possibility for better health in the community, economic development, and possibility of reforestation

Map of the Community
Norma, a 4th year student from Teustepe, drew the map according to input from the community. When asked about non-functioning wells, there were 9-11 nonfunctioning wells as opposed to 3 functional wells. There is a mayor in Bramadero. 50 families. Are there more houses every year? There are 2-3 families in some houses, but there are not many new families.

Annual Calendar
Winter is May through November, summer is December through April. Plantings occur in May and September; harvests are in August and November. There is lesster in the wells during the summer, but there is a little year round. Illnesses include gripe, fevers, and diarrhea. There is more rain in September and October, but they have to go to the neighboring community of Aguacate all through May. Animals die in the summer due to hunger and lack of water.
Celebrations – March is Semana Santa; 30 Sept. is Misa de San Jeronimo.
In Dec. and Feb, men go to other countries (like Costa Rica) to work. This option is only available to people with passports, which costs a great deal of money.

Daily Schedule
There are 5 private wells, 2 private wells in the neighboring community of Jocote. 4 families have guaranteed water year-round. Every house has an average of 5 gal. during the summer (10 gallons if one goes to Jocote). In winter, most houses have 15 gallons. Ten houses carry water from Jocote, Aguacate, or San Rafael in winter.
What is the water used for? Water from wells is for cooking and cleaning; must get to Jocote to bathe and shower and wash clothes.
How much time is needed to carry water? Often have the help of horses for carrying. Women do most of the carrying with some help from children. Majority of the houses have horses. Every day requires between 2 ½-3 hours in summer and 1 ½ hours in winter (6 baldes in summer)
Also don’t have latrines due to lack of funds (though I did luckily encounter one behind the pulperia,)
Harvest – crops include maize, tomatoes, café, beans, and wheat.
Spend 5 cordobas per month on animals
PAEN is an organization that provides food for children. There were some papers that had edibles and meals with community members’ names assigned next to them.

We went up the road a piece to the community of Potreritos, where we installed a solar water pump the year before.
Two people are on the Water Committee from Potreritos as part of the tri-community 7-person Committee (4 women, 3 men). There hasn’t been a problem with payment, as everyone has paid without trouble. In terms of differences in health, she said that fewer children have diarrhea because they wash their hands and are born under healthier conditions. They wash their hands more as well, in schools for instance.
Five houses have planted porch gardens and more in the additional two areas. The animals go to a well.

We left Potreritos and got to Teustepe only to realize that the one hospidaje in town was full, so we headed to Boaco. What a great town! As we had dinner at Maria Christina’s gazebo diner, a parade streamed into the street from the church toting a statuette. Christina told us that we had fortuitously happened upon the festivities celebrating Boaco’s patron saint, San Domingo (I think?). B & H explored and found a bar complete with mariachi band, but the rest of us were “rendido”.

11 July 2007

Nicaragua: San Jose, Malacatoya, San Jose

11 julio San Jose, Malacatoya, San Jose

Jorge, the Mayor’s agenda advisor, met with us again, this time at the Municipal offices. He discussed the selection of the communities, who are chosen based on their social and environmental capacity. This includes gauging passion for development and desire for energy access and improved health services. The Committee considers three factors when exploring a community project: environmental, economic, and social consciousness. Every potential community should have an economic plan, diagnostic and map, potable water and/or energy uses/needs, school energy and production uses. The community must decide the energy needs and uses, because they know better than the municipality. Most important is the sense of group and a map of each inhabitant and what specific needs that house/business would have. A larger view can be extracted from this.
We had met with the community the other day. They have a waterfall approx. 3km away and a project that can work there. Jorge said that there was a system in L___ before but was destroyed during landslides during Hurricane Mitch.
dispositions of other communities were discussed with regard to the suitability of RE projects.
The upper regions have more forested lands and more availability of water, whereas the middle and lower regions are dryer. In the lower area of Boaco, there is one well that could have the capacity to serve the entire area if it is distributed well. They are currently working on the diagnostics for the lower regions. Reforestation can be helpful when done in tandem with pumping projects.

Jorge then invited us to the Mayoral Committee’s meeting after which we went to Malacatoya. we learned that George had assembled the turbine and the generator the previous day, after all, and that tests were ready to go ahead on three houses before the system started up 100%. it rained mightily! we heard the conga monkey again on our wet walk back which culminated at Paulo's house. they served us some delicious coffee, and we asked where it was from. he pointed to the coffee plants behind his house, and they explained that they roast the beans for their own consumption in the firewood kitchen stove. coffee doesn't get fresher than that!

back at Nonnie’s hospidaje, R had what she termed the “best shower” she’s ever had. with a water hose. i got to wash my clothes with a washboard again, just like the good old days in China. hard to find better traveling companions than this, must say.