Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Transfagarasan

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Whaddya know, just as I'd been sitting down to write a recap of the multi-month journey to the East, a whirlwind of cash, paperwork, and the machinations of our favorite adventurer produced a midnight blue Mercedes and galloping orders towards Transylvania. "But can we go via that super awesome twisty famous mountain crazy road?" "Obviously." The larger recap's still coming, but what can I do; life is sometimes super awesome and twisty, shit gets out of order.

First, we went to Sibiu. Like most towns in and among the mountains, it's the historic center that's of interest, but staying there may mean huffing thirty kilo suitcases up fifteen percent setted ((Setts are cut into shape; cobbles are unworked rocks or pebbles. Until being corrected a few weeks ago I'd been calling setts cobbles every damn time. It's not as fun of a word to say, I guess, but it's got the whole double t thing going, so I'd say it's not a total loss.)) grades. And the hotel said it had no gym. Meanwhile, admire below the establishment's creative bathroom placement:

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On the advice of a local psychiatrist (our date, not our doc), we went to a place called Oldies, an odd mix of wannabe biker dudes in studded leather and flip-flops and Zara-bedecked after-work sangria drinkers. It was a poem to things that don't go together, including AC/DC and The BeeGees, cheap whiskey and amaretto, and the poster collection lining the walls.

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Here's one for Mom. Hi Mom. Do you think we should ring for a pallet?

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As the owl demands, so we acquiesce. It helps that he controls the flow of coffee.

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Back in Florimund ((Florimund the Mercy, that is.)), the route takes a fortuitous turn off the beaten path to Brasov. Pokey ((Pokey the Horse, geez, try to keep up!)) is nervous but a little excited....

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The Transfagarasan (DN7C) was opened in the mid-seventies and was one of the major accomplishments of the communist regime, at least if you'd asked them. It connects Transylvania with Wallachia and winds through some very pretty places indeed, with only the occasional kilometer of pavement in need of a little work. In general it was remarkably smooth.

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I've always wanted to drive it, particularly for the past few years in which the back seat's been occupied by a calm, steady voice unfazed by high speeds. When I drove in the US I got a lot of grief for going over 80mph ((I'm sure the Honda Civic and Nissan Frontier didn't help --especially the kayak mounted upside-down atop the latter.)); since I started driving again in Central America I've happily found it's generally accepted as the minimum. As it turns out, I didn't manage to go anywhere near that fast on this particular road between the hairpins and the tourists in '95 Dacias, but it was still a thrill.

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"You need a break already?"
"Whoa! That was dizzying. I almost lost my oat milkshake!"
"Don't be such a wet noodle, we have a long way to go yet."
"I'm noodly by nature!"

Off again, through the trees. The summer heat in Romania has been insufferable, but up here it's a cool 23, crisp and sublime.

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Sheer drops and shitty drivers abound. As much as the Transfagarasan would be spectacular for motorcycle riders, lemme tell you 75% of the cars I got stuck behind were way, WAY over the median on every single blind curve --do it at 5am or forget it, I think.

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It's a nice view if you can get it.

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"Hey, I think the famous hairpin spot is up ahead."
"Yippie! Look, no horseshoes!"

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Thar she blows, obscured but present. The shining rocks throughout aren't wet, but rather feldspar- and quartz-bearing schists. It's El Dorado, just about.

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Heading on up, into the schists and the mists.

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The view from up top.

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The money shot.

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Pleased as punch.

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"Are you napping?! We've still got a ways to go!"
"I'm just resting my eyes...."
"Hop to, Pokey!"

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"Okay!"
(Yes, the road, at the top of all that business, warns about...curves ahead.)

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We were lucky enough to spot no less than three curious bears on this excursion. This guy was the clear winner for showmanship, what with his snaggletongue and attempts at dancing for snacks.

We stopped for some snacks of our own, and decided to turn around rather than insist on gunning for Curtea de Arges --maybe another time. For now, a fond farewell.

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Impression of Minsk, July 5th

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Minsk is gray sheets of rain worse than the moods it provokes. Sideways, stinging, down the broad avenues flanked by hollow concrete giants, the rain finds a way into your eyes, into your packages, wherever you'd least like it to go, whenever is least opportune.

