This blog's for ME

Almost 25 years old, asking my parents if I can sleep in their bed with them. I had thought I was going to be the 25th Prime Minister of Canada. Things had changed. 10 years later, I was still a scared little boy. The time had come to slap myself awake. One Saturday morning, November 19th, 2009, I declared to the world I would be riding my 10 year-old motorcycle from Vancouver, BC Canada to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and back.

The official departure was August 28th, 2010. A group of well-wishers saw me off at 8:03 am.

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro around 6 pm March 1st, 2011.



My return to Vancouver came on July 5th, 2011 about 2:00 pm.

Drug & alcohol abuse, ADD, social anxiety, health, chronic pain, night terrors.

So many concerns. But I am far more interested in this question: Do I have the capacity to make this trip despite all my shortcomings?

My mission: To inspire myself to face my fears, enlighten myself on how all living things can peacefully co-exist, enjoy every moment, and see the world as plentiful and generous.

Go ahead. Call me crazy. Call me anything you like.

I'm out to save my world.



I LOVE YOU ALL



Questions, comments, concerns, threats? Contact me: jason.chapman99@gmail.com


Brasil



Feel some sort of accomplishment as the bike limped into Brasil about 5 pm local time from Venezuela, after almost turning around. God I'm so glad I took a chance and got to Brasil...... my bank card worked finally and I'm staying in a nice hotel. Boa Vista, Roraima, Brasil. we're 3 1/2 hours ahead of vancouver time here....... so it's fricken midnight in about 1 hour 3/4!!! should try and get up and do SOMETHING!!!!


And in earlier news, so close to the fronterra, after coming through Santa Elena, the last town in Venezuela, I stop unceremoniously at the 5th military checkstop, stalling out accidentally, and unable to start again. After a few questions, it push the bike back around, and take off some bags, and clothes to get ready for a push up the hill to jump start it. First attempt no luck in 2nd gear. Push it up a much bigger hill took me about 5 minutes to do it, nothing in 2nd, but vazoom in 1st. Raise my left arm in triumph to the 6 military guarding the side of the road, and they return the fist pump. I stop and open up the battery side, only to check the fuses thinking the source of problem was there. As soon as I pull out the fuse for ignition, Bonnie stops dead. Up the hill I go, in the lesson that I should not be pulling that fuse out again (they were all fine). After a 2nd successful attempt, and one of the cops holding the throttle on while I gather all of my stuff up and jump back on. I tell him i have to go back to town to repair the bike and will see him tomorrow, or tomorrow tomorrow or tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.


I get about 1 km away and start thinking about what my journey is about. Take the safe route, do what’s reasonable. Yes, this would be the time. A bike that’s limping badly, and the threat of another night on the road can’t afford another costly tow truck. But no, my trip is about taking chances, and going for what I believe in. I still had a border crossing to manage, but why couldn’t I just keep the bike running? I learned that my bike could be jump started in 1st with very little speed, in fact on a straight and narrow and flat road I could do it. I turn around with a vengeance, and back at the military check stop I tell ‘em I’ve changed my mind, and off to brasil.


I get to the crossing, and as usual multiple buildings to enter but thankfully empty of people and pretty chill. After 10 countries and 20 borders, I was looking for the right buildings, and had gotten good at locating them quickly. This time, customs was first, and two beautiful venezuelanas were working, i found out after loudly crying out ‘ola?’ to bring them out of their offices. Needed to charm, couldn’t afford a rough border crossing so close to my destination. She looks at my paperwork and notes that i should have been out of the country yesterday, the 30th. “I’m sorry” I said “I had moto problems and spent 2 days in bolivar.” When I entered the country I had thought 7 days would have been plenty, but it’s a big one and takes a while to get through granted. Do I have any proof of this she asks. “Yes”, I have a card, one I barely accepted but thankfully had in my bag somewhere of course unable to retrieve it when i needed it. She returns to the office, and I keep searching finally success yelling out my find. I’m free to go. Thats it?


I head out of the building, and enter brasil searching for Venezuelan immigration almost receiving a brasil entry stamp before getting a Venezuelan exit. Not good. Turns out the office was right across the hall from customs, and I didn’t have to even leave the building. I had made it harder on myself than was necessary. The immigration fellow was his usual cheery self (sarcasm inserted here) but another stamp and i’m outtie.


Back to the brasil office a stamp from an unusually friendly (smile and nice questions is all it takes to be unusual on these borders) lady and now customs brasil. A nice young man with braces and a friendly female coworker and i’m running on all fours.......... unlike my moto. After keeping it running all this time (a good 20 minutes) it stalled. Damn i was angry oh well i made this choice to enter the country i can get it going again. The young guy took forever and suddenly we were looking at the bike. “do you have any documents proving your license plate number?” oh here we go again. No sorry i don’t. Somehow he goes back to work without it as a result of my charming convo? A family of 10 show up and whisked away back to Venezuelan immigration, failing to go there first. Words from the gods “listo”. I’m ready to enter Brasil with a bike that doesn’t start unless it’s jumped.


2 hours on an open road with big bugs, and big bats flying through the air but a road with less than 3 holes the whole way, a distance unequalled in a km in some areas of Venezuela. I’m starting to love my choice to push for brasil, and enter the new year in the country of my destination. After the odometer hit 2oo km or so, I start seeing a warm glow on the horizon, signs of a town coming up. Boa Vista? I knew little of this place, except that is was big enough to show up on the map. 5,000 people or 500,000 no idea. I get into town on the last day of 2010, with an empty feeling here; clean, and safe but empty. Everyone stayed home but i found a gas station and later a bank machine that worked! Strange feeling, a week in a country where my bank card ceased to function would i have money would i be begging for food? Such a relief.


Then, some more searching and unbelievably a hotel comes out of the woodwork but visa didn’t work. Needs a 6 digit code..... don’t worry you don’t have to pay until tomorrow. I pull all the bags off the bike, and spread my stuff out through the hotel room. This was to be my home for how long. Running out of money, i had to take a stand somewhere and decide what i was going to do, how i was going to survive 12000 km from home as the crow flies. Found a gas station and a bottle of wine but unable to find an open restaurant, so returned by a quarter after 12 to lay down with my glass of wine and pig out on chips. Woke up to myself spilling that red wine all over my shirt and the bed. Couldn’t muster much more than to take off the shirt, and move to the other side of the bed. Memorable? Time will tell.



