Saturday, April 21, 2007


It is on days like today that i realize why people from around the world flock to this city that I inhabit. Surely it must be the first real day of spring today, Central Park was in full bloom with every tree lit up in pink, white, purple, etc. Absolutely breathtaking day here. To round it off, I did a park clean-up with about 8000 other New Yorkers way way up on the upper west side early this morning before running an errand and then dusting off the rollerblades for a tour de Central Park, complete with a watchful gaze of the roller-skate/blade disco/funk dancing and a freestyle bongo drumb ensamble. What an absolutely stunning day....

J. Riley, I'm finally recovered from my stomach, tomorrow I restart bootcamp...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Left Hurting

Just when I thought everything was going right, I am left hurting.

A couple weeks back, two weeks+ into my new bootcamp workout routine (which hasn't been re-established thanks to the standard two-week Tupac Amaru's Revenge), I started noticing that my left heal was bothing me when I wear my stiff leather shoes to work. It's a blister-like sensation, but there is no blister and it feels like it is on the inside of my skin rather than the outside. It doesn't hurt to the touch, it doesn't hurt when I stretch back there, so I don't know what's wrong, but it doesn't seem to be going away. So, I have self-diagnosed it to be a ruptured achilles (the same doctor diagnosed my brain tumor a few years back, as some of you remember).

Then, on top of this, my left calf is notoriously tight and went ballastic on me earlier in the week, knotting up like a sailor's yoke and hurting when I pressed in on the massive ( :o/) muscle underneath the skin. It's possible that has to do with dehydration from Tupac Amaru's Revenge.

Finally, it has relented to it's standard just-tight stage and now my glutious maximus feels all bruised (no vulgar comments, por favor ;o) just behind on the outside of my hips even though all I did all weekend is lay in bed trying to recover from my illness....

J. Riley, I have a sneaking suspicion all or some of this may be connected. Literally. And figuratively.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Around The World in Four Days

I know that I typically can squeeze more time into a vacation than most people are able to cope with, but I do declare that I think this is a record. Two red-eye'd, seven hour flights, two 4-5 hour bus rides, and five servings of ceviche, all in four days! I guess that might have something to do with the reason I was exhausted on Monday!

So yea, last month Erika de Peru told me that she has four days off in April for Saint's Week/Easter. So I had to do some serious cost analysis to decide how much four days with my girl was worth. Let's see, wait until October to see her for a week or spend my tax-refund money on a short trip to get to know her better and see if the sparks are still flying. The choice was obvious!

After several text messages from her about being nervous about my arrival, I was the nervous one when I walked through customs to a massive throng of people (mostly taxi drivers hawking their services) in Lima and didn't see her. I walked towards the exit and thought to myself, damn. What do I do now? I just stood there like the gringo I am for a few minutes before my eyes lit up when I saw Erika walking shyly towards me. We talked for a few minutes and then jumped in a cab to her friend's house nearby. I got warned pretty quick for flashing my wallet too much when paying the cab driver and realized that, oh yea, I'm in Lima Central. Not advisable.

Once we met up with her friend, we ran a few errands like finding the nearest Citibank, buying piping hot rolls for breakfast, fresh tamales from the street vendors, and headed home for breakfast. While the girls were in the kitchen, I got the chance to clean up (the shower had one knob - no hot water) before sitting down to a....saannn....chicha(?), sanchicha(?), sachicha(?), hot-dog-with-more-flavor (essentially sausages) breakfast which hit the spot. Ahhh...South American food is sooo underrated!

Late morning, we headed to the crazy-busy bus station to take our $7 bus ride four hours down to Ica, a small city south of Lima. It was the official "last weekend of the summer", which is when pretty much everyone leaves Lima for places like Ica and why the place was packed, with buses leaving every five minutes.

Our hotel in Ica was surprisingly sparse for a three-star hotel, but since I'm comfortable in youth hostels, it was fine for me - though a safe would have been nice considering the amount of cash I was carrying, not to mention my laptop and other valuables. But the hotel had a nice pool in the middle (filled with partying drunks when we arrived - classy!) and was located in a very quiet area outside of town.

