Thursday, December 14, 2017

Disease of Baldwin Park Corruption Spreads East to San Bernardino with Taylor and Tafoya - a Case Study

Tafoya forcing HR Director to Hand over keys
(c) San Bernadino Sun
So two of Baldwin Park's notorious characters, Chief of Police - Michael Taylor and City Attorney Richard Tafoya aka Robert Tafoya aka Robert Nacionales-Tafoya, spread the disease of corruption East to San Bernardino. (Doesn't anyone find it interesting, that Tafoya, who wrote up Taylor's incredible employment contract in Baldwin Park, Taylor's incredible employment contract in Baldwin Park, also gets hired by the Water Board, where Taylor just won a seat?) This is a case study to show how the corruption cycle starts and continues. (As I've wrote: our democratic systems are in crisis.)

After Taylor's election to the West Valley Water District, Taylor hires Tafoya - who then begins to fire the whistleblowers. Taylor lost the election two years ago. But after being able to receive funding from a number of sketchy players (list soon to come), he was able to win an election.

The corrupt have to fire honest people immediately, because they are a threat and a challenge to the corrupt's will to steal public resources. In this case, Taylor and the board and Tafoya fired the employees, who were complaining about the stealing of such funds, such as when Michael Taylor was using a fire hydrant this summer to operate a slip and slide. You can read the excellent article here, titled: Shake-up at Rialto-based water district leads to firing, suspensions amid misconduct allegations.

This is the modus operandi of Taylor and Tafoya. Remember how these two colluded to fire Julian, all because he choose to speak the truth about getting paid $8.40 an hour by Manuel Carrillo for twenty years. These two, along with the Mayor, also arrested and jailed and strip searched me. Unfortunately for them, the City lost the lawsuit against me and paid $67,500 to my attorney.

In a corrupt system, truth and honesty and the exposure of it all is the greatest threat. That's why in Baldwin Park - Council Member Ricardo Pacheco illegally fought to keep out signs that accused of Pacheco being corrupt.

Hence, one of the first steps that the corrupt must establish right away is to get rid of people who tell the truth. And that's the sad story playing out again in San Bernardino. (As an aside,I don't think it's an accident, the two most vocal people against the malfeasance of the waterboard funds were women. A PhD expert told me at UCLA Law once that women officers were shown to speak out against corruption in a police force more often than men.)

The second step will be to create a system where records will not be created, nor available.

The third step will then be to devise a number of ways to launder money, e.g. fake invoices, nonprofit corporations, and outrageous perks. This is how the corrupt steal public funds.

The fourth step will be to raise the water rates (or taxes in the case of other local agencies.)

And so it continues, until the public gets fed up with it.

That's the lifecycle explained.

In my view, currently, our system has enacted too many laws and regulations in favor of the corrupt. Hence, at the present time, there's no way to solve this problem - except by making other people aware of what's happening and what will happen.

It's a sad day for the residents that under the authority of the West Water Valley District.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Last Days in Peru

After being in Peru for five months, I made the decision that it was time to move on. It wasn't easy for me, but it was time. I could feel it. So, I made plans to go to Colombia.

In Cusco, I changed accommodation, which was popular with bikers. I met two bikers - who were on a five year tour with their motorbikes - to see the six continents, no Antartica. I also met some German push bikers - who were also in South America.

I caught a cold for four days in Cusco. I think it was because I got wet and cold in Machu Picchu.

It was good for me though. It gave me time to think and reflect on life and forced me to slow down and not just move onto somewhere else. I recovered quickly.

After; though, I made the decision to go to Colombia. First, I would have to layover in Lima. From there, Bogota.

I think I'm going to miss Peru. I've been here five months. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Democracy in Crisis - Day 161 of My Sabbatical

"Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled" - Banksy
I've been on sabbatical for five months now, and somehow on this part of the trip - I've concluded that our democracy is in crisis. Not just in the United States, not just in California, not just in Los Angeles, but globally. And what I mean by crisis is that our system no longer works to serve the majority - as it's designed. Our system has become one of blatant stealing of resources and labor by politicians and their corporate sponsors. We have entered into the Age of the Corporate State.

I'm in Cuzco, Peru now. It's raining and thundering and flashing lightning outside. I'm in the center. It's mostly Europeans and Americans. There's some Japanese and Koreans sprinkled in the mix. But very few locals or other South Americans.

One reason I left on sabbatical was I was tired, tired of fighting against politicians and local administrators - who could blatantly and overtly do evil. (Remember when the City Attorney forged my signature, and the court just told him - Don't do it again.) Coming here, I've tried not to see or hear evil, but almost everywhere I look, I see evil and hear evil.

Machu Picchu is a good example. Machu Picchu is the ancient relic of a city. But who does it belong to? The Peruvians or foreign business people?

It's supposed to be the people's resources. Nonetheless, foreign powers here have created a monopoly of everything - such as the roads and railways, so they get all the profits. The Economist stated in 2010 that foreign companies make $13million by owning the monopolies of Machu Picchu. Economist Article

Although on the surface, you can say - so what? No. It's the people's resources, and that money should be reinvested for the people by the people into bettering their lives. But instead, some politicians were most likely bribed to sell those rights away to the highest bidder. Now that money gets skimmed off to some foreign offshore account. (I think life was easier when I was naive, as the saying goes: Ignorance is bliss.)

And the effect of corruption corrodes the lives of the people here. The people aren't educated. In fact, the local Andean people become porters and are hardly paid anything. And even though I could have tipped more, which I should have, the entire "democratic system" isn't serving the majority. It's degenerated to become an instrument for the rich, by the rich, now (and perhaps even before). It's sad.

But the same is happening at home. I was raised in a city called Baldwin Park - where the average person is making about $12,000 a year. Half the girls drop out of school, because they get pregnant. The school system ranks at the national bottom of in testing. The water is filthy and polluted by industrial chemicals. And yet the news media likes to tell us everything is all good, because children are learning to cook because of Kaiser Permanent. How Baldwin Park Unified is teaching kids to love broccoli and cauliflower pancakes A few cooking lessons will fix their lives, even though they're trapped in the unskilled labor class. This is propaganda at it's finest. Why don't the papers tell us the truth about our school districts and the children's performance?

And yet while all these problems are happening, our elected officials in Baldwin Park are only concerned about how to maximize their profits in issuing marijuana dispensary licenses. The Chief of Police is only interested in defrauding public funds, including Cal Pers, to retire a rich man, and get a million more a year than he should. (Remember, how much the average person makes in the City?)

