Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I am so over guilt.

nevertheless, I feel compassion to the lovely people out there who love
me and my blatherings from south of the equator, and I hate to leave
you hanging.

I also love to not worry about it. The last few weeks have been a blur
of travel and excitement. Thus I have been largely ignoring the
computer for more than maybe 15 minutes a day. I am back at Hervey's
house in Santiago, so y'all can expect some more Boardman lovin' in the
next few days.

A quick homework assignment for you-I need more ideas of what to write
in the "profession" section on hostel registries and those funny slips
at border crossings. I started with "education" then switched to more
interesting things like "movie producer" "party designer" "vagabond"
"personal assistant" and my personal favorite "style consultant." I am
ready for some new ideas, and I need you to help me. Whoever wins gets
their choice of a high five, a signed head shot of yours truly, or me
crashing on their couch and raiding their fridge for a whole week.

Who knows, if it sounds good enough, I might just do it when I get back
to the States. For now, let's stick to hostel registries.

So back to the fun. Let me share with you another piece of travel
reality. Along with long bus rides, bug bites, weird languages, even
weirder food, comically sunken mattresses, smelly israelis, even
smellier Australians, and frequent cases of the runs, one of the most
uncomfortable realities of traveling I could have never expected:

The TRAVEL CONVERSATION

Much like Seattle winters, GWBush saying something stupid and
embarrassing, and outrageous bank fees, it is inevitable but still
never fails to irritate me.

I can smell it before I hear it. I start to twitch, grind my teeth,
and imagine horrible things happening to the people who initiate it,
because you ALWAYS know what is coming next...

No matter where you go, you know it is coming. One minute you are
boiling water for tea, and then out of nowhere you are in the middle of
it:


Where are you from?

How long have you been traveling?

How much longer are you traveling for?

How many languages do you speak?

Where have you been? oh really?

where are you going next? oh cool....

Have you been ____?

I feel like a pull-string doll, except pull-string dolls never seem to
get tired of saying the same things OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I on the
other hand, am looking for a better solution.

I wish I had a card I could give people with these answers already on
it. No, I wish I had a bat, a cricket bat maybe (more surface area)
with all the answers on it so anyone who insisted on having this
conversation could read it in the mirror off of their reddened, swollen
forehead I had the pleasure of gleefully indenting.

"Hey nice cricket bat...are you English? [pause, as Adam braces
himself, hands over eyes] so, yeah, I've been going for like 5 months,
been all over Peru, Machu Picchu was like totally sweet, I think
Bolivia is overrated...[Adam licking lips, raising bat to shoulder,
eyes widening]
so, like, how long are you traveling f-"

[WHACK!...sound of hairy, dirty body hitting grimy hostel kitchen
floor]


Oh, A boy can dream.


Even worse are the unsolicited, presumptuous, and often highly detailed
recommendations:

Pick a place, say ___:

"___ sucks, Skip it!" then up walks a Slovenian
"___ is AMAZING, YOU CAN NOT MISS IT" minutes later a German girl
"___ is SO expensive" followed by someone from Arizona
"___ is SO cheap, you HAVE to go"

are the most common sort, but the general format is more like:

"so if you are in (place you were not planning on going, and gave no
indication of going) you HAVE to (stay at this hostel/go on this
tour/avoid this restaurant/expect it to suck/fantasize about getting
another cricket bat made that says I DIDN'T ASK on it)"

But in all sincerity, a certain degree of this can be helpful, and
recommendations from other travelers have landed me in some pretty cool
spots, Granted, those few times are when I asked, but back to my
point.

My frustration over this repetition has led me to try and ask more
creative, interesting questions. The first time it hit me that I had
been having the same conversation ever since arrived was in Puerto
Natales chile while talking to Nathalie, this french traveler:

Scene 1: Adam, three days growth, shirt he has worn for past month,
characteristic grin.

nathalie, cute French girl with bored look on her face -more than the
one french girls usually have, hair in ponytail, on opposite side of
couch in low ceilinged hostel lounge

Nathalie: so how long have you been traveling for?
Adam: 6 weeks...you?
N:4 months.
A:Great.
N:Yeah.
A:are you as bored as I am to the point of feeling like your skull is
about to creakily implode like a sinking submarine?
N: [startled, and becoming excited] oui! I mean, yes!
A: how about we make ourselves come up with different questions, like,
say, things that are actually interesting to us?
N: [looking like she was being offered a date with David
Hasselhoff...oh wait that would be a german girl...for a frenchie,
let's say, I dunno, prince William... okay, it doesn't matter but let's
just say she was looking really surprised and excited at her good
fortune of someone who gets it] yes!

within 3 minutes, we were having the most interesting discussion since
I got here. It was like a drink of water when you are really thirsty,
and I have not looked back since.

And don't forget to give me a job!

smooches,
Adam

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