Friday, December 28, 2007

Swimming the Caribbean

My Dutch friend Alex and I decided to take swimming in the Caribbean to a whole new level. We swam about two and a half miles to a small, rocky windswept island off the coast of Isla Margarita on Wednesday the 27th, two days after Christmas. The island can be seen way off in the distance in between us. To see a few more photos that show the island and the beach we swam from click on this PHOTO LINK. It was an amazing adventure. To look at the distance we traveled look at this Google map.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Margarita-46th Birthday

This is an Island paradise here on Isla Margarita in Venezuela. I am thrilled to be here in Venezuela on my 46th birthday. The picture below is looking onto Playa Caribe, about a half hour walk from where I'm staying in Juan Griego. Please take a look at the photos I have uploaded for some more "visual storytelling

The reason it has taken me almost a week to make another blog entry is because I was having to contend with an issue related to my financing of these travels. It appears that I have finally gotten this issue sorted out, thanks to a "little help from my friends". I will go into to more detail in a future post, but for the moment suffice it to say that I landed in Venezuela with limited cash dollars in my pocket, believing that utilizing bank machines would not pose any problems. The nature of the "problem" gets to the root of much of what ails the world and as I said before this will be explored in a future post.

Paul, husband of Yvonne, gave me a Cuba Libre and wished me a happy birthday. Hank and Yeon from Holland just came back from out on the town and also wished me a happy birthday. Hank and I had a long conversation about the state of the world. We both agreed that America and Europe are both in trouble for a whole host of reasons. To have understanding beteen people is such a miracle. I am grateful for all of those people in my life that work to increase understanding amongst all people.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Venezuela-Settling In

I have arrived in Venezuela, the epicenter of the Bolivarian Revolution. Settled in very nicely on the island of Margarita. away from the main population center of Porlamar in the relatively undeveloped area of Bahia do Juan Griego. There is a wonderful assortment of fellow travelers and ex-pats from Europe in this island paradise. The Hotel Patrick has become a base of operations for me and besides a great group of people they offer free use of a computer with a fast connection. Most of the inhabitants of Margarita have pretty strong feelings about Chavez and were relieved that the constitutional referendum did not pass. I am glad I chose to come here fist to give myself an opportunity get oriented. I plan on staying here until the new year and then heading over to Merida for more intensive language training. That's all for now, adios!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Venezuela Departure

Leaving this morning at 9:30 (december 13) for a short three hour flight from Miami to Caracas, and then a short layover for another short flight to Isla Margarita. This is a modification from my original plan to spend a month in Caracas getting oriented. One of my roomates dissuaded me from this notion, convincing me that Caracas is a VERY challenging place for a variety of reasons. I'm happy to have a new plan.

One of my roomates is letting me borow his laptop to write this post. The buildup of housing for the rich is phenomenal. This building frenzy, as in San Francisco, is all vertical. This trend of gentrification has been happening in American cities for many years now, but here in Miami it's extreme. South Beach is a modeling capital and models are everywhere, adding to the surreal quality of this ultimate party place.

I lost a blog entry yesterday after spending a full two hours working on it. I pored my heart and soul into this piece of writing, and needless to say, it distressed me greatly when it evaporated into the ether. Same kind of feeling as when I lost my camera in New Foundland. The loss initiated a powerful conversation with my two roommate's, one from Switzerland and the other from Spain. We ended up staying up till 4am talking about the state of the world. We all agreed that as a film, the Matrix does a good job illustrating our current predicament. What are each of us willing to do for Freedom? Is the addiction to our own comfort so strong that we will watch others suffer? Is it going to take a war for people to wake up and see that they are being manipulated? America is still the cultural leader of the world. People from all over the world still want to come here because of the economic freedoms here. Nevertheless, Globalization continues its relentless consolidation of power.

It's an interesting time to be going to South America. We shall see what I discover. Till next time.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tampa-Day 2

Tampa is proving to be very interesting. Yesterday I swam about 3/4 of a mile in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Siesta Key. My friend Dennis and his wife are owners of a "Thyme for Dinner" franchise in Sarasota. I got to see a very interesting business where the general public gets to save all the hassles of shopping and clean up for making nutritious meals by visiting the store site and assembling their meals on location and then taking them home conveniently packaged and ready to be served. Think of it as TV dinners except that all the ingredients are fresh and prepared by hand.

The Tampa Bay metropolitan area has roughly 2.7 million people and is adding about 97,000 residents per year. I can see why people want to live here as the weather is warm and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are glorious for all manner of recreation. But the Tampa Bay Area was largely built up in the age of the automobile and is very car dependant. It's common, as it is in many places in American suburbs for neighbors to NOT know their neighbors. People generally keep to themselves here but it still seems odd to me that the people are not friendlier and more open considering the paradise they live in.

There is a burgeoning New Age community here in the Tampa area. There are many places to go for Pilates, Yoga other movement classes. Dennis's wife is a financial planner in the Socially Responsible Investing movement. The Unity Church is popular here and I will be going to here a sermon from a highly regarded Unity minister in Clearwater on Sunday.

