Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vietnam No. II

Hey everybody, sorry I haven’t updated recently (as predicted in my last blog). It’s pretty late here… like… 2:24 AM to be exact, and I really should be writing my college essay…. (Sorry mom and dad and Mr. Denning, don’t worry, I’ll get to them). Anyway, I’ll work backwards and see what I can pull together from the last couple weeks. I’ll try not to make it too long, but as my sister says, I don’t mind the sound of my own voice, so we’ll see how that goes.


Sooo… tonight was absolutely insane. Vietnam beat Thailand in the Asian Cup finals so basically when they won the entire city went absolutely bezerk, and we were out there going bezerk with them. Zach, Noah, Lily, Katie R., and I went out, obtained Vietnam headbands, Vietnam flags, and Vietnam jerseys, and had a blast. At one point, in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Ho Chi Minh, some dudes handed Zach and I sticks and pointed to trash cans, so Zach and I drummed crazily in the middle of the street with sweaty, drunk, Vietnamese dudes surrounding us and cheering. Apparently their soccer team doesn’t win much. We all ran around the city for about an hour screaming at the top of our lungs and hugging and high-fiving everyone around. Every street was packed with motorbikes as far as you could see with people on the backs, waving Vietnamese flags. It was freaking awesome.


I supposed the next exciting thing that happened working backwards was Christmas. Christmas for me is just the best and for me, being in the rain in Vietnam in 70˚ weather was just not feeling like Christmas to me. Let’s just say that on Christmas Eve I was referred to as “Scrooge” at least twice. But, after watching Love Actually (don’t judge me, movie is unreal) and witnessing what Sandy and Robin and Beth made happen for Christmas, it couldn’t help but feel like the holiday season, even if it wasn’t snowing and I wasn’t curled up next to a fire drinking eggnog. The food alone made Christmas unbelievable. We went to a Hotel where we had brunch and dinner and hung out and played beach volleyball and exchanged Secret Santa gifts. For bruch I ate: 1 3 egg omelet with ham and onions and tomatoes, 2 waffles with powdered sugar, 2 enormous bowls of the best Pho yet, 10 slices of bacon, 3 hash browns, 1 bowl of cocoa pops, Coffee Crème Brule, 2 lemon pastries, a plate of fresh fruit, 3 sausages, and 1 sticky bun. Good thing I wore sweatpants. And for dinner I had lamb wrapped in bacon on top of eggplant with a side of cheese covered potatoes and white chocolate mousse and coffee chocolate sorbet for dessert. I’m pretty sure Sandy had to sell a kidney to fit this into the TBB budget but I loved every second of it.


Side note, When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin just came on on my Ipod random right now, such a great song. Anyway… trying to think of anything exciting that has happened recently… not much that I can think of really. I kinda gotta get back to my college essays anyway. We are working on media projects pretty hard these last couple days, I don’t want to stay up too late, we’ve got peer review tomorrow morning sometime. Sorry this wasn’t that exciting of a blog, just wanted to update again because I haven’t in a while. If you want some serious factual info about the trip though, check out liz’s blog at If anyone has any unused college essays, send them my way…. Kidding…. Kind of…..

One time 4 your mind,


Friday, December 12, 2008

Adventures in Nam

As usual, I haven’t posted in a while, who woulda thought. Anyway, just so you can a visual, it’s about 11:00 on a Friday night, I’m in a Highlands Coffee (Vietnam’s answer to Starbucks), and I’m planning on staying here until they kick me out (which is probably going to be pretty soon), in fact, I am the only person here and they are starting to shut off the lights like they want me to go. Whatever, I’m staying until they forcibly remove me, good internet is hard to find here.

 We’ve been in Ho Chi Minh City for…. 11 days now and it has been pretty cool. Well, pretty cool for me usually means that I have delicious, cheap food easily at my disposal. Vietnam is the place to go if you love Pho, and boy do I love Pho.

Before I go any further, I have to tell a story about what just happened to me. I got kicked out of Highlands Coffee, which was expected, so I went next door to the Hotel next door (one of the nicest hotels in Ho Chi Minh). They have internet in their lobby but are very particular about who they let use it. Obviously, I try to walk through the door like I belong there, but trying to not let the guard notice me. I’m fine until I sit down and open up the computer, at which point he comes over, brow furrowed and asks: “You stay here?”