New Friends, Old Feelings


The last morning of 2010 awoke positively and proud of finding a campsite to relax. It was a welcome feeling, this Content Bridge of my childhood transplanted on the southern Gran Sabana of Venezuela. First, a man tells me that i’m 5 minutes walk away from the salto (waterfall) and I realize, in the moments of great loneliness, there can be a respite so close. Nice chat and sip of whiskey with another group, then I cross the river myself camera in hand to get as close to the falls as possible spurned on by the fearless children playing. On return, I begin to pull my camp apart to mitigate the early morning condensation on blankets and tent cover, and interrupted by a short round lady from the nearby cabins asking if I would like some food. Would I? Within 20 mins I’m joining her and her friends at the cabin for a once a year treat Ayaca, an empanada type meal wrapped in plantana leaf. We end up having a long relaxing chat, meeting 3 couples that come to this very place from Valencia and Caracas each year, up to 23 years counting. They all want photos of the bike of course, and to make it special i tell them to climb on, with leather jacket and chrome dome. They invite me to stay there for the huge fire, and i’m extremely tempted. Do i continue this ravenous desire to reach my goal, at the cost of comfort, companionship, and love? Yes, yes I do. I expect I can get that when I get home. Now, is for beating my fears into pulp. Destroying them forevermore. Onward Brasil! Anyone can do this trip, but those who are desperate to change, and want it bad enough, can make it that much further, and that much more enjoyable.

They tell me I have to see Jaspe, and not knowing much about it, I listen anyways without disappointment. A short walk through the indigenous village and an otherworldly sight awaited, with waterfalls over hardrock, through a river bottom made of black hard rock with orange stripes throughout. The beauty of the water flowing overtop of this slick rock was an image i’ll remember forever, and the locals were equally breathtaken, as they laid on the rock, hid behind the waterfall, and let the water refresh them. In a country that seemed so sad and downtrodden and scared, this was their respite, their vacation, their moment in the sun to forget about politics, and money. A highlight of the trip, and such a welcome little surprise.

The river floor plays a brilliant game of deception; it seems to be as craggy as the moon despite being perfectly smooth and flat.



Very Close


I almost died. If not dead, severly injured. Trip would be over. Without insurance, it would have been a nasty mess, a nasty nasty experience to finish this life changing journey. Jail? Hospital? Deaths? It would have been a hell of a way to finish this.

It all started with dogs. The dead ones littering roads had increased sharply since I hit Venezuela, although it had been a common site ever since the mexico uS border. I had been thinking I would like to write a story about these dead dogs, and had decided I would stop the next time I saw one and take a photo for it. Well I finally found one, and even noticed another dog laying there in the grass waiting for it to wake up. My human emotions were firing and dreaming of a wonderfully poignant dog love story. I check both sides of the road, and turn around, driving back towards the dead dog and it’s supposed mate. I had my ipod on, and wondering about what I would write about when a car swerves back into the left lane barely missing me. I stop, and face the music.

Much finger waving. Disappointment. The car of 4 were in a state of much shock and fear of what could have been. Turns out I didn’t see or hear him come up behind me, he thought I was just being slow, and just as he was about to pass me, I start turning around, forcing him to move abruptly back into his lane. I apologize profusely and take full responsibility. I feel immense shame and disappointment in myself and start berating.

But wait. Do I really have to beat myself up over this? Is that really necessary? Yes, I could have died. Yes it was a stupid careless mistake, but so what if I had died? People die. People get killed. People make mistakes. Why should I always hold myself in this perfect regard, beating myself up for being human? Of course I’d be listening to music........ 19000 km of lonely road, and it’s the only company I had most times. This driver snuck out of nowhere on an empty lonely road, and we we would have both been spun into this most upsetting of webs had something bad happened.

I realized life wasn’t about avoiding something happening anymore. It was about moving on, doing the best i could to learn from it, and moving on, moving up , moving ahead. Stopping for the briefest of moments only tempts the desire to live in the past, and not in the present. I’ve lived a lifetime living safely in my bedroom; I would rather die out on the road, than die a slow death in those 4 walls. But why had I made my life so complicated? Why had I made it so hard on myself? Why had I put myself in this position of a life of certain pain & suffering, and thankful death out on the Venezuelan highway? A choice had to be made. It was time to let go of my past, or be the past really quickly. Wake up! Wake up ! Wake up!!!!!

Final Assault


Careful to not jinx anything, my destination country is within reach today. Brasil! Sure, I could have pedal biked down here, but I am still very proud of making it this far exactly the way I did. Do you think you can do it? Of course you can too!

My recent progress, and positivity was from a small gesture, one that involved saying to hell with doing what others wanted me to do. Here is my bike, and tent safely concealed on the grasses of Venezuela......

Banesco

Twice now, this bank has bailed me out. With the equivalent of 50 cents in Bolivars in my pocket, I could get to brazil on gas, but what about unforeseeables, and uhm..... food? So, i got into town, and the two banks were FULL of people. Waiting in line at the first, I finally got told by the lady that no, it wasnt possible. So I went to banesco, and after telling the security guard no i couldnt put my bag anywhere and had to hold on to it, sat down with the promotions person. i could only get 25o bolivars, about 70 bucks but enough of course to get me to brasil. She was missing both middle fingers, and her hands were cleft like. She was so beautiful i made sure to kiss them as a thank you. She blushed. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her help, and kindness.

What would have happened if I couldnt have gotten money?

My way


Sinatra's song has played more than once in my ears on this trip, and it was time to listen. I know a lot of people warned me against sleeping on the side of the road, but I wanted to. I thought about making forts as kids, and how secure and safe I felt. Searching out a place on a deserted side road about half a km from a town, I set up my home, and it was comfy. far enough from the road, although still could hear traffic, and some grass cover to avoid unneccessary attention. Woke up with a renewed sense of purpose. Tired of feeling crazy, different and weird, i just want to do it my way. whether it works or not, it going to me my way. ive come too far on this journey to do it the way someone else suggests. you know what im feeling stronger and more confident. sure a bit more grouchier, but there is a link between doing it your way and happiness. restrictions rules and not being yourself can lead to serious mental conditions. and thats where pharmaceutical companies take their ounce of flesh.

im not enjoying my journey lately. i need to get settled, and meet some locals. i need to speak some english and express myself. i need to stop worrying about money. life is so short. of course i worry about being old, and not having anything. I think of simon bolivar, who liberated many countries down here died lonely, destitute and dissolutioned in Columbia. What the hell is the use of getting so worried about all these things when thats where it leads you? All the fame, glory love and adoration he gets now is not felt or experienced by him. His last thoughts and feelings were probably dark, depressing and extremely sad. BUT, he did use his life for something valuable so the key is to stay buoyed.