In a bout of moving apartments across the hruscheba courtyard to the better place ((That place I dismissed on the first pass because six of its seven pictures featured the same purple couch --a nice couch, but by then far too conspicuous, as though it were hiding some darker secret among its deep purple brocade.)) the rain returns, heavier than before, somehow thirsty for suitcases and the shopping bags full of milk, nectarines, bread, and Georgian (read: undrinkable) mineral water.

The atmosphere in July is twice the Januaries of my childhood; twice as cold, twice as gloomy, twice the daylight hours, twice the misery. I misspeak at every other corner, and fail to smile at all in between. All my pleasures here are inward, in private jokes, in stolen glances, in imagined pasts that did not and can never now exist.

Minsk is an egg abandoned, without a nest to keep it warm, or eyes to watch over and wonder at what sleeps inside. Were the place not so subject to the volatile whims of the gods that go scuttling by on their way to someplace else, perhaps the beast could be coaxed to come out. Perhaps something more than surface could wink into being, bare between the birches, wind in the feathers of gliding gulls.

Perhaps if it were winter, and Minsk was in her element, not forced to pretend about sun and smiling, perhaps then it would be still enough to show itself. If all the idiots were made to stay indoors, and the big soup pots were brought down from imaginary attics, if the noise of traffic ceased and the buskers went home to practice more...if the playgrounds were empty for an obvious reason and the fact I came here without a coat would be a death knell and not an uncomfortable inconvenience...then perhaps she could break from her shell and I would know her.

Until then, I sit on the wide kitchen windowsill waiting for the rain to stop, or admiring the cartoon baked-potato man ((Kroshka Kartoshka!)), watching old buses like wheeled cinder-blocks streak slowly down the street. It is not yet, here. Simply not yet.

A Thermo-Rental Odyssey

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

When I first lived in Romania I called the kitchen-cum-living-room I spent most of my time in "The Orange Spaceship" on account of the shocking citrus blinds that coated the room in rod-n-cone obliteration by day. At night the berth was a somewhat more serious sodium carmine affair. The walls were bright yellow, the couch was bright red, and I found an excellent pair of sunglasses that year, incidentally.

Imagine my chagrin, then, on introduction to Chez Vozvrashchenie; yellow walls, admittedly a little more lemon cream than 'lectric skullfucker, and orange-as-she-comes drapes, filtering the light into the kind of shade you hear before you see. The door, inset with dithered plexiglass ((Ever notice how things officially described as "Design Elements" are necessarily devoid of elementary design?)), cast neon orange shapes on the opposite wall outside, a warning, perhaps, to ungoggled adventurers.

I replaced the drapes with thick black floor-length brocade, grounding the Spaceship 2.0 in one fell swoop, but I'm still at a loss as to how to approach the remnants of that alien civilization, consisting primarily of three...things some Brigaweird General thought fit to hang on the walls. Send help!

Exhibit A:

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A charming snapshot of Sol wringing the last tears out of the terran landscape, the thirsty death to come foreshadowed by rib-like ripples in the foreground's dunes. The sky's intense blues suggest cool water never again to be savored --at least, not in this room.

Exhibit B:

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Nuclear apocalypse in fiery zenith! Behold the orange intensity dividing shrubbery from topsoil; the righteous from the evil-doers; the obedient from the dissenters? Also, I suspect (when squinting, anyway) the center semi-circle may originally have been an attempt at a chaos star. Who wouldn't want to fall asleep and wake up to such a pastoral portent?

Exhibit C:

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Nefertiti looks on, decapitated and utterly unimpressed, as the procession of the KKK Dromedary Corps traverses Giza. That is, Giza Island, where the Corps presumably battles against the predominant brownness of the environment and the disappearing surface area, requiring a constant smooshing together of the perilously close pyramids.

Would you believe me if I said that furthermore, the sheets that came with the place depict black silhouettes of snowmen, reindeer, and gift-wrapped boxes on a white foreground festooned with "holyshitisthataSPIDER!!1" black stars, too?

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Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

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There he was, plucking himself through the overgrown grass and dandelion tuffets crowning the fortress like the fuzz on an old man's head. "He looks like a duck!" I hear now, gathered around the display, something I thought myself behind the lens. He eventually caught something in the haze, strange gait apparently paying off.