Ask yourself this question about your politicians: Are they spending their time making decisions for us or for themselves? No matter where you are, this is the ultimate test to determine whether you live in a corrupt political system. Are the decision makers spending their times on self-interested decisions or time on making decisions for the interest of the most people? (That'll give you your answer.)

When you answer that, you'll understand why I say democracy is in crisis. And the biggest reason it is in crisis is because currently, it appears there's no way to fix this broken system. Replacing one bad politicians with other ones, doesn't fix the systematic problem.

I believe the root issue starts with voting fraud, which those in power are loathe to admit. But I've already shown a high pattern of voting irregularity in Baldwin Park. In our last mayoral election, 50% of the votes came in by vote by mail. Baldwin Park that year had a historic jump of 27% of voters from 2011, all by absentee vote. 774 voters only filled a ballot for the Mayor and nobody else. Furthermore, a number of these votes appear to come from nursing homes - where the witnesses have come forward and told me personally that the Mayor was present during this time. Was vote harvesting occurring?

I'm not the only one who discovered such type of fraud. In Houston, an activist group found that vote harvesting was happening in half way homes. Citizens' Group Helps Uncover Alleged Rampant Voter Fraud in Houston

If the fraudsters control the vote by manipulation, then the democratic system is broken. We can never vote them out; therefore, they don't have to do what's in our interest. Hence, in perpetuity, they could steal our resources and make decisions in their own interest. It turns into an authoritarian or dictatorial regime - which is what Baldwin Park is.

The problem with our system is complicated by the fact that it's incredibly difficult for a common person to investigate voting fraud. One activist told me that it's become a lot more difficult to get the Social Security Death Index File, which is needed to determine if dead people are voting. And it's all these broken checks and balances that are contributing to the downfall of a political system - which is no longer functioning.

The last resort is supposed to be the courts. But as we know from the Casas cases, that didn't work. I was able to get four court orders against the City to release records - who in the end decided that those records weren't going to be released. The courts didn't enforce it. I mean, you would think it's not so outrageous to ask to see how our money is being spent - but that was a no-go zone for us.

Till this date, we still don't know how many bank accounts Baldwin Park has? What happened with all the federal housing fund they received? How much money was received in the Baldwin Park Franchise Fund (at least 12 million)? Where did it go? What about Manny Carrillo's sham nonprofit bank accounts? What about his new sham nonprofit bank account? What'd he do with all that money? This is incredible.

And it's not only Baldwin Park. Even Donald Trumps Cabinet shows how far we've fallen from grace. A democratic system should represent the demographics of the people. And for decades, if not at least a century, minority groups have been fighting for a voice in the decision making process.

Well, the best color to get you a place on Trump's Cabinet isn't black, yellow, or white (though being white looks like it helps); it's green. Get this: Trump's Cabinet had an inflation-adjusted net worth of about US$250 million.

I don't know about you, but people with that much money don't represent how I grew up, saw the world, and struggled to fight for a place in higher education. But like I said - it's no longer for the people; by the people. It's for the rich, by the rich, with the use of sophisticated levels of deception.

There's no simple solution for this problem. I'm writing this article, so people are aware. That's what travel does; it lets you escape the world of propaganda, baseless entertainment, and the drudgery of menial work to see the world you're in and the world you're from in a different perspective. Awareness has to be the first step in fixing such a broken system. And all of us have to be more critical in our thinking, more skeptical of what people in power tell us, and we must no longer let ourselves be victims of deception.

I write this because I believe that being the salt and light can fix can eradicate such evil, because that's what the intrinsic nature of salt and light does.

No wonder why Jesus said:

“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.

“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16, NLT). 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Will Michael Taylor - Baldwin Park's Chief of Police - Be Making Over a Million More in Retirement?

Mugshot of Michael Taylor
Before his plastic surgery
Will Baldwin Park's re-instated Chief of Police, an alleged public servant, be making over a million more in retirement? Imagine if you could retire a millionaire by showing up to work drunk, no showing to work, being fired, and generally having appalling performance? Welcome to Baldwin Park.

We have to ask more questions and get to the bottom of what the City Council and the Chief of Police are scheming. Those involved need to be prosecuted. This article wants to use Chief Taylor's little scam as an example of three points: (1) Public officials and administrators are stealing our resources; (2) There's no transparency in local government; and (3) Corrupt public officials and administrators need to be prosecuted.

Taylor was rehired officially for one year on December 1, 2017. Taylor was fired by the City Council in September of 2016. An interim chief took Taylor's place. On March 13, 2017, the City Council hired his replacement, David Salcedo. After 49 days, the City Council then fired Salcedo, who then fired an employment lawsuit against the City. (There are questions as to why he was fired, and then rehired, and then given such a lucrative employment contract.)

After being rehired, Taylor requested that the City approve his contract, drafted by the City Attorney, Robert Tafoya. Regarding it, there's a strange clause on page 2 paragraph 3(c), which states, "Taylor's employment seniority shall be restored for accrual and compensation purposes to reflect an uninterrupted employment tenure as of December 10, 2013.  The previous gap in Taylor's employment tenure commencing on September 21, 2016 shall no longer bear on accrual or compensation." Taylor won't have a performance review.

So, what does the badly drafted contract say? In plain English, it states that Taylor's current position and status shall start on December 10, 2013. Furthermore, no matter what, Taylor will not be having a performance review. In other words, he wants and will have no accountability.

What a joke. Imagine, you getting paid upward of $400,000 (with perks a year), and your boss won't check on your work. Only in Baldwin Park.

So what does this contract really mean, and why is it important for you to understand? It means one of two bad things for the citizens, or a combination of the two. One, the new contract impacts his retirement and two, potentially requires backpaying Taylor.

First, by pretending that Taylor was a big shot Chief on paper since December 10, 2013, he's going to report to Cal Pers that he deserves about $50,000 USD a year more. If he lives 20 years after his retirement, bingo: He just made a million more in his lifetime off of taxpayer money.

Think about it. This is a big scam. Cal Pers has rules about the amount you can retire off of, but Taylor didn't like it. So, now he's making up the fact that's been a big shot Chief for four years; so, he could get a bigger pay.

Second, does reinstating his status back to 2013 also give him backpay? If so, a conservative estimate of his backpay would be $420,000. This doesn't include non-salary perks. When those are included, Taylor could be receiving a $600,000 bonus check. (This sum is calculated by taking the difference of Taylor's current salary and adding up all the differences year to year.) It's hard to say what the actual figure would be, because Mayor Lozano and the City Council and City Manager and City Attorney have over and over again refused to release records to show what's really happening.