“Of course.” I say, hoping that will be the end of it. It’s not.

“What room number?” I don’t miss a beat.

“406.” I pray that this place has a 406. He looks at my Ankor beer T-Shirt and dirty khaki shorts and flip-flops. I also see a “you are now running on a reserve battery power” message come up on my computer at this time. Damn. He starts to walk away but I push my luck. “Umm… do you by any chance have an adaptor that I could use? I’m running low on battery.”

“No, I am sorry.” I see an adaptor on the far side of the lobby and point to it.

“Umm… well… can I use that one maybe?”

“No, engineer needs it.”

“Well, can I use it until the engineer needs it?” I pushed a little too far, he starts to get nosy.

“Why don’t you go up to your room? All the rooms have adaptors.” I expected that one.

“Well you see, I need to do work and my friend cannot sleep while I am typing on the computer.” He looks at me skeptically. I keep talking. “He has to get up very early tomorrow for a flight and the light from the computer keeps him awake, can I just use the adaptor for a bit?”

“Just go up to your room and work.” I stick to my story hard.

“I can’t. I don’t want my friend to be mad at me, right?”

“You can work at the desk in your room.”

“My friend is a very light sleeper and I don’t want to wake him, I will only be about an hour.” He seems to not have a response, I can smell victory. I go for the jugular. “If someone needs the adaptor let me know, I’ll give it back.” He relents, his shoulders slump a bit.

“OK, but you must not move it, the engineer must use it.”

So here I am, sitting in the lobby of an incredibly expensive hotel with a fake identity, stealing their WiFi and charging my computer. God I love Vietnam.

Anyways, I was talking about the food… I sense a theme in my blogs…. Whatever. Pho is unbelievable and at about a dollar a meal it doesn’t hurt the pocket so much. Some people are starting to get tired of the Pho but I just can’t get enough of it. Each Pho Restaurant has their own variety of sauces and such to put in the noodle/soup/meat mixture so you never get bored. Just for example, today I had Pho Bo (Pho with beef) and I had the pleasure of adding a Vietnamese hot sauce, plumb sauce, pieces of garlic, and some sort of leafy flavoring that they put on the table. Doesn’t get much better than broth with that many flavors.

Quick update, the guard guy is eying me pretty hard right now and talking in hushed tones on a phone, so there is a decent chance this will get interrupted by me getting booted from this place.

As for our day-to-day activities we are having a fair amount of lectures from various NGO leaders and professors around Ho Chi Minh and been watching documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” (which you have probably seen) and “The Corporation” (which you might not have and should). We have had some really great group discussions out of these topics and I’m pumped for more to come.

Another quick update, they just shut off the AC. I think they are trying to make it as uncomfortable as possible for me, but I’m staying strong. My T-Shirt and shorts can outlast that dude’s dress shirt and horribly patterned green tuxedo vest. SHIT, he just came over and asked for my name and apartment number… I gave him a fake name…

Damn, looks like I picked the wrong number to give him, 406 has been living there for 2 years… they kicked me out, but the dude they sent to remove me from the hotel thought the whole thing was hilarious. I’m around the corner now in front of Highlands Coffee where thankfully they leave the internet on all night and have a very nice security guard who just offered me a cigarette. I declined, but my Vietnamese skills impressed him. I gave him the old “Xin Jiao” (hello) and “Cam un” (Thank you) when he offered me the cigarette.

 A group of us is working for a company called Green Energy in Vietnam, which is run by a guy originally from South Carolina named Stephen Mueller. Green Energy’s big project right now is growing plants that produce oil for clean biodiesel fuel in areas of Vietnam where food crops can’t grow because of the devastation caused by agent orange, but a small part of his project is restaurants for their used cooking oil which he sells in the form of bio-diesel fuel, which works in cars. For the past couple days I have been going around Ho Chi Ming with Van Ahn, one of the Vietnamese students who is staying with us, and visiting various restaurants around a district of the city where people don’t really speak any English. At each restaurant we ask them what they do with their cooking oil and try to raise their awareness about the issues and then offer to buy their cooking oil off them. The responses have been varied to say the least. Everything from an owner not looking us in the eye and telling us to F off before we could get in the door, to a woman inviting us into her restaurant for Iced Tea and asking all sorts of questions about the project.