What can be said about his home? It's the same place, nominally anyway, I first saw twelve years ago, towering over the confluence of the Sava and Danube, a brick boot towering over a soft and cowering pair of worms. The chestnut trees and mulberries still make the place feel like any other municipal park in this part of the world (though they're maybe a mote too neat and perfect, if one takes the time). The same sodium lamps, illuminating for all below what, up top, becomes a piercing orange eyesore still shine on at night. Memorable warning signs ("bricks fall from this vault!", etc) retain all their officious unheedability.

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And the town wrapped around it, the town that owes everything to it, as many yet do, still knows the art of overcast better than any other place I've seen. Belgrade is gray, and knows no other color until it's been put to the question a little. The same frivolous beauty and monumental brutalism comingle. The old broad streets are just as inviting for a walk against the wind. The nato-bombed building not far from downtown still looms, torn and sooty, over its resident block.

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I used to hop the train to Belgrade a few times a year by special order, often alone. I typically felt lost, amidst the language and the cold, desaturated landscape. It was a place that venerated things and ideas I didn't know, or didn't know much about, and frankly I wasn't all that interested, being overwhelmed by local points of interest back "home" to the east.

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The line, tempting, offers itself: nothing external really changes, only you do. But like all trite and obvious prosaicisms it's a half-truth, or possibly more like a quarter-truth. Yes, the passage of time has allowed me to spend more interest, to recognize more signs amidst the static. I feel less lonely in Belgrade, because I'm more lonely the rest of the time, because I'm more accutely aware of how alone I actually am.

But in the city itself there are real differences; the war machines were not laid out on the inner fortress lawns so long ago --were they stored, like decorations for a combative christmas tree, in some old cobwebbed basement? Neither was the "dinosaur park" in place back then; not that it's anything but out of place now, what's changed is it's there, a platoon of fiberglass models to some scale varying inside the modeler's head. The tyrannosaurus roars unconvincingly every fifteen seconds through a tuna can speaker hidden somewhere in the wood chips.

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Somehow the recipe for bread has been forgotten meanwhile. That happy memory of waking up in Belgrade to brave the chill for kefir and croissants will stay a memory, now; every пекара is a Fornetti front, a case full of margarine-laminant and naught else. The postered kiosks call out dates for bands I wouldn't see, much less lament having missed ((Sometime in 2012 or thereabouts I spent a sad, eventless Friday night in Belgrade by myself, only to find a VNV Nation flyer posted in town the next morning, for the night previous. I just stood there for about fifteen minutes looking at it. Yes, it was gray.)).

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My time in Belgrade still seems, this tenth or eleventh instance, a trip through numerous hallways. Some lined in the old brass handrails and ancient smoke of hotels, some with the tall facades of department-stores-cum-science-academies, others with impermeable walls of people, not hostile but not friendly either, the occasional immigrant breaking through. All the city is a series of hallways leading to the kalemegdan, where the windows are thrown open and one can finally see, but only the kind of seeing achieved from a distant throne: vast summaries of life, detached and impersonal.

Recreation

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

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The spaces there; the pause between
what I can stomach, and the feast
leaves life a malleable thing now quickening
now sickening
now stagnant
now serene.

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I've no idea where I might look to find the contradiction,
else but in your mind, or the fields stretched out before your gaze
or in my crumbling heart, here succumbing
now becoming
now belligerent
now base.

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How could I hate the center of my life? And yet the sun is sometimes scorned
for shining forth too bright, for warming more than dainty life can suffer without singeing.
The inability to imbibe all is mine. I feel it healing
now kneeling
now knotted
now known.

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The Roadblock

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Via the bimbo we find:

Since the holidays are over, its now time for construction in Costa Rica. The locals decided to block one of the only major highways in the country for going on over thirty five minutes. Lucky for us, we ended up at the beginning of the line and had Master in the car. It took him only around a minute with the workers before the cones went up and they quickly got out of the way. Of course, this was after a few nervous looking men walked over to the workers and bailed out of any confrontation by getting on their phones and taking the walk of shame back to their cars without saying a word.

To which we offer a smattering of amendments, having conducted said journey through the tropical wilds at the wheel of a particularly shining silver steed.