Assuming Taylor will make over $650,000 this year, let's look at Charlie Beck - Chief of Police for the City of Los Angeles. Charles Beck makes $372,714.52, which includes all his benefit. Taylor will get nearly twice Beck's salary. Taylor works four days a week, if that. But Beck serves 4 million residents in Los Angeles. He has 9,000 sworn officers and 3,000 civilians. In contrast, Baldwin Park has 80,000 (or 50 times less the) residents and about 80 (or 112 times less) sworn officers  and 0 civilian employees. What reason can Baldwin Park have for justifying such a large pay? 

The reason all of this is a big problem, is that that's money that should be reinvested in our city to make it a better place. A good analogy would be to see all that money as actual resources. So, let's say Baldwin Park was a fertile place, with a great river and trees and minerals. Those resources belong to the people. But instead, Taylor and the public officials (mainly from Texas and Arizona) are stealing it all and pocketing the profits for themselves. (I mention these places, because it appears that these public officials and administrators are transplants from a bigger crime ring that appears to originate from Texas. Also, its questionable whether these people see these cities as their home.) Hence, where does that leave the future generation?

(I'm convinced it's people like Mayor Lozano and Taylor and our other corrupt officials that destroyed a whole society like Easter Island. They too just ran out of resources and died. But why? Because of people like this consumed everything, and told the people everything was going to be ok.)

A second problem is what about the other employees of Baldwin Park? Manuel Carrillo, Director of Parks and Recreation, told Julian Casas, former boxing coach, before he fired him, that he could only get a 40 cent an hour raise after working there for 20 years, because there was no money in the budget. The same reason is given now to the other employees of the city. If that's the case, where did the City Council find all this extra money?

Finally, this case shows that our democratic system is truly in crisis. When lying, cheating, and stealing are the way for people to rise in a system like this, how can we ensure that our resources are best being used to serve the public and the citizens?

It appears that regardless of public records law, which the court has declared Baldwin Park to have violated at least 5 times, transparency doesn't exist in such a system? And finally, this isn't the first scam concocted by Mayor Lozano and the City Council. The problem is that the guilty constantly escape prosecution and conviction - which only encourages the ongoing theft of public resources.

The solution has to have at least two parts. First, our societies need to discourage and punish dishonesty. Only in that way, can the public have a fighting chance of knowing what's really happening with our moneys. Second, public officials and administrators need to be prosecuted and convicted for intentional theft, perjury, and other felonies. If we can't lie to the government, then the government also should be held accountable for lying to us.

As George Orwell said, "The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history."

PS: For you Baldwin Park Officials and Administrators reading this. I just wanted to quote some Hemingway for you. Education is always good. “I'll fight them until I die." - Old Man and the Sea

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Machu Picchu - Day 5


Me at Machu Picchu
When the morning light dawned on Machu Picchu and drove away the darkness, whispers of mist rose from the dead and skeletal and secret city. It looked like the light was expelling ghosts from their graves. It also felt eerie and phantasmagoric and surreal. After being in Peru for nearly five months, I realized I finally made it to Machu Picchu.

We woke up at 04:00A instead of at 03:30A, because none of us set the alarm. The Germans took a shower first; then, I did. I woke up happy though. I slept well - really well - because I slept early.

We were late. Our group left at 04:00A already.

Outside, it was raining. It was more than a drizzle but not a downpour. Tourists were walking from Aguas Caliente to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Those who had money, or couldn't hike much more, could wake up later and take the 05:00A bus to the entrance of the ruins. Around 04:30, we found our group. They told us to get to the back of the line; they didn't seem happy that we got more sleep than them.

Around 05:00A, the guards let you hike to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It takes an hour, and it's really steep. It just goes all the way up. A number of times, tourists had to take a break from being short of breath. (I don't think it's altitude sickness though, because Machu Picchu isn't as high up as even Cuzco. The stairs are just really steep to the entrance.) Around 04:30A, you could see the buses taking the tourists, who paid, up to the entrance. We had to walk in the rain.

The rain started pouring heavier. Our group was the last ones at the entrance. It was around 06:00A when the gates open. We met with our group in the entrance, and our tour guide Leo was there, waiting for us.

I don't know how, but I was drenched inside and out. My rain jacket wasn't working, but it always worked. Now, the rain jacket was trapping the water to stick to my body - without me being able to dry out. When the wind blew, it would chill me. I felt like a sad and wet street puppy or kitty - shivering. At least, the stray found his way to Machu Picchu.

Some background on Machu Picchu. The Incans built it around 1450AD. It took 80 years but was never completed. The Incans abandoned Machu Picchu, but nobody knows why.

Machu Picchu housed about 800 people. Half of them were servants, and the other half were nobility and priests.

Machu Picchu can only be entered via one road. Because of where it's placed, to enter it form another direction would require you to scale vertical mountains. For sure - this was done for defensive measure from other enemies. (I researched this on my own.)

Scholars almost all agree that Machu Picchu was the Incan King's holiday home. But, I think they're wrong.

Human sacrifices were found in Machu Picchu. Unless we had a sociopathic or cruel king or some weird cultural holiday home - human sacrifices are not done in holiday homes. Given the fact that there are many religious rooms - like the Temple of the Sun - I think Machu Picchu was some kind of temple. That's also the reason there are so many rooms for the priests of Machu Picchu.

Also, the entire place is designed to worship the sun and moon. It's purpose appears to be more religious than recreational. Paul Cook's theory is that Machu Picchu was where the priests and royalty sacrificed people and animals to the sun god and moon goddess on behalf of the people in Cusco. There's also plenty of evidence of worship, sacrifice, and the fact that Cusco was the main place of residence for those who went to Machu Picchu. (I might not be an anthropologist officially, but the summer home theory is rubbish, in light of all the mummies and human sacrifices found at Machu Picchu.)

That's my background. Around 06:30A, Leo began his tour of the different parts of Machu Picchu. Mainly, he talked about the "Re-discoverer" of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham. I think he's worth mentioning, at least the dishonorable things he did.

Hiram Bingham was a Yale lecturer (maybe a professor), looking for a lost city of gold. He raised money and went to Peru. He asked the locals - and a boy who played in Machu Picchu - led him to Machu Picchu. (The locals, as usual, knew about the ruins - but not their significance.)