Tomorrow we leave wicked early for a day trip to the Mekong Delta, so I’m probably going to close this up in a bit, as it is now around midnight and the guard at the guesthouse place we are staying tends to go to sleep around now.


Vietnam is gearing up for Christmas in a surprisingly big way, which basically consists of fake trees and horrible techno remixes of classic Christmas songs, but it’s better than nothing. I’m definitely going to miss snow for Christmas, but we are having Christmas on the beach in Vietnam, which ain’t bad at all.


I’m probably forgetting to write something. Whatever, if I remember later I’ll update this bad boy. Hopefully I’ll update before the holidays, but knowing me, chances are you wont hear from me for another couple weeks. Sorry in advance. If I don’t update before then, have some happy holidays. For those with snow, enjoy it, for those without snow… enjoy it too…? Anyway, it’s late; I probably stopped being funny about 5 paragraphs ago.

One Love



P.S. sorry about any horrible typos or profanity, too tired to edit this at all

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alrighty, I’m writing this from our hotel room in Siem Reap Cambodia listening to the new Kanye CD on my ipod (mediocre the first listen, getting better ever time I listen to it, check out the songs Paranoid, Heartbreak, and Street Lights if you want). Haven’t written in a while (as usual), but things are going pretty solid. I’m pretty sure my mom would have a heart attack if she saw how messy our room is. I mean, 3 dudes in one room usually makes that happen. Anyway, I guess I’ll start where I left off the last one, going to Sha Xi.


The bus ride to Sha Xi was pretty awesome, Noah and Zach and I watched Rambo. The whole thing turned really eventful though when we hit, or rather, were hit by a really drunk Chinese man on a bicycle while driving down the road to Sha Xi. After calling the cops and getting the guy blood tested to make sure he was biking under the influence we continued on to Sha Xi. We got to Sha Xi at around 9 at night and were greeted by our host families. My host parents didn’t speak any English and I can speak about 5 sentences in Mandarin and 0 words in Bai (the native language there) so communication was pretty tough. My first night the communication was limited to them pointing at me at making a motion that said very clearly “you are a freak of nature, do you play in the NBA?” I also think he might have told me that he has two children who go to a different school, but then again, maybe he didn’t. I did find out that my host dad is a butcher and that he slaughters a pig at my house every Friday, which I’ll get back to. Anyway, Sha Xi was a pretty damn cool town/village. Almost all the people there are of the Bai ethnic minority and they don’t usually speak Mandarin at their homes. The town itself was beautiful, there were a couple of times where I would just walk around the winding little alleyways trying to get myself lost so that I could have fun trying to find my way back to my house. I taught at the school for a day and observed classes for a day with Lily, which was interesting and really difficult, because the English level of the kids was much worse than in Kunming. I had a ball though, as usual, and the kids seemed pretty interested in us being there, although not that interested in the material.


The last day in Sha Xi started at 5 in the morning for me with the squealing of a pig being slaughtered right outside my door, which was nice. I was planning on going out there to watch Betsy (what I named her beforehand) become pork, but after the first scream I put my pillow over my head and hoped that I wouldn’t be scarred like Clarice was by the lambs being slaughtered in Silence of the Lambs. I eventually woke up and ventured out of my room when I was sure that the pig was already at the market. I walked to the market and met up with Renee, who took a great pic of me with the host parents and the dead pig which I’ll try to put up later. We walked around for a while then met up with the rest of TBB to go to some Buddhist temples in the hills surrounding Sha xi. The temples were pretty sweet but nothing worth going into detail about (if you want some details of it, check out the girls blogs, they probably spend a paragraph or so on them). Anyway, we got back to Sha Xi, and hung out and worked on media projects until the traditional Bai performances, which were sick. Here are some pics:


After the Bai dancers “taught” us a traditional dance, we felt forced to do a performance of our own. We went with the Macarena and a stunning rendition of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that… or don’t want pictures of that on the internet…. whatever. Anyway, it was a blast and even though we were only there for a little while I loved my home stay parents there, even if she wasn’t the best cook and we weren’t really able to talk to each other.