I spent the better part of today playing traveling agent and making all the last minute arrangements for my December 13th departure to Venezuela from Miami. I'll drive with a rental car from Sarasota to Miami on Monday. A few days in Miami to take care of any last minute trip preparations and to visit the Miami Beach area where I lived for roughly two years in 1988 and 1990.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Arrived in Tampa last night and got picked up at the airport by a beautiful woman named Linda D. Howard who took me to St. Petersburg for a Landmark Forum Seminar being led by my friend Dennis. Dennis is a friend from my Burningman camp, and I am staying with him in Sarasota for a couple/few days before pushing off to Miama. Linda is one of the particpants in the seminar, and Dennis had asked her to pick me up as he was prepping to lead the seminar. Linda has a 16 year old son who just started attending a very expensive military boarding school. She explained that she had a coversation with him about poor grades and gave him 6 months to improve or be shipped off to boarding school. She told him that it was her responsibility to do everything in her power to make sure that he is a contribution in the world. Linda is a testament to the fierce protective love that a mother has for her child. It was great to see Dennis and he introduced me as Peace Mechanic which is my playa name. A playa name is a sort of nick name that captures the essence of a persons identity. The name Peace Mechanic came to me after seeing an art instalation at Burning Man in 2006 called Eyes Wide Open: March of Lost Hope, which was itself inspired by the Quakers American Friends Service Committee, original Eyes Wide Open exhibit that displays the boots of American soldiers killed in combat along with a memorial for Iraqis that have also lost their lives. Tampa is already proving to be quite an adventure in itself, more later.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Plantations, Music and "The Tables"

Yesterday I visited three plantations, 30 minutes outside New Orleans on the famed River Road along the Mississippi river. My friend Sam and I went for a guided tour of one called The Laura Plantation that was incredible. River Road was the Silicon Valley of it's day with more millionaires than anywhere else in the world in its heyday. Plantations, mostly Creole, stretched both sides of this mighty river for 70 miles. The land they occupied was narrow and long, with Laura going back 3 1/2 miles but only having 4/10's of a mile in width. This was so each plantation could deliver it's goods onto the river for transport, sugar in the case of Laura. The guided tour was extraordinary and history came alive in a profound way. Creole Plantations were not the same as the Anglo plantations. There is something about the Acadians and the role they played in settling Canada in and around Nova Scotia and there later exhile by the British that had them playing a huge role in making New Orleans what it is today that fascinates me. Something of a mystery in my blood line is becoming known to me. I will write more about this later.

Two nights ago I went into the French Quarter with a 27 year old Canadian traveler named Matt.We walked the raucous Bourbon Street on our way to Frenchmans street to checko out some live music. Bourbon is about as sleazy a walk as you will in America. Frenchmans street is where the locals go and is home to some very nice clubs like Tipitina's and DBA. Many clubs along it's few block have no cover to listen to incredible music. We delighted in our sampling of venues and after reveling is Jazz and such we ended up at a club called Check Point Charley and were very entertained by a group called Sick Like Sinatra.

The hostel has an outdoor patio area where folks gather and socialize. It is called by some of us affectionatley "The Tables". The most interesting people cycle through this place and stories of adventure and discussions of everything and anything take place at all hours. I will write another post to describe some of the characters that color this world.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Orleans-Vietnameese Seminarian and the Judge

Worked out for my second time at Loyloa yesterday, and I continue to be impressed with this instititution. Never have been a big rooter for any college sports team before, but now have a special place in my heart for Loyola and will cheer for them in the future.

I asked a well dressed stranger for directions last night and after a bit of navigational advice, he said "come on, I'll give you a ride." We hopped into his SUV and talked about New Orleans post Katrina (he was in the court building through the storm and did not leave until a week after the storm hit.) We also discussed politics and my upcoming trip to Venezuella. This eternal optimist calls himself a "Goodwill Ambassador" and told me to call him if I ever needed any help. Turns out that Dennis J. Waldron is a Judge in the Criminal District Court of the Parish of Orleans. Nice to have friends in high places and even better to know that people of position and authority are willing to help a total stranger.

Entering many establishments like Jacques Imos Cafe or Juans Flying Burritos you will see a sing that says, "Be Nice or Leave". This, in so many ways sums up the attitude of New Orleans. People here are open and talk to strangers. It is similar to how I found the people in New Foundland to be.

I walked the lenght of Magazine street past it trendy boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, antique stores and bars. The best section is inbetween Loissianna and Napoleon street. I happend upon a coffee shop called Puccino's where the Uptown Chess Club had taken over most of the tables with probably about 30 games of timed chess being played by young and old alike. It was so heartneing to see, not sure why, just made me feel good.

Oh yeah, after I finished my workout, I had a great conversation with a Vietnameese semianry student who is n New Orleans to study at Notre Dame. He came to America as a 28 year old in 1993. Most of Vietnam is Buddhist, but he was baptized as a baby. He asked me about the Concupiscence of the Flesh and we had a very interesting discussion about the Good and Evil. It is intersting to note that of all the severely damaged zones in New Orleans after Katrina it was the area of East New Oleans dominated by Vietnameese that rebuilt and returned to normal far faster than anywher else.