Since there was no gold, Bingham wasn't interested in Machu Picchu, but coming up empty handed in his expedition he returned to Picchu to reclaim it. Too bad another German engineer J.M. von Hassel beat him there as the first Westerner forty years ago. When Bingham found another European's name etched on the stone, he destroyed it and declared himself the discoverer of Machu Picchu. (We should all roll our eyes now. I told you guys about the other German who measured the largest waterfall in Peru - then he claimed he discovered it, even when all the locals already knew about it.)

Anyways, Bingham took a lot of treasures home to Yale (some would call this looting). Peru and Yale fought over this for awhile, but about five years ago, Yale returned most of the artifacts. There just seems to be an undeniable Western trend for Westerners, generally males, to claim and name places and locations already found and known to the locals. (I encountered this a lot in New Zealand too.)

To Bingham's credit though, he could probably be said to be the first person to introduce Machu Picchu to the West and popularize it. The Hollywood Director Charleston Heston boosted it's popularity by filming The Secret of the Incas in 1954.

After about two hours of lecturing us, Leo looked tired. He was with us throughout the whole trip. He looked like he wanted to go home. So did the other guide. So, they left us, and we wandered Machu Picchu.

The sun came up after Leo's lecture. Since I had my stuff on me, I took out a towel and took off my shirt. I dried myself with my towel and changed into drier clothes. I stopped shivering. That felt better.

After the guides left, our group explored Machu Picchu and took pictures. (I posted them below). When the clock struck 11:00A, I had to leave, as Cinderella did when the clock struck midnight.

I had to walk three hours to catch my bus back to Cusco. My bus left Hidroelectrica (a town three hours away) at 03:00P. I had to leave.

I hugged everyone and said goodbye. If I could do it again, I would have stayed one more night in Aguas Caliente and left the next day. I didn't think there would be so much to see at Machu Picchu. I also thought I had enough time, because I started at 06:00A. I assumed wrong on both these points.

I hiked out of Machu Picchu down to the base below. It was a steep walk down, and it wasn't easy, because I had to carry my stuff now.

I walked slower to Hidroelectria than I came, because I had my pack full of stuff now. I arrived into Hidroelectrica at 02:30P. The walking and tougher group was already there. Some were already there an hour early, but most of us arrived around the same time.

At the restaurant, I ordered a glass of red wine and fried chicken with rice. The soup, once again was good.

At 03:15P, we left Hidroelectrica to Cusco. It was a six and a half hour ride back. If I had the money to spend, I could've paid $60USD and took a train directly from Machu Picchu to Cusco, and it would have only taken 3 hours. Also, I wouldn't have had the extra 3 hour walk back. We had already hiked 100 kms; so, it certainly would have been easier.

But I didn't feel that exhausted or tired. I felt strong and fit still. This trek was a lot easier, because most of the weight was carried by the mules.

We arrived into Cusco around 10:00P. I found a new place. I checked in.

I did it. I finally made it to Machu Picchu - another world landmark checked off the list. I also felt a little bit closer in understanding another and different universe - one that I otherwise would have never known.
Morning mist rising from Machu Picchu


More morning mist of Machu Picchu
Do you see the green parrots in the background?

Me with Machu Picchu

Selfie with Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu - the Jewel within the Andes -
Shot by Paul Cook

Me and Machu Picchu
Claudia and me with Machu Picchu



Our group with Machu Picchu

Selfie with the lamas of Machu Picchu
Che Guevara in Motorycycle Diaries

Gael Bernal portraying Che Guevara

Friday, December 1, 2017

To Machu Picchu - Day 4

The day was hot, really hot actually, when we walked from the small town of Santa Teresa to the town of Hidroelectrica. It was a three hour hike, where we walked through a valley. There was a blue stream that flowed like a serpent through the valley. Behind us were strong and magical emerald mountains that surrounded us. Behind one of them was where Machu Picchu lied. The sky was open and blue, and the sun was blazing hot.

We woke up at 07:30A. As usual, I saw Alex making our breakfast already. People looked hung over. The Uruguayan told me that breakfast was really good. It was pancakes and fresh cut fruits - mainly papayas.

After breakfast, our group was split into two: those who did zip lining and those who didn't. Only five of us chose not to do zip lining; so they "punished" us by making us by walking three hours more to Hidroelectrica. The group who paid for zip lining, which was about $30, got a ride to Hidroelectria. There was a lot of peer pressure and pressure from our guides to do the zip lining. All of us were tired from hiking up Salcantay, so it's easy to see how walking three hours wasn't welcome.

But I wasn't going to do ziplining. I'm sure it was a waste of money. $30 could get you far in Peru, and I didn't need to spend it. So - we walked to Hidroelectrica - which was a beautiful hike - except that it was hot. It was the hottest day I felt in Peru so far - and I liked it, because I'm from Los Angeles.

We walked up the dirt road, and it took us two hours to get to Hidroelectrica. Some of us took off our shirts. I did. I was getting really sweaty. I asked the Spanish girl to slather sunscreen on my shoulders and back. I didn't want to burn.

Walking into Hidroelectrica was like walking into a small town in America's Wild, Wild West. From above the balcony, our guide was already there, looking at us from above. He shouted us to come up.

There, we took off our shoes. My socks were wet and sweaty, and I'm sure didn't smell good. We sat at a table at the top of the balcony - and from above, we could see the new tourists walk into the small and shanty town of Hidroelectrica.

Our group came about an hour later. They talked about how fun it was to zipline, and how different people were afraid of heights.

At the little restaurant, we ate lunch. I shared lunch with the German girl. We had rice and trout and beef and a nice soup. The soup was full and rich and had a lot of texture with rice and lentils. They made a wonderful spicy salsa out of peppers, and it was really tangy and fiery.

We had passionfruit juice to drink. It was sweet but not too sweet - which tasted heavenly - especially against the raging heat.

Our guide instructed us again about how to pack our stuff. Again, there were two groups. Our groups were always split between two - one who was willing to spend money and those who weren't. The group willing to spend money was taking the train from the town of Aguas Caliente back to Cusco. It's only a three hour ride by train. Otherwise, you have to walk another three hours and take a 6 hour + ride back to Cusco. (You see how they make you suffer, if you don't want to spend money. All the good roads and tracks are owned by monopolies; so you have to walk for hours if you don't want to take the train.)

After lunch, we had to take a three hour walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Caliente - the town below Machu Picchu. We took a ten minute walk up to the railroad tracks from Aguas Caliente to Hidroelectrica - which ran through the jungle and streams and valley. From there, you have to follow the railroad track all the way into Aguas Caliente.