Firstly, it's always time for construction in Costa Rica. It's not so much a matter of "growing development", this, but a necessary consequence of the brutal facts of ekeing out a civilization of sorts amongst the verdant exuberance of the land. Potholes. Sinkholes. Collapsed bridges, fallen switchbacks, obliterated pipes, all "repaired" inexpertly but with great enthusiasm, all contributing to a constant critical mass of catastrophe.

This time, the problem was mild enough: the yellow median had fallen just this side of invisible, and the poks ((Pok, noun, that species of Orc which proves lovable through its earnestness and innocuous nature despite its Orcdom.)) had gathered up their very best paint in their very best mini-pokmog, eager to make the road safe again for the 40kph natives and the 140kph foreigners who weave around them. Except they decided to close down the entire road for the proceedings. As in, with roadblocks. Both directions. Whether this was an honest if inept attempt at safety or the effects of sheer wonderment at their own technology I couldn't tell you, but it was certainly several shades of ridiculous.

Valiant Prince MP ventured forth to the bevestacled ((It's my blog and I'll be a pompous foff if I wanna!)) roadslave and demanded an ETA. Thirty minutes. Which is an insane askance on the one and only road to the nation's northeast at ten in the morning on a thursday, but patience is well-coddled by comfort, something our horse has in spades. Ever play "I spy" in the rainforest? ((Hint: it's something green. You wouldn't shoot a gal, wouldja?)) We didn't, but anyway. Thirty-five minutes went by, according to the bimbo's ever-faithful watch. A motley stream of family heads, some in characteristic pastel plaid button-downs and flip-flops, others in JC Penny-diaspora slacks and stacked heels, shuffled awkwardly towards the workers to lodge complaints throughout.

Here's how Costa Rican complaints go:

"Hey buddy, how's it going?"
"Oh fuck me dude, everything's so great, I'm so happy to see you!"
"Back atcha, friend. I thought, mayhap, there was, possibly, a thing not entirely great afoot?"
"I'm sure it's possible, but whatever, shit's great in general and mostly in particular!"
"I couldn't agree with you more. May all your days be glorious."
"May yours be better! Remember, I've two kidneys, should you need one!"

Fifty-fifty shot a hug goes here. Mind you, as the bimbo pointed out, actual confrontation was rare; for the most part these exemplars of effectuality merely approached the worker at not-quite shouting distance and tapped plaintively at their electronic rectangles ((The pretense that these are "devices" chafes me. An abacus is a device --a "smartphone" is a travesty.)), only to walk back to their cars moments later, as though their subtle show of guarded inquiry were sufficient for anything at all.

But as I was saying, thirty-five minutes went by. At which point MP left his leathery cushioning and motored himself towards his municipal amigo again. I wasn't within earshot, but here's how (this) MP complaint went, from my perch:

MP approaches road worker at breakneck speed. Worker visibly if ever so slightly receeds from his post.
MP's arms rise to either side in exasperated parentheses.
Worker points in the general direction of the painting aparatus, shrugs.
MP's frame straightens, despite the impression it was already perfectly straight.
The handful of road workers previously lolling about in the adjacent vines chewing plantain chips get on their feet and move in to reinforce their colleague, meanwhile grown shorter and blown further back from his original stand.
The Blue-Red-and-White disco-dance, a possible misunderstanding of further pointing, squatting, and shrugging.
The ... ((What colors are the Republican flag, anyway? Buttplug?)) aggressor delivers his fatal blow; left hand held slightly underneath, his right makes three decisive chopping motions --one to the left, one at center, one at right. This catalyzes the workers' retreat; they regroup a meter or so back.
A walkie-talkie is produced and passed frantically from one worker to the next. MP is stone-still.
After a beat, the workers run to the assembled cones comprising the road block and lift them.

So swift was the demolition that MP was obliged to run back to the car, lest he encourage 40kphers to overtake us. And that's how we almost lost half an hour on the ride in.

* * *

Chimichurri and the Meaning of Life

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

BingoBoingo: re: http://btcbase.org/log/2018-11-15#1872387 How is Chimichurri Raptorson doing these days?

There is a time in the flow of duckitude ripe with thought and reflection, ever eager for an answer to that nagging void: when shall the next trocito of premium yellowtail materialize?