We had a nice (less eventful) bus ride back to Kunming where we stayed for a night. Our media group was very on top of the game (check out the Google Earth project, soon to be on the TBB website), so Zach, Liz, Isabel and I decided to celebrate by going out dancing, which was an absolute blast. Zach and I bought matching shirts and I bought some Kanye glasses and we picked out some attire for the girls. Here are the pics:






I’m pretty sure there was only one song that they played the whole time in every club, but we danced hard to it. Some awesome media group bonding. The next day we left for Cambodia via Vietnam, which is where I’m at at the moment.


Cambodia has been awesome so far, very relaxing. We went to Ankor Wat for one day as a group then the next day we had an optional sunrise watch at the main temple, which was pretty spectacular. I’m not exactly a morning person (it’s 2:45 AM right now in fact) so instead of waking up at 4:45 I just stayed up until the sunrise, which worked out great. It ended up being Robin, Sandy, Emily, Liz, Renee, Becca, Ian, Lily, Katie C. and me who went. There were a surprising number of people there for it being 5 o’clock in the morning but it was nice, especially when I got into the temple and there were less people. The last couple days we have just been hanging out, getting cheap massages, shopping at the market, and eating a lot.


Thanksgiving was pretty cool for being in Cambodia. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday without a doubt: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy, Pumpkin Pie, Football, and Family. Does it get any better? No, it doesn’t. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from this thanksgiving but it ended up being really fun. We ate at about 3 in the afternoon like we usually do in the Snyder household, and had tons of food. We substituted roasted Chicken for Turkey (there are no Turkey’s in southeast Asia). I ended up eating about 5-6 plates of chicken because most people didn’t finish theirs. Didn’t quite beat my record of last year going back for 14ths, but it was awesome. After eating and sharing our “what we give thanks for” and “I appreciate so-and-so because…” we played 2 games of “Celebrity” which is an awesome game that Beth taught us (game is a blast by the way). This also brought in the longtime thanksgiving tradition of over-competitiveness (most by me) that no family gathering is complete without. After that some of us went to get $7 massages for an hour and came back to the hotel. That’s where I’m at right now.


Anyway, sorry if this is a little incoherent, it’s pretty damn late here, but I wanted to get this bad boy up, so forgive my horrible typos. Thanks for reading and such, keep in touch all of you and for the parents who read this, your kids freaking rock, good work parenting.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Kunming Pt. III

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted, things have been pretty crazy and I don't really know where to start, so I'll just work backwards.
Tonight was our last night in Kunming, I have just about finished packing and saying goodbye to my family. For our last night we had a big banquet type thing with all the host families of all the kids which was a ball. It was great to finally see all the host relatives that I had heard good stories about. My host dad, Mr. Liu, throughout the evening tried to set me up with the various members of our group, continuously pointing out that he thought "Alexandra keeps looking over here." and that he thought "Katie would make a good wife because she is playing with that child so much" and that he "Suggests I invite Liz over for dinner some day." He really never ceases to make me laugh.

Yesterday, on sunday, he insisted that I go on a tour of the city with him and their family friend, who makes me call him Chris, who speaks english. The total time spent was 6 hours, 1 temple, 1 provincial museum, one Kunming museum, one house of someone who was first in the national exam 100 years ago, one old military academy, one 100 year old restaurant with traditional Yunnan rice noodles, one park by a huge lake, 2 ancient pagodas, 5 bronze statues, one large university campus, one exhausted David. I had a ball just posing for pictures with Mr. Liu who insisted we take a photo together at least a couple times at each locale. Here are some of those pictures.