A stream of people had finished seeing Machu Picchu and were walking towards us. I had a lot of energy from eating. So, I was walking very fast through the forest and through the streams and through the jungle. Some times, I would walk on the planks of the railroad tracks and it felt hard and strong to step on those planks. Some times I would hike on the softest part of the trek.

But I was flying and fleeing through the forest. I felt like a ranger (an Elvin ranger from a foreign land) from ancient times, on a mission - floating and flying through the forest with focus.

My group wasn't happy that I parted with them. But I felt like I needed some alone time too.

It was perhaps some of the best time on trip; to have two and a half hours to myself. There were 21 of us, and we were always together. I liked being by myself - alone - with the forest, the river, the shade and the sun, the parrots, the gravel tracks, and even the screaming train that would come and go.

Sometimes, the large blue train would chug through the tracks, and the conductor would yell at all of us to stay away from the train. Motorbikes and bicycles are prohibited on the track too; this way the train has a monopoly to gouge the tourists for more money.

I flew in focused into Aguas Caliente. It was a town built solely on tourism. The only shops there are food shops, restaurants, and hotel.

Aguas Caliente has no cars or taxis or mototaxis or bicycles. There are only buses, which are expensive, and take you to the entrance of Machu Picchu. If you don't want to pay, you have to hike one hour up to the entrance.

I sat outside a cafe. I drank a cold beer. I waited for my group. When I caught up to them, we checked into our hotel together. I shared a room with the Germans.

We had an hour or two to explore Aguas Caliente. Then dinner.

At dinner, we ate at a proper restaurant - which charged us a lot for drinks. The food was part of the tour - so we didn't have to pay more. People weren't enjoying dinner, because we were focused on instructions for Machu Picchu tomorrow. (For dinner, I had trout - which wasn't as good as the food for lunch in Hidroelectrica.)

At dinner, the guides passed our tickets. They gave us instructions for Machu Picchu, such as making sure we had our passports (otherwise, we wouldn't be allowed in). Again there were two groups - one willing to pay for the bus to the entrance and those who had to walk.

The walking group would go together at 04:00A tomorrow. We'd meet at the lobby of the hotel.

After dinner - I bought some water and snacks and returned to the hotel. We went to bed at 09:30P. I forgot to set my alarm. I remember very little, because I fell asleep so early. It was probably because I burnt all my energy flying through the forest - which I enjoyed.

Tomorrow, I would see Machu Picchu.

A view from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Caliente

Tobi, Claudia, and I, drinking a beer in front of the train at
Aguas Caliente

Thursday, November 30, 2017

From Jungles to Hot Pools - Day 3

Hitchhiking with Germans and a Peruvian out of
the hot pools to Santa Teresa
On the third day, we slept in until 06:30A, and outside of my tent, I could see our porter Alex already awake. I hear him speak Quechua with the cook. I always feel bad that they're up before us and the last ones to sleep. I know they're not getting paid enough. But Alex always smiles. The horseman is gone; there's roads now. So we don't need the mules and horses. He's a very shy guy and never says much, our horseman. Today, we have to make our way to the village of Santa Teresa, which is one step closer to Machu Picchu for us.

For breakfast, we have an omelet and coca tea and coffee and bread and jam. But the jam is always gone so soon; I don't have much, because the bread is rubbish.

Around 07:30A, we walk through the jungle, and we have to make our way down to the blue and white whispering river below. The skies are blue and clear and there aren't too many clouds. Butterflies and birds flutter throughout the air.

The scenery is much different from Salcantay, which was mainly rocks and grasses growing. Here, we have trees and vines and butterflies and lots of birds. Salcantay had birds too, but they were mainly mountain birds - like vultures - also known as condors. The birds here are more tropical - like hummingbirds; every once in awhile, in the distance you can see parrots.

I finally had some sleep; so, I open up more and do the first part of my walk with Elena - the Spaniard. I talk to her only in Spanish - and that's good. She has fair skin and really black hair. She also has big earrings and tattoos. She reminds me of gypsy. I call her, "My witch," in Spanish. She laughs. (The other people notice I can speak Spanish, at least better than I let on.)

Later, I end up talking to the Germans. They're around my age. We're the oldies in the group. They speak English, but sometimes I use German; it's not very good.

Today is the easiest day of our trek. We're only walking 5 hours.

Between our last campsite and our van stop - we rest at a soccer field. Some of us play soccer. Not me. I watch, though.

I wish I had learned, when I was younger. There, we eat a fruit called granadillas, which grow on a vine. It's orange. You rip off the top and eat the pulp and seeds, like you would a passion fruit.

Our last two hours, we walk to our van stop. There, we are in two vans. They take us to a lunch place.

For lunch, we eat spaghetti and some of the guys eat a guinea pig, which was roasted on a stick. I already ate one once, and I didn't like it, because it had too many bones in it. I cringed to see the cut little paws of the guinea pig roasted. Maybe, another time, I'll try it again.

At the lunch site, a couple guys have beer. I sit with the Germans. One of the Australians sit with us, and we all talk. We're sitting on the grass on a beautiful sunny day - the kind you wish never ends.

They have a coffee at our lunch site. So, I order one and drink it with milk on the grass. It's nice.

The Germans offer me some beer. I drink some.

From the lunch site, the vans take us to our next camp site, near some hot pools. Our guide wants us to take an overpriced bus to the hot pools - when we can walk. I tell him - No thanks. He's not happy with me. I think he gets a commission from each of us taking it.

We walk to the hot pools, which are in the valley of a few mountains. There, we stay a few hours, soaking in really hot water and splashing water and playing like kids would. We even play chicken. It reminds me of one of my elementary school field trips. Actually, the whole thing reminds me of one big adult field trip - except there is booze and more now.

When we walk back in the valley during the sunset, I hail a truck. He picks us up. We sit in the bed. We could see the open sky and the air and the mountains. The Germans have never hitch hiked before. So, they found it interesting.

After, we ask the driver to take a picture with us. So, he does.

We're lost. I find a little old grandmother and ask her for directions. She gives it to us. The Germans are so happy to meet the local.

Then we walk back to town. There, after a dinner of fried chicken, they turn on the dance music and serve us strong Peruvian tequila. I also bought some wine and finished the Johnny Walker's whiskey I brought with me.

I shared my wine with others. I specifically ask Alex, the porter, if he'd like some. He says sure. He drinks some. But no more. He won't be coming with us. He's going home tomorrow. I worry if too much alcohol will stymie him from working, as it does indigenous people.