Thinking lots about immigration. I dont think it does a damn thing to help the countries from where these people are immigrating from. the best, the brightest and arguably the richest leave the country with their tails between their legs, to return maybe for holidays. Who else is going to have the power to make change in these countries if everyone wants to leave???? the only ones who stay are either seriously committed to their country, or simply cant. 10x the people are born into these countries every year compared to number of immigrants, so who is staying there to educate, to build to grow to help? meanwhile, we get richer, and fatter, and selfish. you dont see any paris hiltons down here.........

Heres the thing our countries WANT to keep these countries down. keep their currencies down, throw them a bit of money that alot goes to the government and not the people. As long as people are still having 6 or 7 kids, and no money to support them, theres going to be a problem. The third world needs to teach themselves how to think, how to think in a way that pulls them out of their predicament, not learn how to beg better, how to make a better sign for help. Then, youre just enabling yourselves.

Chavez


What a guy! One of the first country folk I talked to coming into the border from Columbia shouted ¨chavez numero uno¨! More strange since he just yelled it out to me randomly. Another thought he was completely loco another thought he had a good plan for the country. Me? It´s a complicated situation here. He´s definitely behind a socialist stance, and wants to help the poor, wants to create better education but there´s always the threat of corruption in latin america and its no different here. I like that he is one of the few countries that stands up to the states. Who´s to say the united states policies are the best, and should be used around the world?


Do we really want the whole world to be filled with mcdonalds, and best westerns, and burger kings and malls? Do we really want every single place to look exactly like new york or fresno or Phoenix?


Fine. granted. you can´t give a people a taste of wealth (i.e. here in the 70s with maracaibo oil finds) and then take it away. that´s going to leave some resentment. but a country must find it´s own way, it´s own determination separate from others, and yet connected. their own identity, culture, and way of life. we need some differences, some connections to our past.
What i do know is the highways in this country are bipolar and split personality. a long carreterra of great pavement then, suddenly, BOOM! a big friggen hole in the middle that takes out your spleen. The toll booths are eerily empty, and many signs in the country are faded and warped, peeling off and weathered. Just a lonely, deserted feeling. Not much love and attention.


Of note met a guy who used to work for Precision Drilling before they were kicked out of the country and their assets taken over by Chavez.

Happy Birthday to Me


With a closed door and a roof over my head, I ushered in my 39th year in somewhat of a peaceful sleep, clothes still on, and on top of the sheets. It seemed a while since I had slept. Still queazy a bit, my comfort food of chips and chocolate bar was enough. This morning, I woke up full of body aches, pains and anxiety, dizzy just overall messy. I said ¿¨what the hell its my birthday why not rest a bit?¨ so i did. for about an hour and a half, i napped, and dreamt of Tamwood school in vancouver and maywei, and woke up with the first feeling of i just woke up tiredness in forever. this not sleeping well thing is probably the biggest challenge of the trip. dreaming of bike getting stolen, people extorting me, or being violent and it´s just so ridiculous none of these things have happened except for minor extortion i.e. gringo pricing but it´s all just my subconscious fears playing out in my sleep and it wakes me up everytime i start to dream.
Of a certain dreamy song Travis O. and I used to listen to in junior high: Orinoco Flow by Enya. Yah, we were bitchin'. Never imagined I would be crossing over it sometime (didn't know even where it was), nevermind with my motorbike on the back of a tow truck (see pic above).


Oh well we all have our crosses to bear for sure. speaking of gringo prices, the owner of the bike shop that repaired my bike took me to a hotel and went in first. this will be interesting i thought. he came back out and i´m sure said seisenta cinqo. i went in and gave the guy 70 feeling smug that id give him a little graft as a thank you. he looks at the money for eternity then says ciento cinquenta. Ah hah. now its 150 bolivares. Too tired to care.

Bolivar










Unable to reach my friend in Caracas, I was stuck with a dilemma spend time looking for a place to stay, which I said i was going to, and get back out on the road, out on the city which was the choice i ended with. Getting out of the city was a relief, but still sick and tired i couldn´t go any further, about 30 km west of the city and laid down basically in a garbage pile at the end of a row of food patios. I was only going to lay down and collect myself but it was threatening to rain and I just couldn´t stomach it and either could mcdonalds from earlier which i rejected promptly.

The garbage pile was my home until about 5 am the next morning, and I was off making good time despite seeing the same dead dog on the side of the road..... i had went in a circle near Barcelona. the roads were atrocious split personality ok for some time but then horaciously awful. The biggest one was about noon, when the road was quite good for a stretch and then suddenly a 2 metre deep hole, which i hit going fairly fast. That was probably the last of the last for my rear tire, which blew out between el tigre and cuidad de bolivar by shortly after 5 pm. Within 15 minutes I had flagged down a car with two militaria and their boss who decided they would talk to someone at the gas station to return and help. By 10 pm, and putting my thumb out to every vehicle that passed, I set up tent and stayed the night. Fitful sleep but felt safe there on the side of the highway.

Woke up at 5 again and got ready to go to work. By 730 another moto stopped and Maino stayed with me for 2 hours until a tow truck came. The driver and I went into town and dropped off the bike at the motoshop and went for money. 5 banks and 4 hours later we finally found someone, sweet Johanna, who would get me cash. All others said ´no se puede´. I paid him the equivalent of 200 for 120 km round trip and tow. The guys at the motoshop were good, with the owner´s son who spoke some english and another young dude with a trick gun that shocked you after pulling the trigger i enjoyed making him laugh as I got shocked. Met another local celebrity and his two brothers, and they invited me to his show, where he sings traditional venezuelan cowboy songs.

