Friday, August 29, 2008

Killing Time.

The city of San Jose, image borrowed from Geo Central America.

Day 172

I just got back from my third and hopefully second to last trip to the doctors office. The good news is that the doctor told me that I am looking fine and that now I just have to wait for my body to heal up the wounds on its own. She also told me that I most likely will not have to hang around for another week after my last appointment as she will give me some medicine that I can apply myself and so long as I do not engage in any overly strenuous activity for a while, I should be fine on my own.

So now I just have to hang tight and keep myself from crawling up the walls while I wait to get the last appointment under my belt and hopefully a bill of good health so I can hit the road again.
Artax, my trusty bicycle, is now en route back to the States. I took him apart, and the great guys at the local DHL helped me to get him into boxes safe and sound. It was weird, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a buddy or something. He was a great bike and I was totally satisfied with his performance. Even under really terrible conditions he kept on trucking like a champ. I look forward to putting him back together in the future and taking him for a spin.

San Jose is a lot nicer than most of the cities I have been to in Central America, but I am staying in a neighborhood that is not exactly the best in town. Its right next to the biggest bus station and their are a lot of shady characters hanging around. Although the hotel is safe, clean and cheap, plus its close to the hospital.

I hate being in places like this for too long as it begins to harden and jade you. Whenever I see somebody spot me and come over to talk to me, I instantly assume they are going to try and hustle me somehow. Nine out of ten times that is the case, as they are either trying to sell you some junk, drugs, advice, etc. or to just flat out beg. You reflexively develop a defense against it, and start to come across as really rude. The down side of that is when you meet someone who is just trying to be nice and then you start off on the wrong foot. I like the country towns because there when people approach you, they are genuinely trying to be friendly and get to know you. You only get about one out of ten that are trying to hustle you.

One guy in particular here has really been getting on my nerves. He spotted me coming back to my hotel a few days ago and started talking to me in American accented English and looked clean so I figured he was another traveler. He asked where I had been and where I was headed, typical traveler questions, and I chatted with him for a bit. He told me about a couple of cool places to visit in Panama and started asking me about American football and such and I figured, this is just a cool guy from the states who saw someone he figured he might be able to talk to, maybe he is going it alone like me.

Then, he asks me if I want to buy any drugs. Great, he is just a clever scumbag from the states using it as leverage on people. I tell him no, then he offer to take me to a casino. No again. How about some prostitutes. No buddy, beat it. How about a cheaper hotel, come on, its just over here, as he tugs on my shirt. No, I am fine here. How about a couple of bucks for helping you out, I showed you some great places to visit in Panama. So, I give him about 50 colones (a couple of cents American) just to get him to get out of my face. He takes it and goes, that's it? I lost it then and told him he should be happy I gave him anything. He then tells me he is coming down off some drugs and needs more money, I tell him to get out of my face.

Two days later he spots me again and comes up to me begging for money, saying he is going through some tough times and I just looked at him and say, too bad, and left.

Guys like that make me sick. He is just a lowlife junky trying to pull on peoples heart strings to get something without working for it. I truly feel bad for people on the streets that don't have anywhere else to go, like the mentally ill who are abandoned by their families. They are there through bad luck alone and it is terrible to see them suffer through no fault of their own. But this guy, reasonably intelligent and able bodied, has no excuse to beg from people. It just blows me away, where is your sense of pride? Or at least shame? I just want to yell at people like that and shake the hell out of them, tell them to clean themselves up and do something with their lives besides waste it and live like a human parasite. He made me so angry at him, I wanted him to not say he was an American to anyone else as it makes the rest of us look bad.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, it was just something that has been bugging me. There are lots of those types around here so you have to stay on your toes a bit, but it is nothing more than an annoyance, I have never felt unsafe at all.

I am going a bit stir crazy though as I am not used to being in one place this long any more, and I can't do much. For the most part I am confined to my room while I heal up. I have found a great second hand book store that has a huge selection of English language books cheap, which has been a godsend. You can also trade in your old books for credit towards new ones, so I have been burning through a book every day or two. And, the nerd in my rejoiced at this, the book store even has English language comic books. Sweet! So I have been hanging out there quite a bit. I love bookstores like that because you never know what you are going to find. I have dug up some real gems as well as some really, really bad books that I have enjoyed reading and laughing at. I like the big bookstore chains too as they have such a great variety and its all so well organized. But, they do lack the charm of the little Mom and Pop bookstores, even when Mom and Pops idea of organization means just having books on the shelf...or in boxes on the floor, or laying in giant stacks with no rhyme or reason. The one annoyance though is when you find a great book to read, but it is the second in a series and they have all but book number one. I hate that! I can not read any books or watch any movies out of order, it drives me nuts.