The cook, another Quechuan guy, says good bye to us. He says he wishes us well and that we enjoy Machu Picchu. I leave him a tip, but the more I think about it, I should've given him more. (These are the people I'll remember in my heart.)

As the amethyst sky turns into a dark midnight blue, the music gets bumped up and the dancing begins. The Uruguayan lady is a good dancer; so, she teaches the German lady and me to dance. She knows how to move her hips and her shoulders and really flow to the beat.

She's a very good dancer. Her husband also opens up and talks more to me. He's funny.

We can wake up at 07:30A tomorrow, and tomorrow begins our hike to Machu Picchu.

I go to sleep at 11:00P. Others are still dancing the night away, but I need my sleep.

The next morning, I discover the truth. Alcohol, exhaustion, and dancing shows and tells you about how people really want each other.

That was the end of Day 3.

Hitching a ride on the back of a pickup
Uruguayan Couple in Hot Pools

Uruguayan Couple in Hot Pools

Local grandmother who helped us get back.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reaching Salcantay - Day 2

4,600 meters high - in front of Salcantay,
Our group - "Sexy Alpacas"
On the second day of our trek, we hiked up to 4,600 meters to Salcantay Mountain, the highest point of our trek. Some people suffered from altitude sickness and complained about their head hurting. One American girl had to hire a horse to get to the high point. We can't get to the crest of Salcantay, which would require ice picks.

On day 2, our guide wakes us up from our hut and offers us coca tea. It's made from coca leaves, the same kind of leaves that are used to make cocaine. But a few leaves won't give you the high that cocaine gives you (not that I've tried).

I take a long time to get ready, and I'm the last one at breakfast. I'm not a morning person.

We had pancakes. Imagine eating with 21 people for every meal. I was grumpy because there was no more coffee left. I asked the guide if he could boil water, because I had more coffee. He wouldn't let me.

We have to pack our stuff with the mules and be ready to leave at 06:30A. The porters and horseman and cook look really Native American-like, and they can speak the Quechua dialect, as well as Spanish. I feel bad for them, because I wonder if they get paid enough.

The day is going to take 9 hours to get to the next campsite. It takes 3 hours to the highest point of Salcantay; 3 hours to our lunch site, which is downhill; and 3 hours to our campsite.

The hike up to Salcantay starts off gently, but about in an hour and a half into it, it gets steep. The last 30 minutes is the most difficult and steep.

The landscape is mainly rocky with low grasses growing. There's no trees or bushes. Just grass. It's usual on high mountain landscapes - like in New Zealand or Patagonia.

On the way up, we met a local family who lived in the region. I asked if I could rent his puppy for a day. Our guide reminded us out how hard it was for them to live out here, because the nearest village was a whole day hike there and back to buy supplies.

The trek before the highest point is really steep and takes a lot out of you. When we reach the highest point, all of us take a photo. I didn't even know we were at the highest point; I thought it was going to be harder. But there we were.

After taking photos, our guide Leo gives us a talk on the mythology and significance of Salcantay. He talks about how the Incan people believed in three worlds: the world of sky and light, what we would call Heaven, represented by the condor; the world of earth and darkness, what we would call Hell, represented by the serpent; and the middle world - where we live, represented by the puma. It's all kind of like the Chinese yin-yang theory of balance and opposites.

After, we hike down for three hours to our lunch site. For lunch, we have corn soup, quinoa and noodles, pieces of beef, and lentil curry. After we eat, we have 3 more hours to the final campsite.

I zoom through it. After eating, I have energy. We hike through mainly jungle; it's no longer the rugged bare mountain trail. I see a lot of different colored hummingbirds along the way. They look like tiny rubies and onyxes and sapphires fluttering in the air.

Our porters overtake us at some point. Man, they're really fast - and they're leading the mules and the horses too. It's nothing for them.

At our campsite, I drink a shot of wine and whiskey and the other guys drink beer. They have a hot shower there, but you have to pay $3 for it. I pay. I could use a hot shower.

Someone has an Apple watch on the trip. It says we walked 40,000 steps or 25 kilometers that day.

For dinner, we have Chinese rice and chicken and chicken soup. After eating, we say goodbye to the horseman. He seems shy and very nice. But form here, we have a road and not a trail. Again, I'm pretty sure that our horseman, our cook, and our porter all don't get paid enough.

go to sleep. We get to wake up later tomorrow at around 06:00A.

That ends day 2.

Found a puppy on the way to Salcantay

American girl needs a horse - the girl leading her can't be older
than 16.

A view of the valley of Salcantay from above

Group photo with our guides - we're doing
an alpaca sign.

Photo on a ledge on our way to Salcantay

Photo of the landscape coming down from Salcantay

These chickens were huge; took the
photo for my mom - who has chickens.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Salcantay to Machu Picchu - Day 0 to Day 1

In front of Salcantay Mountain with French Theo
and Spanish Elena 
We were all going to Machu Picchu, which is a village the ancient Incan people carved and set deep into the Andes Mountain over 550 years ago. Machu Picchu to the Andes is what a fine diamond is to a gold ring without a gem. They both need each other to shine and awe the beholder.

Our group chose to see Machu Picchu through the Salcantay Trek, which would be 100km or 62.5 miles. Salcantay is Quecha (the local tribal language here) for savage or invincible. Hence, Salcantay means Savage Mountain. (I'm sure it's more savage in the ruthless and icy winter.)

It's the highest peak in the Cusco area - at over 6,670 meters. We would go to the highest point of 4,600 meters, which is almost twice the height of Machu Picchu. The entire tour would take four nights and five days.

Thanks to a German guy named Moritz at my hostel, I was able to book a tour at Gregory Tours in the Plaza de Armas for only $158, including my sleeping bag. Everybody else booked the tour for much, much more. I thought it was better to go on a tour, because the entrance ticket already costs $50 to go to Machu Picchu; so why not pay $110 more for 4 nights of lodging, food, and get another hike included.

We had 21 people in our group and 2 guides. The tour company told me that there would only be 12 people, but they were wrong. The group was made up of 2 guys and 1 girl from the United States (including me); a girl and guy from Canada, who were cousins; a married couple from Uruguay - who were fluent in English; a guy and girl from England; a couple from Denmark; a couple from Switzerland; a girl and guy from Germany; a guy from France; a girl from Spain; three Australian guys; and a guy from New Zealand.

On Day 1 - I had to wake up at 04:00AM and leave with the Swiss couple, who were also at my hostel. We walked to the Plaza de Armas, where a bus picked us up. I was tired; I didn't sleep enough, and I certainly hated waking up at that time.