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Yes, his is a philosophical adolescence, a blooming of quill-topped q-tips o'er the wings, a chortling curiosity towards twins.

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The great horizons call, full of wonderment and hermit crabs. A duck cannot but wonder: why is he here?

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Who invented the lambada?

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If a feather grows in the forest and there's no one around to scratch it, does it make an itch?

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No matter the conundrum, the conclusion tends the same. A sunny disposition's the thing, whether doing laps in the sea or in wild bewilderment.

And they said you can't take it with you.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

"Hey, get my other pair of underwear out of the trunk?"
"Anything else?"
"And the water."
"You want some fruit?"
"Yeah. Bring the banana for the crabs."
"And an apple? Orange? Some juice?"
"Bring the whole lot. Better yet, bring the whole car."

There's a sweet spot between the convenience of mobile provisions and the hassle of managing all the little tasks that go into stocking, sorting, packing, and retrieving, where that which one wants, one gets, with minimal administration. Banal as it may seem, there's little better than supreme and simple outfitting in the remote wild, which is where the preceeding exchange took place --a place with orders of magnitude more hermit crabs than people, by count, by mass, by whatever metric you'd like.

Apparently hermit crabs like bananas, among other things it's hard to imagine stumbling upon just-so on a shore human scrapsmaking rarely blesses. A particularly ripe one went in, therefore, with the other trunkstuffs unknown to beachkind, like a towel large enough to accommodate any particular angle of lazing about, and a thermos full of clove-infused cafe au lait.

I navigated surf-smoothed ((The sand here is volcanic, varyingly fine, and this particular time actually managed to bleed my ankles a little in the rather turbulent waves. That aside, best pedicure one could ask for.)) feet through the short trail of hot sand towards the car, skipping over judgment-browed iguanas and fraying coconut husks. And stopped cold. A heron! Head stretched tall in wary regard, he spent but a second to raise his wings and fly from just in front of the hood to a grassy clearing some feet away.

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Leaving him be to continue his automobile inspection ((I received no official papers indicating pass or fail by review of Heronity.)), I returned to The Great Towel Island with All the Trunk Things and the Banana Relief for Hermitty Victims of Crabreality began in earnest. Three grand chunks were flung, and several perambulating shells were observed approaching, and eventually coming to rest upon, the soft yellow anomaly.

Then came the crow, swift, merciless, and robbed these gentle curmudgeons of one chunk (the reader may take comfort in the report that no crabs were seen still attached)! A few minutes passed -- a heated discussion on the provenance of the winch took place -- seawater previously imbibed found routes from out of various holes in various heads. The crow returned. A female, stricken with that particular cruel joke of sexual dimorphism favoring males with brilliant oil-slick blues while the girls go brownly by. She landed several feet from her desired prize, unsure if the banana bit was a bit too close to wiggling toes. She meekly approached, foot-gawk-foot, --and I laughed wholeheartedly at the cautious maneuver, which sent the bird hopping back a ways. She eyed me, attempted one step bananawise, and sent me pealing again. Three times more with this routine and she had had it, sitting sadly on a branch back at the treeline. Apparently it's not only adolescent boys who cannot abide the sound of women laughing. All the better for the crabs, who care not for such trifles --for they are neither sea, nor salt, nor slightly rotten fruit.

Back in the valley, it happened one afternoon that we'd been walking mile after bus-flanked mile over unsteady sidewalks, klaxon-blasted and asphalt-fatigued into desperation for a break. What luck that a certain "anime cafe" was there, tucked into the parking lot of an office supply store. Rainbow-ropelights and well-trod astroturf stairs beckoned. Into dayglo knick-knack paradise we oozed. Did you know that Costa Rica has some of the best, ripest, loveliest tropical fruit in the world? Costa Ricans do not know. For which reason you're well-advised, when ordering anything fruit-based here, to request the item "sin azucar". I forgot to ask Gothic Alice in Wonderland to omit the stuff from my guanabana batido, no doubt distracted by the Hello Kitty popcorn machine and 4' Domo-kun plushie staring me down in the hallway.