With the visitor's guide in hand, Erika (an event-planner by profession) started planning the days out, hour by hour, which was fine with me. This is mildly ironic because (as many people who travel with me can attest) usually I am the ones who does all the planning on my trips, but usually I do it a few months before the trip, not the day I arrive :).

So, over the course of the next few days, we followed her general itinerary. The first day we were both exhausted (she actually got less sleep than I did on my flight!) so we had dinner and went to check out some discos, which were all closed because the city is very religious and everything closed until Saturday (after Good Friday).

Friday, we rented a cab for the day to take us around the city and went to an area that was famous for the witches (I didn't completely follow the story here) and had a crazy palm tree that had like seven arms growing out rather than up, like a spider. Very eery! We also went to a city that was surrounded by giant sand dunes that had a lagoon at the bottom. As appealing as a land-locked lake (more like big pond) in a developing nation is, I resisted the urge to go swimming in it. And I promise it wasn't because of the tale of the sirens at the bottom of it that drowned men ;o) ! Then we headed out of town to a winery and got a tour and (gasp!) went wine tasting! Too bad there were too many people waiting for the wine, so we went in and bought ourselves a bottle for the hotel and a very very nice bottle for her family and paid a total of about $15. Gotta love it!

After a ceviche lunch (standard - and awesome!) we walked around town and down some shady streets (being a gringo walking down streets with car-part storefronts worries me for some reason :o/ ) and checked out the local church and went to the town's main square. We found some tour operators there and booked a two-hour dune-buggy and sand-boarding trip for an hour later, which gave us time to take a motor-taxi / tuk-tuk to the hotel, change, and then get back.

I gotta tell you about these motor-taxi / tuk-tuks. These are basically motorcycles with two seats in the back covered by canvas (no roll-cage of course) and they are all over the city, flying around corners at break-neck speeds. They are cheap, dangerous to ride in (for obvious reasons), and absolutely uncomfortable because you feel every bump in the road. So, of course, I incessantly bugged Erika about wanting to take one of them until she finally caved in (it wasn't a hard sell, she's not exactly high maintenance) and we took one back to our hotel. The hilarious thing about these things (along with most of the mini-Daewoo taxis) is that they are totally decked out and customized by the owner. They all had those mexi-lettering words across the back of them with either their name, their wive's name, the name of a saint, or something about the Virgin Mary. They had random stickers inside, multiple mini-stuffed animals suctioned to the inside windshield and filling the dashboard, and some taxis even had cool neon lights inside that would light up every time they stepped on the breaks or something. How awesome is that?? Taxis and motor-taxi's rock!

Our dune buggy trip was kinda a mess, totally disorganized and we missed the sunset on the dunes and basically rode off cliffs in the dark :o/ . Rather than attempting to sand-board down gigantic mountains in the pitch black, I opted for the laying-on-the-board-and-hold-on-like-your-life-depended-on-it-(because-it-probably-does) approach, which was easily one of the scariest things I've done in my life. I almost ran over a couple people at the bottom of the hill because I am so awesome at gaining speed with my eyes closed and white-knuckled gripping of the sandboard (which is basically a piece of ply-wood).

After returning to the hotel, Lilliana joined us and we experienced: THE PROCESSION. I had no idea what a procession was. Isn't that what they do at like funerals? Well, this was the big event of the week and when we were downtown, I couldn't help but ask question after question to the point of annoyment to Erika and Lili about what exactly was going on. There was a multi-ton statue of Jesus that was paraded through town while being held up by about 50 men and every quarter-block, it would stop, the men would switch out with a plethora of other men who were lined up for blocks for the honor of holding this thing up. At the same time, there's Latin music being played on one stage, prayers being said on another stage, and about a million people in the square holding candles.

Saturday was our romantic day of relaxation, taking a day-long bus and boat tour out to Paracas National Park, which is large, coastal natural reserve with islands which have been referred to (correctly or not) as "The Peruvian Galapagos". There were millions of birds, penguins, barking adult and baby seals, and even an indigenous native-carved image on the side of the cliff. They were reminiscent of the Central/Monterey Coast, but not as spectacular and grand. But, then again, California doesn't have penguins :o)!