They had gotten a new tire done up at the llantera, and returned about 4 pm and patiently waited as they put it back on. A surprise was to come about 500 for the whole job gringo price. i am glad to be back on the road, and will be leaving for ciudad de guyana, and manaus brazil. i may be out of communication for a few days but i want to be on the road again, and get to a place i can settle down. I don´t have much left in me at this point, but enough to get to brazil, and get those boy scout badges on my coat.

Luckily i had some bananas and oranges out on the road but as of yet haven´t eaten much since yesterday so a slow meal and sleep and planning the next few days.

Boxing Day

Most places closed down today here in Caracas, Venezuela except TGI Fridays. found the Tolon Mall. Had my first McDonalds in months and took 45 minutes to hold the puke down...... my heart is seriously working overtime right now. First big wrong turn of the trip had to back track about 3okm god the highway signs or lack thereof but a bit more towards the big city. Stuck in the middle now, deciding whether i should get on the road and out of the city, or make my efforts to find a place to sleep.........ok. done. i'm letting go of my want to be in brazil for my birthday. If it happens great, but it's more important to get some sleep tonight and recover. Need to find a hostel; I've blown $200 in two nights on decent hotels, only to stay in them for sleeping. It was nice to treat but I'll be broke in no time at that pace. speaking of pace.......

Christmas in Venezuela

Just finished a skype video call with my family at the folk's house.......... i felt like a futurama head in a jar........... but very satisfied and complete. About 5 hours to Caracas from here, should get in there about 8 pm local time; i think we're the same time as newfoundland.

Merry Christmas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv7NWjUyHug

I love that the link has 'Hug' on the end of it...........

70's



A marked change from motos to late 70's chryslers with duct tape holding hoods down and plastic covering windows. With 30 years comes replacement parts of different colors, rust, and breaking down and these guys just keep on repairing them. It was through to Maracaibo by police escort despite my fears, then over a beautifully engineered bridge of at least 2 km over the ocean gulf only to meet more rain at 6 had to work to get to Barquisimeto by 10 and for a 2 hour search finally found a really nice hotel as a treat. stayed up til 430 catching up and looking forward to connecting with friends for xmas. Some worry back home as I hadn't been in contact for 2 days. Extremely challenging out on the road, as the thunder was directly overhead, and water soaking me to the bone. Stopped at a bus shelter only to back out and fall over the edge of the concrete, dropping the bike for now the fourth time; each time fortunately at speeds 0 and 2 km/hour.

The Elements


Alfredo introduced me to his novya and family and we talked about Canada. Always a bit nervous as I feel people think that immigrating would make their lives better; more jobs, more money, more things........ less family? Realized how out of practice I was just sitting and chatting, or sitting and listening from being out on the road alone so much. His sister make me some chicken and potato stew for breakfast, then we went and washed the bike then he ushered me out of town. Drove all day until about 10 pm when the rains became torrential. Finding a nice porch area seemed deserted I set up camp for the night. Felt an odd sense of calm, security and inner peace despite being in a foreign country on somone's property - didn't have to pay, or worry about talking with anyone - just set up my bed and bike and went to sleep, not waking up until 5 am. Had a little buddy chat and watch as I set up, and said goodbye to Palomino, Columbia at 7 to reach the border at around 1230. All smooth, until the Customs office was closed with visions of christmas spent at the border -eek. Finally a guy opened up the door and got things going - he put on a bit of an 'official' air and freaked when I took out my camera to take a picture of Chavez's portrait. Every border town has a bit of desperation, but I was committed to staying positive and strong.

Columbia Baby!!!!

Arrived in Columbia by crazy boat yesterday and now further inland took about 3 hours to drive 33 km through 2 bridges that were completely out but we´re through staying with a friend i met on the road and will be heading to caracas for christmas......... doesn´t that sound nice love you all very much talk more soon.........

Dian


Got up early and decided today would be a good day, starting with being open again to myself and others. Orlando and I had a nice chat first thing, as I got the bike ready for the day’s journey. He provided me with some water free of charge, and I needed to get rid of a Central America book, so I gave it to him and told him he had to practice his English. It was then off to ‘Dian’, or the Customs office for my moto, the whole reason for my backtracking to Turbo. The gate was closed with a whole new set of militaria there to greet me. After a quick sign in, I was through to more mud-filled roads and water-filled holes. At the end of the road I finally found ‘Dian’, and was escorted through by a private security guard. I was faced with 3 or 4 cubicles and hoped successfully to get the nice looking woman. It went smoothly and i chatted with her about her family, who are all grown and in university, and coming back to Turbo for Xmas. She even gave me some coffee to drink. Then, back through the mud-filled streets and the bank machine. People have been so friendly throughout my trip, and I needed only to ask one person for directions to it.


After, I stopped at a store, and soon was overwhelmed with what seemed like the entire town surrounding me and the bike. Fortunately I had created friendliness and openness so I took it all in stride. I had just gotten down about my ability to communicate in Spanish but all told I can definitely get around. I gave the kids candies just like my grandpa Butson used to. That felt really nice. All of this, just to get back to my starting point from the day before, Necocle, where some gas and a fine meal awaited. I felt rich with my four $50,000 peso bills, which together added up to $100. Then the adventure began, with two bridges out, and roads that would make you physically sick if you thought you were going to go through them. Spurned by my successes with people and bridges, I carried on, and met a couple who were on their way to Barranquila. The next guy I met ended up inviting me into his house, and his town, Monteria. Alfredo, the man.


He was in the military police for 10 years in the narcotics division, and after getting shot 3 times, once in the neck, he decided enough was enough. Now he keeps busy with his love life, and touring hapless Canadians around, although I am sure I was the first considering the starstruck response I got from his girlfriend’s family. It was, and always has been difficult fielding questions about Canada, specifically immigration and work. I usually feel uncomfortable, as I’m not sure if they are looking for me to sponsor them, which would be a big responsibility. I would like to sponsor them all if it weren’t for the enormity of it all. None of the family seem to have jobs, despite living in a beautiful home that is well taken care of. It’s like all the money has dried up somehow.