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It was like trying to drink one of those scented markers from second grade. And it came with whatever this guy is --though I must admit I can't locate him again, and that possibly he was a mere hallucination caused by the two gulps of sugar-with-some-guanabana-in-it I took before pushing Diabetes Tumbler (that's a "medium", for the record) aside.

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Getting what you want is a lot easier in the middle of nowhere.

Panama Makes Me Ill

Friday, April 27th, 2018

And not just because of that stupid palindrome ((When your name's a palindrome, people seem a lot more eager to recite others they know to you, and that Panama shit gets stuffed in there 99% of the time. Here's one that reads better backwards than forewards. !uoy kcuF .setydolgort fo edaclavac a, gniretlews a, hcnets A)). It literally made me ill after ~15 hours spent in its clutches, I'm a 5'9" congestion, ghow dho jdhoo gdoo?

Those fifteen hours saw about 20km of walking, which would've been no big deal were it not for the 20kg of gear and Panama's delightful wet-oven that spends all day doing free interpretations of the weather. Thirty degrees at ninety five percent humidity seems a lot more apt for making bagels than a livable climate, but one can only spend so much time in cafes.

Speaking of which, here's Casa Sucre, in the gussied-up part of Panama City, Casco Viejo.

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Decent carrot juice and non-Costa-Rican-coffee ((By now I'm convinced this is the only distinction that really matters, did the coffee come from CR or not?)), if you're in the neighborhood and feel like imbibing at your imaginary grandfather's house. The Mac didn't have Oregon Trail, and that note on the piano kindly asks that you keep your children away from the instrument's crotchety old keys.

Panama City has a fairly massive littering problem, replete with the kind of odor you'd expect from a trash-happy city in a hot place on the water --I'll spare you particular description. Casco Viejo, however, is a proper tourist trap, where refuse is magically handled with care, paint flows o'er the walls afresh nightly, and pavers hold the train of your dress while laying flat before you the paths ahead.

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The tourism board apparently foresaw a lot of outdoor entertainment happening around here, though every time I've gone it's been deserted, save for the occasional shaved ice vendor, one of whom ran towards me when she saw me throwing on another layer of sunscreen. You'd be hardpressed to find anyone so grateful for something so small, and indeed, on the whole Panamanians are good-natured. They've been cooked, trashed, and hustled into something like an exhausted, stressed-out cousin of the laid-back Costa Rican, though.

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They're also living like bugs in a city with pretenses to "the Dubai of Latin America"; there's not much difference in costs of living between Panama and the US --at least, not anymore--, but the same air-conditioned bastions of North Americanity that beckon tourists to go from TGI Friday's in Cincinnati to TGI Friday's in Panama City ostensibly for the benefit of saying they've traveled have no fantasy in store for the locals. One cabbie I talked to described 14-hour stints in his totally-not-a-Tata to get bills paid after he left his job as network manager of the city's second-largest mall. He figured there had to be someone willing to pay more than $1000/mo for it. "Turns out, there isn't." He described buying gold bullion in 2012 after considering whether it was a better buy than btc. Then he was quiet for a while. He may be showing up in #eulora if the cockroaches don't eat him first.

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It's not a concrete jungle so much as a trash heap smoothed at the margins and covered in glass; a place where pretty much nobody walks --even for a few blocks--, and the one-upping edifices of US imports lid all, attempting illustration of a greatness and identity of which only regional managers and their braindead acolytes could be proud.

*** Interlude ***

Didja know Panama has a "Blockchain Embassy"?

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"What the fuck does that even mean?!" you ask. Well, it's in a strip mall, and that's all I've got.

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I go in, Wingus & Dingus are seated on stools, hunchbacked over whatever on macbooks. I ask if they'd like to trade som'fin'. Dingus can't talk to me over the wobble of his mouth. Wingus says they have a bitcoin atm. But it only sells. Except it doesn't have any bitcoin to sell yet.

"So...the market here is basically non-existant?"

"Basically, yes."

But they have t-shirts.

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I'm still not sure what these shits are for, and I'm not convinced anyone involved knows either --unless it's outright a case of "ensure anyone clueless & curious about btc who approaches one of these things gets a clear signal that it's retarded".