We took a bus ride about four to six hours to base camp. I can't remember exactly the time, because I napped some in the minivan. You have to pay for breakfast at a village nearby and a $3 fee to enter Salcantay Park.

From base camp, we walked up to a lake - formed by the melted ice of the mountain. It reminded me of the Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile. (You can read about my time in Patagonia here in December of 2014: Seeing the End of the World in Chile.) The water had that same aquamarine color, which looked like a gigantic sapphire had melted in the basin of the mountain. (I also saw this phenomenon in Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo in New Zealand.)

The color comes from the melted ice, which grinds the basalt and granite from the mountains and deposits it into the lake. The ice freezes and melts and freezes, which breaks and pulverizes the rocks. The end result is that when the light hits the basalty water - it refracts and turns into the aquamarine color. It's also called rock flour or glacial milk.

Some of us swam in the water and hence were baptized in ice. We stripped off our clothes and swam in the freezing water. Our guide said it was below freezing point. I could believe it, and your body goes into shock entering liquid ice.

Most of us lasted inside for less than a minute. Your head starts to hurt, your body starts to shiver, and your groin starts to freeze.

After we dried off, we walked to our base camp - where we would sleep the night. It rained walking back. So, we all took off our wet clothes and hung them to dry.

The porters use mules to bring our stuff. In our group, we have a porter, a horseman to carry our stuff, a cook, and two guides. For dinner - we have chicken legs. They also serve us hot coca tea.

There, we had huts we could sleep in. Elena and Theo and I shared a hut. That was the end of day 1.
Glacial milk gives the water it's color


Me in the Valley of Salcantay

In freezing water, look at the ice above
A view from basecamp of the valley

Our hut

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Going into the Mystical World of Machu Picchu


I'll be going away for a little while on a journey into the wilderness to Machu Picchu. I've spent two days in Cusco hustling for a trip. That kind of worn me out. The weather here is changing all the time - from hail to rain to sun. I'll update when I can.

Miss everyone,

P. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Days in Cuzco, Peru

The first night in Cuzco, a girl was moaning so loud because she was having sex in a bed with a guy at 1AM in a shared room of 10 people. She was so annoying, that I walked passed her bed on my way to the restroom and told her: "People are trying to sleep." She didn't stop.

So, the next day, an English guy and I were having a nap (because I was tired from not having enough sleep because of her), but she was talking obnoxiously on the phone with her mother. Why couldn't she take it outside?

That night I ate at a nice restaurant, but my boss from Trujillo (Northern Peru) asked to see me while I was eating dinner. I packed up my alpaca steak and saw her. That was nice to talk to her and see her. We chatted a lot about business and some ideas I had for it.

After, I went back to my hostel and asked the French volunteer at the hostel to put my food away. I saw the girl in my room and told her that it'd be more respectful if she went and talked outside next time. She said that she didn't know and that she never stayed in a dorm before.

Then at 1AM she was chatting up another guy (a different one) in our room. A number of people told her to go talk outside, but she wouldn't listen. Then, after I told her to go outside, she finally did.

The next morning, I was tired again. My food went missing. I confronted the French volunteer. After questioning him, he gave me a half confession. $16 USD down the drain, all because he got drunk, got hungry, and stole my food. I had enough.

I wanted to talk to management. I explained to them what happened and that I was not happy. The French volunteer found out about my complaint and started drinking early in the morning. He kept trying to deflect all the problems on crazy girl. I told them I was leaving, and this was a terrible experience.

Management handled it well. The main manager made everything better and gave me some money to buy another dinner. They forced crazy girl to get her own private room and they moved me to a better room for no extra charge. It was a win-win for everyone except for her and her new hookup - who had to pay a lot more for a private room.

* * *

Other than that, I haven't done much in Cuzco, except eat and drink cappuccinos and see museums. I posted a picture of one of my favorite pieces. It inspired me. It made me want one of Jeh Pan - my cat at home.

The museums were great though. I think it really helped me understand how to revise my short story - which for the moment I've lost interest in.

* * *

Later, at the hostel, the girl confronted me and said, "HOW COULD YOU SAY THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME???!!! I'M A CATHOLIC."

Right, I thought. Like I haven't heard that one before. That's why no children are born out of wedlock in Peru.

I tried to talk but she wouldn't let me.

She then said, "MY LIFE IS MISERABLE NOW BECAUSE OF YOU!!!!"

I said, "This isn't a conversation." And I ran out of the hostel. She then started screaming at the staff about her story. But she was checking out.

The French guy offered me some beer later. I guess it was his way of trying to say he was sorry. I took some. I don't know if I forgive him completely. An apology also requires that he make things the way they were before the error. And he didn't do that, though the hostel did. And I like them for it.

* * *

Later at night, even though crazy girl checked out, she came back, looking for me. This time, she said, "I'm sorry that - "

I just walked to another room. She seemed unstable to me. And indeed she was. Apparently, she started screaming at the staff again, and they finally kicked her out and prohibited her from coming back. The inside joke is she behaved this way because she's from Lima. But so is one of the girls at reception - who laughed too, but said, "HEY!"

Later, I felt bad for her. Not that I or the hostel did anything wrong. But it made me wonder if she had mental health issues.

* * *

The new room was better. It was super dark; so, I sleep well.

I ate at a better restaurant yesterday. But the food was so terrible, because I ordered octopus, and it wasn't fresh and it tasted ugly. I told the owner, who looked drunk with glazed eyes, and he got defensive and said, "If you don't enjoy, you can leave."

I said, "So, you would rather me not tell you now and you'll find out about it later in a review." He threw up his hands and stormed back into the kitchen.

I started writing up my review on my computer. Then he said, "No computers allowed in the restaurant!"

"Ok," I said and packed away my computer in my bag.

I tried one more dish, but it was also terrible. I think the seafood isn't that good here, because Cuzco is so inland and hence the seafood isn't that fresh. You can read my review here: Terrible customer service - food not available

* * *

So - not a great introduction to this city. Hopefully, it gets better. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Arequipa, Peru

Me petting an Alpaca.
Doesn't it look happy?
From Chile, I took a seven hour bus ride to Arequipa, known as the White City. This is because the city is built with white lava stones excavated from the nearby volcanoes. I didn't do much in Arequipa; except I wrote and wrote and edited and agonized and re-wrote and then put away my story story. It's about my time in a beach village in Northern Peru. I'll try to publish it soon, but I needed it a break from it for now.