It got me to thinking of the need for home-grown talent. We really are not helping these countries by letting the best and the brightest into our countries and expecting them to help out back home too. It’s such a drop in the bucket, and meanwhile things are just getting worse and worse in Columbia. What would it take to make a positive change down here? I’m sure it’s not more Denny’s and Best Westerns but unfortunately the executives of big American chains are greedy enough to come in and start making money wherever they can. As long as the government is friendly to them, taxes aren’t too high, and the place is safe, these companies are raring at the bit to get in. We need more locals creating a whole new way of life. As long as they know that Canada, US and Europe are the ‘haves’, they are going to want that as well. The ‘Have-nots’ are going to want more, and why shouldn’t they? Microcredit from banks has worked in India and look out for that country.


I just wonder: what the hell is this world going to look like when we all have nice refrigerators, 2 new cars, a big house with lights on 24/7, and hot water to bath and shower as many times as we like? I doubt the world’s current infrastructure can handle the electrical needs, not to mention the land area for cows so that everyone can eat 2 big macs a day. Certainly no easy answers but if I had to choose, I would definitely say home-grown, self actualized countries creating their own vision for the future. When most of the population are only thinking about making babies, it is an interesting conundrum to wonder where the hell they will go from here, with or without our tampering.

Sunburn


It is December 22nd just a few days away from Christmas and I’m sunburnt in a hotel room with a tap for a shower and a toilet without a seat, all in one tiled cubicle. The Columbian waves are crashing outside and a tailless gecko is climbing on the wall. I will say the management of the hotel has decorated the restaurant portion nicely with xmas lights and shiny stars to fit the occasion, all of which did nothing when the power was out for ½ hour last night....... made for a nice candlelight dinner of fish in mushroom sauce.


Tired, but feeling dry, sore but comfortable, I can now look back on the last five days and contemplate in a much healthier positive way. I won’t minimize the intensity of my thoughts and feelings out there on the boat, but I can clearly identify what the bug in my craw really was, and how it was effecting me. It came down to a surreal experience out on the reef to finally piece it all together.


In a nutshell, my feelings centred around that there was something defective about me, something not quite right. It was especially upsetting imagining I would somehow be sentenced to a lifetime of this torture, with not even the slightest bit of ignorant bliss to float me along. I started comparing myself hardcore to others on the boat, and wondering why I wasn’t like them: why I couldn’t chat like one of them, and why I wasn’t as successful business wise as another, or why I wasn’t as comfortable with women as another. I knew it was a habit, and I knew I had to break out of it, but I was still left with a sick and isolating feeling that something was very wrong. So, I spent a lot of time by myself, and only until the end really made somewhat of an effort to connect. But, back to that reef........


What I saw was beauty. Beauty in diversity. Sure, some fish were stellar in appearance, but others seemed to be doing just fine slightly chunky, slow moving, and spiny. They didn’t fit my vision of beauty, but there they were, obviously filling a purpose out there on the reef and surviving nicely. Their species had made it through the evolutionary gauntlet and had made it despite the obvious dangers of ocean living. I got to thinking about being the best Jason I could be, with all my quirks, weirdnesses, faults and not so perfect traits, to embrace them and make them work for me. Stop reading self help books, stop interviewing others or mimicking others to try and glean some wisdom for living from them. It was a realization how scared I still have been to really show my true self, and to face the consequences of being me in a world where most people would rather just have you fit into a nice little convenient box.


Where did that goofy funny guy go, and who replaced him with a depressed, worried serious killjoy? I did, that’s who. I was the one who took my joy away, and I will be the one who brings it back, step by step little by little. It’s a lame excuse to say I can’t do it in Columbia, Venezuela or Brazil where I don’t speak the language, or know anyone. This is the perfect place to do it. What a wonderful bit of self-expression i saw yesterday on the road – and they didn’t seem to care a bit about the cleanup to come!



Woke up as usual around 6 am to the rolling of the boat, accustomed somewhat after 4 days on the ocean. Everyone was still asleep and looking at the GPS saw we were tapped into Sapsurro Columbia; thought it wise to stay awake and get out on the bow and watch for reefs...... was a beautiful serene morning scene and the seasickness was held at bay in this position also. About 730 we were into the bay with expectant launchers coming up to the boat to show us their boats, and capacity in hopes of attracting our business, and passengers to a further point. It looked to be another nerve wracking boat transfer from the big fantasy boat to a smaller launcher, and it was my decision in the end, one that would effect 6 of us, and a bike. I went for the 500,000 peso offer (about $333, of which I paid $128) and bonnie was propped up nicely on the middle seat, and we all packed on, with the owner’s 15 year old son at the helm. We picked up 3 others, and stopped shortly in Capurna to get passports stamped – just as we were ready to go, a boat load of people came to dock and the police ushered us away to wait another 30 minutes.


Once on the open ocean, we were enjoying the ups and downs of a full speed 20’ launcher until the water started splashing in – it was to be a 2 ½ hour ride to the other side of the gulf where a road existed. We were soaked upon arriving. 6 guys met us on the shore, and we muscled the bike out of the boat and onto the beach. I was down to my last $1 for a tip, so I gave them my ½ bottle of Seco and Coke as a thank you. They all watched me laboriously put on my soaking wet leathers as I headed out backtracking to Turbo, where I needed to get to customs for my bike. Upon arrival there, I drove through numerous sewage filled holes in the streets and muddied up pretty bad, getting into a pretty rough part of town despite it being sunny. After a few queries I got on the right road to customs, and through really treacherous muddy dirt roads got to a army stop point. It was closed. Open the next morning at 8, so went back a ways on the road and thankfully they accepted visa for a hotel and meal. I wasn’t about to go back into that town unless i had to. Struggled with some pretty lonely feelings, and hardly believing this place I’m driving through is Columbia, a place I never really thought I would be in.


20th Stopped near Coco Banderas with numerous islands surrounded by reefs. I had been grouchy and isolated for 3 days so felt it necessary to take the snorkel out and get moving. Hard to breath but the underwater life was so tremendous, especially the black angels with iridescent dark/light blue dots – my favourite. My thoughts raced – not good enough, you are nothing, you don’t exist, you’re never going to amount to anything so I decided to prove them wrong and snorkel around the entire island. The north side waves kept pushing me back and back and back without any forward movement but I wasn’t about to give up. I got to the northeast side in about a foot of water when the waves started to have their way with me. With waves on top, and glass sharp coral underneath I got pretty ripped up, and was screaming in pain. Finally had to stand up, walk to shore in my flippers, and through to the opposite side of the island, where I met a guy from the Darien Gapster who said the dinghy (Tattoo) had to leave without me, and they were all waiting on the boat for me. Alex doctored me up when I returned and everyone was pretty shocked at the state of my back.