So, needless to say it was a pretty exciting day, capped off by my final dinner alone with my host family. The dinner was really fun, my host grandparents came over and one of my host brother's cousins. Here are a couple pics.
I guess the next thing working backwards was English corner. English corner happens every thursday in Kunming at this place called Green Lake Park. Hundreds of Chinese kids, college students, and adults who want to practice their oral english come together to speak english. As a native english speaker as soon as you show up to the place where they meet, you are immediately surrounded by at least 10 chinese people wanting to practice their english. This past thursday I even had this adorable 7 year old chinese girl whose english was much better than many of the other people their. As soon as she sees me she immediately goes "Why are your eyebrows..... why are your eyebrows.... so.... so.... so..." she tried to find the word and I helped to fill in the blank: "Big?" "Yes, so... so... big!" To which i responded "ummm, genetics...?" She continued to question me "Why is your hair.... umm... umm... black!" What do you say to that? I didnt really get a chance to respond when she goes "All americans hair is yellow, why is your hair black?!" I tried to explain that not all american's are blonde but she still didnt believe me. Her next question was "Do you like...sleep?!"
"Yes, I love to sleep."
She looked at me dumbfounded and goes "Then why are you awake?!"
Once again, what do you say to that, you can't make this stuff up.
After English corner Liz, Zach, and I skyped with a Montesori Middle School in Newburyport, MA which was awesome. They are doing a model UN later this year and are representing China, and they asked great questions and were really fun to talk to.
Teaching has been really fun in Kunming and I'm excited to try out my teaching skills in Sha Xi, where we are heading tomorrow. Alexandra and I got better and better at teaching our lesson plans towards the end of our time in the middle school. One class on thursday was so good that at the end when the bell rang for the end of the class we asked the class if we were done (which we were) to which the responded by yelling "Noo, we can go more, we don't want it to end." We eventually had to get to our next class but when we left the entire class mobbed us to get us to sign their english text books.
I can't think of anything else at the moment, as I am pretty tired and will go straight to bed after this, but China has been really fun so far. Really fun and really different. One of the questions we were asked on the skype call was "What has stood out as culturally different in China." Zach and I looked at each other and at the same time said "everything..." I'm definitely going to miss my host mother's dumplings, and playing ping pong everyday. It's almost sad that we are leaving Kunming right now because I feel like I'm just starting to get used to all the differences in our cultures. Anyway, hopefully I'll update everyone again soon.
One Love,
P.S. Thanks for the comments, I love hearing from everyone

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kunming Pt. II

It has been two weeks in China and I can now say "Hello" "How are you" "That was delicious" and "I want 4 plates of dumplings"; just the essential phrases. It has been a pretty crazy week or so, but I'll try to do my best to remember everything.

A regular day for me starts by waking up at around 7, showering (a welcome addition to the routine after Bua), and eating breakfast with one or all of the members of my host family. Breakfast is usually something pretty substantial like a hearty portion of rice noodles and beef. I start walking to school at like 8 or so, the University (Kunming Nationalities University) is about a 20 minute walk away. We have chinese class every morning for an hour which basically consists of me trying to pronounce words that my mouth does not want to pronounce. After that we usually have a lecture or something in the morning, this morning was on China's economic growth, which was really interesting. We then work on media projects (if you havent checked out the media projects from Ecuador, go to and watch/listen/read them) or discuss readings from the book we are reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire which is an awesome philosophy on oppression and education. After that Zach, Noah, and I usually find some sort of dumpling place or fried rice stand and hang out until we start teaching.

I started teaching this past Friday with Alexandra. We taught classes again on monday and tuesday but the kids had exams the past three days, so we didnt teach. Trying to teach english has been interesting to say the least. Teaching 65 13 year old chinese kids has its challenges. We have been having them practice their english by talking to them about American culture and having them practice dialogues and quizzing them on what we teach them throughout the class. Some highlights include: All of the kids singing in unison "We Will Rock You" by Queen, One kid, after we explained Halloween, raised his hand and with a very serious look on his face said "This Holiday is bad." when asked why it was bad he stood up and said "Because it is so rude to go around and ask people for candy."

China has been really interesting, and also really challenging. The cultural and the language is so different from what I got used to even in Bua that every day there seems to be a new obstacle to overcome. Whether it is trying to explain to my host parents that I will not be home for dinner, something they dont really understand, or trying to get a cab to take you to where you want to go, there is always something. I'm having a blast though and I really love the teaching. I am also getting insanely good at ping pong; my host dad, Mr. Liu, insists that I play with him almost every day. Tomorrow Noah, Zach, and I are going with Zach's host brother to play Badminton (which is hugely popular here), and then playing basketball against him and his friends.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kunming, China

First of all, China is insane. I've been here for 3 days and I have so many just incredible stories that I will share when I get back.