But, other than that I have been well, I have scoped out all the best and cheapest food joints around me. They LOVE their fried chicken in central America, its everywhere, and its cheap as well. That and beans and rice, the staple foods of the Central American diet it seems to me. I miss Mexican food a lot, they have such a huge variety of really excellent types of food there for reasonable prices. It truly spoils a traveler.

At any rate, this is turning into a random stream of consciousness blog update that does not have a lot of pertinent information so I will cut it short. I plan on hitting the road as soon as the Doc gives me the thumbs up and I get my new gear sent to me from my parents. And Mom, Dad, you guys are awesome for running around getting everything I need. I know its a pain in the butt, but it is a huge help to me and I truly appreciate it! Love you guys!


Donnie said...

Hey buddy... sounds like you're in a better frame of mind today... definitely sounds like you're going stir-crazy... you're a lot like me; I go so insane sitting in one place for too long or doing one thing for too long. I guess it's kind of an ADD thing.

But at least you're doing OK... that's good to hear at least :) And I love reading whatever you write, even the sillier stuff like this particular entry. You are a good writer, and you write things that are worth reading. You're very observant and insightful.

I've been reading a religious book lately, Daring to Dance with God, it's one that I actually can't put down after I pick it up. I've been reading Dante's Inferno for a LONG time. It's a bit harder to understand; sometimes I have to look over at the Italian version to make better since of the words; the Italian is simpler and less poetic. But it's a great book, it just takes me longer to read stuff like that because I like to pick up on every detail.

I like old, classical literature. I started reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida many years ago, but I had to take it back to my school's library and I have never picked back up on it. I really should though, it's great, and very romantic for that time period.

Anyways, now you got me babbling!! hehe... I'm leaving my email address below if you want to send me messages there instead of MySpace, but it's up to you; I check both often! Glad you're getting better!

Love ya bud,

Anonymous said...

I have no idea where you're going but if you're in the area I would suggest Leptis Magna if you've never been and you're into that sorta thing. I'm not sure of the requirements of getting into Libya but I do know that Americans are able to go as of the last two years or so. I'd look into it before they revoke our status again.

Leptis Magna is one of the most intact Roman sites in the Mediterranean. Abandoned hundreds of years ago and reclaimed by the desert, it was not until the 1920s that Leptis was uncovered and archaeologists began the huge task of excavating these ancient costal ruins.

This is seriously on my top 5 list of places I need to visit.


Lizzie's a BIT too late on the Libya idea -- thanks to very recent international 'tensions' between our current administration and Libya, it's now back to the 'banned' status for Americans. I know, because I repeatedly tried this past summer to get in so that I could make a trans-Sahara crossing from Morocco to Egypt. Libya was the only country I was not allowed into as an American.

Many other nationalities can only get in through invitation or through a booking with a tour agency (lame!). Of course, there's always another option, which I very seriously considered (and am still considering for the not-too-distant future): crossing the border illegally. It's really not too difficult since it's 97% Sahara anyways -- but boy, the consequences!

Lizzie definitely has her head in the right place, though -- North Africa is my favorite place in all the world, and I've been around. There is nothing, nothing in this world, as beautiful as a sunrise over a Saharan oasis. And the coasts of North Africa are literally littered with history and treasure, including dozens of shipwrecks from its ancient pirating days, and the oldest human artifacts -- jewelry, art, stone structures -- in the world.

Reecius said...

Damn, you cant get into Lybia now? I was planning on donig exactly that, crossing the Sahara from Morocco to Eygypt, taking a detour up to Tunisia. I will have to check into that further, hopefully the situation changes as i have a long time before I will get there. If not, I will have to figure something else out.

That is bummer, damn politics.

Bradon said...

yo brother its Bradon...I just caught up on your sorry to hear about the injury but it sounds like you are going to make the most out of it. My trip got delayed a few months bc Garrett had to get some surgeries on his shoulders out of the blue, so we are now officially leaving the 22nd of Sep and we are now going west instead of east. Let me know what your plans are, maybe we will be in the same country at one point...once we get our dates squared away ill send them to you. Good luck with healing up, wish you the best my friend!

JiminPerth said...