Captain Jack was the skipper of our boat, and we talked together quite a bit. After open heart surgery and 23 years working his way up to Executive VP of a Chemical company, he decided to sell it all, buy the boat from Fantasy Island, and take 6 years to sail around the world. He had fallen in love with Panama, and set up a hostel/bar/boat service there 2 years ago. With a long ponytail he looks the part of the Expat living the life, but smoking 2 packs a day belies any chance of relaxation. Funny, all I can really get from my memory of Jack is to just get out there and make it happen. Not much time for a relationship so he just takes what he can get in that department. He’s 60 something and still working his tail off trying to get people interested in Portobello and Panama. He took 2 weeks of boat training and passed the more difficult test with flying colors. He just makes it happen with a chuckle and not too much stress. He stayed up every night with people a quarter his age, and always had something interesting to add to the conversation.

Self Isolation


To tie up most of my 4 days on the boat would be to say isolated, self-absorbed depressed self loathing. In a place where most would be in pure heaven I was in pure hell. Sublimed to read Where the Red Fern Grows, didn’t go visit the other boats with my crew, and stayed in bed as long as possible. I was comparing myself to others, specifically those who talked more, who seemed more of the centre of the party you know those who always have something to say. I just felt dumb......... I just felt like I didn’t have anything important or worthwhile to say and I gave into that completely. At my worst I felt like I was in a black hole, and it took some time for me to finally pull myself out of it. I just had visions of me stuck in my head for the rest of my life, unable to get out unable to shine, to live to breath. It was a humbling experience and one I must soon forget and move on. Still scared to push myself, so scared to be tired, so scared to put myself out there and really work at something, to feel uncomfortable. I get in these moods sometimes, and it's hard to get out.

Don't Do This

We had other captains join us from time to time and this story took the books. A year ago, a gringo found a bunch of cocaine, ended up selling it for $27,000 then hid the money on an island. 3 kunas found out about it, tortured his son to death, then tortured and killed him after finding the location of the money. The bodies were found without any arms or legs and head, and horribly mutilated what was left of it. The Kunas, an indigenous group who own the islands off of Panama, decided to do some ethnic cleansing back in the early 20th century, killing off anyone who was not 100% kuna; moral of the story these guys can be bad ass if they want to. Today, they simply sell amazing artwork, and ask the odd captain to recharge their cell phones (of which we did, and forgot to give it back before heading 4 hours away!)

Anxious to Get Going



Despite hustling back from the shit hole of Colon with $800 in hand, Captain Jack was no where to be found. He had decided to venture to Panama City in hopes of attracting at least one more traveller on our boat to make it a bit more worthwhile of a trip. This meant another night at the hostel, which could have been worse, with a young Canadian bartender I nicknamed Dilly Bar at the helm slinging Cuba Libres. They have a great bar game there involving a hook on the wall, and a ring on a string. This thing was the hit of the party and I got pretty good at it to the point it would only take me a couple tries and I would have it swung and hung onto the wall. I even hit it a couple times in a row a few times. More Canadiana: the massive timber sitting in the middle of their patio was harvested underwater by an enterprising Canadian selling them for $10,000a piece and taken from the flooded area resulted from the creation of the Panama Canal. Finally, there was a string of world flags in the main area and not one Canadian that I could see so I made up for that by stringing about 20 of ‘em across the ceiling. This was one of the gifts mom and jod had sent me in a care package received in San jose, Costa Rica. ¿Overkill>? Nnnaaaahhhh........



Captain Jack

absolutely no ferry in colon despite AAA map saying so. Ended up in Portabello, where 2 families were killed by mudslides this week..... tragic. Had to go all the way back today for cash and tried 4 different banks finally success and $800 later we should be boarding a boat for Columbia in an hour or so. Captain Jack will have me as a crew and our boat is called Fantasy, known better for its role in the 70s show Fantasy Island. well be pallet wrapping the bike and putting onto the boat deck. first is san blas island where the indigenous people have lived relatively the same for thousands of years, then Sepsura with a necessary 2nd boat to take me to Targo or something. andy and i are still 45 minutes away from the hostel and theyre waiting. hope to say hi again in 5 to 7 days

http://www.captainjackvoyages.com/contactus.html

Colon


With conflicting views whether there was a ferry to Cartagena Columbia I decide to go into Colon anyways, winding through streets that look like they've been bombed. I luck out and find a cafe to relieve my bloated bladder, and an official looking guy walks out, and I promptly ask him where the ferry is, if it exists. He sent me on my way, and with 2 other helpers found my way to the Raddison, where the local kids resort to rollerblades to get around. So, I am now looking for this ferry, and if I find it, I will be on it for the next 3 days. Love to all.

Everybody's got a story that will break your heart!

Blowing Over

The Policia, with his stern face, gave away some resemblance of humanity when I looked into his eyes. Perhaps this assisted in a positive final outcome. Out of nowhere, at around 7 pm, red pylons show up on the left hand side of the road, and a Policia is standing there in his dark green fatigues and cap. He proceeds to show me his radar, clocked at 76. Limit on the non-existent sign (or a sign that, like other signs here have been worn down to braille) was 60. Three other plainsclothes were there as well, and the one asked me for my passport to which I responded "why are you wearing regular clothes?" to which he promptly unzipped his nike sweater and pulled out ID. The Policia and I walk together into the square office, thankfully getting away from the crowd of others, and I'm definitely feeling the heat in this place right out of the third world. Wires hanging out of the walls, a small desk with antiquated paperwork and books on top. He opens his book to show the fine for speeding: $50. Okay. I got too close.

1/2 hour before, I almost dropped the bike to stop at a place with xmas lights thinking I could grab a bite, only to find they sold alcohol only. Well, what to do? Have a cuba libre, and try one of the local drinks. 2 total. He smelt it on my breath.