For the first 2 days we were here, after our absolutely epic plane ride of 2.5 days, we stayed in Tunghai, which is a town about 2 hours away from Kunming, where I am right now. While we were there, adjusting to the time difference (13 hours) and having our orientation, we got a little taste of chinese culture, visited some confucian and taoist monastaries (the few that werent destroyed in the cultural revolution of 1949), and relaxed a little bit. Yesterday we drove back to Kunming and had our first night with our host families. To say that the culture shock of coming from Bua, Ecuador to Kunming, China was jawdropping would be an understatement. Let's put it this way: In Bua, I had to walk a mile through the jungle to get to a phone, in Kunming, we have a ping pong table, a small Koi Pond, a gigantic flat screen television, and a beautiful top story view of Kunming. You really can't get much different than that.

My host family is incredibly nice and does not stop piling food onto my plate, which I am totally fine with. The food here has been outstanding. In China, they purposefully make/order more food than any human could possibly consume, so Zach, Noah, and I make it our duty to try and prove them wrong. Chances are I will come out of this country morbidly obese.

My host father is the dean of history at Yunnan University, where we are taking chinese lessons, and my host mother is a botany professor (and an unbelievable cook). My host brother is 16 and goes to school nearby. His english is not very good, but hopefully by being around me he can make it a lot better. My host father speaks no english and my host mother speaks a little. We have started taking chinese but it is perhaps the most difficult language in the history of the world to speak, I literally cant pronounce 98% of what they are teaching me, but we'll see how it goes.

I start teaching my first english class tomorrow, so I have to go prep for that before I go to bed, which should be interesting. I am teaching two classes tomorrow with a girl on the trip, Alexandra Duncan. We are going to try to explain the idea of Halloween to them, which could be kind of difficult. If that fails, we are just going to break out our photos and show them pictures of our families.

I also picked up a number of bootleg DVDs today. If you want me to send you back some, just let me know, for the high quality bootlegs it's like $20 for every episode of every season of one show. I'm thinking about buying every episode of The Wire and watching them back-to-back-to-back at some point.

I'll probably be updating regularly here, because internet is easy to come by (I'm sitting in my bed at my homestay house typing this right now). If I get lazy though and don't update, send me an email to remind me.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Machu Picchu/Peru