I enjoyed talking to a local restaurant owner, who was a Venezuelan lady. We had a full on conversation about how she started her restaurant business. That made me feel good that I could understand someone else's story. And it was rather involved.

Also, I saw Colca Canyon, but I didn't stay long. I didn't have enough time there, and also I didn't enjoy it that much. There's a tourist spot called the Condor Crossing. There were so many annoying tourists, and I didn't see any condors. And I had to wake up early to take the only bus there. And I was grumpy, because my receptionist gave me the wrong time. I could've slept 30 minutes more. Ugh!
Me with a couple who picked me up

In any event, I hitchhiked, and in 10 minutes I was picked up by a couple from Arequipa. There were no more buses back. The guy just bought a new car. I don't think they ever picked up a hitchhiker.

At first, he was nervous. But I calmed him down by telling him how bored I was by the Condor Crossing and how I wish I had just slept in. And they started laughing. And after awhile, they enjoyed talking.

See? I told you guys before, you have to pay when you hitchhike. And I always pay with my conversations and stories. He seemed fascinated I saw so much around the world and in Peru. They asked me more questions about Korea than the United States. I wonder why.

I told him that he could see a lot to and to watch The Motorcycle Diaries, about how Che Guevara traveled South America cheaply. I hope he does, and it inspires him to do it too.

After coming back into town, I walked to a hot spring two hours away. It was really nice. It was really hot and outside it was really cold. So, the contrast of environments made for a rich and awesome bath. And I saw an Andean Duck flying and hovering just above the river. That was cool. So no condors. But I saw an Andean Duck.

(It did cross my mind to hunt it and eat it. Oh, I miss duck. Although the food is good in Peru, they can't cook duck. Their national dish, Arroz con Pato (Rice with Duck), isn't really that good. They don't make use of the fatty duck skin to bring out the best in the duck.)

After my bath, I returned to the village and had some Alpaca Stew, cooked by a local mountain woman. That was interesting.

Another day, I also had some good fried chicken there for dinner too.

I went back to Arequipa. I got a haircut there. Post a picture soon. I paid $2 for it.

Other than that, I wish I could have stayed longer in the area. But I had some people to meet and my time ran out.

Canyon in the back.
Grumpy from waking up too early.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jumping Over to Chile

Arrica, Chile
(See the flag?)
My Peruvian visa was running out again; so from the North of Peru I took a flight and stayed one night in Lima. There, I went to a contemporary museum, which was average, and I had dinner with a guy named Joe. He brought an Eastern European guest; I forgot her name, but she was really good at computer stuff. Joe liked the food. I found it average and expensive - and left them a bad review.

After, I flew into the most southern city in Peru called Tacna. I made it to the airport early, and just my luck, the flight was delayed.

Remember, the last flight I almost missed? It wasn't delayed. Whenever I miss a flight (except for once, 16 years ago (not that I'm keeping track)) or am running late for one, the flight is almost never delayed. But when I arrive early, it's almost late. Isn't life ironic?

I arrived into Tacna late. I figured out how to get to the terminal. I went there with a young Colombian guy - who broke his foot. He wasn't that travel smart - because he almost got ripped off by the taxi. If I wasn't there, he probably would have paid three times the amount. So, he liked me instantly, but I didn't completely trust him. He was looking at my stuff too much.

At the terminal, we hired a colectivo, and a group of us drove to the Peruvian-Chilean border. Our entire group had to be processed together, then on the Chilean side, we'd all leave together. So, this is why it's faster to take a colectivo than a bus, because there are only about 5 passengers in a colectivo. The bus has to wait for all it's passengers to be processed.

While waiting, my ADHD was flaring. I was getting naughty in my head again and had all these ideas of how to move the line faster. One of the passengers told me: "Tranquilo!" [Relax!]

The Peruvian guard really scrutinized my visa - hoping to get a fine out of me. Nope. I left on time.

The Chilean passport control gave me 90 days. But the Chilean customs, on the other side, rummaged through my stuff. I think they did it, just to have fun, because I was different than the usual passengers.

They found two bottles of Argentinian wine, which I didn't finish with my friends. The guard said, in Spanish: "Chilean wine is better?"

"Really?" I said.

"Of course. What are you doing with these wines from Argentina?"

"They taste good. Really good. What wine should I get from Chile?"


"Casillero del Diablo [Cellar of the Devil]."

"That one is famous in Los Angeles." But I thought, Not very good.

He smiled. "OK. Have a good day." The other guards seemed humored too.

My group in the colectivo was amused. They asked me what we were talking about.

I told them: Wine, and why I'm not buying Chilean wine. I added, this kind of stuff always happens to me. They were amused that I spoke Spanish, because until now, I wasn't speaking much.

Upon arriving in Chile, I found a cheap hotel to stay in. It didn't have hot water. I didn't take a shower.

It was clean, but a cheap hotel indeed, where you can probably buy your stay in hours rather than nights. And compared to Peru, it was expensive.

In the morning, I walked to a cafe in town. It was really expensive, just as expensive as coffee in Los Angeles. I sat and thought and reflected and wrote to people. I decided not to stay in Chile; it was too expensive.

Then, I took a bus back. The school teenagers all stared at me, because I was the only Asian person in there. I should have said, "Ni Hao," back at them.

Back at the terminal, I took a bus back to Peru. It was half the price of a colectivo. A lady tried to give me free clothes. Was that because I looked poor or because I looked kind? Or maybe both?

Passport control was actually faster this time. There was nobody there.

I tried to talk to the guard to give me a 183 days. I spoke in English at first, but she asked me if I could speak Spanish. I spoke in English to control the conversation, but it didn't matter. And I hustled with everything I had in Spanish - asking for 183 days. I even told her I was a volunteer attorney for a nonprofit foundation girls school in Northern Peru. (This was true.) But it didn't matter.

But nope. She gave me 90 days. Well, I tried.

The good news is that my Spanish is better; I struggled with it at the last border crossing. This time I didn't.

As you know, I'm a spiritual person. Must mean God doesn't want me to stay 180 days, and it's time to move on after 90 days. I could overstay some and pay the small fine. But small fines can add up, if you stay a long time.

I then took a seven hour bus ride, next to a lady carrying a huge cake for her daughter's birthday. I could sense she felt safer sitting next to me on the long ride. The whole ride, I was wondering if this was worth saving $55 USD; I could've taken a 30 minutes flight instead. It was a long ride. Although I'd like to tell myself I'm still young, these long bus rides aren't the same. I don't like them anymore.

Well, that's it. I'm back in Southern Peru.