So, he pulls out the breathalyzer, an experience to wreak havoc on any Canadian's state of mind. It takes forever and numerous attempts, as he shows me how to breath properly into it. Finally, he gets the reading he wants, and shows it to me: 8. Whatever that meant, he was soon getting quite agitated; we were now both fully putting on our best acting performances of the year: him, trying to extort as much pain and suffering from me as possible, and I, trying to get some connection with this guy as a last resort. He shows me another number in his book for driving under the influence: $1500, with the last 0 blocked out in blue pen, accompanied with a 350 km trip into Panama City.

I ask him if I can pay him here and now. He says if you don't mind I don't mind. So, I ask if $100 is ok, and he replies "too much". I end up giving him what I had on me, 2 crisp twenties and a fiver. Complicating my escape, I temporarily hide my passport and license somewhere and have the whole group assist me in finally finding it in the front pouch of my bag.

So Far Away

A couple days easy drive away from the Panama Canal, and all I can think about is how far i have pushed myself away from me. From spending time doing things I didn't want to, I wreaked havoc on my health; i found the outer limits of being human, and danced on the razor's edge for so long....... it's amazing I still care, still want to live and connect. From 2 decades of trying to be what I thought was expected of me, or what it would take to survive, I completely lost out on the joys of life, of living a life that is truly my own, truly representative of where I light up, where I gain my strength from. It will be a long road back, but I am already enjoying the journey.

And Then....

It was a pure blessing the rain didn't hit until after I was down the mile and a half steep gravel road from the finca, but it felt far from it when it did. Soaked within seconds, I could hardly see from the rain pounding behind my glasses, with goggles stored away behind me. This was only 1o km from the border, and, thinking I could not make it, pulled into a seemingly empty house porch to wait it out. Within a few minutes a child is screaming something as if to say "whoever's there get out!" I look out and up to the 2nd floor and see him and his mom, and I clamber to explain I'm simply hiding out for a few minutes longer to escape the rain. I'm unable to relieve her concern, and reverse my statement to one of "I'm ready to go thank you".

What was to come next? A routine car line-up again, and electing to pass them as motorbikes do, found that the cars were getting more and more congested on this highway - waiting to get through the border? No, trying, one car at a time, to get past a humongous tree that had fallen right on the road. I shimmy through the line-up, and see a trail off the pavement, only to have a large truck trying to come back my way, with a man violently shaking his hands at me to back up. The edge of the pavement was about 6" higher than the trail I was on, and with highway tires, 600 lbs. of bike, slick, rain-soaked roads, I couldn't get back up on to the road. I waited for him to pass, then kept going on this trail, looking for a low spot to get back up not without some sense of panic. After two nail-biting attempts, I do.

The border was the regular schmozzle, so I took the first person to offer to help me navigate the process. CJ's english was excellent; if you call living in Jersey for 12 years excellent. Turns out he prefers the quieter, slower pace down here and could go back to the states whenever he wants. He had to leave me at the Panama border, with instructions on which door to go through first, second, and third. One of the places was tantamount bureacracy: walking up a flight of circular stairs, a lady was there to stamp my paperwork. That's it. Just a stamp. Honestly, all of the other 4 places were similar, with stacks of paper on tables, and people lined up. I had to go through part of the procedure again because of my registration papers not showing the license of the bike. I tried to stay my old charming self throughout.

Panama seemed to have the same affinity for signs and directions as San Jose. On the advice of Mateo and Erica, I went looking for Boquete, a Colorado-type resort town north of David. Directions: turn left at the mall. It took me a couple tries but I did finally get to the sign that said "Bienvenidos Boquete"........... but there was hardly anything there. Just a few houses on either side of the road. For the next hour, I went back and forth 3 times, into a farmer's yard, into a processing station, and finally got it that the town was much further away from the first sign. Rain-soaked and friggen freezing, I pulled into the first place with a sign of life in it. It was a Chinese restaurant and i found it amusing that it felt like home. The young Panamanian server, and his boss, Chong, introduced me to Jonathan, an American who came down here building houses for doctors and now happened to have built a hotel. We spoke formalities and got down to business. "$60 a night? I thought Panama was cheap?" "That's the going rate around here anyways", Jonathon slightly drawled. I told him $50 and we got a deal. It was a nice room, with fuzzy tv, water sprinkling out of the tap, and 3 minutes of hot water. Couldn't find the front desk so I had to shower without a towel.

This morning involved waking up in a lot of muscle pain, so it was off to stretch and go for a half an hour run. Am I racist for thinking it fascinating to see someone of Chinese descent speak Spanish?

excerpt from Better Off Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

There really is no end to the possible uses of technology, nor are there limits to finding a way around it; but in all cases it must serve our needs, not the reverse, and we must determine these needs before considering the needs for technology The willingness and the wisdom to do so may be the hardest ingredients to come by in this frenetic age. Perhaps what is needed most of all, then, are conditions favorable to them: quiet around us, quiet inside us, quiet born of sustained meditation and introspection. We must set aside time for it, in our churches in our studies, in our hearts. Only when we have met this last requisite, I suspect, will technology yield its power and become a helpful handservant. Mary and i still turn on the kerosene lamp and read by the fire on a cold winter's eve. By switching off the electric light, I think we see a bit better.

excerpts from The Tao of Inner Peace Diane Dreher

Only one woman I knew didn't play this game. Pat told us when she was busy, when she could meet for lunch or tea. Phone calls with her averaged five minutes at most. Centred and disciplined, she was writing a novel and selling short stories while the rest of us squandered our energies over the wires.

Years of pleasing others had made her emotionally numb. Even her movements were stiff, almost mechanical. Out of touch with her centre, she met other people's needs until opposing loyalties turned conflict into crisis. The opposing "shoulds" were pulling her apart.

Intelligent and strong minded, Jim succeeds in every venture until he suddenly loses interest. Once the initial excitement fades, he decides this career isn't right for him and moves on. His centre, his identity, always remains outside. The elusive goal beckons, just beyond his grasp, promising this time.

What makes an intelligent woman such a chameleon? She keeps placing her cetnre outside in the hands of the man she loves. Once she gives herself away Christa becomes compulsively attached to her man, fussing, clinging and driving him crazy when he pulls away, strangled by her.