We got into Cuzco on zero hours of sleep, after pulling an all nighter in the Lima airport (which was actually really fun, tried out a peruvian cigar, watched Train Spotting with Zach and Noah). We checked into our hostel at about 9 in the morning, then went to a briefing about our trek to Machu Picchu at a place near by. After drinking a lot of Coca tea (which is probably the best drink ever invented) we walked around the city for a while, taking in the sights and checking out the sweet market places strewn around the winding, undulating city streets. We had some food, packed our bags, watched a little of the pats win on monday night football, and went to sleep.
The next morning we woke up at around 5:30, had some breakfast, and took a 1.5 hr bus ride to the start of the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. The first day of hiking wasnt very eventful, it was about 11 KM of hiking and was not that challenging, not too steep or anything. I carried about a 25 lb pack with all my clothes, my camera, my ipod, etc. etc. for the trip, which was damn heavy enough, but it was just amazing what our porters could do, carrying twice that much and going twice as fast, these guys were amazing. After we got to our camp site and changed into some cleaner clothes we had a pickup soccer game against the porters with the 6 guys from our group, which was awesome. The porters and our guide absolutely dominated our pathetic equipo de gringos, but it was really fun playing soccer in the middle of a gigantic valley at about 10,000 ft. That night, the stars were just ridiculous, you could see uncountable numbers of them and you could distinctly make out the milky way. I went to sleep very early, bundled up in all sorts of layers.
We woke up the next morning at 6 and started hiking at around 7:30 to start the hardest day of the hike, up to Dead Woman´s Pass. Which was at about 13,700ft. It took me about 3 and a little bit hours to make it up to the pass, but unfortunetly it was raining and we were in the middle of a cloud, so the visibility was poor. The last 500 ft or so up were ridiculously hard, not only because they were so steep but also because it was almost impossible to breath right at the altitude. If you want a more detailed accounting of the basic trail go to which gives a really good outline of the whole trek. After making it to the pass, a couple of minutes after John and Liz, I started the descent down the other side in the rain. The way was pretty long and slippery and I rolled my ankle pretty bad on the way down. I got into camp at a little before noon, so it was a short day, but really hard.
The next day, yesterday, was definitely my favorite of the hike. I have to note now that throught the trip I have been taking significant advantage of the Peruvian tradition of chewing Coca leaves. It is an aquired taste but the effect it gives you is like caffiene but less jittery, more focused, helps with altitude, and keeps you very focused. Needless to say, there was seldom a time on the trail when I didnt have a fat wad of Coca in my mouth. Anyway, the next day there were two passes, but neither of them were at long or as hard as Dead Woman´s. On the first ascent I got ahead of the group and forgot to stop at a small incan ruins we were supposed to wait at. While I missed the ruins, I got the pass about 30-40 minutes ahead of the group and was able to explore around the pass and take pictures of people as they came up the steep pass. We then went down into a valley and then back up to another pass. Zach, Noah, and I got out in front of the group again and walked together over some of the most beautiful trail in the world, up to the second pass. After we had lunch at the top of the second pass, we started a long downhill to our final campsite. I gotta say, the downhill may have been worse than the uphill that day, 4,000 knee-punishing stairs. At the very end of the day though we got to a really sweet inca sight called Intipata where we hung out for a while before heading into the campsite.
This morning we woke up at 3:50 to head to Machu Picchu. We left at 4:20 and watched the sunrise at a pretty sweet incan ruin called Winaywayna, then headed out on the trail to Machu Picchu. Zach and I were so excited we practically ran the 4 or so kilometers to Intiunku, or the sun gate in Quechua. The view of Machu Pichu and Wayna Pichu from the sun gate is just dramatic, you finish a decent sized uphill (and if you are like zach and I you are booking it), and you turn the corner and you see these massive ruins sprawled out below you, it was magnificent. After getting to the Sun Gate, we decended as a group into the city of Machu Picchu, along the side of Machu Picchu the mountain. Machu Picchu is pretty incredible, and it is hard to describe very well all of the city, but we stayed there a couple hours, took a tour with our awesome guide, Reuben, and I journaled and sketched my surroundings for about an hour or so. We then took the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where I am now waiting to take the train back to Cuzco and a hot shower.
Tomorrow our flight leaves for Lima at 7:55 AM and we begin our epic journey which ends in Kunming, China on October 27th. I´ll probably be able to access email pretty easily once im there, so hopefully ill post again soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sorry I havent posted in a while, I was planning on writing as soon as a got to Quito but I was/am pretty damn sick. Hopefully it will clear up by tomorrow though.
Our last couple days in Bua were awesome. One of my best friends on the trip, and my roommate for the last month had his 19th birthday 2 days before we left and we had a huge celebration. The party was a blast. We had about an hour long dance party and then had really good fish and copious portions of the infamous "log" of plantain. Then, as is their tradition, we whipped Zach with a belt 19 times, which was just a classic moment, seeing these consersvative Tsa'chila men and women take a belt to my friend.
The last night there was really fun as well, we had a really cool going away party at night at the school, full of dancing and, you guessed it, more log and fish.
We are in Quito right now and I am just hanging out in the hostel, resting my stomach while the rest of the group goes out to dinner. I'm going to try and put some photos up on facebook and send a couple to my parents to send to everyone else.
P.S. I now have some pretty gnarly facial hair

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I´m in an internet Cafe in Sua, Ecuador right now. Yesterday we took about a five hour bus ride from Bua to Sua which is a pretty small town on the coast of Ecuador. We are just chilling on the beach for the moment, getting a little break from a hard weeks work in Bua. The six ecological toilets are almost finished at the school and we are starting to move onto other projects around the community. Yesterday I helped start to build another ecological toilets near the house of a large Tsa´chila family. We are also going to be digging a well or two before we leave.
The other day I went to another Tsa´chila community called Poste to see how to dig a well using their method so that we could do one in Bua. The guys there were really chill and they gave us this stuff called Mali which is a fruit (or something) that you put on your skin. It goes on clear, but the next day it turns up a bluish black and stays that way for about a week or so. A lot of the Tsa´chila put it in rings all around their body and face but I just opted to put some on my wrists.
I found a daily pickup soccer game as well which has been really fun, 35 year old ecuadorian dudes are damn good. I played in goal for both games, we won the first time and lost the second time, it´s wicked fun, i hope they let me keep coming back.
I´m going to try to figure out how to post some photos on here at some point, but if i dont work it out, ask my parents for pics or go on facebook and check out the albums if u can.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Santo Domingo