We also stopped at a few very scenic vistas like Cathedral Rock and also the ceviche restaurant where we had expensive and decent ceviche on a small peninsula. There were a few beautiful pictures to be taken there as you might have seen!

Since the discos finally opened Saturday night, Erika and I went out for an AWESOME dinner at Roky's, which is a fast-food roasted chicken (pollo a la brasa) restaurant with all the chimmichuri I could dream of eating. I gotta learn how to make it! Then we walked across the street and hung out at a disco for a while. It was kind of techno/reggaeton/latin music and all the lights and everything which I totally dig, but not with my girl. I'm not exactly a good partner dancer when it comes to reggaeton, these hips don't lie! Besides, it was late and we had to be up at 6:30 the next morning.

Sunday morning we took the long bus ride back to Lima and went to Erika's house for the Grand Inquisition of the Gringo Boyfriend. Actually, it was nothing like that at all, her parents were very welcoming and had a massive barbeque with pork, sachinas, chorizos, and even cuy (guinea pig, a local delicacy and my only request) while Erika whipped up a batch of pisco sours stiff enough to get her light-weight cousin drunk on the first little glass :o) . Erika and her dad wouldn't stop teasing her and by the time we had finished two small glasses and a beer each, the cousin was off to the bedroom to pass out. It was very funny :). And Erika did an awesome job translating that day!

A welcoming home in Latin America is a bit different than in the states. First of all, there are no sleepovers allowed for anyone except family and your best-best friends. This would explain the unease Erika had when I told her that I had female guests staying in my apartment for three weeks :o). Not only that, there is absolutely no signs of affection allowed to be shown between boyfriend and girlfriend in front of her parents: No hand-holding, no hugs, and obviously no kisses. Also, there are to be no home tours given, especially to bedrooms. I was only allowed to see common areas. So I had to be on my best behaviour for her parents, but they really liked me (who wouldn't) and I had a great time talking to them via my personal translator.

Sunday night, Erika's best friend and her boyfriend came over. Her (old-as-my-parents) boyfriend has lived all over the place in the Americas and spoke perfect English, so it was nice to get into a nice, long conversation about the differences between the countries, that work attitudes, economies, business, politics, etc. I had a million questions that I've wanted to ask someone just like him and, well, I did!

Anyway, not a lot of detail on this trip because it was less about sight-seeing and more about spending quality time with Erika to see if I actually like her, we get along, etc. And I have to say two thumbs up, she is awesome, she is funny, and we get along well. Since she is a career-minded, non-money-leaching, non-greencard-aspiring professional, we'll just have to see what happens next.

J. Riley, this post should be long enough to detour random Googlers from reading it in it's entirety.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pre-Emptive Strike

To quench an unquestionable thirst from people about last week's trip to Peru to meet up with Erika, you can find pictures here:

Obviously, a story will follow at some point....

J. Riley, I am counting the minutes until I can officially declare that I have Tupac Amaru's Revenge. Again. And now, I will sleep...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Finger Nails

A while back, I mentioned that I found it odd that since my teeth have been
fixed, I haven't been biting my finger nails anymore. This is strange because
you would think that since I only had two teeth touching each other (prior to
ortho work), I would bite my nails much less than when I have a Robert Redford
set of teeth like I have now. But, that's not the case.

Anyway, my finger nails look much better then they did before braces. I still
mess with my finger nails a lot though, but more often tearing the nail edge
off with my fingers rather than biting them, and this is where it gets weird.
The ONLY exception to this is on the thumb and the forefinger on my right hand,
where the fingernails protrude grotesquely like a girl's until I trim them with
nail clippers.

Why am I driven to savagely trim my nails on all my fingers but these too? I
honestly have no interest in these two fingernails. It's very strange. The
worst part about it is that this is my writing hand and because those two
fingers are critical to my wonderful handwriting technique, there is an inverse
relationship between my handwriting's legibility and the length of said
fingernails :o/.

J. Riley, it's a good thing I work in IT and my typing hasn't been affected :o).
And who would have thought I could write a whole post about fingernails?