Hi Reece. I have been quietly watching you from afar and, while I now feel I know you a little, I wouldn’t presume to give advice about what you should do next. Besides, others in responding to ‘changing gears’ have said it very well. But I will say that now that your focus is off ‘cycling a bike around the world’, you’ll undoubtedly find that you can concentrate much more on, and enjoy more, the experience rather than the challenge. The bike part does not really matter, nor does ‘around the world’. I have travelled a fair bit over the years, from 5 star to zero stars, a lot of it challenging, logistically at least, and I’ve run my marathon and climbed a few small mountains but, quite honestly in retrospect the best bits were the bits where I did take time to sit down and smell the roses, as you put it. The stays in kampongs in little Balinese villages where hours could be spent talking with the family about dancing or how they regularly discussed their everyday concerns with their long dead relatives. Being dragged by kids into a local school in Northern Celebes to explain, and sing, Waltzing Matilda then listening to them sing their own songs back to me. Being invited into a Muslim home in the water village in Bandar Seri Begawan for tea and to be dried off after being caught in a downpour, and ending up helping the girls of the family with their homework. Persuading ‘students’ in Tiananmen Square NOT to give me a guided tour of the Forbidden City but to tell me about their lives in China as they discovered capitalism and individuality. Talking to young kids playing street cricket in Mumbai about their dreams. Drinking with highly-educated African men outside an OAU conference in Lusaka Zambia while they extoled their vision for the future of Africa – and why dictatorship was valid and the ‘ordinary people’ should be left uneducated. Discussing HIV/AIDS with amazing, female, medical researchers in Blantyre Malawi – whose husbands still believed in witchdoctors. …All that stuff. Nothing sensational, all of it fascinating.
You say you don’t have that in you Reece with your stop and full speed only. But everyone does. You just have to learn how to use those intermediate gears! Wild and challenging is great but its not all there is out there and, quite honestly, that’s a Western, particularly dare I say American, view of travel and adventure. So good luck in the next phase mate. Plan it well, have fun, see the sights but give yourself a break too and take time out to tune in to the ‘ordinary’ stuff as much as the sensational. I doubt that you’ll regret it as time wasted. All the best. said...

dear reece, ive been reading since the start of your trip....... I just read the last couple of months now as ive been away myself on bike sometimes over the summer and forgot to read. A shame you wont continue by bike but what you acheived is amazing and its great it helped your head so much, so nice to join you on the journey even though i dont know you
thanks and take care!

Anonymous said...

I swear. There needs to be some sort of Libyan email alert that says "Hey you can come here again -You have two weeks before we change our minds again!" In out In out In out. I just checked on this not too long ago and it said we were ok. I was so thrilled. Oh well.

I guess you could always fly over the country and continue on your route.

Reecius said...

Hey, Bradon if we could cross paths that would be stellar! I sent you an email, hopefully it works out and best of luck to you on your trip my friend!

Thanks to everyone for the support and hi to new friend, its nice to meet you! And I agree, traveling is not all about running around in circles, some of my best traveling memories from previous trips have been the friendships I have made with people along the way. Some of these people I will meet up with again on this trip.

I should have been more clear I suppose, when i am dong something that i view as a challenege, especially a physical challenege, i go all out, and riding the bike is most certainly a physical challenege.

I love hanging out with people and chewing the fat and such. That is somethng that i look forward to havnig more time to do.

Hope everyone is well!

Reecius said...

hahaha, yeah no kidding Lizzie, last time i checked you could go there too! Well, hopefully things clear up by the time i get there next year.


The good news with Libya is that Condoleeza Rice is making a visit there as we type to meet with Ghaddafi -- this should be all it takes to get Libya allowing Americans entry once again. However, I can almost guarantee that you will STILL have to have a pre-booked tour with a tour agency, and that you must be accounted for every day that you're in Libya: they're very anal about that sort of thing...the bureaucratic logistical bullshit is overwhelming there.

By the time you reach that part of the world, Reece, you should be okay -- but if for whatever reason they're still not letting Americans in, don't give up hope yet. I have SEVERAL alternate routes around Libya that are very practical and doable; you can always go through Niger, Chad, and the Sudan up to Egypt -- in many ways that would make a more interesting trans-Sahara trip because, while it's still all Sahara, it's vastly different than Libya -- a place people with Tuareg and the Haratin. Of course, there are always problems with the Sudan-Egypt border, but that's all part of the adventure.

Another option is taking a boat from Tunisia across the Mediterranean to Egypt, thereby bypassing Libya. There are other options as well. Of course, they all take away from the actual "trans-Saharaness" of crossing from one coast to the other through the desert.

But again, things are looking hopeful with Rice's visit, so things should be good for you to go whenever you get there.