At birth all people are soft and yielding.
At death they are hard and stiff.
All green plants are tender and yielding.
At death they are brittle and dry.
When hard and rigid,
we consort with death.
When soft and flexible,
We affirm greater life. - Tao 76

Duane Elgin writes in Voluntary Simplicity that "Our civilizational crisis has emerged in no small part from the gross disparity that exists between our relatively underdeveloped 'inner faculties' and the extremely powerful external technologies now at our disposal. "As it is within, so it is without." An imbalanced world results from personal imbalance The Tao teaches uws to slow down, look within, and make wiser choices.

Lyle began work early, helping run his parents' theater in Little Falls, MN and found "there was always something interesting to do." Part of his detachment is humility. Over the years, he's worked with contractors, plumbers, and electricians, doing much of the work himself. "I never felt I was better than anyone I hired, " he told us. "Everything is an interesting job, a challenge," and he added again, "I never felt there was anything I don't like to do." People like Lyle live with wholeness of purpose, avoiding inner conflict. They embrace everything they do with interest and enthusiasm, the joy of Tao.

Living harmoniously takes effort. It's easy to fall into lazy thought patterns, succumbing to anger, resentment, self-pity, or the other negative emotions that tug away at us, dragging us into destructive cycles.

Kimbo Slice














We got to talking about stories, which are the crux of a community's culture. Forever sewn into the fabric of the Finca's culture is the story of a white English Bulldog named Kimbo Slice. Erica, who hadn't even seen their new adopted dog from San Jose, was told on the phone by Matt, (who was in tears) that Kimbo had freaked out and ran across the bridge, and had been missing for a few days. The story goes that every man in camp was out looking for this dog, and finally found some evidence of his tracks going up into the hill, accompanied with puma tracks about 3 times as large as his. Signs of a struggle showed further up the hill, with only puma tracks exiting the area. That was day 5. On Day 12, a guy by the name of Paul was out into the finca's forest when he screamed Matt's name. Everyone ran over to Paul immediately, and saw a big bulldog head with emaciated body barely alive behind him. The local Tico's were convinced it was a ghost, that's how bad that dog looked. His eyes were caked open with layers of gunk, a 25 pound weight loss, and two deep gashes on the side of his neck. Today, he's as stupid as ever, mostly blind from the experience, but still the finca's protector with an affinity for balloons and Chester.

TreeTop Transformations









“I hope people show up,” Erica asks, more to herself than anyone. “Honey, drop it,” her husband replies as gracefully as possible considering the situation. “Ok,” she says, quickly pulling herself together. Although a good day for Erika and Matteo “Matt” Hogan often involves several stressful moments, today’s inaugural Open House at Finca Bellavista is different. After 5 years of developing the first sustainable tree house community in the world, their farm, located in the south-western jungle of Costa Rica, is ready for some big-time attention. With everyone from the governor, to local farmers and friends on the RSVP list, there is much more at stake here than showcasing an alternative lifestyle, the business itself hinges on attracting some serious investors.

It didn’t start out that way. Matt’s 2005 memorable surfing trip on the coast of Costa Rica ended with a convincing phone call to Erika to join him in the Osa Region. “The initial plan was to buy a little fixer-upper surf shack,” explains Matt, “and to switch between Colorado and here.” Surveying the area, they settled on a 62 acre secondary growth plot, marketed as a ‘fast-return on investment’ due to it being tagged as a timber harvest site. As soon as the early 30-somethings fell in love with the area, they found 9 other farms being sold for the same reason. “We’re going to have to buy the whole mountain to save it,” Matt told Erika. After petitioning each of the owners, mortgaging their home, and pooling their life savings, they held the title to over 350 acres of Costa Rican rain forest. The question then became what to do with it. In a monumental dream state, Erika free-formed “Why don’t we build an Ewok Village with zip-lines and bridges?” After some research, they realized it was possible and from that first machete-wielded trip through their property, they set to work.

Their first 18 months resembled more of a mud pit than a construction site, but determined to work with as little impact on the environment as possible, Erika, Matt, and 35 Ticos slept under a tarp, washed in the river, and used a hole in the ground for a toilet. Their dedication and commitment to the integrity of their project was monumental, fighting off flesh-eating insects, watching for deadly snakes, and flash floods, that could bring a 6 foot wall of water through the ravine in seconds.

The groundwork was being set for their unimaginable project, with paths hewn out of the mountain-side, indigenous trees planted, the land surveyed and strategy planned meticulously. By being completely ‘off-the-grid’, it was solely Erika and Matt’s responsibility to ensure healthy long-term growth. Electrical needs were to be satisfied through solar panels, water used from rain catch and an artesian well, and waste eliminated through bio-digesters. Transportation throughout the forest would rely solely on the footpaths, and zip-lines. Meals were meant to be primarily harvested from the garden and the only time one would have to leave would be for the 3 B’s: beef, beer, and booze.

The Hogans became an unstoppable force of PR after others became interested in getting involved. Every step forward took them one step deeper into the project, as the details of developing a community from scratch became more complicated. Complicating things further, both the government, and private professional companies severely hampered their progress through corruption, and costly errors. One specific surveying error cost the project over $750,000 in lost property, and $300,000 to rectify it. As the couple were far from a conglomerate with wealthy investors behind them, major setbacks threatened Finca Bellavista on a daily basis. Without advertising, and relying on word-of-mouth and a website, 45 of the 94 plots they subdivided were sold at up to $65,000 each, providing the necessary capital to build a much-needed road, hydro-electric generator, a community centre, and open-air verandah. It seemed they weren’t the only ones who preferred watching toucans, macaws, or bands of white-faced capuchin monkeys travel through the rain forest canopy rather than TV, or the sound of the river and crickets chirping at night over the din of constant traffic.

So, how did the open-house go after all? Over 50 people showed up, ranging in age from 6 months to over 60 years, but one notable face was absent: the governor. Despite receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, a new police station, a public road and bridge, the government has not shown any special gratitude for the continuing tax dollars, local employment, and investment interests the project has created. He is not the only one who seems less than thrilled over a couple of gringos in their territory. The couple almost died this week in a car crash due to faulty brakes installed by a local mechanic. “I’ll be going down there and asking for my money back”, Matt quipped, without any hint of giving up his fight.

http://www.fincabellavista.net/


Videos of my journey

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