I´m in an internet cafe in Santo Domingo right now. It´s about a 30 minute ride in a pickup truck to Santo Domingo and we generally go as a group every weekend to check on internet and eat food that doesnt include plantains. I have officially tried every different way to cook plantains and there is not one that is any good, but Zach and I dutifully clean our plates every morning and every night. The work has been hard, we are right on the equator and it gets wicked hot here. We took yesterday off to go visit this rainforest preserve which was pretty cool, got to see some sweet flaura and fauna up close. Santo Domingo is a pretty busy city, it´s got about 350,000 people but the community we are living in, Bua, is very quiet and laid back which is great. Tomorrow in Ecuador they are voting on a new, more socialist, constitution supported by the president (Correa) so there are all sorts of rallies and stuff going on to support the different sides (Sí and No). On Monday we all went to a rally for the Sí side where the president of Ecuador was speaking. At the rally he recognized us as foreigners in the crowd and spoke directly to our group briefly in english and talked about how we about to witness a revolution of ideals in the country, it was sweet. After the rally was over I asked one of the people if they were using the huge banners again, and he said they werent so now I have a huge green banner with the outline of Correa´s face and in big block lettering ¨Seguridad para Todos¨which means Security for All. I´m going to try to send it home and hang it up in my room, hopefully it doesnt get lost in the mail. Hopefully I´ll check in next week, but we might be going on a group trip to the coast so who knows.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bua, Homestay

I´m in an internet cafe in Santo Domingo right now, we took a pickup truck ride into the city from Bua. My homestay is pretty crazy, they dont speak a word of english, btu my spanish is getting better. Our (Zach Toetman and my) homestay parents are a little older and dont have any kids our age but their older kids live really near and they have a couple of grandchildren that we hang out with. My homestay dad is called Don Herman and he is kind of the man, but it´s really hard to understand what he is saying. We bathe in a little river every day after work, which is about a 45 minute walk away. At the school we are building ecological toilets for the 250 kids in the school. The food is plantain and rice heavy, but good most of the time. Zach and I spend most of our free time hanging out with Don Herman´s 8 year old son Kevin, who is the man. I gave him the soccer ball, and we play all the time. The Tsa´chila culture is really interesting, ive only been here 4 days and it´s already been really eye opening. Hopefully ill get back to a computer soon, but if not, dont worry. Later, Dave

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I´m in Quito right now, about to leave for the rural town of Bua about 3 hours away. The flight from Costa Rica was easy and the last two days in Quito have been fun. Im definitely ready to get down to some real work and starting tomorrow we will be building sustainable toilets for the school in Bua. I´m loving life right now, havent gotten sick yet (knock on wood). I´m pyched to stay with my host family, we are meeting them later today. I´ll probably be out of touch for a little while, they dont really have internet in the town I´m going to, but Santo Domingo is pretty close, about a 30 minute bus ride so I´ll go there when I can to update. My Spanish is getting pretty good and of the guys im probably the most confident speaker, hopefully it will be great by the end of my homestay.
Over and out,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Costa Rica Part II

Hey everyone, im in costa rica still, sorry I havent been able to update but this wek or so has been awesome and I havent really gotten a chance to get to the internet. A couple of us just walked about a mile and a half to get to the main town and go to an internet cafe. This week has been nuts, a lot of group bonding, a trip to a waterfall in the middle of the jungle, lots of surfing, swimming, hanging out, team bonding. We are heading back to San Jose today and we're leaving for Ecuador tomorrow. I dont know how much internet access we're going to have in Ecuador, as it will be our first homestay, so this could be the last post for a while. All the kids are great and I'm loving life right now. Hopefully I'll update again soon though, until then, Pura Vida.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We arrived in Costa Rica about an hour and a half ago. It´s been a pretty long day of travel, first we got held up in philly for two hours then we couldnt land in San Juan because of ground fog, we didnt have enough fuel to keep circling so we had to make a detour in panama city for some gas for the plane. The real adventure starts tomorrow

Monday, September 1, 2008


Just making sure this works