***

Anyway, as I was saying, Panama makes me ill. I worked for a stint as a supermarket cashier in college, and the nicest old lady working there was from Panama City, made it sound like the sort of place where parrots ((In stark contrast to its northern neighbor, Panama, or at least its capitol, are devoid of wildlife. I saw one gull cooling its feet by the water. Otherwise, they've got roaches.)) sit on your shoulders and the plantains are like mana. I should've realized there was a reason she had moved to Ohio.

And if the city somehow fails to encurmudgeon you, the airport will: 30min cap on Wifi, several gates with broken A/C (the "causeways" aka mall parts are permafrigid tho'), and plenty of the kinds of logistics problems you'd rather not think about when handing your body over for flight, from frequently changed gates to directions that include lines like "you have to go down the unlit hallway behind the Chicken Port".

Happy trails!

Sede Atlantico

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The University of Costa Rica has a handful of satellite campuses scattered here and there around this dimunition of a country, and for some reason figures that its compound in Turrialba has something to do with the ocean several hours' drive to its east. Overlooking the egregious decision to name it "Sede Atlantico" rather than its rightful "Sede Queso" ((Turrialba is Costa Rica's cheese mecca, a place where the cows and the coffee bushes do equally well.)), I ventured forth on the two-hour journey to audit a class or two and see if there was any wasted talent hanging about.

It's a pleasant drive; the landscape shifts from the gray roughness of San Jose to the technicolor hovels of Hatillos, the city's pseudo-squattage, soon yielding completely to the overgrown jungle-forest-desert pastiche of the rural valleys.

On arriving at the campus, I found it rather remarkably empty for a monday mid-morning. In fact, there were many more cleaning women than students about, so I snapped a few shots of the freshly-painted, freshly-waxed hallways and looked for coffee.

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There wasn't any coffee to be found, however, the cafeteria being full of peeling wooden planks and chairparts. I asked what bipeds I could find, and was pointed towards a soda across the street. Coffee just isn't as enjoyable at a plastic table occupied by squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard, you know? So I walked a few kilometers until I found a somewhat more passable joint that had mediocre cafe con leche and fantasia de higos, a sort of parlor-game dish where you excavate poor, helpless figs from ice cream that's nowhere near up to par.

With the walk back I'd killed a little time, and went back to campus.

Which, as you've probably guessed...

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Well, maybe people don't hangabout here, all business, I guess? Let's go to class.

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Here's Room 4, which both online and right outside its door professes to be holding a class from 1 to about 4pm. At ten minutes to 1, it was empty. At 1 exactly, idem. Fifteen minutes later? I don't think PC0305-901 is doing so well.

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I tried out a few more rooms that were supposed to be holding classes. They were similarly well-attended.

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I went to the administration and asked them why their online schedule, as well as those posted outside the classrooms, were incorrect. The attendant mula, visibly perturbed to be wrested from digging through her purse for god knows what and called to some sort of duty, disappeared for a few minutes and re-emerged with the certainty that the schedules were correct. "So why isn't anyone in any of your classrooms?" "They're there, it's 1:30!" "I was just down that hall, none of these rooms have anyone in there." "We have new classes starting next week!" "Okay, but what about these?" "They're in session." "So why is nobody there?" "There must be!"

I decided to quit the carousel and check out Turrialba itself. The dozen or so girls I managed to find milling around the bus-stops and chop-suey stations near campus had either admitted there was nothing to do on the weekend around there, or else had said the place to go was a disco called Latinos. Naturally, I wanted to see this item.

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What, you can't spot it? This is the happening spot in all of Turrialba, folks! Have you no eye for excitement?

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How about now? Nobody said you can't have a great disco on the balcony of the local social security building!

On a brighter note, the thing downstairs had decent beet-juice.

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In addition, of course, to a screen-for-the-sake-of-having-a-screen ("Activate Windows!") and advertisements for a "workshop on Mayan Mysticism" and "caldosas", which is, I shit you not, ceviche thrown into a bag of corn chips.

The town's main square held the day's real gem, with a certain elusive bird from other excursions somehow choosing this spot to laze about and croon in almost full view.

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Here he is mid-gargle. It sounds about like Roman candles look, if that does anything for you.

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Anyone know who he is?

A cheesy pit-stop on the way back ends this foray:

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Until next time I feel like being delighted and disillusioned in nearly equal amounts, bon fromage.